Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XD review: powerful, pricey and flawed

Gigabyte has released a minor update to the Aero 15 OLED, the flagship laptop aimed at gamers and creative professionals. Like last year’s model, this Aero 15 has a 4K OLED display and a decent port selection with Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.1. Like last year’s model, it has a slightly clunky aluminum design, a flashy RGB keyboard, a fingerprint sensor in the trackpad, and a webcam awkwardly placed under the display. The big change is that the Aero 15 now includes Intel’s latest 11th generation processors and Nvidia’s RTX 3070 graphics card.

The performance I saw here wasn’t a huge upgrade from the previous Aero 15, but it’s still some of the best gaming and productivity performance you’ll find on laptops of this size. The 60Hz display means you won’t be able to see the impressive frame rates of the new hardware, so many gamers can get a better experience from a device with a higher refresh rate display. But if you’ve got your eye on an OLED screen, either because you’re doing color work on the side or you just want your games and movies to look great, this device should get the job done (albeit in a loud and hot way). ).

The Aero model I have is $2,099 and includes Intel’s Core i7-11800H, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, in addition to the RTX 3070 and the 15.6-inch 4K OLED display. You can then upgrade the RAM to 64 GB and there are two M.2 storage slots. Gigabyte doesn’t actually sell this model yet, but it sells a identical model with 16GB of RAM for $1,999.

To go straight to the game: Red Dead Redemption 2 averages 80 fps on the ultra preset in 1080p, dropping to 37 fps in 4K. With all sliders maxed out manually, I had to go to the medium preset to get a playable 4K frame rate of 46 fps. Shadow of the Tomb Raider Rai ran at 104 fps in 1080p with ray tracing off and 81 fps with ray tracing on, and dropped to 48 fps and 29 fps in 4K, respectively. (With DLSS on, 52 fps and 38 fps). So you could play both titles in 4K if you wanted to, but you’d have to drop the settings to get to the 60fps sweet spot.

A more recent edition, Cyberpunk 2077, ran at 71 fps with ray tracing out and 30 fps with ray tracing maxed, dropping to 42 fps and 19 fps respectively in 4K (with DLSS on the quality setting). Note that because the Aero only has a 60Hz display, you can’t see the benefit of frame rates above 60fps.

The cooling system, which consists of two 71-blade fans and five heat pipes, kept the Core i7 at reasonable temperatures. While gaming, the CPU generally hovered below the mid 80s (Celsius) with occasional spikes to the high 80s or low 90s. However, the chassis itself was often quite warm on the keyboard and too hot on the keyboard. bottom to lay comfortably on my lap, even if I was only working in Chrome. The fans are also very, very loud in Gigabyte’s Turbo mode – someone walking by while I was doing a video export asked if the laptop wanted to take off.

The Aero logo and webcam on the Gigabyte Aero 15.

Yes, that’s the webcam.

Nvidia’s mobile GPUs can be a bit confusing because the same chip can deliver widely varying frame rates depending on wattage. The RTX 3070 of the Aero comes out with a power consumption of 105 W, just like the 3070 in the Aorus 15G. But Asus’ Zephyrus G15 comes in at 100W with dynamic boost, and Razer’s Blade 15 Base includes a 3070 with a maximum power consumption of 95W. Game performance will vary by title, but overall the Aero achieves similar frame rates to what we’ve seen both the Blade and Zephyrus produce at 1440p. They’re even a bit better than the gaming-focused Aorus (which still has a 10th Gen Intel processor). On the other hand, the RTX 3070 equipped Aorus with a 240Hz 1080p display costs just $1,799, highlighting the premium you pay for the Aero’s OLED display.

The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED keyboard seen from above on light blue.

You can customize the keyboard colors and effects.

