Although Gigabyte is not among the largest laptop manufacturers on the market, they’ve been building some highly praised enthusiast devices for quite a while now. In fact, their Aero 15s have been among the best ultraportable gaming laptops money could buy in the last few years, but due to their limited availability here in Europe, we’ve rarely covered them on UltrabookReview.com in the past.
We’ve used the early-2019 Gigabyte Aero 15 X9 as our daily driver during the last week, and gathered all our impressions down below, with its strong points and quirks you’d better be aware of before buying one.
This builds on the design and characteristics of the 2018 models, keeping the clean aesthetics, sturdy construction, full-size keyboard, complete IO and large-battery, but with updated RTX graphics. The Aero 15 X9 is the entry-level model in the 2019 lineup, with a Core i7 processor, 144 Hz FHD screen and RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics, but other options also include a Core i9 processor, RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics and a wide-gamut 4K screen. As an all-rounder with some solid gaming abilities, the X9 we’ve tested is the better value configuration, while the upgraded models could provide an alternative for creators who need a faster processor and especially that 100% AdobeRGB display.
We’ll take you through this laptop’s important traits, but especially focus on the performance, thermals, and software, as these are the significant updates of the 2019 versions.
Disclaimer: Our review unit is a pre-production sample loaned to us by Gigabyte, for the purpose of this article.
The specs sheet
|Gigabyte Aero 15 X9 – 2019 model|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, 144 HZ, matte|
|Processor||Intel Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H, six-core|
|Video||Intel HD 630 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q (8GB GDDR6 vRAM)|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (2x 16 GB DIMMs)|
|Storage||1 TB SSD (M.2 80 mm NVMe – Intel 760p SDPEKKW010T8) + 1 empty M.2 slot|
|Connectivity||Killer 1550i Wireless AC with Bluetooth 5.0, Killer E2500 Gigabit LAN|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, 1x USB-C gen2, HDMI 2.0, LAN, UHS II SD card reader, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||94.24 Wh, 230 W power adapter|
|Size||356 mm or 14” (w) x 250 mm or 9.8” (d) x 18.9 mm or .74” (h)|
|Weight||2.1 kg (6.63 lb), .80 kg (1.76 lbs) power brick, EU version|
|Extras||per-key RGB backlit keyboard with NumPad, 2x 2W stereo speakers, HD webcam|
Gigabyte also offers an Aero 15 Y9 variant of this laptop, identical in every way except for the fact that it comes with RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics. Both lines are available in multiple hardware configurations and with a choice of the FHD 144 Hz or an UHD 60 Hz screen with 100% AdobeRGB coverage. Last years’ GTX 1070 model is still available in most regions and worth at least a look if you’re shopping on a lower budget.
Design and exterior
In a few words, the Aero 15 is a compact 15-inch laptop with a utilitarian design and rock-solid build quality. I doubt any of you would complain about the sturdy construction, but the looks, well, it might not be for everyone.
This laptop is entirely made out of black painted aluminum, with a handful of stickers on the inside (that you should peel off) and a backlit Gigabyte logo on the hood, which is lit independently from the panel, and as far as I can tell, cannot be switched off. That aside, there are no other pesky accents or lights, but the Power button is always lit and placed just beneath the screen, so you’ll notice it when watching a movie at night. All in all though, even if simple in most ways, the logo, the overly-crafted edges and the tacky piece of carbon-fiber finishing on the lid just make this feel less exquisite than the Razer Blade or the MSI GS65 Stealth, at least in my eyes.
Both the main deck and the hood feel sturdy on this computer, with little to no flex or creaks, like with some of the other thin-and-light alternatives. Gigabyte also managed to keep their device compact and light, despite the fact that they actually squeezed powerful hardware and a large 94 Wh battery inside, as well as a full set of ports on the sides, with USB A and C slots (with support for Thunderbolt 3), HDMI for video output, a LAN connector for wired Internet access and even a fast SD UHS II card-reader. This is without a doubt the best IO in the class, and the most commonly used ports are conveniently placed on the left edge.
That was made possible by the cooling’s design. Unlike most other thin and lights that use part of the lateral edges for cooling, the Aero only draws hot air from the bottom and pushes it out through a grill behind the hinge. The design allows good airflow though, as the hinge does not obstruct the output in any way and the actual panel is far away from the vents, but at the same time that translates in a fairly chunky chin. Gigabyte also placed the webcam and microphones down here on the chin, pushing the screen up in an ergonomic position and flanking it with narrow bezels at the top and on the sides.
In fact, this is, for the most part, a very practical computer. The screen is held in place by a stiff hinge mechanism which can still be adjusted with a single hand and allows it to lean to about 140 degrees on the back, grippy rubber feet keep it well anchored on a desk and the palm-rest is spacious enough for comfortable desk or lap use. The black finishing shows smudges easily though, the keyboard is offset to the left due to the fact that it includes a NumPad, and the front edge and corners are sharp and bitty on the wrists, which can get annoying when typing in cramped spaces, without proper arm support.
These aside though, there’s little not to like about this laptop. Yes, it’s black and utilitarian in design, as well as perhaps a bit tacky here and there, but I’m pretty sure many of you will actually like. If only there would be a way to shut off that pesky logo on the hood!
Keyboard and trackpad
The Aero 15 is one of the very few 15-inch ultraportables available with a full-size keyboard and a full-sized NumPad. Yes, the arrows are a bit cramped between the other keys, but they’re full-size as well, and pretty much any key is where it should be. Heavy typist might prefer a centered keyboard without the NumPad section and perhaps a more spaced-out layout, but if you do want the NumPad, this is the best layout you’ll find in this class.
Typing on the Aero is a mixed bag though, as the keys feel stiff and require a firm and exact press in order to actuate. The actuation force of 80 g, stroke depth of 1.6 mm and the unforgiving click that won’t register a command if you hit the keys on the sides or corners, all make this rather uncomfortable to type on, at least for me, as I’m used to shorter strokes and softer feedback.
As a result, I could still type fairly fast on the Aero, but the accuracy dropped beneath 90% from my average 96-97%. I especially had a hard time capitalizing letters when pressing the left Shift key with my pinkie, and I also noticed chattering on the O key, which often registered a single press as a double. Chattering has been a documented issue for the Aero 15 in the last years, and while Gigabyte claimed to have addressed it with software updates, it’s still not entirely eradicated. According to this thread (subsection Chattering), this is a hardware issue of the high-resistance rubber domes, can randomly affect some keys and there’s no fix if you end up with a faulty implementation. Thus, make sure to properly test each key if you’re getting one of these laptops.
On top of that, due to the hard press and fairly deep stroke, this keyboard is also a little noisy and will attract raised eyebrows attention in quiet work/school environments.
What Gigabyte did well is the backlighting though, with adjustable bright LEDs and per-key control in the included app. The fonts on the other end might not appeal to everyone, as the writing is rather narrow and looks utilitarian, in line with the laptop’s overall design. Most OEMs go for custom fonts on their computers though, and it’s up to you to choose the one you like best.
The clickpad is made out of glass and averagely sized. It’s an Elan surface and gets Precision drivers on our unit, so works well with swipes, taps, and gestures, albeit it does rattle a bit when taped firmer. The physical clicks are pretty good too, smooth and quiet.
The Aero also lacks any sort of biometric login options with support for Windows Hello.
For the screen, Asus went with a matte IPS FHD 144 Hz panel made by LG on our test unit, the LGD05C0 variant used on the previous Gigabyte Aero 15 X8, but also similar to the screen inside the Razer Blade 15 Advanced.
This is a pretty good panel for daily use and fairly good for gaming as well, due to the short response times and high refresh rate, even if GSync is not supported. It is, however, worth mentioning that the AU Optronics 144 Hz panel you’ll find on other thin-and-light gaming laptops like the MSI GS65 Stealth or Acer Predator Triton 500 offer slightly faster response times (10-11 ms vs 14-17 ms), as well as higher contrast and even higher peak-brightness in some implementations.
