Gigabyte P34W v3 Gaming Laptop Review

Too hot for comfort!

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

9

Gigabyte P34W v3 Gaming Laptop Review
SRP: £1,299.99

What is the Gigabyte P34W v3?

We've reviewed several of Gigabyte's 'gaming' laptops of late, from the pricey but astoundingly good Aorus range to the pimped up P25X with its love it or hate it bright yellow design. Gigabyte seems to cover most bases and budgets with their laptops and our next review is a back to basics affair, the P34W is an all black design with none of the bells and whistles seen on the Aorus range, nor any garish colour schemes.

Priced at just shy of £1300, the P34W v3 is a 14" Full HD laptop with a pretty decent specification. It has a single GTX970M GPU with 3GB of GDDR5, 8GB RAM, a Quad Core Intel i7-4720HQ CPU at 2.6-3.6Ghz and dual storage in the shape of a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, so it should cope well with most of our tests. Read on to see how this system fares.....

Design and Connections

The Gigabyte P34W v3, unlike their bright yellow P25X, offers a very low key design. It's a basic chassis, although a very thin and lightweight one, with no flashy lights or chrome design features as seen on other models. Plenty of matte black surfaces, which give it a very sleek look, although that does attract fingerprints. You'd be forgiven if you thought this was just a run of the mill laptop if you weren't aware of the high specification Gigabyte have managed to squeeze into the tiny 20.9mm thick frame. Weighing just 1.8kg with a footprint of 340mm x 239mm it certainly is very portable for a 'gaming' laptop. Very similar in size and weight to the 13" Aorus X3 Plus V3 we reviewed recently.

Gigabyte P34W v3


Gigabyte certainly hasn't let us down on the build quality, once more. The screen hinges are strong and hold the screen in place in any position. Overall it feels very well balanced, even with the screen fully open it doesn't feel like it will topple over at any point. The chassis is very solid and well put together with no areas suffering from creaking or depressions, apart from the very centre of the keyboard around the H key where it does falter slightly. The keyboard feels responsive and comfortable to use, as do the touchpad and buttons which, this time, Gigabyte have helpfully separated with a chrome strip. No fancy backlighting options or macro keys here, just a standard white backlight which can be set to off, low or high in the options. There's also an auto adjusting mode which actually did work very well, coming on and off mostly when it should, after a couple of seconds delay.

As we've come to expect with these ultra thin laptops, no DVD drive is present but the connections - whilst not being bountiful -should cover most requirements. To the left we have the Ethernet and VGA ports along with two USB 3.0 ports (with one of these supporting USB charge) and the combo audio jack. To the right we have two further USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, standard sized HDMI port and the power connection. There are no additional connections to the front or rear.

Gigabyte P34W v3

Features and Specs

Thirteen hundred pounds sounds a lot for a 14" laptop, but Gigabyte have certainly impressed in the specification department, especially in keeping to such a thin and lightweight design. We have a single Nvidia GTX970M Maxwell graphics with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM, an Intel 4th Generation Haswell i7-4720HQ Quad Core CPU running at 2.6Ghz ( turbo speed of 3.6Ghz) and 8GB of DDR3 RAM at 1600Mhz. The display is a Full HD 1920 x 1080 wide angle LCD alongside the usual 802.11ac WiFi, HD webcam and Bluetooth 4.0.

Our review sample came with a single 128GB Liteon LMT-128L9M SSD and a 1TB WD Blue 5400RPM HDD. The Liteon drive offers a quoted read speed of 520 MB/s and write of 320 MB/s and, using ATTO Disk Benchmark, we received almost spot-on speeds with an average of 524 MB/s read and 325 MB/s write. The majority of our previous gaming laptop reviews have featured two SSDs in RAID 0 and PC Mark 8's Storage Test has tended to show in the real world RAID 0 doesn't tend to give the advantage that is claimed.
Gigabyte P34W v3
Here with PCMark8's Storage Test, which uses workload traces recorded from actual programs such as Battlefield 3, MS Office and Photoshop, and therefore better represents real world tests, we get a score of 4939 with a bandwidth of 223.13 MB/s. The results here compare well to the RAID 0 systems which tend to receive scores around the 4990 mark which does suggest further that having RAID 0 may not give the real world speed boost suggested.

