If the Gigabyte P35X v3 (priced at $2,279) were judged on looks alone, it would be a 3 on scale of 10. However, with laptops, as with most things, it's what inside that counts. And this gaming notebook's guts make the 15.6-incher a stunner. Outfitted with an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU, the P35X is all about impressive performance. Throw in a super-high-resolution display and great battery life, and you've got one of the most powerful 15-inch notebooks on the block.
If this were a teen movie, the P35X would be the frumpy best friend that's desperately in need of a makeover. The black aluminum chassis is about as bland as they come, with only a shiny chrome Gigabyte logo to add any semblance of panache on the outside.
The inside isn't much better; the oval-shaped speaker grilles and silver power button are the only things that stand out.
The P35X's rounded corners are nice, but the overall presentation is something I'd expect from a budget notebook, not something that costs more than $2,000. For the money, I'd much rather have the beautiful HP Omen and all its alluring angles.
At 5.6 pounds and 15.2 x 10.6 x 0.82 inches, the P35X is a tad chunky for a 15-inch laptop, especially when compared to the HP Omen (4.8 pounds, 15.1 x 9.7 x 0.78 inches). However, the P35X has an optical drive and beefier specs.
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The P35X has a seriously lovely display. Its 2,880 x 1,620-pixel panel produces rich colors. In the Focus trailer, Will Smith's spearmint sweater popped against the actor's warm brown complexion and the nearby deep-red umbrellas. Details were crisp enough to see the vertical ribbing in Smith's shirt as well as the outlines of the actor's chest in the rather taut garment.
The display also held up well during gaming. I enjoyed crystal-blue skies and lush green vegetation as I made my way through Kyrat in Far Cry 4. I was impressed with the level of detail, which allowed me to see the individual hairs on a clouded leopard's hide as I made quick work of skinning it.
The laptop performed well on the sRGB Gamut test, which measures color reproduction, scoring 105.2 percent. That's well above the 84 percent mainstream average. The HP Omen was a respectable 98 percent, while the MSI Dominator Pro delivered 89 percent.
When tested for brightness, the P35X dazzled at 338 nits, destroying the 238-nit average, not to mention the Omen (269) and the Dominator Pro (255).
If you ever wondered what disappointment sounds like, look no further than the P35X's bottom-mounted speakers. As I listened to Janelle Monae's "Ghetto Woman," my ears were buffeted with loud, tinny highs and barely there lows. The singer's usually radiant soprano fell flat.
My gaming experience was just as bad. I blew up a large truck with an RPG, only to be greeted by a neutered boom. It was sort of like lighting an M-80 only to discover it's a bang snap.
The P35X hit 85 decibels on the Laptop Mag Audio Test, which is a notch below the 86-dB average. It was better than the Omen's 78 dB, but not enough to conquer the Dominator Pro's boisterous 93 dB.
What the Gigabyte P35X v3 doesn't have in looks, it makes up for in power. Thanks to its Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M graphics card with 8GB of VRAM, the laptop is built to deliver inordinately high frame rates. When I played Far Cry 4 on ultra settings at 2,880 x 1,600 pixels, the laptop delivered an impressive 65 fps. Downgrading to high settings raised the frame rate to 80 fps.
On the BioShock Infinite benchmark, the P35X hit 151 fps on low at 1,920 x 1,080, nearly double the 88 fps mainstream laptop average. The P35X crushed the HP Omen's (Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M) 67 fps, but the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro (Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M) was the clear winner, with 182 fps.
When we ran the same test on high, the P35X's frame rate dropped to 116 fps, which is still well above the 40-fps average. The Dominator Pro came in at a distant second, with 85 fps, while the Omen produced 42 fps.
The P35X delivered smooth performance on the GPU-taxing Metro: Last Light benchmark. On low at 1080p, the laptop hit 106 fps, beating the 59 fps average. The Omen and Dominator Pro picked up the slack with 66 and 57 fps, respectively. At the highest settings, the P35X delivered a playable 35 fps, besting the 15 fps average and the Omen's 16 fps. The Dominator Pro was right on the P35X's heels with 34 fps.
The P35X was still feeling froggy when it ran Metro at 2,880 x 1,620 on low. Its score of 80 fps shattered the 25 fps average. However, the notebook finally met its match on high settings: It dropped to 19 fps, below the Laptop Mag 30-fps playability threshold.
