Gigabyte P35 v5 review

The appeal of Gigabyte's gaming laptops is that they get you the same sort of specs as an Alienware machine, but with much less bulk and none of the juvenile look. They're gaming laptops for grown-ups, if you will. It's the scaling down of dimensions that we really value, but we'll leave the style judgements to your own eyeballs. Here's our Gigabyte P35X v5 review.

One of the issues with the smaller dimensions (compared to other 15.6in gaming laptops) is that the fans are fairly noisy - probably because they have to be smaller to fit. Plus, elements like the keyboard and trackpad aren’t as good as those of lumbering laptop beasts like the Asus' RoG G752 and the Alienware 15.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review: Price

The Gigabyte P35 v5 may not look anywhere near as fancy as an Ultrabook, but it is a fairly expensive machine. Specs start in Nvidia GeForce GTX9 70M GPU territory at £1399, and head up to £1800 when you opt for the GTX 980M card.

If you're getting confused by Gigabyte's naming convention, it boils down to that P35W models use the GTX 970M GPU, while G35X feature the 'ultimate' GTX 980M. Case closed?

To muddy things further, the exact model we're reviewing is the top-end Gigabyte P35X v5, but doesn't have the optional 4K display - one of the big 'innovations' in gaming laptops of 2016. Most top-tier gaming models now offer a 4K display option, but our review unit has a 1080p screen.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review: Design

The Gigabyte P35 v5 design is not going to get too many people excited. It's a bland all-black shell that even gets rid of the macro button column of the 17-inch P37X, the one dead giveaway that this is a gaming laptop.

On the positive side, this means you can take the Gigabyte P35X v5 anywhere without attracting too much attention. Especially if you look more like a middle manager than a student.

From pictures you could believe the Gigabyte P35X v5 is an all-plastic design, but the lid and keyboard surround are all metal-coated to give that cool, expensive touch aluminium provides so well. Let's not overstate things, though. While the minimal design approach of this machine has some appeal, it has none of the specific style of the more bolder, brasher machines. We particularly dislike the thick bezels around the screen which make it look dated rather than modern.

A gaming laptop with a genuinely nice, sober look is the Dell XPS 15, although maxing-out with the GTX 960M it can't touch the Gigabyte P35X v5 for performance. As Dell owns Alienware, it can't let the XPS series get too powerful.

While the look only gets a vague grunt of approval, the Gigabyte P35X v5's dimensions are far more useful. At 2.3kg and 20mm thick, it's a lot thinner and lighter than the majority of laptops with GPUs this capable.

We've been using the P35X as a portable work laptop, and while it won't do the job as an everyday roving machine (it's just too heavy), for occasional portable work it's among the best gaming machines around. The real surprise is that battery life supports this too.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review: Battery Life

The Gigabyte P35X v5 seems to have the same-size battery cell as the 17-inch version, and with very light 'work' use it lasts for a seriously impressive 6.5-7 hours. This was a real-life test, though, using the laptop primarily for writing with the backlight at around 20 percent. This is all that's needed in dingier pubs or cafes.

Stamina falls much closer to expected levels when you ask the Gigabyte P35X v5 to do much more. In the PC Mark 8 battery benchmark it lasts just 3 hours 31 minutes, suggesting the GTX 980M GPU was kicking in at certain points. Ultra-light use shows how scalable the latest generation of Intel Skylake CPUs is, though. Impressive stuff.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review

Upping the brightness to 120cd/m and playing a video on loop, the Gigabyte P35X v5 lasts five hours 25 minutes. Again, this is a reasonably good result for a gaming laptop, although we’re seeing generational improvements across the board this year, thanks to the upgrade to Intel Skylake CPUs.

In summary, you’ll get around 5-5.5 hours of light use with decent screen brightness, a bit over six hours with it set low.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review: Connectivity

The battery doesn't take up much more space than the norm either, it seems, because the Gigabyte P35X v5 still has space to fit in the series-staple hot swap drive bay. As standard the machine comes with a multi-writer optical drive, but using a little slider on the machine's underside you can pull out the whole bay to swap it for a 2.5-inch HDD or SSD. Or leave it empty to shave off 100g or so.

