As I was listening to two friends debate recently about Android and Apple smartphones, I heard one defend his iPhone by calling it the smartphone he doesn’t have to think about. In a technology-filled world, even those of us who like to tinker and build sometimes prefer devices that don’t require a lot of setup and customization. The “it just works” convenience factor can be a very important selling point, if not the most important one.
For those looking to dive into PC gaming, the convenience factor of gaming notebooks is hard to ignore. A gaming notebook can be a tempting purchase, considering that users can buy one device, install some games, and start playing without doing anything much more difficult than finding the power button. It doesn’t hurt that one can toss that computing power in a bag for gaming on the go.
One such notebook is the Aorus X5 v7. Within a portable and attractive package, Gigabyte has provided just about everything that users need to dive into high-resolution triple-A gaming. Even users who don’t need their systems to travel all that often might be tempted by a notebook like this, because it simplifies a lot about setting up a gaming rig. It arrived at my front door one day, I downloaded a few games on Steam, and I was off and gaming.
A powerhouse duo under the Aorus X5’s hood supplies its gaming chops. The notebook ships with Intel’s Core i7-7820HK inside, a four-core, eight-thread beast with a base frequency of 2.9 GHz and a max turbo frequency of 3.9 GHz. Did I mention that it’s overclockable, too? The notebook’s pixel-pushing power is provided by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070, a graphics card that needs no introduction in these parts. This graphics card made its debut in mobile devices last August, and it’s been a favorite on the market ever since.
Gigabyte outfits the Aorus X5 with a 15.6″ IPS display. Purchasers can pick between a 4K panel and one with a max resolution of 2880×1620. The unit we tested had the lesser resolution, which was fine by us. As capable as a GTX 1070 is, we typically recommend a GTX 1080 Ti to gamers looking for quality 4K gaming experiences in contemporary triple-A games. We’re also pleased that Gigabyte ships the Aorus X5 with G-Sync, as it’s hard to ignore how well Nvidia’s variable-refresh-rate technology smooths out gaming experiences. To ensure that the display provides accurate and vivid colors, Gigabyte had the display certified by X-Rite and has a color profile pre-installed on the machine. More on this later.
The rest of the Aorus X5’s spec sheet is quite respectable. It has 16GB of 2400 MT/s RAM on two DIMMs. The device ships with two storage drives, one a 256GB PCIe M.2 drive and the other a 7200 RPM spinner with 1TB of storage space available. Users looking to connect the Aorus X5 to an external display will find HDMI, mini DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) connectors. A Killer NIC handles networking duties, and a 94.24Wh Li-polymer battery keeps the lights on when the unit isn’t plugged in.
A few aesthetic touches make it clear that the Aorus X5 is a gaming laptop, but overall its design is practically sedate compared to some of the “gamer” products on the market. The chassis is constructed of aluminum, and it has a glossy black finish. An Aorus logo constructed of glass is embedded on the back of the display panel, and it glows with a soft white light when the notebook is in use. The logo appears again on the notebook’s power button and on its clickpad.
The notebook’s main attention-grabber is the RGB-LED-backlit keyboard. With Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion software, users can pick among a variety of color profiles, or set up per-key lighting as they prefer. My children (four and five years old, respectively) were so obsessed with the “wave” preset that moves a rainbow across the keyboard that I basically wasn’t allowed to change the lighting settings until after they went to bed.
Gaming notebooks also tend to stand out due to the design of of their cooling solutions. The Aorus X5 is made to move a lot more air than, say, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop. The display hinge is recessed about an inch back from the end of the notebook, giving Gigabyte some room for substantial venting. The company added additional vents along the sides of the notebook, as well. None of this venting detracts from the laptop’s appearance, though. It’s one of the key places where the form of the laptop follows its function, rather than the other way around.
