Gigabyte Aero 15X review

The Gigabyte Aero 15X is one of the most interesting gaming laptops of the year. It has an Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU, making is a full-blooded gaming machine to compete with a high-end desktop. But it is just about small and light enough to be used as a portable everyday machine.

Add fantastic battery life and a meaty keyboard and, well, you start to wonder why you wanted an Alienware 15 in the first place.

Given its semi-lifestyle angle it could do with a smoother look. But we imagine some of you will disagree. The one part we can all agree on is that the fans get a bit loud at times, but not to an extent that puts us off this remarkable machine.

Price and availability

Gigabyte produces some of the most affordable gaming laptops. But the Aero 15X is not one of them. The spec we're reviewing has the impressive GTX 1070 GPU, 16 GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and a Core i7 CPU. It costs a wallet-worrying £1999.

There’s also a version with two 512GB SSDs, costing £2199.

The other option is the "non X" version of the Aero 15. This has a GTX 1060 GPU but otherwise similar specs and costs £1849. One point to note about the Aero 15X is that it uses a special "Maxi-Q" version of the 1070 with lower clock speeds. It's what lets Gigabyte fit such a powerful GPU into a slim laptop.

You'll still get a big boost over the 1060 model, but not as much as the GTX 1070 of, say, an Alienware 15.

The Aero 15X has a two-year warranty, although the battery is only covered for the first year.

Design and build

The Gigabyte Aero 15X is the sort of laptop you could easily assume does not have a desktop-challenging graphics card inside, if it wasn't for the rainbow keyboard backlit and GeForce sticker. It looks serious, but it's far smaller and lighter than almost all laptops that have GPUs of this level.

It weighs roughly 2.1kg and is 20mmm thick. In our opinion that's thin and light enough to carry around in a rucksack all day, every day. Those whose first laptop was a MacBook Air may disagree, but it's a world removed from your average performance-obsessed gaming machine. These are often 30-40mm thick and weigh 3-4kg

Most of the Gigabyte Aero 15X's shell is made of aluminium, although the aim of the design seems to be more industrial chic than pure style. The sides are bordered by a sort-of corrugated aluminium piece and there's a very clear border seam all around the keyboard plate.

The Aero 15X isn't what I'd call pretty, but it does have generally good build and plenty of modern design nods. There's just 5mm of surround around the screen, and even less border around the keyboard. No space is wasted.

The lid is a bit too "sensitive", putting the Aero 15X into sleep when it's partially closed, but it's a  very minor issue we've only noticed because we've actually been using this laptop like a thin and light laptop at times.

Connectivity

Like most gaming laptops at this point, the Aero 15X does not have an optical drive. However, it does have a fairly wide array of connections

There are three USB 3.0 ports and one newer USB-C type, which is specced to the very fast (40Gbps) Thunderbolt 3 standard. For video there's an HDMI and Mini DisplayPort (1.3), while an RJ45 lets you use wired internet rather than having to rely on the ac-grade Wi-Fi.

Gigabyte has also added a full-size SD card slot, which we're always glad to see in a laptop.

Keyboard and trackpad

We'd expect a slim and light gaming laptop to have a standard shallow-action chiclet keyboard. But the Aero 15X's is anything but ordinary.

This is a fairly deep-action keyboard with very, very meaty key feedback. It feels a little like typing on an old ThinkPad, which has some of the tactile DNA of a mechanical keyboard.

If you're entirely accustomed to shallow designs, this may feel odd, but we love it. That said, the Aero 15X keyboard does take some getting used to. A full NUM pad shunts the normal keys left of centre, so you'll have to retrain your hands to avoid typos.

A little more unusual, during typing we've noticed a tendency for the Aero 15X to register double characters for key presses on occasion. Typing too hard? Perhaps, but it's more evidence this is a keyboard you have to give time to bed in.

The last special feature of the Aero 15X keyboard is the rainbow key backlight. This doesn't extend to the pad or the laptop's sides, but you can customise it using a Gigabyte app, Fusion. This lets you alter the colour per key, so you can come up with some truly odd combinations if you like.

The trackpad below is a mid-size rectangle of textured glass. Its surface feels great, but again Gigabyte has made a design choice here that requires some conscious effort.

Great big top-end gaming laptops tend to have separate mouse buttons. It gets rid of any finger confusion, and lets a manufacturer add better feedback than is possible with buttons integrated into the pad.

The Aero 15X has integrated buttons, and their layout is one suited to an ultra-slim Windows MacBook homage.  Much of the pad is given to the "left" button, the right getting half the height and just a couple of inches of the pad's width. There's also a zone towards the right button that doesn't seem to allow "press and drag" gestures, which feels slightly bizarre in practice.

You'll need to learn these quirks to avoid frustration. Or, more sensibly, use a mouse for gaming and be happy Gigabyte has used this layout because it works well for general nav and using simple apps like the browser.

Display

The Gigabyte Aero 15X is the first laptop we've reviewed to have an X-rite Pantone Certified display. This relates to screen calibration rather than a guarantee of panel quality, and to be honest the average 0.22 Delta E seems about right for a high-end laptop.

Display quality is very good, although this is not a high-resolution or wide-gamut screen. We doubt many will be bothered by conventional colour, but some of you may be after a 4K (or at least above 1080p) panel for £2k.

This is a matt 1080p IPS LCD without touchscreen. It covers a respectable 83.5% of sRGB, 60.1% of Adobe RGB and 62.9% of DCI P3. This is not the greatest screen ever seen on a laptop, but is good enough to satisfy even, at the price.

