With the Gigabyte P35K v3 weighing in at 5.07 pounds (2.3 kg) and measuring 15.1 x 10.6 x 0.8 inches or 385 x 270 x 20.9 mm (W x D x H), it just barely scrapes by as the lightest 15-inch gaming laptop I've ever reviewed. The Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition follows as a close second, tipping the scales at 5.29 pounds (2.39 kg) and its 15.3 x 10.1 x 0.9 inch (338 x 256 x 22 mm) dimensions.
Although the Gigabyte comes sporting an optical drive, it's actually lighter than the 5.5-pound (2.49 kg) Digital Storm Triton, which also has a larger 15.16 x 10.67 x 0.98 inch (385 x 271 x 24 mm) footprint. Here is the Gigabyte P35K v3 configuration given to TechRadar for this review:
- CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.6GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M (4GB GDDR5 RAM); Intel HD Graphics 4600
- RAM: 8G DDR3L (1600MHz)
- Screen: 15.6-inch, FHD 1,920 x 1,080 Wide-Viewing LCD
- Storage: 128GB SSD; 1TB HDD (7,200 rpm)
- Optical drive: Super Multi DVD-RW
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, D-sub, RJ45, microphone-in, analog/optical headphone-out, SD card reader, mini DisplayPort
- Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
- Camera: HD webcam
- Weight: 5.07 pounds
- Size: 15.1 x 10.6 x 0.8 inches (W x D x H)
What you see above is the standard, and seemingly, only configuration for the Gigabyte P35K v3, which is currently going for $1,499 (about £973, AU$1913) on Amazon as of this writing. For the price, you're getting quite a bit of tech, including a nearly top-end Intel Core i7 processor. The CPU is only a hair faster than the Core i7 chip that comes in both the Nitro and Triton, but has more headway with the ability to overclock up to 3.6GHz.
However, the real starlet of the Gigabyte laptop is its Nvidia GTX 965M graphics card, which is a big step up from the GTX 860M that powers the Aspire V15. The included 8GB of RAM on this Gigabyte laptop is also more than adequate for gaming.
This leaves the only one component that's truly lacking on this machine: the 128GB solid-state drive. This really only amounts to 100GB of flash-based storage when you factor in how much space Windows 8.1 takes up alone.
Despite the performance gap between the P35K v3 and the older Aspire V15, you can still get the latter very well equipped with a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) display for $1,499 (£749, AU$1,999). What's more, this system comes packing 16GB of RAM and a more spacious 256GB SSD.
Users with a bit more spending room might want to pick up the $1,620 (about £1,063, AU$1,974) Digital Storm Triton. With an Nvidia GTX 970M under the hood, you'll be able to squeeze a bit more performance out of the system. Unfortunately, this machine comes with an even more stifling 120GB SSD.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M is a solid graphics card for gaming, despite being the budget entry in Nvidia's latest generation of Maxwell GPUs. The graphics card maker originally announced the mobile GPU in January, positioning it slightly behind the GTX 970M while claiming the part should have equal performance to a GTX 870M.
Even before testing the laptop, I had high hopes for gaming on this budget system. It was pleasant surprise to play Far Cry 4 on its highest settings at a steady 30 frames per second. Similarly, Borderlands: The Presequel ran an average 45 fps, even with maxed out settings. So, the P35K v3 is fully capable of playing most new games at their maximum graphical fidelity and a playable frame rate.
Gamers looking for a silky smooth 60 fps experience will have to drop the graphical settings down to medium or tweak each characteristic to their liking. All the while, this machine also deftly avoids the heat and noise traps that so many thin, powerful gaming laptops have fallen into. While the Triton and Gigabyte P37X quickly heated up after just a few minutes of intense gaming, the Gigabyte P35K v3 stayed nice and cool.
Here's how the Gigabyte P35K v3 fared in our benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 16,712; Sky Diver: 14,565; Fire Strike: 4,823
- Cinebench CPU: 629 points; Graphics: 100.57 fps
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,042 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 33 minutes
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Ultra): 37.23 fps; (1080p, Low): 85.53 fps
- Metro: Last Light (1080p, Ultra): 20.67 fps; (1080p, Low): 78.67 fps
As ever, Nvidia's latest line up of Maxwell GPUs continues to take on our suite of benchmark tests with aplomb. The Gigabyte P35K v3 served up some impressive scores, including 4,823 points in the 3DMark Fire Strike test, which was just slightly behind the Digital Storm machine and its 5,649 point performance.
The Triton is also top dog when it came to rendering the Metro: Last Light benchmark test at an average 27.33 fps, whereas the Gigabyte machine was only able to run the game at 20.67 fps. Both machines easily trampled over the Acer Aspire V15, which completed the Fire Strike test with 3,733 points, while playing Metro: Last Light at only 16 fps.
The speakers don't do much for casual music playing, and they're only decent for watching streaming video. However, the Dolby Digital Plus home theater technology Gigabyte has employed works wonders in games. While climbing the mountains of Kyrat in Far Cry 4, I was able to hear the fear-inducing call of an eagle clearly off to the east as if I were wearing a pair of surround sound headphones.
The screen is equally just as much of a joy to look at as it's to hear those stereo speakers. Rather than going with a bland Twisted Nematic (TN) monitor seen on most gaming laptops, the P35K v3 features a colorful In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen. It's not the most vibrant display I've laid eyes on, but it renders hues brightly and accurately.
The screen also has some excellent viewing angles, allowing you to clearly see what's on the display even from an extreme 170 degrees. That's not exactly something you'll likely do, but it does make the Gigabyte laptop an excellent media device to share with some couch mates.
A battery life to beat
Despite being so thin, Gigabyte has crammed a lot of battery capacity inside the P35K v3's slim frame. Running our PCMark8 battery test yielded a decent 3 hour and 33 minute result. The Digital Storm Triton is once again slightly ahead with a 3 hour and 38 minute-battery life, while the Acer Aspire V15 ran for a significantly shorter 1 hour and 48 minutes.
With a less taxing set of tasks consisting of web browsing in both Firefox and Google Chrome, streaming music to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, typing up this review in Microsoft Word and watching the Power/Ranger deboot; the Gigabyte P35K lasted for a tiny bit longer: 3 hours and 40 minutes.
As far as 1080p machines - and one running a discrete GPU no less - the times this laptop turned in aren't too bad. Topping out around 4 hours at best, this battery life is more than enough to get you through a long commute, meeting or lecture, though you'll want to keep an eye peeled for outlets.