Gaming laptops got a shot in the arm this summer when Nvidia announced that its GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs would be going mobile without the “M.” Laptop manufacturers have since been able to slot full-fat versions of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080, GTX 1070, and GTX 1060 graphics processors into their machines without forcing buyers to break out the decoder ring to figure out what’s changed between those parts and the desktop versions of the chips—mostly.
With Pascal-equipped laptops now available from basically every major manufacturer, it’s a good time to study how well these notebooks fulfill their promises. Can this next generation of mobile graphics chips truly deliver desktop-class performance within the tight confines of a laptop chassis? To help us answer that question, Gigabyte kindly provided us with a P57X v6 laptop equipped with a mobile GeForce GTX 1070.
This version of the GTX 1070 is the mobile Pascal that’s most changed from its desktop cousin. The Founder’s Edition GTX 1070 has a boost clock range of about 1683 MHz, but the laptop variant is rated for 1645 MHz. That said, If you’ve read any of TR’s Pascal reviews, you’ll know that those numbers can significantly understate the actual clocks that those cards can reach. To make up for this potential deficit, Nvidia actually enabled a few more stream processors and texture units on its midrange mobile parts: 128 more stream processors than the desktop model, bringing it up to 2048 total, and eight more texture units, for a total of 128. Depending on how Gigabyte’s cooling system shakes out, that’s quite a bit of graphics power in a machine that can be taken on the go.
Gigabyte tends to adhere to a minimalist aesthetic for its laptops, and the P57X is no exception. Its glossy black plastic chassis doesn’t scream for attention, although the backlit keyboard might attract some interest from friends and coworkers. The generous venting on the bottom and back, however, identify the P57X as a gaming laptop. In addition to the small orange accents on the machine’s hinges, sharp angles on the power button, speaker grilles, and vents give this machine some personality.
Today, we’re most interested in what’s under the hood. Gigabyte paired the GeForce GTX 1070 with Intel’s Core i7-6700HQ, a popular processor in gaming laptops this last year. It’s a quad-core processor with Hyper-Threading that has a base clock of 2.6 GHz and a 3.5 GHz Turbo speed. 16GB of DDR4-2133 RAM round out the basic hardware package.
One element of this laptop that might raise an eyebrow or two is the display. Gigabyte installed a lovely 17.3″, 1920×1080 IPS panel that’s bright, colorful, and provides excellent viewing angles, but some might consider that resolution rather low for such a large notebook screen. It also might seem to betray this machine’s gaming ambitions. Our benchmarking of the GTX 1070 in a desktop system showed that it’s more than capable of handling games at 2560×1440 and occasionally even at 3840×2160, depending on the game and settings. One might assume that a gaming laptop equipped with the GTX 1070 would ship with a tricked-out panel, perhaps with a higher resolution, higher refresh rate, G-Sync, or all three, for that matter.
After running some benchmarks, however, we were reminded why it’s bad to assume things. First, in a couple of instances we found ourselves capable of pushing settings so high that the P57X couldn’t keep up, even at its native 1920×1080 resolution. Second, it appears that Nvidia’s G-Sync technology still doesn’t cooperate with its power-saving Optimus tech. Those who need robust battery life might hesitate before giving up Optimus. Finally, our tests show that 1920×1080 might be the highest resolution this laptop can really handle when it’s running off of its battery instead of its 200W power brick. Though we’ll get into more detail about this machine’s performance shortly, it actually seems that a good old 1920×1080 display is still a fine choice for a powerful gaming laptop.
For those interested, here’s a full chart of the P57X’s hardware:
|Processor||Intel Core i7-6700HQ|
|Chipset||Intel HM170 Express|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 530
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with 8GB GDDR5 RAM
|Display||17.3″ IPS panel with 1920×1080 resolution|
|Storage||Transcend MTS800 M.2 SATA 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
|Card reader||1 SD card reader|
|Communications||Realtek Gaming Gigabit Ethernet adapter
Intel 802.11.ac Wi-Fi
|Input Devices||Backlit keyboard
|Dimensions||16.57″ x 11.42″ x 1.13″ (421 x 290 x 28.6 mm)|
|Weight||6.6 lbs (3.0 kg)|
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
A P57X v6 configured similarly to our test unit goes for about $2000 on Newegg right now. For a desktop-replacement notebook with significant gaming potential, that could be a fair price. Let’s find out.
