Who says you have to pay through the nose for a VR-ready laptop? The $1,599 Gigabyte P55W v6 (starting at $1,399) is a multitasking monster, thanks to its Core i7 processor. But more important, it's outfitted with an Nvidia 10-Series GPU, which means you can plug in an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset for truly immersive gaming. However, its weak speakers and the lack of a G-Sync display keep the P55W v6 from rising higher in our rankings.
Sometimes, a few well-placed lines are all it takes to turn heads. The P55W v6's black chassis oozes a sexy, easy confidence. A pair of sloping ridges along the rear transforms what could have easily been a boring laptop into a subtle showstopper. It's like the laptop is popping its collar at me, and I'm digging it. The low-key sexiness is further accentuated by the glinting chrome Gigabyte insignia and the two curved ridges that meet in a soft point at the lip of the lid.
Opening the lid reveals more angular awesomeness, including swooping slopes along the top of the keyboard, a hexagonal power button and the recessed keyboard dock. Two orange strips along the sides of the deck provide a welcome pop of color against the all-black presentation.
When inspecting the right side of the laptop, I was pleased to discover a Blu-ray burner with two USB 3.0 ports and jacks for headphones and a microphone. Along the left is another USB 3.0 port, as well as ports for USB 3.1 Type-C, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and VGA, and a Kensington lock slot.
The 5.8-pound, 14.9 x 10.6 x 1.1~1.3-inch P55W v6 is lighter and a tad slimmer than the MSI GT62VR Dominator Pro (6.4 pounds, 15.4 x 10.5 x 1.6 inches) and the Alienware 15 (7.1 pounds, 15.2 x 10.6 x 0.9~1.3 inches). However, it's not nearly as svelte as the Digital Storm Equinox (4.2 pounds, 15.3 x 10.5 x 0.9 inches).
Prepare yourself for a cavalcade of rich, accurate colors -- including deep blacks and luscious reds -- on the P55W v6's 15.6-inch display. It was an absolute joy to watch the "Southside With You" trailer on the 1920 x 1080 screen. Actress Tika Sumpter's peach silk blouse accentuated the golden tones in her warm brown complexion. Details were crisp enough that I could see the gentle creases in her shirt created by her handbag.
As I played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the White Orchard countryside looked like a moving postcard. I strode through waving fields of grain that overlooked a green meadow, dotted with groups of bright-purple wolfsbane and white sprigs of fool's parsley, all offset by a gorgeous sapphire sky.
The P55W v6 can reproduce 110 percent of the sRGB gamut, which explains those rich hues. That's well above the 92 percent mainstream average as well as the Dominator Pro and the Alienware 15, which notched 106 percent and 60 percent, respectively. The Equinox was just a little bit better, at 111 percent.
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The P55W v6 also scored high marks on the color accuracy test, notching a Delta-E rating of 1 (0 is ideal). That beats the 2.3 average and the Equinox's 1.1. Both the Dominator Pro and the Alienware were a touch more accurate, at 0.68 and 0.5, respectively.
Despite that matte display, the P55W v6 is plenty bright, averaging 321 nits, which easily defeats the 268-nit category average. The Dominator Pro (301 nits) was a close second, and the Equinox (293 nits) and the Alienware 15 (222 nits) brought up the rear.
With the launch of Nvidia's new 10-Series GPUs, a lot of laptop manufacturers are outfitting their gaming notebooks with the company's G-Sync technology. The software syncs the laptop's display rate with the graphics card, placing a frame cap that matches the panel limit.
That allows for instant rendering in both full-screen and windowed modes, thus eliminating any tears, and leaving smooth images and happy gamers. That's why I was disappointed to learn that the P55W doesn't include G-Sync. You'll have to invest in an Aorus laptop if you want to get those buttery-smooth frames.
Shh! I'm trying to hear Geralt dispatch a griffin. The P55W v6's bottom-firing speakers aren't as loud as I would expect from a gaming laptop. Although I could hear the meaty thud of Geralt's sword connecting with flesh in The Witcher 3, I had to strain to hear the violin strings that played during calm moments in the game. I also had to focus to hear the dialogue or I would lose a word or two.
As I listened to Anita Baker's sumptuous alto on "Lately," I could hear the shimmying maracas as well as the finger snaps and drums that laid down the beat. However, the keyboard and violin sounded sharp and were competing for space, which led to a somewhat garbled experience.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The P55W's island-style keyboard is like a set of mini-trampolines for your fingers. With 2.1 millimeters (1.5 mm is the threshold) of key travel and 64 grams of force required to press the keys, my fingers enjoyed some truly springy feedback. I bounced my way to 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, topping my usual 60 wpm.
In an uncommon move, the P55W v6 lacks customizable backlighting that has become synonymous with gaming systems. In addition to the aesthetic benefits of backlit keys, it would be nice to have some lighting when I'm playing in a dim room.
