Does the gaming performance match the ravishing design?
IntroductionThe poor old laptop hasn't had the best of times in the last few years. With the seemingly never ending rise of tablet devices like the iPad or Samsung's Galaxy range, sales in 2013 for PCs and laptops fell by an unprecedented 10%. Although that probably wasn't helped by the rather messy release of Windows 8 by Microsoft. The sheer convenience of a tablet device is clearly pulling more and more people away from laptops and PCs and, for casual users especially, a tablet can quite often provide all the functionality they need. But tablets can't do everything. Whilst the recent devices have excellent computing power and graphics capabilities that give us some truly impressive looking mobile games, for anyone with more than a casual interest in gaming, the trusty PC still has its advantages.
For those looking to do some serious gaming on the move or for those gamers who just don't want a big tower case messing up their aesthetically pleasing home, then a gaming laptop is needed. The Gigabyte G25W 15.6" Gaming Laptop offers impressive specifications, including a Quad Core Intel i7-4700MQ processor, Nvidia GTX 770M 3GB graphics, 8 GB Ram and a 128GB SSD running on the recently updated Windows 8.1. With a Full HD 1920 x 1080 display, we have high hopes that it will deliver the power where it is needed for gaming, so let's find out.
Design and ConnectivityThe P25W design is likely to be one of those Marmite products, you either love it or you hate it. But whichever way you look at it the design is certainly very bold and striking. The bright yellow metallic finish to the top of the laptop and the chrome effect hinges and edging around the screen certainly pull no punches. According to the promotional information from Gigabyte, the design has been 'inspired by a sports car'. With the dual air vents to the rear echoing a sports car's twin exhausts and the chrome we can see where they're coming from, although that's about as much comparison to a car as we could find.
Once you lift the lid it is an all black affair, although the chrome edging around the screen really does make it stand out. The island style keyboard has a full numeric keypad and arrow keys and is fully backlit using Gigabyte's automatic light sensing feature which automatically adjusts the backlighting to suit the external conditions. This apparently makes 'gaming and typing in dimly lit rooms better and easier', although our experience was that whether it was bright or dark the backlighting did not change at all, so slightly disappointing there. However, the keyboard is very comfortable to use and has the usual full array of function keys for quick access to the display, volume and Wi-Fi settings for example.
The touch pad and buttons were very responsive and we had none of the issues that we found with previous Windows 8 laptops were it seemed that too many functions were trying to be incorporated into the pad. On some laptops we've reviewed just a tiny brush accidentally from the right would annoyingly bring up the Windows sidebar, thankfully this is not an issue here. The sidebar still can be brought up by swiping from the right of the touch pad but not so easily.
The build quality is reasonably good with the hinges comfortably holding the 15.6" screen in place at any angle on opening and the power connection feels very secure and tight. Although this was slightly let down by one of the USB ports not working on our review sample. For a 15" laptop it is pretty hefty weighing in at 2.7kg, meaning you will definitely start to notice it if you actually have it on your lap for any length of time. The dimensions are 392mm wide, 263mm deep and 38mm and its thickest point and 32mm at its thinnest.
As for connections, it appears to cover all the bases without being too generous. To the left side we find a single eSATA/USB (2.0) combo port and a VGA port along with the power connection, then to the right side we have 2 x USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet and HDMI port with the microphone and headphone jacks. We also have an SD card reader and the standard Kensington lock slot.
SpecificationFor a 15.6" laptop with an SRP of £1,310 (available currently for under £1,200 online), you'd expect a hefty specification and that's pretty much what Gigabyte have delivered here. Firstly we have the latest Haswell Quad Core i7-4700MQ CPU running at 2.4Ghz (turbo speed 3.4Ghz), 8GB of DDR3 1600Mhz RAM and Nvidia GTX770M graphics with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM. The display is a 15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080 Matte LED screen which features a light scattering anti glare layer and also a 1.3MP webcam. Together with this we get a Samsung Blu-ray and DVD writer drive, 802.11 b/g/n Wireless and Bluetooth V4.0.