The 128GB SSD converts to an available space of 103GB 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 69.5GB, not a huge amount of storage if you fancy having more than a couple of games on the SSD. Given that titles such as GTA5 are 60GB+ on their own, a 256GB SSD would have been welcome here, although there is plenty of space on the 1TB HDD (931GB useable). Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a fairly quick average score of 12.3 seconds.

Gigabyte P34W v3

Is the Display any good?

The display here is a 14" 1920 x 1080 resolution wide viewing angle LCD. Using a matte IPS panel, the viewing angles are impressive with a clear image still visible around 160⁰. The matte display diffuses reflections very well, even with a direct light on the screen the reflections were minimal. The display quality seems excellent with good quality text and images and strong and bold colours.

Using SpectraCal software and our C3 Colorimeter, the maximum screen luminance was detected at 275.4 cd/m2. The screenshot below shows the pre and post calibration results. As you can see the pre check gave an average colour error of 3.89 (an error level less than 3 is the target) and average Greyscale errors of 5.11. Following the successful calibration the ColorChecker error has reduced to a superb 0.51 with the GreyScale error down to 0.46, so it can certainly be a highly accurate display given the right treatment.

Gigabyte P34W v3


Is there too much pre-installed software?

The standard Gigabyte suite of software is present again here on the P34W. It's a decent level without going overboard and becoming the bloatware that we have seen in the past with Toshiba laptops, although it doesn't have the additional gaming focused software as seen on the Aorus laptops for example.

Firstly we have 'Smart Manager' which brings the core system settings into one handy place such as volume, Wi-Fi, keyboard backlight setting and fan settings 'Smart Update' which is a very simple to use one-click system that will update the drivers on the laptop to the latest or beta version for the Wireless, HD Audio and Graphics to name a few. Our appreciation of this particular software is waning with each review as it takes a very long time to download the driver updates, so long in fact you'd save much more time by going on the net, finding the driver, downloading it and installing it all yourself.

Gigabyte P34W v3

Gigabyte P34W v3

'SmartSwitch' is 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. The last useful Gigabyte software of note is Smart USB Backup, which offers a very simple way to quickly backup your personal files to USB storage. Other than those mentioned the only other software pre-installed is a free 1 month trial of Office 365 and Power DVD 10. With no disc drive present Power DVD 10 is pretty pointless, but can be quickly uninstalled if you need to.



Gigabyte P34W v3

Is the audio any good?

Located to the front of the laptop we find a pair of 1.5 watt speakers. We've been spoiled of late with the decent quality seen on the Aorus range and MSI's gaming laptops, but it's back to earth with a crash here with the P34W's speakers. The quality is a lot poorer than we would have expected for a £1,300 laptop -disappointingly so. The maximum volume is very low to start with, but that's probably because if it was allowed to go any louder your ears might start bleeding. The sound quality is very poor with a total lack of bass and a huge amount of the tininess you get with cheap speakers. The laptop does have Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater software but unfortunately you can't polish a turd. Headphones are an essential with this laptop.

Gigabyte P34W v3

Battery life

With just a 61.25Wh 15.2v Li-Polymer battery our hopes weren't high that a decent battery life would be forthcoming, especially when compared to the 86.18Wh of the P25X v2 and the 75.18Wh of the P35W v2. Our previous reviews have seen fairly average results, particularly on the high performance Aorus laptops, here the P34W exceeded the Aorus times and wasn't too far off those of the P35 and P25 laptops. With Powermark's Battery Test on the Balanced setting we received 247minutes, 16 minutes less than the P35W but 15 minutes more than the P25X.

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 190 minutes. With the system turned down to the balanced setting and brightness lowered to 50% we increased that to 219 minutes. With no DVD drive installed we tested with HD Netflix instead and using the same 50% settings we managed a similar figure of 206 minutes.

