Gigabyte Aero 14 review

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OUR VERDICT

The Gigabyte Aero 14 is neither the lightest nor the thinnest gaming laptop around, but it’s the most affordable machine in its class.

FOR

  • Lightweight and thin design
  • Competitively priced
  • 190-degree display hinge

AGAINST

  • Battery life isn’t as long as promised
  • Loaded with bloatware

Gigabyte is no stranger to thin gaming laptops, but the Taiwan-based electronics firm has outdone itself with the ultra-slim Aero 14. Measuring in at only 0.78-inches (1.99mm) thick and weighing 4.17 pounds (1.89kg), this 14-inch gaming laptop could almost be considered an ultra-portable.

Gigabyte promises to deliver the affordable, ultra-thin gaming laptop of your dreams with a 3K screen, Intel’s latest quad-core Kaby Lake processors, Nvidia’s GTX 1060 graphics chip and a massive battery. However, that massive battery doesn’t amount to massive longevity, and its killer price is subsidized by plenty of bloatware. Still, the Aero 14 proves to be an incredible value.

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SPEC SHEET

CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.8GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 630
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,400MHz)
Screen: 14-inch QHD (2,560 x 1,440) anti-glare IPS Storage: 512 GB M.2 SATA PCIe Gen3
Ports: 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, mini DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, SD card reader, headset jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Camera: HD webcam
Weight: 4.17 pounds (1.89kg)
Size: 13.19 x 9.84 x 0.78 inches (33.5 x 25 x 1.99cm; W x D x H)

Pricing and availability

The Gigabyte Aero 14 comes well – and only – configured for $1,699 (£1,799, AU$1,999), and compared to its peers, you’ll be saving quite a bit.

An equally-well-equipped Alienware 13 R3 and its spectacular OLED screen runs for a noticeably higher $2,099 (£1,949, AU$2,899). Meanwhile, the Razer Bladewill cost you most at $2,299 (£2,249, AU$2,999) for the same level of hardware inside.

Design

Gigabyte laptops have always looked so minimalistic to a fault that the Aero 14 is straight up stylish.

Rather than just a little flourish of orange, this 14-inch gaming laptop comes with a fully orange lid option – then there’s also a lime green version. But, for those that want to keep a lower profile, there’s still the traditional option of going with the black paint job and orange stripe.

Colors aside, the top cover also features a small triangular area filled in with a tasteful crosshatched pattern – not unlike carbon fiber – for an extra flourish.

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The interior of the notebook is also quite a departure for Gigabyte, as the keyboard features a new and larger island style. This time, the keys are noticeably bigger with more spacing between each key. As you can see with the five macro keys included on the left-hand side, the keyboard quite literally stretches from one end of the machine to the other.

Beyond the physical size of the keyboard, the key switches feel bouncy and offer firm resistance while typing.

Just below that, you’ll find a generously sized and silky smooth trackpad. Unfortunately, the Elan software driving this pointing device left us with fewer multi-touch gestures than we’ve become accustomed to with a Microsoft Precision Touchpad.

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Laid back

The Aero 14’s biggest claim to fame is that – for all of the hardware inside – it’s actually pretty light. Weighing only 4.17 pounds (1.89kg), it’s certainly less back-straining than the 5.8 pound Alienware 13 R3. However, the 4.16-pound (1.88kg) Razer Blade and 3.96-pound MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro outpace the Aero 14 as lightweight champs.

Measuring only 0.78 inches thick, the Aero 14 is also an awfully thin machine in its class. Unfortunately, this is also another area where the Razer Blade and MSI GS63VR top it with even shorter chassis measuring 0.70- and 0.69-inches, respectively.

One area where the Aero 14 has no equals is how far the screen bends back. Forget about the humdrum 180-degree hinge, the 14-inch display can tilt back as far as 190-degrees, thanks to the laptop extended rear base.

