We kicked off the first real day of Computex 2017 with a comprehensive tour of Gigabyte’s new and upcoming products at the company’s temporary base of operations in Taipei 101. We were greeted not only by company staff, but also this modern masterpiece. The creature is apparently more falcon than eagle, but it was neither confirmed nor denied whether the bottom part of the logo depicts flexing biceps.
The star of the show, of course, was Gigabyte’s X299 motherboard lineup, so we wasted no time getting personal with the Aorus Gaming series. We’ve already covered these boards elsewhere, so we’ll first let the pictures speak for themselves.
Aorus X299 Gaming 9
Hands-on time with the boards and Gigabyte staff yielded some additional tidbits. All four boards use the same eight-phase power-delivery scheme largely obscured by a beefy heatsink. The Gaming 9 enjoys additional heat dissipation (not to mention rigidity) from an aluminum backplate. The Gaming 7 has a lesser luxury in a small thermal pad directly under the VRMs on the underside of the motherboard.
Aorus X299 Gaming 7
As the pictures should make abundantly clear, the RGB LEDs are strong with these boards. If the boards’ native blinkenlights aren’t enough to satisfy, the RBGW LED header provides an avenue for additional strips or controllers to be brought on board and unified under Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion software. We previously saw RGB Fusion at work in the Aorus Z270X-Gaming 5 board, and it’s obvious that Gigabyte is hard at work extending that software ecosystem.
Those of you gnashing your teeth at the sight of all this LED ostentation, take a deep breath. Aorus gear may not be your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean Gigabyte has abandoned you just yet. Behold the Gigabyte X299 Ultra Durable 4.
No RGB. No armor, whether medieval or chiropteran. Just some empty slots and a socket. Gigabyte characterizes the UD4 as similar to the Aorus Gaming 3, less a bit of bling. We imagine this will be the X299 board of choice for the surly anti-RGB-LED brigade.
The last X299 board in Gigabyte’s stable is the GA-C422-WS, targeted squarely at workstations. The board’s merely six-phase power design may deter ambitious overclockers, but its whopping seven PCIe slots might attract the multi-GPU crowd.
Gigabyte tells us that preorders for its X299 lineup begin on June 19. Builders who bite between that date and August will be rewarded with an early adopter incentive. While the details of the promotion aren’t yet ironed out, we’re told it will comprise some combination of Steam codes, headsets, mousepads, or XSplit licenses totaling roughly $150 in value.
A case and a cooler
Next, we were treated to the sight of a brand-new product inside of a brand-new product. The Aorus AC300W Gaming Chassis is a rather subdued affair, all things considered. While it does have built-in RGB LED accents and a transparent acrylic side panel, the overall design is one of clean lines and restraint. The case’s most standout features are its USB Type-C and HDMI passthrough ports lurking among the front panel I/O.
Aorus is just getting its feet wet with cases, but if all goes well, this mid-range mid-tower will be followed up by a more luxurious tempered-glass full-tower. Gigabyte expects to sell the AC300W at the $100-ish price point, but that’s not yet set in stone.
The machine assembled inside the AC300W was powered by an Aorus X299 Gaming 7 and an Aorus GTX 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition card. Though the CPU underneath remained a mystery, Gigabyte was happy to tell us about the hunk of metal cooling it. The Aorus ATC 700 cools processors with three 10-mm copper heatpipes and a dense array of fins. It comes with two 120-mm PWM spinners and will provisionally retail around $50.
We then spent some time with Gigabyte’s growing lineup of laptops. There were at least a dozen models on display, but many of them were merely incremental refreshes or products living in the limbo between prior unveilings and a bona fide release. We’ll confine our attention to the models we hadn’t seen before.
The Aorus Sabre line was announced at CES earlier this year, ostensibly to serve the entry-level market of 1080p gaming machines. Now the company is taking the wraps off a new model, the SabrePro 15. While the SabrePro still uses a 1080p screen, it ups the ante with a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB graphics card. Other features include an M.2 PCIe SSD, an unspecified Kaby Lake Core i7 CPU, a fully RGB LED-backlit keyboard (including the numerical pad), and four dedicated macro keys.
The P56XT provides more amenities for more dollars. It packs a full-fat GeForce GTX 1070, which drives your choice of a 1080p or 4K display. A Core i7 CPU, up to 32GB of DDR4, and a 1TB PCIe SSD round out the package for a serious gaming machine. Creature comforts include Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 91 WHr battery, and a per-key RGB LED-lit keyboard. Gigabyte says the P56XT will be available soon for around $2000 at the very least.
Last, we ogled Gigabyte’s gorgeous gaming ultrabook, the Aero 15. Though technically not new (it’s already available at Newegg), this was the first time we’d laid eyes on the machine in person. I have a weakness for thin-bezeled notebooks—I’m typing this up on an XPS 13—and was immediately quite taken with the device. The Aero 15 is powered by a quad-core Core i7-7700HQ CPU and either 8GB or 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM. Graphics horsepower is provided by a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, with a choice of 1080p or 4K monitor. Both displays carry an X-Rite Pantone certification for color-sensitive work. Thunderbolt 3 ports and a beefy 94 WHr battery seal the deal to make for an exceptionally-attractive mobile gaming machine.
