Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XD review: powerful, pricey, and flawed

Gigabyte has released a small update to the Aero 15 OLED, a flagship laptop aimed at gamers and creative professionals. Like last year’s model, this Aero 15 has a 4K OLED display and a decent selection of ports, including Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.1. Also, like last year’s model, it has a rather clunky aluminum design, a gorgeous RGB keyboard, a fingerprint sensor on the trackpad, and an uncomfortable webcam under the screen. The big change is that the Aero 15 now includes Intel’s latest 11th gen processors and Nvidia’s RTX 3070 graphics card.

The performance I’ve seen here isn’t a huge upgrade from the previous Aero 15, but it’s still some of the best gaming and productivity performance you’ll find in a laptop of this size. The 60Hz screen means you won’t see the impressive frame rates that newer hardware can do, so many gamers will get a better experience on higher refresh rate devices. But if you’re interested in an OLED screen, this device should get the job done (noisy and hot way) because you want to do color work from the side or just want your games and movies to look great.

The Aero model I have is $2,099 and includes Intel’s Core i7-11800H, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, an RTX 3070, and a 15.6-inch 4K OLED screen. The RAM can then be upgraded up to 64 GB and has two M.2 storage slots. Gigabyte doesn’t actually sell this model yet, but is selling the same model with 16GB of RAM for $1,999.

Game Shortcuts: red dead redemption 2 It drops to an average of 80 fps at ultra preset in 1080p and 37 fps in 4K. With all sliders manually maximized, I had to drop them down to a medium preset to get a playable 4K frame rate of 46 fps. Shadow of the Tomb Raider It ran at 104 fps in 1080p with ray tracing turned off and 81 fps with ray tracing turned on, dropping to 48 fps and 29 fps in 4K respectively. (DLSS on, 52 fps and 38 fps). So you can actually play both of these titles in 4K if you want, but you’ll have to drop the settings to get to the 60fps sweet spot.

more recent releases, cyberpunk 2077, running at 71 fps with ray tracing off and 30 fps with ray tracing maximized, dropping to 42 fps and 19 fps respectively in 4K (with DLSS in quality settings). Since the Aero only has a 60Hz display, you won’t see the benefit of frame rates exceeding 60fps.

A cooling system that included two 71 blade fans and five heat pipes kept the Core i7 at just the right temperature. While gaming, the CPU typically hovers below the mid 80s (Celsius) and occasionally spikes into the late 80’s or early 90’s. However, the chassis itself was often quite hot from the keyboard and the floor was too hot to comfortably rest on my lap. The same was true when working in Chrome. The fan is also very, very noisy in Gigabyte’s turbo mode. While running the video export, someone passing by asked if the laptop would take off.

Aero logo and webcam on the Gigabyte Aero 15.

Yes, it’s a webcam.

Nvidia’s mobile GPUs can be a bit confusing as the same chip can deliver very different frame rates depending on the amount of power. Aero’s RTX 3070, like the Aorus 15G’s 3070, is the best at 105W of power dissipation. However, Asus’ Zephyrus G15 is limited to 100W with dynamic boost, and Razer’s Blade 15 Base includes a 3070 with a maximum power consumption of 95W. Gaming performance varies by title, but overall the Aero is pulling framerates similar to what the Blade and Zephyrus produce at 1440p. It’s slightly better than the gaming-focused Aorus (which still has 10th Gen Intel processors). On the other hand, the RTX 3070 Aorus with a 240Hz 1080p display highlights the premium you pay for Aero’s OLED screen at just $1,799.

The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED keyboard seen from above is lit in light blue.

You can customize keyboard colors and effects.

Outside of the game world, Aero is more of a mixed bag. The laptop comes preloaded with a new proprietary Control Center application powered by Microsoft’s Azure AI. In theory, this would allow the computer to automatically switch between color, power, and performance profiles (creator mode, gaming mode, conference mode, etc.) depending on the application being used. It was a cool idea, but I ended up turning it off because it bothered me rather than helped me to have the screen brightness change and a notification popup pop up every time I went in and out of Chrome or Steam.

In terms of productivity, Aero handled common tasks smoothly, including around a dozen Chrome tabs, Slack, Spotify, and some occasional photo work. Oddly enough, in our tests of Premiere Pro, which included exporting 5:33 4K video, it wasn’t as good as its predecessor. This year’s Aero took 4 minutes and 5 seconds to complete. The previous one (Aero 15 OLED XB) took less than 2.5 seconds. Gigabyte says this may have something to do with Nvidia’s drivers. It’s still one of the fastest times we’ve seen on a laptop. Both the Aorus 15G and Blade 15 Base using the same GPU took over 6 minutes and the Dell XPS 15 with GTX 1650 Ti took 4:23.

Gigabyte Aero 15 opens with piano.  The screen displays a Night City shot of Cyberpunk 2077 from inside a high office window.

The display supports sRGB 100%, AdobeRGB 100%, P3 100%.

Of course, Premiere Pro export is not an apple-to-apples comparison, as different versions can produce different results. In the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Pro, which tests both live playback and export performance using media in 4K and 8K resolution, Aero scored 824. This is one of the highest scores I’ve seen on a test rig. The Zephyrus G15, Blade 15, Aorus 15G, as well as the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, overwhelm the Aero XB, giving it a competitive edge. That’s more than double the score we saw on the Dell XPS 15.

That’s a pretty impressive result, but you have to make some trade-offs for its power. First, battery life is a serious disappointment. Gigabyte asked for a maximum of 8 hours, but even in the Power Saver profile, the first Aero 15 device I sent only offered about 2 hours. The second unit averaged 3 hours and 4 minutes of continuous work. It’s fine if you’re not going to take this stuff with you (the 230W power brick is also pretty heavy), but it doesn’t last very long for someone like me who often works on the go. Especially About $2,000. It’s 5 hours 45 minutes on the XPS 15 and over 6 hours on the Aorus 15G, so if you’re a mobile user who likes the look of the Aero, it’s worth considering.

There are several others. The webcam has a convenient physical shutter, but it’s located just above the keyboard, just below the Aero logo on the lower bezel. It gives anyone a video chat where you can get a good look at your nostrils. The fingerprint sensor in the upper left corner of the touchpad is convenient, but I also bumped my finger several times while browsing. Finally, the keyboard is comfortable (with a NumPad and a few soft clicks), but the gorgeous RGB lighting looks great and not everyone wants to have it in their office or coffee shop.

The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED opens on the piano viewed from above, tilted to the left.  The light blue light on the keyboard will come on.  The screen displays a desktop with a gray and white background.

I just hope it lasts longer.

Overall, the Aero is a decent option if you’re looking for a powerful OLED laptop with a lot of features. However, the downsides (especially battery life and nose cam) are significant, and in return it’s worth considering whether or not you’ll get the most out of the chip and 4K OLED.

For example, none of the popular titles tested here are ideal for running in 4K at max settings. And while the Aero 15 is getting better framerates than the Aorus at 1080p, the Aero still only sees 60fps, while the Aorus’ higher refresh rate screen shows more. And there are plenty of QHD laptops, including the Zephyrus G15 and Blade 15. This laptop is able to run games very well at that resolution and can definitely get over 60 on some titles here.

This leaves content creators and other professionals planning to use the Aero as their work driver a real audience for this device, which is certainly one of the most powerful laptops for this kind of workload, but I wonder how many of these types of laptops are there . People are fine with the short battery life and the nosecam. It may be a sacrifice worth making for some, but it certainly demands a lot.

Photo: Monica Chin / The Verge

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