A top notch creative workstation with an incredible OLED display that can also game in 4K
- OLED display has a huge colour volume
- Plenty power for creative tasks and even gaming at 4K
- Additional SSD slot for upgrades
- Terrible webcam
- Mediocre battery life
- Unnecessarily cramped keyboard
Although OLED displays have thus far been a rare sight on laptops, I’ve already reviewed two this year. The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC is the second on the list and it finally seems that the tech is ready for more widespread introduction across the industry.
The Aero forms part of Gigabyte’s professional line of “Creator” laptops and it combines the attractions of the OLED display with Pantone certification and a hardware specification that makes it ideal for video and photo editing on the go.
READ NEXT: These are the best laptops to buy right now
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC review: What you need to know
Despite its professional pretensions, there’s more than a whiff of gaming laptop about the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC as well. My review sample was supplied with one of the latest Nvidia 30-series GPUs – the GeForce RTX 3070 (the laptop is also available with the 3060 and 3080) – a GPU you’ll see at the helm of many of 2021’s best gaming machines.
Surprisingly, however, the Aero isn’t yet available with the latest 11th gen Intel silicon, with Gigabyte instead preferring 10th gen chips. My review sample was supplied with an Intel Core i7-10870H but the laptop is also available with the Core i9-10980HK for those who want a bit more oomph. Other specifications include 32GB of RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD.
It’s the screen that’s the star, here, however. The Aero features a Samsung-manufactured 60Hz OLED panel that measures 15.6in across the diagonal and has a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160. It’s also HDR 400 certified, covers a claimed 100% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and every Aero is factory calibrated. You can also pick up an Aero with a Full HD 144Hz display but that really is one for the gamers rather than professional creative types.
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC review: Price and competition
With an OLED display and such a high-end specification, you’d expect the Gigabyte to command a high price, but a price tag of £2,699 for this review model isn’t too bad. To recap, this gets you an Intel Core i7-10870H, 32GB of system RAM, an RTX 3070 with 8GB of video RAM, a 1TB SSD and that glorious 15.6in 4K OLED screen.
At this sort of configuration and price, it goes up against laptops like the Apple MacBook Pro 16in, the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 and the Razer Blade 15. Of these, only the Razer (updated for 2021) is available with an OLED display and it comes in at a pricier £3,050, although with the more powerful combination of an RTX 3080 GPU and Intel Core i7-10875H CPU.
For the same money, you can have the MacBook Pro 16in with an eight-core 9th-gen Core i9 but this comes with half the RAM (16GB), half the storage (512GB) and an older, slower AMD Radeon Pro 5300M, which is closer in performance to the Nvidia GTX1650 than the RTX 3070 in the Aero.
Alternatively, there’s also the latest iteration of the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, the SE GX551. Although it doesn’t come with an OLED panel, for £2,500 you do get a 1080p 15.6in main display plus a second, ultrawide touchscreen mounted above the keyboard. Inside, it’s even more impressive than the Gigabyte with an eight-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900H CPU plus 32GB of RAM, an RTX 3070 GPU and a 1TB SSD. Prices skyrocket somewhat if you want a Zephyrus Duo with a 4K main display, though.
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC review: Design and key features
There’s a brutal kind of elegance to the way the Gigabyte Aero looks. All clad in black, with angular vents on the left, right and rear, as well as some eye-catching geometric patterning on the lid, the Aero attractive is an attractive laptop, in an aggressive sort of way.
It’s slim, too, at 20mm, and reasonably light for a 15.6in laptop of this type, tipping the scales at 2kg. Build quality is solid and mercifully creak-free and, despite the compact chassis, it’s jam-packed with all manner of sockets and ports.
On that front, the Aero is among the most well-endowed laptops I’ve come across in recent times. On the left edge are full-sized HDMI 2.1 and mini-DisplayPort 1.4 video outputs, next to a single USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 socket, a 3.5mm headset jack and a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port. On the right is a pair of USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connector and (unusually) a high-speed, UHS-II SD card slot.
Alas, from here, things begin to go downhill a little and it starts with general day-to-day usability. The chassis’ sharp edges, for instance, might look nice but they dig into your hands when you’re carrying the laptop around.
The keyboard isn’t the best to type on, either. Although the key action itself is perfectly fine and has plenty of travel, the layout is cramped thanks to the number pad on the right, which squeezes the main keyboard left and starves it of space. Even the touchpad is on the small side (at 105 x 70mm), although admittedly it does work fine, as does the fingerprint reader, which is embedded in its top-left corner.
