Muscular, heavy, and flashy: these three words usually comes into my mind whenever the subject of gaming notebook comes into the picture. However, things have slightly changed in the past few years as a number of manufacturers are starting to take a different approach into designing their gaming notebooks.
Instead of the three characteristics pointed out above, these companies have chosen to tone down the beastly look of gaming notebooks and instead opt for sleeker designs that are usually associated with an Ultrabook or even a MacBook Pro. One such example is the Gigabyte P35W v2, which was made available in Malaysia earlier this year.
REVIEW UNIT SPECIFICATIONS
DESIGN and EXPERIENCE
Since it comes with a 15.6-inch display, the P35W v2 is rather wide by nature but not bulky at all mainly thanks to its height which is only 20.9mm. The laptop also features a very minimalistic design that almost hides its nature as a gaming notebook. As you can see, there are no colourful LEDs or any weird, thematic structural designs on the P35W v2. It doesn’t look like a sleek sports car, or has vents that are made to look like jet fighters…it just looks like any ordinary laptop – and that’s awesome.
Furthermore, its matte black finish lends a premium look for the laptop, resulting in a clean, straight forward, and sleek-looking notebook that looks competent enough to go head to head with the MacBook Pros and Ultrabooks out there.
That being said, this same finish also makes the laptop prone to smudges and fingerprints.
There is one very faint sign that the P35W v2 is actually a gaming notebook: the W-A-S-D keys on its backlit keyboard – which are commonly used as directional keys in games – are clearly highlighted. The keyboard also comes complete with a dedicated numeric keypad on the right side of the laptop but unfortunately, the colour of the keyboard’s backlight is not customizable
Still, the keyboard does come with an ambient light sensor which dynamically adjust the brightness of the backlight according to the surrounding light conditions. There were no issues with the keys themselves, which feel just about right to me – neither too soft nor too firm – although I do wish that they offered better tactile feedback.
It is a common assumption that gamers depend more on their gaming mouse than a trackpad but nevertheless, Gigabyte still equips the P35W v2 with a rather sizeable trackpad. With a clearly marked white line that serves to differentiate the right and left click buttons, it is not a shabby trackpad at all since it is responsive and accurate enough as far as average daily usage is concerned.
Despite having a slim chassis, Gigabyte still manages to slot in a Super Multi DVD-RW within the P35W v2. Just as surprising is the fact that users are actually able to take out the optical drive and replace it with a 2.5-inch hard drive or solid state drive to increase the notebook’s storage. Not only that, P35W v2 owners do not even need to buy the HDD bracket separately, as it is included right in the box by Gigabyte. Very nice touch.
Apart from that, Gigabyte has also included a generous amount of I/O ports into the P35W v2. For starters, all three major graphics ports – VGA, HDMI, and Mini DisplayPort – are there on the laptop which means gamers shouldn’t have any problems to hook the laptop up to an external display or projector. There is also a Gigabit LAN port which is a welcome sight for gamers who prefer wired connections over Wi-Fi. There are four USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0. Not to forget, the P35W v2 comes standard with a handy SD card reader.
Thanks to its powerful hardware, the Gigabyte P35W v2 is packed with plenty of horsepower (more on that later) but the high-performance nature of these components also resulted in intense heat emanating from within. To counter this issue, Gigabyte has implemented a thermal solution that the company calls Supra-Cool, which is a combo of two heat pipes and two fans to help dissipate heat from the laptop’s CPU as well as GPU.
The solution works to a certain extent but nevertheless, the P35W v2 still gets quite hot during gaming almost all the time. Not only that, both of the P35W v2’s high speed thermal fans are quite loud to the point that they are actually able to overpower the laptop’s built-in speakers especially when the laptop is under full load.
Speaking about audio, the P35W v2 is built with a 2.1 speaker setup which comprises of two 1.5W speakers and a woofer underneath. Just like most of the built-in laptop speakers out there, the output quality of the P35W v2’s speakers is rather mediocre despite the existence of a woofer in the setup. Nevertheless, the speaker is still noticeably loud but this only applies when the Dolby Digital Plus Home Theatre sound enhancement software is activated. Else, the output is rather weak.
