Stunning GTX970M SLI Gaming Performance
What is the Aorus X7 Pro V3?Back in May 2014 we reviewed the Aorus X7, the first gaming laptop from Gigabyte's new dedicated gaming arm. The Aorus brand ethos is all about gaming and this shone through with the 17" X7 which had an impressive specification, including dual GTX765M graphics in SLI. It also came in a very thin and impressively designed chassis and, apart from a short battery life, it performed superbly across the board. Timing was not on our side back then as within a few days the X7 was updated to the V2 which included the (then) new GTX860M graphics with a meaty 8GB of GDDR5 compared to just 4GB seen in our review sample.
Fast forward and we have the very latest incarnation for review - the £1999 X7 Pro V3. It uses the same chassis as the original X7, albeit with an improved cooling system, and has been updated to include two Nvidia GTX970M GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5. There's a faster processor in the shape of Intel's i7-4870HQ CPU offering speeds up to 3.7Ghz and a new matte wide angle IPS panel. Not to mention a storage boost using two 256GB SSDs in RAID 0 and a 1TB HDD. The original X7 performed very well during our tests so we have high hopes that with the dual GTX970M GPUs in SLI the X7 Pro V3 will do even better - let's see.
Design and Connections
As with our review of the original X7, the thickness of the laptop is the first thing that you are likely to notice. For a laptop with such a high specification, measuring just under 23mm thick is very impressive indeed. Aorus no longer claim this to be the thinnest and lightest SLI laptop as they did with the original X7 which suggests a competitor has probably beaten them on that regard, but we certainly have no complaints here. It's also not the heaviest laptop we have seen coming in at 3.1kg, but it certainly isn't the lightest. Although the large footprint of 428mm wide x 305mm deep doesn't really make the weight an issue and it does feel very strong and well built.
The design continues to impress with a very sleek all over matte black finish. With plenty of sculpted lines across the top and the air vents to the rear it does have a very aerodynamic look to it. Unlike other laptops which feel they need to throw loads of chrome at you, along with LED lights, the X7 Pro has a more minimalist look which, for high end gaming, is all you really need. Apart from the basic white keyboard backlighting (no fancy RGB setup here) the only other light is the illuminated Aorus logo to the centre below the screen. The full keyboard includes a numeric keypad and, in a feature that impressed us with the original X7, programmable macro keys. The touchpad and buttons have the same glass like feel to them and are very responsive.
This feature seems fairly standard on Aorus gaming laptops, with a row of 5 programmable scissor switch keys with 5 different main configurations. The 5 configurations can be easily switched to via the main G key which illuminates with a different colour for each configuration. The simple MacroHub software allows you to program the keys to open programs, apps and of course perform those all important macros. This was very easy to use and worked as expected. For those who long for macro keys on laptops, you won't be disappointed here.
Moving onto the connections and Aorus have been very generous here. To the left we have the Ethernet port, Surround port, VGA, 1 x USB 3.0 and the headphone and microphone jacks. The right side gives us another 2 x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, Mini Display port and the SD card reader. The power connection is to the rear along with yet more USB ports, this time 2 x USB 2.0. There is no DVD/Blu-ray drive with the X7.
Features and SpecsPriced at £1929.99 this is by far Aorus' most expensive laptop to date and is clearly aimed at gamers who have a serious penchant for high-end gaming and a wallet to match. Starting with the big money item, we have dual Nvidia GTX970M Maxwell graphics in SLI with a combined 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Then we have Intel's Haswell i7-4870HQ Quad Core CPU running at 2.5Ghz (turbo speed of 3.7Ghz) and 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 1866Mhz. The display is a 17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution using an anti-glare IPS panel. Other specifications include the latest 802.11ac WiFi, HD webcam, Bluetooth 4.0 and a Killer LAN chip.
The X7 Pro V3 offers an impressive quadruple storage system capable of housing up to 3 x 512GB mSATA SSDs and a 2TB HDD. The V3-CF1 configuration as reviewed includes 2 x 256GB Lite-on M2 SSDs in RAID 0 configuration and a 1TB HDD. Fresh with the X7 Pro V3 is Aorus new RAID Xpress feature which can have up to three mSATA SSDs in RAID 0 configuration, this claims to offer read speeds up to 1500MB/s.
The Lite-on 256GB M2 SSD as a standalone offers read speeds up to 520MB/s and write speeds of 440MB/s. Aorus claim that using RAID 0 these read speeds should far exceed the single drive speeds and using ATTO Disk Benchmark we can confirm that is correct with a very high read speed of 938MB/s and write speed of 873MB/s. Whilst these speeds are impressive, for real world applications the differences between using an SSD in standard mode as opposed to RAID 0 are less conclusive. Whilst RAID 0 splits the data evenly across two or more disks without parity information and therefore increases the speed significantly, the downside is that there is no data redundancy, so that means if one drive fails, you lose the data across both of them.
