Gigabyte SabrePro 15 full review
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is one of the last stops on the gaming laptop express before it rockets into prices almost no-one can afford.
In terms of performance this is an almost-perfect 1080p gaming laptop, able to handle the vast majority of games at Ultra settings with no significant frame rate compromise. It’s also hundreds of pounds cheaper than the Alienware 15.
It may not have the amazing build or quite as competent heat management as that ultra-desirable laptop. But the good price and very solid quality across the board make the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 a great choice for those looking for the best deal for their money.
Gigabyte SabrePro 15: Price
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 may have a graphics card two rungs below the very best, but its price is a reminder that a GTX 1060 is your limit if you have a ‘sane’ level of money to spend.
The model we were sent doesn't actually exist in the UK, but the only difference was that it had a 2TB disk instead of the 1TB in the UK models.
So for £1499.99 from Overclockers UK, you get the SabrePro 15-CF2 which has an Intel Core i7 CPU, 6GB Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU, 256GB SSD, 1TB hard drive and 16GB RAM.
There's a cheaper CF1 model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD, and the £200 saving might make this a more tempting deal for a lot of gamers.
HP offers an alternative in its Omen 15 (£1449), but the ultra-desirable Alienware 15 is far more expensive with this spec, costing £1747 with the same core components. Ouch.
Do check out our chart of the best gaming laptops before spending your hard-earned, though.
Also, bear in mind that the SabrePro 15 comes with a two-year, collect-and-return warranty, for which Alienware charges an extra £328. Plus, Gigabyte has no problem with you upgrading the RAM, SSD and hard drive without voiding the warranty.
So, in the same way you might hanker after a Samsung Galaxy S8 or iPhone 7 Plus but can’t justify the price, the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 has a real appeal for those who are keen on getting a good deal.
Gigabyte SabrePro 15: Design
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is a gaming laptop that tries to balance out almost every aspect of design and spec to produce something that will appeal to an extremely wide PC gaming audience.
For example, it doesn’t attempt to slim down to ultra-slim laptop proportions, but is lighter and slimmer than a lot of high-end gaming laptops. It weighs 2.5kg and is 25mm thick: not portable, not a beast either.
It’s also solid, but doesn’t have quite the impact of the Alienware 15, which uses a lot more aluminium than just about any other gaming laptop. The Gigabyte SabrePro 15’s lid is brushed aluminium, but the rest is plastic.
Around the keyboard it’s textured to look a little like brushed aluminium, but it’s plastic.
A true moderate, the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 only has a few flashes of gaming laptop design too. The angled corners are clear gaming “tells”, but there aren’t brash coloured LEDs, or striped of colour on the lid.
You could take the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 out at a family gathering without risking a cousin joking about a non-existent World of Warcraft addiction. It’s ready to sit in a smart home office.
Some might find the design a little dull, but what matters most to us is there’s no part of the SabrePro 15 that flexes too much. The keyboard area is very solid.
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 doesn’t have an optical drive, but that’s the only major missing bit along its sides.
It splits its connections across the sides and back. There are three USB 3.0 ports and a USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 1) for your peripherals. For video you get a full-size HDMI and a Mini DisplayPort, and there’s an RJ45 Ethernet socket for networking faster than the built-in Wi-Fi.
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is a laptop that won’t need a desktop dock: at most you might want a USB hub.
Keyboard and touchpad
If you’re disappointed by the idea that the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 isn’t really a laptop saturated with gamer juice, you need to check out the keyboard backlight. It’s a multi-colour backlight that can display just about any colour of the rainbow, and an application lets you choose a different shade for each of the 4 zones.
As we’ve seen with other RGB backlights, the one shade it can’t pull off entirely convincingly is white, which looks a wee bit off. Only a little, mind.
Annoyingly, we had to spend quite a while searching for the control panel software to fiddle with the backlight as it wasn’t preinstalled for some reason, but we got there in the end and it’s a symptom of the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 being brand new at the time of review. Hopefully.
The keyboard has a solid 2mm travel, giving it a fairly meaty feel. It’s not the greatest keyboard in the gaming pantheon, with the Alienware 15 and Asus RoG G752 offering better definition and crisper overall action.
There’s only one part we can imagine a few disliking, though, and it’s not the key feel. As the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 fits in a NUM pad as well as the standard keyboard array, the centre of the board is shunted to the left. It takes a bit of getting used to if your current laptop has the ‘trendier’ centralised keyboard.
The NUM pad also has its benefits for gamers, of course.
Above the keyboard the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 also has four macro buttons, which you can program to do your bidding.
Below, the trackpad is not a no-holds-barred pad as it has a plastic surface rather than a textured glass one. However, it’s rather large among gaming laptops, making it comfortable to use. The buttons are also separated from the pad in typical gamer fashion.
Gigabyte SabrePro 15: Screen
One issue we’ve had with some recent gaming laptops is that a few mid-price models have had truly disappointing displays: the 1080p Dell 15 7000 Gaming is perhaps the most high-profile example.
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 has a very good screen with solid performance in every aspect. It’s a 1080p 15.6in screen with an anti-glare top surface to quash reflections.