We don't have much use for optical drives these days, but starting with one as the default probably keeps the price down.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review

Around the Gigabyte P35X v5's sides you get a very good array of connections, with far more video connectors than you'd see in a more style-driven laptop. There are HDMI, VGA and Mini DisplayPort connectors, and the HDMI is a 2.0 socket, enabling 60 frames per second rates at 4K.

As well as these you get three USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C port (a new addition this year), an SD card slot and Gigabit Ethernet. Plus separate 3.5mm jacks for mic and headphones. Pretty much everything you could ask for, then.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review: Keyboard and trackpad

One of the first weaker points of the P35X v5 is the keyboard/touchpad combo. Each is fine, but nothing more. The key action is shallow and 'one note', and was a very obvious downgrade coming from using the Dell XPS 15 recently.

With chunkier gaming machines like the Alienware 15 and Asus RoG G552 you get much deeper, smoother key response. For such an expensive machine, there's a slight hint of a flimsy feel to the keyboard at first. As with so many keyboards, though, you'll get used to it.

After a couple of days I went from disliking it to deciding I could live with it just fine. However, it doesn't deserve too much more than a shrug.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review

The trackpad finds itself in a similar situation. While it's a quality build, with a lovely smooth surface of the perfect friction level, the button action ends on a stodgy note after the click. And its position means you need to bring your right hand right up close to your left to comfortably reach the left button.

As the laptop has a NUM pad, the actual layout of the touchpad relative to the display is much closer to that of a 13-inch laptop, and neither is centrally located relative to the screen. That's right, the NUM pad causes a comfort issue.

This is a touchpad that seems designed with the idea it won't be used 24/7 in mind (you'll use a mouse for gaming, in other words). It's a shame as the surface is large and the top texture is spot on.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review: Performance

Max performance in a small frame is the top priority here, and sure enough the Gigabyte P35X v5 provides it. Our review machine has an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, a quad-core chipset clocked at 2.6GHz, with a turbo boost up to 3.5GHz and 6MB cache.

This is the same chipset used in most of the Alienware 15 models, and several other key rivals. As we saw with the surprising low-demand battery stamina, even in this more juice-happy end of the Intel Core range, efficiency is impressive. This is likely in part down to the move to a 14nm architecture. Its transistors are smartphone-grade tiny.

This CPU is matched with an Nvidia GeForce GTX980M 8GB GPU, currently the most powerful single laptop card available. As of early 2016 at least, this is the laptop GPU to desire.

In the 3D Mark Fire Strike benchmark, it scores 8249 points, which is - no surprise - a similar score to the Alienware 17 we just tested using the same GPU and CPU. In PC Mark 8 it scores 3230 points and 10636 in Geekbench 3.

Other specs in our review model include 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB 7200rpm hard drive and 256GB SSD. This is a perfect storage setup for many, letting you install a a few 'priority' games and the OS on the SSD while leaving plenty of slower HDD performance for things that don't need ultra-fast read/write speeds.

To give you an idea of the performance of these two drives, using CrystalDiskMark we recorded max 2188MB/s read speed and max 1280MB/s write speed on the SSD. These are fantastic results, showing Gigabyte is using a fast, recent drive.

The hard drive is of course a totally different beast, reading at up to 138MB/s and writing at 129MB/s. It's a bog-standard 7200rpm HDD, not one with any sort of fast solid state cache to speed it up. As the system doesn't really rely on this drive, it doesn't need one, though.

This is a pretty terrific laptop for performance. It’ll let you play any game at 1080p with all the settings maxed-out and still get you good frame rates. With The Witcher 3, for example, you can happily use the ridiculously GPU-sapping Nvidia Hairworks, which gets you super-advanced hair physics. Welcome to 2016: it’s kinda weird.

The one slight sour note is that the Gigabyte P35 v5’s amazing GPU is not new. It was used in the last generation of P35Xs and, as the king of laptop GPU land, the price on the thing hasn’t come down even though it has been around for a while. Hardly stale though, is it? One concession is that it is the 8GB version, although it’s popping up regularly in top-end gaming laptops this year.

Then there’s how loud the Gigabyte P35 is. One of the issues with using a relatively petite frame is that your fans may have to work harder to keep the temperature down.

