Post updated November 13th, 2014 at 08:02 pm
As far as gaming laptops go, the Aorus X7 v2 wanders dangerously close to overkill territory. It packs a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX860M in an SLI configuration, which isn’t too common on laptops of any type. Less common still is the X7 v2’s design: matte black all over and seriously mean-looking vents around the chassis, and a rear that looks like a luxury sports car. Clearly, this gaming laptop means business. But does it walk the talk?
At 17.3-inches, the Aorus X7 is at the upper end of the size spectrum; and its weight shows it. Three kilograms is not light, which limits the mobility of the X7; although it is still lighter than most of the competition. The weight is somewhat offset by how thin Aorus have managed to make the X7. Thin and heavy makes the machine a little awkward to handle, as getting a grip on the surface is not that easy. The matte finish doesn’t quite help all that much, while providing a good place for smudges and finger prints to get stuck on. There was also the small issue of one of the tips of the Aorus symbol snapping off while we were wiping the machine down.
This is not entirely a problem as it appears that Aorus intended this to be more of a portable gaming platform instead. Still, users who buy this should come in with the understanding that they will not be keeping it on them at all times. Those who insist on lugging this machine around will find the construction to be rock solid. It feels like it could withstand a few knocks, but we aren’t prepared to put that to the test just yet.
The hinge is well designed and inspires confidence that it will not simply give up after a few rounds of opening and closing the cover. Which is good considering how thin the entire design is.
Ports line three sides of the X7 chassis, and it helpfully packs five USB ports (three USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0) for attaching an impressive number of peripherals. However, two of those ports (USB 2.0) are located on the back of the body, making them difficult to reach – though it looks like they are there for your keyboard and mouse. It does not help, however, that the connector for the power adapter is next to these two USB ports.
There is a distinct lack of flashing lights and gamer glow on the X7, which causes the whole thing to feel slightly understated. This produces a feeling that it isn’t screaming about how extreme the owner is; which is good for non-gamers who would like a powerful mobile workstation instead of a gaming rig.
On the inside, the Aorus X7 packs an Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor that is clocked at 2.4GHz (3.6GHz with Turbo Boost). This is pretty much standard for most low to mid-range gaming laptops, making it a surprise to see it in our review unit. C0nsidering the quality of the benchmarks there appear to be no major performance issues with sticking this particular mobile Core i7 into the Aorus. However, one could be expected to receive at least a little more for the asking price of this machine. The online store allows the X7 to be fitted with a much better i7-4860HQ processor…for a considerable bump in price.
16GB of dual-channel high performance RAM were included in the review unit, and the Aorus X7 is still capable of packing up to double that amount thanks to the four RAM slots. Also installed were three 128GB mSATA SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration. Aorus offers a few different options for storage, including adding a 2.5-inch HDD to those three mSATA slots; this massive laptop holds space for three mSATA SSD slots and one 2.5-inch hard drive bay. We only had the three SSDs which provided more than enough space for installing our review software and games, but it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine that long term users would want a lot more storage than just 384GB.
The dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPUs appear to be the GK104 Kepler based versions instead of the higher end Maxwell based architecture. This drops the clock speed from 1029MHz to 797MHz and was a little disappointing to discover Aorus cutting corners with the hardware. It still manages to pack 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM spread across both GPUs.
Heat management is barely a problem on the Aorus X7 thanks to the multiple four vents and two fans. Bear in mind that our extended gaming sessions on the laptop did not attempt to push the graphics to the maximum limit, but it does provide a neat baseline for how cool the laptop runs. It may get a little warm after a couple of hours, but at no point did it become hot enough to be of a concern. Aorus also bundles in its own software that helps users tweak the fans to three settings: Stealth, Auto and Turbo.