Here’s a full chart of laptop’s specifications:
|Aorus X5 v7|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-7820HK|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with 8GB GDDR5 RAM|
|Display||15.6″ IPS panel with 2880×1620 max resolution and G-Sync|
|Storage||Toshiba XG3 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, 256GB*
HGST Travelstar 7K1000, 1TB*
Expansion options: A second M.2 2280 slot
*May differ depending on region
|Audio||2 1.5W speakers
2 2W woofers
ESS Sabre Hi-Fi Audio DAC
|Expansion and display outputs||1 USB 3.1 Type-C
1 USB 3.1 Type-C (Thunderbolt 3)
4 USB 3.0
|Card reader||1 SD card reader|
Killer Wireless-AC 1535 (802.11ac)
|Input Devices||RGB LED backlit keyboard
|Dimensions||15.4″ x 10.7″ x 0.9″ (390 x 272 x 22.9 mm)|
|Weight||5.5 lbs (2.5 kg)|
A look inside
We’ll start the tour of the Aorus X5 with a peek underneath its chassis. Opening up the notebook is a breeze, provided that you own a set of star-bit screwdrivers and are careful to keep track of what screws go where, as Gigabyte uses screws of a couple different lengths to secure the panel.
Users who’d like the option to upgrade down the road will appreciate that Gigabyte made two DIMM slots and the two M.2 slots readily accessible, so users can pretty quickly slot in some more RAM or another SSD. Folks will have to dig farther into the laptop than I did to access the other two memory slots, though. For most users, a memory upgrade won’t involve replacing the original memory, but adding in two more matching DIMMs.
Here’s a closer look at the M.2 SSD that shipped with the review unit. Some Google-Fu with the product number reveals it to be part of Toshiba’s XG3 line. For all intents and purposes, this line of SSDs is the OEM version of Toshiba’s OCZ RD400. We found that drive to be quite competitive with Samsung’s 950 Pro and SM951. In practice, I found the Toshiba drive in the Aorus X5 provided snappy performance and quick loading times in games, though I did hit the limits of its 256GB capacity pretty quickly.
Popping the notebook open puts the Aorus X5’s cooling solution on full display. Long heatpipes connect the hot hardware to four fin stacks in the back corners of the laptop. From there, fans pull air from underneath the laptop and expel it through the vents on the back and side panels.
Bulk storage duties in the Aorus X5 are handled by an HGST Travelstar 7K1000. We’ve seen this drive in more than a few Gigabyte notebooks. It offers a terabyte of storage, spins at 7200 RPM, and is otherwise unremarkable. Unless you’re really a fan of cloud storage, though, it’s hard to ignore the value of drives like this one for large Steam libraries and other storage-intensive tasks.
The Aorus X5 sports a full-size keyboard with macro keys and a numpad. The keys travel a short distance when pressed and offer little tactile feedback. The typing experience is adequate, but I prefer keys that are a bit more lively and responsive. The keyboard is well-suited for high-actions-per-minute gaming, though, as it allows users to very quickly press a key repeatedly. The keys are also very quiet, which is generally ideal when traveling or out in public. My family’s learned to put up with the clicking and clacking of the mechanical keyboard connected to my desktop computer, but I wouldn’t expect the same of strangers sitting next to me on an airplane.
The keyboard is certainly up for typing duties when called upon, though. A few runs through the basic tests and the scientific test available at typingtest.com show that I type a little more slowly and have a few more errors on the laptop keyboard than I do on my usual Rosewill RK-9000v2, but the differences aren’t all that extreme. On my usual board, I average around 100-110 WPM, but on the Aorus X5 I typed an average of 96.5 WPM.
The clickpad is functional and precise, if a little quirky. There’s nothing tactile on the surface of the clickpad to distinguish the bottom region that registers left and right clicks from the rest of the surface. I could live with that omission, but the clickpad also doesn’t register movements that begin in that bottom region until the user’s finger moves up into the main area of the pad. The clickpad is otherwise responsive, registering movement all the way into the upper corners of the input area.