Moving onto the storage and Gigabyte offer an impressive range of configuration options for the P25W. The review sample priced as shown above comes with a 128GB Lite-on mSATA LMT-128M6M SSD and a 1TB 5400RPM HDD, but thanks to 3 storage bays you can have installed up to 2 x 512GB SSD and a 1TB HDD giving you the option of RAID 0 configuration or just for providing a massive amount of space for all your games and other files. The technical specs for the 128GB Lite-on SSD claim an impressive read speed of up to 530 MB/s and a good write speed of 300 MB/s. During our three runs with ATTO Disk Benchmark, we found an average read speed of 529.3 MB/s and an average write speed of 314.6 MB/s, so impressively spot on with the read speeds claimed and a slight improvement on the write speed.
The 128GB SSD converts to an available space of 98.2GB for Windows to use. After the Windows installation and various other pre-installed software that leaves us with 60.1GB. Thankfully Gigabyte haven't loaded this laptop with endless bloatware and all that you mainly get pre-installed is Power DVD 10, the Gigabyte Smart Manager software and a trial version of Microsoft Office. Given that current games can be upwards of 30GB each the SSD space will quickly run out, but with the 1TB HDD also installed you can easily keep a couple of your most played games on the SSD and the rest on the HDD. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the windows splash screen it takes just 11.4 seconds.
DisplayThe 15.6" screen here is a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution LED panel. It's a matte finish with a definite orange peel effect to the screen when you look closely and Gigabyte's special light scattering anti-glare coating certainly appears to work well. Shining a torch directly at the screen for example and you only get a very diffused reflection coming back at you. If reflections are your bug bear for screens, then you will be happy here. This reviewer does prefer a glossy screen as the image always seems to be that much sharper, but for a matte screen we had no complaints. The viewing angles are reasonably good with a bright image visible even at about 140⁰ angle.
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 without any issues and on the solid colour black test, no backlighting bleed was visible. 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.
Pre-installed SoftwareThankfully Gigabyte are following the trend of several of the manufacturers of laptops that we have reviewed recently in providing just the bare minimum of pre-installed software. Granted with the 1TB of HDD space that may not be too much of an issue, but it's good to see the laptop is mostly free of pointless free trials to programs you won't ever use or trials that require payment to continue to receive use of the software.
The software we get with this laptop includes Gigabyte's Smart Manager software which can be opened via the desktop or by a button next to the power button at the top of the keyboard. It gives instant access to all the basic system functions such as volume, brightness, power mode and monitor switching for example. Along with the Gigabyte SmartSwitch which gives quick access to shutdown, restart etc. rather than having to go through the convoluted Windows 8 shutdown system. Gigabyte have also included Power DVD 10, which although being several versions old does allow you to playback Blu-ray discs out of the box, so to speak, without having to download additional software or shell out any cash. If you do fancy the latest version you can upgrade to Power DVD 13 Ultra for just $39.95 currently. The last of the main pre-installed programs is Office 365 of which you get a 1 month free trial.
On-board AudioThe audio is delivered by 4 x 1.5watt dual-channel stereo speakers and a subwoofer. Gigabyte claim this to be unique and that the speakers will provide 'a high fidelity audio experience that is perfect for gaming and multimedia'. Well we aren't sure that they listened to the speakers first before making those claims as yet again with a laptop we were disappointed with the quality of the onboard audio. It's almost like they are just giving it lip service whilst still saying you really should use headphones with this, which of course you should.
The main problem with the audio is that despite the claims of 4 speakers the sound appears to be coming from one area underneath the laptop, it does seem much improved and clearer if you lift the laptop in the air, but as you are most likely to have this on your lap or a desktop for example and not be holding the laptop level with your ear, then the audio is just too muffled and because of this it creates many problems.