The grand tour
Before we dig into some benchmarking results, let’s take a closer look at the P57X, both inside and out. This machine offers three USB 3.0 Type-A ports, two on the left side and one on the right. Along with the HDMI 2.0 port on the right, that’s enough connectivity for the base versions of the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. Folks looking to embark on an Oculus Touch-powered journey might need to break out a USB hub, though.
Speaking of VR, we were initially puzzled to see Gigabyte advertise that the P57X is both VR-Ready and equipped with Nvidia’s Optimus technology, as our understanding has been that those two technologies don’t work together. When we reached out to Gigabyte’s team, however, we learned that the company’s engineers re-designed the HDMI output so that it connects to the GPU directly. Effectively, any external display, like a virtual reality HMD, will only be handled by the GTX 1070 and not the Intel HD Graphics 530 IGP. This allows users to enjoy the power-saving benefits of Optimus without kneecapping the machine’s ability to power VR HMDs.
A surprisingly decent, if not particularly loud, pair of 2W speakers reside to the right and left of the power button near the hinge. With Dolby Digital Plus providing surround sound, the P57X creates an immersive audio experience right out of the box. Audiophiles (and those who prefer to frag demons without waking up the children) will still prefer to plug in their own cans, however.
One of the perks of owning a 17″ laptop is the space for a full-sized keyboard and numpad. Gigabyte claims this backlit keyboard has 30-key rollover and anti-ghosting technology. Like I found with this machine’s predecessor, the P57X’s keyboard offers short travel that’s just average for typing but feels fine for games.
Under the hood
Keen-eyed readers will notice that the interior of the P57X is quite similar to that of the P57W that we reviewed earlier this year. Gigabyte stacked the two sticks of RAM on top of each other and moved the M.2 gumstick over into the space formerly occupied by one of the sticks of RAM. Otherwise, the internal layout is largely the same. Users who find the presence of an optical drive offensive can swap it out for an empty plastic bracket that Gigabyte provides in the box.
Notably, Gigabyte is using a very similar, if not identical, cooling solution for the GPU and CPU. The company must be confident that its dual fan arrangement is just as capable of cooling a GTX 1070 as it was at cooling a GTX 970M.
The Transcend MTS800 256GB SATA SSD that Gigabyte ships in the P57X seems a bit anachronistic in a world increasingly dominated by NVMe storage. That said, we haven’t seen gaming performance benefits from speedy NVMe SSDs, so Gigabyte’s part choice here likely strikes a good balance between cost and performance. That 256GB SSD is backed up with a 1TB Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000 7200-RPM hard drive, which should offer a large chunk of speedy-enough performance for games and applications that can’t fit on the SSD.
Now that we’ve seen what’s new inside the P57X v6, let’s see how it performs.
Our testing methods
Laptops present some difficulties for benchmarking, especially for those interested in the specific performance of one component in the system. When we test a graphics card, we generally try and control for as many variables as possible by placing it on a test bench. That allows us to do apples-to-apples comparisons between different cards.
Since that wasn’t possible here—we couldn’t exactly yank out the 1070 in the laptop and plug it into a handy motherboard—we submitted the 1070 to an completely unfair comparison. We ran our friendly neighborhood MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming Z (the non-mobile kind) through the same benchmarks as Gigabyte’s P57X using TR’s standard graphics-card testing rig from recent reviews.
The machine that we used to test the MSI GTX 1070 has some major advantages over the P57X. Notably, the desktop GTX 1070 was paired up with a Core i7-6700K, an eight-threaded monster with a 4.2 GHz max turbo frequency and a 91W TDP. Our test rig also has 16GB of DDR4-3000 RAM compared to the P57X’s DDR4-2133. Most notably, the CPU and graphics card for our desktop system have huge coolers that let them run without fear of thermal throttling.
Even though Gigabyte’s cooling apparatus inside the P57X is an effective one from our past experience, there’s no way it can compete with a desktop. The 45W Core i7-6700HQ inside the P57X is no slouch, but its tighter thermal envelope limits its peak performance. The same is true of the mobile GTX 1070—we’ll be watching its clocks to see just how effective the P57X’s heatpipes and fans are for cooling a desktop-class graphics card.
For some extra perspective about just where the mobile GeForce GTX 1070 slots into the graphics-card pantheon, we also retested our EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB card using the same settings as we did for the mobile GTX 1070 on our desktop rig. Let’s see if the P57X can run with the big dogs.