Another feature of the P35W v2 that has been touted as one of the laptop’s strengths by Gigabyte is the laptop’s 15.6-inch full HD display which is able to deliver 72% of NTSC wide colour gamut. Since the display uses an IPS panel, it naturally has a wide viewing angle but I do feel that Gigabyte could have increased the brightness on P35W V2 since the display on our review unit looks quite dim.
To determine the general ability of P35W v2, I ran the laptop through several test modules within the well-known PCMark 8 benchmark from Futuremark. As implied by their names, these modules represents three group of users which include typical home and work users as well as creative creators. These results are then uploaded to Futuremark’s database so that they can be compared with other systems from throughout the world that have went through similar tests.
A quick search# through Futuremark database showed that the PCMark 8 Home v3 score from our P35W v2 is currently ranked at 94th place out of 131 valid test subjects which is rather lower than what I expected. That being said, there are actually nothing to be concerned as the results of the individual segments from the PCMark 8 Home v3 test still showed that P35W v2 managed to perform all the tasks rather well.
As for the PCMark 8 Work v2 score, the P35W v2 is ranked quite high at 3rd place out of 37 valid results. The same case also goes for the PCMark8 Creative v2 score which is listed at 3rd place out of 31 valid results.
#based on search done at 11:10am, 4 October 2014. Search is done through via Advanced search section with Intel Core i7-4710HQ is set at CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M are set as the search terms.
The P35W v2 is put through another well-known benchmark suite from Futuremark called 3DMark which focuses on the graphical abilities of the system. Similiarly to PCMark, the results from the test are then uploaded to Futuremark database to allow them to be compared with other systems from throughout the world.
According to the database##, our review unit is ranked at 17th place out of 44 valid systems in the Fire Strike Extreme test while the laptop is also ranked at 540th place among 715 valid systems in the standard Fire Strike test. In the Sky Diver category, our P35W v2 is ranked at 187th place out of 637 valid systems and it is also listed at no 205 among 577 valid systems in the Cloud Gate category.
The laptop is put through the suite’s entry-level Ice Storm tests as well and the subsequent results allows it to be ranked at the 3rd place out of 20 valid systems in the Ice Storm Extreme category. Our P35W v2 is also ranked at the top of the Ice Storm Unlimited listing beating 13 other systems in that very category. Last but not least, the laptop is also ranked at no 51 out of 535 valid systems that were listed in the standard Ice Storm category.
##based on search done at 1:00 pm, 4 October 2014. Search is done through via Advanced search section with Intel Core i7-4710HQ is set at CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M are set as the search terms.
Apart from 3DMark, several actual game titles are used to further determine the graphical ability of P35W v2. For titles such as Bioshock Infinite, GRID 2, and Tomb Raider, I utilizes the benchmark tool that is built within them for that purpose.
For games that don’t come with such benchmark, the popular screen capture software FRAPS is used to determine the minimum, maximum and average FPS rate that the P35W v2 is able to churn out within specific part of those games. In Battlefield 4, I used the early part of Singapore mission which started from the boat drop up till before the tank starts to clear the path on the blocked highway.
I also used the early portion of the first mission in Crysis 3, beginning from the moment Prophet meets Psycho until the moment that the first door in the game is opened by Psycho.
The results showed that the P35W v2 is able to render these games with the graphics settings tuned to maximum at more than 30 fps which is the minimum fps rate that we deemed as playable. Hence, I can safely say that the laptop is generally able to handle full HD gaming without much problem.
Of course, that particular remark doesn’t really apply to Crysis 3 which is quite known to be really demanding in terms of system performances but nevertheless, the laptop managed to render at almost 60 fps at full HD resolution once the graphics details is tuned down to medium.
To determine the battery life of the 75.81 Whr battery that Gigabyte has equipped into the P35W V2, I decided to set up three different battery tests. The first test is PCMark 8 Home Conventional Battery Test, which represents lower intensity usage by common home users. In addition to that, I also looped 3DMark’s Sky Diver demo at 1080p resolution to represent full HD gaming. Last but not least, I also looped a set of 1080p MKV videos in order to simulate continuous movie playback on the P35W V2.
For all these tests, I set the laptop’s power configuration at High Performance with maximum brightness. Additionally, the Wi-Fi is turned on as well and I have also set the laptop’s speaker volume at 50%. However, I did turn off the backlight on the P35W V2’s keyboard.
