What is the Aorus X3 Plus V3?
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 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 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
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.
What about the QHD+ 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?
'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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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|
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.
|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
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.
- Stunning QHD+ Display
- Very quiet
- Ultra Portable
- Macro Keys
- Impressive Design
- 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.
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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