I should also add that last year’s Aero 15 v8 actually shipped with the AU Optronics AUO82ED in some regions, so that might still happen with the 2019 model.
Anyway, we only measured around 250 nits of peak brightness on our sample, and you’ll notice that other reviews mention a higher brightness of around 300 nits for the same panel. That’s because our tool (Sypder4) measures brightness and contrast by quickly switching between a white and black image, while other methods measure black and white points after having them on the screen for a longer period of time. Nonetheless, we test all our samples with this method and the LG LGD05C0 on this implementation proved to be about 5-15% dimmer than most of the AU Optronics alternatives.
- Panel Hardware ID: LG Philips LGD05C0 (-);
- Coverage: 98% sRGB, 70% NTSC, 75% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.0;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 250 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 590:1;
- White point: 7400 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.42 cd/m2;
- PWM: No;
- Response time: ~17 ms GtG.
We also noticed a fair bit of light bleeding around the bottom edge of the panel, where the bezel pinches on the screen. Most buyers haven’t complained about light bleeding on their 2018 Aero models, so we probably drew a short straw with our sample. Light bleeding is random these days, so make sure to buy your device from places that allow returns, just in case you’re just as “lucky”.
As far as calibration goes, Gigabyte advertises the Aero 15 X9 to be Pantone Validated, and we used the Pantone profile for our tests. The results are pretty good, but the blueish White Point and skewed gamma can still be further tweaked with calibration. Our calibrated profile is available over here.
Gigabyte also offers a UHD screen option for the Aero 15, with 60 Hz refresh-rate and 100% AdobeRGB coverage, making it a potential option for content creators that need a high-resolution color accurate display. I just couldn’t find the exact panel Gigabyte is using on this option. This is nonetheless something you’ll have to pay extra and an option that will take a toll on battery life, thus for the most buyers, the FHD 144 Hz is still the one to get, especially if gaming is among your priorities.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is the base-level configuration of the Gigabyte Aero 15 X9, with the Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM (added 16 GB later), the Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics chip and a 1 TB NVMe SSD.
Before we proceed to talk about its behavior and performance you should know that our review unit is an early pre-production model with early drivers from Nvidia (Version 417.71), thus some of the aspects covered in this section might improve/change with later-on updates and tweaks.
This laptop gets two slots for RAM and two M.2 slots for storage. Ours came with a fast 1 TB Intel 760p SDPEKKW010T8 SSD and a single stick of Samsung 2666 Mhz RAM, however, we upgraded the memory with an extra 16 GB stick (same kind), in order to run our benchmarks and gaming tests on both single and dual-channel memory and demonstrate the quite significant differences between them.
Getting to the components is easy and requires you to remove the bottom panel, hold in place by a handful of Torx screws. Inside you’ll get easy access to the RAM and storage slots, the wireless module, the battery, and the entire cooling system, which makes the Aero 15 one of the easiest laptops to upgrade in its category.
As for the CPU and GPU, our configuration gets the standard six-core i7-8750H processor available on all similar laptops, as well as a Max-Q implementation of the Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics chip, with 8 GB of GDDR6 VRAM, 885 MHz default clock speeds and the ability to Turbo at higher speeds. We’ll talk about both the CPU/GPU performance down below.
We’ll also show you what to expect in terms of performance, thermals and power drain with everyday activities like browsing, typing or watching video content, while on battery. The Aero runs quiet and merely warm with daily use, and thanks to the Optimus technology it can also last for a long while on each charge. We’ll get to that in a further section.
OK, let’s finally talk about this laptop’s performance.
First, we test the CPU’s behavior in demanding loads by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, with 2-3 sec delay between each run, which simulates a 100% load on all the cores. For our tests, we used the High-Performance mode from the included Gigabyte Control Center app and kept the AI feature on the Ai Cloud option.