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My fingers slid across the 3.9 x 2.7-inch Elan touchpad's smooth surface. Three-finger swipe and two-finger rotation were nice and fluid. The bottom corners of the touchpad were a tad stiff, so when I pressed them for right- and left-mouse-button functions, it required more force than on most other laptops we've tested.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
Nvidia's new Pascal GPUs (aka 10-Series) are a revelation. Offering 75 percent more performance than last-generation Maxwell GPUs, the 10-Series effortlessly delivers insane frame-rate averages. That would be awesome in and of itself, but Pascal has enough power to support virtual-reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Outfitted with the GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM, the P55W v6 put on quite a show. It scored 6.6 on the Steam VR Performance test, which tests a system's VR readiness, falls in the Very High range. However, I would have preferred the 10.1 that the Dominator Pro turned in, which also has a 1060 GPU. Still, I had a relatively lag-free experience as I hit barrel rolls and veered sharply to the left or right in Eve: Valkyrie on the Rift.
When I went questing around in The Witcher 3, I pulled out all the stops, switching the settings to Ultra with unlimited frames as well as turning on Nvidia HairWorks. The P55W v6 was unbothered as I leapt into a pack of roving ghouls, delivering 38 frames per second. When I downgraded the settings to High, the frame rate rose to 47 fps.
We pitted the P55W v6 against the Dominator Pro in a battle of the 1060 GPUs on several of our most taxing games -- with interesting results. On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the P55W v6 notched 50 fps at 1080p on Very High, which was a frame short of the Dominator Pro's 51 fps but matched the mainstream average.
The P55W v6 started falling behind on the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, producing 33 fps (1080p on Very High), which is slightly above our playability threshold but below the 50-fps average. The Dominator Pro achieved an impressive 67 fps. But the biggest gap came during the Hitman benchmark, which was run on Ultra at 1080p. The P55W v6 put up a respectable 57 fps, while the Dominator Pro delivered 94 fps.
When you're not mowing down hordes of orcs or taking down whole platoons from a sniper's nest, the P55W v6 switches over to its Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU.
Like most other gaming notebooks on the market, the P55W v6 is outfitted with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ with 16GB of RAM. That means it can handle multitasking like a boss. I streamed an episode of The Get Down on Netflix while running a full system scan with 17 open tabs in Google Chrome and didn't see a hint of lag.
The P55W v6 kept up the pressure on the synthetic Geekbench 3 test, achieving a score of 13,530 and swatting the 8,003 mainstream average. Duly equipped with their own i7-6700HQ CPUs, the Alienware 15, Equinox and Dominator Pro produced 13,494; 13,525; and 13,556, respectively.
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The P55W v6 hit a snag on the File Transfer test with its 128GB M.2 SSD, delivering a transfer rate of 124.1 megabytes per second, which falls short of the 138.5-MBps average. The Equinox, with its 256GB M.2 SSD, delivered a scorching 424.1 MBps, while the Alienware 15 (256GB PCIe SSD) hit 201.1 MBps. The Dominator Pro decimated the competition, with 628.6 MBps.
We saw some redemption for the P55W v6 during the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, where the laptop paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 37 seconds, matching the Equinox and beating the 4:40 average. The Dominator Pro and Alienware 15 notched 3:47 and 3:50, respectively.
(Editor's note: Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to run the Laptop Mag Battery Test at press time. We will update this review with the relevant information shortly.)
To evaluate the P55W v6's staying power, I played The Witcher 3 until I got the 5 percent battery life warning. It took an hour and 38 minutes of riding around the countryside slaying foglets, drowners, wolves and wargs before it was time to plug the system back in. That's about par for the course with a system this powerful.
Despite having a number of vents, the P55W v6 got noticeably hot while I was gaming. After I had played through The Witcher 3 for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 108 degrees Fahrenheit. The center of the system rose to 113 degrees, while the undercarriage was a touch cooler, at 94 degrees. That's just below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Once the system had cooled off a bit, we started streaming a full-screen Hulu video, and the touchpad and space between the G and H keys hit 97 degrees. The bottom of the laptop reached a warm 106 degrees.
The integrated 720p webcam is great at capturing color but not so great at showing detail. Other webcams typically make my purple locks look black or brown, but my hair had a lovely violet shade. Too bad my hair looked like an unruly blob.
Software and Warranty
The great thing about gaming laptops is the limited bloatware, and the P55W v6 is no exception. Nonetheless, you'll still find Flipboard, Candy Crush Soda Saga and Twitter.
Gigabyte offset the bloat by adding some truly helpful gamer-centric software, such as Nvidia GeForce Experience, BatteryBoost; XSplit Gamecaster; and Broadcaster, which lets you stream your gaming exploits with professional-grade audio and video mixing.
There are also a few helpful Gigabyte-branded apps, such as Smart Manager, which offers quick access to system settings such as brightness, volume, fan speed and Bluetooth. Smart Update keeps track of all your updates for your apps and hardware components. You also get Smart USB Backup, which lets you create a file backup that can be stored on an available USB drive.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the $1,599 model of the P55W v6, which has a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ with 16GB of RAM; a 128GB M.2 SSD with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive; an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM; and an Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU. If you're looking to save $200, you can get the base model and forgo the SSD.
When it comes to gaming laptops, most of us are living under pretty solid budget constraints that dictate what kind of specs we can expect. However, Gigabyte's P55W v6 is a prime example showing that you don't have to break the bank to get a good gaming notebook. For $1,599, you get a VR-ready system that delivers very good frame rates and can multitask like a champ.
However, if you're looking for more overall power and even more frames by way of a G-Sync display, as well as a customizable backlit keyboard and blistering transfer speeds, the $1,999 MSI GT62 Dominator Pro is for you. But if you want a more affordable portable VR powerhouse, the P55W v6 is a fine choice.