Gigabyte P2742 Gaming Laptop Review

Gigabyte promise high-end gaming but can they deliver?

by Greg Hook
Home AV Review

Recommended
Gigabyte P2742 Gaming Laptop Review
SRP: £945.00

Introduction

Gaming laptop owners are a strange and mysterious breed. They will quite happily spend a fortune on a laptop that gives them less gaming power than a desktop PC at half the price. But it's that gaming on the move that is the great draw to a lot of owners. Being able to grab an hour with your favourite game whilst on the train, on holiday or anywhere else where a desktop PC is not practical sounds very attractive. Plus there are those that require a laptop for work or school, but would still like to be able to game on it as well. In terms of options, some of the most popular are the Alienware gaming laptops from Dell offering the latest technology but at a significant premium, as well as Toshiba's slightly cheaper Qosmio range and custom built, reasonably priced units from the various online PC resellers.

These all range in sizes and prices from 13" to 17", some offering entry level gaming for the budget conscious right up to budget smashing units with the latest GTX780M graphics card and Intel i7-4930MX CPUs such as MSI's GT70 2OD Dragon Edition2 topping out at over £3,000. The laptop we have for review today is from Gigabyte and is their P2742 17" model, offering an Intel i7-3630QM CPU, mid range GTX660M graphics, 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. Coming out at £945 this is clearly aiming to beat the competition for price, whilst still offering a high level of performance. Let's see just how well it performs.

Design and Connections

From the outside the Gigabyte P2742G is a sharp looking laptop with sleek lines flowing over the orange top, but once you open the screen you are met with a standard all matte black affair. The QWERTY keyboard has no backlighting which could be an issue in low light conditions and is quite a surprise omission. It doesn't shout at you that it's a gaming laptop with all the flashy LEDs and design that you normally find. You do get a button for switching between the GTX660M or the onboard Intel HD4000 graphics which is a useful addition but other than that it's the usual row of function keys, shortcut buttons for the Wireless and muting the sound for example. Via Gigabyte's Smart Manager (Fn+Esc) you can get quick access to the various functions of the laptop such as power saving and screen brightness. However the actual usable space of the touchpad is far too small, Gigabyte have tried to combine too many functions into the one area and it just causes too many annoying instances of bringing up the Windows 8 sidebar or switching applications, which when you are in the middle of a game is a right pain. Plus the left and right buttons feel extremely cheap, akin to that worn out feel you would expect from a device several years old.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1

Apart from the dodgy touchpad the build quality is good with the power connector feeling very secure and the screen hinges looking strong with no flexing of the screen seen when opening and closing. The weight comes in at a not too shabby 3.2kg, by no means the lightest of laptops but for a 17" Gaming laptop it certainly isn't the heaviest we have seen. As with most of these powerful laptops the heat expelled is significant. The P2742 has two vents to the bottom and one to the rear and after an hour or so of gaming or watching a movie it does get slightly uncomfortable but you don't feel like your legs are cooking (too much) at any point. The overall size clocks in at about 412mm wide x 275mm deep and 45mm thick.
The Gigabyte P2742G comes with a decent level of connectivity. To the left we have a USB 2.0 port, microphone and headphone connections and an S/PDIF out jack. To the right we have a total of 3 USB 3.0 ports, one of which is a combined eSATA port, HDMI out, multi card reader covering most of the major memory card types and the RJ45 network connection. To the rear we have connections for the power and the VGA external monitor port, with perhaps the only omissions being DVI and Display ports.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1
For the price when compared to gaming laptops we have reviewed previously from the likes of Toshiba and Scan, the specification is impressive. We have a 17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080 LCD Display, Intel i7-3630QM Processor (2.4GHz-3.4GHz), 8GB Ram and two storage drives in the shape of a speedy Liteon 128GB mSATA SSD and standard 5400RPM Toshiba 1TB HDD. All weighing up to offer a good level of gaming on paper, which is perhaps only let down by the decidedly last season Nvidia GTX660M 2GB Dedicated Graphics. Although given the price point here, a more modern and faster graphics chip is perhaps out of the question. Our review copy arrived with an older set of Nvidia 306.14 drivers, but that was quickly sorted with a download of the latest 320.49 drivers.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1