Maybe the best sequel since The Empire Strikes Back, Bethesda’s 2016 reboot of the Doom franchise is a fast, frenetic fragfest. For these benchmarks, we ran the game at 1920×1080 on the game’s Ultra preset, but with 8x TSSAA and 16x anisotropic filtering. Doom has a lot of graphics settings, so apologies in advance for the wall of screenshots.
Our “Inside the Second” benchmarking techniques gather frame-time data from our games of choice using a utility called PresentMon. Detailed analysis of the time it takes for the machines to generate each frame allows us to characterize the performance far more accurately than we could by simply presenting average frames per second. In a thermally-constrained chassis where temperatures, power limits, and clocks are constantly shifting and interacting, our methods could reveal any resulting roughness in-game.
That’s what you call a fast start, ladies and gentlemen. All three units deliver fantastic results in the first game of our testing suite. The desktop GTX 1070 is the clear winner, with a commanding lead in average FPS and 99th percentile frame time. However, that doesn’t diminish the results put in by the mobile GTX 1070 and the 1060. A 99th percentile frame time result of 13.5 ms is excellent, as that puts 99% of the rendered frames well north of 60 FPS.
So why does the desktop GTX 1070 produce about 32% more frames per second than the mobile GTX 1070? We surmise that we’re seeing that result because of the resolution. At 1920×1080, the advantages of the desktop system are able to take over. Its CPU and RAM are just better at feeding the graphics card and keeping it busy.
Our “time spent beyond x” graphs provide a quick reference for how much time a graphics card spends working on tough frames past certain critical thresholds in our tests. The graphs that gamers should care about the most are the ones that show how many frames were above the 50-ms threshold and the 33.3 -ms threshold, as those reveal how often the game dropped beneath 20 FPS and 30 FPS, respectively. When frame rates drop that low, gamers are likely to notice, and perhaps lose their sense of immersion.
None of our three contenders yield any frames underneath these thresholds, however, only showing a difference when we look at frames that took longer than 16.7 ms to generate. Those frames are the ones that dip below 60 FPS. Even there, very little separates the three systems. The mobile GTX 1070 had a couple tiny spikes in the benchmarking runs, and that’s what we’re seeing here. Even so, the P57X spent less than a tenth of a second beyond this point—an excellent gaming experience.
The chart correlates well to our experience with Doom on the P57X. Overall, it provided a smooth, high-quality experience, but there were infrequent moments when the machine didn’t quite keep up with our high expectations. Gamers who aren’t actively watching for such moments might not even notice.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
One of gaming’s most iconic and long-lasting franchises, the Tomb Raider continues to attract gamers because, well, the games are just good. The latest title in the series, 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider, is an action-packed game that refreshes classic platformer mechanics while offering players interesting gameplay choices. Once again, we pushed the graphics settings up quite a bit to make the GPUs sing for their supper, even at the laptop’s modest 1920×1080 native resolution.
In this title, we see much more separation between the desktop and mobile variants of the GTX 1070. Our desktop benchmarking system provided a smoother experience, as evidenced by its tight line in the frame time graph. In this particular game, the mobile GTX 1070 is turning in numbers that look a lot more like those produced by the the GTX 1060 6GB. That’s not a bad thing: none of the cards here exhibit any of the spikiness we’d want to call out from a card that delivers a subpar gaming experience.
We shouldn’t let the superlative performance of the desktop 1070 diminish what the other systems were able to accomplish, though. None of the cards tested here registered a single frame beyond 33.3ms. This isn’t the best showing of what the mobile GTX 1070 can accomplish, but it’s still delivering a solid experience right out of the box in this demanding title.
Grand Theft Auto V
When it first came out, GTA V shattered sales records, terrified parents, and put the hurt on graphics cards. It’s a few years old now, but this latest entry in Rockstar Games’ popular series of open-world action games has many dials for turning up the eye candy. We turned up just about all of them except for MSAA, which dropped frame rates farther than we found acceptable.
Now these results are just remarkable, and go against what we’ve learned from years of gaming laptops. Even with its mobile CPU and thermally-constrained chassis, Gigabyte’s P57X is almost breathing down the neck of our desktop testing rig in this title.
Digging into our “time spent beyond” graphs also reveals the mobile GTX 1070 distinguishing itself from the GTX 1060. While the mobile GTX 1070 spent just eight milliseconds past the 16.7ms mark, the GTX 1060 churned away for almost a half a second on difficult frames.
