(Pocket-lint) - The Gigabyte Aero 15 is an extremely powerful gaming laptop that can also satisfy creative types who want a workstation.
This isn't a case of Gigabyte just clawing at another area because it's bored of marketing to gamers. The power of a high-end CPU and GPU can also be put to great use when editing video, or 3D rendering scenes.
The result? The Gigabyte Aero 15 has more of a focus on display quality, not just display speed, than your average gaming laptop. And its raw power per gramme is excellent.
There are just a few problems to consider. The Gigabyte Aero 15's hinge is surprisingly wobbly considering its limited rotation. And the slightest whiff of exertion causes fairly significant fan noise, which may get on your nerves if a relatively low weight build isn't something you care about much.
Gigabyte also sent us the XL fries, onion rings, extra cheese, double ice cream sundae meal deal version of the Gigabyte Aero 15, which costs several grand - and few will consider buying. But most of our impressions will apply to all available models.
The Gigabyte Aero 15 is a serious performance laptop that is 50 per cent gaming, 50 per cent creative workstation. It's all work, all play.
Its Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card makes 4K gaming, with some titles at least, a portable reality. And the RGB keyboard can be made to look as wild as you like.
The OLED screen feels more like a designer's dream than a Twitch streamer's fantasy, though, favouring colour depth and contrast over a fast refresh rate. But Gigabyte gives you the option, as there's an LCD version of this laptop with a 144Hz panel.
Unsurprisingly, this 20mm thick laptop doesn't let you run its Core i9 CPU at its maximum turbo boost frequency. But its sustained performance is solid. The issue is not so much the effectiveness of the cooling here, but how quickly it kicks in at the first sign of pressure - which means frequent fan noise at the drop of a hat.
Still, if all you're going to do is scroll through Twitter and BBC News, you don't need an Aero 15. On the flip side, if you're looking for an ultra-powerful machine with few points of compromise, the Aero 15 is it. If you can afford one, of course.
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
- Extreme power - especially considering its size and weight
- Good keyboard
- Fab 4K OLED display
- Fans spin almost constantly
- Some hinge wobble
- Bass-free speakers
- 60Hz refresh rate
- Dimensions: 356 x 250 x 20mm
- Aluminium body panels
- Weight: 2.22kg
The Gigabyte Aero 15 has a stupendous amount on power on tap. This spec model has an overclock-ready, 10th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card, and an almost ridiculous 64GB RAM.
Few laptops really deserve to be called a "beast". The Gigabyte Aero 15 is definitely one of them though.
However, its dimensions, weight and appearance are all surprisingly accommodating given what's inside. The Aero 15 weights a little over 2kg, and after we spent a few hours working out in the garden with the laptop on our knees it still seemed perfectly at home in this role.
Gigabyte has also steered away from some of the most common gaming laptop design characteristics. The Aero 15 uses aluminium body panels, rather than plastic ones. This offers an immediate waft of build quality, even if plastic is arguably a more practical material for a performance laptop with a great cooling system.
Plastic has lower thermal conductivity than aluminium, so the heat from the insides won't spread to other panels so quickly as they do here, letting the fans do more of the work of heat dispersal.
In return we get a laptop that seems more like a typical high-quality non-gaming design. From where you sit when using the laptop, there's very little gamer flavour beyond the slightly bolder-than-average keyboard font.
Even when you take a look at the lid, which has a light-up Aero logo and a series of glossy lines in-laid into the anodised aluminium, there's nothing that screams "I live for ray tracing." The Aero 15 is pretty grown-up, which we like. It can slip into all situations.
The most gamer-y part to this design is the huge, aggressive thermal cut-out arrangement on the bottom. But that will never be on show anyway.
We wouldn't call the Gigabyte Aero 15 a master of style. But we are down for a laptop that looks a bit more like a creative workstation.
The display hinge is the one potential weak point. It only tilts back around 125-130 degrees, but limited hinge tension allows for some screen wobble when not used on a firm, flat surface. Our assumption is Gigabyte wanted to use a screen hinge that lets you raise the display from its closed position with a single finger, without the base lifting too. Mission success, but a less bouncy hinge would have been welcome.