It’s a luxury we don’t see on 90% of notebooks, and we appreciate having the freedom to angle the screen really far back when we’re laying back on a couch or in bed.

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Media monster

Aside from offering all the articulation we would want, the Aero 14’s screen is top notch. The display panel is so brilliant that 50% screen brightness is enough to overpower sunlight streaming into our office.

Colors pop off the screen, which of course help to make media and games look that much better. Likewise, rich blacks dissolve into the bezels, though, darker contrast levels fall off quickly and end up blending together more than we’ve seen on the Razer Blade’s IGZO display or the Alienware 13’s OLED monitor. Considering that the Aero 14 is only equipped with an IPS display, we’re impressed it keeps up with its two closest rivals at all.

Unfortunately, the 14-inch notebook’s speakers don’t leave as nearly as big an impression. They’re serviceable enough for playing music and game audio when you don’t feel like putting on a headset. Otherwise, bring along your gaming headset.

Equipped with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and Nvidia GTX 1060, the Aero 14 is a fully VR-capable machine; and, for the first time, you don’t have to spend more than two grand to get it. Not only is this machine more affordable than both the Razer Blade and Alienware 13 R3, it also out performs them in almost every benchmark.

The Aero 14 earned a slightly higher Fire Strike score than the Alienware 13, and then several ticks greater than the Razer Blade. We saw an identical trend follow within The Division and GTA V benchmark tools, though, the Aero 14 only goes a frame or two per second faster.

We can largely attribute the Aero 14’s overall higher benchmark scores to its brand new quad-core Kaby Lake processor. This in turn also helped it secure a 54 to 84- point-higher Cinebench CPU score over its competitors.

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Battery life

The other most impressive component on the Aero 14’s spec sheet is its massive 94.24-watt hour (Whr) battery. It’s far larger than the usual 52- to 56-Whr batteries we’re used to seeing inside most laptops, and Gigabyte claims users should get a full day’s use out of the laptop.

However, in our own testing, we found the Aero 14 really only has enough juice to last for half a day.

The portable rig lasted longest during our movie benchmark test, which loops a locally stored 1080p movie at 50% brightness and volume, for 4 hours and 49 minutes.

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On a typical workday, the Aero 14 only ran for 4 hours and 22 minutes, though, we could see stretching this out to five hours with lower screen brightness and a lighter workload.

Still, that’s better than the two hours of battery life we typically see with gaming laptops of this size and class. However, if you’re looking something closer to six hours of usage on a gaming notebook, then the Razer Blade is for you.

We liked

The Gigabyte Aero 14 is an impressive machine that crams as much power as the Alienware 13 into a compact shell that competes with the Razer Blade and MSI GS63VR. With performance to beat, an excellent display, loud speakers, a tactile keyboard, a spacious touchpad and decent battery life, the Aero 14 has it all and is one of the best gaming laptops we’ve ever reviewed.

And, to top it all off, it comes at a much lower price than all of our favorite 13- to 15-inch gaming laptops.

We disliked

Paying under $2,000 for a laptop this good is incredible. But, to get to this lower price point, the Aero 14 contains bloatware you’ll see strewn all over your desktop upon first turning it on. Otherwise, our only other minor complaint is the Aero 14’s battery life not meeting its promise – despite having a battery outclassing most competitors.

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Final verdict

Gigabyte’s gaming laptops have always offered excellent performance packed into a thin frame at an affordable value, and the Aero 14 is no different. This model stands above its peers with better benchmark numbers at a significantly lower price.

Getting the Gigabyte Aero 14 to the tune of $1,699 (£1,799, AU$1,999) should sound better than coughing up 300 to 500 more bucks for an Alienware 13 or Razer Blade. Sure, this machine isn’t as well polished or premium as its rivals, but if you’re looking for the cheapest VR-capable gaming laptop, the Gigabyte Aero 14 is for you.

(techradar.com, https://goo.gl/qUgxwo)

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