Aorus has tried using a glass trackpad this time around; and it provides for an interesting experience. Most users will find the smooth glass to be similar to swiping and scrolling on their smartphones or tablets, and it certainly has a more pleasant tactile experience as opposed to the regular matte pad. Unfortunately, glass tends to retain fingerprints and smudges quite easily, leaving the touchpad looking very messy after extended use. Good thing glass is easy to clean.
While the glass might be pleasant to the touch, it does have some issues with responsiveness. Swiping around works more or less as intended, and users should have no problems with moving the cursor across the screen; however, it has some problems as tapping the glass twice to doubleclick does not always register. Several colleagues also reported that there were sensitivity issues with the touchpad occasionally being too sensitive or not sensitive enough; oftentimes both within the same session.
As usual, the keyboard leaves something to be desired. This is not new for gaming laptops, as the key presses are too shallow for proper gaming and would really benefit from more resistance to provide better tactile feedback. It isn’t too bad in this case considering that the problem is endemic to most of the market – though we believe consumers should be expecting more for the price they pay for this product.
Aorus is also apparently using something it is calling a scissor switch on the left side macro keys. It appears to be a shallower version of a mechanical key that doesn’t make as much noise when pressed. They are not nearly as clicky as a that of a mechanical keyboard, although the haptic feedback from the switch is better than that offered by the membrane keyboard. It would have been much nicer if the whole keyboard was done with these switches though.
A pair of 2W speakers provide ample volume for the X7, especially when combined with the dual woofer system. It is loud with the appropriate thump of bass when necessary; just how the game designers would like it to be. However, there is only one minor issue with the sound quality: the cooling fans.
Aorus has managed to create a fan system that drowns out almost everything around it. Oddly enough, the noise doesn’t always kick in during gaming sessions; although it did manage to consistently distract the office during benchmarking. There is no way to tell when the fans will switch to full power, although continuous Counter Strike: Global Offensive sessions do not appear to be enough. On the plus side, these fans really do keep things relatively cool, considering the hardware underneath.
Even before benchmarking, there was no doubt that the X7 would be a beast in terms of performance. Especially since we used it for regular gaming before the benchmarks were run. While the dual SLI configuration still maxes out at 1080p, it goes a long way to getting lighting and particle effects to look simply amazing; not to mention smooth out those frame rates.
The X7 consistently scored above 40 fps, even at Ultra settings, for almost every game we ran it on. One exception happened to be Crysis 3; but that is because that particular game requires a gaming rig that most humans are unable to afford. However, it still produced a respectable 21 fps at 1080p with textures set to the very high preset.
Battery life is a completely different concern. It is safe to say that the Aorus X7 should always remain plugged in with its giant power brick when in use. On conventional settings its 73 Wh Li Polymer battery is a far cry from two hours of use, not to mention it will barely allow anyone to finish watching a modern 1080p movie with the brightness set to maximum. We would have run our usual test of looping the movie until the laptop went into hibernate mode, but it just didn’t last long enough for that. When both GPUs are activated for gaming, the X7 struggles to last even a single hour. All this means that the owner should stay near a power outlet.
The Aorus X7 looks to be a solid choice among gaming laptops, although the price point may put some potential buyers off. With a starting price of RM8799 it will inevitably draw comparisons to the Alienware 17 and Razer Blade Pro, both of which pack premium hardware. The main reason to buy this over the competition would be the SLI configuration that gives the X7 a little edge over the competition. On top of that, it is substantially lighter than the 4.15kg Alienware. Let’s also not forget that Aorus provides plenty more customisation options than both of its peers.
More importantly, with the X7 v2, Aorus has delivered a package that offers better value for money than any of the competing high-end desktop replacement gaming laptops in the market. On its own, the Aorus X7 is more than adequate for gaming. Any issues can be overlooked thanks to the performance provided by the hardware, and most gamers will be more than happy to own this machine. It may lack the fancy strobing lights and spinning rims of other gaming laptops, but that is what we like about the Aorus as a whole: an unassuming premium gaming machine that lets its performance do the talking.