Keyboard and trackpad
I had some trepidations about the X3 Plus v5's keyboard and clickpad. If there’s one aspect of laptops that I continually struggle with, it’s the input devices. As a child, I learned to type on an IBM Model M, and it’s set the standard for every keyboard I’ve used since.
The primary keys are all full-size at 0.63" square. The top row, which includes the f-keys, are a bit shorter, measuring in at 0.44" tall. Along the left hand side of the keyboard are five 0.38"-wide macro buttons. A glowing button immediately above the macro buttons cycles through five different macro groups, changing color to indicate the selected profile. The functions of these keys can be changed in Aorus' MacroEngine software, which we'll cover in a bit. The white backlight can be set to full brightness or a dimmer mode, and it can also be turned off if its glow isn't wanted.
The switches underneath the keys might not be the Cherry MX Browns that delight my fingers in my Rosewill RK-9000V2, but they have just enough buckle to remind me that I’m pushing a key. They’re also far more quiet than my Rosewill, which is preferable in many situations outside of the office. To test my accuracy and speed, I went to typingtest.com. In three one-minute runs, my adjusted typing speeds were 91 wpm, 103 wpm, and 106 wpm, for an average of 100 words per minute. Doing the same tests on my Rosewill, I averaged 102 words per minute. While I’m a bit more accurate on my full-sized mechanical keyboard, I’m impressed with how close those results are. Overall, I’d say the Aorus x3 has a reliable, functional keyboard.
I’m also not a big fan of trackpads. At best, they provide the mousing functionality I need when it’s not feasible to plug in a mouse. At worst, they move my cursor around every time the heel of my hand drops down too far. Aorus uses an Elan trackpad in the X3 Plus v5. This multi-touch surface has a textured area at the bottom border to indicate left- and right-click functionality, but users can also simply tap anywhere on the pad to left click. It has a smooth, responsive surface, and there's a function key dedicated to turning it on and off quickly. For the times when I don't have a mouse handy, the X3 Plus v5's trackpad serves just fine.
Connectivity and utilities
Aorus scoffs at Apple's “less is more” strategy for ports, and instead provides a wide range of connectors on the X3 Plus v5. First up are the ports for attaching a secondary display to the machine. On the left panel, we get an HDMI 2.0 port and a Mini DisplayPort. We can also see a USB 3.0 port, headphone and microphone jacks, and a USB 3.1 Type-C port from this angle. Aorus doesn't include the necessary hardware to turn that USB-C port into a Thunderbolt 3 connector, but we still appreciate the fast peripheral I/O.
I plugged in a 24” 1080p monitor into the HDMI port, and was pleased with how quickly the system handled the display change. One of the built-in function buttons seamlessly switches back and forth between the displays. The only annoyance I encountered with switching displays concerned changing resolutions. To make text and icons readable on the laptop’s 3200x1800 display, everything has to be scaled up. When I switch to the 1080p monitor, Windows uses the same scaling factor as the rest of the system, so I have to manually change those settings every time I connect and disconnect my external monitor. To make matters worse, some of the scaling settings require you to log out of Windows and back in.
On the other side of the machine, Aorus includes an SD card reader and two USB 3.0 ports. You can also see the power button. On the rear of the machine, we get an Ethernet jack and the connector for the machine's AC adapter.
There are no buttons or ports on the laptop’s thin front edge, but there is a row of five tiny LEDs that indicate the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, storage, battery, and power status. The speakers are located at the front of the notebook on its left and right edges. The speakers perform about as well as I'd expect for tiny drivers. They don't offer much in the way of bass, and have a rather tinny treble range. However, I expect that most users will either use a headset or plug the laptop into a real speaker system.
The Aorus X3 offers a number of utilities to access the laptop's important functions. I'll draw your attention to the Command & Control interface, the System Gauge panel, and the macro engine.
Through the Command & Control interface, you can access a number of important functions. Notably, you can change the machine's power profile, adjust the fan settings, access the System Gauge, and turn on and off a number of functions, like the Windows key.
The System Gauge gives you a quick look at vital information about your hardware. Five gauges indicate your used disk space, GPU and memory utilization, and remaining battery life. At the bottom of screen, the System Gauge provides CPU and GPU temperatures, the current speed of the fans, and an estimate of the time remaining on the battery. In my experience, the battery estimate was fairly accurate.
Through the MacroEngine, users can program the five macro buttons on the left side of the keyboard. Users can define up to five different groups and cycle through them using a colorful button in the upper left-hand corner of the keyboard.