Aorus X7 Pro gaming laptop review

Aorus X7 Pro

Aorus – Gigabyte's brand-new gaming laptop division – has been busy lately. Like much of the Windows PC world, Gigabyte is beholden to its component suppliers to come up with new innovations. And in this case, it's its chosen graphics processor supplier of nVidia that's been rushing through so many updates to its mobile graphics chips. (See also: Best gaming laptop reviews.)

The first version of Gigabyte's Aorus X7 laptop used a pair of nVidia GeForce GTX 765M in scalable-link interface (SLI) mode. Then the Aorus X7 V2 was launched last summer with two nVidia GeForce 860M processors. And now, to keep up with nVidia's update schedule comes the Aorus X7 Pro, which has also been described as an X7 V3.

For the full description of the original Aorus X7 17.3-inch gaming laptop, see our review here.

Aorus X7 Pro review: Graphics Processor

In the new X7 Pro, the main change since the X7 v2 is to the graphics processors, although our sample of the X7 Pro also featured a slightly different storage configuration. Instead of three 128 GB mSATA SSDs, this model included two 256 GB mSATA drives, again arranged in a RAID 0 array.

Such a configuration allows incredibly fast access times – in our tests we saw sequential read speeds up to 781 MB/s and writes even faster at 785 MB/s. This setup still importantly returned fairly decent numbers for 4 kB random reads and writes too, at 27.3 and 78.3 MB/s respectively. So here there is a performance hit, ultimately slower than a single non-RAIDed SSD, but still well ahead of HDD performance.

With a queue depth of 32, the results were 443 MB/s random 4 kB reads and 514 MB/s random 4 kB writes. The latter result suggests a very quick IOPS figure of 132,000 IOPS.

We put the X7 Pro through the usual benchmarks to see how it performed overall. Geekbench informed us of some speedy number crunching; namely 3670 points with a single processor core, and 13,124 points in multi-processor mode with eight virtual cores all running.

Aorus X7 Pro

In PCMark 7 it earned 6474 points, very close to the 6304 points of the X7 v2. PCMark 8 scores were also beaten, rising from 3983 to 4051 points in the Home test without hardware acceleration. Engaging the dual GPUs brought the score up to 4809 points. In the PCMark 8 Work test, scores rose from 3464 to 4463 points; and then to a mammoth 5144 points with hardware acceleration engaged. Also see: Laptop Advisor.

Cinebench scores were impressive. Version 11.5 of the render benchmark reported 1.63 points single-core and 6.52 points multi-core mode; and OpenGL video rendering played at 67 fps. Version 15 Cinebench returned 142 and 590 points respectively for single- and multi-mode, while its video clip played at 144 fps, the fastest result we've seen.

But running gaming graphics rather than workstation graphics is the reason for which this laptop was built. Where the previous model played Tomb Raider 2013 at 57 fps average (1920 x 1080, High detail) the X7 Pro averaged instead 221 fps. Given that incredibly high framerate, we nudged up the quality settings to Ultra (170 fps) and finally Ultimate (110 fps).

In Batman: Arkham City, the Aorus could play at native screen full-HD resolution at 129 fps (High detail), 122 fps (Very High) and 107 fps (Extreme).

Finally we put the X7 Pro through its paces with Metro: Last Light. Set again at native resolution and High detail (with all other effects left disabled) it averaged 171 fps. And even at uppermost Very High detail setting, and other effects now engaged such as SSAA, 16x AF, Motion Blur, and PhysX, it still played at a useful 48 fps. With some glorious detail and fluidity, it must be said.

It's worth noting that the large increase in performance may be partly software as much as hardware driven. A software update was applied from nVidia which noted that optimisations had been made for certain games, including the three in our usual benchmark roster. See also: Best laptops 2015.

Aorus X7 Pro review: Screen Test

On the last X7 v2 example we found the LCD to be a mixed bag – with reasonably wide viewing angles for a budget TN type but an odd vertical grain pattern visible across the entire panel. It looks like the kind of visible lines you'd seen in quality velour paper, only turned 90 degrees. That proved to be the case again for this model, which seems to use the same Optronics twisten-nematic display.

In lab tests, it was measured wtih 95 percent sRGB coverage, and 70 percent Adobe RGB. The reported contrast ratio was better than the nastiest TN screens (80:1) but still only reached 330:1 (where an IPS panel would typically exceed 600:1).

Luminance uniformity was below average, up to around 20-30 percent darker across the display's top third, although our eyes are quite forgiving of even large looking deviations up to this point. Colour accuracy was good overall with an average Delta E value of only 0.97 using a 48-tone test.

Aorus X7 Pro

The last Aorus X7 had disappointing battery life even by gaming laptop standards at just 1 hour 48 min. This sample lasted slightly longer, 2 hour 17 min, in the same test (streamed HD video over Wi-Fi, 120 cd/m^2 display brightness).

Perhaps we should look at that as a good result, considering that both GPUs are active – Optimus graphics-switching technology is not available to SLI-configured systems.

In use we did find the Aorus X7 Pro annoyingly loud in general use. Cooling fans would spin up and keep switching speed (and hence audible pitch) regularly while the laptop was just idling at the desktop. And of course as soon as a game is loaded the fans are pegged at full volume all the time.

Gigabyte does include a useful software control panel that sits up the Windows Taskbar, from where you can engage Stealth Mode. This usefully reduces fan speed to more comfortable, almost inaudible levels, at 2100 rpm. However this comes at the cost of hampering performance since the processor is running undervolted, and underclocked to 1.6 GHz clock speed. See all laptops buying advice.

Aorus X7 Pro: Specs

  • 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080) 127 ppi TN matt anti-glare display
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-4860HQ (3.6 GHz Turbo), 2C, 4T
  • 2x nVidia GTX 870M SLI (6 GB total)
  • 16 GB 1867 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 2x 256 GB mSATA SSDs (RAID 0)
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 3x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • 2x HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, VGA
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • built-in mic
  • HD webcam
  • 74.7 Wh lithium-polymer, non-removable battery
  • 425 x 303 x 24.5 mm
  • 3.24 kg
  • 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080) 127 ppi TN matt anti-glare display
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-4860HQ (3.6 GHz Turbo), 2C, 4T
  • 2x nVidia GTX 870M SLI (6 GB total)
  • 16 GB 1867 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 2x 256 GB mSATA SSDs (RAID 0)
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 3x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • 2x HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, VGA
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • built-in mic
  • HD webcam
  • 74.7 Wh lithium-polymer, non-removable battery
  • 425 x 303 x 24.5 mm
  • 3.24 kg

OUR VERDICT

With the help of nVidia's recent push to make powerful mobile graphics processors that consume less energy, the Aorus X7 Pro now turns in gaming performance once only available to desktop machines. Just make sure you pack some sound-deadening headphones to block out the white noise of high-speed fans required to keep this slim chassis cool. If you can deal with the noise you'll be able to enjoy incomparable mobile gaming.

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