One of main features that Gigabyte highlights in its marketing of the Aorus X5 is the display. Gigabyte claims that Aorus X5 displays are calibrated and certified by through a program by X-Rite Pantone. This appears to users as an option in the laptop’s Command & Control software. Users can toggle the provided color profile on or off. There are other display options, such as adjusting the screen’s whitepoint and reducing the screen’s blue light, but enabling those options turns off the X-Rite Pantone color profile.
Even with the certification, users shouldn’t expect perfection. Gigabyte’s own tests indicate that the display covers 72% of the NTSC color space, which roughly translates to 100% sRGB. For our own display testing, we used an X-Rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter and the free-and-open source DisplayCal.
DisplayCal reports that the display covers 90.2% of the sRGB gamut, a bit short of the company’s claim. Our test shows significant error in the green, yellow, and orange regions of the triangle. While this is a fine result, it falls short of professional perfection.
A quick look at the calibration curve makes it clear that the panel deviates from sRGB in its production of greens. Overall, though, the scren’s average delta-E is just 0.09, which is quite good. Also, the whitepoint is very close to our preferred 6500K, which is another positive result.
Testing the display’s peak brightness and luminance uniformity also yields good results. Peak brightness at center is 315 cd/m², which is plenty bright for a laptop screen. The display’s luminance is also very uniform. Brightness along on the edges of the screen deviated from center by 3.25% at the most, and on average by 1.23%.
Our testing methods
To put Gigabyte’s Aorus X5 v7 to the test, we submitted it to a variety of synthetic benchmarks and analyzed its performance in a variety of gaming titles. It’s not exactly a race if there’s only one car on the track, though, so we rolled out another contender: Gigabyte’s Aero 15 gaming notebook. That notebook will be getting its own full review soon, but in the meantime its performance numbers will help provide some perspective for the X5 v7.
It’s worth noting right off the bat, though, that this is not a fair competition. The Aorus X5 has a Core i7-7820HK inside, while the Aero 15 is powered by the lesser, but still powerful Core i7-7700HQ. Whereas the Aorus X5 sports a GeForce GTX 1070, the Aero 15 makes do with a GTX 1060. The Aero 15 also has a thinner chassis with less room for ventilation, potentially limiting how well it can perform when its components heat up. Finally, the Aero 15’s display has a maximum resolution of 1920×1080, so the Aorus X5’s performance numbers at 2880×1620 will have to stand alone for the moment.
From one-button overclocking to fan profiles, gaming laptops come with a variety of settings that users can adjust to squeeze more performance out of their hardware. For our testing, we try to stick with the out-of-the-box laptop settings wherever possible, except where those settings wouldn’t be a practical choice for most users. Specifically, we use the “balanced” power profile mode (in Gigabyte’s control software and in Windows), use the “gaming” fan profile, and disable any automatic overclocking provided by Gigabyte’s control software. We figure that most users would prefer their notebooks to be as cool, quiet, and efficient as possible, provided that their games run well. Later on in this article, we’ll explore the Aorus X5’s overclocking options.
The first set of tests are part of the AIDA64 Engineer benchmarking suite. The first test is CPU PhotoWorxx, which performs a variety of common digital photo processing tasks on a very large image. The benchmark uses only basic x86 instructions while putting stress on the CPU and the memory subsystem. The second test from AIDA64 Engineer is CPU Hash, an integer benchmark which uses a hashing algorithm to measure CPU performance. FPU Julia and FPU Mandel measure 32-bit and 64-bit floating-point performance, respectively.
The Aorus X5 takes the win in every category, but there’s not a lot of breathing room between the Core i7-7700HQ and the Core i7-7820HK, at least in these tests. The i7-7820HK’s highest margin of victory appears in the FPU Julia test, where its score was 6.8% higher than the competition.
