At first glance, you might assume Gigabyte had created the most professional-looking gaming laptop ever. The Aero 15X ($2,299 as tested, $2,000 to start under the name "Aero 15") is sleek and almost bezel-free. It also offers a long-lasting battery and strong gaming performance, thanks to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU, and solid productivity, thanks to an Intel Coffee Lake CPU. That sleek design is aimed at both gamers who want toned-down looks and creative types who want power. But the design hides a dimmer-than-average display, quiet speakers and one of the worst-placed webcams on the market, which may lead you to consider other machines.
The Aero 15X is plain, yet also sophisticated. While Gigabyte has, unfortunately, gotten rid of the fun colors it offered for the Aero last year (at least for the time being), this year's all-black version is still incredibly sleek. The carbon-fiber lid is mostly spartan, other than a reflective, silver Gigabyte logo and a small, arrow-shaped design that looks like metal.
The magic is still on the inside, though. When you open the laptop, you're greeted by a 15.6-inch, 1080p display with a very minimal bezel. Below the screen is a new Aero logo, which is much more visually exciting than the Gigabyte moniker on the outside. There's still a webcam on the hinge. The island-style keyboard is RGB-backlit, but the rest of the chassis is all black.
This laptop has a nice variety of ports, including an Ethernet jack, USB 3.0, an HDMI output, a Mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack on the right side.
On the left side are the power jack, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt 3 and an SD card slot.
While the Aero 15X is nice and compact, at 4.5 pounds and 14 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches, it's not any svelter than competing laptops. The Dell XPS 15 is 4.6 pounds and 15.1 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches; the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin is 4.1 pounds and 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches, and the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 is heftier, at 5.5 pounds and 15.1 x 10.3 x 0.8 inches.
While the color on the Aero's 15.6-inch, 1080p display pops, the screen doesn't get as bright as we'd like. When I watched a trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp, a purple hot rod with flame decals popped against the gray of the road, but it was difficult to see a scene in which Scott Lang and Hank Pym watch the Wasp on monitors, because it was just too dark.
While I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War, bright spaces in an orc fortress looked great, with lush grass and red clay. But when a battle with Snafu the Seer backed me against a rock wall, the shadows were overpowering -- until archers shot fire arrows that lit up the display.
The Aero 15X covers 123 percent of the sRGB color gamut, meaning this laptop is less vivid than the premium gaming laptop average (136 percent), the Stealth Thin (150 percent) and the XPS 15 (188 percent), but better than the Zephyrus (120 percent).
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This machine is dimmer than all of its competitors, at 266 nits. The average is 285 nits, while the XPS 15 measured 282 nits, the Zephyrus reached 286 nits and the Stealth Thin hit 294 nits.
Keyboard and Touchpad
With 1.4 millimeters of travel and 74 grams of force required to press down the keys, the keyboard feels snappy, but a bit on the shallow side. I never felt like I was bottoming out, but I would have preferred another millimeter or so of travel. Still, it was comfortable, and I hit 107 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is standard for me. But I got a 3 percent error rate, rather than my usual 2 percent. You can customize the RGB keyboard backlighting use the Gigabyte Fusion app.
The 4.1 x 2.7-inch Aero 15X touchpad and its ELAN drivers (it does not list a Windows Precision touchpad) don't support every gesture. While I could do the most common gestures, like two-finger swipe and pinch-to-zoom, I couldn't swipe with three fingers to place open apps in the task bar or tap with four fingers to open the Action Center.
The speakers on the Aero 15X are on the quiet side. They barely filled the room with sound when I listened to Brandi Carlile's "The Joke." Her vocals, the guitars and the drums were all clear, and the string quartet was nice and crisp. But there was very little bass to speak of, and Gigabyte doesn't include any software to adjust the sound.
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If you're gaming, you'll definitely want headphones with this machine. When I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the game was quiet, especially the string-orchestra music and character voices.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
The Aero 15X's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU is no slouch. I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War at 1080p on Ultra settings, and it ran between 60 and 71 frames per second as I engaged in a battle with Snafu the Seer and flaming arrows from enemy archers scorched my surroundings.
Gigabyte's laptop ran the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (1080p, Very High) at 47 fps, falling below the premium gaming average (59 fps) and the Zephyrus' result (53 fps), but beating the Stealth Thin's mark (44 fps). The Zephyrus and Stealth Thin have the same GPU as the Aero.
The Aero played Hitman at 75 frames per second, just slower than the Stealth Thin's showing (79 fps), as well as the average (85 fps) and the Zephyrus' result (88 fps).
On the SteamVR performance test, the Aero earned a score of 10 (very high), so this machine should run Oculus Rift and HTC Vive games smoothly. The premium gaming average is 10.5, while the Stealth Thin got a 9.5 and the Zephyrus reached 10.9. The XPS 15's GTX 1050 isn't ready for VR.
