Gigabyte Aorus 17X review: A power gaming laptop with a keyboard that just clicks

gigabyte-aorus-17x-06818

The mechanical keyboard is one of the Aorus 17X’s highlights.


Lori Grunin/CNET

Gigabyte’s impressive Aorus 17 line of gaming laptops distinguishes itself from a lot of competitors with the excellent mechanical keyboard it added to the year’s models. That, plus its better-than-average performance and big, 17-inch 240Hz display make it a solid choice as a desktop replacement for the work-from-home, speed-minded gamer. But if you plan to shell out the big bucks — over $3,000 — for the higher-end configurations, you might find some of its limitations annoying given the expense.

Like

  • Great-feeling mechanical keyboard looks great, too
  • Lots of connections
  • Powerful

Don’t Like

  • Refresh rate choices for the screen are only 240Hz and 60Hz
  • Expensive
  • Confusing and limited ControlCenter utility
  • Dual, humongous power bricks required for the GeForce RTX 2080 Super configuration

Fixed across all the configuration options is the Pantone calibrated 240Hz display, the mechanical keyboard, and most of the usual aspects (ports, networking, audio, webcam and so on). You can choose from an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super, 2070 Super or 2070; Intel Core i9-10980HK, i7-10875H or i7-10750H; up to 64GB of memory; and up to 3TB of storage (one 2.5-inch SATA and two NVMe solid state drives). Like the Alienware Area-51m, it requires two mammoth AC adapters, albeit that’s just for the 2080 Super configuration of the Gigabyte.

Our nearly $4,000 maxed-out configuration was really fast, but unless you’re working with high-resolution video or 3D designs, playing games more than casually that have a lot of ray-tracing and the like, that’s a lot to spend — though it’s not unusually expensive for its specs (the Alienware m17 R3 is over $4,000, albeit with more storage and a faster display). If you want to save a bit, a variation with an i7-10875H and a 2070 Super is about $1,300 less and that’s still a damn good configuration. That’s also the base configuration; for cheaper 17-inch Aorus models you have to drop to the 17G, which is a thinner design.

Gigabyte Aorus 17X

Price as reviewed $3,899
Display size/resolution 17.3-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel IPS 240Hz 3ms 100% sRGB
PC CPU Intel Core i9-10980HK
PC Memory 32GB 3,233MHz DDR4
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super
Storage 1TB SSD, 2TB HDD, SD card reader
Ports 3x USB-C (1x Thunderbolt 3), 3x USB-A, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x headphone, 1x mic
Networking Killer AX1650x WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0, Killer E2600 Ethernet
Operating system Microsoft Windows Pro (1909)
Weight 8.3 pounds (3.8 kg)

The keyboard is great, but not without problems. Normally, I grab an external keyboard as soon as I can when reviewing a laptop, but the Aorus’ clicky, tactile, but not too loud keys have a solid amount of travel and are actually a pleasure to type on. The per-key RGB lighting looks very nice; it looks higher contrast than normal and illuminates the shift and function key assignments, which are frequently neglected. (In other words, in the dark it’s impossible to tell which key mutes the speakers, changes screen brightness and so on.)

But it did take me a bit to get used to it. Although the keycaps are a standard size, they feel a bit slippery, and the small right-shift key paired with inline cursor keys still occasionally defeats my muscle memory. There are no CapsLock or NumLock indicators on the keyboard, just a message that flashes on screen when you toggle it (pet peeve alert!).

For gaming, the Omron B3KL low-profile switches feel like they have a very high actuation point — good for pounders, not so good for those with fleet, light-touch fingers. Gigabyte’s meh ControlCenter utility has a cumbersome lighting configuration utility with a single custom profile. Other limitations of the utility include no CPU and GPU temperature, frequency or individual core monitoring (despite the Gigabyte motherboard within) and no small monitoring widget.

Dual power bricks aside, I generally like the laptop’s design. The ambient illumination is striking but not overdone, and cables don’t obstruct ports when plugged in, something I’ve grown to appreciate more as laptops get smaller. And there are plenty of connections. It’s heavy at 8.3 pounds (3.8 kg), but that’s actually middle of the pack for a 17-inch gaming monster. The air venting out the sides and back when running at full speed is hot enough to keep my coffee warm but not enough to burn, though the fans unsurprisingly sound like a jet turbine and cat fur started to collect outside the bottom vents. On the flip side, the speaker system sounds quite good for a laptop.

