Too hot to handle?
IntroductionGigabyte have certainly impressed us of late with their range of Gaming and Ultra laptops. Our most recent review of the P25W 15.6" laptop found a machine with a very high specification that performed well in our tests and priced very competitively to boot. The same goes with the impressive Ultrabook U2442N reviewed a few months back, we found a quality machine that certainly exceeded all the 'Ultrabook' requirements. But it's not all good news as we always seem to have issues with poor on-board audio and, with the P25W in particular, the system noise was especially loud.
Now we have the P35K in for review and, given our previous experiences, we hope they can keep up the good work and improve on the negative aspects of the poor audio and system noise that we found in the review of the P25W. The P35K is a Windows 8 machine with a 15.6" Full HD IPS LCD display, Intel i7-4700HQ CPU, Nvidia GTX765M graphics along with 16GB of DDR3 RAM @ 1600 and two 128GB SSDs. Priced very similarly to the P25W with an SRP of £1,200.00 and a specification that isn't wildly different, this laptop could be a reasonable alternative. Read on to see how it fares in our tests...
Design and ConnectivityShying away from the garish yellow of their P25W laptop, Gigabyte have gone with an all black colour scheme for the P35K. The top has a matte black finish which shows up fingerprints rather too well and the base and keyboard surround follows a similar matte theme. It's a very sleek and understated look, especially for a gaming laptop which generally tend to be rather bold and in-your-face, with no colour other than black in sight. The only exception to this are the silver power button above the keyboard and the chrome Gigabyte logo on the top, which stand out well against all this black.
The keyboard is again an island style with a full numeric keypad and arrow keys and is also fully backlit using Gigabyte's automatic light sensing feature which automatically adjusts the backlighting to suit the external conditions. As with our P25W review this feature unfortunately doesn't work, with the backlighting set to auto, in a completely dark room the backlighting did not come on at all. This leaves three options, off, 50% or 100% backlighting. Excluding the backlighting issue the keyboard is very comfortable to use and comes with the usual array of function keys for quick access to display, volume and Wi-Fi settings for example.
Another negative here was with the touchpad and buttons. Presumably our review copy has been around the block a few times but the right mouse button was very sticky and often wouldn't work at all. The touchpad itself was very responsive and the left mouse button was fine, but using the touchpad rather than the left mouse button to open programs and files was very hit and miss and annoying at times.
Touchpad issues aside, the build quality is what we have come to expect from Gigabyte. The laptop is well balanced and doesn't feel like it will tip over if the screen is open too much and the screen hinges are strong and feel firm when opening and closing. The power connection feels secure without being too firm. So overall a decent build quality perhaps let down only by the dodgy touchpad, a small amount of flexing of the cover below the keyboard and the auto backlighting failure.
Compared to the hefty size of the P25W, this P35K is significantly thinner and a tad lighter too. The dimensions are 385mm wide, 270mm deep and just 21mm thick with a weight of just 2.5kg. The connections are what you would expect whilst not being overly generous starting on the left side with an Ethernet port, 1 x USB 2.0, microphone and headphone jacks plus an SD card reader and the standard Kensington lock slot. Then to the right we have 2 x USB 3.0 ports (one also being a USB charge port), VGA and HDMI ports. No connections to the rear, just the two exhaust ports.
SpecificationOn paper the P35K offers very similar specifications to the P25W with a very similar asking price of £1200. We have an almost identical Intel Haswell Quad Core i7-4700HQ CPU running at 2.4Ghz (turbo speed 3.4Ghz), double the RAM with 16GB of DDR3 1600Mhz and a slightly lower powered GPU with the Nvidia GTX765M graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM when compared to the GTX770M of the P25W. The display appears better with a 15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080 with an IPS LCD screen. The IPS display on paper offers better viewing angles and more vibrant colours than non IPS displays. Other specifications are a 1.3MP webcam and a front mounted Samsung CD and DVD writer driver (no Blu-ray sadly) along with 802.11 b/g/n Wireless (2.4Ghz only) and Bluetooth V4.0.
Gigabyte are again offering a wide range of storage configuration options with the P35K, just as we saw with the P25W. With 3 storage bays in the base you can install up to 2 x 512GB mSATA SSD and 1 x 1TB HDD. If further space is required the front slot currently housing the DVD drive is hot swappable and can be removed and replaced with a Blu-ray drive or another 1TB HDD. Thereby offering up to 2TB of HDD space and 1TB of SSD space which gives an impressive choice of storage options. Our review sample came with 2 x 128GB Lite-on mSATA LMT-128M6M SSDs setup in RAID 0 configuration. RAID 0 splits the data evenly across two or more disks without parity information and therefore increases the speed by a good margin. The downside of RAID 0 is that there is no data redundancy, so that means if one drive fails, you lose the data across all of them.
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 963 MB/s and an average write speed of 637 MB/s. Thanks to the RAID 0 configuration we see very fast ATTO Disk benchmarked speeds way above of the single SSD quoted speeds, but 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. Using the new Storage Test benchmark on PCMark 8 which uses workload traces recorded from actual programs such as Battlefield 3, MS Office and Photoshop for example. These represent real world tests rather than synthetic ones and are not affected by differences in CPU or GPU performance, we get a score of 4939 with a bandwidth of 228.02MB/s. This score is very similar to other PCMark8 systems with a single SSD not running in RAID which would again suggest that the paper benefits seen by have a RAID 0 setup do not translate to any real world improvements.
The 2 x 128GB SSD converts to an available space of 217GB for Windows to use. After the Windows installation and various other pre-installed software that leaves us with 173GB. As we saw with the P25W laptop, Gigabyte have helpfully kept the pre-installed software to a minimum. The main software being Power DVD 10, the Gigabyte Smart Manager software and a trial version of Microsoft Office. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the windows splash screen we get an excellent average score of just 8.85 seconds.
DisplayThe 15.6" screen here is a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS LCD panel. It's a matte finish but without the 'orange peel' effect to the screen that was so noticeable on the P25W and with the reflections again kept to a minimum. Shining a torch directly at the screen for example still gives a diffused reflection but not to the degree that we saw with the full matte screen on the P25W. Thanks to the IPS panel the viewing angles are excellent with a bright clear image still visible at wide angles exceeding 150⁰.
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 screen's 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 although the colours, especially on the red band could have been much more vibrant for our liking. With 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 softwareAs with the previous Gigabyte laptops we have reviewed the level of pre-installed software is thankfully kept to a minimum. This is even more essential with our review sample machine which only came with the 2 x 128GB SSDs and no HDD. After a few games and other programs installed the 173GB free space we initially had quickly starts to disappear.
The standard software we now see on these Gigabyte laptops is firstly Gigabyte's Smart Manager software, no quick launch button for this or keyboard shortcut this time unfortunately, but launching via the desktop it gives instant access to all the basic system functions such as volume, brightness, power mode, fan control and monitor switching for example. Other Gigabyte software includes their SmartSwitch which gives quick access to shutdown, restart etc rather than having to go through the convoluted Windows 8 shutdown system and the very useful SmartUpdate which gives a quick listing of your current driver and software versions along with a quick link to download and install the current versions. The final pre-installed software of note is Power DVD 10 and Microsoft Office which gives you a free 1 month trial of Office 365.
On-board AudioThis is by far the weakest link on the majority of laptops we review but with the P35K, Gigabyte appear to have made a decent attempt at addressing the issue. The audio is supplied by 2 x 1.5watt speakers and a single subwoofer backed up by the Dolby Home Theater V4 software. The on-board sound quality is reasonably clear and the maximum volume is very generous and far louder than you would usually need and even at the louder volume levels no noticeable distortion was present. Also the usual indicators of poor quality speakers such as the overly tinny sounds and lack of clarity are not present here.
Headphones are still an essential item for two reasons. Firstly whilst the sound quality is better than a few of our recent laptop reviews, it still isn't at a level that makes for pleasurable gaming or for longer sessions watching a movie or streaming TV shows for example and secondly, due to the system fans being extremely loud as we will come to later in this review, when gaming you would need headphones to shut out the fan noise so you can actually hear your game.
Battery LifeThe battery here is a Li-Polymer 11.1v, 75.81Wh. Firstly with our 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 3 hours 14 minutes. Then with the balanced setting with the brightness lowered to 50% we managed to squeeze out slightly more at 3 hours 50 minutes. Compared to the 86.18Wh battery of the P25W laptop which gave almost 5 hours in this test, the results are a little disappointing.
With no Blu-ray drive present, we were unable to test the battery life here, but for standard DVD playback, again with the balanced setting with 50% screen brightness we achieved 4 hours 2 minutes. As for gaming, high performance mode is essential here to get the best from the machine and you also have to double check which GPU the laptop is using. With the Nvidia Optimus technology the system may default to the onboard Intel 4600 graphics when gaming which will have a huge impact on performance. For our testing we had high performance mode enabled and via the Nvidia settings we had the game using the GTX765M graphics adapter and we managed a rather disappointing 48 minutes.
