Few laptop companies push the envelope quite like Aorus, and the boutique firm’s latest model doesn’t hold back. It looks fantastic, but that’s not the only feature that attracts attention – this notebook also includes graphics and processor overclocking.
They’re rare and brave features to include in a laptop, but that’s not all. This machine also has a 17.3in screen with Nvidia G-Sync, a brand-new Nvidia Pascal GPU, and fantastic physical design.
The GTX 1070 is a superb mobile GPU that barely differs from its desktop counterpart – Nvidia has revised the stream processor count and stock speed to make the chip more suitable for laptops, but its output levels are similar.
Nvidia’s new card traditionally runs at 1,442MHz, but in this laptop it arrives with a modest overclock of 1,468MHz. There are four further tiers of speed, with the peak level reaching a huge 1,543MHz – a big overclock for a desktop card, and unheard of for a laptop.
The Core i7-6820HK is the only mobile Intel CPU with an unlocked multiplier. It’s overclocked by default, with its stock 2.7GHz speed improved to 3.6GHz, and the top tier sets the silicon to a huge 4GHz.
The overclocks can be changed in Windows using a neat app called OC Gauge. It works well, with slick speed
switching and a host of dials that monitor clock speeds and temperatures.
The rest of the specification is more conventional – 16GB of memory, a 256GB Toshiba SSD and a 1TB HDD – but it’s those overclocked components that make the Aorus stand out. Rival machines have similar hardware, but none push the envelope quite like this: the Gigabyte P35X v6 and XMG P507 both have a GTX 1070 and a Core i7 processor, but neither are overclocked.
CPU: 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK
Memory: 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
Screen size: 17.3in 2,560 x 1,440 Nvidia G-Sync IPS
Hard disk: 256GB Toshiba XG3 NVMe M.2 SSD, 1TB HDD
Ports: 3 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, Gigabit Ethernet, 2 x audio, SD card slot, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 428 x 305 x 25mm
Extras: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi
Warranty: 1yr RTB
The ambitious components are paired with bold design. The lid’s mirrored logo lights up and the back of the machine is built around chunky, angular air vents. The power button sits above the keyboard and contains another illuminated logo, and it’s flanked by more grilles for the heatsinks and fans inside.
This 17.3in machine isn’t too thick or heavy, either. Its 25mm frame weighs 3.2kg, which is deeply impressive for a laptop that’s this powerful. The Gigabyte is almost a kilo lighter and a couple of millimetres slimmer, but that machine also has a smaller 15.6in screen.
Build quality remains good throughout despite the relatively light build, and the exterior has ample connectivity: USB 3 ports on three sides, a USB 3.1 Type-C connection, mini-DisplayPort and HDMI outputs and a card reader. On the inside, there’s Killer-branded Ethernet and wireless.
There are two empty memory sockets and a free M.2 slot on the inside, but getting into the Aorus is a little tricky – you’ll need a tiny TORX screwdriver to remove the base panel.
Here’s the first area where the Aorus underwhelms. This machine has a chiclet keyboard, which means it’s better for typing than for gaming. Its buttons are comfortable and consistent with a firm, welcoming base, but their low-travel action means this keyboard doesn’t have the speed or snap we prefer on gaming hardware.
It’s better than the Gigabyte, which suffered with wobbly and soft keys, but it’s certainly not far ahead – and it’s certainly not as good as traditional laptop keyboards or proper mechanical gaming units.
The core typing experience is only mediocre, but the Aorus’ keyboard does have some redeeming features. Every key has RGB backlighting and can be controlled with the AorusFusion app, and there’s more variety here than on almost every other gaming notebook. There’s also a dedicated row of macro keys, which is another rarity.
The trackpad is better, too. The buttons are fast with a shallow clicking motion reminiscent of proper gaming mice, and the surface is accurate and friction-free.
I’ve run all of our initial benchmarks at the Aorus’ default clocks: the GPU is at its first overclocked level of 1,468MHz, while the CPU is at its 4GHz peak.
The GTX 1070 blasts through games at 1440p. Its 59fps average in Fallout 4 is excellent, and it hit 67fps in Crysis 3 and 79fps in Witcher 3. Those two latter scores are significantly quicker than the Gigabyte and the XMG – no surprise considering the components – and it’s also safe to say that this machine can easily handle 1080p gaming.
The Aorus’ GTX 1070 has enough power to output many games to 4K and VR headsets, although a GTX 1080 will be better suited to those situations.
