Up until two weeks ago, I was perfectly satisfied with my stationary desktop gaming rig. I had a big old box that did some big old things, and that was perfectly alright with me. Foggy 720p monitors? Totally fine. A start-up-and-go time longer than three minutes? That's cool too. Then the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED crawled into my life and ruined my bliss.
This beast of a laptop boasts a NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2080, running alongside an Intel i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, meaning it can pull off some seriously wicked graphics when it needs to, all shown off on a shiny 4K AMOLED screen. It's slim, stylish and speedy — all qualities that made me fall in love with it.
The version that I reviewed was a sample unit that was developed pre-production, meaning that unfortunately, this build is not currently on the market. The good news is that the version that is available, for $4,799, actually contains two sticks of 16GB RAM, rather than the single one in the laptop I received. While I can't speak as to the performance of this differently specced model, on the surface, these changes appear to be for the better. That's not to say that a higher specced model wouldn't be without its own unique issues.
So, what's inside this version?
- 15.6" UHD OLED
- RTX 2080 8GB
- DDR4 2666 16GB
- 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD
I loved the laptop, but that's not to say it was perfect. For now, here are all the ways that the whole package impressed.
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Laptop
WHAT IS IT?
A 4K gaming and professional laptop.
Starting at $2,699
Gorgeous screen and solid performance.
High priced and poor game rendering.
With minimal bezelling around the screen, you're free to enjoy the uninterrupted sights of your gaming adventures with a 15.6-inch screen that looks decidedly fancy and clean. Plus, it's housed in a pretty neat design. The laptop's keyboard is fairly standard (and looks like it features Impact font, ew), but it does include programmable rainbow lighting, which is a very nice touch.
It's also super light, with a lot of the extra performance-heft being relegated to the large-arse battery that accompanies the Aero. The laptop itself is about 0.8-inches thick and isn't too heavy either, making it light and portable, particularly for a high-specced lappy.
The Gigabyte Aero 15's design is simple, slick and very stylish. There's no unnecessary frills or funk here, and it mostly sticks with the tried and true — and that's fine! It works. Simple isn't always bad, and the Aero makes simple look very stylish.
4K UHD AMOLED screen
One of the absolute best features of the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED is the fancy 4K screen it comes equipped with (if you couldn't tell already from the name). 4K is in this year, and it makes for some stunning, lovingly rendered graphics.
When I received the laptop, it came with a test demo designed to show off the colours and vibrancy of the screen. This was the first time I felt like a screen was better than the test demo designed to show it off, because textures were obviously choppy and pixelated despite the screen's high quality.
This screen is so crisp that you can see every crease, crack and crevice on a person's skin. Colours are deep and vibrant, and I will very much miss how brilliant this screen makes sun rays look once I return to my washed out 720p monitors.
This laptop is marketed as a gaming and professional machine for a very good reason. It's high specced enough to be used as an everyday gaming machine, which means it's also powerful enough to chew through and process chunks of audio and video recording, or illustration, if that's your thing. I mainly used it to play around with some video footage, and had no dramas in my short time experimenting. It was pretty smooth sailing.
Having said that, what I was doing wasn't too performance-heavy, and video wasn't my sole reason for testing out the laptop. Still, having a laptop with multiple functions is extremely handy, and for professionals who also like to game (or even if they don't) — the Gigabyte Aero 15 is a veritable chameleon.
Again, I'd like to reiterate here that the version we reviewed was a pre-production sample, so the performance of the retail version will differ slightly. As is, the laptop ran great, and for the most part, the graphics (paired with the lovely, shiny screen) stunned.
Importantly, I'm not a graphics snob. If a game runs, and it looks fine, I'm happy. But even then, the graphics were impressive. The Witcher III was so vibrant it was like playing a whole new game.
Control looked gorgeously murky and I could see between the pores of every character in the game. My Time At Portia (a game requiring surprisingly high specs) was whimsically beautiful.
Older games looked fantastic and ran perfectly smoothly, too — but that's to be expected from games 5+ years old. For example, Alan Wake's American Nightmare was smooth as butter, and looked great too. You should definitely play this, by the way. I could max out the graphics on most games with no drama and no lag.
