Still too hot to handle!
IntroductionWe've had mixed results lately with Gigabyte and their range of gaming laptops. Back in March we reviewed the 15.6" P25W which offered excellent performance, high specification and at a reasonable price too. We then reviewed the 15.6" P35K, an ultra thin and lightweight gaming laptop with a decent specification but one that ultimately failed due to heat and excessive noise issues. Our next review was the Aorus X7, it's a beast of a machine from Gigabyte's new gaming arm, which was a real powerhouse and performed well across the board. Two award winners and one that missed out, so a mixed bag from Gigabyte.
With that in mind, as we approached our next review, the Gigabyte P35W v2, we hoped that Gigabyte had addressed some of the issues we found with the P35K. On paper the chassis appears to be identical to that of the P35K, with an identical 15.6" Full HD IPS LCD display, 16GB of DDR3 RAM @ 1600 and two 128GB SSDs, but with an increased specification of an Intel i7-4710HQ CPU and Nvidia GTX870M graphics and also a 1TB HDD thrown in for good measure. Coming in at a similar SRP to the P25W and P35K of £1219.00 we were eager to see how it performed. So let's find out.
Design and ConnectivityThe P35W v2 looks to be using an identical chassis to that of the P35K which is an all black affair with a matte finish. It's still as sensitive to fingerprint marks as the P35K was but we do find the overall style and design to be very smart and particularly understated. Some gaming laptops often go over the top in their design with lights all over the place, but we do like the overall design here. With the multitude of stickers removed you are just left with the silver power button above the keyboard and the chrome Gigabyte logo on the top which does stand out well against all this black.
The keyboard is an island style with a full numeric keypad and arrow keys and being the same as the P35K, is still very comfortable to use and easy to work with, having the usual set of function keys for quick access to the screen brightness, Wi-Fi and volume settings for example. We also have the W, A, S and D keys highlighted just in case you need help to find them. The keyboard is again fully backlit using Gigabyte's light sensing feature which automatically adjusts the backlighting to suit the external conditions. Prior to this review we hadn't yet found this feature to work on any of Gigabyte's laptops so it was a pleasant surprise that it actually did work here with the backlighting coming on when we entered a dark room and immediately going off as we entered the light. Should you not care for this you can still turn it off or set it to full or 50%.
The overall build quality is excellent again with the screen hinges feeling strong, the connections and ports feel secure and, similar to the P35K, it doesn't feel like it will tip over if the screen is wide open. There is some flexing with the screen but that is to be expected due to being so thin. Unlike the P35K where we found issues with the touchpad and some chassis flexing under the screen, these issues appear to have been fixed with the P35W v2. The touchpad is very responsive and both buttons work as expected without issues and the flexing is gone.
Using the same ultra lightweight and thin chassis as the P35K with a width of 385mm, a depth of 270mm, just 21mm thick and a weight of only 2.1kg. The connections starting on the left side include 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 sleep and charge port), VGA and HDMI ports. No connections to the rear, just the two exhaust ports.
SpecificationThe overall specifications on the P35W v2 on paper look pretty tasty and whilst being very similar to the P35K there are a few notable improvements. This time we have an improved CPU in the shape of Intel's Haswell Quad Core i7-4710HQ CPU running at 2.5Ghz (turbo speed 3.5Ghz) with Intel HD 4600 integrated graphics, the latest Nvidia GTX870M graphics with a whopping 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM and improved WiFi with the latest 802.11ac/b/g/n standards. As per the P35K we get the same 16GB of DDR 1600Mhz RAM, 15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080 display that uses an IPS wide angle LCD screen, 1.3MP webcam and Bluetooth 4.0. Another minor alteration is the change from a Samsung to a Matsushita CD and DVD writer (still no Blu-ray sadly, although this is available as an option).
The same vast storage options are again present with the P35W v2. Gigabyte seem to have got this area down to a tee with a multitude of different configurations possible. Our review sample came with the same 2 x 128GB Lite-on mSATA LMT-128M6M SSDs setup in RAID 0 configuration as per the P35K, but with the addition of an HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7200RPM 1TB HDD. The storage can be upgraded to 4TB in total, with 2 x HDDs up to 1.5TB and 2 x SSDs up to 512GB supported, although a second 1.5TB HDD will require the removal of the DVD drive from the front hot-swappable slot.