Power up

Of course, when you pack top-end components in a system, unless you do something wrong you’re going to get top-flight performance. Which we did. But this was the first laptop we’ve tested with a full-fat Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super; the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 has a low-power Max-Q version and on GPU tests performs significantly worse. That’s based on my preliminary testing, which I haven’t included in charts because it’s, well, preliminary.

Complicating analysis is Gigabyte’s gazillion different ways of configuring it to run. In addition to the usual balanced and performance modes controlled by the power profile, there’s a mode to force it to always use the discrete GPU — and on top of those, Gigabyte’s proprietary AI widget, which theoretically boosts performance. And any combination thereof. (The standard performance results we publish are for the default profiles, which in this case was Balanced.) 

And it’s annoying to change a lot of things. It uses the old Nvidia Optimus architecture which requires a reboot to switch between enforced discrete GPU use and the automatic GPU selection modes, and in order to switch color profiles you have to disconnect any external monitors first.

After running tests in multiple different combinations, it looks like you’ll get the best overall results with High Performance+dGPU unless your application or game uses a lot of cores and floating-point arithmetic, in which case it makes sense to turn on the AI widget as well for up to about 25% better multicore performance. I prefer to run as few inessential things in the background as possible, which is why I leave it turned off. And after turning on the AI, the system spontaneously rebooted twice in an afternoon for no apparent reason. While you won’t necessarily see huge gains in workloads which balance the dGPU and CPU, you will see an overall lift. 

For instance, in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, it gives you higher minimum and maximum frame rates because it shifts more of the load to the CPU. That means, in theory, that if you pair the i9-10980HK with the RTX 2070 Super instead of the 2080 — not just to save money, but to save yourself the dual AC adapters — the performance difference won’t be as big as it might otherwise have been.

Multicore performance is roughly equivalent to the AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS in the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 once you factor in that boost from the AI, though Intel remains faster on single-core operations. Common tasks which use all cores include application launching and installation (or at least Adobe application installation) and high-bandwidth downloads.

Unfortunately, while you can easily obtain somewhere between 60fps and 240fps with this configuration, it doesn’t support G-Sync or FreeSync and your only two refresh-rate choices are 60Hz and 240Hz — nothing in between — so you’ll have to use game-specific adaptive sync options to match the screen with the game frame rate. And I saw quite a bit of stutter in some places.

gigabyte-aorus-17x-06885

Oh, those big bricks.


Lori Grunin/CNET

Battery life, too, is pretty good for a gaming laptop. I got about 4.5 hours on our streaming video test, but you can extend that as well by dropping into a lower power battery profile (ours is based on Balanced). I’m not sold on the need to use Optimus just to squeeze a few more hours of battery life out of a high-powered laptop like this, but I’m not the type to schlep an eight-plus-pound system off site just to read email and watch YouTube. For almost anything you’ll be doing with this on a regular basis, you’ll want to be near an outlet. Or two.

Unless you have money and electricity to burn but crave the mechanical keyboard, I recommend dropping back to the cheaper, though still pricey, $2,700 model. It won’t be as fast, but it should certainly provide more than enough speed for the 1080p gaming the screen supports. Or you could take the money you’ve saved and buy a really, really nice 4K monitor.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 5 (single-core)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 5 (Vulkan)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R20 CPU (multicore)

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Shadow of the Tomb Raider gaming test

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

3DMark Port Royal (RTX)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Acer Predator Helios 700 (PH717-71) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 2.4GHz Intel Core i9-9980HK; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080; 1TB SSD
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV) Microsoft WIndows 10 Home (1909); 3.0GHz AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz, 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with Max-Q Design, 1TB SSD
Gigabyte Aorus 17X Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (1909); 2.4GHz Intel Core i9-10980HK; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,233MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super; 1TB SSD+2TB HDD
Origin PC Eon15-X (2020) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 3.1GHz AMD Ryzen 9 3900; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 2070; 1TB SSD + 1TB HDD

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *