Hands On: Gigabyte Aero 15 Gaming Laptop

Gigabyte announced its new gaming laptop last week, the Aero 15, and it’ll start gracing the shelves in tech stores around Australia soon. It’s a 1060-packing warrior that boasts VR capability and a super light frame, and we got our grubby mitts on it.

Partly because it’s powerful and partly just because it’s new, the thing starts up in a few seconds, which is fantastic. I actually had wondered the first couple of times I started it up if I had done something wrong — had I maybe set it to sleep instead of shutting it down? I’m sure after loading up enough apps and browsing enough dodgy websites it’ll bring it closer to something normal, but such a thing is always a good sign that your new toy isn’t crammed with bloatware (aside from the heinous spyware that is Windows 10).

The resistance on these keys is impressive. It’s still quiet to type on, but it’s like each key damn near forces my finger upwards faster than it can retreat. When did laptop keys become so sprightly? It’s like they’re eager to be beaten again.

It’s not quite the unfettered joy of my mechanical keyboard at home, which leads me to type things that could have easily been copy/pasted, and get in contact with old acquaintances as an excuse to punch out words to them, but it’s close. Definitely closer to that than the mushy gel pack keys I’m used to finding on laptops.

The customisable keyboard lights are fun to play with, too. For a while I had each button press sending a ripple of rainbow coloured lights across the rest of the keyboard, but the chaos that ensued when typing fast made it far too distracting. There are other settings like making it seem like it’s breathing, and one that looks like a marquee — a whole list of attractions that have been seen before, but probably not with this level of customisability, and are fun nonetheless.

While flashing keys are typically associated with expo floors and not much else, the level of customisation here can also be quite practical. There are accessibility goals that can be achieved, there are uses for foreign languages, as well as replicating keyboard layouts for various apps like Premiere, or livestreaming software. The macros mean certain button combinations can change the keyboard to a different mode, meaning you can match the hotkeys and modes to whatever app you’re using. I can switch to the Cut tool in Premiere, and make my keyboard reflect that.

Its form factor is quite thin and light, and it’s hard to believe they’ve fit a damn GTX1060 with 6GB of GDDR5 RAM in there, let alone the feelings of inadequacy that pop up when the 1.9cm thick laptop you’re trying out has a better video card than your tower. Carrying the actual 2.1kg laptop around in a backpack was like carrying nothing, but the power brick was more noticeable.

I feel like loading Battlerite and Ashes of the Singularity on this thing wasn’t even testing it, since my tower runs those games fine, and everything about this laptop is better than my tower. To really test it, you’d have to get into some 4k gaming, or VR, or games that just aren’t coded very efficiently.

Much was made of the laptop being VR ready, and I didn’t have the means to test it out, but I feel like this was an exercise in ticking boxes. Will it handle the current generation of superbasic Oculus experiences? Probably. But I wouldn’t trust it with a Vive, and I wouldn’t trust it with anything further than a year out.

As for 4k, you’re probably alright here with a lot of games, and if you’re just wanting to play in good ol’ 1080p then it’ll comfortably handle any game on the market right now. In the future, Gigabyte says it’ll be offering a version with a 4k display as well, so watch this space.

Another thing: I heard the fan from time to time, but it was never crazy. I was aware of it, but it was never at a level that would be problematic if someone was sleeping in the same room. A big improvement over the Alienware I’d been using that replicated the sound of a jet landing whenever I opened Chrome.

I don’t use many laptops, so perhaps that lessens the meaning when I saw it’s far & away the best laptop I’ve ever used. But it’s not just superior in a Moore’s Law kind of way — I really liked the feel and design as well. As long as it’s the black one we’re talking about, and not the orange. It’s actually a bit hard to find the Aero 15 right at the moment, but it looks like they’ll start selling for around $2,899. Expect to see them on various expo floors here and there (it was on show at the recent IEM Sydney event), and eventually in stores, if you want to get a feel of it before you make any decisions.

Find out more about the Aero 15 here.

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