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Gigabyte Aero 15X review: A lightweight and powerful gaming laptop

James Archer
30 May 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2,400
inc VAT

High performance and a brilliant display overpower the foibles of this skinny gaming notebook

Pros 
Stunning lightweight design
Colour accurate bezel-less display
Top-notch gaming performance
Cons 
Weak battery life
Finnicky touchpad
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The original Gigabyte Aero 15 was among the very best of the slimline gaming laptops that popped up early last year, which is why we don’t mind the new Aero 15X resembling more of a Coffee Lake refresh than a brand-new device.

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Even so, there are other upgrades besides the hexa-core, 12-thread Core i7-8750H processor. Most important is the GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics chip, which runs at lower clock speeds than the desktop-grade GTX 1070 in exchange for a more efficient TDP – but even this should be a step up from the GTX 1060-equipped Aero 15 we reviewed in 2017. The 3,840 x 2,160 resolution option is also available immediately, rather than coming much later than the 1,920 x 1,080 model; we’re testing the UHD version, which runs at a 60Hz refresh rate, but if you go for the cheaper Full HD version, you also get the newly added benefit of 144Hz.

Gigabyte Aero 15X review: Narrow-minded

Otherwise, the Aero 15X looks and feels identical to the Aero 15. That’s a good thing – once again, the 15.6in screen’s tiny bezels allow for the kinds of bag-friendly dimensions you’d more commonly get from a 14in laptop, at 356 x 250 x 18.9mm. At 2kg, it’s not too heavy either.

The chassis remains impressively well-built, with a smooth yet firm hinge and pleasant matte finish throughout. Our only nitpick is the webcam positioning, which is too low for anything other than unflattering angles.

Much better is the generous assortment of ports: an Ethernet jack, one USB3 port, one HDMI output, one mini DisplayPort output and a 3.5mm headset jack on the left edge, plus an SD card slot, USB Type-C port, two USB3 ports and a Kensington lock slot on the right. Handily, a USB2 port on the power brick lets you charge a separate device without using up one of the laptop’s own ports.

The keyboard is great too, and not just because it glows with RGB backlighting. While squeezing in a tenkey number pad has meant most keys feel slightly narrow, it’s fairly quick to get comfortable with, and the key switches have a satisfyingly decisive action.

The trackpad is also spacious and, generally, responsive to swipes and multi-touch gestures. However, it did present one annoyance: every now and then, the cursor would hang for a moment before jumping to a new position, instead of gliding there smoothly – as if it were struggling to keep up. Since gaming laptops are best used with mice, it’s not the worst thing that could happen, but is a rare fault nonetheless.

Gigabyte Aero 15X review: Sharp attack

In better news, the display quality has improved tremendously. sRGB coverage has shot up from 84.2% on the Aero 15 to a near-perfect 99.3% on the Aero 15X, and that comes with professional-grade accuracy too: we measured an average delta-E of 0.94 and a maximum of just 1.98. That’s hugely impressive, and at 1,547:1, contrast has gone even higher as well.

It’s a superb display, then, though we can’t help but covet the 144Hz refresh rate of the 1,080p model. 60Hz is fine, of course, but with such a powerful GPU it’d be nice to appreciate the higher framerates even more.

Indeed, even being a downclocked Max-Q model, the GTX 1070 makes for some slick performance. At its native 4K UHD resolution, the Aero 15X produced a handsome 51fps in Dirt: Showdown, and that was with its highest settings; switch down to 1,920x1,080, and this shoots up to 97fps.

Metro: Last Light Redux, on the other hand, proved a bit too much on Very High settings. Even with SSAA switched off, it only managed 24fps at 4K, which isn’t quite playable – you’ll need to turn down quality settings in more GPU-intensive titles. It’s fine at Full HD, though, putting out a smooth 53fps with Very High settings and SSAA enabled.

There are even more powerful slim gaming laptops around, like the GTX 1080-equipped Asus ROG Zephyrus. That costs a full £400 pounds more, however, and that’s just with a Full HD display and a Kaby Lake Core i7-7700HQ. The Aero 15X’s newer Core i7-8750H edged ahead in our 4K benchmarks, scoring 106 for multitasking and 134 overall.

Gigabyte Aero 15X review: Low burner

The 512GB SSD is good capacity-wise, and is generally very quick even if it follows the recent trend of PCI-E laptop SSDs having much higher read speeds than write speeds. Specifically, we used the AS SSD benchmark to record a sequential read speed of 2,001MB/s and a sequential write speed of 911MB/s, the latter of which is still much higher than any SATA drive could manage.

Sadly, the higher-res display and beefier GPU have taken their toll on battery life. While 3h 35m in our video rundown test isn’t bad for a gaming laptop, it’s an enormous drop from the 7h 17m we got out of our Full HD Aero 15. Understandable, perhaps, but still disappointing.

Gigabyte Aero 15X review: Verdict

In fact, knowing the 4K panel’s impact on both battery life and gaming performance, we wonder if it would just make more sense to buy the Full HD model – you get all the same internals and connectivity, and a much higher refresh rate, saving about £200 in the process. That said, there is a definite appeal to the pristine display of this top-end model, and even at £2,400, it feels like a luxury but never a rip-off. If you can live with the battery life, it’s a fine follow-up to the Aero 15.

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