This kind of performance matters because, out of all the games I tested, I found myself most sensitive to low frame rates in this title. As I was looking for playable graphics settings, I found that the system couldn’t quite handle having every setting turned all the way up (I know, right?). With MSAA turned on along with everything else, average FPS dropped down to around 30 FPS, and my driving abilities immediately plummeted. Low FPS causes car crashes, kids. Playing GTA V at high settings requires high-performing hardware, and Gigabyte’s P57X provides that.
Video games don’t need guns in order to be fun. With a bevy of racing vehicles, a wide variety of tracks, and a very realistic weather system, Project Cars delivers an impeccable driving experience. It also offers an immersive VR experience, if you have a rig that can handle it—and preferably something other than a keyboard to steer your dream car.
Once again, the mobile GTX 1070 is within hailing distance of the desktop GTX 1070. In this title, the mobile GTX 1070 performs in bettween the desktop GTX 1070 and GTX 1060. Project Cars seems to be pushing the laptop’s CPU quite a bit, though, as evidenced by the fuzziness in its frame-time graph.
Even with a large number of cars on the track, Gigabyte’s P57X is up to the task here, but our desktop delivers a better gaming experience. The desktop GTX 1070 spent just three seconds past the 16.7 ms mark, versus the much more noticeable 12 seconds of the the mobile GTX 1070. To its credit, the laptop clearly does perform better than the system with the GTX 1060 6GB, which delivered a noticeably less-smooth experience than either of its bigger brothers.
As a rule, gaming laptops need to have their power bricks plugged in to an outlet in order for them to perform up to their full potential. Dropping to battery power has an immediate effect on performance.
To assess just how much performance the P57X retains when it isn’t plugged into a wall, we ran through our Grand Theft Auto V benchmarks again, but this time on battery. We used the “balanced” power profile in Gigabyte’s Smart Manager software utility. We’d have gotten higher numbers from the “High Performance” profile, but if we’re trying to simulate gaming on the go, then battery life matters.
In the interest of fairness, we’ll skip the usual round of performance graphs. The frame-time graph says it all: you don’t want to play Grand Theft Auto V this way. The system’s high-end gaming performance is simply hamstrung without a nearby outlet. It produced just 30 FPS and a 95.2 ms 99th-percentile frame time, a far cry from the 15.6 ms it achieved when plugged in. We don’t usually go so far as to call a gaming experience unplayable, but that’s the only way we can describe the P57X’s performance away from a wall socket.
We present these numbers not because there’s a laptop out there that does provide a great experience on battery—as far as we know, there isn’t—but to remind our readers about what to expect from a gaming laptop. To get the high-flying performance that we saw in our primary benchmark suite, Gigabyte’s P57X needs to be plugged in. Consider this machine a gaming-friendly powerhouse that can move between power plugs rather than a way to play Doom on the plane.
Gaming laptops aren’t exactly known for their long battery life. Powerful components consume a lot of power. To help gaming laptops be functional mobile devices in addition to plugged-in gaming powerhouses, Nvidia introduced its Optimus technology a few years back. Optimus dynamically switches between the integrated graphics provided by the CPU of a laptop and the GPU, using the CPU’s graphics as much as possible to maintain battery life. To test the P57X’s power-sipping prowess, we charged it up, loaded up TR’s BrowserBench utility, and pulled the plug.
Our BrowserBench tests show that the P57X’s more-powerful internals make it fall just a little short of the P57W before it. Five-and-a-half hours isn’t bad for a gaming laptop, but it won’t last a full day of work without some extra juice.
To test how long the P57X can game without being plugged in, I ran Unigine’s Heaven benchmark until the system automatically shut down. As with the BrowserBench run, I set the laptop to its “balanced” power setting. It performed very similarly to Gigabyte’s P57W, which isn’t much of a surprise since they have the same size battery. We don’t think you’ll want to game this way, but our tests at least show how long you could go if you had to.
Thermal and acoustic performance
Gigabyte’s P57 can game, but can it handle the heat? To assess Gigabyte’s cooling solution, I put the laptop through a variety of tests while using the company’s in-house SmartManager utility to monitor temperatures, and AIDA64 Engineer to track CPU, GPU, and GPU memory frequencies.
With just a few browser windows open, the P57 is quiet and cool. The fans spin inaudibly at 1657 RPM, keeping the CPU around 28° C. That’s a few degrees cooler than the temperatures I recorded in Gigabyte’s P57W this past summer, but now that it’s nearing winter, the ambient temperature in my household is also lower.
