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Gigabyte's Aero 15Xv8 gaming notebook reviewed

Portable gets more powerful with a shot of Coffee Lake

Reviewing a gaming notebook is always a fun process—how many people get paid to play video games?—but there's extra excitement involved when that notebook has a hot new slice of silicon in it. Like the rest of you, we've been anxiously following rumors of Intel's Coffee Lake processors and waiting to see when they'd make their debut in laptops. The wait is over, though. Thanks to Gigabyte, we've had our hands on one of its Aero 15Xv8 notebooks with an eighth-generation Core mobile chip inside well ahead of the launch of today's fresh batch of Coffee Lake CPUs, and we're ready to share performance results.

The biggest news this morning for notebooks is that the Core i7 family is getting a welcome core-count increase. The Aero 15Xv8 is powered by a fresh-off-the-line Intel Core i7-8750H processor. With its six cores and twelve threads, this chip fundamentally changes what users can expect from the multithreaded performance of 45-W processors. Intel specs this chip for a likely-conservative 2.2 GHz base clock and a 4.2 GHz maximum Turbo Boost 2.0 speed. Contrast that with the 2.8 GHz base clock and 3.8 GHz single-core Turbo speed of the common Core i7-7700HQ that powered many a gaming notebook in the last generation of laptops, and Intel has likely managed to both boost single-threaded clock speeds while also delivering an appreciable shot of multi-threaded oomph. No complaints here.

On the other side of the Aero 15X's slim chassis, Gigabyte slots in Nvidia's GTX 1070 8 GB graphics card in a Max-Q thermal envelope. This card has all the resources of a regular mobile GTX 1070, but it operates at lower clock speeds because it's tuned to work in the 80-W to 90-W range rather than the 115-W TDP that full-fat mobile GTX 1070s usually enjoy. It's a tradeoff, to be sure, but one that leaves the Aero 15X fully capable of high-quality gaming while allowing it to stay lean and mean. The GTX 1070 pushes pixels to a high-refresh-rate 1920x1080 panel. This 144-Hz display doesn't have G-Sync variable-refresh-rate tech, but its high refresh rate should prove a boon to demanding gamers.

Elsewhere, Gigabyte retains many of the design choices that we appreciate in its Aero line. In a market populated by chunky gaming notebooks, the Aero 15X is refreshingly thin at 0.7" (18 mm), and it checks in at only 4.4 pounds (2 kg). The Aero 15X has a sensible, buttoned-up aesthetic that makes it look more like a portable workstation than a gaming console with a screen. Its charcoal color scheme is elegant but unassuming, and its simple lines indicate a design emphasis on form following function.

The Aero 15X is not without ornament, though. Its display is attractively laid out within slim 5-mm-wide bezels, and soft white lighting glows behind Gigabyte's brand name on the back of the display panel. Furthermore, users with a rambunctious inner child can configure per-key RGB LED lighting under the keyboard to their heart's desire.

The notebook omits an optical drive entirely, instead providing a massive 94.24Wh battery that fills up about a third of the notebook's chassis. Users will have to rely on M.2 drives for storage as a result, too. In our test model, Gigabyte provided a swift 512-GB Toshiba XG3 NVMe drive.

Disappointingly, the 16GB of DDR4 in the Aero 15X is all located on one DIMM. This single-channel arrangement could hamper the Aero 15X's performance in some scenarios, so we expect that a second stick of RAM is going to be a day-one upgrade for some users. Gigabyte likely made this choice so that eventual owners will find a free RAM slot to populate in the event that they need more memory, but we're not sure that minor convenience is worth it given the potential performance hit it entails. We'll be sure to explore the implications of this configuration in depth in our performance benchmarks.

On a more positive note, the Aero 15X contains a cornucopia of contempory connectivity. As seen in its table of specifications below, it offers a Thunderbolt-3 equipped USB 3.1 Type-C port. Considering that it also provides an HDMI 2.0 port and a Mini DisplayPort 1.4 connector, the Aero 15x is well-equipped to drive external displays. The HDMI 2.0 port, in particular, is a nice perk for users looking to power a 4K display at 60 Hz. A selection of USB ports and an SD card reader rounds out its connectivity list.

  Aero 15Xv8 (as tested)
Processor Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory 16 GB DDR4-2666 (1 DIMM, single-channel)
Chipset Intel HM370
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with 8 GB GDDR5 RAM, Max-Q
Display 15.6" panel with 1920x1080 max resolution, 144Hz refresh rate
Storage Toshiba XG3 M.2 NVMe 512GB SSD
Audio 2x 2W speakers
Expansion and display outputs 1x USB 3.1 Type-C with Thunderbolt 3
3x USB 3.0
HDMI 2.0
Mini DisplayPort 1.4
Card reader 1 SD card reader
Communications Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 (802.11b/g/n/ac)
Realtek Gaming Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth V4.2
Input Devices RGB LED backlit keyboard
Internal microphone
Camera HD webcam
Dimensions 14" x 9.8" x 0.71"  (356 x 250 x 18 mm)
Weight 4.4 lbs (2.0 kg)
Battery 94.24Wh Li-polymer
Power adapter 180 W
6" x 3" x 1.25" (152 x 76 x 32 mm)
OS Windows 10

Gigabyte set the MSRP for this configuration of the Aero 15X at $1,999. To sweeten the deal, Gigabyte also has a special promotion for the Aero 15Xv8. While supplies last, the company is providing Aero-branded Beats EP headphones to purchasers of the laptop, a $129.95 value at their suggested price.

The company sent over a pair of these headphones for me to try, and I can report that they compare quite favorably to the original Beats headphones from a ways back. The Beats EP headphones don't fold and are bit more snug than I expected, but are sturdier and reinforced with steel. The sound is still bass-heavy, but is better balanced than the original. Compared to the Audio-Technica ATH-M20 cans currently plugged into my rig, the Beats EP headphones offer much more volume, better isolation from background noise, and similar audio quality.