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Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB - Review 2020


The
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB ($2,699 as tested) isn’t a gaming rig and it isn’t a mobile
workstation, though it comes close on both counts. Its colorful RGB backlit
keyboard would be at home on one of Gigabyte’s Aorus gamers, and it’s
compatible with Nvidia’s RTX Studio drivers that mimic independent software
vendor (ISV) certification for specialized apps. Instead, the Aero is a desktop
replacement aimed at designers and content creators—or anyone interested in the
latest, most powerful laptop silicon, since it combines a 10th Generation, eight-core Intel Core i7 CPU
with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super GPU (in slightly detuned Max-Q guise). It’s
a formidable performer with a drop-dead gorgeous display, a system any power
user would be proud to carry, and an easy Editors’ Choice as a top creative
laptop.

A
Svelte Black Slab

The
display is a 15.6-inch OLED panel with 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) native resolution,
meeting the VESA DisplayHDR 400 True Black specification. Each panel is X-Rite Pantone certified
and color-calibrated at the factory. The screen comes backed by the spanking-new GeForce RTX 2070 Super
Max-Q graphics adapter with 8GB of GDDR6 memory. This is the first laptop we’ve fully tested with one of the “Super” versions of Nvidia’s mobile-ready GPUs, which come in RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super flavors.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED rear view

The
Aero 15 OLED XB also flaunts Intel’s new Core
i7-10875H, an eight-core, 16-thread processor with a base clock speed of 2.3GHz
and max turbo speed of 5.1GHz. This is also the first opportunity we’ve had to test one of these 10th Generation Intel H-Series chips. Other standard features include 16GB of RAM and
a 512GB PCI Express solid-state drive bolstered by 32GB of Intel Optane buffer, though I’d vote for double that memory and storage for a machine in this elite
class.

Not
styled like a swoopy gaming laptop, the Aero 15 OLED XB is a conservative CNC-machined
aluminum slab with an illuminated Aero logo on the lid (and two tiny lights
shining on another logo on the rear hinge). At 0.78 by 14 by 9.8 inches and 4.4
pounds, it’s comparable to the Dell XPS 15 and half a pound lighter than the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition, to cite two other premium OLED-screen laptops, though heftier than the 3.6-pound,
non-OLED MSI Prestige 15. There’s a small amount of flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the
keyboard deck.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED webcam

This laptop’s top and side screen bezels are so skinny that the 720p webcam and its sliding
cover are mounted forward of the keyboard, so video chatters will see a looming view
of your chin and neck with a ceiling instead of a wall behind you. (Plus, plan on showing off your
enormous knuckles if you’re typing, or your chest and stomach if the computer’s
on your lap.) There’s a fingerprint reader in the top left corner of the
buttonless touchpad.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED left ports

HDMI
and mini DisplayPort video outputs join a USB 3.2 Type-A port and audio and
Ethernet jacks on the laptop’s left edge. Two more USB 3.2 Type-A ports, one
Thunderbolt 3 port, and an SD card slot accompany the AC adapter’s connector on
the right.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED right ports

One quibble: The SD slot leaves cards jutting out to snag in your briefcase, so the slot is just for quick transfers on and off a card. Also note: There
is no Kensington-style cable-lockdown security slot.

A
Quiet Typist

The
poorly placed webcam captures relatively bright and colorful but noisy and
shimmery images. Bottom-mounted speakers pump out moderately loud, slightly
hollow sound; bass is weak, but highs and midtones are clear, and it’s possible
to hear overlapping tracks. Supplied Nahimic software lets you choose among music, movie, gaming, or communication presets and toggle surround sound.

The
keyboard has a soft rather than snappy touch, perhaps a bit shallow and a bit
on the mushy side, though it’s possible to maintain a brisk typing pace. The layout features dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys and a numeric keypad. The
cursor arrows are in the proper inverted T rather than a row, though they’re
crowded among other keys. The touchpad glides and taps smoothly, and it takes just
the right amount of pressure to click.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED keyboard and touchpad

By
far the Aero’s finest feature is its 4K OLED display, which boasts 400 nits of
brightness and 100 percent coverage of the broad DCI-P3 color gamut. Brightness
is excellent, and contrast is better than excellent, with washday whites and
black-hole blacks. Fine details are as sharp and non-pixelated as those of any
4K laptop screen I’ve laid eyes on. Colors are lush and well saturated. Both high-res
images and videos looked stunning. Shoot, even WordPad was a pleasure to look at.

A
ControlCenter utility on the desktop spies on and governs a whole host of system essentials. From it, you can check CPU, GPU, memory, and drive
usage, as well as puzzle over an intriguing graph of temperature versus fan speed. Also here, you can adjust volume
and brightness; toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; choose the display color temperature;
and spend hours tinkering with the rainbow-animated keyboard backlighting.

When
the Aero is on AC power, you can right-click another utility that Gigabyte says
uses artificial intelligence to optimize performance, though privacy buffs may
not want to send system info to its Microsoft Azure server.

Four
Intel Creators Meet an AMD Gamer

The Aero’s “Comet Lake-H” Core i7-10875H is a brand-new eight-core processor (the first sample of it PC Labs has seen), so one of the laptops I chose
for our benchmark comparisons is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, which has a similarly new AMD Ryzen 9 CPU, the 4900HS. It’s one of AMD’s new laptop processors from its own H-Series (its so-called “Renoir” family), designed to take on Intel’s H-Series silicon in power laptops and gaming machines. It’s also an eight-core/16-thread chip.