PCMark8's Storage Test which uses workload traces recorded from actual programs such as Battlefield 3, MS Office and Photoshop for example and therefore represents real world tests rather than synthetic and is not affected by differences in CPU or GPU performance, we get a score of 5003 with a bandwidth of 306.58MB/s. This is currently our highest score seen since our introduction of the PCMark 8 benchmark but this again is very similar to other PCMark8 systems with a single SSD not running in RAID which would suggest that the benefits seen by have a RAID 0 setup do not translate to real world use.
The 2 x 256GB SSD converts to an available space of 456GB for Windows to use as the laptop has a 20GB recovery partition setup. After the Windows installation and various other pre-installed software that leaves us with 418GB. Coupled with the 1TB HDD that should give you plenty of storage for many games and other files. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a quick average score of 11.5 seconds.
Is the display any good?The 17.3" display uses a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS panel with an anti-glare coating. This should mean that, on paper, better viewing angles than the TN panel seen on the original X7 and that certainly seemed to be the case. Even at angles around 160⁰+ the image was still clear and perfectly watchable. The anti-glare coating again does a great job with reflections minimised and even a bright light aimed directly at the screen is diffused particularly well. The maximum screen brightness level is more than adequate with the most comfortable level around the 60% mark.
We use Passmark's Monitor Test program for the laptop screens currently, which runs through various standard quality tests of the screen to give you an idea of the screens performance. It also comes with a very useful help section to tell you exactly what you should be looking for and areas where the screen may not be performing well. The screen passed all the tests with no issues present. On the black screen test you can see the edge lighting slightly bleeding through, but this was only very minor. Text and websites are clear and easy to read and the colours look particularly impressive with a very bold and bright feel to it. It's a basic test admittedly, but the software is free and without resorting to buying expensive software and test equipment, this is a test most home users can easily replicate for themselves.
What pre-installed software is there?You won't find a huge amount of bloatware on Gigabyte's gaming laptops and that continues with their Aorus range too. As with the original X7 the pre-installed software is kept to a minimum. Starting with Command and Control, which is a simple GUI offering quick access to the various system functions such as the fan control, power mode, keyboard backlighting level for example. Launched via Command and Control is System Gauge, with a design very much like a car dashboard, it shows you the current GPU and CPU temps and usage along with fan speeds, battery status and even network speeds.
SmartSwitch is again present which allows you to quickly shutdown and restart Windows along with a useful setting of choosing between the Windows 8.1 default or desktop as the main start screen. Another of our favourites is the Drivers Update program. This is a simple one click system to update any of the drivers such as the graphics, HD audio or Wireless to the latest official or Beta version. Other than the Killer Network manager the only other software pre-installed is a free 1 month trial of Office 365 and Power DVD 10. With no disc drive present in the X7 range, Power DVD 10 is pretty pointless, but can be quickly uninstalled if you need to.
What does it sound like?The original X7 gave us a rather surprisingly good experience with the audio. It's an often neglected area of laptops so always fills us with trepidation when we come to test. Apart from the class leading audio seen on our recent review of the MSI GT70 2PE laptop it's usually nothing to write home about. Thankfully here in the refreshed X7 Pro V3 the audio is identical to that in the original X7; using 2 x 2watt speakers located towards the front of the laptop and 2 x woofers located underneath the laptop the sound quality is certainly well above the average we normally hear.
Whilst not at MSI's level the sound came across very well, the bass was punchy and the maximum volume is more than generous enough and most likely louder than you would comfortably need. Even at maximum volume there was no distortion or audio crackling. For everything apart from gaming the on-board audio is very impressive. It is still impressive for gaming, it's just the jet engines that sound like they are firing when the system is under load tends to mask the audio and headphones are definitely recommended for gaming.
Is the battery life any good?This was an area where the original X7 performed below par and unfortunately the X7 Pro V3 uses an identical battery, a Li-Polymer 73.26Wh, so we don't have high hopes for any better results. With Powermark's Battery Test on the Balanced setting we received a pretty poor 120 minutes, comparable to MSI's GE70 of 119 minutes for example but a mile away from Gigabyte's own P25X v2 which gave a very impressive 232 minutes in this test.
The low results continued with the rest of our tests. Firstly with the YouTube video test, which is a 4 hour loop of a standard 480P video, and with the laptop set to the high performance setting and the screen at 100% brightness, we managed a very poor 99 minutes. With the system turned down to the balanced setting and brightness lowered to 50% we increased that to 129 minutes. With no DVD drive installed we tested with Netflix instead and using the same 50% settings we managed a tad more at 146 minutes. So more than enough to watch a film or a couple of TV programmes, but not much else sadly.