- 15.6-inch AMOLED panel
- 100% DCI P3 colour coverage
- 3840 x 2160 resolution
- 407-nit brightness
That little hinge issue aside, the screen is the Gigabyte Aero 15's most striking part. This is one of the few laptop screens we've reviewed in the last 12 months that might makes you let out a little "wow" when you first turn the thing on.
This is a 4K OLED panel, just about the best display tech you can currently get in a laptop. Its combination of extreme contrast and incredibly rich colour hit you instantly, and the experience is just not quite the same as a high-end LCD. The image pop, the depth of per-pixel lighting and one of the best colour coverage results we've seen from a laptop to date should impress just about everyone on first glance.
Gigabyte says this is a Pantone verified display, and there's a special Pantone mode that, from what we've seen, seems to align the display with the DCI P3 colour standard. That was devised by a bunch of Hollywood studios, and your average four-figure laptop can only display, say, around 70 per cent of it. The Gigabyte Aero 15 can show the whole lot.
However, this is very much a display for creative professionals rather than gamers. Its refresh rate is the bog-standard 60hz, not the 144Hz (or more) you might get in a more conventional gaming machine. This means you might as well keep your games locked at 60fps, as the display image can only change 60 times a second.
We half-hoped the Gigabyte Aero 15 might also blow away the brightest LCD laptops around with its OLED panel. But brightness roughly matches the best more conventional displays. You can work outdoors comfortably enough at max brightness, but OLED phones are still far brighter by comparison. The Aero 15's battery life would probably be comically poor if its screen would actually burn away at 1000 nits, mind.
This is a non-touch display too, which rules out stylus support - something that is used as a big selling point of some laptop manufacturers trying to sell to creative professionals.
Keyboard & Touchpad
- Gigabyte Fusion RGB backlight
- Textured glass touchpad
- Full NUM pad
The Gigabyte Aero 15 has a keyboard we are happy to work all day on. It has a NUM pad, shifting the main keys to the left of the display a bit, but we got used to that shunt within a few days.
Key depth is above average for a 2kg laptop, the keys have a lovely springy but well-defined action, and Gigabyte chose to use a standard layout rather than peppering the keyboard with gamer-style macro keys. We prefer this keyboard to the MacBook Pro 16's one.
It's here you get to explore the Gigabyte Aero 15's dual personalities the most clearly too. The keyboard has per-key RGB lighting. You can make the keyboard backlight plain white, any colour of the rainbow, or use the animated and multi-colour profiles seen in Gigabyte's other gaming laptops.
The touchpad again conforms to the standards of creative laptops rather than gaming ones, for the better. This is a silky smooth plate of textured glass with a great float-free clicker. It's a joy to use, although the dead zone at the top might raise the odd eyebrow.
Gigabyte also builds a fingerprint scanner into the pad. This was perhaps not the best idea. If it is tailored for those using apps like Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop, shouldn't the pad's space be reserved for its primary job? But it's arguably not a major issue as creative pros will likely use an attached graphics tablet or mouse much of the time anyway.
The main takeaway: this pad does not seem an afterthought.
The Gigabyte Aero 15's webcam is a definite compromise, though. It does not sit in the display surround, but above the keyboard. This results in a supremely unflattering angle, one that picks up your fingers typing if you take notes during a work call. And image quality from the 720p sensor is poor.
- 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10980HK CPU, 64GB DDR4 RAM
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 8GB GDDR6 RAM
Gigabyte clearly wanted to show us how much performance it can fit into a relatively light and portable shell. Our Aero 15 has a Core i9 CPU, 64GB RAM, two 1TB SSDs, and an Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card.
That is a ridiculous amount of hardware for a 2kg laptop, which is why this particular Aero 15 costs so much - in the UK it's a £4229 configuration. So call your accountant. Or a divorce lawyer.
It's also enough power to justify the 4K screen. You can, for example, play The Witcher 3 with everything maxed and see frame rates in the 40s. Turn off the fancy hair modelling provided by Nvidia Hairworks and you'll see frame rates in the 50s.