Virtually all laptops using this class of CPU need to keep their fans running all the time during operation, but here they’re fairly obvious. In a quiet room you may find them distracting, although naturally they’ll be drowned out by ambient noise if you’re out and about.

The noise scales up, once again louder than most rivals, as the system is put under increasing strain. Next to the Alienware 17 we reviewed recently, it’s pretty noisy. This is certainly one of the main reasons not to consider the Gigabyte P35X. Not caring about a bit of fan noise is perfectly fine too, though.

From noise to audio, sitting the Gigabyte P35X next to our usual MacBook Pro 13 workhorse, its speakers are louder than that machine, and louder than average too. There’s a good bit of bulk to the sound, without resulting in a muddy or clouded sound signature.

There is a slight lack of restraint, though. At full volume, you can hear some mid-range distortion in fuller tracks. To be clear, we don’t mean outright speaker crackle, the sound just becomes a little ugly.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review: Screen

Ending with one of the most important elements, let’s look at the screen. As with all the main gaming laptop series this year, the Gigabyte P35 v5 comes with a 4K IPS display option, and that’s whether you go for the W (GTX 970M GPU) or ‘X’ series (GTX 980M GPU).

However, we’ve been checking out the standard 1080p edition. It’s a good display, offering full sRGB colour gamut coverage, respectable 300cd/m max brightness, fair contrast and a practical matt finish.

Gigabyte P35 v5 review

For a bit more detail, it offers 100.3 percent sRGB coverage and 69 percent Adobe RGB. You can expect the 4K version to cover significantly more of Adobe RGB. It seems to be the case for most of these 1080p/4K splits, and Gigabyte even boasts about the 4K edition’s ‘wide gamut’ coverage.

Still, the 1080p version looks good, with very tight calibration resulting in an average Delta E of just 0.15 (0.86 max). For a pure gaming machine, 1080p is a perfectly good resolution to stick with, offering the best balance of graphical fidelity and frame rate, but the 4K screen won’t half make Windows 10 look nice and sharp.

See also: Best laptops you can buy right now

Gigabyte P35 v5: Specs

  • 15.6in (1920 x 1080) 142dpi IPS matt anti-glare 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ 4 cores, 8 threads Nvidia GeForce GTX980M 8GB GPU 16GB DDR4 2133 RAM 256GB SSD 1TB 7200rpm SATA HDD gigabit ethernet 802.11b/g/n/ac single-band 2x2 MIMO Bluetooth 4.0 Tray-load DVD±RW drive, removable 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 HDMI 2.0, VGA, Mini DisplayPort Kensington Security Slot SDXC card slot stereo speakers HD webcam single mic 3.5mm headset jack UK tiled keyboard with numberpad two-button trackpad 75.81Wh lithium-ion battery 385 x 270 x 21mmmm 2260g
  • 15.6in (1920 x 1080) 142dpi IPS matt anti-glare 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ 4 cores, 8 threads Nvidia GeForce GTX980M 8GB GPU 16GB DDR4 2133 RAM 256GB SSD 1TB 7200rpm SATA HDD gigabit ethernet 802.11b/g/n/ac single-band 2x2 MIMO Bluetooth 4.0 Tray-load DVD±RW drive, removable 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 HDMI 2.0, VGA, Mini DisplayPort Kensington Security Slot SDXC card slot stereo speakers HD webcam single mic 3.5mm headset jack UK tiled keyboard with numberpad two-button trackpad 75.81Wh lithium-ion battery 385 x 270 x 21mmmm 2260g

OUR VERDICT

As Intel’s CPUs let even gaming beasts like the Gigabyte P35X v5 creep into battery life territory that almost makes them viable as roving productivity machines, every big of extra portability becomes more valuable. Sure enough, this is one of the most portable machines to feature a GTX 980M graphics card. The problem is that if being able to lug the Gigabyte P35X V5 around conveniently isn’t a major concern, this wouldn't be our top pick. Performance is great, the screen is fine and there are plenty of connections. But fairly noisy fans and better touchpad/keyboard combos available from Alienware and Asus make it drop down our most-wanted list a little way. Still, if portability and sober looks appeal, it deserves a place on your shortlist.

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