I’ll start by being up front – I’m not the biggest fan of gaming laptops. In my opinion they’re generally too big, too bulky, performance is lacking, and they’re usually all around poor value as far as a gaming rig goes. But for those that really need one, there’s a big difference between the good and bad options, and I’ve got to say… the Gigabyte P57W looks pretty damn good on first impression.
Design & Build
Taking it out of the box, I was immediately surprised and impressed by how slim this laptop is. Powerful gaming laptops I’d dealt with in the past were all quite a bit bulkier, and while the P57W’s thickness of 24.9 mm was comparatively thicker than your regular ultrabook, it also seemed proportionate to its 421 mm width and 290 mm depth. Even better was the fact that this system only weighs a total of 2.9 kg.
My next point will probably be a dividing one… I like the fact that the P57W looks pretty much like a normal laptop, and there’s only a few small “gaming” accents. The top of the lid is simple, and features only the Gigabyte logo, small aerodynamic lines at the base and a slight point at the very front that might give a slight suggestion of the fact that there’s gaming hardware inside. Popping the lid open reveals a similarly subtle interior, with honestly only the slim orange lines on either side of the base, white squares on the WASD keys and the NVIDIA GTX sticker giving away the laptop’s true identity. Lastly, there’s same orange featured on the side of the hinges too.
Now, I’m honestly a fan of the look. It’s not over the top with LEDs, skulls or aliens, and the keyboard is only backlit in white – no RGBs here. This gaming laptop would honestly suit a “mature” adult who didn’t really want to advertise the fact that they’re carrying around a gaming laptop. For me, the absence of these features means that it’s simply not tacky, as so many other gaming laptops can be. So in summary, if you’re looking for something to knock your mate’s socks off with a wacky and jaw dropping appearance, this might not be the laptop for you.
Having said all that, the design is all around plastic and doesn’t give what I’d call a premium feel, but I think the absence of aluminium and rubberised surfaces has helped keep the cost, temperatures and weight down, which are all positives in my mind. The base of the unit is firm and doesn’t give any flex, and the lid is relatively strong too for a plastic cover.
To make any hardware upgrades or adjustments, you’ll need to remove the entire bottom cover of the chassis. There’s two RAM slots, which were filled with two 8GB sticks of DDR4 on my review unit, as well as an M.2 SSD slot and a 2.5” drive bay. There’s also a hot swappable bay at the front of the laptop where you can have an optical drive, additional storage, or nothing for a slight weight reduction.
Touchpad and Keyboard
The P57W is equipped with a full sized backlit keyboard which has two lighting levels that can be adjusted with the function key and spacebar. As mentioned, there’s no RGBs here – simple white backlighting. The chiclet style keys give a little bit of feedback and feature 30 key anti-ghost rollover, so you shouldn’t have any input problems there. They’re pretty quiet, and the travel distance is very short… which can be good or bad, depending on your preference.
The touchpad is nice and big, and works pretty well. It doesn’t feature any physical buttons, and instead the entire thing is clickable. There is a slight click noise and there is feedback when it’s pressed, and the essential two finger scrolling works out of the box. Overall I’d say the touchpad is good, but I think most gamers buying this laptop will likely carry around a portable mouse anyway.
Display & Audio
The P57W features a 17.3” full HD IPS display that’s honestly one of the best I’ve seen on a laptop. Seemingly 3K and 4K displays are getting more and more popular, but I think 1080p is perfect for a gaming laptop like this. While 17.3” is monstrous for a laptop, it’s not actually large for your eyeballs, meaning Windows needs to be scaled up. In my opinion even Windows 10 is pretty poor at doing this consistently and well across the board, and the experience can be frustrating at the least.
1080p is also perfect for gaming on this system. I’ll come to performance later, but you can probably guess that it’s not going to be pumping out high quality graphics settings at anything higher than 1080p, so running games at its true 1080p resolution is optimal. Scaling down from a higher res can look blurry, and if you want to avoid this and run at the full res then you’d have to be prepared to turn down a bunch of graphical settings.
The coating on the screen is matte, meaning it’s anti-glare performance is good. Thanks to an excellent IPS panel, the display itself is awesome. IPS is fantastic for colour, contrast and viewing angle, giving you 178 degrees to look at your screen from. The brightness is great too, and honestly, I didn’t notice too much of a quality difference coming from my Dell 30” IPS panel, apart from the resolution and size obviously. Unfortunately, NVIDIA’s G-Sync is not supported.
The speakers on the laptop are found at the front, underneath the palm rest. This means they perform best when the laptop is sitting on a flat, solid surface. The sound is much what you’d expect – it’s loud for a laptop, and there is a hint of bass, so they’re fine for the occasional YouTube video or TV show when you’re desperate, but a good set of headphones will be much more suitable… Plus the whole world doesn’t want to hear you running through the grass in Dark Souls anyway.
Inputs & Outputs
Taking a tour around the edges of the laptop you’ll find a wealth and variety of inputs and outputs. Starting on the left hand side, you’ll find the lock slot, ethernet port, and two USB 3 ports. Next to these are just the SD card reader, and the mic and headphone ports.
