Gigabyte continue their medium-specced P34 line with a machine that performs well and blends in with co-workers. Although we’d like more battery time.
- Light, thin and stylish
- Quiet and efficient cooling
- Good touchpad
- Poor battery life
- Only 2GB of GDDR
- Bouncy keyboard
The Taiwanese component giant Gigabyte have been making their P34 range of gaming laptops for a while now. We reviewed one of its previous incarnations favorably back in 2014.
They’re a quality, or should we say mature, gaming line. They’re sometimes not the fastest, flashiest ones out there, instead they’ve got a couple of twists.
Firstly, as you’d expect they’re packed with quality parts, but they’re packaged unusually, at least for gamers’ tastes. These aren’t the neon flashing, cyborg peacocks we’re used to (ahem… Acer Predator 21 X), they’re for sophisticated gamers. Ones who don’t want to draw attention to themselves on a train while preventing the world from alien invasion.
And the other twist? We tend to think of games-capable laptops as being humongous, chunky and defying all notions of portability. Instead this is thin and light, weighing in at 3.73 pounds (1.69kg) and a slender 0.87 inches (22.2mm) thick.
But are you willing to sacrifice that disco flashing Cherry MX keyboard and neon lid logo that looks like the Eye of Sauron for less weight to carry around? And just how do they compare specs and performance wise? Well, let’s see…
Price, availability and value
So how does the Gigabyte P34G v7 compare to other gaming laptops price-wise? The new Alienware 13 R3 is certainly a thing of beauty, but you’ll be paying heftily for that OLED screen.
The entry level Gigabyte P34G v7 is admittedly cheaper than this at $1,595 (£1,249.99, $2,115 AUD), but for that you’ll get a slower i5-7300HQ, a smaller 180SSD and no option for an extra HD. The Gigabyte has a whopping 1TB of secondary storage included, so they really have thought about gamers.
And what about the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming? We reviewed the lower spec i5-7300HQ. Heading to their website there is a model that’s comparable to the P34. The next rung up clocks in at $1,395 (£1,099.00, $1,860 AUD) and includes the same i7-7700HQ as seen here, with the same sized hard drives (although the second drive is just 5,400rpm).
But wait, it has double the amount of RAM and double the amount of graphics memory on the same GPU. And while we haven’t got the TechRadar benchmarks on that particular machine, at $255 (£200, $340 AUD) less but for more GPU RAM and normal RAM it’s certainly tempting.
Let’s be honest, P34G v7 looks a bit like a 1990s IBM Thinkpad. It’s encased in thick black, with a thin grey bar to mark where the lid opens. The Gigabyte logo is inset in tasteful silver right in the center of a reassuringly solid black (of course) aluminium lid. OK so the base is plastic, but on the plus side there are a number of Phillips screws there to easily upgrade the RAM up to 32GB.
It also plays it safe with the ports: a traditional round DC power port on the right along with an HDMI and a couple of USB 3.0s and an SD card slot.
On the left there’s another USB 3.0 (thankfully no USB 2.0s here at all), plus a USB C, network, combined headphone/mic and a VGA display port for all your old school gaming requirements. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but that’s what you want from ports.
Pumping out of the rear of the machine are two large fans, and they’re part of Gigabyte’s exclusive Super-cool technology. One is located across the Esc and F3 keys on the left side and the other under the F11 and Del on the right.
Twin heat pipes join them together in the centre and they both draw heat from both the CPU and GPU. They’re surprisingly quiet, even when pushed and set to gaming mode within Gigabyte’s supplied Smart Manager software. The cooling system also keeps the thickness of the machine down too, according to Gigabyte. And while it isn’t the slimmest of gaming laptops, the Razer Blade’s 0.7 inches (17.9mm) is hard to beat, 0.87 inches (22.2mm) is perfectly serviceable for the specs and price.
However, it does mean that in practical terms that if you’re using it just on your knees, you will get quite hot, so keep it on a desk. It’s also wise (as with any high performance laptop) to keep the back clear from obstacles as that’s the only ventilation point.
Just to the left and right of the fans are two large sturdy hinges, and unlike the recently reviewed Dell Inspiron 15 these don’t wobble or move. They really do keep the screen in place no matter how much you bash the keyboard. Unfortunately though, it’s the keyboard itself that doesn’t much like being bashed. There’s a lot of bounce, particularly in the middle. That being said, there’s wasn’t an issue with keys being unnecessarily set off, it was just a little off-putting that’s all. It was perfectly capable of a few frustrating Rampage missions in GTA V.