An issue we always have with gaming laptops, particularly the high end ones such as the X7 is that gaming on the move using any sort of settings other than low is impossible due to the way the system cripples the performance when under battery alone. Even set to high performance mode the FPS drops off dramatically. Although here with the X7 Pro V3 the FPS didn't drop too badly. In Battlefield 4 for example our previous excellent result of 90 FPS using high settings dropped to an average of just 45FPS when the power was disconnected. Whilst this is still a big reduction, it allowed for a very playable game and didn't require the settings dropping any further to maintain that frame rate. With a 100% charge we did only manage 51 minutes of gaming before the battery died. The battery from flat takes 138 minutes to charge back to 100%.
Aorus X7 Pro V3 Benchmarks
Benchmark Score Summary
Time to Desktop 11.5 Seconds 9 Super Pi @ 1M 9.99 seconds 9 3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 133286 8 3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 22872 8 3D Mark - Fire Strike 10529 8 3D Mark - Sky Diver 25557 8 Passmark Performance Test 8.0 4972.3 8 Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 65.78FPS - CPU 6.53pts 7 Unigine Heaven 4.0 2194 8 Unigine Valley 1.0 2851 8 PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 4036 8 PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 5003 8
Stunning gaming performance!
As you probably might expect with the SLI 970M graphics setup, the results were stunning and by far the best we have seen on a laptop to date. With Max Payne 3 set to maximum we achieved a superb 65FPS far above the usual 20-30FPS we see on single card gaming laptops and even the 47FPS seen on the original X7 using the two GTX765M. With the latest Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare we managed 91FPS with everything set to maximum, all except super-sampling which crippled the performance down to just 15FPS when this was set to high. Battlefield 4 continued the good scores, although we did have issues running in SLI which appears to be a common problem with this game but we still achieved 69FPS on Ultra. Finally with Sims 4 on medium settings we had 149FPS and 125 using Ultra settings.
The benchmark tests continued the excellent scores with 4038 on PC Mark 8 Home Conventional, 2851 in Unigine Valley 1.0, 2195 on Unigine Heaven 4 and 4972 with Passmark Performance Test 8. This laptop may be just shy of £2000 but it definitely packs in the performance for the money.
Benchmark Score Summary
1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps) Battlefield 4 High Settings 91 Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 69 Sims 4 Medium Settings 149 Sims 4 Ultra Settings 125 Max Payne 3 High Settings 151 Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 65 COD: Advanced Warfare Maximum Settings 91
Any fan noise or heat?The HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our benchmark and gaming test sessions. The CPU core temperatures at idle are 48°C and under test conditions these reached a fairly roasting 92°C with the two Nvidia GPUs topping out at 88°C and 81°C.
Whilst the previous X7 did get pretty hot and reached levels of 46dBs for gaming, it wasn't in the same league as some of Gigabyte's laptops which clearly didn't appear to have adequate cooling. The new X7 Pro V3 gave a very similar story to the original, but it did top out at 51dBs during gaming. During most other uses, the system is silent but during gaming the noise is a tad too excessive for our liking with very significant amounts of heat being expelled from the side and rear air vents. It's always difficult to tell in the short period we have the laptop for review how it will fare long term with all the components getting as hot as they do. With the excellent on-board audio if you crank the volume up a notch you can just about drown the system noise out, although for quieter games, such as the Sims 4, the noise might get annoying. We'd still suggest keeping a pair of headphones close by!
- Top draw gaming performance
- Superb specification
- Good on-board audio
- Stylish design
- Macro Keys
- Very thin
- Could be too noisy for some
- Poor battery life
- No Blu-ray drive
Aorus X7 Pro V3 17" Gaming Laptop Review
Should I buy the Aorus X7 Pro V3?If you are looking for a serious high end gaming laptop then the Aorus X7 Pro V3 definitely ticks a lot of the boxes. It's not cheap though at £1999, but then is anything high end? The 2 x GTX970M GPUs in SLI give a performance that will match most single card desktop PCs. Owning a gaming laptop will no longer mean having to play games on low settings as with the X7 Pro V3 you can run everything on maximum and enjoy very high frame rates (on mains power of course), although the compromise is a rather noisy system and one that chucks out a significant amount of heat.
The specification is superb with a high quality 17.3" IPS LCD Full HD display, 16GB of RAM @ 1866Mhz and a Quad Core i7-4870HQ CPU with a turbo speed of 3.7Ghz. The whole system has been tailored and designed to give the very best gaming performance and this shows with top marks across the board in all our gaming and benchmarking tests. As we saw with the original X7, the only major negative is the battery life which is extremely poor - gaming times of just 50 minutes aren't particularly impressive.
What alternatives are available?There isn't a huge amount of competition in the Nvidia 9 series SLI laptop arena as many are still using the older 8 series. Scan do offer a 980M SLI laptop, although this comes in at over £400 more. The Alienware 18 with dual 880M for example comes in at well over £2500, so even at £1999 the X7 Pro V3 does offer good value for money for those that want the ultimate laptop gaming experience. As with the original X7, we are happy to award the X7 Pro V3 our AVForums Recommended Award.
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.