A laptop for power users who need maximum performance and are not tied to the Apple ecosystem.
If you’re a creative who isn’t in the Apple camp, this is the laptop to buy. Like the latest MacBook Pro models, it’s both powerful and beautiful. Gigabyte has two different laptop ranges for power users:
Aero for creatives and Aorus for gamers. Both feature the latest NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series laptop graphics processors for great speed and energy efficiency.
The energy efficiency issue isn’t just greenwashing your technology – it’s really important because when computers think hard, they often get hot. No one wants a hot lap while they’re at work, or a loud fan.
The Aero on test was impressively cool, yet quiet. There are two built-in fans, but they are very quiet; you don’t notice them.
I tested the largest model in the Aero range, the flagship Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR, which has a luscious 17-inch 3840×2160 4K Ultra High Definition IPS display.
The large, bright screen gives laptop users more workspace and is truly a sight to behold. Also notable in the new range is the Aero 15 OLED, which features the world’s first Xrite Pantone color calibrated OLED display.
The screen technology means excellent color accuracy and extra brightness. The performance was, as you would expect, blistering. I haven’t tried 3D rendering, but the 2D graphics work I did was lightning fast and the performance definitely boosted my productivity. Sound was also loud and clear:
this is a laptop you enjoy watching movies on. There’s no internal DVD or Blu-ray drive, though, so you’ll have to stream them or plug in an external drive:
it has three USB 3.2 ports (standard type A) and one Thunderbolt 3 port (the smaller USB type C) . External DVD drives are very affordable and a must if you still want to install existing software from disc.
Setting up the software went smoothly with two exceptions. One was that the Gigabyte’s own software updates for the NVIDIA GPU driver once came with buttons in Chinese. Two buttons on the screen… what to press? The Google Translate app on my smartphone came up as an asset.
I pointed the phone at the screen and confirmed my instinct: the characters on the left said ‘cancel’ and the ones on the right said ‘update’.
More pain was an unexpected drawback of the 4K display. It’s great to get more on the screen, but with so many pixels, text can suddenly be way too small.
This is largely handled well in the settings of Windows 10. Via the search bar you can intuitively find the right setting, with names such as ‘make everything bigger’ and ‘make text bigger’.
This worked perfectly for most things, but older software isn’t always scalable, it’s just not built for such high-resolution displays. My very old Adobe Photoshop CS2 was published in 2005…meaning it’s legally old enough to get married.
But it’s good enough for photo editing, so I never picked a newer version. However, it just wouldn’t scale to work well on the 4K display, making menus and tools ridiculously small and nearly impossible to use. I have tried all legit solutions.
The only solutions I could find were registry edits or buying a more modern version of Photoshop. As we increasingly work from home, webcams and microphones are becoming increasingly important for meetings.
The microphone performed well and is positioned just above the keyboard but below the fold – well placed to pick up your voice. However, the webcam is in the same place and the result is not ideal.
I prefer cameras placed at the top of the screen, which means you can’t have such a thin bezel design, but give a more natural camera angle that captures less of your (ok, my) chin. A decent webcam is cheaper and healthier than botox.
The camera is good, but I’d happily buy a laptop a few millimeters larger in exchange for a less unflattering camera angle. However, the sliding cover of the camera gets the highest marks for privacy. It’s reassuring to know that no one is watching.
It also keeps dust off the lens. Gigabyte designed this laptop for power users and did a great job of putting you in control of that power.
The Gigabyte Control Center is an epic dashboard that lets you view detailed performance stats, control certain settings, and even adjust things like how hard the machine’s two fans have to work at different temperatures. If you’re looking to fine-tune your laptop’s performance, you’ve come to the right place.
The nicest of all settings is for the colorful backlit keyboard of the Aero. At first glance, you think it’s backlit in rainbow colors, but then the rainbow moves across the keys.
Each key has a color backlight that can be individually controlled, and one of the tabs in the Gigabyte Control Center lets you choose or customize the colors. If laptops were cities, the Gigabyte Aero would be Blackpool.
But a very chic slice of Blackpool. The preset color patterns are sufficient for most users. My favorites were Wave, where a rainbow of colors washes over the keys, and Fade on Keypress, where a single key lights up when you press it and then the color fades, like an afterimage.
You can create your own custom lighting. I liked the keyboard design: it’s nice and big enough to type on and – thanks to the larger size of the 17-inch screen – manages to hit a numeric keypad and arrow keys, rather than the ‘tenkeyless’ design of smaller laptops.
The colorful backlight makes it attractive to use and very trendy. It looks great next to the Zephyr gaming mouse I reviewed last year. The laptop’s large built-in touchpad is an alternative to using a mouse. It lacks physical buttons;
instead, press the lower left pad for the left button and the lower right pad for the right button. They click down, while the top half of the pad doesn’t click at all. It works fine and the large size is excellent.
I also liked the small fingerprint sensor built into the top left corner of the touchpad: it was easy to set up in Windows 10 and made biometric logins a breeze. All in all, the Gigabyte Aero was very impressive.
The Aero 17 HDR is worth considering if you want a big screen and tons of creative power. The other model in the range worth considering is the Aero 15 OLED, which uses OLED technology for even greater brightness and superior color accuracy.
From £1,799 gigabyte.com
Apple MacBook Pro
If you’re already in the Apple camp — and many creatives are — then the MacBook Pro is Apple’s most powerful laptop. It comes in 13-inch and 16-inch screen sizes. Expect a stunning, vibrant screen again. Or look to the MacBook Air if you want the thinnest, lightest Apple laptop.
From £1,299 apple.com
Dell XPS 17
Another immersive 17-inch Windows laptop for creatives. This gives you less keyboard than the Gigabyte Aero, eliminating the number pad and speakers on each side of the keyboard. But it does manage to fit the webcam above the screen.
From £1,943 dell.com
Razer Blade Pro 17
A 17-inch gaming powerhouse, again with a beautiful rainbow keyboard. This is pricey, but if you work in a demanding creative industry by day and see yourself as an esports player by night, it might be possible to justify the price… or claim it on cost?
From £2,199 razer.com