Careful observers of the chip market could quibble that this Ryzen 9 is
more of a Core i9 competitor than a Core i7 competitor. (I’d argue that this specific chip lies between the two Intel lines.) So, to split the difference, I also included the Dell XPS 15 with
an eight-core Core i9 CPU. The Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition and Acer ConceptD
7
join the Dell as high-end
creative laptops; they have six-core rather than eight-core Core i7 chips, but
their top-of-the-line Nvidia graphics will make them good foils for the
Gigabyte’s new GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q GPU. I tested the latter with
Nvidia’s latest, new-at-deadline GeForce driver rather than the older RTX
Studio driver that came pre-installed on my review sample. (See how we test laptops.)

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED comparison chart

Strenuous multitasking and opening scads of browser tabs didn’t faze the powerful Aero,
though its cooling fans made noticeable noise during tough benchmark runs. Fortunately,
the system was quieter during most everyday operations. (If you really want to
drown out conversation, you can press Fn+Esc to turn the fans to their
maximum.)

PCMark
10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark
specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates
different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to
assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word
processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8,
meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s
boot drive. Both yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED PCMark

Never mind the 4,000 points that we consider an excellent PCMark 10 score; four of these
laptops hurdled the 5,000-point and the Gigabyte the 6,000-point barrier,
showing that Microsoft Office and Google Docs are pie for them (and PCMark 8’s
storage test is cake for their swift SSDs).

Next
is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make
use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU
rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary
score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Cinebench

The Zephyrus’s eight-core AMD processor topped its eight-core Intel competition,
with the Dell’s Core i9 and Gigabyte’s Core i7 claiming the silver and bronze
medals respectively. The six-core Acer and Razer brought up the rear.

In
our Handbrake video editing benchmark, we put a stopwatch on systems as they
transcode a brief movie from 4K resolution down to 1080p. It, too, is a tough
test for multi-core, multi-threaded CPUs; lower times are better.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Handbrake

Here, the Aero edged the XPS 15 for second place behind the Zephyrus. All are more or
less workstation-class number-crunchers and video editors.

We
also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018
release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10
complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each
operation and add up the total. (Lower times are better.) The Photoshop test
stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of
most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Photoshop

The Gigabyte had the right stuff to win this event, again squeaking by the Dell.
The ConceptD put up a strong showing to claim third place.

Graphics
Tests

3DMark
measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed,
gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two
different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks,
but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is
more demanding and lets high-end PCs and gaming rigs strut their stuff.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED 3DMark

Judging by the more challenging Fire Strike subtest, the Gigabyte’s Max-Q version of
the GeForce RTX 2070 Super upset the Acer’s Max-Q version of the RTX 2080 and
the Razer’s Quadro professional sibling of both. The Dell’s GeForce GTX 1650 is
much the weakest GPU here.

Next
up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like
3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene,
this one rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine for a second opinion on the machine’s
graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low
and 1080p High presets and reported in frames per second (fps), indicating how
smooth the scene looks in motion. 

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Superposition

Chalk up another Super performance for the Aero. The Acer and Razer tied for the
runner-up slot.

As
these simulations show, the Gigabyte may not be a gaming laptop, but it’s
certainly capable of tackling the latest games. I tried two titles, the DirectX
11 Far Cry 5 and DirectX 12 Rise of the Tomb Raider, at their best
image-quality presets (Ultra and Very High respectively), as well as middle settings, playing at 1080p
resolution. At the top settings, the Aero managed 106fps in Far Cry 5 and 101fps in the Lara Croft
adventure. 

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Far Cry 5

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Rise of the Tomb Raider

Even at a much more demanding 4K resolution (not graphed above), the Aero posted a playable 42fps and 45fps, respectively, at the top settings. Dial that down a bit, and you could get in some gaming at 4K with demanding titles, and do just fine at maximum settings with older games at that lofty resolution.

Battery
Rundown Test

After
fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as
opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few
other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown
test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop into airplane mode.) In this
test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender Foundation
short film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness
set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED battery life

The Dell was in a class by itself, but the Gigabyte narrowly outlasted the Razer to
show the second-best stamina. It should pretty much get you through a workday,
though you’ll need to plug in for an evening of gaming or streaming video.

Power
to Keep Up With Your Imagination

The
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB isn’t a perfect laptop; its webcam positioning is misguided, its
AI performance tweaking is mainly a gimmick, and I could wish its keyboard was
a tad more responsive. But its screen is simply marvelous, and its cutting-edge
components give it sizzling performance.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED illuminated logo

I
said at the beginning the Aero was neither a gaming laptop nor a workstation,
but it can easily fill in for either. As an elegant thoroughbred for creative
professionals, it richly deserves an Editors’ Choice.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB Specs

Laptop Class Desktop Replacement
Processor Intel Core i7-10875H
Processor Speed 2.3 GHz
RAM (as Tested) 16 GB
Boot Drive Type SSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested) 512 GB
Screen Size 15.6 inches
Native Display Resolution 3,840 by 2,160
Touch Screen No
Panel Technology OLED
Variable Refresh Support None
Screen Refresh Rate 60 Hz
Graphics Processor Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super (Max-Q)
Graphics Memory 8 GB
Wireless Networking 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)
Dimensions (HWD) 0.78 by 14 by 9.8 inches
Weight 4.4 pounds
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes) 8:29

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