We’ll start our round of gaming benchmarks with a new game to our testing suite. More of a spiritual successor than a sequel, this year’s Prey is a sci-fi horror shooter reminiscent of the Deus Ex and Bioshock franchises. Those who remember the 2006 Prey might be disappointed to learn that the reboot abandons the mind-bending portal mechanics. However, what it offers in return is a narrative that’s more compelling and coherent, gameplay that’s less linear, and a broad range of tactics for overcoming the game’s many challenges.
We tested this game’s performance in the Arboretum, a zone filled with foliage and long-distance views. I’d previously cleared the benchmarking area of enemies to ensure consistency between runs. We used the game’s Very High preset for testing.
At 1920×1080, the Aorus X5 takes the performance crown in both average FPS and in 99th percentile frame time. The Aero 15’s average FPS numbers aren’t quite as hot as the Aorus X5’s, but it provided an almost identically smooth experience. Despite a steep FPS tax for bumping up to 2880×1620, the Aorus X5 delivers playable results. As the environments in Prey have a lot of text, such as documents on in-game computer screens, the higher resolution definitely provides a better experience.
These “time spent beyond X” graphs quantify the “badness” during a benchmark, those moments when the fluidity of the animation is interrupted. If there are any frames beyond the 50-ms threshold, that indicates a severe hitch that brought down the average frame rate to a 20 FPS average or lower. 33 ms correlates to 30 FPS or a 30Hz refresh rate. Ideally, every frame should meet or surpass the 16.7-ms threshold, as that correlates to a 60 FPS average. The 8.3-ms threshold corresponds to 120 FPS, a very high standard for the machines to meet.
At 1920×1080, but the Aorus X5 and Aero 15 perform exceptionally well, only posting a handful of frames beyond 16.7 ms. At the more-demanding 2880×1620 resolution, the Aorus X5 dipped below this mark for about a second and a half. That’s not particularly problematic, especially with G-Sync on hand to smooth things out.
Next up is 2016’s Doom, one of the most fast-paced and brutal FPS titles to hit the market in quite some time. It’s also tightly-optimized for a wide range of systems, so it serves as a great example of the kind of visual experience that PC gaming can offer.
As much as I enjoy this game, it’s a bit of a pain when it comes to benchmarking. There just isn’t a 60-second stretch of gameplay that doesn’t have demons jumping out and getting in my business. I used the game’s Arcade mode to load up the UAC level. The beginning of the level features that iconic reveal of a dusty Martian landscape. The end of the benchmarking run has me running in circles in a set pattern away from spawning demons. I tested the game at its Ultra preset.
Doom runs exceptionally well on both systems, even on the Aorus X5 at 2880×1620. That’s not only a testament to the gaming prowess of the laptops, but also to the game’s well-designed engine. The Aero 15 ekes out the best 99th-percentile frame time, but that win appears to be due to some CPU bottlenecking in the Aorus X5 when it’s run at 1920×1080.
There’s very little “badness” to complain about from either of these systems. It’s noteworthy that the Aorus X5 only turned in 36 milliseconds beyond the 16.7-ms mark when the display’s resolution was cranked up to 2880×1620. High-resolution gaming without compromise? Yes, please.
Shadow of Mordor
When Shadow of Mordor sold for a measly $4 during this year’s Steam Summer Sale, I couldn’t resist snatching up a copy of the well-reviewed open-world action title. (Care to place bets on whether I’ll actually finish the game before its sequel comes out in August?) The game features engaging combat, an innovative “nemesis” system, and a compelling fantasy environment.
While Shadow of Mordor offers a convenient benchmarking utility, yours truly went the extra mile to get in-game frame time analysis. The benchmarking run is from the first sequence when the game gives you an open world to explore. We tested this title at its Ultra preset.
The best 99th percentile frame time award goes to the Aorus X5 at 1920×1080, and by a good margin. This configuration presents the model of consistency—just look at that tight, unwavering line in the first graph. Once again, though, I found myself greatly preferring the higher resolution when gaming on the Aorus X5. When scouring Mordor’s wide landscapes for orcs, the greater visual clarity for objects at a distance is appreciable.
