Gaming laptops featuring Nvidia’s RTX 20 Series graphics chips

Gigabyte Aero with promising AI

This is the third Gigabyte Aero gaming laptop I have tested in the past three years. All three come in an impressively slim, bezel-free design that belies the powerful computing hardware inside.

The new Aero 15-Y9 updates the graphics chip to the latest GeForce RTX 2080 (Max-Q) and comes with Intel's top mobile processor, the six-core Core i9-8950HK that is said to be built for gaming and content creation.

Gigabyte has made a few cosmetic tweaks to the Aero's design. For instance, the orange highlight on the lid has been removed, though the Gigabyte logo remains backlit. The LED status indicators have also been removed from the front edge of the laptop. The end result is an unassuming look that would not be out of place in the office.

But the narrow screen bezels mean that the Web camera is situated below the display, like in the previous Aero model. This results in less-than-flattering shots of the user's chin and nostrils.

My review set comes with a matte 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) display that looks stunning. It is bright and sharp and has been calibrated by colour management firm X-Rite for colour accuracy. Gigabyte says it has 100 per cent coverage of the Adobe RGB colour gamut, making it suitable for content creators.

The drawbacks of this brilliant display are higher cost and a standard refresh rate of 60Hz, which is passe for a high-end gaming notebook.

  • SPECS 

    PRICE: $6,099

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i9-8950HK (2.9GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GDDR6 8GB

    RAM: 32GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet port, SD card reader, audio jack

    BATTERY: 94 watt-hour

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Gigabyte does have a 144Hz screen, albeit with a pixel resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 on its lower-end Aero 15. This model, which comes with a slightly less powerful GeForce RTX 2070 graphics chip, is priced at $3,899.

My souped-up review set, though, costs $6,099.

I like the keyboard, which feels tactile and has good key travel. It has per-key RGB backlighting that can be adjusted in the preloaded Control Center software. The Microsoft Precision touchpad is of a decent size, allowing users to execute Windows 10's native touchpad gestures with ease.

New to the Aero is the Microsoft Azure AI (artificial intelligence) feature that claims to automatically adjust the laptop settings to provide the best experience for the application in use.

While I had expected the AI to optimise the processor and graphics chip for better performance in games - and it did - I was taken aback when it did more than that.

Notably, the AI recognised that I was running a game benchmark and changed the keyboard backlights to one suited for gamers - the WASD keys and a few other selected keys were lit up while other unused keys were turned off.

This is an interesting glimpse of what AI can do for gaming computers. Some manufacturers have already roped in professional gamers to create custom profiles for their gaming machines, but an AI with access to how you and other gamers use their computers may produce a better result.

In any case, the performance gains from enabling the AI feature are slight - 5 to 10 per cent on average, depending on the application. The AI will probably get better with time, though.

Given the powerful processor, I had high expectations of the performance.

Unfortunately, the processor may not be running at its full potential because of heat issues. The area right above the keyboard gets very hot while the Aero is running a computationally intensive app. According to a monitoring app, the processor temperature exceeded 85 deg C.

The cooling fans, while loud, are not as noisy as those in other gaming notebooks I have tested.

Running my usual game benchmarks, I recorded an average frame rate of around 109 frames per second (fps) in Crysis 3, compared with 128fps for the same game with the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX701. The Aero is also not as fast as its rival in Doom, registering 103fps compared with the GX701's 130fps.

Its battery life is decent for a gaming notebook, at about three hours. This is significantly longer than the GX701's 1hr 40min.

• Verdict: Gigabyte refreshes its ultra-thin Aero laptop with the latest computing hardware, but its performance seems stymied by heat. Its AI feature shows promise, though.

Vincent Chang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline 'Gigabyte Aero with promising AI'. Print Edition | Subscribe