Swinging around to the right hand side, we’ve got the power port, VGA output, mini DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, USB 3.1 Type C, and one more USB 3.0 port. I thought it was great to see the variety of display output types, as well as three USB 3.0 ports and the inclusion of USB Type C.
Specs & Performance
Finally, it’s time to get to the good stuff! Let’s check out the specs and performance. There’s a full specs list in the video description, so I’ll just go over the important bits here. Powering the gaming in this bad boy is Nvidia’s GTX 970M, equipped with 3GB of VRAM and should be just about perfect for pushing most of today’s games at 1080p.
The CPU in the P57W is an absolute weapon for a notebook. It features Intel’s Skylake Core i7-6700HQ processor, boasting four cores with hyperthreading. With a base clock of 2.6 GHz and a Turbo Boost speed of 3.5 GHz, you have on board an impressively powerful CPU for all kinds of purposes, and an almost excessive amount of power for gaming.
As mentioned, there’s two RAM slots allowing a maximum of 32GB via two 16GB sticks. The P57W comes standard with two 8GB DDR4 2133 sticks, for a total of 16GB… Which is plenty for just about anything you’re likely to be doing on this laptop, especially gaming.
Storage-wise, the P57W comes standard with a 256GB LITEON M.2 PCIe SSD, which should support massive transfer speeds. The secondary drive is a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive. Aside from there, there’s wireless-AC, Bluetooth, and a 720p webcam integrated.
Now let’s get to the good stuff. How does this thing perform in our benchmarks? I’ve run a few benchmarks and some of the latest games to give you a good idea of how it stacks up. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of gaming laptops to compare it to, but you can get a good idea by how it performs relative to our desktop GPU results. All tests were run of course at 1080p, with the maximum in game quality settings.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3
First up I threw Call of Duty: Black Ops III at this portable gaming machine, and as expected, performance was basically exactly on par with the GTX 960. Averaged over three tests, I got 61 fps on average compared to 60 from the GTX 960 in my standard test system.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Next up was the quite demanding Rise of the Tomb Raider title, and here again the performance was very, very similar to the GTX 960. The P57W managed to produce 56 fps on average, with a minimum of 36.
The last game on the testing block is The Division, where once again, performance was on par with the desktop GTX 960. Here the P57W was good for 35 fps at max settings, with a minimum of 28.
To test the battery’s overall performance, I used Futuremark’s Powermark software. This automatically runs the system through an intense combination of multimedia, gaming simulation, and general use such as web browsing to see what kind of battery performance you can expect at the very least. My P57W lasted 4 hours and 11 minutes in this test. I haven’t personally tested other gaming laptops, but my research around the web tells me that this is a really good score, eclipsing the likes of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 and the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro.
Pure Gaming Battery Test
To run the battery further through it’s paces, I charged it to full, unplugged the cord, and got stuck into ARK: Survival Evolved to see how long it would last. I was playing with the Medium quality preset, with Antialiasing dialed down from Epic to Medium, and getting around a 45 fps average. The battery lasted here for 1 hour and 19 minutes… So no surprises here. If you want to game, you’ll want to be plugged in… But it is still possible to eek out a little playing time if you’re desperate.
Cooling, Noise, & the Power Adapter
It’s winter here in Melbourne, and honestly the P57W was a great little lap heater! But of course like all powerful laptops… or any laptop really, a lot of heat comes out of the bottom. This is aided by two rear facing vents that allow the fans to pump heat out there too though. I found the fans spun audibly at all times, though they definitely aren’t intrusively loud. Gigabyte’s Smart Manager software allows you to control the fan speeds a little, with four different profiles, but I didn’t bother messing with these much. The Normal profile seemed to do the job.
The power adapter and cable totals a little over 3m long, and is big, but not ridiculously big, and is rated for 180W.
I knew going into this review I’d have to put my dislike of gaming laptops aside, and I was worried it would be pretty tough to do so. But the P57W actually made it quite easy. I was perhaps most impressed by the form factor. When I read the specs, I was expecting a chunky mother of a system, but was pleasantly surprised at how thin and light the overall chassis was.
Then opening up the lid, the screen really impressed me. The 17.3” 1080p IPS panel felt bigger than it actually was, and of course the IPS quality was better than anything I’d seen on a laptop before. The keyboard and touchpad are fine.. Nothing mindblowing but they do the job. The inputs and outputs are very satisfactory too.
The hardware inside the P57W is very impressive too, and very suitable for its 1080p panel. The 6700HQ CPU is almost overpowered for this application, and the 970M is great for 1080p gaming too. Some users might be disappointed by having only two RAM slots, however I think being able to squeeze 32GB in there is realistically plenty… hell, the standard 16GB is plenty.
Lastly, the little extras like the hot-swappable 2.5” drive bay and decent speakers make this a very nice overall package. The only thing I really see as lacking was the exception of Nvidia’s G-Sync support, however I can definitely forgive Gigabyte here based on the quality of the display otherwise.
Coming in at $1,699 USD, or available in Australia for around $2050 AUD, the P57W is fairly priced. While I still wouldn’t ever recommend a gaming laptop over a desktop for anyone that doesn’t truly need the portability, as far as they go, the P57W from Gigabyte is an excellent option. What do you think of the P57W? Is it a gaming laptop you’ll be considering?