This piece of software is a novelty of the 2019 Aeros and offers two profiles: Ai Edge and Ai Cloud, both meant to adapt voltage, frequencies and fan speeds in order to offer the best performance for a given load. AI Edge does the computing locally, based on previous use, while AI Cloud syncs with Microsoft’s Cloud and applies recommended tweaks based on a larger pool of data. Of course, there’s also the option to switch Ai Off and manually tweak your system, which we’ll talk about in a second. However, I expect most people to keep with the default settings, that’s why we first ran benchmarks on this scenario.
Out of the box, the CPU settles for around 3.4 GHz after several Cinebench runs, scores of around 60 points, a TDP of 60+ W and temperatures of around 90 degrees Celsius. Those are some pretty high TDP and Temperatures for such frequencies, which means that the CPU is Thermally throttled in these kinds of loads.
XTU came preinstalled out of the box, and as far as I can tell, is used on our sample by the AI to automatically apply a slightly tweaked profile: +10 mV voltage offset and 52W Turbo Boost Power Max. The voltage is high for the i7-8750H, so we proceed to undervolt.
For that, we first had to switch Ai to Off, as it would otherwise overwrite any manual tweaks, and we also switched the fan to Max speeds. Our sample was perfectly stable at -150 mV, which translated in constant scores of around 1150 points, speeds of around 3.6 GHz, a TDP of 52 W and temperatures in the very low 80s.
The frequencies are limited by the fact that Power Limit Throttling kicks in, and it is possible to push the Turbo Boost Power Max limit higher, at around 60 W, which will return flawless CPU performance and constant scores of around 1200 points, with temperatures in the mid 80s, while the fans ran on max speeds (and as a result, noisy, at around 54-56 dB). Either way, unless you really want to push for that last 3-4% increase in performance, I’d rather keep the TDP limit at 52 W and take the lower CPU temperatures in demanding loads. That’s especially something I’d recommend when running gaming and other mixed CPU/GPU loads, as the two use a shared cooling solution, so the lower CPU temperatures will leave more thermal headroom for the GPU.
We’ll also mention that our sample performed well on battery, returning scores of around 1050 points in Cinebench on the undervolted profile, with the CPU hitting Current Limit Throttling and settling at around 3.4 – 3.5 GHz.
Next, we’ve included a set of benchmarks, for those of you interested in numbers. We ran them on the Standard profile described above, with Ai Cloud and High-Performance power mode from the Control Center, but with just a single stick of RAM running in single channel:
- 3DMark 11: P17524 (Physics – 9558, Graphics – 24526);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 16103 (Graphics – 19554, Physics – 13979);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7064 (Graphics – 7421, CPU – 5551);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 4128;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4486;
- PCMark 10: 5384;
- PassMark: Rating: 6118, CPU mark: 14002, 3D Graphics Mark: 12414;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 4097, Multi-core: 22242;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 4995, Multi-core: 21763;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 112.70 fps, CPU 1102 cb, CPU Single Core 175 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 203.79 fps, Pass 2 – 66.75 fps.
Then we reran some of the benchmarks on the same profile, but with two stick of RAM, which allows the memory to work in dual-channel. Here’s what we got:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 16632 (Graphics – 20559, Physics – 14709);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7251 (Graphics – 7802, CPU – 5180);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 4241;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4781;
Then we switched Ai to OFF, applied the CPU’s -150 mV undervolting and tried to rerun some of the tests. However, for some reason, the GPU clocked at lower frequencies than when keeping the AI on Cloud, which actually resulted in poorer results in games and benchmarks. We’ll talk about that at the end of this section.