2 x 128SSDs in RAID 0 and 1 x 1TB 7200RPM HDD
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. With ATTO Disk Benchmark, after our three runs we found an average read speed of 943 MB/s and an average write speed of 641 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 application use 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 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. Using this we get a score of 4965 with a bandwidth of 246.76MB/s which shows a small improvement when compared to the P35K. This score is very similar to other PCMark8 systems with a single SSD not running in RAID which would again suggest that the benefits seen by having a RAID 0 setup do not translate to real world use.
The 2 x 128GB SSD converts to an available space of 222GB for Windows to use. After the Windows installation and various other pre-installed software that leaves us with 183GB, whilst the 1TB HDD equates to 931GB of free space. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a pretty good average score of 18.15 seconds.
DisplayThe 15.6" display uses a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution wide angle IPS LCD panel. It's a matte finish and appears very similar to the P35K screen which was absent of the distracting 'orange peel' effect that we saw with our review of the P25W. The reflections are again reduced to a good level, shining a torch directly on the screen saw a very diffused reflection. The IPS screen offers excellent viewing angles again, similar to the P35K screen with a clear viewable image still visible at 150⁰ when viewed from the side.
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 although, as we saw with the P35K screen, the colour especially on the red band could have been 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 we've seen with the last few Gigabyte laptop reviews, the levels of preinstalled software have been kept to a minimum, even more so here as we don't even get any DVD playback software pre-installed. The main software of note is Gigabyte's Smart Manager software which gives instant access to all the basic system functions such as volume, brightness, power mode, fan control, keyboard backlighting and monitor switching for example.
Another useful addition is Gigabyte's Smart Switch software which, amongst offering quick access to the shutdown options, also allows you to choose your default start-up screen from either the desktop or the Metro screen, so set it to the desktop and you hopefully will never have to see the Windows 8 Metro screen again! Also present is 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 and finally a free 1 month trial of Office 365.
On-board AudioAn often neglected area, the speaker quality usually appears to be bottom of the list on laptops, although our review of the P35K did find that Gigabyte had at least made some effort in bucking that trend. The P35W v2 uses the same audio setup as the P35K, that being 2 x 1.5watt speakers (located on the front of the laptop) and a single subwoofer backed up by the Dolby Home Theater V4 software. The sound quality is clear with a very good maximum volume that for normal use is likely to be louder than you would need and no distortion was present or any nasty tinny sounds that you get with poor speakers. It's not on par with the excellent audio quality in the Aorus X7 laptop but it's definitely better than most laptops we have reviewed.
We would still highly recommend headphones though. The P35W v2 suffers from the same incredibly loud system fan noise as the P35K did which was noticeable even during loud gaming sessions. So for watching movies, streaming TV shows for example or for times when a higher quality audio would be preferred, headphones are essential.
Battery LifeThe battery here is a Li-Polymer 11.1v, 75.81Wh, on paper identical to that in the P35K. Using Powermark's Battery Test on the Balanced setting, we received a pretty decent result of 4 hours 23 minutes. Then 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 a reasonable 4 hours 8 minutes, far exceeding the pitiful 3 hours 14 minutes with the P35K. With the system on the balanced setting and the brightness lowered to 50% we managed to squeeze out even more giving 4 hours 51 minutes.
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 25 minutes. As for gaming, the 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 HD 4600 graphics when gaming which will have a huge impact on performance. For our game testing we had high performance mode enabled and via the Nvidia settings we had the game using the GTX870M graphics adapter and we managed a fairly short 55 minutes from a 100% charged battery.
Benchmark Tests and Performance
Benchmark Score Summary
Time to Desktop 18.15 Seconds 8 Super Pi @ 1M 11.34 seconds 8 3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 109274 5 3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 15407 5 3D Mark - Fire Strike 4284 5 3D Mark - Sky Diver 14418 5 Passmark Performance Test 8.0 3842 5 Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 61.25 FPS - CPU 7.06pts 6 Unigine Heaven 4.0 729 5 Unigine Valley 1.0 1087 5 PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 3247 5 PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 4965 8
For a gaming laptop costing over £1,200 and one that has recently been refreshed with the latest GTX870M graphics and faster CPU, we expected a high level of performance and particularly with the gaming test results we received good scores across the board. Key highlights were an excellent 65FPS in Battlefield 3 on Ultra Settings which exceeded the 52FPS seen on the Aorus X7 laptop with the dual GTX765M graphics, although with Max Payne 3 the system didn't quite manage the highs of the Aorus, with a barely playable 23FPS on Ultra settings and slightly better 45FPS on high settings but with the COD: Black Ops 2 test we saw highs of 118FPS identical to that of the Aorus system. Whilst the GPU has a massive 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM, the graphics unit is not powerful enough to cope with any settings that would require that amount of VRAM. Max Payne 3 for example with everything on max and almost 3GB of VRAM being used, the game is barely playable.