Let's start with the volume, at anything less than about 40 it's a real struggle to hear. Turning it fully up to 100 and it's still not that loud; it's loud enough to hear but sadly also loud enough for some rather nasty distortion and crackling to appear. Added to this the level of system noise (which we will come to later in this review), it makes headphones an absolute necessity for gaming, watching a Blu-ray or pretty much anything other than watching YouTube or similar. The quality of the speakers, whilst not being the worst we have ever heard on a laptop, are still not good enough for a machine with an SRP of over £1300.
Battery LifeThe battery here is a meaty Li-ion 8-cell, 5700mAh, 86.18Wh. A decent specification which should hopefully translate to an excellent battery life and on the whole throughout our testing the results were impressive. Firstly with our YouTube video test, which is a 4 hour loop of a standard 480P video with the laptop set to the high performance setting and the screen at 100% brightness we managed 3 hours 22 minutes. Then with the balanced setting and the brightness lowered to 50% we managed to squeeze out 4 hours 57 minutes.
For Blu-ray the performance was again impressive, the balanced power mode setting is sufficient for Blu-ray, the movie playback was free of any stuttering that might have been caused by low performance, so no need to set the high performance mode on. With the screen at 30% brightness, we managed 4 hours 24 minutes which is excellent and long enough to squeeze in two movies if you wish.
As for gaming, high performance mode is essential here to get the best out of the powerful components, with the screen at 100% brightness and with the system fans seemingly on high the entire time we managed 1 hour 14 minutes during our test with Max Payne 3. We also found that even with it fully shutdown the battery lost about 15% over a 10 hour period.
Benchmarked Tests and Performance
Benchmark Score Summary
Time to Desktop 11.4 Seconds 9 Super Pi @ 1M 13.221 seconds 6 3D Mark 11 5168 3D Marks 6 Passmark Performance Test 7.0 2589 6 Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 56.50 FPS - CPU 6.44pts 6 Unigine Heaven 4.0 590 5 Unigine Valley 1.0 912 5 PC Mark 7 5241 PC Marks 6Our standard set of tests as shown in the table above are each run 3 times, with the average score taken. The tests were all carried out with the laptop in maximum performance mode and with the mains power plugged in. With this laptop we are using the latest Nvidia 334.89 graphics drivers. With the tests it's always worth bearing in mind the relative power of the graphics unit - for example the Nvidia GTX770M graphics adaptor is in no way an equivalent to the desktop GTX770. According to Passmark's Video Card benchmark, the GTX770M is roughly in the same area as a Radeon R7 260X or an Nvidia GTX650Ti.
1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps) Battlefield 3 Ultra Settings 37.25 Battlefield 3 High Settings 52.5 COD: Black Ops 2 Maximum Settings 89.8 Max Payne 3 Very High Settings 28.6 Max Payne 3 High Settings 52.1
For a gaming laptop costing £1300 you would expect a decent performance across the board and on the whole we weren't disappointed. A decent PC Mark 7 score of 5241, 3D Mark 11 score of 5168 and Passmark Performance Test 7 score of 2589 being a few of the highlights. Moving onto the Gaming tests and we were impressed here. Testing with our usual Max Payne 3, Battlefield 3 and COD: Black Ops2 in 1920 x 1080 resolution using the same conditions as our benchmark tests, we saw an excellent average in BF3 using Ultra settings of 37.25FPS, this increased even further to 52.5FPS with High settings. COD: Black Ops 2 can run on pretty much anything and this showed with a high average FPS of 89.8, with everything set to maximum.
Our last test with Max Payne 3 was probably the most impressive and usually one where other less powerful systems have faltered. With all the settings on very high and the FXAA, MSAA and Anisotropic filtering turned right up to the limits of our graphics card VRAM we saw an average score of 28.6FPS. That doesn't sound fantastic but at these settings on some lower powered machines we've struggled to get into double figures. Dropping the settings slightly to high the average FPS jumped to 52.1.
We were also pleasantly surprised with the results under battery power alone. As we saw above in the battery test, with maximum performance mode set you won't get a huge amount of gaming time, although better than most we have reviewed, but what we did find was only a small drop in performance when compared to mains power, roughly an average of about 10% across our tests. On several of our previous laptop reviews despite maximum performance being enabled the system still seemed to be performing much worse than with mains power.