Box o’ Brix
On the Brix front, Gigabyte had its new Brix Gaming VR mini-PC prominently on display. The little machine was just honored with one of Computex’s Design and Innovation awards, and it’s easy to see why. The thing is tiny, but nonetheless can sport some serious hardware. The display unit was loaded with a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, a Patriot Hellfire NVMe drive, two DDR4 3200 MT/s SO-DIMMs, and a GeForce GTX 1060.
On top of all that, there’s room for an additional M.2 drive and 2.5″ drive if desired. It’s not a backpack system à la Zotac VR GO, but then again you could choose your own backpack and easily stuff a Brix VR inside it.
Aorus has your accessories covered as well. The M3 Gaming Mouse has all the ingredients a successful rodent needs: Omron switches rated for 20 million clicks, Pixart’s 3988 optical sensor, and customizable RGB LED lighting. Our doughty editor-in-chief gave a quite similar mouse a TR Recommended award some time ago, so with any luck, Gigabyte’s take on it will be equally compelling.
The Aorus K7 keyboard packs Cherry switches and per-key RBG LED lighting. At launch, the keyboard will only be available with Cherry MX Red and MX Blue varieties, but more may follow down the line. The K7 felt solidly constructed yet noticeably lighter than the Rosewill and CoolerMaster mechanical keyboards I’ve been exposed to.
Aorus K7 keyboard
The K9 keyboard seems quite similar to the K7 at first blush, but it hides a dirty secret—you can shower with it. The Flaretech “switches” inside are optical, meaning they use lights and sensors to detect keypresses, apparently eliminating the need to solder the switch to the keyboard’s PCB. As a result, you get a keyboard that’s splash-resistant. It isn’t water-resistant or water-proof enough to earn any IP certifications, but it has a better chance than most keyboards at surviving a soda spill. These magical switches come in “red” and “blue” flavors, as does the K9.
Aorus K9 keyboard
Next up, a crazy idea. The Aorus GTX 1070 Gaming Box is… a box with a GTX 1070 inside. More specifically, it’s a bespoke Thunderbolt 3-driven enclosure pre-loaded with a mini-ITX GTX 1070. There’s a kind of logic at work here. Perhaps those who eschew big tower PCs don’t want chunky external GPU docks at their desks either. Just don’t buy one and expect to be able to replace the card inside with a full-length 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition, for example.
Anyway, the Gaming Box provides a full complement of USB ports, including a fast-charging connector. No target price was specified, but I was able to coax out a very loose $500 ballpark figure. Gigabyte is also considering a more powerful version with a sawn-off GTX 1080, but for now the GTX 1070 Gaming Box flies solo.
Threadripper, experiments, and oddities
We circled back with Gigabyte after a certain press conference the next day to put our eyeballs on an engineering sample of the company’s first planned X399 board. The X399 Aorus Gaming 7 looks very similar to the X299 version—a high-end audio setup, M.2 heatsinks, USB Type-C ports, and an RBGW header are all present. Ethernet connectivity seems to be provided by a single Killer-powered port instead of the Intel-and-Killer duet present on the X299 Gaming 7.
It’s not surprising that some features were shifted around or dropped entirely to make room for the massive TR4 socket, though. Not much information is yet available about what other plans Gigabyte has for Threadripper, but rest assured that there will eventually be more boards.
That’s it for new hardware, folks, now it’s time for a little eye candy. Sprinkled through the Gigabyte space were various assembled rigs designed to showcase feats of technical or aesthetic achievement.
First, there was a system running one of Intel’s newfangled Core i7-7900X chips slapped onto Gigabyte’s afore-mentioned X299 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard alongside 128GB of Corsair’s Vengeance DDR4. Some madman had taken the eight 16GB DIMMs all the way up to 4133 MT/s. CPU-Z was running on the machine to prove it.
Next, another X299 rig (running an unspecified Core X CPU on an X299 Aorus Gaming 9) with a single Samsung 960 Pro 1TB as a boot drive and four Intel 750 400GB drives in a RAID 0 pool. The setup apparently relies on Intel’s new VROC technology in conjunction with its existing RSTe driver. We’ll be covering VROC in a separate post as we learn more. The final product yields some pretty outlandish numbers in CrystalDiskMark. But harrumph; give me IOMeter and, um, about 12 hours to run tests, and maybe then I’ll be impressed. Not to mention Shadow of Mordor and a stopwatch.
Finally, there was a collection of eye-catching custom rigs put together painstakingly by professional modders. The themes ran from stylized T-Rex jaws to creepy cyborg to the Aorus falcon clutching a coolant reservoir in its biceps jaws bottom half, but the pictures will tell the better story.