As with most of the 'gaming' laptops we've reviewed, we find that when using battery power alone you can forget about playing on any decent settings or for any length of time. This applies here with the P34W v3. Testing with Battlefield 4, our frame rate took an instant drop with the power unplugged from 80FPS to 30FPS. The system appears to cap the frame rate at 30FPS as we could not achieve any higher with the battery alone. Whilst gaming is still possible you need to be prepared to sacrifice a decent frame rate and that you will only be gaming for a very short time. With a 100% charge we managed just 45 minutes of gaming before the battery died and it took 99 minutes to charge back to 100%.
Gigabyte P34W v3

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 1920 x 1080 resolution. With this laptop we are using Nvidia 350.12 graphics drivers. The GTX970M is currently the second best mobile GPU, sitting behind the awesome 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 12.3 Seconds 8
Super Pi @ 1M 10.69 seconds 9
3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 111842 6
3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 19581 6
3D Mark - Fire Strike 6553 6
3D Mark - Sky Diver 18142 6
Passmark Performance Test 8.0 3955 7
Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 59.27PS - CPU 7.01pts 6
Unigine Heaven 4.0 1590 6
Unigine Valley 1.0 1547 6
PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 2975 5
PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 4939 8

Given the very similar specifications to our last laptop review, the Aorus X3 Plus V3, albeit at just a standard 1080P resolution rather than the X3's crazy 3200 x 1800, we expected much improved results and we weren't disappointed. With Battlefield 4 we reached an excellent 86FPS on high settings, 53 in Max Payne 3 on high settings and 82FPS in Sims 4 with Ultra settings. The benchmark tests continued to impress with 2975 on PC Mark 8 Home Conventional, 1547 in Unigine Valley 1.0, 1590 on Unigine Heaven 4 and 3955 with Passmark Performance Test 8.

Gaming Performance

1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps)
Battlefield 4 High Settings 86
Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 66
Sims 4 Medium Settings 102
Sims 4 Ultra Settings 82
Max Payne 3 High Settings 54
Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 32
COD: Advanced Warfare Maximum Settings 78

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 40°C and under test conditions these reached a very high 96°C with the Nvidia GPU topping out at a toasty 83°C.

Gigabyte P34W v3

Just by those temperatures shown above it should give some indication at the trouble this system has with heat. Keeping to an Ultra thin form factor is all well and good provided the system can cope with the specification. It was a surprise that Gigabyte managed to squeeze a 970M into this system and from our experiences with the heat and noise that appears to be a step too far. The heat generated during gaming and under load were significant, far too much to have on your lap without your legs starting to burn. That's if you can ignore the 53dBs system fans trying to keep the CPU and GPU cool. Those were so loud that they drowned out the game aduio most of the time. Given how impressed we were with the X3 Plus V3's cooling system, it's disappointing to see the P34W v3 fare so poorly in this area.
Gigabyte P34W v3

Verdict

Pros

  • Great specification
  • Lightweight
  • Decent IPS screen

Cons

  • Poor cooling system
  • Very noisy under load
  • Low gaming performance using battery

Gigabyte P34W v3 Gaming Laptop Review

At £1,300 the 14" P34W v3 packs a pretty fine specification into its ultra thin form factor. With a single GTX970M graphics with 3GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM @ 1600Mhz, a Quad Core i7-4720HQ CPU with a turbo speed of 3.6Ghz and plenty of storage in the shape of a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD you certainly get your money's worth. Weighing in at just just 20.9mm thick and only 1.8kg it's certainly easy to transport.

The specification is more than a match for the latest games on high settings but, as with most laptops under battery power alone, gaming is let down by the system crippling the performance and capping gaming at 30FPS. We found the same excellent Gigabyte build quality along with various useful pre-installed software such as the Smart Manager, however.

Unfortunately the specification appears to be a step too far for such a small form factor system, with excessive heat and noise being generated with the cooling system working overtime trying to stop the CPU and GPU from cooking themselves. When gaming with the P34W on your lap, with the high fan noise and heat from underneath quickly burning your legs, it certainly didn't make for a pleasurable experience. The on-board speakers were another let down, being below average at best.

What else could I consider?



For around £1,300 there are many alternatives available such as the previous generation 13" Aorus X3 with a superior 2560 x 1600 resolution but an inferior GTX870M GPU. There's also the MSI's 15" GE60 2QE with an almost identical specification and then the ASUS ROG G751JT with a larger 17" screen, 16GB ram and GTX970M graphics. In fact, several 17" gaming laptops with a very similar if not better specification than the P34W v3 are available. You certainly seem to be paying a premium for the small form factor here.

Whilst the P34W v3 is a great little system with a top specification, the heat and noise issues are a real concern and it does appear there are several better alternatives available.

Scores

Screen Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Processing Speed

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
.
7

Features

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
8

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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