A triumph of engineering, but not without some usability flaws.
The Aero 15 is Gigabyte’s gaming-cum-corporate crossover laptop and it’s impressed us in the past. This flavour of the new 2018 model notably comes with Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, a 512GB M.2 Sata SSD, 16GB RAM, a 144Hz display and, the pièce de résistance, Intel’s latest Core i7 CPU.
The first thing to note about the Aero 15 is the size. A 15.6-inch gaming laptop should be massive and yet, thanks to a super-thin bezel, it occupies the space of a large 14-inch notebook. Not only that but, when closed, it’s only 18mm thick and weighs only 2KG placing it highly-portable territory.
It feels very solidly built and the very-thin lid is impressively stiff with minimal flex: it feels sturdy enough to withstand regular transport. The understated styling with Day-Glo flourishes fits it in to executive boardrooms and LAN parties alike. Our only issue is the Gigabyte moniker. While this will impress the corporate set of its indigenous Taipei, the marque’s cachet doesn’t translate in the West.
The screen is bright and uniformly lit. It’s also Pantone certified so designers can be confident that what they see on-screen translates to the real world. Its 144Hz technology means that games feel smoother and more accurate.
Our review SKU resides at the lower-end of the range. There’s no NVMe SSD and the graphics aren’t GTX 1070. However, Intel’s new 2.2GHz CPU is a beast with six cores, Turbo Boost to 3.9GHz and with one core pushing up to 4.1GHz. It scored 4,872 in PCMark 10 which Futuremark tells us is right behind a 4K Gaming PC. It scored 9,990 in 3D Mark Fire Strike and 5,172 in Fire Strike Extreme. It may struggle with top-settings in the latest games but this is still a very-respectable gaming machine that punches well-above its 2KG weight.
Battery life is tricky to gauge. On the one hand it played our Full HD movie for an impressive six hours and it got through a working day when only running office tasks. However, as with rivals, it doesn’t operate at full power when battery-powered. In PCMark 8’s battery test it lasted five hours but scored 25 per cent lower than its mains-powered score which renders the result meaningless.
There’s an impressive connectivity complement including a Thunderbolt 3-compatible USB-C port which also works with USB 3.1. There are two other traditional Type-A USB 3.1 ports. Designer types will like the high-speed SD-card reader and enthusiasts will like the Gigabit Ethernet port. There are also HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs.
However, it’s not an unqualified success and some issues are significant. Not everyone will be too fussed about the HD webcam but the 5mm screen bezel means that it’s placed beneath the screen giving an unflattering ‘jowl-focused’ profile. The built-in 2W speakers also don’t get very loud which is strange for the size.
Our main gripe might be contentious, but we have issues with the keyboard. The RGB lights make it look good and, impressively, there is a full-complement of full-sized keys available (including arrow keys). However, the main, alphabet keys are shifted well over to the left of the chassis meaning that, after extended periods of typing, having skew-whiff shoulders hurts your back. This will be less of an issue for gamers using a mouse. We also found that double key-presses registered a smidge too often. Finally, the trackpad, isn’t always as responsive as we’d hope.
The Aero 15 was one of the first, portable, business-friendly gaming notebooks but the market is getting more crowded. Asus’ ROG Zephyrus is a powerful competitor, but its exposed exhaust is a bit brash for the boardroom. MSI Raider’s is similar all-round but you’ll need to turn off the lid’s disco lighting.
Ultimately, it’s just the keyboard that stops the Aero 15 getting an award, but it’s nonetheless a triumph of engineering and represents a top-tier choice for multiple business, industrial and recreation activities.