Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED full review
Gigabyte’s new Aero 15 OLED laptop is the first we’ve seen to feature one of Nvidia’s brand new, high-performance RTX 30 series GPUs – but instead of targeting this graphics power at gamers, here Gigabyte is focussed on creatives.
If it's of interest, there is a non-OLED Aero 15 model available with a lower spec.
Design & Build
The Aero 15’s is thin and light – similar in size and weight to Apple’s 16in MacBook Pro. aesthetic draws more from gaming than the sleek elegance of Apple’s device – but gaming laptop chassis manufacturers’ tendency to try to make their machines look like sci-fi spaceships or armour plates has been tempered here to create something that looks more architectural. It’s not overloaded with fussy details, just smooth lines and surfaces of patterned texture.
The raised hinges for the screen are a nice touch. Neatly separating what could otherwise feel like a slab of black into the base and screen, they also raise the screen a little to bring it nearer to you.
From a practical perspective, there are some choices made by Gigabyte that I liked – placing the Power button and fingerprint reader away from the keyboard makes finding each easier as you get used to using the laptop (before it becomes muscle memory). Placing the fingerprint reader in the trackpad is unusual, but feels natural.
However, placing the webcam on the base is a poor choice, as on video calls friends, colleagues and clients get close-ups of your fingers as you type and an awkward angle of your face. It's a similar story on Huawei MateBook laptops.
Keyboard & Trackpad
One design feature that screams gaming is the RGB backlit keyboard – but it’s of practical use for creatives too. When you first turn on the Aero 15 OLED, its keyboard pulses a rainbow pattern across it. This would be fantastic for a Pride-themed home studio disco, but for day-to-day it would be rather distracting.
Thankfully, the Aero OLED 15 ships with Gigabyte’s ControlCentre software that – as well as letting you monitor performance and temperature and other nerdy details – gives you a huge level of control. You can turn off the lights, change to a single colour or create your own – for example highlighting your favourite shortcut keys in particular colours.
Typing on the keyboard is comfortable enough and there’s a numeric key set for those who like such things, and the trackpad is of reasonable size – though personally I much prefer the larger trackpad of laptops such as the MacBook Pro.
The Samsung 4K AMOLED screen is one of the Aero 15 OLED’s highlights. Images and video have an incredible level of depth to them – and whether you’re working or watching HDR content on Amazon, it adds much to your experience. And if you’re pulling an all-nighter or using the Aero to watch as well as work, Gigabyte says that this display produces 60% less ‘harmful blue light’ that can prevent you getting a good night’s sleep.
The Aero 15 OLED has either impressive or disappointing colour gamut capabilities (for the uninitiated, gamut is how many different shades of colour a screen can output – a higher gamut giving you more subtle shades for a deeper, richer picture). Gigabyte says that the screen can output 100% of the DCI-P3 colour space – which my tests with a DataColor SpyderXElite colourimeter show to be true. This is ideal for anyone working with video or animation.
However, if you’re more into graphics – especially print – the screen could only manage 84% of the Adobe RGB colour space used by Photoshop, Illustrator or likewise. This isn’t uncommon – Apple’s latest 16in MacBook Pro has similar specs – but there are laptops on the market with screens that can output 100% Adobe RGB, for example Dell’s XPS 15.
The screen is very accurate – though not as accurate as the MacBook Pro 16. Accuracy is measured as delta-E, which is how far on average the colours output from a screen are from what they should be. Most people can’t tell the difference between colours with a delta-E of 2 – though creatives will generally notice differences more. Using the SpyderXElite, the Aero 15 had an average delta-E of 1.56 – well within the average person’s tolerance but not up with the screens of many creative-focussed laptops (the MacBook Pro scored 0.72 for example).
Specs & Performance
The screen is only one of the Aero 15 OLED’s many powerful components. My review unit featured a high-if-not-top spec configuration – a eight-core Core i7-10870H processor, 32GB of DDR4 RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU with 8GB of RAM. The Aero 15 OLED maxes out at an eight-core i9 processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 – but this is where pricing starts to get into money’s-no-object territory.
Here I've tested the Aero 15 against a 16-in MacBook Pro and an HP Envy 15. The MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i9-9980H 2.4GHz (8-core) processor; 32GB DDR4 RAM; a 2TB SSD; an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU with 4GB RAM; and a 16-inch, 3,072 x 1,800 screen – which costs £3,789/US$3,899.
The HP Envy has an Intel Core i7-10750H (6-core); 16GB RAM; a 512GB SSD; an Nvidia Geforce GTX 1660 Ti with 6GB RAM; a 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1080 touchscreen – which costs £1,499/$1,299.
To test the performance of the processor we use Cinebench R23’s 10-minute Throttling test. This repeatedly renders a scene in Cinema 4D for 10-minutes to measure not only how fast the chip can run across all its cores – but how the computer’s cooling system can deal with sustained use.
The Aero 15 OLED’s score was significantly higher than the HP Envy 15, which has the next chip down in Intel’s Core i7 range. This is likely due to Gigabyte’s Windforce Infinity cooling system, which can really crank up the cooling – without too much extra noise – if necessary.
It also wasn’t too much lower than our test MacBook Pro 16, which has an i9 but older 9th-generation chips. This was unexpected as you’d expect being in the higher range would be a bigger boost to performance than just a generation jump – but this a definite point in the Aero 15 OLED’s favour.
Photoshop is the most widely used application for creatives – whether as a core tool for illustrators and designers, or alongside animation and video software. We use the PugetBench benchmarking automator for Photoshop, which runs tasks on the image editing software that push the processor, RAM, GPU and storage.
Here the Aero 15 OLED beat every laptop we’ve reviewed – even the MacBook Pro. Some of this is due to the latest-generation GPU – as shown in PugetBench’s GPU score – but it’s the combination of components that’s really behind this. From the use of dual M.2 drives to speed up disk I/O to the aforementioned cooling system, this laptop as a whole has been designed and tuned for the best possible performance from when you start working in Photoshop to when you finish.
Ports & Speakers
The Aero 15 OLED has a good selection of ports – including one Thunderbolt 3, three USB 3, HDMI and DisplayPort. Unusually for a thin-&-light model, there’s an Ethernet port – which is a bonus for those of us shunting large media files around the network or working directly from network storage.
The speakers are a little disappointing – having a cold sound that’s lacking in bass.
Using our standard battery life test looping a video at 120 nits, the Aero 15 OLED lasted precisely nine and a half hours. This is good for a laptop with a 4K OLED screen – much longer than less expensive models targeting creative pro such as HP’s Envy (a paltry 3 hours, 40 minutes), and about the same as the 16in MacBook Pro (9 hours, 42 minutes)
Pricing & Availability
£2,699 is a really good price for both the specs and the performance of the Aero 15 OLED – an equivalent 16in MacBook Pro would cost £3,199.
Previously, if you’d asked me to recommend the best laptop for creatives, I’d have suggested either Apple’s MacBook Pro or Dell’s XPS 15. Both still have reasons to recommend them over the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED – whether it's higher rendering performance or a more capable screen for print design. But as a complete set, this Aero 15 has the edge.
(Artwork by Leylah Morley)
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