For the first time, we’ve got some numbers below the 33.3-ms threshold, and they were submitted by the Aorus X5 at 2880×1620. At this resolution, the Aorus X5 also spent about three seconds of the benchmark beyond the 16.7-ms threshold. It looks like users might prefer to adjust the settings a bit to play this title at the display’s native resolution.
Grand Theft Auto V
We’ve been using this title in our benchmarking suite for quite some time, partly because it’s still a blast to play, but also because it can still lay down the hurt on graphics cards. The game’s menu of graphics options is quite extensive, and includes options that are capable of bogging down all but the most powerful of systems when the display resolution is cranked up.
Grand Theft Auto V can also be a bit difficult to benchmark, as the game’s open-world environment can change quite dramatically between runs. We used an early mission in the game when Franklin is tasked with repossessing a car. As the mission allows you to follow Franklin’s buddy Lamar, and many of the vehicles and NPCs on the road are following a scripted path, this run gave us as much consistency as we can ask for from this title. In-game settings are mostly maxed out, with a few notable exceptions.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Grand Theft Auto V is still relevant for benchmarking. The title didn’t quite make the Aorus X5 give up and cry at 2880×1620, but it certainly made the notebook’s GTX 1070 fight to keep up.
With over 13 seconds of frames beyond the 16.7-ms mark, it appears that this particular combination of settings is just too demanding for the Aorus X5 at the display’s native resolution. To be fair, there are any number of ways to adjust the graphics settings make this title more than playable at 2880×1620. Furthermore, Nvidia’s G-Sync tech smoothed out most of the “badness” seen in these graphs. Subjectively, the game felt like it performed better than the numbers would suggest.
The Witcher 3
The final game in our testing suite is a personal favorite. The Witcher 3 offers some of the best storytelling in contemporary gaming, and it does so in a non-linear, open world. If that combination isn’t amazing enough, the game’s environments are breathtakingly gorgeous. Many fantasy role-playing games have tried to accomplish what The Witcher 3 does, but only a handful have succeeded.
We used a benchmarking run in the game’s iconic Skellige Isles, starting with a beautiful view from atop a cliff and working our way down to the beach. The game was set at its Ultra preset, but with HairWorks disabled.
The Aorus X5 really hits a home run with this title. At 1920×1080, the notebook achieves 154 FPS on average with a 99th-percentile frame time of just 13.5 ms. That’s an impeccable performance.
All three of our test configurations handle this title capably, although the Aorus X5 at 2880×1620 registers a few fames beyond the 33-ms threshold. That system’s 1920×1080 numbers, though, suggest that gamers with a particular fascination with well-animated hair should feel free to turn on HairWorks with this title. Someone’s gotta appreciate Geralt’s flowing gray locks, right?
One of the main marketing points of the Aorus X5 is its overclockability. Gigabyte touts the overclocking potential of the machine’s Core i7-7820HK and GeForce GTX 1070, and provides easy tools in the laptop’s control software to bump up the clocks on both. The basic overclocking functions can be accessed with just a click or two in the “Command & Control” software. The slider for overclocking the CPU allows users to pick a CPU clock between 3.9 GHz and 4.3 GHz. The slider for overclocking the GPU is less informative, simply allowed users to pick between five levels.
The same functionality, but more information, but is provided in the “OC Gauge” tool, also accessible from the Command & Control software. Here, users can track CPU and GPU load, CPU and GPU temperatures, and the current fan speed.
To assess how much performance might be on tap for users who are willing to overclock their hardware, I turned to Cinebench. I ran its OpenGL benchmark three times at each of the laptop’s GPU overclock settings, and graphed the median results.
