Gaming laptops have never been cheaper, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it to spend a bit more money. Priced at $1,600, Gigabyte's P57W is powered by an Nvidia 970M graphics card instead of the relatively weak Nvidia 960M GPUs you get on a $1,000 gaming rig. Though this big, 17.3-inch machine's chassis looks pretty tame compared to other, more shouty gaming systems, the P57W impressed me with its bright, nonreflective full-HD screen; solid build quality; and stellar battery life for a gaming notebook. I just wish its keyboard didn't get so hot during gameplay.
When the price of a laptop creeps into four-digit territory, I start to expect a little bit of style. Whether it's the sleek brushed-metal and carbon-fiber body of an ultraportable like Dell's XPS 13 or the bright, pulsing lights and flashy paint jobs of an MSI, just give me something to entertain my eyes. But aside from a few strips of orange and an odd angle or two, the P57W is as plain as it gets. You don't even get any cool colored lighting mounted behind the keyboard, which, with its opaque key caps, has a hard time letting the humdrum white backlighting shine through.
While the P57W isn't much to look at, its aluminum-and-plastic chassis feels pretty sturdy. There's very little flex anywhere on its 16.57 x 11.4 x 0.98-inch, 6.4-pound body. This gaming rig seems like a featherweight compared to other 17-inch laptops, such as the 16.93 x 11.49 x 1.35-inch, 8.33-pound Alienware 17 and the 16.9 x 13.1 x 1.7-inch, 8.8-pound Asus G752.
But I do have to question Gigabyte's placement of a Blu-ray drive in the middle of the laptop's lower front lip. The location of the optical drive's eject button caused me to pop out the optical tray by accident more than a couple of times, which is a little worrisome if you're planning on tossing the P57W in a bag with any sort of regularity. Additionally, you can switch out the optical drive for an extra SSD bay or even leave it empty to save some weight.
Keyboard and Touchpad
As is the case for many big gaming machines, the P57W features a full-size keyboard complete with a 10-key number pad on the right. However, its 1.33 millimeters of key travel is a bit shorter than the typical 1.5 mm, so typing felt a bit shallow and spongy. On 10fastfingers.com's typing test, I hit 78 words per minute, which is within my typical range of 75 to 80 wpm.
The P57W's touchpad is offset slightly to the left, and features a single slab covered in a pleasant, soft-touch coating. Measuring 4.1 x 3 inches, the touchpad gives your fingers plenty of space to move around, and it responded quickly and accurately to both clicking and multitouch gestures, although I still wouldn't use it for gaming unless I really had to.
When you open the lid, the P57W unveils a pretty vibrant 17.3-inch matte display. The screen looks equally good when you're gaming or streaming a movie or two. With its wide color gamut and accurate colors, the Gigabyte nailed the pale-blue color of Daniel Radcliffe's waterlogged skin in the trailer for Swiss Army Man.
The P57W's sRGB color range of 116 percent is fairly strong and a bit wider than what we saw on the Asus G752 (113 percent). However, the Alienware 17 hit a much higher 174 percent.
In terms of color accuracy, the P57W notched a respectable Delta-E rating of 1.2 (closer to 0 is best), although the Alienware 17's rating of 0.8 and the Asus G752's rating of 0.9 were a bit better.
When compared to its competition, the P57W's 285 nits of screen brightness was a bit dimmer than the panels on both the Alienware 17 (319) and the Asus G752 (320 nits).
When enhanced by the Dynamic setting on Dolby's Digital Plus audio app, the P57W's front-mounted speakers pump out some pretty decent sound. While the laptop's highs and lows could use a little more depth, when I listened to Haywyre's "Memory," I found myself instantly tapping my foot and grooving to the song's groovy, funk-heavy beat. I also appreciated being able to hear finer details, such as the footsteps of an assailant when he tried to creep up on me in Rainbow Six Siege.
After we streamed Hulu in HD for 15 minutes, not a single part of the P57W rose above our 95-degree-Fahrenheit comfort threshold. But when you're gaming, it's a whole different story. Even after a quick 10-minute gaming session, temperatures across the keyboard measured over 115 degrees, and the bottom wasn't much better, as we recorded a temp of 110 degrees around the vents. It was enough to cause my hands to sweat and even slip a bit when I was trying to frantically chase down a nefarious terrorist or two.