A trend we are happy to see these days is the inclusion of dual storage in gaming laptops and the Gigabyte P2742G thankfully follows this trend. The 128GB Liteon LAT-128M3S SSD fitted here offers speeds of 510MB/s Read and 190 MB/s write with the formatted space being just 108GB which leaves you about 75GB of usable space. Moving the pagefile.sys to the Toshiba 5400RPM HDD would help to free up a few more GB of space if it becomes a premium but as it arrives you should have enough space to fit 2 or 3 of your most used games on the SSD before you run out of space. Using ATTO disk benchmark we saw the SSD performing very well with speeds in excess of the quoted rates with a max of 536MB/s Read and 201MB/s write. The HDD came out at 115MB/s for both read and write.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1

One area that we were disappointed with was the boot to desktop time. Although using Bootracer it gave a decent time of 25 seconds, the laptop appeared to sit for quite a while on the Gigabyte splash screen before even getting to Windows. Using a stopwatch the actual time from pressing the laptop power on button to the Windows Metro screen was 47.9 seconds. Last but not least there's built-in Wireless using 802.11b/g/n and the latest Bluetooth v4.0.

Display

The screen here is a 17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080 LCD display. Using a older TN panel rather than the better IPS display could point to poor results, but we were impressed with this screen. The viewing angles are not brilliant but the semi-glossy display still offers a decent level of brightness with a good contrast and the colours are strong and clear. Using Passmark's Monitor Test program the screen performed well in all the tests and we found no backlight bleeding or any stuck pixels and the text appears crisp and easily readable. This is one of the better laptop displays we have seen of late and should certainly not disappoint. We also noticed no input response (screen lag) issues during our gaming tests. A standard 2MP webcam is present here also.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1

Pre-installed Software

Thankfully the laptop arrived pretty clean to us. No endless pre-installed bloatware that we have found from the likes of Toshiba for example. The software included really is very minimal and above the standard Windows 8 installation about the only thing it includes is a basic version of Cyberlink's Power DVD 10. Given that this laptop comes with a Samsung Blu-ray/DVD combo drive Power DVD 10 is pretty useless as it doesn't support Blu-ray discs. A quick download of a trial version of Power DVD 13 sorted that, but it would have been nice to see a more recent full version pre-installed. It does seem rather odd to include a Blu-ray drive, but then no software to actually use it properly.

Onboard Sound

The audio here is supplied by a pair of two watt speakers located just above the keyboard. Although by no means the poor two watt speakers we heard in the £900 Gigabyte Ultrabook that we reviewed recently here, the audio does come across as slightly too tinny and not at a quality you would expected for £945. At higher volumes the audio is not quite as painful as with some laptops we have reviewed and you do get the THX TruStudio Pro technology to enhance the sound which does offer some useful settings too improve on the bass and pseudo-surround features. We'd still recommend using headphones or external speakers if you are serious about your audio.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1

Battery Life


The recently released Intel Haswell processors don't appear at first to offer much over the previous generation of Sandybridge and Ivybridge processors, except that is for the claim of extended battery life for laptops. One of our major issues with gaming laptops in general is the very poor battery life when gaming and hopefully the new Haswell processors can help out there. Whilst the Gigabyte P2742G isn't graced with Haswell and uses the older Ivybridge processor we still had high hopes for the battery life given the Li-ion 8-cell, 5200mAh, 76.96Wh battery used here. With Max Payne 3 from a full charge we managed almost 1 hour 10 minutes which is impressive for a gaming laptop. It doesn't sound a lot, but given previous gaming laptops we have reviewed have given results as poor as just 30-40 minutes, this is good to see and hopefully that's long enough to keep you occupied for one session. Although do take a separate mouse as the touchpad is awful for a fast paced game.

Gaming Tests

Gigabyte are clearly marketing this laptop as a 'high-end' gaming machine, but with just the mid range GTX660M graphics, that claim does not quite stack up. For a gaming laptop priced around the £900-£1000 mark, the GTX660M is common place so we won't complain to Gigabyte on that front, but high end it is not. You do have to pay considerably more for a 17" gaming laptop with a newer GTX760, 770 or even the GTX780M graphics, so for the money the specification is there, but don't be fooled by their 'high end gaming' claims, unless of course you think high end means low settings.

With the fast SSD, Intel i7-3630QM processor running at a turbo speed of 3.4Ghz and 8GB RAM, on the games we tested which included Max Payne 3, Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 the installation and loading times were all very fast and as we would expect. It's only when we get to the actual gaming we then firmly meet the limitations of the GTX660M graphics.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1



As we can see from the table above, you can forget playing any of the more demanding games on maximum settings. For Battlefield 3 we had to go right down to low settings before an acceptable frame rate was reached, Max Payne 3 was slightly better with an acceptable rate at normal settings, albeit with MSAA off. With Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which will run on pretty much anything, we still saw quite a low frame rate on maximum settings. All were tested under mains power to get maximum performance although we only saw a drop off of about 5 FPS with the switch to battery power. The results are consistent with other GTX660M machines we have reviewed, with perhaps the Call of Duty score being lower than expected.

