High-end gaming on the go isn't cheap, but if you're going to shell out more than $2,000, you should expect something extraordinary. The Gigabyte P37X ($2,200) has fantastic specs and a streamlined design, and puts very little between you and your games. However, some design quirks and uneven performance keep it from achieving its full potential.
Black all around with a silver Gigabyte logo on the cover, the P37X looks elegant and understated. It's not likely to catch anyone's eye, but it does eschew the overdesigned, ostentatious appearance that some other gaming laptops go for, and that's probably a good thing.
Its aluminum chassis doesn't hold too many surprises: The inside has more of the same black-black-and-more-black design as the outside. The P37X's rounded edges are its one major pretension to modernism.
At 6.2 pounds and 11.3 x 16.4 x 0.9 inches, the P37X is fairly svelte for a 17-inch system. The Alienware 17 (8.3 pounds, 16.9 x 11.5 x 1.4 inches) and the Origin Eon 17-S (8.6 pounds, 16.3 x11.3 x 1.8 inches) are both more than two pounds heavier and considerably thicker.
Graphics and Gaming
Featuring an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M graphics card, the P37X is capable of extremely powerful feats of gaming. BioShock Infinite ran at 168 fps with the effects on low and 90 fps on high. The Alienware 17 achieved a lower 77 fps for BioShock Infinite on high, while the MSI GT72 Dominator clocked in at 85 fps. Both of these computers also sport an Nvidia 980M GPU.
On Metro Last Light, our most demanding game test, the MSI ran at a very solid 98 fps on low settings, but plummeted to 37.5 on high. (Frame rates under 30 fps are generally not playable for modern PC games.) The Alienware 17 and Origin Eon 17-S achieved 58 fps and 57 fps on low, and 32 and 34 fps on high, respectively.
In practice, the system's performance was a little more mercurial. I played through a few missions in both first-person shooter Titanfall and real-time strategy game StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm to put the machine through its paces. Titanfall ran beautifully, with crisp graphics and fluid animations.
On our first test -- Heart of the Swarm on recommended settings -- the P37X lagged and stuttered constantly, making pitched battles almost unplayable. On a second test, though, it ran fine, hovering around a respectable 70 fps.
Since the PX37 has an Nvidia graphics card, installing the GeForce Experience software is a simple way to optimize settings for each game you install. For Titanfall, this feature worked beautifully, while Heart of the Swarm was a little harder to gauge.
For more quotidian tasks, such as streaming video, the P37x also has an Intel integrated graphics card.
With its powerful quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 16 GB RAM, the PX37 can handle productivity and entertainment tasks with equal aplomb as it shows with games. When I was browsing the Web, streaming videos or listening to music from my own library, I encountered no slowdown or performance hiccups.
The P37X scored 13,303 on Geekbench 3, which measures a computer's overall performance. This not only beats the 11,010 category average for big-screen machines, but also the Alienware 17 (12,965) and the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro (13,018).
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Duplicating 5GB of multimedia files from the system's 256 GB SSD took 16 seconds, a rate of 312.5 MBps. That trumps the Origin Eon 17-S (255 MBps) and Alienware 17 (149.7 MBps). The Gigabyte also has a 1TB HDD for storing all your game files.
In terms of productivity, we ran the PX37 through the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test in order to evaluate how quickly it could pair 20,000 names and addresses. The PX37 completed the task in 3 minutes and 57 seconds, which is in the same ballpark as the MSI GT72 Dominator (3:53) and Alienware 17 (3:58).
Since the PX37 has such a powerful GPU, I was disappointed to find that the system's 17.3-inch display has a native resolution of only 1080p. It's also somewhat unattractive.
On paper, the screen's brightness of 325 nits beats the category average of 282 rather handily, as well as the Alienware 17's 253 nits and the Origin Eon 17-S's 255 nits. But in practice, the matte screen looked dark and washed out, even with the brightness turned all the way up. While watching Skyfall, a car chase through a crowded bazaar at midday looked like someone had put a dark filter over the camera.
Episodes of Parks and Recreation and Archer likewise looked a little blander than I'm used to. This is largely due to the screen's lackluster color reproduction.
The P37X registered a Delta-E score of 5.3 delta for color accuracy (closer to 0 is best), which is right at the industry average, but a comparatively weak 89.6 percent gamut (compared to a 96.6 percent average). The Alienware 17 clocked in with a similar Delta-E (5.3), but a higher gamut (106.3 percent). (These numbers were not measured for the Origin Eon 17-S.)