With its Intel Core i7-8750H Coffee Lake CPU, 16GB of RAM and 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, the Aero 15X won't sweat under an average workload. I had 20 tabs open in Google Chrome while also watching a 1080p stream of Fortnite on Twitch, and I experienced no performance hiccups.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Aero earned a score of 16,305, beating the premium gaming average (15,965) and the XPS 15's mark (13,911; Core i7-7700HQ). But the Aero's result falls below those of the Zephyrus (20,590) and Stealth Thin (17,184), which have the same CPU and GPU as the Aero.
The Aero took 9 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of mixed-media files. That translates to a blazing 565.5 MBps. The average is 509 MBps, the same as the Zephyrus' result. The Stealth Thin (193.3MBps) and XPS 15 (339.3MBps) were both slower.
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It took 37 seconds for the Aero to complete our Excel macro test, in which laptops pair 65,000 names and addresses. The Aero was faster than the average (0:49) and the Stealth Thin (0:54) but just slower than the Zephyrus (0:35).
With its Coffee Lake processor, the Aero proved quick on our taxing HandBrake test, which transcodes a 4K video to 1080p. The Gigabyte machine completed the task in 10 minutes and 15 seconds, ahead of both the average (10:51) and the Stealth Thin's time (12:01), but behind the Zephyrus' mark (9:43).
For a gaming laptop, the Aero 15X has solid battery life. It endured for 6 hours and 13 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test 2.0, which has a computer continuously browse the web and run a series of videos and graphics benchmarks over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The premium gaming average on the test is just 4 hours, while the Stealth Thin ran for 5:40 and the Zephyrus lasted a paltry 2 hours.
The Aero 15X stayed nice and cool during our usual heat tests. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video, it measured 83 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, 91 degrees between the G and H keys, and 95 degrees on the underside. None of those temperatures exceed our 95-degree comfort threshold.
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The keyboard and touchpad were still cool during gaming, but the bottom of the laptop was not; it climbed to 135 degrees.
The 720p webcam on the Aero 15X is a dud, not because of any technical malfunction but because of its placement on the hinge. The camera looks straight up your nose and shoots at the most unflattering angle, like Dell's XPS line of laptops.
A photo I shot at my desk was dark, making my red sweater look black, but what was worse was that the camera got a better shot of the ceiling than of my eyes.
Software and Warranty
Gigabyte packs its computers to the gills with software, some of it useful, some of it bloat. Thankfully, the company divides this software into three folders on the desktop. There's Gaming Application, which features Gigabyte Fusion to change the RGB backlighting; XSplit Broadcaster and Gamecaster for streaming; and TriDef Smartcam, which lets you change your backgrounds (though this requires activation or purchase).
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The Management Application folder features a manual, an alternative webcam program called AMCAP and a LAN optimizer, which has no UI so it's unclear what it does. The Utility folder features Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and a calculator; this folder is the biggest waste of them all.
Additionally, there's a desktop shortcut to Gigabyte's Smart Manager v3. That has toggles for a ton of settings and a dashboard that shows temperature, internet speed, and CPU and GPU usage.
Of course, there's also the typical bloat you'll find on any Windows 10 machine, like Candy Crush Soda Saga, Disney Magic Kingdoms, Bubble Witch 3 Saga, March of Empires: War of Lords and Dolby Access.
Gigabyte sells the Aero 15X with a two-year warranty. See how the company performed on our Best and Worst Gaming Laptop Brands ranking.
How Much Does the Aero 15X Cost?
The Aero 15X we reviewed costs $2,299 and comes with an Intel Core i7-8750H Coffee Lake CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM and a 1080p, 144Hz display.
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The $2,000 base model, called the Aero 15, is identical to the Aero 15X, except that it features a GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM. A $2,499 Aero 15X has identical specs to our test model but trades the 1080p, 144Hz display for a 4K screen.
The Aero 15X is a portable, sleek notebook with a minimal bezel, long battery life and strong performance, but those plusses are marred by horrible webcam placement, quiet speakers and a dimmer-than-average display.
If you can live with some thicker bezels, you should check out MSI's GS65 Stealth Thin. It's also quite compact, and while the bezels on the side are a little thicker than those on the Aero, the webcam is in the right place and that black and gold finish turns heads. Its battery life is shorter than the Aero's, but still impressive for a gaming notebook. And the MSI has excellent audio performance and a better screen than the Aero. It's $2,099 for a similar SKU to what we tested, so the Stealth Thin is also a little cheaper. It starts at $1,799, with a GTX 1050.
The Aero 15X is a well-designed laptop, but that takes it only so far. A gaming laptop can live or die with its screen, and the Aero 15X's isn't as good as others. Still, this laptop's performance is great and the battery lasts long, so it should be up for consideration.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag