(Pocket-lint) - Think gaming laptop and a clear image probably forms in your mind. Huge chunky body? Check. Adolescent blue LEDs everywhere? Check. Looks a bit like a blinged-up Vauxhall Corsa? Yep.
Well, take that image and resign it in your brain's dustbin because it's nothing like the Gigabyte P37X V3. This claims to be the lightest 17.3-inch gaming laptop in the world, and while it has plenty of gaming features, none of them are going to embarrass should you take the thing out to watch a funny YouTube video in the later drunken stages of a dinner party.
But it's not a cheap buy — at £1,999 there are slightly cheaper options out there that deliver this sort of gaming performance, such as the MSI GT72. If you want a serious gaming laptop you can also drag around the house without the back pain is the Gigabyte P37X V3 an unbeatable class act?
The obvious starter question: exactly how thin and light is the Gigabyte P37X? Well it is slim — but hardly super-portable.
Not happy to trust the claimed 2.8kg weight, we dusted off the scales and found our review sample clocks in at a supposed 2.89kg. It's still pretty heavy, but an awful lot less than the 3.8kg of the last 17-inch Alienware model. We've moved on a bit since then.
The slimness of the Gigabyte P37X is far more striking, though, at just 20mm thick, and without the brash bulkiness of some gaming rigs. How come? We put it largely down to the efficiency of the Maxwell architecture of the GTX 980M GPU that's at the heart of this laptop.
This is a king among laptops graphics processors, giving desktop-style performance. And not just in a bog-standard laptop, but one that's not all that chunky either.
If you want to move away from desktop computers and use a laptop for all your gaming needs, buying a Gigabyte P37X is not a bad idea. It's the sort of laptop that'll let you switch on anti-aliasing and those fancy-pants shadow effects without becoming the chugging mess most laptops would turn into.
Put it this way: the P37X breezed through our Steam library. The Maxwell architecture is pretty special, and this is a great example of why.
Heat and noise
As efficient as it may be, no gaming laptop is going to stay silent, of course. Under strain the Gigabyte P37X does make a fair amount of noise, with fan outlets towards the top and bottom of the laptop's back area spinning the air.
And unless you push it close to meltdown it's pretty good at managing heat, keeping proceedings cooler than some competitors. The heat is largely kept to the area above the keyboard, away from both your hands and thighs.
The P37X's internal speakers are pretty good at competing with the Gigabyte P37X's fan noise too. Contrary to what the design might suggest, they actually sit right under the front of the laptop, not by the grilles where the power button sits. As you'd hope from a huge 17-inch laptop like this, the sound is beefy and powerful, with more low-end warmth and grunt than, say, a MacBook Pro. It doesn't have amazing treble clarity to match, but it's not outright muffled to death either. We'd be happy to watch a film or play some games without plugging in speakers or headphones.
Design and keyboard
Not being too loud about presenting its speakers is totally in-line with the Gigabyte P37X's style. It's pretty plain, decked out in black with no weird vents or other loud design elements. The lid and keyboard surround are metal, but the underside is plastic. Although it's top-end it's not as obsessed with feeling expensive as an Ultrabook. It is sturdy, mind.
One of the few real giveaways that this is a proper gaming laptop is the row of macro keys to the left of the slimline backlit chiclet keyboard. There are five buttons and a controller G button above them.
Tap the G button and it cycles through four different LED colours using the button's backlight. These are different macro groups for the team of five macro buttons, giving the real hardcore laptop abuser a whopping 20 different functions.
They're not just for 74-click combos in Starcraft either. You can make them launch apps if you like, control media playback, zoom in/out or copy/paste as you please. The only issue is remembering what they are as there's no display on the keys to act as a reminder.
The hardware is as flexible as the keyboard too. As well as coming in a bunch of different configs — our review sample has a DVD multi-writer drive, Core i7-4720HQ, two lots of 127GB SSD storage, a 1TB hard drive and 16GB RAM — there's a hot-swappable drive.
The DVD multi-writer can be yanked out and replaced with another driver in, oh, about 17 seconds, in our review sample. You just flick open the lock switch on the Gigabyte P37X's underside and pull it out. It's unnervingly quick. With a laptop as well-specced as this we're not sure why you'd need such a quick upgrade, but then this is a rig for the hardcore crowd.
This hardcore gamer appeal is obvious in the screen too. The 17.3-inch display is a non-touch matte screen, has a bezel contour rather than a fully flat screen area and is Full HD (1920 x 1080). Such a resolution may seem odd as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display offers more pixels and a swankier look.
However, the Gigabyte screen just right for purpose. Full HD gets you the best balance between image sharpness and visual fidelity with today's laptop gaming hardware, there's little need for a touchscreen in a gaming device, and a matte finish means there's no chance of reflections from lights spoiling your view of what's on-screen.
Ultrabooks tend to use glossy screens because they make colours pop that bit more, but we're pretty happy with the vividness of colours from the Gigabyte P37X's panel. Blacks are good but could be a little better: they look a little blue if you turn the lights down. But otherwise we're happy.
Just as the sober design means you can take the laptop out at work without being ridiculed out of the nearest window, the matte screen also means you can use it outdoors with more or less no issues. It's no all-day workhorse, though...
Battery life and connectivity
Thanks to its high-performance CPU and high-performance GPU setup, you'll only get around three hours use from a single charge, or even less if you start playing games. That might sound bad, but isn't not too bad for a laptop in this class.
Tech matters more than stamina here, something reflected in some of the tech nitty-gritty. There's speedy ac Wi-Fi, and more connections and you'll find on any slim and light "style" model. You get four USB 3.0 ports, an SD card socket, Ethernet as standard, and a trio of video outputs. With VGA (D-sub), mini DisplayPort and HDMI, you'll have no trouble connecting to projectors or other displays.
What's the catch?
So far it seems Gigabyte hasn't made any duff moves with the Gigabyte P37X, but there is a weak point: we didn't get on too well with the trackpad.
It uses traditionally-placed left and right buttons, but hides them under single-surface pad. This and the massive dead zone between the two buttons mean it takes a fair bit of getting used to.
Our assumption is that Gigabyte is thinking no-one's going to do any serious gaming with the P37X without plugging-in a mouse. Fair enough, perhaps, but it seemed a bit of a glaring weak point in an otherwise top-notch laptop.
The fiddly-feeling mousepad is about the only disappointment to note. Well, that and the predictably limited battery life.
Otherwise the Gigabyte P37X V3 delivers serious gaming performance and power without any of the extra weight or potentially embarrassing styling you get on some laptops that fly the gaming banner proudly.
At 2.8kg-odd, it's the same weight as a "normal" 17-inch laptop, not one with more tech packed into it than your local PC World. Its matte screen also means it's practical for other uses, even if its resolution isn't as ultra-high as some of the competitors. We'd happily use one for work and gaming, further widening its appeal.
As laptops go the Gigabyte P37X V3 is a goliath in the gaming world. So long as you know what you're getting and are happy to invest then it's got heaps going for it.