Aorus X3 Plus V3 13.9" Gaming Laptop Review

Behold the Stunning QHD+ Display!

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

3

Recommended
Aorus X3 Plus V3 13.9" Gaming Laptop Review
SRP: £1,799.99

What is the Aorus X3 Plus V3?

A tiny but powerful gaming laptop from Aorus, Gigabyte's dedicated gaming arm. They have been the source of some excellent gaming laptops that we've reviewed of late but they do come at a price. Our last review saw the excellent beast of a machine, the updated 17" X7 Pro V3 with GTX970M GPUs in SLI outperform anything that had come before it, but then at a price just shy of £2000 we'd expect nothing less.

The device under consideration here is another updated machine. The X3 Plus V3 is a 13.9" laptop with a QHD+ 3200 x 1800 resolution LCD display. Updated from the previous release with a single GTX970M GPU with 6GB of GDDR5, 16GB RAM whilst keeping the same Intel i7-4710HQ CPU at 2.5-3.5Ghz. At £1799, for a relatively small gaming laptop, this is no small change at all. Claimed to be the World's Most Powerful 13.3"/13.9" laptop, read on to see how this small but powerful system copes with our tests....

Design and Connections

The X3 Plus V3 keeps to the same impressive design we saw with the X7 Pro. It's an all black finish with the LCD cover/lid, body and bottom cover all made of aluminium. This helps to keep the weight down to just 1.87kg. Apart from the white keyboard backlighting there are no other lights or design feature gimmicks as seen on some of the cpmpetition This laptop is all about gaming and that can be seen in the design. It's also very thin at only 22.9mm, which whilst it won't be the slimmest 13" laptop you can buy, for a gaming laptop it is almost 10mm thinner than some of the system builders' 13" laptops and around 2mm thinner than Alienware's 13" version. The footprint is 330mm wide x 264mm deep.
Aorus X3 Plus V3

The keyboard has a standard white backlight and, due to the size, does not feature a numeric keypad. The standard array of function keys are again present for changing the volume and brightness. for example, plus we also see the return of the excellent macro keys. These are a row of 5 'exclusive scissor-based' keys with a different main configuration available to each key adding up to a total of 25 available macros. These can be switched to via the main G key, which will illuminate with a different colour to indicate which configuration you are using. The MacroHub software is very easy to use and allows many functions such as programming the keys to open programs or apps and perform easy or much more complicated macros. The touchpad and buttons have the same glass-like feel and it is fairly responsive, although double clicking the pad itself was a bit hit and miss.

Aorus X3 Plus V3

Aorus have, again, covered most bases with the connections, even with this much smaller 13" form factor. To the left we have a Mini Display Port, HDMI, USB 3.0 and the headphone and microphone jacks. On the right side we find an SD card reader, two further USB 3.0 ports and the power button, which we must admit took us a few minutes to find, initially. The power connection is to the rear along with the Ethernet port. As with the X7, there is no DVD drive fitted on the X3.

Features and Specs

For a 13" gaming laptop, £1800 is no small price but for those wanting the ultimate high-end gaming in a small package then the X3 Plus V3 certainly delivers. We have a single Nvidia GTX970M Maxwell graphics with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Alongside Intel's 4th Generation Haswell i7-4710HQ Quad Core CPU running at 2.5Ghz ( turbo speed of 3.5Ghz) and 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 1600Mhz. The display has a resolution we have not encountered in our reviews before, a mighty 3200 x 1800 wide viewing LCD QHD+. Other specifications include the latest 802.11ac WiFi, HD webcam, Bluetooth 4.0 and a Killer LAN chip.

Aorus X3 Plus V3


Whilst our review sample arrived with 2 x 256GB mSATA SSDs in RAID 0 configuration, the laptop can be upgraded to three SSDs offering a total of 1.5TB of storage if required. Aorus' RAID Xpress feature is again present offering speeds up to 1500MB/s. Aorus claim that using RAID 0 read speeds should far exceed the single drive speed and using ATTO Disk Benchmark we can confirm that is correct with a very high read speed of 989MB/s and a write speed of 889MB/s. Whilst these speeds are impressive, for real world application, the differences between using an SSD in standard mode -as opposed to RAID 0- are less conclusive. 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 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 and therefore represents a better indication of real world performance, and it's not affected by differences in CPU or GPU performance, either. We got a score of 4992 with a bandwidth of 284.97/s which is not quite the 5003 high seen on the X7 Pro V3 and, again, this is very similar to other PCMark8 systems with a single SSD not running in RAID. That would suggest that the benefits seen by having a RAID 0 setup do not translate to real world use.

The 2 x 256GB SSDs convert to an available space of 461GB for Windows to use as the laptop has a 15GB recovery partition setup. After the Windows installation - and various other pre-installed software - that leaves us with 410GB. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a zippy average score of 10.5 seconds.

Aorus X3 Plus V3

What about the QHD+ Display?