Outside of the world of gaming, the Aero was more of a mixed bag. The laptop comes preloaded with a new proprietary Control Center application, which is powered by Microsoft’s Azure AI. In theory, this feature allows the computer to automatically switch between color, power, and performance profiles (Creator Mode, Gaming Mode, Meeting Mode, etc.) based on the application you are using. This was a cool idea, but changing my screen brightness and having a notification pop up every time I jumped in and out of Chrome or Steam was more of a nuisance than a help, so I ended up turning it off.

On the productivity side, the Aero raged through my usual workload, which included about a dozen Chrome tabs, Slack, Spotify, and the occasional photo work. Oddly enough, it didn’t do as well as its predecessor in our Premiere Pro test, which required exporting a 5 minute 33 second 4K video; This year’s Aero took four minutes and five seconds to complete the task, while its predecessor (the Aero 15 OLED XB) took just over two and a half – Gigabyte says this may have to do with the drivers. from Nvidia. It’s still one of the fastest times we’ve ever seen from a laptop; the Aorus 15G and the Blade 15 Base, with the same GPU, both lasted over six minutes, while the Dell XPS 15 with a GTX 1650 Ti lasted 4:23.

The Gigabyte Aero 15 open on a piano.  The screen shows a shot of Night City from Cyberpunk 2077 from a high office window.

The screen covers 100 percent of the sRGB gamut, 100 percent of AdobeRGB, and 100 percent of P3.

Premiere Pro exports are of course not a comparison between apples, as different versions can produce different results. On the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Pro, which tests both live playback and export performance with media in 4K and 8K resolutions, the Aero scored an 824. That’s one of the highest scores I’ve ever seen from a test unit, and it blows the competition away , proper beating of the Zephyrus G15, the Leaf 15, and the Aorus 15G, just like the Aero XB with an RTX 2070 Super Max Q. It’s more than double the score we’ve seen from the Dell XPS 15.

That’s a pretty impressive result, but you’ll have to make a few tradeoffs for that power. First, the battery life is a serious disappointment. Gigabyte claimed up to eight hours, but even on the Power Saver profile, the first Aero 15 unit I got only gave me about two hours. On a second device, I worked an average of three hours and four minutes continuously. That’s fine if you plan on never taking this thing anywhere (the 230W power brick is pretty hefty too), but for someone like me who often works on the go, that longevity isn’t great – mostly around $2,000. We’ve got five hours 45 minutes from the XPS 15 and over six hours from the Aorus 15G, so that’s worth considering if you’re a mobile user who likes the look of the Aero.

There are a few other things. The webcam has a handy physical shutter, but it’s also located directly above the keyboard, right below the Aero logo on the bottom bezel; it gives everyone you video chat with a great view of your nostrils. There’s a fingerprint sensor in the top left corner of the touchpad, which is handy, but my finger also bumped into it a few times while navigating. Finally, the keyboard is comfortable (it has a NumPad and a bit of a soft click), but the flashing RGB lights are quite visible and won’t necessarily be what everyone in an office or coffee shop wants.

The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED opened on a piano viewed from above, obliquely to the left.  The keyboard is illuminated in light blue.  The screen shows a desktop with a gray and white background.

I only wish it lasted longer.

All in all, the Aero is a good option for you if you’re looking for a powerful OLED laptop with plenty of punch. But its drawbacks – especially battery life and nosecam – are significant, and it’s worth considering whether you’re taking full advantage of the chips and 4K OLED in return.

None of the popular titles tested here, for example, are ideal for running in 4K at their maximum settings. And while the Aero 15 gets better frame rates than the Aorus in 1080p, you’ll still only see 60fps on the Aero, while the higher refresh rate screen on the Aorus lets you see more. And there’s also a litany of QHD laptops, including the Zephyrus G15 and the Blade 15, that can run games very well at that resolution – and they can certainly break 60 on some of the titles here.

That leaves content creators and other professionals planning to use the Aero as a work driver as the real audience for this device, and while this is certainly one of the most powerful laptops for that kind of workload, I wonder how many of these people are. okay with the short battery life and nose camera. Those may be sacrifices worth making for some people, but they are certainly in high demand.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge