Gigabyte Aero 15 X9 Laptop computer Overview: RTX Inside

Today we're testing the Gigabyte Aero 15 X9, the first Nvidia RTX notebook that we tested and used earlier this month for our RTX 2070 Max-Q function. It's a cool gaming laptop that's pretty similar to the Aero 15X v8 we looked at last year, but with a few upgrades that we'll take you through here.

In terms of hardware, a lot has taken over from the previous generation. The CPU is still the Intel Core i7-8750H for most models, with an i9-8950HK option. The display is either a 144 Hz 1080p IPS or a 4K IPS with a wide color gamut at 60 Hz and a size of 15.6 inches. The memory ranges from 8 GB to 32 GB depending on the configuration. However, 16GB models have single-channel memory. The battery remains 94 Wh in an apparently identical housing.

What are the changes? The big thing is the upgrade from a GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q to the new RTX 2070 Max-Q. We're also seeing a switch from Toshiba NVMe PCIe SSDs to Intel SSDs, which, in combination with the killer network that uses Intel chips, turns this gigabyte laptop into Intel.

There are also some upgrades on the software side. There is a new Gigabyte Command Center application, as well as some unique AI features based on Microsoft's Azure AI cloud services. It is also worth noting that there is an Aero 15 Y9 model with which you can achieve an RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU with otherwise the same hardware.

The price starts at $ 2,400 for the regular model with RTX 2070 Max-Q, 144 Hz 1080p display, 16 GB RAM and 1 TB SSD. The device we tested is the Mid-Tier X9 with 4K display and 32 GB RAM, which increases the price to $ 2,700.

Gigabyte has used a similar design in recent generations of gaming laptops, and we believe that it has largely survived today. This design was one of the first to use slim bezels around the display. This is a much more common feature and still looks good here. The downside is that the webcam is still sitting under the screen. Newer slim bezel designs have resolved this problem, either by slightly enlarging the top bezel or by pushing the camera. Hopefully Gigabyte will use this approach next time, but if you're something like me, I almost never use the webcam, so it's not a deal breaker.

The laptop is solidly built and consists of a combination of metal and plastic. There's not a lot of gamer flare, which is nice, which makes it suitable for both gaming laptops and as a workstation. There are still a few seams that make it look less slick than something like a Razer Blade or MSI GS Stealth. Gigabyte's design is by no means bad, but more functional than purely aesthetic.

This is also reflected in size and weight. With a thickness of 18.9 mm and a weight of 4.4 lbs, it belongs to the category of slim and light gaming notebooks, but is not a challenge for any vinyl.

Those who want something that isn't chunky will be happy with the Aero 15X, though chunky laptops are a lot cheaper for the hardware you get. Portability always comes at a price.

The I / O is very good: two USB-C ports, one Thunderbolt 3 Type C and the other USB 3.1. There are three more USB 3.1 ports, two Gen-1 and one Gen-2. Then you get Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, a 3.5 mm audio jack and an SD card reader. Dongles are not required with this machine, it basically has everything.

The keyboard still has a nice, somewhat clicking tactile response with RGB backlighting per key, which is controlled by Gigabyte's Fusion software. We appreciate the number pad, although the cut right shift that fits in the arrow keys is a bit annoying. We're also excited to announce that the crappy ELAN trackpad used in previous models has been thrown overboard for a better, more responsive, and high-precision model. It's a big upgrade.

In terms of performance, there isn't much to say in this test that we haven't covered before, although we've put together a performance summary below.

For productivity reasons, the Core i7-8750H with 32 GB RAM works exactly as expected (read our full review). With most productivity workloads, the new GPU does not come into play, so you get the standard productivity performance that we've been getting from these laptops for about a year.

Compared to the new Aero 15 X9 with the older Aero 15X v8, the performance is roughly the same. There were some workloads like Cinebench where the new model is a little slower. There were a handful of workloads like Handbrake where performance was the same. And there were some tasks where the new model is faster.

Two factors play a role in distributing these faster workloads: The Aero 15 X9 we tested has two-channel DDR4-2666 memory, which offers a higher bandwidth than the single-channel configuration in the Aero 15X v8 with 16 GB RAM. This offers a performance advantage for tasks such as 7-Zip and MATLAB.

Then we also see some improvements in GPU accelerated applications. Premiere does not benefit significantly from the faster RTX 2070 Max-Q, since the GPU basically does everything it can to speed up rendering. Around the level of the GTX 1070 Max-Q there isn't much more GPU performance to gain in our test. Blender sees a big 26 percent improvement in this workload, which runs entirely on the GPU.

The good news is that depending on your workload, you can either expect the same performance as other i7-8750H systems, or a little better with the faster GPU. Nevertheless, the 16 GB Aero 15 X9 is still single-channel, so it is not as fast for tasks with limited memory bandwidth as we show here.

