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Monday | April 24, 2017
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Gigabyte P57X v7-CF1

Gigabyte P57X v7-CF1

The latest gaming laptop from Gigabyte doesn’t look like a particularly potent machine, but don’t judge this notebook by its cover.

The P57X v7-CF1 boasts a new Intel Kaby Lake processor and top-tier Nvidia graphics alongside a 4K screen – and its £2,199 price is actually pretty sensible. Is this the best big gaming laptop on the market?

Components

The GTX 1070 is one of Nvidia’s Pascal graphics cores, which means huge efficiency and performance improvements – and so this mobile card is just as powerful as its desktop variant. Nvidia has built this chip with 2,048 stream processors and a core clock of 1,442MHz, which can rise to 1,645MHz with dynamic boosting.

Gigabyte has gone one further and kitted the GTX 1070 out with overclocking. Five different levels of speed can be chosen in the P57X’s Smart Manager app, with the top level adding about 10% to the GPU’s speed.

It’s the same card as the Aorus X7 v6, which also had overclocking capabilities: that laptop improved the core to a peak of 1,543MHz.

The Gigabyte marks the first time we’ve seen an Intel Kaby Lake chip in a notebook. The new architecture improves Skylake’s 14nm manufacturing process and gives boosts to clock speeds, Turbo frequencies and graphics architecture – this is a chip that makes small enhancements in several departments rather than dramatic changes.

The i7-7700HQ that debuts here will become the most popular high-end laptop part from the new range. It’s clocked to 2.8GHz with a Turbo peak of 3.8GHz, and it has four Hyper-Threaded cores. It makes for an interesting contrast with the Aorus: that machine has a last-generation CPU, but the i7-6820HK is overclockable and runs at 4GHz by default, rather than at its 2.7GHz stock speed.

Elsewhere, the Gigabyte has a 256GB SSD and 32GB of RAM – four times as much memory as the Aorus. That’s good, in one sense, but few games will benefit from that much DDR4.

Full Specification

CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Memory: 32GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
Sound: On-board
Screen size: 17.3in 3,840 x 2,160 IPS
Hard disk: 256GB Samsung SM961 M.2 SSD, 1TB hard disk
Weight: 3kg
Ports: 3 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, Gigabit Ethernet, 2 x audio, SD card slot, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort, VGA
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 421 x 290 x 29mm
Extras: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi
Warranty: 2yr RTB

Design

The powerful components are soldered inside a subtle chassis. The P57X is made from matte black metal, with understated logos and buttons throughout and a subtle speaker grille above the keyboard. The only decoration is a little bit of orange around the edges, and the keyboard has white backlighting rather than anything RGB – like the Aorus.

The smart looks give way to decent build quality. There’s barely any give in the wrist-rest and base panel, and the slightly flexible screen isn’t a huge issue – it moves, but the desktop doesn’t distort.

The P57X’s 3kg weight undercuts the Aorus by 200g, but Gigabyte’s machine is chunkier than its rival – its 29mm thickness is four millimetres more than the Aorus. It’s not too big, then, but this is still a 17.3in machine, so you’ll still want a bag for lugging this laptop to LAN parties.

The base panel can be removed, so the hard disk, memory sticks and other components can be accessed. That’s good, but the Aorus was better: that machine had two memory slots and an M.2 socket free, while the P57X has no room for extra hardware.

The Gigabyte machine is littered with connectivity, though, including a USB 3.1 connection, an SD card slot and both HDMI and DisplayPort outputs. That’s good, especially for connecting to VR headsets.

Ergonomics

Almost all gaming laptops now come with a chiclet keyboard – and that’s a shame. The P57X’s keyboard is comfortable and consistent, and offers decent speed, but it’s far too soft, which means it’s difficult to distinguish between the keys and the base. That makes button presses indistinct, which is no good in the heat of battle.

The Aorus suffered similarly, with both machines better for typing than gaming. Gaming machines with traditional keyboards are better for gaming, but they’re sadly rare now.

The Gigabyte keyboard has a fine layout, with full-size Return and Space keys and a numberpad, but it doesn’t have macro buttons like the Aorus.

The trackpad isn’t quite as good as the Aorus, either. The P57X’s buttons are responsive, but they move too far, which means they lack the shallow, rapid click found on the best gaming mice – something the Aorus is better at replicating.

Performance

The GTX 1070 is a potent part that handles any game at almost any resolution. None of our test titles proved problematic at 1080p: its poorest score here was 91fps in Fallout 4, and it streaked past 100fps in Witcher 3 and Crysis 3.

The Gigabyte performed well at 1440p, with an average of 59fps in Witcher 3 beaten by both of our other test titles. Its 1440p result of 83fps was one frame better than the Aorus, but its 61fps score in Crysis 3 was slower.