The Aero 15 is also a great laptop for CD Projekt Red's more recent opus, Cyberpunk 2077. Not only do you get enough power to switch on ray tracing, the OLED screen is one of the few laptops that can actually do justice to high dynamic range (HDR) content.
The OLED screen's per-pixel lighting and extreme colour depth is a much better fit for HDR than a high refresh rate LCD. Unlike the top LCD TVs, laptops don't have backlights with local dimming, making attempts at HDR a bit pointless.
You get extreme power, from both the core components and the screen. But there is a price to pay.
The Gigabyte Aero 15's fans run more-or-less all the time. We found this kind of irritating when just doing basic work, having come from a near-silent slim and light laptop. And sometimes it only takes starting a download or opening a browser tab while doing something else to take the fans up a gear, creating yet more noise.
That said, the Gigabyte Aero 15 is not deafeningly loud when playing a game or stressing the CPU. Heat only noticeably blooms out to the right side of the keyboard, around the O/P/L keys and above, rather than the W/S/A/D keys you're more likely to touch when playing. But we recommend using a headset while playing as the fan tone is less easy to ignore than some rivals.
There are multiple fans inside, and they produce relatively high frequency and a lower frequency sound. Some larger gaming laptops manage to avoid much of that higher pitch noise, which blends into the background much less.
Gigabyte does make clever use of the available space, mind, seeming to pull in cooler air not just from the bottom of the Aero 15 but between the keyboard keys too. Not a sliver goes to waste. But, yeah, using this laptop is a reminder why ultra-high performance gaming laptops are usually quite thick, large and heavy.
The cooling system does work fairly well considering, though, letting the Aero 15 operate for extended periods at a boost frequency of around 4.15GHz, from a theoretical maximum of 3.5GHz. And even after running the CPU at 100 per cent for 30 minutes much of the laptop feels cool.
There's one more thing to factor in if you are not sure whether to buy a desktop or laptop. The laptop version of the Nvidia RTX 3080 is nowhere near as powerful as the desktop model. It has around 60-65 per cent of the power, with performance closer to the lower-end (if still great) desktop RTX 3060 Ti.
That's not Gigabyte's fault, of course. A couple of years ago laptop and desktop cards were quite comparable, but desktop ones have accelerated far ahead once more.
It would also have been nice to see a Ryzen version of the Gigabyte Aero 15. AMD's 4-series processors are brilliant, and their use would likely have resulted in a big drop in price too. Intel Core i9s don't come cheap. But we're likely to see a lot more high-end Ryzen gaming machines in the next generation.
- 99.9Whr battery
- Cylindrical charge plug (not USB-C)
- 230W adapter
Gigabyte claims the Aero 15 offers all-day battery life. This seems an unlikely one given it has a power-hungry Core i9 CPU, doesn't weigh that much, and has a 4K OLED screen.
It makes more sense when you look at the battery capacity. At 99Wh, the battery is as big as laptop manufacturers can make, without producing something you're legally not allowed to take on flights.
The Gigabyte Aero 15 lasts for 5 hours and 25 minutes when streaming a video at 50 per cent brightness. This drops by an hour when you max out screen brightness and do little more than write documents, with the odd bit of web browsing - the latter which makes up much of our daily workload.
We don't consider this all-day use. But it is about what we'd expect from a laptop with an extremely high-spec OLED display and a processor made for performance, not battery-saving. Gigabyte has done all it can here, so it could be possible to get over 6 hours use with low screen brightness - and that seems a fair enough compromise to us.
The Gigabyte Aero 15 also has all the connections you'll need, including a Thunderbolt 3.0 connector, three full-size USBs, an HDMI, SD card reader, Ethernet port, and a mini DisplayPort.
These are all arranged along the sides, presumably because Gigabyte needs the entire back to fling out heat from the CPU and GPU. We recommend using speakers or a headset, as the built-in speakers are weak. While their tone is pleasant enough, there's zero bass and maximum volume does not impress.
The split personality laptop that's part powerful creative workstation, part gaming laptop. Plenty of people hop between these two worlds, so that the Aero 15 isnt a portability disaster is a little bit magic. Its fans are a little erratic under low pressure and the display hinge could be stiffer, but it's otherwise very impressive at delivering for both worlds.
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