For now, let’s address the gaming experience. We ran a couple of games representative for DX11, DX12, and Vulkan architectures, on the Standard profile with Ai on Edge, and then on the standard profile with dual-channel memory, Ai OFF and AI on Edge Here’s what we got:
|FHD Standard Ai||FHD Dual||FHD Dual Ai|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)||– fps||– fps||86 fps|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON, DLSS ON)||– fps||– fps||66 fps|
|Doom (Vulkan, Ultra Preset, TSSAA)||– fps||– fps||118 fps|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)||72 fps||86 fps||89 fps|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)||110 fps||109 fps||117 fps|
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)||66 fps||92 fps||93 fps|
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)||63 fps||73 fps||67 fps|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)||– fps||– fps||86 fps|
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3, Doom – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the in
Battlefield was tested with the latest update launched on Feb 13th, which improves RTX performance.
Down below you’ll find several HWinfo logs of the frequencies and temperatures recorded while running some of the games above. You’ll notice that the GPU reaches a peak TDP of around 95W and max Turbo frequencies of 1770 MHz, however, those are not sustainable in games, where it settles for around 80 W and clocks of around 1350-1400 MHz. That’s due to thermal limitations at both the CPU and GPU levels, as the CPU runs at temperatures of around low-90s and the GPU at mid-80s.
Undervolting the CPU and switching Ai on OFF is logged in the following screen. That allows the CPU to run at higher frequencies, but still at very high temperatures, while the GPU runs a few degrees cooler, but at lower frequencies of around 1200 MHz, which also explains the poor benchmarks results above. This behavior remained consistent in other demanding games as well.
That’s unusual, especially as others have been able to get improved gaming performance with manual settings, and I’d reckon it had something to do with the set of drivers and the pre-production status of our review unit. Either way, we decided not to pursue this any further, so we did not further venture into overclocking the GPU. I’m pretty sure there is however room for improvement with the following manual settings: CPU undervolted at -150 mV and perhaps frequency capped somewhere around 3.2 or 3.6 GHz in order to prevent overheating, the GPU overclocked (at least a 100 MHz Core boost should be doable) and fans kept on Max Speed in order to cool this properly. Either way, that’s finer tweaking than required on the other thin-and-light implementations out there.
With that in mind, there’s also the question of whether this chassis and cooling can handle the i9-8950HK processor and RTX 2080 graphics implemented in the higher specked Aero 15 Y9 configuration. I’d expect some improvement over the X9 model in CPU loads and perhaps even in games, but not enough to justify the significant price jump.
As for the AI Settings, surprisingly our unit actually performed better in games with the Ai setting on Cloud than with it disabled, but with more mature drivers I’d expect those willing to fine tweak the settings to get better performance with manual adjustments. There might be a future for this kind of software though for regular users that would rather prefer a laptop that just works out of the box, able to provide quiet and long runtimes with daily use, but at the same time squeeze great performance when required. This is still in its infancy, but machine learning is a powerful tool, and it might become useful down the road.
I should also add that I find Gigabyte’s Control Center software a little finicky and outdated in terms of design, even if it’s actually a redesign of the interface used in the past.
There’s good functionality baked into it, with a single interface that offers access to the Power Modes, software update, control over the keyboard’s illumination and fan modes, including the ability to set custom fan profiles, but some of these are glitchy and didn’t always work as expected. For instance, the Power Saving mode did not allow the CPU to clock down to 800 MHz, so I had to manually tweak this from the Windows settings, the keyboard would sometimes switch off and refuse to come back when pressing Fn+ Space, and the fan manager does not allow to completely switch the fans off, but only to as low as 30% of their max rpm. There’s also no GPU overclocking profile, something you’ll find with some of the competitors.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The Aero 15 gets a fairly simple cooling design, with two large fans and two heat pipes that spread on top of both the CPU/GPU and VRM. On top of that, unlike on other laptops which surround the fans with heatpipes and radiator fins on two sides and suck air from both the bottom and the edges, this only sucks fresh air from the bottom and gets smaller radiators.
As a result, I’m not surprised the CPU and GPU run hot on this laptop, in fact, the hottest of any thin-and-light RTX implementations we’ve reviewed so far. High CPU/GPU temperatures have been reported on past Aero 15s as well, and it seems that even repasting or applying LM instead won’t help to lower them much, thus potential buyers will just have to accept them for what they are.