Like all of its peers, it’s not a touchscreen, which is not a hardcore gamer feature. And, again like other gamer laptops, the resolution is not incredibly high. You’ll see some pixellation in the small characters of Windows 10 icon text, but right now it’s still the right resolution for a gaming laptop.
While Nvidia’s latest graphics cards are amazing, a mid-range GTX 1060 still can’t hack 4K gaming at Ultra settings.
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15’s display colour is very good, comparable with some of the better 1080p IPS laptops. It covers 84 percent of sRGB, 61 percent of Adobe RGB and 64 percent of DCI P3. It’s not the wide colour gamut Gigabyte talks about on its website, but is enough to make games and movies look well-saturated but natural.
Contrast of 938:1 is rather good too. At higher screen brightness you’ll see the limits of the black level, but raised blacks aren’t apparent unless you game in a dimly-lit room. Top brightness is very good too, at a pleasantly searing 359cd/m2. This will come in handy if, on the other hand, you like to play with sunlight pouring through the windows.
It’s not a perfect screen, but is among the better ones at the price.
Gigabyte SabrePro 15: Performance
We’ll tackle gaming performance in a moment, but the core specs are also worth talking about. The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 has some features that would be expensive upgrades in rival models.
In the CF2 model on review here, there’s 16GB of fast DDR-2400 RAM and a high-end quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU. There are a few higher-end Kaby Lake laptop CPUs, but they are significantly more expensive. This is usually the higher-power Intel Core i7 option you’ll see in mainstream laptops.
The SabrePro 15 can handle any productivity job and sail through it. It’s radically more powerful than the dual-core Core i7 processors you see in slim laptops.
In PC Mark 8 it scores an excellent 4096 points. That’s just 100 points lower than the GTX 1070 version of the Alienware 15 R3 we reviewed a while ago.
In Geekbench 4 it scores 14682: this is a seriously powerful laptop.
It also has very good storage flexibility. There’s a 256GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. As with so many other aspects of the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 it’s a great mainstream array of drives, letting you put your most performance-critical games on the SSD and dump all your media on the slower hard drive. The SSD is very fast, reading at 1757MB/s and writing at 1513MB/s.
It's also a reminder that the Nvidia GTX 1060 is a just-about perfect card for 1080p gaming right now. The SabrePro can handle almost any game at 1080p with all graphics settings maxed.
Thief runs at an average 70.8fps maxed, and 117.9fps at 720p, very low settings. Alien: Isolation is almost ridiculously fast, running at 131fps at 1080p and 232fps at 720p.
Let’s compare this to what you get with the lower GTX 1050 Ti and higher-end GTX 1070. We got Thief to run at 93.8fps (1080P) on the GTX 1070-packing Alienware 15 R3 and at 47.5fps on the GTX 1050 Ti-equipped Chillblast Apollo.
The differences are big, and it’s the GTX 1060 that lets you play games at any settings without the potential overkill factor of the GTX 1070. Granted, the ‘overkill’ is a bit of a silly idea when it also means you’ll be playing games lag-free for longer, but that’s always the case.
Unsurprisingly, heat management isn’t as good as the heavier, thicker laptops because the fan system inside is not huge. The fans rev up to a noticeable noise level with the slightest hint of pressure and the very top part of the keyboard surround does get a little hot after a chunk of play.
If you’re gaming with headphones you might want to use the button that maxes-out the fans. It makes the laptop noisy, but keeps it cooler.
Gigabyte SabrePro 15: Battery life
What’s no longer always the case among gaming laptops is that ultra high-end hardware equals bad battery life. Just look at the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming: it lasts nine and a half hours when just doing simple tasks. That was a bit of a jaw-dropper.
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 has a smaller battery, a 60Wh cell to the Dell’s 76Wh whopper, but the battery life drop is much greater than that disparity would suggest.
Playing a 720p video at 120cd/m screen brightness, the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 lasts 4.5 hours. It’s classic gaming laptop stamina, and won’t get close to lasting a full day’s work.
One element worth noting is that, aside from having a rather large battery, laptops like the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming only last so long because of clever power management. It’s not magic, the Gigabyte simply favours having a lot of power on tap at all times.
The laptop has stereo speakers as well as a ‘subwoofer’ driver on the underside. Results are pretty poor, though. This laptop isn’t loud or bassy, and sounds rather thin for something that claims to have a sub driver.
Gigabyte SabrePro 15: Specs
- 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) Full HD 282ppi IPS LCD matt anti-glare screen
- 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ (3.8GHz boost) 4 cores, 8 threads
- Windows 10 Home 64-bit
- Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB RAM
- 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM
- 256GB SSD
- 2TB HDD
- 802.11b/g/n/ac single-band 2x2 MIMO
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 1x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
- 3x USB 3.0
- 1x HDMI
- 1x mini DisplayPort
- 1x RJ45
- Kensington Security Slot
- SDXC card slot
- Stereo speakers
- HD webcam
- Single mic
- 3.5mm headset jack
- UK tiled keyboard with numberpad
- Two-button trackpad
- 60Wh lithium-ion battery, removable
- 390 x 268 x 25 mm
- 2-year collect-and-return warranty