It should be noted that the Aero 15 X9 has different performance profiles. Aside from manual controls, there are quiet, normal, and gaming fan profiles. In addition, we have the AI ​​functions, of which there are two modes. Green local mode analyzes what you are doing locally on your system and tries to find the right performance and fan profiles for the task at hand, while red cloud mode moves this AI work to the cloud for potentially better results.

For CPU-limited workloads, whether short or long, we have found that there is no difference in performance as long as you use at least normal fan mode. The AI ​​modes didn't do much to improve performance. For games, the AI ​​modes are an improvement over the normal fan mode, especially the cloud mode. However, using game mode or setting the maximum fan speed again offers better performance. We used the game mode for our game tests, which we will do in a moment.

We believe that the AI ​​modes are promising, especially if they can learn which modes perform best over time. These are still early days for the Aero 15 X9 and this system. It would be cool if it gave optimal performance and at the same time set the fan speed as the game mode is generally quite loud, but at least for now, it is the best choice to stay in the game mode for GPU-heavy tasks.

A few more quick productivity comparisons before you start gaming. When you upgrade from a Core i7-7700HQ laptop or other quad-core 45W notebook CPU from Intel, the six-core Core i7-8750H offers an average of about 35% higher performance, though this can lead to an increase in tasks with multiple multithreads by around 50%. If you render a lot on the go, the upgrade is definitely worth it to access these two additional cores.

If you're wondering whether it's worth buying a performance-oriented portable laptop over a 15W ultraportable, here's how you can compare the i7-8750H to Intel's latest Whiskey Lake Core i7-8565U.

For CPU workloads, coding performance is twice as high, and if you consider the much more powerful GPU, it becomes a bloodbath. For any serious creative work on the go, a configuration like the Aero 15 X9 with a six-core CPU and a discrete GPU is definitely the best option.

For gaming performance, we have fully broken down the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q using this very system. For a look at each game and especially for further discussions about the GPU, it is worth reading our review.

Here's the data in a nutshell … The new Aero 15 X9 is 11% faster on average than the Aero 15X v8 with the GTX 1070 Max-Q, and this latitude is typical for comparing the Aero 15 X9 with other RTX 1070 Max-Q laptops.

Note that this is the edge you see when comparing equivalent storage configurations. The version of this laptop with 16 GB RAM is only single-channel, so that when upgrading from a two-channel laptop, lower margins are achieved.

However, there is not much to gain from a full GTX 1070 to an RTX 2070 Max-Q, as the performance is roughly equivalent. It's nice that new laptops offer more performance in the same form factor, but the increase isn't massive.

The GTX 1080 Max-Q is still faster than the RTX 2070 Max-Q if you toggle between these two GPUs. On the other hand, the RTX 2070 Max-Q smokes the GTX 1060 6 GB on average by 35%, which makes this new GPU a worthwhile upgrade. And don't forget that an RTX 2070 laptop offers the same performance as a desktop RTX 2070. The new Turing GPUs from Nvidia have widened the GPU gap between desktop and laptop compared to Pascal, so that the RTX 2070 for laptops is considerably slower than the desktop equivalent.

On paper you get with the 2070 Max-Q RTX functions. However, the performance is not sufficient for this to be worthwhile. In Battlefield V you will see an experience below 60 FPS at 1080p with the Low DXR mode compared to well over 80 FPS with the ray tracing function disabled. DLSS is also not an effective feature because we talked about it separately. We therefore believe that RTX is more of a bonus than a key feature, as support for it is currently simply not broad enough or not good enough to make it a must.

While the Gigabyte Aero 15 performs well for its hardware, the cooling solution isn't that good. To achieve peak performance in harmony with other systems, the gaming fan mode should be used, which fans up to a high degree. This mode is loud at 48 dBA, making the Aero 15 one of the loudest notebooks we've tested at the bottom of the table. This is an area where AI mode could really help, except that it just doesn't work as well as loud game mode.

In better news, the noise level when using the laptop for productivity tasks is much better. It's still not a quiet system with a touch below 40 dBA during handbrake coding, but this is a mid-range among gaming laptops. This uses the normal fan mode, since there were no additional performance increases for CPU-limited apps in game mode.

Thermally, the laptop gets pretty hot, hotter than the previous Aero 15X v8. CPU temperatures are unchanged, but high for a gaming laptop, around 90 ° C, although throttling wasn't a big issue. Thicker gaming laptops are closer to the 75 to 80 ° C mark. However, the GPU temperatures with the RTX 2070 Max-Q have increased compared to the GTX 1070 Max-Q and are now 86 ° C compared to 79 ° C.

