I'm always at a loss whenever I look at an Aorus laptop because somehow, the company always manages to finagle some of the most powerful components into such itty-bitty frames. Take the $2,299 X5S v5, for instance. Inside the 0.9-inch chassis, you'll find a powerful Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GTX 980M graphics -- a component usually reserved for 17-inch monsters. Gigabyte Technology throws in a lovely 4K display, speedy SSD and serious frame rates, but I wish the battery life and sound were better.
If Top Gun's Maverick had a laptop, this would be it. The X5S v5 looks as if it's ready to hit Mach speeds. What few lines you see running along the anodized aluminum lines are subtle yet striking, drawing the eye to the mirrored backlit eagle emblem. The line bisecting the top of the lid is accented by a small, but distinctive, white star.
Thankfully, the notebook's interior doesn't look like most gaming laptops on the market. Instead of an obnoxious and boring red backlit keyboard, the island-style keys glow an unassuming white. The power button features another illuminated eagle that's flanked by a pair of speakers that, coincidentally, look like bird's wings. Directly below the keyboard sits a massive touchpad with, you guessed it, another eagle.
Measuring 15.4 x 10.7 x 0.9 inches and weighing 5.5 pounds, the X5S v5 is much lighter and slimmer than the Alienware 15 (6.6 pounds, 15.2 x 10.6 x 1.3 inches). However, the Digital Storm Equinox (4.2 pounds, 15.4 x 10.5 x 0.7) cuts a slimmer profile, as does the diminutive Razer Blade (4.2 pounds, 13.6 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches).
The X5S v5 has an army of ports ready to accommodate any peripheral you're ready to throw at it. On the right, you'll find a pair of USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 2.0 and an SD card reader. Along the left, there's a USB 3.1 Type-C port, a mini DisplayPort and jacks for headphones and a mic. There are a few more slots in the rear, including another USB 3.0 port, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, VGA and the power jack.
The X5S v5's 15.6-inch, IPS 3840 x 2160 panel is a sight to behold. As I watched the 4K Tears of Steel short film, I could make out nearly every intricate detail, including the grime-caked snakeskin coat of one of the characters. Despite the dirt, the bright-red coat was the centerpiece of the shot, playing up the pine-green shirt of one of the other characters.
I gained a better appreciation for the panel's level of detail as I began my descent into Hell during a game of Doom. There was a realistic spatter of blood as I ripped the arm from the socket of a hapless monster, only to use it to beat him to death. As far as color, the surface of the planet was an acrid rust color dotted with ruined structures set upon by flickering red and yellow flames.
The panel's vividness stems from its color-reproduction capabilities, which cover 111 percent of the 97.5 percent mainstream average. It's just enough to stave off the Equinox and the Alienware 15, which achieved 110.8 and 97.5 percent, respectively. However, the Razer Blade was the clear winner at 120 percent.
When measured for accuracy, the X5S v5 got a fairly accurate 0.57 Delta-E score (0 is ideal), beating the 4.7 average. The Equinox, the Alienware 15 and the Blade were slightly less accurate, at 1.1, 1.3 and 0.97.
In addition to producing robust, accurate color, the display is mighty bright, averaging 308 nits, surpassing the 246-nit average and the Equinox's 293 nits. The Alienware 15 and the Blade shone the brightest, at 311 and 338 nits each.
One of the X5S v5's few weaknesses lies in its audio. The laptop's pair of top-mounted speakers were loud enough to fill our test lab. But as I listened to Jeremih's "oui", I was turned off by the lack of bass and the muddy keyboards, which crowded and distorted the vocal. That cloudiness and lack of lows carried over to the guitar on the Foo Fighters "The Pretender," making it a listenable, but not totally enjoyable, experience.
The notebook did an OK job of reproducing the stomach-churning sounds of dismemberment while I played Doom. But even at maximum volume, I felt as if there were a wall between me and the aural mayhem. After 15 minutes, I reached for a headset to continue my bloody journey.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The X5S v5's island-style keyboard is comprised of your regular QWERTY keys, plus a numpad and a row of macro keys. The keys offer decent feedback despite having a 1.45 millimeter key travel, which is below our recommended 1.5mm. The force needed to depress the keys is also slightly off at 58 grams (instead of 60 g). However, I still matched my average 60 words per minute on the 10FastFingers typing test.
The laptop's 4.1 x 3-inch Elan touchpad is massive, which gave me plenty of room to navigate websites and documents -- or use while playing Doom if I was too lazy to find a regular mouse. But all that space doesn't excuse the jumpiness I encountered that would randomly highlight sentences as I typed this review, causing me to accidentally erase an entire paragraph. At least the multi-touch gestures such as pinch-zoom and three-finger scroll were nice and fluid.
Since the touchpad is so big, I had to be cognizant of the fact that I was pressing down on one of the bottom corners in order to get right- or left-mouse-button functionality. Otherwise, I would accidently trigger one function when I was aiming for the other.
