The ideal notebook is a machine that can run double duty — it needs to handle the dreary everyday office work like typing and basic productivity tasks, but then after work it can be used for some friendly inter-office Counter-Strike, or lugged home for a marathon session of Star Citizen or The Division.
Gigabyte’s newest P37X laptop looks like the kind of machine that you’d use in an office job, but under the hood it has the grunt to play the latest PC titles at smooth frame rates.
It doesn’t look flashy or overpowered — not like a gaming laptop at all, really. The circa-$3249 P37X chassis is, save a few rounded edges, a straightforward rectangle-on-rectangle-on-rectangle. Its 417x287mm body, an appropriate size given the 17-inch screen hiding inside, is just 22.5mm thick. Sure, that’s thicker than a MacBook Pro, but this laptop has some much more powerful hardware inside. But it doesn’t look like it — the dark grey design and distinct lack of flashy lights mean it’d easily blend in at your Boring Office Job.
It has more than enough power under the hood for 2016’s toughest games. The v5 update of the P37X adds support for the latest sixth-generation Intel CPUs, in this particular case the top non-overclockable mobile spec i7-6700HQ. That’s backed up by a healthy serving of 16GB of 2133MHz DDR4 RAM, although the maximum that can be installed in the two-slot setup is 32GB. All of this runs on Intel’s newest and greatest HM170 mobile chipset — and so this machine has as much grunt as your home desktop PC.
The crowning glory of the P37X is the fact that it runs Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980M, the company’s most powerful mobile-grade gaming graphics card. It certainly doesn’t look like it should have one inside, but the 980M can handle any modern game — I ran it through a host of new titles, including the new Need For Speed, at 1080p and high or maximum quality settings without dropping below a playable 30fps threshold. It’s good to see a gaming laptop that can walk the talk.
It stays cool, but at the cost of some seriously loud fans (at full power). When you’re doing Boring Office Job things on it, the P37X stays perfectly cool and quiet, which is a testament as much to Gigabyte’s cooling design as it is to the laptop’s large heat-dispersing body. But push the CPU to its max and start leaning on the integrated Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M, all that heat needs to get out. When they’re running at full power, the P37X’s fans are loud — at least they don’t have to spend long there to cool it back down.
The keyboard and mouse are both OK, but won’t be winning any prizes. I’ve typed a couple of longer reviews and features on the P37X keyboard over the last couple of weeks, and it’s certainly serviceable enough to get the job done, but it doesn’t have the precise feel of Gigabyte’s other Aorus laptop keyboards or a much larger standalone keyboard. Similarly, the trackpad certainly gets the job done, but it’s a bit small and feels somewhat vague when used at lower sensitivity levels.
Dual SSDs in RAID means it has some phenomenally fast storage. Gigabyte lets you spec out the P37X with a total of four storage slots, if you need it — there are two M.2 slots into which extremely fast SSDs like the Samsung 950 Pro can be installed, one internal 2.5-inch drive bay and one flexi-slot used by default for an optical disk drive but that can be swapped for another 2.5-inch. This is the perfect combo in a laptop — fast SSDs for games and Windows, capacious HDDs for long-term media storage.
It’s a low resolution display for 2016, but that makes it good for gaming. The default sale config of the Gigabyte P37Xv5 is with a 17.3-inch 1920x1080pixel matte IPS LCD. That’s a relatively low-res panel, but it means your games will run smoothly and look good at the P37X’s native resolution. You can choose a 4K panel if you wish, but my advice would actually be to stick with the 1080p one — it’s more convenient for gaming, even if it is a little low-res on the desktop.
Gigabyte’s P37Xv5 starts at around $3249 in Australia, although you can buy a more premium tier with the 4K screen for $3699. Considering the amount of power it has hidden away within its almost-bland, workaday exterior, it’s well worth the asking price.