Benchmark Tests

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1


From the benchmark tests above we can see that in the overall system benchmarks such as PC Mark 7 we get good results, which continues with SuperPi and the time to desktop score pointing towards the fast i7 CPU and the quick Liteon SSD. But it's when we move to the graphics intensive benchmarks such as the Unigine tests and 3DMark, we can really see the low performance of the GTX660M graphics. To give you an idea the GTX660M is equivalent in performance to a desktop Nvidia GTS450 or a Radeon HD 4890 so don't be fooled into thinking laptop graphics cards perform as well as their desktop equivalents. Overall after both the gaming and benchmark tests we found a well specified laptop with a lot of positives that is only let down by mid range graphics. 'High-end' gaming this is not.

Temperatures and Noise

The HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our testing session. The CPU temperatures at idle are about 45°C whilst under test conditions reached a rather toasty maximum of 85°C. These temperatures are in line with other gaming laptops we reviewed and although these would appear high for a desktop machine the laptop coped perfectly with them with no lockups or crashes.

Gigabyte P2742-G CF1

One area that particularly impressed us with this laptop was the noise levels. For non intensive use such as web browsing and watching streaming videos for example the laptop is silent. During our benchmarking and gaming when the system fans were all on high, the noise level increased but not by a huge level. With our sound level meter measuring 1' from the screen and above the keyboard we only registered 40dBs. It's one of the quietest 17" gaming laptops we have reviewed here at AVForums.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Decent 17" Full HD display
  • Good build quality
  • Dual Storage with a fast 128GB SSD

Cons

  • GTX660M graphics will not give you 'high-end' gaming
  • Annoying touchpad
  • Not the most exciting of designs
  • Rather too much plastic for the price
  • Not really that portable

Gigabyte P2742 Gaming Laptop Review

For a 17" laptop marketed by Gigabyte as offering 'High-end gaming' the P2742G sadly disappoints on this front. With only a previous generation, mid-range GTX660M graphics you won't be playing the latest games on high or even medium settings. Low settings will be about your limit for popular titles such as Battlefield 3 for example. Although we do feel Gigabyte have done themselves a great disservice with the 'High-end gaming' tag, depending on your take on what high-end means, gaming laptops with the latest Nvidia GTX780M graphics can be anything from £2,000 upwards. So for 'just' £945 the specification here is about what you would expect for the price.

Putting the mid-range graphics aside for one moment, the specification of this laptop is impressive. We get a fast Quad Core i7-3630QM processor with a Turbo speed of 3.4Ghz, 8GB of DDR3 1600Mhz RAM, excellent dual storage in the shape of a fast Liteon 128GB SSD, backed up with a 1TB HDD, Blu-ray combo drive and all presented on a well performing 17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080 LCD display. Together with plenty of connectivity options to keep you happy and a 2MP webcam for those more intimate moments. Whilst the overall specification may be impressive, for the price we found the styling and design rather lacklustre.

Yes, the build quality is good with a strong screen hinge and firm connections, but there was rather too much black plastic for our liking, plus the strange omission of any backlighting for the keyboard. As gaming laptops go this is amongst the blandest out there, perhaps only saved by some flair provided by the Orange top. We also found the touchpad and buttons really annoying. Firstly the left and right buttons feel quite cheap and almost worn out, betraying the good build quality we found with the rest of the laptop and secondly, they have tried to fit too many functions onto the touchpad, resulting in a too small area to actually use.

Many, many, times we were trying to do something and the Windows 8 sidebar would pop up or it would switch application to something else entirely. Taking everything into account, the Gigabyte P2742G offers good value for money and has a decent specification. As long as you ignore the rather misguided 'high-end gaming' marketing and accept it for what it is, a mid-range gaming laptop that won't break the bank, then you will be more than happy. It's not perfect by any means and has a few niggles, but overall if you are looking for a sub £1000 gaming laptop, then this is worthy of your consideration.

Recommended

Scores

Screen Quality

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8

Sound Quality

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.
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5

Processing Speed

.
.
.
7

Connectivity

.
.
8

Features

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.
7

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

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.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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