Graphics and Gaming
Somehow, Aorus feng shuied the hell out of the internals of the X5S v5 and made room for an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 8GB of VRAM -- currently one the most powerful mobile graphics chips available. That added oomph really makes a difference, allowing this fairly slim notebook to dole out massive frames at 1080p, though it hits a stumbling block at 4K.
I immediately launched Doom to put the X5S v5 through its paces on 4K. At maximum settings, I got a stuttering strut that quickly got me murdered. After turning down the antialiasing, I was able to squeak out 20 frames per second from the laptop, up from the initial 11 fps. From there, I bumped the resolution down to 1080, and got a much more fluid 58 fps. That allowed me to unleash my Ph.D. in shotgun surgery and leave smoking, bloody holes where demons' heads once resided.
During the Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege benchmark, the X5s v5 hit 70 fps on high at 1080p, smashing the 41 fps category average. The GTX 970M GPU-powered Equinox and Blade notched 61 fps and 44 fps, respectively. When the resolution was changed to 3840 x 2160, the X5S v5's frame rate fell to 20 fps, which is below our 30 fps playability threshold. However, the laptop hit a solid 30 fps when we dropped the rest of the settings to low.
On Metro: Last Light, the X5S v5 delivered 119 fps at 1080p on low, dusting the 65 fps average. The Equinox produced 98 fps, while the Alienware obtained 64 fps. At native resolution, the X5S v5 achieved 56 fps. But when the settings were adjusted to high, the laptop failed to match our playability average on either resolution.
For those non-gaming moments, the X5S v5 puts the big gun away and switches over to its integrated Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU.
Hide your spreadsheets and your documents, the X5S v5's 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor with 16GB of RAM is coming. The powerful CPU brushed off my attempts to stymie its work, streaming RWBY on Netflix while running a full system scan with 12 open Google Chrome Tabs. I finally introduced some lag once I started running Doom in another window.
The laptop scored 13,536 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic performance benchmark, trouncing the 7,677 mainstream average. Outfitted with the same processor as the X5S v5, the Equinox and the Blade notched 13,525 and 13,268, respectively. The Alienware 15 and its 2.9-GHz Intel Core i5-4210 processor missed the mark with 6,321.
On the File Transfer Test, the X5S v5's 256GB m.2 PCIe SSD, which is paired with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 15 seconds for a transfer rate of 335.2 MBps. That was more than enough to top the 131.4 MBps average and the Alienware 15's (128GB M.2 SSD, 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive) 103.9 MBps. The Blade (256GB PCIe SSD) was slightly faster at 359.2 MBps, but the Equinox's 256GB m.2 PCIe SSD and 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive blew away the competition with a score of 424.1 MBps.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the X5S v5 paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 36 seconds, sailing past the 5:16 average. The Equinox was hot on its heels at 3:37, while the Blade posted a time of 3:55. The Alienware 15 straggled along with 4:14.
With each passing generation of gaming laptops, we're seeing noticeable improvements in battery life. That's why it was so disappointing to learn that the X5S v5 lasted only 4 hours on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), falling well short of the 5:45 mainstream average. It was enough to beat the Equinox's dismal time of 3:09, but not the Blade or the Alienware 15, which clocked 5:42 and 6:18, respectively.
Images captured with the integrated 720p webcam were darker and grainier than I would have liked. My complexion looked washed out and two shades darker than normal, and I could barely make out the purple tint in my hair. The visual fuzz throughout the shots softened edges, making objects look less defined.
Even though I was playing a game about fighting the forces of Hell, I wish the X5S v5 was a little cooler. After 15 minutes of playing Doom, the laptop's undercarriage blew a 106 degrees Fahrenheit, while the space between the G and H keys hit 110 degrees. The touchpad was the coolest point at 86 degrees, well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
The X5S v5 is rather lean when it comes to software. Other than your traditional Windows lineup, which includes Microsoft Edge, Maps and Cortana, there are apps for Candy Crush Saga and Flipboard.
The Aorus X5S v5 comes with a two-year warranty.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the $2,299 configuration of the Aorus X5S v5, which has a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB m.2 PCIe SSD with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 8GB of video memory and an Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU.
Aorus continues to create some of the sleekest, albeit most expensive gaming laptops on the block. For $2,299, gamers get a bona fide powerhouse that can produce frame rates on a par with more beastly 17-inch rigs -- provided the resolution's set to 1080p. When you're not gaming, the laptop can function as a kickass productivity machine, or just a gorgeous way to watch 4K movies.
For the money, I prefer the $1,999 Razer Blade, which offers an equally stunning display, solid graphics and overall performance along with much longer battery life in an even lighter chassis. However, the Aorus is great choice for deep-pocketed gamers looking for a powerful, portable, understated gaming laptop to take to the LAN party.