I’m also not surprised that the aluminum outer-shell reaches high temperatures as well, but mostly around the exhausts and on the underbelly, as the keyboard area and palm-rest remain rather cool even with long gaming sessions, so this won’t be perceived as uncomfortable by potential users. In fact, the keyboard area actually stays cooler than on other gaming ultraportables, which means that Gigabyte did a great job at insulating the components and radiators from the inner deck, mostly by placing the cooling underneath the motherboard, and not between the motherboard and the keyboard like MSI, Asus or Acer do on their devices.
As far as noise goes, the two fans inside are active all the time, even with daily use, but at barely audible levels of around 35 dB, so you’re only going to notice them in perfectly quiet environments. That changes with gaming, as the Ai Cloud profile pushes them to high rpms and noise levels of around 50-51 dB on our implementation, while manually switching them to Max pushes noise levels to about 54-55 dB, both at head level.
*Daily Use, AI on Cloud – Netflix clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load, Fans on Gaming (~51 dB), AI on Cloud – playing FarCry 5 for approximately 30+ minutes on ultra FHD settings
For connectivity, there’s Wireless AC and Bluetooth on this laptop, through a Killer 1550i implementation of the Intel 9560 wi-fi module, but also Gigabit Lan through a Killer E2500 module. We’ve mostly used our unit on wireless and aside from the fact that it doesn’t reach the speeds of other implementations with our router, there’s nothing to complain about, as it offers stable signal strength and speeds both near the router and at 30+ feet, with walls in between.
The audio is ensured by a pair of fairly punchy speakers that fire through grills on the underbelly. Given their size, they’re louder than I was expecting at about 78-80 dB, however, the quality is only average at best, with decent mids and high, but very little at the lower end, so you’ll find better with some of the other ultraportables in the niche. The included Nahimic software can tweak out the output to some degree, but it can’t do wonders.
As for the webcam, it’s a standard HD cam and is placed beneath the screen, in the middle, but it’s merely a nose-cam with mediocre image quality. I doubt you’ll want to use this often, if at all.
Gigabyte puts a 94 Wh battery inside the Aero, which paired with Optimus should offer excellent battery life with daily use. In fact, that is one of the laptop’s main selling points over the competition, when it actually works properly.
It didn’t on our sample, but we managed to fix it in the end. Battery life issues have been documented on the 2017/2018 Aero models, and they were mostly caused by either the dGPU being active when it should not, or by the Intel CPU running at abnormally high wattage even when clocking down to 800 MHz. Both are explained in this detailed article, under “Battery life variance”. The latter occurred on our test unit, and I just couldn’t find a way to tame down the CPU, no matter what I tried (updating to various Nvidia drivers, including those officially suggested by the Control Center, tinkering with the AI mods or Throttlestop to find consumers, etc).
Bellow is what we got on the Power Saver profile from the Control Center, as well as on the Balanced Power profile from Windows, while the laptop sits idle.
In the end, I also decided to reset Windows to default settings, without any of the Gigabyte software, and that finally brought things to normal and allowed us to run our standard battery life tests. Here’s what we got, with the screen set at 40% brightness, which is roughly 120 nits.
- 13.5 W (~7 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11.5 W (~8 h of use) – 1080p Youtube fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11 W (~8 h 30 min of use) – 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 24 W (~4 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
However, you’ll actually have to install at least some of the Gigabyte software to use this laptop at its full potential, as you’ll at least need the Control Center to control Power modes, the fans, the keyboard’s shortcuts and illumination, as well as Nahimic to tweak out the sound. Installing these two didn’t interfere with the battery drain, however, we noticed performance issues on this clean install, with the dGPU no longer working at maximum potential in demanding loads. We didn’t get to further investigate at this point and just gave up, restored the computer to its default settings from the Restore partition, and call it a day. Hopefully, you won’t have to go through this ordeal with retail versions.