Next, I assessed the P57’s thermal performance while gaming. I played twenty minutes of Grand Theft Auto V with the laptop plugged in, the power mode set to “High Performance,” and the fans set to “Gaming.” GPU temperatures ranged between 78 and 81° Celsius, and CPU temperatures ranged between 76 and 80° Celsius. During this time, the CPU clock fluctuated around 2992 MHz. The GPU clock varied a bit more, but most commonly hovered around 1797 MHz. The GPU memory clock remained pegged at 2003 MHz. Those figures should go to show that the P57X can sustain boost clocks above and beyond Nvidia’s reference spec, and they attest to the competence of its cooling system.
Acoustically speaking, the sweet spot for the P57X’s fans is about 3400 RPM. At this speed, they produce about 40 dB of noise, which is minimally distracting. The sound produced has a rounded character, with no obtrusive whines or whistles. Unfortunately, the “Gaming” preset for the fans tends to keep the fans between 3700 and 4200 RPM, which adds an unpleasant character to the sound, and pushes the noise level up to about 50 dB. At peak temperatures, the fans spun up to 4400 RPM. The fans generate about 55 dB when pushed this far, and there’s a bit of an annoying whine to the sound of the P57X, a bit like the noise people make when they whistle through their teeth.
Under normal gaming, then, the P57 keeps its components cool, but is a little noisy as it it does so. How about under a true stress test? To simulate a worst-case scenario, I loaded up Prime95’s Small FFTs test, which puts all of the CPU cores to work, and Unigine’s Heaven benchmark, which is still quite capable of taxing a GPU. With both of these tests running simultaneouly, the P57 struggled to dissipate the heat created by its central components. When CPU and GPU temperatures both exceeded 90° C, I stopped the test.
Unless you have a particular fetish for finding prime numbers while admiring a tesselated dragon statue, you’re unlikely to stress out the P57 as I did here. The P57X runs a bit warm, but it plays modern games at high settings without apparent throttling. That’s impressive performance, and it means gamers will get the full potential of the P57X’s powerful parts .
There’s a lot to like about the way Nvidia’s GTX 1070 slots into Gigabyte’s P57X. While this GeForce GTX 1070-equipped laptop didn’t quite match up to the gaming prowess of our desktop test rig, it came darn close at times. We figured we were being completely unfair to the P57X by pitting it against a hulking desktop, but it surprised us by delivering gaming experiences that hang right with desktop-class parts in a relatively thin and portable chassis. That’s an impressive advance in mobile gaming performance by any measure.
We can’t let Nvidia steal all of the accolades here, though. In the P57X, Gigabyte delivered a well-planned implementation of the GTX 1070. The machine generally provides around 60 FPS at 1920×1080 in modern games with very high settings. That’s a tempting proposition, especially considering that buyers can take it with them on business trips or have it sit on their lap in the living room. The P57X is a bit noisier than we’d like, but it’s hard to fault Gigabyte for prioritizing gaming performance and heat dissipation over a little fan noise.
So how well does Gigabyte’s P57X match up against the competition? To the extent that style matters, we think that Gigabyte does an excellent job of making laptops that aren’t garish embarrasssments. The P57X looks like a professional’s computer, and that’s worth a lot in today’s RGB LED-crazed PC hardware market.
We also like that the P57X offers a flexible and expandable storage system. A modern system should come with a substantially-sized SSD, but it doesn’t take long on Newegg to find “gaming” laptops that rely on mechanical spinners alone for their storage. The P57X’s stock SATA M.2 SSD and 1TB hard drive are serviceable enough, and folks who want to add more storage can easily do so. (As an aside, we’re increasingly of the opinion that 512GB is the right size for a system drive. Our testing suite absolutely crushes 256GB drives. Doom consumes nearly 72GB of space all by itself.)
In this era of retina displays, some might look askance at the P57X’s 1920×1080 screen. Given our benchmarking results, however, this resolution looks like a great fit for the mobile GTX 1070. A higher-resolution display would provide a better text-reading experience, but our work with the GTX 1060 and 1070 suggests that users would have to give up a decent amount of gaming performance for those extra pixels if they wanted to game at native resolutions. Higher-resolution screens can also have a negative impact on battery life. Given those constraints, we think Gigabyte made the right choice here.
For about $2000 at retail, Gigabyte has priced the P57X v6 right in line with many other GTX 1070-equipped laptops. If a 17.3″ notebook fits your lifestyle (and backpack), we think the P57X v6 is a solid example of the breed that can deliver true desktop-class performance in a portable package. It’s well worth a look if you demand gaming power on the go. We’re happy to call it TR Recommended.