Colour appears vivid and, thanks to 1009:1 contrast, blacks look good too. Maximum brightness of 352cd/m is also solid, and far more than is needed most of the time. Using the laptop indoors for work and gaming we haven't wanted to use more than 30% or so brightness.

Performance

At the time of the Aero 15X's release the first 8th Generation Core-series laptops are starting to come out. So why does this laptop still have a 7th Gen model? That's simple. The first chipsets out of the gate are "slim and light" U-series models while laptops like this use HQ processors designed to provide more power over a longer period.

It has the Intel Core i7-7700HQ, which for the last 12 months has been the default choice for just about every high-end gaming laptop. To go with that you get 16GB DDR4 RAM and a 512GB Samsung SSD. There are two RAM slots and two PCIe X4/SATA slots, so you can upgrade these parts further down the line.

This spec is perfect for high-end productivity jobs, that 16GB RAM probably more useful for video or photo editing than it is for most games. The laptop scores an excellent 4801 points in PC Mark 10, beating the Acer Helios 300 we reviewed recently by 600 points despite the use of the same CPU.

The low bulk of the Aero 15X doesn't restrict CPU power, but it does affect the GPU. This laptop has a Max-Q version of the high-power Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB RAM. It has a lower clock speed than the version of the 1070 you might find in a laptop twice as heavy, twice as thick, and this results in a loss of about 10-15% performance.

Make sure you're happy with this before buying, but the Aero 15X still offers superb general gaming grunt. It runs Alien Isolation at 250fps at 720p and 181fps at 1080p with settings maxed: incredible headroom.

The more challenging Deus Ex: MMankind Divided runs at 117.3fps at 720p, low settings. That drops to a still-good 52.7fps average at 1080p, Ultra. This represents a doubling of frame rate over the Acer Helios 300 and its lower-end GTX 1050Ti GPU.

You'll get slightly better results out of a big laptop with a "full fat" laptop GTX 1070. But for our purposes we'd much rather have a laptop that we can actually cart around without needing a sports massage at the end of the day.

The other predictable snag of a slim gaming laptop is fan noise. There's not as much room for "passive" heatsinks or very large diameter fans, and this shows in use. The Aero 15X fans engage fairly quickly as you start gaming, and do get fairly loud.

Volume isn't the most noticeable part, though. As the Aero 15X appears to have smaller-diameter fans than, say, the Alienware 15 or a top-end Asus RoG, the noise is higher-pitch. We find it a little more distracting as a result. We expected worse, though, and given the dimensions the noise tax seems completely acceptable.

Battery Life

Fantastic longevity is another pleasant surprise of the Gigabyte Aero 15X. Playing back a video on loop at 120cd/m brightness, the battery lasts nine hours 55 minutes, which is fab for a workstation, let alone a high-powered gaming laptop.

This seals the deal: the slim and light frame isn't just for the look. You really could use this is a day-to-day roving laptop. Students with real money to spend should take note.

While part of this is down to the efficiency of Intel's CPUs (and we can't wait to see the results with 2018's 8th Gen models), the Gigabyte Aero 15X also has a huge 94.24Wh battery. That is far larger than the 68Wh of the much chunkier Alienware 15 R3. You have to wonder: how did Gigabyte fit it all in?

As in most gaming laptops, the speakers aren’t all that impressive, with no real bass. However, the tone is clean and clear, and volume good enough for YouTube videos or the odd podcast.

The Aero 15X’s design also sees the webcam shifted from its normal place above the screen to down by the hinge. It points up at your face, but that upwards angle is not the most flattering. Image quality is also mediocre, and resolution an unremarkable 720p.

Gigabyte Aero 15X: Specs

  • 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) 1080p 141ppi IPS LCD matt anti-glare
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ (3.8GHz boost) 4 cores, 8 threads
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Nvidia GTX 1070 Maxi-Q GPU with 8GB RAM
  • 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 802.11b/g/n/ac single-band 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 1x USB-C Thunderbolt 3
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • HDMI
  • Mini DisplayPort 1.3
  • RJ45 Ethernet
  • Kensington Security Slot
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • HD webcam
  • single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with numberpad
  • two-button trackpad
  • 57Wh lithium-ion battery, removable
  • 356.4 x 250 x 19.9mm
  • 2100g
  • 2-year onsite warranty (1 year for battery)
  • 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) 1080p 141ppi IPS LCD matt anti-glare
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ (3.8GHz boost) 4 cores, 8 threads
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Nvidia GTX 1070 Maxi-Q GPU with 8GB RAM
  • 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 802.11b/g/n/ac single-band 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 1x USB-C Thunderbolt 3
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • HDMI
  • Mini DisplayPort 1.3
  • RJ45 Ethernet
  • Kensington Security Slot
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • HD webcam
  • single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with numberpad
  • two-button trackpad
  • 57Wh lithium-ion battery, removable
  • 356.4 x 250 x 19.9mm
  • 2100g
  • 2-year onsite warranty (1 year for battery)

SHOULD I BUY GIGABYTE AERO 15X?

The Gigabyte Aero 15X is a gaming laptop that defies the conventions of this class. It refuses to be 4cm thick, to weigh at least 3kg and to last just four hours between charges. 

What you end up with is a very powerful, desktop-rivalling laptop that is also slim, light and long-lasting enough to function as a portable computer. In this field your best other option is the Razer Blade, which isn't available with a GTX1070 Max-Q (yet) and works out more expensive anyway. 

This is a laptop that can “do it all”, although you will probably have to spend some time getting used to the keyboard.