These separate tests were made to measure how fast it would take to drain the laptop’s battery, obviously under different conditions. The subsequent results can then be used as a general baseline for the laptop’s minimum battery life which naturally can be increased further by tweaking the laptop’s power configuration within Windows 8.1’s Control Panel, should users wish to do so.
Obviously, all three tests were done with a fully-charged battery. With the exception of the PCMark 8 Battery Test (since it’s a fully automated software), the results of these tests are defined as the time that each test took to drain out the laptop’s battery until it hits 5% mark which will then automatically put the laptop into Hibernate mode.
So, here are the battery test results for P35W V2:
Three and half hours does not sound like much but remember, all of these tests were run at High Performance power settings. Since common tasks such as word and spreadsheet processing, Internet browsing and even movie playback do not require much computing power, it is advisable to use less intensive power settings such as Balanced mode to gain more battery life while running those tasks on P35W V2.
As for gaming, it is not surprising to see that the P35W V2 is only able to last around 1 hour since the P35 W2 is equipped with a powerful processor and GPU which subsequently require plenty of juice to run. Needless to say, that you might want to hook up the P35 W2 to the power socket first if you want to game on it.
GIGABYTE P35W V2 VS OTHERS
Even though the RM 6000 to RM 7000 price point is generally considered as premium, it is interesting to see that there is an abundance of gaming laptops within this price range. Based on the table above, the price for our P35W v2 review unit’s configuration puts it between Gigabyte’s own P25X v2, the MSI GS70 2PE Stealth Pro and the Alienware 17.
Overall, I deem that the best competition that the P35W V2 has within the comparison table above is the MSI GS60 2PE Ghost Pro. Priced lower than the P35W V2, the GS60 2PE is also slightly lighter and thinner than Gigabyte’s offering but the P35W V2 still has a better processor, more storage space and double the amount of RAM for its GPU.
*as listed by Illegear store at 752pm Malaysian time, 30 September. Not inclusive of RM 300 Hari Malaysia discount. ** as listed by Illegear store at 752pm Malaysian time, 30 September. Not inclusive of RM 500 Hari Malaysia discount. ***as listed by Dell.com.my at 808pm Malaysian time, 30 September.
In terms of performance, the P35W V2 certainly did not disappoint. Thanks to the top notch hardware that Gigabyte has equipped into the laptop, gamers shouldn’t have any problem to play most of their favourite titles with high graphics settings on full HD resolution. Just don’t expect the laptop’s battery to be able to last long while gaming though.
Apart from performance, another plus point of the P35W v2 lies with its physical design. As you can see from our comparison table, the P35W v2 is among the slimmest and lightest 15.6-inch gaming notebooks within the RM 6000 to RM 7000 price range. Furthermore, there are not many laptops within that price range that offers a slim and lightweight design.
Not to forget, the P35W v2 also offers some versatility in terms of storage since its optical drive can be removed and replaced with another 2.5-inch storage drive. The fact that Gigabyte has actually included the bracket for the drive right in the packaging showed that the company gave extra thought about the user’s needs.
On the other hand, the major shortcoming of the P35W v2 would be the loud noise that is generated by its thermal fan as well as its operating temperature when used for gaming or other intense usage. Additionally, the brightness level of its display is not up to my expectations, even though it has a wide viewing angle and a good level of colour reproduction. Not to forget, the matte black finish of P35W v2 also turns the lid into a fingerprint magnet but then again, that seems to come naturally with the paint job.
Truth be told, the only reason why our P35W v2 review unit costs almost RM 6,800 is due to the extra 8GB RAM and the second 128GB solid state drive that were installed. Without them, the laptop’s price tag would be reduced to RM 5,999 which is a good option if you feel you don’t need the extra memory and storage space.
All in all, Gigabyte has convincingly delivered a combination of sleek design and performance into a lightweight package with the P35W v2 gaming laptop.
– Sleek and lightweight design.
– High performance components provide plenty of horsepower.
– Good viewing angle on the display.
– Versatile storage setup with removable optical disk drive.
– Bracket for the optional 2.5-inch drive is included as standard.
– Matte finish is a fingerprint magnet.
– The display looks rather dim.
– Loud thermal fans.
– High operating temperature during gaming and other high-intensity tasks.
Review unit is courtesy of Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd.
The Gigabyte P35W v2 is available from Illegear with a starting price of RM 5,999. Head on to www.illegear.com for further details.