There's a reason that laptops like the MacBook Pro sell so well. They're not flashy or pretentious, but are more than powerful enough to handle the tasks that everyday computer users ask of them. The P35 is Gigabyte's mainstream performance laptop, but the use of Nvidia's powerful standalone GTX 970M graphics chip means it's a great choice for gaming at the same time.
What Is It?
The Gigabyte P35 is a 15.6-inch, Windows 8.1, Intel Core i7 general purpose notebook — it's not a stupidly thin and light ultraportable, but it's similarly not a desktop-bending dedicated gaming bruiser or portable workstation. It is quite thin and sleek, though, at a maximum 20.9mm thick. More importantly for its looks, it's equally thin across its entire aspect, making it look quite a lot like a darker, squared-off, Gigabyte-logo-toting MacBook Pro.
You can buy Gigabyte's mainstream gaming laptop in a few guises — most will opt for the P35Wv3 (as tested), which is the latest iteration and is based around a fourth-gen Core i7 and Nvidia GTX 970M GPU, or you can get the P35K, which uses Nvidia's slightly less powerful GTX 965M. The lesser model has only a 1920x1080 pixel LCD panel, but the top spec P35W can be configured with a better 2880x1620 pixel screen across its 15.6 inches of real estate.
From left to right sides, the P35 is replete with ports. This makes it entirely usable as a desktop replacement, although there's no integrated all-in-one docking port. You'll find two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0, a full-size multipurpose SD card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, VGA, full-size HDMI, an Ethernet port and a Kensington lock. It's strange that Gigabyte didn't go for the full four USB ports in 3.0 format, but it's not a huge deal.
It's not exactly the most attractive laptop out there, but in a lot of ways the P35's bland looks work in its favour. It's unobtrusive, it doesn't have any funky styling cues (like, MSI's GT70 Dominator Pro) apart from those little white squares on the keyboard, and doesn't have any massive compromises in utility — no missing cooling vents, no cut-down connectors, and nothing like that.
What's It Good At?
The P35 has a great repertoire of performance parts inside. There's no low-power Core M or Core i3 or Core i5 CPU being used here; instead a full-fat Intel Core i7-4720HQ running at up to 3.6GHz (under the smart frequency-jumping Turbo Boost 2.0), and similarly 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 as standard can be bumped up to 16GB if required — two DIMM slots are available. You can run up to four storage drives inside the P35, too, with the standard config either using a standalone SSD (128GB through 512GB) and a mechanical drive (up to 2TB). Getting two SSDs is the smart choice.
Having a relatively high-powered discrete GPU means that the Gigabyte P35 can handle gaming in a way that no ultraportable or Ultrabook using Intel's HD integrated graphics can manage. The GTX 970M in the P35W can easily handle 1080p gaming at high quality settings on most modern games, while the lesser GTX 965M is more of a medium quality kind of chip. Playing games is hugely deleterious to the P35's battery life, though, so make sure you either have a full charge or are already on AC power.
The top 1920x1080 pixel IPS display option is the one I had specced out on my P35 test machine, and it's an excellent choice. It has a good (if not great) amount of detail from its 15.6-inch display area — 141dpi — and has both excellent viewing angles and excellent colour reproduction. It's a great choice for movie or TV watching and 3D gaming. Similarly, the 2880x1620 pixel screen option that the top P35Wv3 is a full 50 per cent more pixel-dense — at 212dpi — and that translates to a bunch more real estate for Web browsing or content creation like video or photo editing.
What's It Not Good At?
Because the P35's top option has a 2880x1620 pixel display, its GPU has to work a lot harder to fill those pixels during 3D gaming. As a result, you won't get near that silky smooth performance from the GTX 970M from Nvidia that you'd see on a 1080p panel; the trade-off with moving down to a 1080p panel, though, is that you sacrifice outright detail and high-resolution screen real estate. You have to work out which you'll be doing more of — 3D gaming, or Web browsing and productivity tasks like photo editing — and pick the screen option most appropriate to you.
Battery life from the P35 is good, but not what I was hoping for. It's a necessary tradeoff when you have powerful, energy-consuming, heat-creating internal components — like a gutsy 45W Intel Core i7 CPU and a gutsy 75W Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M — but a result of three hours and 43 minutes in our battery torture test is only OK. I only mention this because I had high hopes for the P35's battery from what I'd read about it previously; it's roughly on par with its competitors from Aorus and MSI and the like but doesn't step out ahead of them.
As unobtrusive as the P35's design is, it is a little bit boring. It could use a little bit of pizazz, a finish that's a little more fancy, or a more luxe approach to the Gigabyte logo on the lid. As it is, it is fine, but just a little unspectacular, and that makes it look a little cheap. All it needs is a fancy accent or two to really step up and look as good as a MacBook or an Aorus or any other powerful, performance-oriented notebook.
Should You Buy It?
The P35 from Gigabyte ain't especially flashy, but it's definitely well built. It has plenty of power to run games at resolutions at or at least near its native screen res, but at the same time it doesn't run too hot to be used on a lap. It ain't especially special in any way, but it handles every task that you throw at it very well. It's just a good all-round laptop, for anything but the most demanding tasks or for the most battery-intensive needs.
That GTX 970M makes for a good amount of gaming graphics grunt, especially considering the slim aspect of the P35 and the moderate (that is, not 4K) native resolution of its 15.6-inch display. It'll handle any current game you care to throw at it on medium quality settings, and should be equally happy with the next few years of titles; its midrange Core i7 CPU and single SSD is equally well suited to everything but the most demanding general purpose computing.
One thing that I would highly recommend with the Gigabyte P35 is to select the dual SSD setup in whichever configuration you buy, if at all possible; it's a huge step up in straight-out transfer performance from a single drive, and is lightyears ahead of any mechanical hard drive option. It makes a measurable and noticeable improvement in boot times for an absolutely minimal increase in system power.
If budget is foremost in your mind, and you need a laptop that is at least moderately powerful and moderately portable, then you should give special attention to the Gigabyte P35. Whether you opt for the basic P35K or the step-up options available from the newest P35W, you'll get yourself a notebook that won't baulk at any basic computing task and that can handle the odd spot of 1080p 3D gaming. The P35 is a great laptop for the everyman.