Gigabyte has released a small update to the Aero 15 OLED, the flagship laptop aimed at gamers and creative professionals. Like last year’s model, this Aero 15 has a 4K OLED display and a decent port range with Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.1. As with last year’s model, it has a somewhat clumsy aluminum construction, a flashy RGB keyboard, a fingerprint sensor on the trackpad, and a webcam that is uncomfortably located under the screen. The big change is that the Aero 15 now includes Intel’s latest 11th generation processors and the Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics card.
The performance I saw here wasn’t a massive upgrade from the previous Aero 15, but it’s still one of the best gaming and productivity features you’ll find on laptops this size. The 60 Hz display means you won’t see the impressive frame rates that the new hardware is capable of, so many gamers can get a better experience with a device with a higher refresh rate. But if you have a look at the OLED screen, either because you’re doing color work on the side or just want your games and movies to look good, this device should get the job done (albeit hard and hot).
I have an Aero model for $ 2099 and it includes an Intel Core i7-11800H, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage in addition to the RTX 3070 and 15.6-inch 4K OLED display. You can upgrade your RAM to up to 64GB afterwards, and there are two M.2 memory slots. The gigabyte is not yet actually selling this model, but it is selling identical model 16GB of RAM for $ 1,999.
For direct play: Red Dead Redemption 2 an average of 80 frames per second at ultra preset at 1080p, dropping 37 frames per second at 4K. When all the sliders were at their maximum, I had to drop to a medium preset to get a repeatable 4K frame rate of 46 frames per second. The shadow of the Tomb Raider ran at 104 frames per second 1080p with beam tracking off and 81 frames per second with beam tracking on, dropping 48 frames per second and 29 frames per second at 4K, respectively. (When DLSS is on, 52 frames per second and 38 frames per second). So you can actually play both titles in 4K format if you want, but you have to drop the settings to hit 60 frames per second.
Newer release, Cyberpunk 2077, ran at 71 frames per second with beam tracking off and 30 frames per second with maximum beam tracking, dropping 42 frames per second and 19 frames per second at 4K, respectively (DLSS is in the Quality setting). Note that since the Aero only has a 60 Hz display, you will not see the frame rate advantage of more than 60 frames per second.
The cooling system, which includes two 71-blade fans and five heat pipes, kept the Core i7 at reasonable temperatures. During gaming, the CPU usually hovered below the mid-80s (Celsius) and sometimes rose to the high 80s or 90s. However, the body itself on the keyboard was often quite toasty and the bottom too hot to be comfortable to put on my lap, even though I only worked in Chrome. The fans are also very, very loud in Gigabyte’s Turbo mode – someone walked past the video export while driving and asked if the laptop was going to get up.
Nvidia’s mobile processors can be a little confusing because the same chip can produce widely varying frame rates depending on its power. The Aero RTX 3070 boasts 105 W of power consumption, as does the 3070 Aorus 15G. But Asus Zephyrus G15 caps with 100 watts of power with dynamic boost and Razerin Blade 15 Base includes a 3070 with a maximum power of 95 W. Gaming performance varies by name, but overall, Aero pulls comparable frame rates compared to what we’ve seen from both Blade and Zephyrus outputs in 1440p. They’re even slightly better than the game-centric Aorus (which still has a 10th-generation Intel processor). On the other hand, the Aorus with RTX 3070, which has a 240 Hz 1080p display, is only $ 1,799, which highlights the premium you pay for the Aero OLED display.
Outside of the game world, Aero was more of a mixed bag. The laptop comes preloaded with a new proprietary Control Center application that works with Microsoft’s Azure AI. In theory, this feature allows the computer to automatically switch between color, power, and performance profiles (Creator Mode, Game Mode, Meeting Mode, etc.) based on the application you are using. This was a great idea, but the fact that the brightness of the screen changed and a notification appeared every time I jumped in or out of Chrome or Steam was more of a nuisance than a help, so I ended up turning it off.
On the productivity side, Aero found a standard workload that includes about a dozen Chrome tabs, Slack, Spotify, and random photos. It didn’t work strangely as well as its predecessor in the Premiere Pro test, which includes five minutes, 33 seconds of 4K video export; this year’s Aero took four minutes and five seconds to complete the task, which took its predecessor (the Aero 15 OLED XB) just over two and a half – Gigabyte says this may be related to Nvidia’s drivers. It’s still one of the fastest times we’ve ever seen on a laptop; The Aorus 15G and Blade 15 Base, with the same GPU, each lasted more than six minutes, while Dell XPS 15 GTX 1650 on Ti took 4:23.
Of course, Premiere Pro exports are not a comparison of apples and apples, as different versions can produce different results. Its Puget systems A benchmark for the Premiere Pro, which tests both live playback and export performance on media with 4K and 8K resolution, the Aero scored 824. It’s one of the highest points I’ve ever seen on a test unit, and it blows the race from beating Zephyrus G15, Blade 15, and Aorus 15G, and Aero XB RTX 2070 with Super Max-Q. That’s more than double the point we’ve seen Dell XPS 15.
It’s quite an impressive result, but you have to make a few compromises for that power. First, battery life is a serious disappointment. The gigabyte claimed up to eight hours, but even in the power saving profile, the first Aero 15 unit shipped gave me only two. In the second unit, I worked an average of three hours and four minutes of continuous work. That’s great if you’re ever going to take this thing anywhere (the 230W power brick is also pretty big), but for someone like me who often works on the road, this life cycle isn’t great – specially about $ 2,000. We got five hours and 45 minutes from the XPS 15 and over six hours from the Aorus 15G, so it’s worth considering if you’re a mobile user who likes the look of the Aero.
There are a few other things. The webcam has a handy physical shutter, but it’s also located just above the keyboard, directly below the Aero logo at the bottom; it gives all your video chats a great view of your nostrils. There’s a fingerprint sensor in the upper left corner of the touchpad, which is handy, but my finger also hit it several times while navigating. Finally, the keyboard is nice (it has a NumPad and a bit of a soft click), but the flashy RGB lights are pretty, well, visible, and may not be all you want in the office or coffee shop.
Overall, Aero is a decent option for you if you’re looking for a powerful OLED laptop with a lot of pizzazz. But its drawbacks – especially battery life and nose camera – are significant, and it’s worth considering whether you’ll take full advantage of the chips and 4K OLED in return.
For example, none of the popular titles tested here are ideal for running in the 4K version at their maximum settings. And while the Aero 15 gets better frame rates than the Aorus 1080p, you can still see only 60 frames per second in the Aero, while the higher refresh rate display on the Aorus shows you more. And there’s also a litany of QHD laptops, including the Zephyrus G15 and Blade 15, that can play games well at this resolution – and they can certainly break 60 in some of the titles here.
This leaves content producers and other professionals looking to use Aero as a work driver, a real audience for this device, and while this is certainly one of the most powerful laptops for such a workload, I wonder how many of these people are okay with short battery life and nosecam. They may be victims that are worth making for some people, but they are certainly a lot of questions.
Photographer: Monica Chin / The Verge