But then I had to put on my snob glasses, and having said that, the laptop wasn't without its issues in the performance department, particularly when it came to making the most out of the brilliant 4K screen.
Here's what I didn't love about it.
Despite the 4K screen, the NVIDIA GeForce Experience still recommended optimisation and rendering at 1080p, where the laptop was able to maintain a consistent frame rate of 39 frames per second running Shadow of the Tomb Raider (using DirectX 12) — not great, but not awful either. Far Cry 5 delivered the exact same results.
As soon as graphics settings were maxed out and rendering was set to true 4K, it faltered. In fact, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was only able to manage 27 frames per second while rendering in 4K. It also stuttered, delivered jaggies and during my fourth test, conked out and froze the entire computer. I had to restart it to get it functioning again.
I'd like to point out here that, to my eyes, there was no catastrophic issue with the game rendering at 27 frames per second — it was perfectly okay. But when Shadow of the Tomb Raider was edging close to 30, and The Witcher 3 was zooming past 60, the difference in movement and fluidity quickly became clear.
Interestingly, benchmarking at 4K with Far Cry 5 delivered different results. Here, the average FPS was recorded as 34. This was extremely variable though, leaping from 40FPS to 30FPS during the benchmarking, and also delivering frequent jaggies throughout the test.
The core problem, I believe, was the pairing of the RTX 2080 with an i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM — throughout these benchmarking tests, the CPU and GPU performed considerably differently, taking turns rendering high and low, making the game lag considerably.
It's likely for these reasons that the retail version contains double the amount of RAM that the sample laptop I reviewed had. What effect, whether good or bad, this would have on the performance of the retail laptop can't be confirmed without getting our hands on the final, retail-ready machine. Given that, it's important to take the results of these benchmarking tests with a grain of salt.
That said, it feels strange to have a 4K screen on a laptop which doesn't have the specs to match. It's unclear if having 32GB of RAM vs 16GB would make a game-changing difference. I can also only imagine that the laptops on the lower tiers of the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED range wouldn't fare very well at all. I mean, rendering at even 27 frames per second on a 4K screen is a big ask, and unless you invest in the top of the range, you probably won't be able to take full advantage of this capability.
Hooey, this one was a big ol' problem for the Aero 15. Yes, gaming laptops often stretch the definitive of what a 'laptop' really is, but if you unhook the Aero 15 from power, you're looking at a battery life of around one hour to 1.5 hours only. That's if you're planning on playing any decently specced games. General laptop use will maybe get you two hours.
Unhooking from the main battery also comes with an instant and noticeable drop in performance for games, meaning you'll either have to switch to lower settings or become friends with your jaggies. Either way, it's best to keep the battery close at hand.
The Gigabyte Aero 15 starts at $2,699, which gets you 8GB of RAM, a 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti graphics. The build that I was loaned is closer to the $4,799 mark, without the extra 16GB of RAM, but is not available for retail sale.
As far as gaming laptops go, it's on the upper tier of pricing, with the main points of difference being the inclusion of the 4K OLED screen and the RTX 2080 graphic card. All of these elements add up.
Some things, like the screen, for example, also feel a bit unnecessary if you're not going for the top of the range model. From my benchmarking tests, it didn't feel like the laptop would be able to make full use of its 4K rendering capabilities at all without being upgraded to an i9 model.
Its nearest competitors are the Alienware m15, which has a starting price point $500 lower than the Aero 15 (but no 4K screen), and the Razer Blade, also starting about $500 lower for similar specs (again, no 4K).
If you're just looking for a solid gaming laptop, there are certainly better options. But if you're looking at investing in the latest 4K graphics, then the highest specced of the Gigabyte Aero range — a $5,899 RTX 2080, 64GB of RAM, i9-powered machine — is a solid option.
Overall, the Gigabyte Aero 15 is a solid and good-looking laptop. It's got a great 4K screen, robust performance and a range of features, but if you're not sold on 4K, or if you're just looking for a decently-priced gaming rig, you won't find what you're looking for here. I fell a bit in love with it, but that doesn't mean I can't admit its flaws.