This machine also suffers from limited viewing angles; unless I was sitting front and center, the picture got very distorted, and was almost unwatchable by the 45-degree mark. So if you wanted to watch a film with someone, your guest would have to sit very close to you. (This, admittedly, is not the worst way to watch a movie.)
If you want to get the most out of the P37X's audio, you should probably bring your own headphones. The system makes use of an integrated RealTek sound card, which works just fine, but the speakers are another matter entirely. The overall sound was flat and muffled, and although the speakers didn't garble anything, they didn't highlight anything, either. Although the sound card includes some very basic software for volume and left/right balance, it does not allow users to tweak equalization levels, treble, bass or anything else that might improve the audio experience.
The one saving grace is that the speakers can reach a respectably high volume without distorting. I watched Skyfall and sat about 10 feet away from the PX37X with the sound turned all the way up, and I heard both the effects and dialogue very well.
Unfortunately, almost everything else about the speakers is subpar. I listened to music from G.F. Handel, Old Crow Medicine Show and Flogging Molly, and in every case, the bass was almost nonexistent, the treble lacked nuance and the overall balance felt way off. If you're gaming at home and want to jump into a few multiplayer matches, the speakers will get the job done, but in a game with a cinematic score and subtle sound effects (like an action/adventure or horror game), these speakers are probably not your best choice.
Ports and Webcam
The P37X is positively chockablock with ports. In addition to four USB ports, there are microphone and headphone jacks and an SD card slot. Videophiles can take their pick from among a VGA port, an HDMI port and a DisplayPort, which is ideal for 4K monitors. An Ethernet port rounds out the selection. By default, the system includes a DVD player, which users can swap out for a Blu-ray player or extra SSD.
The webcam, which specifies itself only as "HD," is nothing too spectacular, although it will get the job done for Skype and other forms of video chat. In my experience, it wasn't too good at differentiating light levels, leading to some pictures that made me look like half of my face was hidden in shadow.
Heat and Noise
As long as you don't hold it in your lap, the P37X doesn't get too hot: After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, we measured 79 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad and 90 degrees on the G and H keys. Both are below what we consider uncomfortable (95 degrees), but the underside hit 105. That won't exactly burn your pants off, but it won't be comfortable, either.
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The fans are also noise machines. They don't generally fire up unless you start playing games or streaming video, but if they start spinning, you'll have to turn the volume up to drown them out. Even with the fans turned on, the bottom of the machine reached a blistering 123 degrees after 15 minutes of playing StarCraft II, meaning you probably don't want to do any heavy gaming in your lap.
Keyboard and Touchpad
One area where the P37X has the right idea but the wrong execution is in the keyboard and touchpad. While I appreciate the keyboard's full numpad and the fact that it doesn't shorten any keys, an extra row of macro keys on the side means that the touchpad is not centered directly beneath the G and H keys, like on most laptops. My fingers rested on the wrong keys constantly, and typos occurred regularly. Despite the key travel of 1.6 mm and 61 g actuation force -- both average for a notebook -- the keys felt rather unsatisfying and shallow.
The P37X's keyboard has white backlighting. While sufficient for gaming in darkened rooms, it lacks the playfulness of the multicolored keyboards on Alienware and MSI systems.
The 4.0 x 2.8-inch touchpad is tiny, and its two buttons are both shallow and small. Most gamers will probably use a mouse instead, but even for productivity work, this touchpad is a little hard to get the hang of.
The P37X landed firmly in the middle of the road on battery life. The laptop lasted 4 hours and 54 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi at 100 nits of screen brightness).
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That's somewhat better than the category average of 4 hours and 4 minutes and also beats the Eon 17-S (3:11), but the Alienware 17 lased about 6.5 hours.
Software and Warranty
In terms of extra, unwanted software, the PX37 is admirably lightweight. Aside from a backup program called SmartUSB, webcam recording software and the MacroHub program, which lets you set up the extra row of macro keys, there's not much between you and the operating system.
The system also comes with a limited, 2-year warranty, which should cover you for parts, labor and tech support, should anything go wrong.
The Gigabyte P37X promises a system that can play demanding PC games on the go, and mostly delivers. While I was reviewing the P37X, I had to grapple with a lot of small irritants: an off-center keyboard, unimpressive speakers, a monitor that should have been colorful and a noisy fan. However, this system delivers excellent frame rates and performance, and ultimately, these are more important factors. The price tag, at $2,200, is a lot of money, but a comparable Alienware 17 or MSI GT72 Dominator costs about the same. If you want a sleek, unpretentious system with a lot of power, the P37X is a good choice.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.