Possibly one of the key selling points of the X3 Plus V3 is the display. It's a 13.9" LCD using an IGZO-TFT (Indium gallium zinc oxide) matte finish panel with a mouth-watering QHD+ 3200 x 1800 resolution that packs in a whopping 5.76million pixels, 400cd/m2 luminance and 72% NTSC Colour Gamut. Easily the highest resolution laptop we have reviewed to date and it certainly delivers. The image quality is, without resorting to too many superlatives, stunning with 4K videos on YouTube looking amazing. The display is bold, bright, full of detail and rich in colour, a fine example of current display technology. The viewing angles are fantastic too with a clear image still visible at around 170⁰.

Simply stunning display

Via the Mini DisplayPort the X3 is capable of outputting 4K at 60Hz. Should you be lucky enough to have a 4K TV, but one that doesn't quite have the correct codec's for YouTube for example, simply connect the X3 to your TV and delight in the 4K content. This is claimed to deliver smooth fast-motion scenes free of blurring and tearing. Unfortunately we don't have a Mini DisplayPort cable to test this, but if the quality of the 4K videos on the laptop itself is anything to go by, then it shouldn't disappoint here either. The only issue we did find with the 3200 x 1800 resolution was that some programs did not scale properly. Origin's log in screen, for example, was so tiny we had to get very close to the screen to read it properly.

Is there too much Pre-installed Software?

The level of pre-installed software is thankfully still kept to a minimum as we saw with the X7. We again find the 'Command and Control' software which is a simple GUI offering quick access to the various system functions such as the fan control, power mode and keyboard backlighting level, plus on the X3 a new option for changing the 'Color Gerent' which alters the warmth of the screen and includes a 'blue-light killer' sliding option which is a strange addition as when set to 100% makes the screen look awful. Launched via Command and Control we also find 'System Gauge'. Resembling a car's dashboard, it shows you the current GPU and CPU usage and temps along with fan speeds, battery status, disk usage and even network speeds.

Aorus X3 Plus V3

Aorus X3 Plus V3


'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. Helping to keep our OCD in check and ensuring everything is up to date is our favourite '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, this works very well but the connection speed is very poor with small updates taking a very long time to download.

Aorus X3 Plus V3


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 on the X3 Pro, Power DVD 10 is pretty pointless, but can be quickly uninstalled if you need to.

On-board sound

We've so far had very good experiences with the audio on Aorus laptops, excluding the class leading audio on the MSI GT70 2PE, the audio quality has been shocking on a few dismal efforts we have reviewed in the past. Thankfully, the last two X7 machines performed well above average in regards to quality. With the smaller form factor of the X3 Pro V3 we weren't so optimistic, although, as it turns out, there was no cause for concern. Gone are the 2 woofers seen on the X, but we do still get a pair of 2 watt speakers located towards the front of the laptop on either side.

The sound quality, whilst losing the punchy feel of the X7, is still very good. No distortion or sound breakup was present even at maximum volume, which is probably one of our only gripes as it wasn't particularly loud, but then there's no point having a volume level higher than the speakers can manage. The overall quality is excellent and whether you're gaming, watching movies or listening to music, the sound is crisp and clear.

Is the Battery Life any good?

Using an identical Li-Polymer 73.26Wh battery as seen in both the X7 and X7 Pro V3, we weren't particularly excited about the battery test. The X7 results were very low with poor scores across the board. Those machines did have SLI graphics, so with just one graphics card and the reduction in cooling required the X3 Pro V3 as it turned out didn't perform too badly here at all. With Powermark's Battery Test on the Balanced setting we received an excellent 176minutes, a full 56 minutes more than the X7.

These encouraging results continued with our other 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 166 minutes. With the system turned down to the balanced setting and brightness lowered to 50% we increased that to 207 minutes. With no DVD drive installed we tested with Netflix instead and using the same 50% settings we managed a similar figure of 201 minutes.

Aorus X3 Plus V3

With the X7 we finally found a laptop that didn't cripple the performance when using battery power alone but unfortunately with the X3 this wasn't the case. With Battlefield 4 for example on high settings, our frame rate took an instant drop from 31FPS to just 15FPS with the power cable unplugged. A clear sign that whilst under mains power high performance gaming is possible, with the battery alone you may need to lower your expectations (and graphics settings) to reach a playable frame rate. With a 100% charge we did manage 57 minutes of gaming before the battery died and it took just 105 minutes to charge back to 100%.

Benchmark Tests and Performance

Our standard tests as shown in the table below are each run at least 3 times, with the average score taken. The tests were all carried out with the laptop in high performance mode, mains power plugged in and the screen set to 3200 x 1800 resolution which despite our initial concerns didn't present a problem with any of the games or tests we ran. With this laptop we are using Nvidia 347.52 graphics drivers. The GTX970M is currently the second best mobile GPU, sitting behind the outrageous GTX980M and which according to Passmark's Video Card benchmark listing sits very close in performance to that of a desktop GTX690 or R9 280 X.Using Nvidia's Maxwell technology we have 1280 pipelines, a core clock of 924-1038Mhz and memory speed of 5000Mhz.

Benchmark Score Summary

Time to Desktop 10.5 Seconds 9
Super Pi @ 1M 10.59 seconds 9
3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 86519 5
3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 20378 6
3D Mark - Fire Strike 6384 6
3D Mark - Sky Diver 18627 6
Passmark Performance Test 8.0 4264.4 7
Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 64.14PS - CPU 7.15pts 6
Unigine Heaven 4.0 1139 6
Unigine Valley 1.0 1480 6
PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 2822 5
PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 4992 8
We've been spoiled in our recent laptop reviews with SLI graphics in the X7 giving us a system that performed superbly, here though with the X3 Plus V3, having just a single graphics card and with the increased QHD+ resolution, our expectations were lowered somewhat. On maximum settings the system did struggle in games such as Max Payne 3 where it achieved only 23 FPS and BF4 with a similar 27 FPS. Even Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare only gave us 38FPS on maximum settings. Sims 4 did manage a decent 78 FPS in Ultra though, but for high performing games on maximum settings the 3200 x 1800 resolution is a touch too high for the GTX970M to cope with.

The benchmark tests continued in a similar vein with 2822 on PC Mark 8 Home Conventional, 1480 in Unigine Valley 1.0, 1139 on Unigine Heaven 4 and 4264 with Passmark Performance Test 8. For £1799, whilst this laptop packs in a lot with a stunning resolution, it doesn't quite have the power.

Gaming Performance

3200 x 1800 Resolution FPS (Fraps)
Battlefield 4 High Settings 25
Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 27
Sims 4 Medium Settings 85
Sims 4 Ultra Settings 78
Max Payne 3 High Settings 41
Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 23
COD: Advanced Warfare Maximum Settings 38

Temperatures and Noise

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 47°C and under test conditions these reached 89°C with the Nvidia GPU topping out at fairly decent 78°C.

Surprisingly quiet system!

Aorus X3 Plus V3

Whilst the X7 with the SLI graphics clearly outperformed the X3, that did come with a side effect in the noise and huge amount of heat expelled. Here with the X3 Plus V3 we were pleasantly surprised at the lack of noise coming from the system. Even when under load during our benchmarks or gaming the loudest we could register was just 42dBs. Far quieter than the X7's 51dBs and it even beats MSI's GE70 of just 45dBs. At no time during gaming did we feel headphones were required or the volume needing to be increased to drown out the system fans; and for most other uses the system is completely silent. It's a very impressive cooling system Aorus has employed here.

Verdict

Pros

  • Stunning QHD+ Display
  • Very quiet
  • Ultra Portable
  • Macro Keys
  • Impressive Design

Cons

  • A lot of money!
  • Not the most powerful
  • Poor gaming performance under battery power

Aorus X3 Plus V3 13.9" Gaming Laptop Review

Should I buy the Aorus X3 Plus V3?

The Aorus gaming laptop range is definitely reserved for those wanting the best gaming performance but in the smallest form factor possible. At £1799, for a 13-inch laptop, this is no loose change but the specification, particularly the almost too gorgeous 3200 x 1800 resolution display really makes the X3 Plus V3 stand out. It doesn't have the gaming performance of similarly priced 15" and 17" 1080P gaming laptops with SLI graphics but then those aren't really that portable and with a few minor tweaks and lowering of settings it can cope with anything you care to throw at it.

The specification is top notch with GTX970M graphics, 16GB of RAM @ 1600Mhz, a Quad Core i7-4710HQ CPU with a turbo speed of 3.5Ghz and plenty of storage in the shape of two 256GB SSDs in RAID 0. Gaming, under battery alone, is still an issue though with fairly poor times received from the battery and the graphics performance being slightly crippled too. This is outweighed, however, by an excellent build quality, impressive design and a superb cooling system resulting in a much quieter system than we would have expected.

What alternatives are available?

At £1799 the X3 Pro V3 is pretty pricey and if you can forgo the QHD+ resolution, then you can get a 13/14" gaming laptop for a lot less money. Gigabyte's own P34W v3 with a very similar specification but a 1080P screen is available for £500 less, for example. If the amazing screen resolution is just something you can't turn down then there are also several alternatives,. Some, such as Dell's touch screen XPS13, are cheaper at £1249, but then aren't catered for gamers with only integrated graphics. To the other extreme we have the ultra thin 2015 Razer Blade 14 with a similar specification to the X3 but around £400 more expensive. So whilst £1799 sounds a lot, if you're looking for an ultra-portable gaming laptop with a QHD+ display that is so good to look it almost makes you want to weep, then the X3 Plus V3 is definitely one to consider. As with the previous Aorus laptops, we are happy to bestow the X7 Pro V3 an AVForums Recommended Award.
Recommended

Scores

Screen Quality

10

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Processing Speed

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
9

Features

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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