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Gigabyte's P57W gaming laptop reviewed

For big laps only

There's a running gag in the original Zoolander movie that's so charmingly dated that the writers of this year's sequel couldn't help but make fun of it. Derek Zoolander's phone was tiny. To be fair, the first movie was made in 2001, when phone manufacturers were eager to set their products apart from the relatively massive cell phones of the '80s and '90s. Even as recently as 2010, Steve Jobs claimed that "no one's going to buy" a large phone. And yet here so many of us are, gleefully picking among one 5"-or-larger behemoth and the next.

The same can't be said of the laptop market. Sure, larger machines are always available, but they've developed a reputation for being hot, heavy, and loud. These days, full-size laptops have taken a back seat to the thin-and-light options of the world like the Macbook Air and the Surface Pro. After spending a couple weeks with Gigabyte's 17.3" P57W laptop, though, I've become convinced that some people should consider going big with their next notebook.

The P57W shares a lot in common with the Aorus X3 Plus v5 laptop I took a peek at earlier this spring. (Considering that Aorus is Gigabyte's gaming brand, perhaps that's not a surprise.) Both laptops are powered by Intel's Core i7-6700HQ CPU and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970M mobile graphics processor, an impressive combination. The Core i7-6700HQ is a Skylake processor with a 45W TDP. It has a 2.6-GHz base clock and a 3.5-GHz Turbo speed. In the P57W, Gigabyte teams the CPU up with 16GB of Crucial's DDR4-2133 RAM.

The GeForce GTX 970M employs the GM204 chip used in its desktop siblings, the GeForce GTX 970 and GeForce GTX 980. With 1280 shader processors, 48 ROPs, and a 192-bit path to memory, the 970M is cut down a bit even in comparison to the GTX 970. This time around, GPU-Z reveals that the 1038-MHz boost speed of the GTX 970M in the P57W is about the same as the 1040 MHz boost clock we observed in the Aorus X3 Plus v5. The X3 ships with 6GB of GDDR5 RAM for its GTX 970M, while the P57W ships with 3GB. When all that graphics horsepower isn't needed, the P57W uses Nvidia's Optimus technology to switch over to the power-friendly Intel HD 530 graphics processor in the Core i7-6700HQ.

The Gigabyte P57W and the Aorus X3 Plus 5 have some similar hardware, but they don't command the same price. The version of the X3 that we reviewed commanded a $2200 price tag, while the P57W is available for $1700. Since the processor, memory, and GPU in the P57W are largely the same as those in the Aorus system, how did Gigabyte cut costs by $500?

The first major difference between the X3 and the P57W is their displays. Instead of the 3200x1800 panel found on the X3, Gigabyte chose a 17.3" IPS panel with a maximum resolution of 1920x1080 for the P57W. Neither model has a touchscreen. While the 970M proved surprisingly capable of powering games at that "QHD+" resolution, it still fell a little short of playable frame rates in demanding titles. Gamers may find a 1080p panel a more natural fit for the performance capabilities of the GeForce GTX 970M. 

Second, Gigabyte swapped out the Samsung SM951 NVMe SSD in the Aorus machine for a more mainstream storage solution. Users will find a 256GB LiteOn SATA SSD and a 1TB Hitachi mechanical drive inside the stock P57W. If that isn't enough storage, the optical drive on the front of the laptop can be easily swapped out for another hard drive using an included adapter.

Finally, while the X3 sported an all-aluminum chassis, the P57W is all plastic. It is quite sturdy, however. I only felt minimal flex under the keyboard and behind the display. I wish that the display hinge was a bit more sturdy, though, and I'd appreciate some kind of mechanism to keep it closed. One benefit of the plastic construction is that this isn't a very heavy laptop for its size. One similarly-sized competitor tips the scales at 8.8 pounds (4kg), but the P57W is only 6.4 pounds (2.9kg). That weight makes the machine portable enough, and while it isn't the slimmest laptop on the market, it's still less than 1" thick.

While it's an attractive laptop, it's by no means a flashy one. My editor will be relieved to learn that the keyboard backlight only glows in one color. Gigabyte's unassuming logo appears on the P57W's lid in chrome. Orange accents on the display hinge and along the left and right sides provide a splash of color. As evidenced in our recent system guide, we tend to prefer understated cases that emphasize function over form here at TR. The P57W fits that aesthetic nicely.

The P57W's ventilation scheme is quite similar to what we saw in the X3. Generously-sized vents along the bottom and back of the machine help ensure that the CPU and GPU stay cool. Gigabyte placed the swappable drive bay along the front edge under the clickpad. That placement isn't ideal. After accidentally opening the DVD drive a few times, I put in the included drive bracket instead for peace of mind.

  Gigabyte P57W
Processor Intel Core i7-6700HQ
Memory 8GB or 16GB DDR4-2133
Chipset Intel HM170 Express
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 530
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M with 3GB GDDR5 RAM
Display 17.3" IPS panel with 1920x1080 resolution
Storage LiteOn L8t-256L9G M.2 SSD, 256GB
Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000, 1TB
Panasonic UJ8G2 DVD-RW
Expansion options: Swappable drive bay for 9.5mm / 7mm drives (if DVD-RW is removed)
Audio 2 2W speakers
Expansion and display outputs 1 USB 3.1 Type-C
3 USB 3.0
HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2
Mini DisplayPort
1 D-sub
Card reader 1 SD card reader
Communications Realtek Gaming Gigabit Ethernet adapter
Intel Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.1+LE
Input Devices Backlit keyboard
Internal microphone
Camera HD webcam
Dimensions 16.57" x 11.42" x 0.98"  (421 x 290 x 24.9 mm)
Weight 6.4 lbs (2.9 kg)
Battery 75.81Wh Li-polymer
OS Windows 10 Home

So much for the exterior. Let's grab a screwdriver and take a look inside.