The Dell Inspiron 15 weighs 5.84 pounds (2.65kg), and this is a sprightly 3.73 pounds (1.69kg). The Dell is also nearly 0.2 inches (5mm) wider, 1.38 inches (35mm) deeper and 0.13 inches (3.2mm) thicker.
If it’s specs for price you’re after then the Dell’s for you, but if you want a slimmer machine and don’t mind paying a little bit extra, then you should put your money here. Admittedly the Dell does have a slightly larger screen at 15.6-inches, so they are going to be bigger, but sometimes it isn’t all about the specs, even in gaming laptops, it’s about portability.
Shifting down to the touchpad on the Gigabyte P34G v7, a common gripe with this particular reviewer, it’s actually a good size and it’s slightly wider than the space bar.
Also it’s uncommonly reliable: at no point did it accidentally zoom or scroll, possibly a first in our experience. Occasionally the surface could be a little sticky, but after a while it somehow got ‘oiled’ and became smoother (apologies if that sounds a little weird). It’s an Elan touchpad which can be easily customised for use in Windows using their own supplied software. We were quite surprised at the quality as in the past, Synaptics have been thought of as the superior technology, but it appears that Elan have clicked with this current incarnation.
Graphics wise, the special cooling system means that the GTX 1050 included with the Gigabyte P34G v7 can perform to its maximum potential. It comes in two flavors: 4GB and 2GB but here it’s only a 2GB.
Unfortunately there’s no option to have this model pre-installed with the extra GDDR. For that you’ll need to go for the P34K v7 which is around $125 (£100, $170AUD) more expensive. It would have been nice to have the extra memory, but it’s good that Gigabyte have given users the option relatively cheaply to upgrade, albeit to a different model number.
It’s connected to a 14 inch FHD screen and while we weren’t wowed by it, we weren’t disappointed either. Some gamers may want QHD for sure, but others may not miss it and be happy to save money. And while the color isn’t as vibrant as we’d hope, it’s perfectly serviceable.
In our tests, the Gigabyte P34G v7 rose to the challenge. And while it’ll never reach the heady heights of running The Witcher 3 with more dust particles than you can shake a very furry stick at, it’ll certainly give you a steady enough frame rate for the cash spent.
In fact, it edged close to the Razer Blade in some of the tests, especially Cinebench and Geekbench. In Single Geekbench the P34G clocks in at 3,623 a respectable score next to the Blade’s 4,109. They both have the same CPU but the P34G’s GPU is inferior which might explain its performance on the 3D Mark tests as none were particularly outstanding. Sky Diver it hit a respectable 16,280 but crawled through parts of Time Spy to reach 1,797.
Oddly, many of the benches are actually comparable to last year’s A machine that’s got an 8GB GTX 1070 and weighs 2.22kg and is now around the same price as the P34. However you may be future-proofed with the newer technology that’s in here.
Just playing games, however, and not relying on the benches, it worked pretty well. GTA V runs very respectably, as does Deus Ex. We were blitzing through at 45-60fps with a little time spent on tweaks.
So how long can you play games on the move? Unsurprisingly not very long. In the PC Mark Battery test it scraped just eight minutes over two hours, and our movie loop test was a little better at three hours and 13 mins. Pretty atrocious, particularly when compared to the Razer Blade which manages two hours more. So, don’t forget to bring a charger with you.
We like the design, really we do. It’s slim and lightweight, and while it’s not the flashiest of laptops it’ll appeal to the mature gamer.
And here’s the bonus: it’ll blend into an office situation. Plus, it’s priced pretty well at under £1,300 ($1600, AU$2200), has a handy 1TB 7,200rpm secondary drive, perfect for gamers.
There are a few niggles: the bouncy keyboard is one, as are some of the components, specifically the GPU which only has a measly 2GB on it.
In comparison to other machines of its ilk, namely the Dell Inspiron 13 Gaming, it could be considered pricey for the spec. And it’s got dismal battery life.
Despite our disappointment over the battery life, we still enjoyed using the P34G v7. It’ll run the latest titles, not with all the bells and whistles on, but it’s what you’d expect for the price.
However we’d recommend that if you can, spend the extra money and get the P34K as it has twice the amount of video RAM.
We did love the design though, it’s so… normal and therefore unlike other garish machines of its ilk. Also, unlike other gaming laptops, this is thin enough to fit in a traditional sheath case and won’t weigh you down. Vive la normcore!