The laptop's casing also gets hot. The fans vent the air through a gap below the display. However, the position of these vents means that the hot air in front of the display is diverted towards the keyboard. Most other laptops are vented on the side and rear, either behind the display or on the desk. When venting to the front, the top edge of the laptop becomes very hot and rises to over 50 ° C near the power switch when playing in the middle. The keyboard can be over 40 ° C directly below. Fortunately, the WASD keys are well cooled around the 30 ° C mark, but that doesn't apply to the entire keyboard.

The average heat output surprises us when you consider how the Aero 15 looks internally. We suspect that the design has only a few inefficiencies. However, the laptop can easily be upgraded by removing the bottom cover, allowing easy access to the memory slots and a second free M.2 slot for memory upgrades.

Our Aero 15 X9 tester was equipped with the 4K 60 Hz IPS display option and not the 144 Hz 1080p option that we tested in the older model. The 4K option is the path you would take if you plan to use this laptop for creative workloads or content creation, as 4K is too intense for the RTX 2070 Max-Q for gaming. Instead, gamers are better off with the 1080p high-refresh screen, especially since the GPU can process many games around the 100 FPS mark in ultra settings at this resolution.

Although this display is said to be X-Rite Pantone certified, we have some issues with the 4K panel and its calibration. This is a monitor with a wide color gamut that targets 100% Adobe RB and comes with a supposedly factory calibrated profile. However, the profile was generated incorrectly. It looks like Gigabyte has mapped the wide color primary colors of the display as sRGB color primary colors, which leads to oversaturation and other strange behavior. We immediately noticed this oversaturation, everything is extremely alive on this panel. Proper calibration should allow both sRGB and broadband content to be properly assigned with only one profile.

This is disappointing for those who want to use the display right away, but it could also be a problem with our early test device. Since the display offers more than 100% Adobe RGB coverage, proper calibration leads to good results. We also recorded a contrast ratio of almost 1400: 1, which is strong for an IPS panel, along with a peak brightness of 360 nits and very good viewing angles. The panel quality is there, it's just the calibration that lets you down.

The last two features: The Intel SSD 760p used in the Aero 15 X9 is extremely fast and one of the fastest SSDs available in modern gaming laptops. That is a nice bonus. For battery life, it works similarly to other slim and light laptops, though a little lower due to the 4K display.

Overall, the Gigabyte Aero 15 X9 isn't a big improvement over last year's model, but it does offer some nice improvements. While Nvidia's RTX features don't offer much in this GPU design, the RTX 2070 Max-Q is faster for games at 1080p ~ 10%, which you would take every time you consider that the form factor isn't changes. The improved trackpad is a long overdue addition. And some of the new software tools aren't game changers, but could be promising if more work is put into them.

These changes were made without sacrificing other elements that have already made this laptop great. It's still a well-built, portable design with a huge battery. The Core i7-8750H offers good performance and makes the laptop particularly productive. There is still a 1080p 144Hz display option for gamers, and if properly calibrated, the 4K screen option is ideal for developers. There are many I / O operations and easy internal RAM and memory upgradeability. The RGB backlight button per button is still one of the best in its class.

Still, two of our main issues with this laptop design were not addressed. The cooler is still noisy and runs hot to achieve performance that matches that of other systems. The position of the webcam is also not very good, a by-product of this early design without a frame.

Whether the Aero 15 X9 is a good buy depends on the price at which you can get one. You are currently expecting $ 2,400 for a decent hardware loadout. The premium isn't worth the GPU upgrade over the 1070 Max-Q if you can find equivalent thin and light laptops for under $ 2,000 with almost identical specs.

But these GTX 1070 Max-Q laptops have not been around for long … There are currently only a few thin and light slot machines that use the RTX 2070 Max-Q: In addition to the Gigabyte Aero, there are the MSI GS65 Stealth and the Razer Blade 15.

The MSI option is sold at the same price. Although we haven't tested the new RTX version yet, we had a slight preference for the Aero version last year. The new Blade 15 is $ 200 more and includes a smaller SSD, while the overall aesthetic is arguably better.

But as always with these portable slot machines, it depends on how much you're willing to spend on the portability factor. For pure performance, faster options are available for thicker and heavier chassis. Both Asus and Gigabyte offer the full RTX 2070 GPU in its thicker case for $ 2,000. This is a cheaper option if you don't see the laptop moving around a lot.

Purchasing links:
  • Gigabyte Aero 15 X9 (1080p / 144Hz) at Amazon
  • Gigabyte Aero 15 X9 (4K model) at Amazon
  • Razer Blade 15 (2070 Max-Q) on Amazon
  • MSI GS65 Stealth (2070 Max-Q) on Amazon
  • Gigabyte Aorus 15 X9 (fully mobile RTX 2070) at Amazon
  • Asus ROG Strix Scar II (fully mobile RTX 2070) at Amazon

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