Gigabyte P57W review: Gaming power on a budget
The P57W leads the charge in Gigabyte’s new flagship gaming laptop range, priced at a mere £1,345. That may sound like a lot, but it’s packed with high-spec components, and when you compare it it with gaming laptop prices in general.
That’s definitely a good thing. It means you get loads of gaming power for not much cash, including one of Intel’s latest Skylake mobile CPUs. And at first sight, it looks the part. It weighs 2.9kg, and you’d struggle to carry it around on your travels, but compared with the many gaming laptops it’s pretty slim, measuring 25.4mm with the lid closed.
Keyboard and touchpad
When you pick it up, though, the compromises become apparent, and these mostly concern the chassis and build quality. Its black plastic chassis lacks the kind of premium build quality you’d expect from a high-end gaming laptop, and the keyboard housed within is particularly disappointing. The keyboard base flexes noticeably when you type, resulting in a disconcertingly bouncy feel, and the hinge didn’t feel particularly robust either, often wobbled to and fro as I typed.
For everyday use, though, all the keys are relatively well-spaced. As is the case with many of Gigabyte’s gaming laptops, there’s no gap between the number pad and the rest of the keyboard, which can make the keyboard feel a bit cramped. However, that’s something you’ll likely get used to over time.
The P57W also lacks gaming macro keys, a feature found on other Gigabyte gaming laptops. In fact, the only gamer-centric functions you’ll find on the keyboard are the outlined WASD keys. This is a shame, as there’s more than enough space above the keyboard for extra buttons and features.
The sizeable touchpad makes better use of the space below the keyboard. However, I found its integrated buttons were temperamental. For instance, a left click was often mistaken for a right click, which resulted in some rather frustrating misclicks. It’s also prone to picking up greasy fingerprints, which left me having to wipe down more than I’d like. If you’re a bit of a clean freak, this laptop may not be for you.
At least you’re not left wanting when it comes to ports and connections. With three USB 3.0 ports and one USB 3.1 Type-C port, there’s plenty of room for connecting multiple peripherals.
And you won’t struggle to connect the P57W to an external display either, with VGA, mini-DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0 outputs. The latter will be particularly good news for those with a 4K monitor, as HDMI 2.0 allows you take full advantage of your monitor’s 60Hz refresh rate, unlike HDMI 1.4 which limits you to 30Hz. Just make sure your monitor supports HDCP 2.2.
Performance, battery life and display
Under the hood, the P57W’s quad-core, Skylake Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor is an impressive performer. It runs at a base frequency of 2.6GHz but can Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz when there’s enough thermal headroom. Paired with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics card, this laptop is more than capable of running the majority of today’s games.
The GTX 970M is second best chip in the Nvidia mobile GPU lineup, so it won’t deliver the very smoothest frame rates at the highest detail settings, but tweak the settings judiciously and you’ll find it’s perfectly capable. For example, the graphically demanding Metro Last Light benchmark returned an average frame rate of 30.1fps at 1,920 x 1,080 on Ultra settings with SSAO turned on, but turn SSAO off and you’ll see the frame rate jump up to a even better 51.8fps.
With an HDMI 2.0 port at its disposal, the P57W is primed and ready for 4K gaming. Again, you’ll have to temper your expectations on graphics quality when playing games at this kind of resolution, but I managed a surprisingly good average of 30.2fps in Metro Last Light on Ultra settings with the SSAO turned off. Turn SSAO on and you’re looking at a much jerkier 22.3fps.
The P57W shouldn’t have any problem running older games, though, and our Dirt Showdown test produced an excellent average frame rate of 72fps at 1,920×1,080 on Ultra settings and with 4x anti-aliasing enabled.
It is worth noting that the Gigabyte P57W became quite warm during our game tests, with the fans kicking in quite loud as a result. This also meant the keyboard and wrist-rest heated up as well, making them slightly uncomfortable to use after prolonged periods.
For more general Windows tasks, the P57W’s i7-6700HQ processor proved more than capable. In our demanding 4K CPU benchmarks, it scored an impressive 93 – almost as quick as our reference Core i5-4670K desktop processor. On the flipside, it’s quite low for this specification. The Dell XPS 15, which has the same processor on board gained a much higher 111.
The P57W’s battery life isn’t anything to write home about, either, lasting a mere 3hrs 46mins in our continuous video playback test with the screen brightness set to a brightness of 170cd/m2. Given the size of the P57W, however, you’re probably not going to be moving this laptop very far away from your desk, though, so it’s not a complete disaster.
And it’s well equipped elsewhere, with a 1TB hard drive and 256GB SSD drive inside, there’s plenty of space for your files and media. The P57W also lets you replace the front-mounted DVD-writer with an extra hard disk if you find you need even more.
The P57W’s biggest downfall is its 17.3in, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display. The screen’s maximum brightness is respectable, reaching 329.2cd/m2, and contrast is good as well, reaching 1,005:1. With an sRGB colour gamut score of just 87.1%, however, it’s not quite as vibrant as it could have been, with colours a touch drab, something that isn’t helped at all by the P57W’s semi-matte display.
While this is great for combatting reflections, it (quite literally) takes the gloss off onscreen images.
All in all, the Gigabyte P57W is a perfectly commendable gaming laptop. Its GTX 970M is more than capable of handling most of today’s games, and its ability to venture beyond the realms of its 1,920 x 1,080 display is a big bonus. It’s also one of more subtle-looking gaming laptops around.
However, you’re also making a few compromises by choosing the P57W. Its day-to-day performance isn’t quite as good as it could be, and the plasticky build quality lets the side down, too. With that in mind, if you’re looking for a gaming laptop with same power and punch as the Gigabyte, consider MSI’s Apache Pro GE72 instead, which is now available with a very similar specification, but for slightly less cash.
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