Notebooks Guide

Gigabyte Aorus X7 review

Gigabyte Aorus X7 - True SLI Graphics in a Slim Gaming Machine

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Launch SRP S$3599

Overall rating 9/10
Design:
9
Features:
8.5
Performance:
9
Value:
8.5
Mobility:
8
THE GOOD
SLI graphics in a 22.9mm slim chassis
17.3-inch gaming machine a mere 2.9kg light
Reasonably priced
THE BAD
Exclusion of NVIDIA Optimus affects portability and battery life


Performance Benchmarks, Battery Life & Conclusion

Performance Benchmarks

As iterated on the earlier page, the Aorus X7 employs a fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, two GTX 765M GPUs in SLI, and is equipped with 16GB of RAM (2 x 8GB), along with two 128GB mSATA SSDs and a 1TB 5,400RPM HDD.

For comparison, we're pitting our review unit against two other 17-inch gaming machines - the Razer Blade Pro and the MSI GS70 Stealth from last year. These three notebooks share plenty in common - they all come armed with an Intel Haswell i7 processor that's based on a mobile Intel HM87 Express chipset, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M graphics (with the exception of X7 adopting two of those GPUs).

The MSI GS70 Stealth with 128GB of flash storage is priced at S$2,499, while its 256GB variant will set you back by S$200 more at S$2,699 (both models include a 750GB HDD spinning at 7,200RPM). The Razer Blade Pro with 256GB of flash storage costs S$3,599, with its 512GB variant valued at S$3999.90.

Now that we've listed the prices of all the 17-inch gaming notebooks, our review unit doesn't seem extravagantly priced at all, does it? Yes, although the MSI GS70 Stealth may be weigh only 2.66kg and measure 21.8mm thin, but let's not forget that the newer Aorus X7 holds 250GB more storage capacity, and bear in mind that - we can never stress this enough - it comes with twin graphics chips. Enough to compensate for the sizable S$900 difference? Perhaps.

The reason for our slight hesitation is that the new Razer Blade Pro (2014) model comes with a newer and better single GeForce GTX 860M GPU, while the new MSI GS70 2PE Stealth Pro offers even more storage and graphics firepower with the GeForce GTX 870M GPU. Compared with the specs of a GeForce GTX 765M (even if you consider it in SLI mode), the GeForce GTX 870M on the MSI notebook looks rather formidable. For a reference of price, the new Razer model with 256GB SSD will set you back S$3,699, while the MSI GS70 2PE Stealth Pro comes up to be just S$3,099. In case you're wondering, the physical profile of these newer notebooks are identical to their older cousins.

Unfortunately, we've not yet obtained the new Razer and MSI variants of the mentioned notebooks and we'll have to continue our performance comparison with the previous year models which the Gigabyte Aorus X7 competes with better from the perspective of using last year's hardware for its internals:-

