With the X9 gaming laptop, Aorus has spared no expense in crafting a dream notebook for gamers.
It all starts with the exterior design, which takes the sports car styling favoured by gaming laptops to the next level. Its aluminium chassis is baroque-like, with more sharp edges than a Gothic cathedral. I have never seen a more intricate laptop chassis design.
More importantly, the X9 looks relatively sleek for a 17.3-inch gaming laptop, at just under 30mm in thickness and weighing around 3.6kg.
At its front and back are air vents, illuminated by customisable LEDs. The vents at the bottom panel are arranged to resemble a soaring bird of prey to match Aorus' falcon logo.
This logo is on the lid too, and backlit by a customisable LED. What is unusual are the LED bars above the keyboard. These LEDs, dubbed the Aorus HUD, give users an inkling of the processor temperature or fan speed, or even the CPU usage and battery levels. For instance, as the temperature increases, so does the number of lit LED bars. However, it does not show the exact values, which limits its usefulness. Users can tweak its settings using the preloaded Aorus Fusion utility.
The keyboard's RGB LED backlights are also controlled using this same software. Each individual key can be customised to display a specific colour, which is more granular than the zone-based backlighting schemes found in some gaming laptops.
But I was more impressed by the X9's mechanical keyboard. It feels tactile, with more key travel (2.5mm compared to 2mm) than the ones found on most gaming laptops. Aorus says that the keyboard uses brown mechanical switches - they certainly feel almost as good to type with as a desktop version.
My X9 review set comes with a high-resolution 3,840 x 2,160-pixel display. It is sharp and vibrant, with excellent viewing angles. It also comes calibrated out of the box by X-Rite Pantone, a company that makes colour measurement tools. Aorus also has a 120Hz high-refresh rate screen for the X9, but this option is unavailable in Singapore.
Processor: Intel Core i7-7820HK (2.9GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 SLI 8GB GDDR5
Screen size: 17.3 inches, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels
Connectivity: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C port, 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card reader, audio jacks
Battery: 94 watt-hour
Value for money: 3
Battery life: 1
Powering the laptop is not a single graphics chip, but two high-end Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 chips. The GTX 1070 is the second-fastest model in Nvidia's graphics lineup behind the GTX 1080, so running two of them together should lead to a higher performance than a single 1080.
At least that is the theory. However, not all games support a dual graphics chips setup. Notable examples include last year's first-person shooter Doom. As a result, the X9 performs about as well as the Alienware 17, which has a single GTX 1070, in Doom. Both PCs scored around 110 frames per second (fps) compared to 130fps on a GTX 1080-equipped laptop.
Even in games that support two graphics chips, the performance level is not twice that of a single chip. In the 3DMark Fire Extreme benchmark, the X9 scored 11,344 compared to 7,390 on the Alienware 17. For those interested in gaming at 4K resolution, the X9 managed around 60fps in Crysis 3 at Very High graphics setting at its native 4K resolution, which is impressive for a laptop.
In addition, the X9 comes with a quad-core Intel Core i7-7820HK chip that can be overclocked to run at a higher speed than usual. It also has 32GB of RAM and two 512GB solid-state drives. In other words, the X9 is right up there with the best gaming laptops in terms of hardware specifications.
As you would expect of a powerful gaming machine, the X9 becomes fairly warm when running a game. But it does not get too hot to the touch, though the fan becomes noticeably more noisy. Fortunately, the X9 has capable speakers that can drown out the fan noise.
The proprietary software tools provided by Aorus - used to adjust settings like the processor clock speed - feel clunky to use. I even found a bug with an earlier version that did not apply my setting correctly.
At $5,699, the Aorus X9 seems expensive at first glance, but it is actually competitive with rivals like the $6,099 Razer Blade Pro, which has a similar 4K display but comes with a single GTX 1080 chip. The new Acer Predator Triton 700, which also has a GTX 1080 but only a full-HD, albeit 120Hz screen, is priced at $5,888.
Verdict: The X9 gives gamers exactly what they want - a brash and powerful gaming computer.