The less said about the webcam, though, the better. It’s placed in the raised plastic bulwark just above the keyboard, provides murky image quality and a rather unflattering camera angle. For video calls I would respectfully suggest you buy a separate webcam.
Fortunately, wireless connectivity is not so shonky, with an Intel AX200 card providing support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
READ NEXT: These are the best laptops to buy right now
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC review: Display and audio
You might forget about the ergonomic niggles, however, when you lay eyes on the Gigabyte’s glorious 15.6in 4K OLED display. It’s an astonishing thing and delivers crisp, lush, vibrant colours and a deep true black that only OLED screens are capable of displaying.
It really is stupendous and it measures up pretty well, too. Brightness peaks at 406cd/m2, which is more than bright enough for indoor use and should stand up to the odd spot of video editing in the garden if the weather allows. Since this is an OLED panel contrast is effectively perfect, too, and the total colour volume the panel is capable of covering is phenomenal at 170% of sRGB, or 121% of DCI-P3.
As for colour accuracy, that’s not bad either, but it’s important to note that it’s only accurate within the DCI-P3 colour gamut (to an average Delta E of 1.87). If you’re a professional photographer working in sRGB or Adobe RGB, or a videographer looking to grade in Rec.709, then you’ll need to recalibrate the display accordingly. The good news is that, since the panel’s colour volume exceeds P3 and Adobe RGB, you should be able to do that without fuss but it is something to bear in mind.
Another thing to remember is that this is only a 60Hz display, so although there’s plenty of power on tap, gaming frame rates are never going to exceed 60fps, no matter what resolution you game at.
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC review: Performance
It should come as no surprise, given the combination of CPU (Intel Core i7-10870H) and GPU (Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070), that the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC is a fast performer. However, given that it’s using last year’s 10th gen Intel silicon, it does give away something in non-gaming workloads to more recent CPUs.
In our non-GPU-intensive 4K media benchmarks, the Gigabyte puts in a mid-table performance here, lagging behind the Core i9-9980HK-powered MacBook Pro 16in and the much cheaper Asus ROG Strix G15. Its performance is superior to the Razer Blade 17 Pro we tested last year, however, suggesting slightly better thermal management.
In the cross-platform Geekbench 5 benchmark, the Gigabyte edges in front of the MacBook Pro 16in and Asus ROG Strix G15 while remaining ahead of the Razer Blade Pro 17. All the differences in these CPU-heavy benchmarks are quite tight, though and won’t be all that evident in day-to-day use.
Ironically, given this is intended to be used as a professional’s creative workstation, the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC is a pretty decent gaming machine, producing fluid frame rates above 100fps at 1080p resolution in all of our benchmarks bar Hitman 2. It streaked ahead of the competition in the Wolfenstein tests, hitting 110fps with ray tracing enabled. These results are somewhat academic given that the 60Hz 4K OLED panel puts a cap on visible frame rates of 60fps. If you’re a keen gamer, you might want to consider buying the Full HD 144Hz model instead.
Perhaps more impressively, though, there’s enough power here to game at 4K resolutions if you’re willing to drop some settings. In the Wolfenstein test it achieved 62fps at 4K with Ray Tracing disabled and I was able to achieve a decent average frame rate of 54fps in Hitman 2 by adjusting the settings from high to medium.
Battery life, however, is not a strength. Despite housing a massive 99Whr battery – the highest capacity you’re legally allowed to take on an aeroplane – the longest it lasted in our battery life video rundown test with the display set to a brightness of 170cd/m2 and flight mode engaged was just 5hrs 50mins. No doubt you could extend that by dimming the display, but it would still trail behind the very best the competition can muster.
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC: Verdict
The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC is an amazing laptop. The display is glorious, there’s enough power on tap to run any creative application you fancy and you can even game at 4K without too much trouble. For any laptop, that’s a pretty astonishing feat.
It’s also more than a match, from a performance perspective at least, for its major rivals from Razer and Apple, and the price is remarkably reasonable for what you’re getting.
I can’t, however, help coming away wanting more from this machine. That’s perhaps due to the underwhelming keyboard or maybe the disappointing battery life, but it’s more to do with a multitude of small irritations that mount up and eat into the appeal of this otherwise excellent laptop.