17-inch Gaming Notebooks Compared
  Gigabyte Aorus X7 Razer Blade Pro 17-inch (2013) MSI GS70 Stealth
Launch SRP
  • From S$3599
Processor and Chipset
  • Intel Core i7-4700HQ Processor (2.4GHz~3.4GHz)
  • Mobile Intel HM87 Express Chipset
  • Intel Core i7-4700HQ Quad Core Processor with Hyper Threading (2.4GHz base / 3.4GHz turbo)
  • Mobile Intel PCHM 8 series chipset, HM87
  • Intel Core i7 Processor (4th gen)
  • Intel HM87 Chipset
Operating System
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • Windows 8
System Memory
  • 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3L 1600MHz
  • 4 slots available (max. 32GB)
  • 8GB Dual Channel DDR3
  • max. 16GB DDR3L (up to 1600MHz)
Video & Display
  • 17.3-inch, Full HD, LCD Backlight
  • Native Resolution: Full HD (1,920 x 1,080)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI (4GB GDDR5)
  • 17-inch
  • Native Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Integrated Intel HD4600 Graphics / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M (2GB GDDR5, Optimus Technology)
  • 17-inch, 1920 x 1080, Anti-glare
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M graphics (2GB GDDR5)
Storage
  • 256GB (128GB x 2) mSATA SSD + 1TB 2.5-inch HDD (5,400RPM)
  • 128GB / 256GB / 512GB SATA III SSD
  • Up to 256GB Super RAID + 750GB HDD 7200rpm
Connectivity
  • Killer E2200 LAN
  • Wireless 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Killer Wireless-N 1202 (802.11a/b/g/n + Bluetooth v4.0)
  • Killer Doubleshot LAN, Bluetooth v4.0
Audio
  • 2 x 2W speakers, 2 x subwoofers
  • Aorus Acoustic+ technology
  • Dolby Home Theater v4
I/O Ports
  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x Mini DisplayPort
  • 1 x Surround port
  • 1 x headphone jack
  • 1 x microphone jack
  • 1 x VGA D-sub
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN
  • 1 x SD card reader
  • 3 x USB 3.0 ports, Built-in microphone, 3.5mm microphone/headphone combo port, HDMI 1.4a audio and video output
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x miniDisplayPort
  • Mic in/Headphone out
  • Line in
  • HDMI v1.4
  • D-Sub (VGA)
  • SD/XD/MMC card reader
Miscellaneous
  • Integrated webcam
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Built-in 2-megapixel webcam
  • Razer Switchblade UI
  • Razer Synapse 2.0 Enabled
  • Backlit anti-ghosting keyboard
  • 7.1 Codec support (via HDMI)
  • Webcam
Battery Type
  • 73.26WHr (11.1V Li-Polymer)
  • Built-in 74Wh rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery
  • 6-Cell Li-Ion
Dimensions
  • 428 x 305 x 22.9mm
  • 427 x 277 x 22.4mm
  • 418.5 x 287 x 21.8mm
Weight
  • 2.9kg
  • 2.98kg
  • 2.66kg

 

PCMark 8

PCMark 8 is a synthetic benchmark that simulates everyday usage comprising of workloads testing web browsing, multimedia editing and document editing. The "Home" benchmark has a general array of tasks, while the "Creative" and "Work" benchmarks are more specific, and test a system’s performance at specific workloads.

We've upgraded the PCMark 8 benchmark to the Professional Edition, and all systems running the Windows 8.1 platform will perform tests using this newer version in future. As you can tell, the results were almost the same regardless of which mode (3D performance maximized, or SLI disabled) the Aorus X7 was tuned to. Of course, scores varied under the "Creativity" benchmarks, as workloads covered activities which required more graphics power. Since we've not yet had a chance to update the results of the competitive notebooks with the newer version of PCMark 8, we've only got results from the Aorus X7 for show at this point of time. According to Futuremark, the scores are not compatible with older versions of the benchmark. For those who would like to check on the discrepancy, you can check the results against those from our earlier review of the Razer Blade Pro (2013) and the MSI GS70 Stealth (2013) models.



 

3DMark 2013

3DMark 2013 is a synthetic benchmark designed to test a notebook's graphics and gaming capabilities. For a more in-depth understanding of 3DMark 2013, please refer to our article "3DMark (2013) - Notebook GPU Performance Review". We'll be running our notebooks through two benchmarks:

  • Cloud Gate is designed for integrated GPUs and utilizes a DirectX 11 engine limited to Direct3D feature level 10 (equivalent to DirectX 10) with a heavy emphasis on geometry, heavy post processing, particle effects, and volumetric illumination.
  • Fire Strike serves as a showcase for DirectX 11 features, utilizing a grueling two-part test with extreme levels of tessellation and volumetric illumination, as well as complex smoke simulation using compute shaders and dynamic particle illumination.

We had expected the X7 to perform significantly superior than the Blade Pro and GS70 Stealth when it was driven by SLI graphics (3D performance maximized mode). But even with SLI disabled, we were impressed it still managed to score better than the latter two, in both Cloud Gate and Fire Strike test.

 

 

Crysis 2 & Tomb Raider

Without its dual GPUs working together, the X7 fell behind the Blade Pro and GS70 Stealth in both "Very High" and "Ultra" settings. However, when we kicked it up with SLI performance, the X7 jaw-droppingly outdid its own scores; it went so far as to double its previous scores on both settings. This translates to hitting almost twice the records in the "Ultra" setting, and around 33% in the "Very-high" setting, when compared to the other two notebooks. It can only mean one thing - X7's NVIDIA SLI drivers are exceedingly well-optimized for Crysis 2.