Ports and Webcam
The P57W has a pretty comprehensive set of ports, including an SD card reader, an Ethernet jack, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, three traditional USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a mini DisplayPort, separate headphone and mic jacks, and even an old-school VGA connector.
Unfortunately, the P57W's HD webcam isn't impressive. Even in our well-lit office, the webcam above the display captured a selfie with a little too much grain and not enough detail for my liking.
Featuring a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU; 16GB of RAM; and a combination of a 256GB SSD and a 1TB, 7,200 HDD for storage, the P57W shrugs off everyday computing tasks like it's brushing dirt off its shoulder. Even with 20 tabs open in Chrome, a game downloading in Steam and Dota 2 running in a window, I didn't notice a hint of slowdown.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall system performance, the P57W's score of 11,732 lagged only slightly behind the Alienware 17 (13,906, with an Intel Core i7-6820HK CPU) and the Asus G752 (13,492, with Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU).
Its 256GB SSD was similarly speedy, posting a transfer rate of 457.1 MBps after copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. The Asus G752's 256GB SSD (130.5 MBps) was more than three times slower, although the Alienware was once again faster, at 508.9 MBps.
Graphics and Gaming
With its Nvidia 970M GPU and 3GB of VRAM, the P57W can keep up with other gaming laptops in its price range. On 3DMark's Fire Strike graphics test, the P57W scored 6,578. The mark from Asus' G752 (Nvidia 970M GPU) was almost identical, at 6,573, although the more expensive Alienware 17 and its Nvidia 980M card performed even better, at 8,190.
In less-demanding games, the difference between these systems wasn't quite as pronounced, as all three were capable of running Dota at full HD and ultra settings without ever dipping below that magical 60-frames-per-second line.
In Metro: Last Light at 1920 x 1080 and low settings, the P57W hit 114 fps, which is slightly lower than the Alienware 17's 124 fps but higher than the G572's 61 fps. However, when we bumped up the settings to high, the gap widened a bit: The P57W hit just 21 fps, versus the Alienware's 37 fps. The Asus G752 was even farther behind, at 17 fps.
When you compare the P57W to our current favorite sub-$1,000 gaming laptop, the Asus ROG GL552, the Gigabyte showed the difference between its 970M GPU and the 960M card in its competitor. In Rainbow Six Siege at 1920 x 1080 and high settings, the P57W pushed out a speedy 74 fps, while the ROG GL552 managed a less remarkable 42 fps. In Metro: Last Light at full HD on high settings, the GL552 also lagged behind the P57W, where it put out just 19 fps, which we consider to be unplayable.
Many big 17-inch gaming laptops struggle with battery life, but the P57W isn't one of them. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness), the P57W lasted 5 hours and 58 minutes -- more than an hour and a half longer than the 4:23 desktop-replacement average. The Alienware 17 lasted less than 10 minutes longer, with a time of 6:07, while Asus' G752 fell way behind, with a paltry time of 3:59.
Software and Warranty
The P57W comes with Windows 10, a handful of typical utilities and a few pretty interesting pieces of software. The most important of these is a free three-month trial of XSplit, which means you can jump straight into streaming your games on Twitch or YouTube as soon as you get the system.
I really like Gigabyte's Smart Manager app, which controls things such as fan speeds, font size and display calibration. And if you hit the Smart Dashboard button, the app launches into a system monitor that makes you feel like you're in the cockpit of a spaceship. From there, you can see updated info on your CPU temp, storage space and memory usage, which are helpful to track when you're trying to eke out every last bit of performance.
While I might bemoan the P57W's utter lack of style, when it comes to playing games on the go, does it really matter how many flashing lights are on your laptop? Because at $1,600, the Gigabyte's P57W is the kitchen sink of midrange gaming machines. You get pretty solid overall performance, a plethora of ports (including VGA and a Blu-ray player if you want it), a great matte display and really good battery life for a 17-inch gaming machine.
The few downsides include weird placement of the optical drive, and thermals that make your hands sweat while gaming. So even though the P57W is no match for $2,000+ laptops like a fully loaded Alienware 17, when it's compared to other machines in this price range, such as the Asus G752, the P57W is a better pick.