The Aero 15 X9 charges via a standard barrel-plug and Gigabyte pairs the laptop with a 230 W charger, adequately sized for the hardware inside. A full charge takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. Charging via the USB-C port is not possible.
Price and availability
The Gigabyte Aero 15 is shipping from the end of January 2019, with prices starting at around $2400 in the US and 2700 EUR in Europe, for the RTX 2070 models with i7-8750H CPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 1 TB SSD and the FHD 144 Hz screen option.
Configurations with the Intel Core i9-8950HK processor, 32 GB of RAM, the UHD screen and the Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU are also available, for as high as $4000.
There’s good value in the base version, and while other thin-and-lights start at lower prices, don’t forget that the Aero gets a 1 TB SSD instead. Even so, though, if you’re unit ships with a single stick of RAM (and it probably will), you’ll have to either replace that with 2x 8 GBs or buy an extra 16 GB stick (around $130) in order to benefit from dual-channel memory, which actually makes a big difference in games, as demonstrated in the article.
There are a few aspects the Aero 15 does better than most, if not all of the other 15-inch thin-and-light performance laptops on the market: it’s built like a tank, it includes a complete set of ports and a full-size keyboard with a NumPad section, it lasts longer than other options on a charge, it’s configurable and easy to open up and upgrade, and actually feels the most comfortable of all the options out there while gaming, as the surfaces that you actually come in touch with remain cooler than on other devices. It also performs well, albeit some of the competitors outmatch at in this department, mostly due to its more spartan cooling system that struggles inside this compact chassis.
However, there are also quite a few antagonizing aspects to keep in mind. For starters, there’s the design, simple, but at the same time, a bit dated. Then there’s the unforgiving and tiresome keyboard, which requires firm and precise strokes on each key and won’t allow your fingers to stray away without punishment. Then there’s the fact that the hardware components run very hot in taxing chores and games, hotter than on any other thin-and-light performance computers, and the heat is also translated on to the chassis, mostly on the underbelly and the area around the exhausts. Then there are also the average speakers.
Lastly, there’s the price. The 2019 models start at $2399, and you’ll probably have to pay extra to upgrade the RAM to benefit from dual-channel memory. Gigabyte opted for a 1 TB SSD on the base models, instead of 256/512 GB SSDs, which pushes the price a bit high. As a result, you can find compact RTX 2070 configurations for a few hundred less in the Asus Zephyrus S, Acer Predator Triton 500 or the Dell Alienware m15, or for about the same price in perhaps more refined products like the Razer Blade 15 Advanced or the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, all with less storage. That doesn’t mean the Aero 15 X9 is overpriced in rapport to the competition, I’m just saying that a smaller SSD on the base models would have made this more attractive. As it is, some might just find it too expensive for a Gigabyte laptop, and look past the fact that it bundles a big SSD out of the box.
All in all, I can see why so many swear by the Aero 15, but also why threads like this one exist on the forums. It’s more a utilitarian and gimmicky product than the other options in its already narrow niche, with its share of unique strong-points, but also potential deal-breaking quirks. On top of that, the chances of you running into Quality Control issues is another aspect to consider, so if you decide this is the right pick for you, make sure to buy from a place that handles warranty claims and post-sale support impeccably, in the eventuality you’ll need these services later on.
As far as the rating goes, I cannot rate it based on my experience with this pre-production sample, due to the issues with the AI software and battery life I explained in the article. Without those, the Aero 15 X9 would earn a 4 out of 5, as the unforgiving keyboard is just not for me, but my main nit is with those high CPU/GPU temperatures that I cannot easily accept in my computer, knowing that other options offer similar or better performance at lower temperatures. Hopefully, Gigabyte redesigns the cooling on the next-gen Aero 15, it could really use an update imo.
Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief of Ultrabookreview.com. I’ve been covering mobile computers since the 2000s and you’ll mostly find reviews and thorough guides written by me here on the site.