Again, we were pleasantly surprised with the X7's exceptional performance on the newer Tomb Raider game. The results obtained without SLI enabled were already quite remarkable, with the X7 easily ousting the Blade Pro and GS70 Stealth in both "Normal" and "High" settings. It repeated its feat when SLI was turned on, striking scores that were off the charts. That's twice the marks of both systems on both settings once more.


 
 

Battery Life

To test battery life, we use Powermark, a synthetic benchmark which tests a device's battery life with a number of productivity and everyday usage scenarios.

The Aorus X7 includes a 73.26WHr battery, which is on a par with Blade Pro's 74WHr battery, so we were anticipating similar battery endurance. However, it was only after running the Powermark that we realize why the former couldn't do as well as the latter - it did not support NVIDIA Optimus, which is a technology that automatically analyzes and determines how to optimize your computing experience, (including managing the notebook's battery efficiency) so you won't have to manually change settings to prolong battery life. Never mind that. Still, disappointingly, with SLI disabled, it only extended a miserable nine minutes of notebook usage.

Once it was established that the X7 clocked in the worst battery life scores, it wasn't as startling to see that it exhausted the most energy. We found ourselves wishing that it had incorporated a larger battery, or the NVIDIA Optimus power-saving technology, because it did handsomely well with the performance benchmarks, only to be let down by its great appetite for power.


 

Portability

Our Portability score factors in battery life, weight and volume to give you an idea of how easy it is to carry each device around. The longer battery stamina of its competitors and slightly lighter build meant that the Aorus X7 was expectedly pegged a little behind. Still the portability ratio figures aren't as bad as the relative placements suggest; it's just not as good as the competitors.

 

Conclusion

Size does matter. But, Aorus has demonstrated that it's possible to pack twin GTX 765M graphics into a 22.9mm slim chassis, without compromising on performance (especially with the heat management). There's an absurd amount of things going on in the X7, and we're still baffled (and extremely impressed) as to how Aorus managed to stuff all that goodness into such a slick and slim package.

Overall, the S$3,599 value of the Aorus X7 is reasonably in-line with the muscle it's built with - be it the design, the specifications, or its capabilities. We're not saying it's everything. Sure, there were some hiccups here and there - like its surface being such a magnet to fingerprints, its slackened lid hinge, its shallow keys (this can be up for debate as mentioned earlier), the insensitivity or the location of the glassy trackpad, and the lackluster battery life. But, these flaws - if you would harshly call them - are relatively minor and definitely far from jeopardizing your gaming experience.

Kudos to Aorus, considering that this is the company's virgin stab at building a portable gaming machine. Of course, we're pretty positive they sought some of Gigabyte's (it has existing gaming hardware) expertise for certain elements and probably for the design area. Yes, we were somewhat skeptical after receiving the review unit, thinking that since a seemingly tremendous amount of effort was put into the aesthetics, it wouldn't possibly have the prowess to match. We were so wrong. It surpassed our expectations of what a gaming notebook should possess, thankfully without too exorbitant a price tag.

Even with all its goodness, the Gigabyte Aorus X7 might be a little to late to hit the retail channel. Had it been out late last year or early this year, it would have gotten our unreserved recommendation. However at this juncture with much newer graphics hardware made available by NVIDIA, the twin GeForce GTX 765M GPUs might be looking long in the tooth and are due for an update. No doubt the Aorus X7 performed very well, just imagine what it might have achieved with newer graphics hardware. This is where the newer version of its competitors pose a closer competition than what was compared with in the performance analysis section. Its nearest competitor is the S$3,099 GS70 2PE Stealth Pro by MSI with marginally better storage hardware and has a single GeForce GTX 870M GPU, which is rather high up the scale in the number of CUDA cores and wide graphics memory bus.

Despite the positioning of its competitors, they've yet to be tested and proven in our field test, which the Gigabyte Aorus X7 does well across the board except for the few setbacks mentioned earlier. Further to that, it operated at a comfortable operating temperature throughout our weeks of usage, proving that its cooling system is robust (without making a din). While it's not built to supersede top class gaming notebooks that can output double the gaming scores of the X7, it does handsomely well in its territory of slim and portable 17-inch gaming notebooks.

Overall, we think that Aorus is a serious competitor in the gaming market and will continue its efforts to make a name for itself. Rivals should be very concerned about its entry and not write-off this freshly-minted manufacturer just yet.