Benchmark Tests and Performance
Benchmark Score Summary
Time to Desktop 8.85 Seconds 9 Super Pi @ 1M 10.734 seconds 8 3D Mark 11 4550 3D Marks 5 Passmark Performance Test 8.0 4284.7 5 Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 59.04 FPS - CPU 6.84pts 6 Unigine Heaven 4.0 422 4 Unigine Valley 1.0 625 3 PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 3012 5 PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 4957 8
For a gaming laptop costing £1200 you would expect a decent performance across the board and on the whole we weren't too disappointed although the scores were lower that the P25W laptop which had the superior GTX770M graphics chip. A 3D Mark 11 score of 4550 and Passmark Performance Test 8 score of 4284.8 being a couple of the pointers to the lower powered GTX765M graphics.
1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps) Battlefield 3 Ultra Settings 29.7 Battlefield 3 High Settings 51.2 COD: Black Ops 2 Maximum Settings 74.2 Max Payne 3 Very High Settings 22.4 Max Payne 3 High Settings 41
As we mentioned above with the battery you do have to check which GPU the system defaults to so you can avoid disappointing performance and results. For example during our test with COD: Black Ops2, we saw the frame rate nose dive significantly to just 30.1FPS when the mains power was disconnected. The same applied to our benchmark tests with almost a 30% reduction in the PC Mark 8 score for example.
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 44°C whilst under test conditions these reached a decidedly hot 99°C.
Now onto our major issue with this laptop, the noise. It is extremely noisy when under load. In fact it's probably one of the loudest laptops we have ever reviewed. Even when not under load you can still hear a slight fan noise which points to the fact that this laptop has a serious overheating problem. During our benchmark and gaming tests, our sound meter was reading a crazy 53 dBs which completely overpowers any gaming audio and even with headphones was still very distracting. The ultra thin size of the P35K is all well and good, but if it means that the noise level is as loud as we received here, than it may need to go back to the drawing board.
The heat is expelled from two vents to the rear of the laptop and from underneath. Another of our issues with this laptop is the heat. We normally expect to have slightly warm legs from a gaming laptop but the heat coming from underneath this machine was approaching burning levels and caused a lot of discomfort after just a few minutes of gaming. You would need to be very careful if you had this on a delicate surface because after a short while it would very likely burn it and on the top of the laptop, where the speakers are, it was too hot to touch.
- Good Specification
- Excellent storage upgrade options
- Value For Money
- Thin and lightweight
- Serious overheating issues
- P25W is a better proposition
Gigabyte P35K Gaming Laptop ReviewCompared to our recent review of the Gigabyte P25W, the P35K offers very similar specifications and at a very similar price. The major differences with the P35K being the lower powered Nvidia GTX765M graphics, double the RAM at 16GB and a rather strange omission of a Blu-ray drive which we would have expected to be a standard at this price point. The garish bright yellow top and rather chunky look of the P25W has been replaced with a very sleek and understated look, with an all-over black design and much leaner dimensions at just 21mm thick and 2.5kg.
The screen here is again a 15.6" 1920 x 1080 Full HD display, but this time using an IPS LCD panel which translated to some excellent viewing angles, but disappointingly some rather muted colours. The matte screen diffuses any reflections to a good level without the 'orange peel' effect that we saw on the P25W's screen. As far as benchmarks go, the results were as expected, with the scores performing worse than the P25W, mainly due to the lower powered GTX765M graphics although the Haswell Quad Core i7-4700HQ CPU does show some minor improvements in the SuperPi test over the MQ version used in the P25W. As for gaming, the average results received were again in line with the benchmark tests, although the FPS scores do show a system that can play most games at maximum settings apart from a few of the more demanding titles such as Max Payne 3 where it struggled on maximum settings.
So far, we have a laptop with a lot of positives offering a good price and a decent specification and surprisingly on-board audio that isn't awful, but that is where the positives ended. We have two main issues with the P35K, that being the noise and heat. Firstly this laptop during gaming or under load is one of the loudest we have ever reviewed coming in at a shocking 53dBs. Even with headphones on or the on-board audio turned right up, you won't be able to ignore that level of noise. It clearly has a problem with heat as even when idle where most laptops are normally silent, the system fan comes on quite often. The levels of heat that come from the machine are again some of the hottest we have experienced. The top of the laptop where the speakers are located was too hot to touch during gaming and after just a few minutes our legs were actually starting to burn, so we'd have concerns what this would do to a delicate surface after long term use.
Following on from our recent review of the P25W Gaming Laptop review it's difficult to recommend the P35K. Yes, the specification is very good with some excellent storage upgrade options but there are just too many negatives. We had no issues in awarding the P25W our AVForums Recommended Award, but this definitely isn't be the case with the P35K where we have serious concerns about the long term viability of a system that has clear overheating problems. This seems like a great system on paper, but really needs to go back to the drawing board to solve the overheating issues.
Value For Money7
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.