Temperatures and NoiseThe HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our testing session. The CPU core temperatures at idle are 43°C whilst under test conditions these reached a very toasty 98°C. Onto the graphics and the GTX770M GPU at idle was 39°C and under load reached 73°C.
As for noise, make no mistake this is a loud laptop when under load, although for general use thanks to the Gigabyte Smart Cooling the system is almost silent. But as we already discovered with the rather poor onboard audio, headphones are an essential item. This becomes even more so when gaming or watching a Blu-ray. For example during our Blu-ray test for the first fifteen minutes of the film the noise from the disc drive reached 42dBs, eventually dropping to just 34 dBs when the drive noise thankfully quietened down. With the relative low volume of the onboard audio, the loud disc drive noise was very distracting during first fifteen minutes of Lord of The Rings. For gaming the system reached a similarly loud 41dBs. Unless you are happy listening to a fan on full over the gaming audio then we recommend headphones!
The heat is expelled mainly from the two 'car exhaust' vents on the rear of the laptop. The left one for the CPU and the right for the GPU. Oddly even under our intense tests we found very little if anything at all coming out of the GPU vent, whilst the CPU vent could easily have kept you and your family warm on a long cold night.
- Build Quality
- Battery Life
- Striking Design
- Excellent storage upgrade options
- Value For Money
- Poor on-board audio
- Noisy Blu-ray drive
- Loud system fans when under load
- Design may not be to everyone's taste
Gigabyte P25W Gaming Laptop ReviewWith the decreasing sales of laptops as seen over the last few years, a manufacturer has to offer something special to draw the attention of buyers away from tablets, especially with such a range of specifications and options from a plethora of manufacturers such as Alienware, MSI and ASUS to name a few. The Gigabyte P25W with its striking yellow top and 'sports car inspired' design certainly grabs your attention. Whether you love its looks or hate them, you certainly can't ignore them.
The striking design is matched by an impressive set of components. From the 1920 x 1080 Full HD 15.6" display to the Haswell Quad Core i7-4700MQ CPU, 8GB RAM, Blu-ray writer and GTX770M graphics all adds up to a gaming laptop that is certainly no slouch. With decent results in our benchmark tests and even more impressive results for gaming, particularly with Max Payne 3, we've found a laptop that can comfortably play the current crop of games on maximum settings, without having to sacrifice resolution or lowering settings to get a playable frame rate.
All that performance does come at a price though. The SRP is a mouth watering £1,310, although currently this is available for under £1,200 if you shop around, which for a 15.6" laptop is no small amount of money. But weighing up the overall specification and the performance we received in our tests it does represent reasonable value for money, for a gaming laptop anyway, even if there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of competition in the 15.6" gaming laptop market. For comparison, approaching the top end we have the MSI GT60 with a similar specification apart from 16GB RAM and the massively better GTX780M graphics for £2100, Toshiba's Satellite P50T with an increased 12GB RAM but then a much weaker overall specification, such as no SSD and the low powered GTX740M graphics for £900 and finally the Alienware 14" gaming laptop with a much weaker GTX765M graphics and only 6GB ram for £1,148.99. These are just a few examples, but does show the Gigabyte P25W to be keenly priced.
We found a lot of positives with this product such as the specification, gaming performance and, far more subjectively, the overall design. The battery life was also impressive topping out at 5 hours for our YouTube video test and giving a decent 4 hours 24 minutes for Blu-ray but there were a couple of issues. The audio is very poor at this price point and coupled with the rather loud system noise for gaming and the noisy drive when watching a Blu-ray, it does make headphones an absolute necessity. The poor onboard audio was about our only real problem with this machine, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. For the price you're getting a gaming laptop that can play most of the current games on high to maximum settings. This is really what Gigabyte set out to achieve with the P25W and therefore we have no reservations in awarding an AVForums Recommended badge.
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
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