Benchmark Score Summary
1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps) Battlefield 3 Ultra Settings 65 Battlefield 3 High Settings 88 COD: Black Ops 2 Maximum Settings 118 Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 23 Max Payne 3 High Settings 45
The benchmark tests were a bit of a mixed bag with highlights of 1087 in Unigine Valley 1.0 and 3247 in PC Mark 8 Home Conventional. They exceeded the majority of the tests on the P35K but were slightly below the results we had with the Aorus X7. The Passmark Performance Test 8 result is far lower than it should be at just 3843, delving into the individual results shows despite selecting that the Nvidia graphics be used for this program on the DX11 test it defaulted to the Intel HD 4600 integrated graphics, hence the lower score.
As we've seen with most gaming laptops under battery power the system is quite severely crippled, even on high performance mode you are not receiving all the performance that is available under mains power. The benchmark tests under battery power came out roughly 20%-30% lower than under mains and gaming for example with Battlefield 3 went from 65FPS on Ultra under mains, to just 30FPS using battery power. It's definitely worth bearing in mind that you will not be gaming on high settings using battery power alone.
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 46°C whilst under test conditions these reached 92°C with the Nvidia GPU reaching 89°C. Due to the P35W v2 using the same chassis as the P35K we had concerns prior to this review that it would have the same heat and noise issues and these concerns were unfortunately confirmed.
Too hot for comfort
As we saw with the P35K this laptop is very noisy during gaming or under full load. The P35W v2 just beats the P35K as being the loudest laptop we have reviewed to date. We reached new heights of 54 dBs during gaming and even with the volume set to maximum you can't drown out the fan noise, it overpowers any other audio and as we suggested earlier in this review, means headphones are a necessity. Even when idle there is always a slight fan noise suggesting the system is too hot for its own good. Having one of the lightest and thinnest gaming laptops out there is no good if the design can't cope with the heat produced by the high performance components.
Again, as with the P35K the heat is expelled from two vents to the rear of the laptop and from underneath. As you may expect from our issues with the noise, the heat is also rather excessive and should you wish to have this on your lap you may soon start to smell burning flesh, it's really that hot.
- High Specification
- Latest GTX870M Graphics
- Great Performance
- Good Value
- Far too noisy
- Very hot
- No Blu-ray drive
- Low performance under battery power
Gigabyte P35W v2 Gaming Laptop ReviewThe recently refreshed Gigabyte P35W v2 comes in at just over £1,200 and on paper offers impressive specifications for that price. Compared to our recent review of the P35K, you get a much improved Nvidia GTX870M graphics and faster i7-4710HQ Quad Core CPU, coupled with 16GB of RAM, 2 x 128GB SSDs in RAID 0 and a 1TB 7200RPM HDD. The 15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080 matte display uses an IPS LCD panel which gave us some excellent viewing angles but slightly muted colours. Keeping the same ultra thin and lightweight black chassis as the P35K, it weighs just 2.1Kg and is only 21mm thick.
With our benchmark tests we saw improved scores across the board when compared to the P35K system which had the Nvidia GTX765M graphics and with the gaming tests, particularly on Battlefield 3, we saw excellent FPS scores, exceeding the dual GTX765M scores we had with the Aorus X7 for example. This system (using mains power) can comfortably play most games on maximum settings, although with the likes of Max Payne 3 it did struggle with the settings turned right up where it was using almost 3GB of the 6GB available GDDR5 VRAM.
Unfortunately the noise and heat issues that plagued our review of the P35K are still present here. The P35W v2 appears to use the same chassis and therefore the same problems occur. With a high of 54dBs the P35W v2 wins the award of being the loudest laptop we have ever reviewed. The noise is so loud it overpowers anything you are doing, even loud gaming for example. Headphones are a must here and if you fancy singed legs then this is the laptop for you!
It's a shame as the overall system is excellent with great performance across the board, vast storage options, sleek design, good build quality and very useful Gigabyte software in the shape of the SmartManager, SmartUpdate and the Windows 8 Metro removing SmartSwitch. Unfortunately, as with the P35K, we can't award an AVForums badge due to the excessive noise and heat. If Gigabyte can cure these issues then the system would definitely be one worth recommending.
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
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