AIDA64 Engineer reports that every time the GPU overclock slider is bumped up one notch, the GPU clock is increased by about 20 MHz. Remember that because of Nvidia’s GPU Boost, the GPU’s clock isn’t a fixed quantity, but varies depending on a few factors. Regardless, performance in Cinebench’s OpenGL increased linearly as we increased the GPU overclock. Cranking the GPU overclock all the way yielded 5.9% more performance. GPU temperature didn’t increase all that much between the lowest and the highest settings, either. For the most part, the system keeps the GPU at 80° Celsius, but when the GPU is overclocked all the way it’ll hit 84° Celsius.
Results from the CPU overclock, on the other hand, are far more messy. Gigabyte’s software presents each overclock setting to users as a fixed clock speed, but that’s more of a suggestion to the CPU than a command. CPU clocks vary widely on Intel’s mobile processors, and for good reasons. When the CPU is under a mild load, for example, a bit of throttling can save a lot of battery life, and users certainly wouldn’t want their equipment to overheat.
However, the clock speed fluctuations in the Aorus X5’s CPU are a bit confusing. Under a full CPU load, the CPU should be clocked as high as temperatures and power draw will permit. In the benchmarking runs graphed above, CPU temperatures exceeded 90° Celsius at the higher overclock settings, and the system rightly throttled the CPU down to about 3.6 GHz. Figuring that the CPU’s performance was thermally constrained, I set up a second test that tried to keep temperatures down as much as possible. I provided a bit more air to the system by raising up the back of the notebook on a pair of provided feet and cranked the fans up to 100%. During this run, CPU temperatures remained close to 75° Celsius, a much more comfortable temperature for the silicon. However, the results were just as inconsistent as the ones pictured above.
Overall, I’d recommend that most users leave these overclocking settings alone. Our gaming benchmarks show that the laptop is plenty capable before overclocking, and boosting the CPU clocks seems to have more effect on the system’s temperatures than on its performance. That being said, the GPU does overclock fairly easily, and without heating up too much. Down the road, that extra bit of performance might prove useful in a particularly demanding title.
Virtual reality perfomance
Virtual reality benchmarking isn’t exactly a solved problem at the moment. A couple of utilities have cropped up that purport to give users a quick estimation of their systems’ readiness for the unique demands of VR headsets, but they’re not without their limitations. The SteamVR Performance Test, for example, doesn’t work for our purposes here because it insists on running its tests on the Aero 15’s integrated HD 630 graphics rather than its discrete GTX 1060.
As an alternative, we checked out Futuremark’s VRMark utility. The included benchmark provides a VR “score” and the average frame rate reached by the test system during the benchmark. To provide users with a little bit of context for comparison’s sake, VRMark includes two target frame rates. The basic target frame rate, 109 FPS, was produced by a system outfitted with the recommended hardware for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. A second, more lenient target frame rate was produced by a system that meets Oculus Rift’s minimum hardware requirements.
The Aorus X5 takes a commanding lead in VRMark, but the utility declares that both notebooks offer “super” performance. The Aero 15 averaged 128.39 FPS in the run, which is above the target frame rate, but an included (and tiny and hard to read) graph shows that its frame rate flirts a little too close to the line a several points. The Aorus X5, on the other hand, averages 176.59 FPS in the benchmark, handily outpacing what VRMark’s baseline system was able to produce. If you need to take your Oculus Rift on the go, the X5 v7 should be a fine companion.
Thermal and acoustic performance
The benchmarks show that the Aorus X5 handles contemporary games quite competently. Let’s take a look at how well it handles the heat. To simulate a typical gaming scenario, I dialed up Unigine’s Heaven benchmark while tracking the system’s clock speeds and temperatures with GPU-Z. For thermal testing, the Aorus X5 was left at the settings used for the gaming benchmarks: balanced power mode, gaming fan profile, and no overclocks.