The overclocking gave the GPU a slight boost: its original 3D Mark Fire Strike score of 12,613 jumped to 13,065 with the laptop’s peak overclocking mode enabled, which resulted in a couple more frames in our gaming benchmarks.
The overclocked CPU is no slouch either. Its Geekbench scores of 4,025 and 14,585 were significantly better than both rivals, and its PC Mark 8 Home result was also ahead – the Gigabyte lagged almost 1,000 points behind. It helps that the DDR4 memory has much more bandwidth in this machine – and its SSD is faster, too.
The Aorus is very fast, and its overclocking only improves the situation – but this system really struggles in thermal tests.
With its default clocks and default maximum fan speed, the CPU’s peak temperature of 98°C is too high – and the system also made a huge amount of noise. It’s louder than most other gaming notebooks, including the Gigabyte, and the fan acceleration through three different levels is a constant irritation.
The normal fan option makes no difference to noise while the GPU rose from 81°C to 85°C, while increasing the GPU overclock made little difference to temperatures.
The noise only dropped when we used the quiet fan option, but that’s no good for gaming – it caused the GPU to throttle its core and memory speeds.
The heat situation is little better: the keyboard became warm during stress-tests, hot air is vented from both sides of the laptop, and the base panel became uncomfortable to touch.
If you want to game properly on this laptop then the noise will be intrusively loud unless you’ve got the speakers ramped up or if you’re wearing headphones. The Gigabyte and XMG also suffered from heat and noise issues, but the Aorus is a little worse than both.
Screen and Sound
This is the first time we’ve seen a notebook with a 120Hz G-Sync screen. It’s a tempting prospect that means framerates will be synchronised to the screen’s refresh rate at a maximum of 120fps – twice as high as almost all other G-Sync laptops. That gives more scope for synchronisation than any previous G-Sync notebook, which is a boon when this laptop’s GPU is so beefy.
The broad G-Sync remit is paired with a matte finish and a sensible 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. That figure is high enough to make games look crisp, but it also means there’s no need to use the Windows scaling settings. Laptops like the Gigabyte go one better with 4K screens, but we’re not convinced that’s an advantage – even notebooks with a GTX 1080 will struggle to run every game smoothly at 4K.
It’s all good so far, but the Aorus’ benchmarks see this screen falter. Its initial brightness level of 351cd/m2 is fantastic, but its black level of 0.55cd/m2 is too high. That means contrast is a poor 638:1, which means subtle colour differences are disappointing and dark tones are underwhelming. It’s easy to see that in games, too: our Witcher 3 benchmark is usually pretty vibrant, but on this notebook it looked a little pallid and washed-out.
Colours themselves aren’t too accurate. The average Delta E of 5.88 is poor and the temperature of 7,124K is a tad cool. The Aorus serves up 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, but none of those shades are spot-on.
Reducing the huge brightness level barely changed those benchmark results, and picking the X7’s various colour temperature modes made little difference. Uniformity was only average, too: the screen lost 14% of its brightness along its top edge and 17% along the bottom.
This screen is fine for gaming, especially because of G-Sync, but Gigabyte’s machine is a 4K panel with better-balance in almost every benchmark – and so, in our eyes, it’s a better option.
The speakers are much better. The two subwoofers provide deep and well-balanced bass, while two speakers serve up meaty treble sounds and a decent high-end. Volume is ample, and the Aorus Equalizer app serves up loads of usage modes – although some are better than others. The gaming and music options are largely similarly, while the movie options are generally poor.
Packaging, Bundle and Alternative Specs
Aorus always goes one step further with its packaging. The laptop arrives in a smart black box, it’s wrapped in slick black fabric, and the quick start guide is a high-quality black book rather than a tatty bit of paper. Aorus also includes a couple of feet to prop the Aorus up for a better gaming angle.
Two alternative options are available. The X7 v6-CF2 is a cheaper system that costs £2,200 and drops to a 1080p screen, while the £3,000 X7 DT v6-CF1 doubles the memory and deploys a GTX 1080.
This good-looking laptop serves up loads of innovations thanks to its overclocking options, G-Sync screen and good software, and it’s quick too – battering its way through our benchmarks no matter the game or application. It’s got good lighting, software and speakers, too.
However, the middling keyboard, underwhelming screen and disappointing thermal results are all cause for concern. It’s slick and fast, sure, but the Aorus just tried to do too much.