Gigabyte has released a minor update to the Aero 15 OLED, its flagship laptop aimed at gamers and creative professionals. Like last year’s model, this Aero 15 has a 4K OLED screen and a decent port selection with Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.1. Like last year’s model, it has a slightly bulky aluminum design, a flashy RGB keyboard, a fingerprint sensor in the trackpad and a webcam that is conveniently located under the screen. The big change is that the Aero 15 now includes Intel’s latest 11th generation processors and Nvidia’s RTX 3070 graphics card.
The performance I saw here was not a massive upgrade from the previous Aero 1
The Aero model I have is $ 2,099, and includes the Intel Core i7-11800H, 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage, in addition to the RTX 3070 and 15.6-inch 4K OLED screen. You can upgrade RAM up to 64 GB afterwards, and there are two M.2 storage slots. Gigabyte does not actually sell this model yet, but sells an identical model with 16 GB of RAM for $ 1,999.
Getting straight to the game: Red Dead Redemption 2 averaged 80 frames per second on the ultra setting in 1080p, and dropped to 37 frames per second in 4K. With all the sliders manually maximized, I had to go to medium preset to get a playable 4K frame rate of 46 fps. Shadow of the Tomb Raider ran at 104 fps in 1080p with beam tracking off and 81 fps with beam tracking on, and dropped to 48 fps and 29 fps in 4K, respectively. (With DLSS on, 52 frames per second and 38 frames per second). So you can actually play both of these titles in 4K if you want, but you have to drop the settings to hit 60fps sweet spot.
A more recent release, Cyberpunk 2077, drove at 71 frames per second with beam tracking off and 30 frames per second with max. beam tracking, and dropped to 42 frames per second and 19 frames per second in 4K (with DLSS on the quality setting), respectively. Note that because Aero only has a 60Hz screen, you will not be able to see the benefit of frame rates above 60 frames per second.
The cooling system, which includes two 71-blade fans and five heating pipes, kept the Core i7 at reasonable temperatures. During gaming, the CPU usually hovered during the mid 80’s (Celsius) with occasional peaks to the high 80’s or low 90’s. However, the chassis itself was quite beautiful on the keyboard and too hot on the bottom for me to comfortably touch my lap, even when I was just working in Chrome. The fans are also very, very loud on Gigabyte’s Turbo Mode – someone who passed by while I was running a video export asked if the laptop should take off.
Nvidia’s mobile GPUs can be a bit confusing because the same chip can deliver varying frame rates, depending on the effect. The Aeros RTX 3070 tops out at a 105W power consumption, as does the 3070 in the Aorus 15G. But the Asus’ Zephyrus G15 drops to 100W with dynamic boost, and the Razer’s Blade 15 Base includes a 3070 with a maximum power output of 95W. Game performance will vary by title, but on the whole Aero draws comparable frame rates to what we have seen both Blade and Zephyrus produce in 1440p. They are even slightly better than the game-focused Aorus (which still has a 10th generation Intel processor). On the other hand, the RTX 3070-equipped Aorus with 240Hz 1080p display is only $ 1,799, which underlines the premium you pay for the Aeros OLED display.
Outside of the gaming world, the Aero was more of a mixed bag. The notebook comes preloaded with a new proprietary Control Center program, powered by Microsoft’s Azure AI. In theory, this feature allows your computer to automatically switch between color, power, and performance profiles (Creator Mode, Game Mode, Meeting Mode, etc.) based on the application you are using. This was a cool idea, but having changed the brightness of the screen and an alert popping up every time I jumped in and out of Chrome or Steam was more troublesome than help, so I ended up turning it off.
On the productivity side, Aero broke through my usual workload, which includes around a dozen Chrome tabs, Slack, Spotify, and some occasional photo editing. Strangely, it did not perform as well as its predecessor on our Premiere Pro test, which involves exporting a five-minute, 33-second 4K video; this year’s Aero took four minutes and five seconds to complete the task, where its predecessor (Aero 15 OLED XB) took just over two and a half – Gigabyte says this may have to do with Nvidia’s drivers. It’s still one of the fastest times we’ve ever seen from a laptop; The Aorus 15G and Blade 15 Base, with the same GPU, both took over six minutes, while the Dell XPS 15 with the GTX 1650 Ti took 4:23.
Of course, Premiere Pro export is not a comparison of apples to apples, as different versions can give different results. On the Puget Systems reference for Premiere Pro, which tests both live playback and export performance with media in 4K and 8K resolutions, the Aero got the 824. It’s one of the highest points I’ve ever seen from a test drive, and it blows away the competition, and beat the Zephyrus G15, Blade 15 and Aorus 15G, as well as the Aero XB with an RTX 2070 Super Max-Q. That’s more than twice as much as we’ve seen from the Dell XPS 15.
It’s quite an impressive result, but you have to make some compromises for that power. First, battery life is a serious disappointment. Gigabyte claimed up to eight hours, but even on the Power Saver profile, the first Aero 15 I got only gave me around two. On another unit, I had an average of three hours and four minutes of continuous work. It’s fine if you’re never planning to take this thing anywhere (230W power stone is also pretty hefty), but for someone like me who often works on the go, the lifespan is not great – special around the $ 2000 mark. We got five hours and 45 minutes from the XPS 15, and over six hours from the Aorus 15G, so it’s worth considering if you’re a mobile user who likes the Aero’s look.
There are a few other things. The webcam has a convenient physical shutter, but it is also located just above the keyboard, just below the Aero logo on the bottom frame; it gives all you are video chats with great views of the nostrils. There is a fingerprint sensor at the top left of the touchpad, which is convenient, but my finger also ran into it several times while navigating. Finally, the keyboard is comfortable (it has a NumPad and a slightly soft click), but the flashy RGB lights are quite, well, visible and will not necessarily be what everyone wants in an office or a coffee shop.
All in all, the Aero is a decent option for you if you are looking for a powerful OLED laptop with a lot of pizzazz. But the disadvantages – especially the battery life and nosecam – are significant, and it is worth considering whether you want to take full advantage of the chips and 4K OLED in return.
For example, none of the popular titles tested here are ideal for running in 4K with its maximum settings. And while the Aero 15 gets better frame rates than the Aorus in 1080p, you will still only see 60 frames per second on the Aero, while the screen with the higher refresh rate on the Aorus will show you more. And there are also a number of QHD laptops out there, including the Zephyrus G15 and Blade 15, that can run games very well in that resolution – and they can certainly break 60 on any of the titles here.
It leaves content creators and other professionals planning to use Aero as a work driver, as the real audience for this device, and while this is certainly one of the most powerful laptops for that kind of workload, I wonder how many of these people are okay with the short battery life and nosecam. There may be sacrifices that are worth doing for some people, but they are certainly a lot to ask about.
Photograph by Monica Chin / The Verge