Gigabyte Aero 15 hands-on
We go hands-on with Gigabyte’s new, bigger Aero 15 gaming laptop
Gigabyte’s Aero 14 was the best example of the current generation of Nvidia-powered gaming laptops. It offered a winning formula: it was thin, light (1.9kg), and managed to pack it all into a package that wasn’t overly gamer-centric.
It was a great formula, one that Gigabyte has stuck closely to with its larger Aero 15. Based on my hands-on time with the machine, it’s a case of one step forward and one step back. But the likes of Dell’s XPS 15 might do well to start looking over its shoulder.
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As you’d expect from the name, the Aero 15 has a larger 15.6-inch screen compared to the 14’s 14-incher. Gigabyte has opted for a panel with an ultra-thin bezel that measures in at just 5mm around the sides and top. This puts it in the same ballpark as the Dell XPS 15, which uses a similar design that it calls ‘InfinityEdge’.
A thin bezel might not be considered a stand-out feature, but it has a profound effect on two parts of the laptop. The first is the device’s dimensions. The Aero 14 wasn’t exactly big, but the 15 is barely any bigger. It has the same 250mm depth, and is just 20mm wider. In other words, this is closer to the 14-inch laptop than it is to a 15.6-inch one. For comparison, the 15.6-inch Dell Inspiron 7000 Gaming is 30mm wider and 20mm deeper, despite having the same-sized screen.
The second effect of that tiny bezel is that it draws your eyes into the screen. It sounds fluffy to talk about it in those terms, but it really makes a difference. Instead of feeling like you’re looking into a frame, the bezel sort of melts away, leaving only what’s on-screen to focus on – in this case, the game you’re playing.
The Aero 15 does share one similar design quirk with the Dell XPS 15, which is that the webcam is situated below the screen. It doesn’t feel quite as intrusive to your nose as the XPS 15’s webcam, but it isn’t the ideal placement and is a bit of a compromise.
However, it’s the screen itself that counts, and in the Aero 15 it doesn’t disappoint. This is the first screen I’ve seen to be certified by the colour whizz-kids over at Pantone, and while I take all co-branding efforts with large pinches of salt, it has to be said that this is an exceptional screen. Gigabyte couldn’t provide an sRGB colour gamut figure, but the Pantone co-branding does mean that each panel is calibrated properly before leaving the factory.
Whatever the numbers say, the Full HD WVA panel looks excellent to the naked eye, with bright and clean whites and punchy colours. Given that it was the screen that set the Aero 14 apart from the Razer Blade, I’d be surprised if the Aero 15’s screen isn’t at least as good.
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In terms of build, it’s a similar story to the Aero 14. The laptop is a mix of plastic and aluminium and feels rock-solid, weighing in at 2.1kg. Given this laptop is a true rival to the Dell XPS 15, I’m a little disappointed that Gigabyte doesn’t offer a plain-black lid for those who are after a proper stealth gaming laptop. The least out-there model comes with a small orange/carbon-fibre-style flash on the lid; lurid orange and green models are also available.
The keyboard is perfect for my tastes, although as was the case with the Aero 14, it might be too firm for some. It comes with full, individual-key RGB backlighting that can be customised using Gigabyte’s pre-installed software. The touchpad feels good, but I think it will suffer from the same very-slight lack of responsiveness I experienced on the 14. It isn’t a major concern and affects only very subtle gestures; most people probably won’t notice.
Performance comes from a quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, Nvidia’s latest 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 GPU and a 512GB PCI-E SSD. It’s the exact same setup as the Aero 14, down to the 94Wh battery, which should last for at least six hours when under moderate load. Expect to play the latest games at Full HD resolution and High settings without any problems at all. And don’t expect a cacophony, either: I turned the fans up to maximum speed and they’re totally acceptable, especially if you whack up the speaker volume.
And the price? The Aero 15 comes in at £1900 for the model sold in the UK, which is the spec outlined above. That’s only £100 more than the Aero 14, for which you’re getting far greater screen real-estate for your money. Of course, it’s 200g heavier, so it’s over to you to decide whether you value screen space or portability.
This is another impressive launch from Gigabyte, and with this 15.6-inch model the company offers a real challenge to Dell’s XPS 15. It doesn’t have the refinement of its rival, but the Aero 15 is substantially more powerful in the graphics department, making it a genuine work/play laptop – if you can afford it.