Once the system warmed up, the GPU temperature remained just above 80° Celsius the entire test run, and GPU usage hovered right around 99%. If nothing else, Heaven makes for a powerful torture test for graphics cards. While the GPU temperatures remained rather consistent, the GPU clocks fluctuated a decent amount, indicating that the system dynamically adjusts the GPU clock to maintain a desired temperature. During the benchmark, GPU clocks varied between 1632.5 MHz and 1835 MHz. Looking just at the portion of the test run after GPU-Z first recorded a temperature at 80° Celsius or higher, the average GPU clock speed was 1692 MHz. Our gaming benchmarks show that this throttling doesn’t significantly hinder the Aorus X5’s gaming prowess.
At the eight-minute mark of the benchmarking run, the fan speeds increased to 4587 RPM, and stayed there until the end. That speed looks like the upper end of the range for the “gaming” fan profile. Some testing with the Sound Meter app on my phone indicates that the fans produce about 35 dBA when the fans are spinning at that rate. That’s an acceptable amount of noise for most folks, especially since the fan noise is well-rounded and unobtrusive. Some might be tempted to bump the fan speeds up to keep the GPU a little bit cooler, but I wouldn’t recommend pushing the fans too far. At full speed, the fans produce a whine that’s simply too irritating to put up with.
The Aorus X5’s CPU clock speeds are consistent when put under a stressful load, but the CPU gets fairly toasty. I used a Blender benchmark, which helpfully pushed CPU usage up to 100%. The Core i7-7820HK’s core clock speeds were very stable throughout the run, ranging between 3505 MHz and 3612 MHz. The notebook’s cooling system lets the CPU run pretty hot at these settings. Temperatures reached 90° Celsius after about 45 seconds of the benchmark, and remained there throughout. The maximum temperature reached was 94° Celsius.
I should emphasize here that gamers won’t typically see 100% CPU usage. In a 10-minute run of Doom at 2880×1620 on Ultra settings, CPU load averaged about 40% and never exceeded 72%. Accordingly, temperatures were a bit more temperate, averaging 82° Celsius and never exceeding 90°. Running Doom at 1920×1080, however, makes the CPU work harder, and it gets hotter as a result. Average temperatures bumped up to 86° in this scenario, reaching 93° at the highest.
While the Aorus X5’s full gaming potential is only going to be available when it’s plugged into the wall, most folks don’t buy a notebook just to leave it plugged in 24/7. To assess how much battery life users can expect from the Aorus X5, we used our in-house BrowserBench. This tools loads and reloads an old version of our site’s home page, cycling through content every 45 seconds.
Each laptop was set on its “balanced” power profile, with the screen at 50% brightness and keyboard backlighting disabled. The notebook was connected to the internet through Wi-Fi.
We’ll set aside for a moment the performance of the Aero 15, which submitted a jaw droppingly-good result in this test. Look for more discussion on that score in the Aero 15’s upcoming review. The Aorus X5, on the other hand, not only suffers in comparison to the Aero 15, but also just suffers from poor battery life. It managed just a bit under three hours away from the wall.
The Aorus X5 is also behind the Aero 15 when it comes to battery life while playing games. To be perfectly clear, folks should not expect unplugged gaming laptops to play contemporary triple-A titles at high frame rates, especially not with any battery-saving features enabled. As these machines can tackle some light gaming on the road, I took advantage of the opportunity to investigate a very important question: “How long can I play Civilization V on these notebooks before running out of battery?” For the Aorus X5, the answer is just about two hours. That’s enough time to get a civilization up and running, but hardly enough time to get my global domination on.
The large difference in battery life between the two notebooks is worth some discussion, particularly since both models have a 94.24 Wh battery. The Aorus X5’s higher-resolution screen and more powerful components explain some of the difference, but the Aero 15 has a secret weapon that the Aorus X5 doesn’t: Nvidia’s Optimus technology. Optimus allows the laptop to switch between integrated and discrete graphics on the fly, allowing for greatly increased battery life when the discrete GPU isn’t in use.