When I took a break from hang gliding through the Himalayas, the notebook switched over to its Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU so I could watch a few streams on Twitch.
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Keyboard and Touchpad
Similar to the rest of the P35X's design, the island-style keyboard is a ho-hum affair. The full-size keyboard offers a full number pad, sufficiently bright backlighting and solid spacing. What it lacks is a comfortable typing experience.
Although the 1.47mm of key travel is fairly deep, the 62 grams of actuation force required is higher than average, which resulted in a stiff feel. As a result, I fell short of my average of 60 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test. After several attempts, the most I could muster was 55 wpm.
The 4.1 x 3-inch Elan touchpad didn't impress either. The cursor jumped at the slightest accidental tap or brush.
The P35X stays fairly cool on top, but you might not want to use it in your lap. After a 15-minute Hulu session, the touchpad and space between the G and H keys measured 81 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Both readings are well below the Laptop Mag 95-degree comfort threshold. However, the laptop's bottom vent blew a hot 105 degrees. This same spot reached a troubling 115 degrees after playing Far Cry 4 for 15 minutes.
The 720p webcam on the P35X leaves much to be desired. Whether I was under natural or fluorescent lighting, my test shots came out dark, especially my skin tone. My neon green AKG Q701 headphones also looked muted.
Due to the overabundant noise, I couldn't make out any of the finer details such as the lines in my colleague's plaid shirt or the patterns in my silver rings.
On the right side of the notebook, you'll find a pair of USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, a mini DisplayPort, VGA and a power jack. A tray-loading Blu-ray writer is surreptitiously hidden along the front lip, centered beneath the touchpad.
Along the laptop's left side are two USB 2.0 ports, an SD Cardreader, a Gigabit Ethernet port, jacks for a mic and S/PDIF, and a Kensington lock slot.
Equipped with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, the Gigabyte P35X v3 can multitask with the best of them. The laptop easily streamed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix while performing a full-system scan with 12 open tabs in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
During the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the P35X hit 13,026, conquering the 8,778 average. The MSI GT72 Dominator Pro and HP Omen (2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ CPU) scored 13,018 and 12,687, respectively.
With dual 128GB mSATA SSDs, the P35X is pretty fast on the draw. The laptop duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 17 seconds, for a transfer rate of 299.4 MBps. That's much faster than the 100.4-MBps average and the Omen (512GB SSD), which notched 268 MBps. However, neither were a match for the Dominator Pro and its insane setup of four 128GB SSDs in RAID 3 configuration and a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, which achieved a blistering 636.2 MBps.
On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the P35X paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 54 seconds, easily defeating the 5:25 average. It's an impressive time, but the Dominator Pro and Omen were in a dead heat with the P35X, at 3:53.
For a gaming notebook, the Gigabyte P35X v3 offers fairly strong endurance. The laptop lasted 5 hours and 49 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness). That's much longer than the HP Omen (4:06) and the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro (3:14).
Software and Warranty
No bloatware, no problem! Outside of software native to Windows 8.1, Gigabyte pre-installed a small suite of branded apps designed to help streamline certain operations. For example, Smart Switch bundles several commands such as Logout, Switch User, Sleep and Hibernate. You can also choose whether to start with the regular desktop or the Modern Windows interface.
Smart Update keeps track of drivers for various types of hardware, including the processor and graphics cards, and ensures everything is up to date. Smart USB Backup allows you to create a backup of your files, provided you have a storage drive larger than 32GB.
The Gigabyte P35X v3 comes with a two-year warranty.
The Gigabyte P35 v3 isn't the prettiest laptop on the block, but its performance makes this device a knockout. For $2,279, you get a notebook with the world's most powerful graphics card, an equally powerful CPU and a super-high-res display in a fairly portable chassis. However, for this kind of money, we'd appreciate better sound and a less erratic touchpad.
Gamers looking for more eye candy should consider the $1,899 HP Omen. That laptop is definitely lighter and prettier, but you'll be settling for a last-generation GPU, lower-resolution display and shorter battery life. Overall, if gamers can look beyond the P35X's plain exterior, they'll be investing in one of the most powerful 15.6-inch gaming notebooks on the market.