The P57X only hit problems when we ran games at 4K. The Gigabyte’s native resolution makes graphics look pin-sharp, but Fallout 4’s average of 28fps is sluggish – and Crysis 3’s result of 31fps was undermined by a stuttering minimum of 23fps. Using the Gigabyte’s overclocking tools don’t really help, either – the 10% leap adds a frame or two, but that’s it.

You’ll have to tone down graphical settings to get the most demanding games running smoothly at 4K, which almost defeats the object of having a 4K screen in the first place – which is why we think it’s a slightly odd choice for this machine. The Aorus didn’t have this issue thanks to its 1440p panel, which is a more sensible resolution for the GTX 1070.

The 4K screen might be a step too far for the P57X, but this machine is a little quicker than the Aorus in several tests – including Fire Strike. Its Extreme result of 7,693 outpaced the Aorus’ score of 7,403, albeit by a slim margin.

There wasn’t much to choose between these notebooks in CPU tests, either, with the P57X’s Kaby Lake silicon squaring up to an overclocked Skylake chip. The P57X scored 4,044 and 14,562 in the single- and multi-threaded Geekbench tests – only 23 points away from the Aorus’ scores in the same benchmarks. Expect both machines to scythe through CPU-intensive tasks.

The P57X has three fan modes: Quiet, Normal and Performance. The former option is no good for gaming, because it throttles clock speeds and halves frame-rates – but it does keep the machine whisper-quiet in all scenarios.

The Performance mode is chosen by default, and it kept the noise down and the temperatures reasonable. During game tests the P57X whirred out with a modest amount of fan noise, and its CPU and GPU topped out at 85°C and 76°C. The Normal option reduced the fan noise a little and added two degrees to each temperature.

Those temperatures are fine and hardly any heat made it to the outside of the chassis. In this department the P57X comfortably beats the Aorus, which was too hot and too loud.

There were no surprises in battery tests. The P57X lasted just over an hour in battery tests, which is normal for a gaming machine – and about level with the Aorus.

Screen and Sound

The P57X’s 4K panel is noticeably sharper than the 1440p screen in the Aorus, and its matte coating is great for gaming. However, this screen doesn’t have any syncing – while the Aorus did have 120Hz Nvidia G-Sync. The P57X might be sharper, but the Aorus is smoother thanks to synchronisation at 120fps and below.

The Gigabyte’s measured brightness of 428cd/m2 is huge, but it’s too high for most people to use comfortably – and, similarly, the black level of 0.65cd/m2 is also high. That means a middling contrast level of 629:1, which will cause a lack of depth to colours and underwhelming black shades. The Aorus was hit by similar problems, with a contrast ratio of 638:1.

The P57X is better in other departments. Its colour temperature of 7,218K isn’t too cool to prove problematic, and its Delta E of 3.79 is better than the Aorus. It displayed 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is 20% more than the Aorus – so it’ll be able to churn out many more shades.

The P57X is bright but lacks subtle colours, but it’s easy to improve this panel by moving away from its default settings. The Native Colour mode improves the Delta E to 0.52, which is an excellent figure that ensures improved colour accuracy. We got even better results by just dialling the backlight down to 150cd/m2 – here the contrast jumped to 833:1, which is noticeably better.

There’s a little backlight bleed, and uniformity is only average. But, when it comes to image quality, the P57X is better than the Aorus – the inclusion of G-Sync is the only real advantage to the latter machine’s panel.

The P57X falls behind in the audio department. Its two speakers churn out reasonable treble, but the high-end is a little weak, and there’s no sub-woofer. The Aorus did have a sub-woofer, and better overall sound quality.

Packaging, Bundle and Alternative Specs

The £2,199 notebook we’ve reviewed is the more expensive of two P57X models. The more affordable version, the v7-CF2, costs £1,899 and drops down to a 1080p display and 16GB of memory.

Gigabyte has also kept two of last year’s variants on the market, which is ideal if you want to save a little cash by sticking with Skylake. The P57X v6-CF4 costs £1,699 and the the P57X v6-CF3 costs £1,849. Both include the GTX 1070 GPU and a 1080p display alongside Core i7-6700HQ processors, with the cheaper machine offering less memory and storage space.

Conclusion

The Gigabyte P57X isn’t the flashiest gaming laptop, but it trades RGB lighting and silly design elements for good performance in several key departments.

The GTX 1070 and the rest of the components are fast, and the screen has higher quality than the Aorus’ panel – even if its resolution it’s strictly necessary. Build quality is fine, and the P57X keeps cool and relatively quiet. Even in areas where the P57X falters, there are no disasters – the keyboard and speakers are mediocre, but not bad.

The P57X is better than the Aorus in several key areas, and it’s a little cheaper too. It’s not extravagant, but it’s fast and well-balanced – and that makes for a high-quality large gaming laptop.

Recommended Award

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Gigabyte P57X v7-CF1
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Mike Jennings

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