So why doesn’t the Aorus X5 have Optimus? The short answer is G-Sync. The two technologies aren’t compatible, forcing users to make a choice between extended battery life or buttery-smooth animation. There’s ample reason for gamers to pick G-Sync, but it’s a decision with consequences. The absence of Optimus makes the Aorus X5 more of a desktop replacement machine than a true portable device. In this regard, it’s not entirely fair to compare the Aorus X5 to the Aero 15 in this regard, as the Aorus X5’s battery life really should be compared to what other G-Sync-equipped notebooks are able to manage.
The “Unix philosophy” urges programmers to “write programs that do one thing and do it well.” If the Aorus X5 v7 was built for one thing, it’s gaming, and its gaming prowess is above reproach. Folks looking to make one hassle-free purchase to get started into high-resolution gaming would do well to put this notebook on their list. The Core i7-7820HK and GeForce GTX 1070 made quick work of the games we tested. The internal hardware is nicely complemented by the notebook’s 2880×1620 display. That resolution is high enough to provide noticeably better visual clarity than gamers would get at 1920×1080, but not so high that the GTX 1070 can’t maintain a smooth frame rate at the proper settings. With Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, this all adds up to smooth, immersive gaming experiences.
The notebook isn’t without its faults, though. The overclocking tools just aren’t as exciting as the laptop’s marketing materials would have users believe. At best, the provided one-click overclocking tools can nudge the notebook’s gaming performance up a notch or two. At worst, these tools give uninformed users a way to increase the laptop’s operating temperatures and energy consumption without getting a whole lot back in return. Overclocking potential is limited by the notebook’s automatic thermal throttling, which dynamically adjusts CPU and GPU clocks to maintain a healthy system temperature. That’s an important safety feature for the hardware, to be sure, but it also puts a ceiling on what users can actually accomplish with the built-in overclocking tools.
The notebook’s battery performance leaves something to be desired, as well. This is a common theme in the world of gaming laptops, but the Aorus X5 only manages about three hours of web-browsing time, or roughly an hour and fifteen minutes of dialed-back gaming, when it’s not plugged into a wall socket. It’s no surprise that the notebook isn’t a road warrior, as Gigabyte opted to outfit it with G-Sync rather than Nvidia’s battery-saving Optimus technology. However, its battery life is behind the curve even as far as battery performance goes on gaming laptops without Optimus. Add in a middling keyboard and a display that doesn’t quite live up to the manufacturer’s claims, and there’s room for improvement.
Those foibles aside, the Aorus X5’s generously-sized vents and high-quality fans keep the GPU and CPU cool, and do so without subjecting users to excessive and aggravating noise. The fans make a racket when cranked up to 100%, but the provided “gaming” fan profile draws an excellent balance between noise and thermal performance.
A brief tour around the notebook reveals further evidence of sensible decision-making on the part of Gigabyte’s design team. In an era when some manufacturers think that users want minimal ports on their devices, Gigabyte supplies Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, a variety of display port options, and a healthy selection of USB ports, including two of the Type-C variety. It’s good to see that Gigabyte provided easy upgrade paths for memory and storage, as well.
Aesthetics are largely a matter of taste, but we think Gigabyte tends to make good choices in this department. The mirrored-finish Aorus logo on the back of the display is really the only extravagant design feature of the notebook. The laptop is otherwise rather restrained in its appearance. The per-key RGB LED backlighting for the keyboard is a nice aesthetic touch that’s easy to customize for a variety of tastes. Those who like a glowing rainbow under their fingers can have it, while others can find more subdued or even practical color profiles.
Overall, the Aorus X5 is an attractive package. Users who want a high-performance gaming machine with the magic of variable-refresh rate technology on board will find little missing from this system. The laptop’s $2,399 suggested price is steep (Newegg shoppers can click here), but it’s in line with the competition. Notebooks with a Core i7-7820HK inside just don’t come cheap. A quick look around Newegg shows some similar options closer to $2,000, but most achieve that by skimping on connectivity, the display, or storage devices. The Aorus X5 is a well-rounded machine with just about everything that a gamer could ask for from a high-performance notebook, and that’s worth a bit of a premium.