I use a MacBook Pro as my daily driver for all my professional work; writing, design and more. It’s slim, powerful, has a great colour accurate display, incredible touchpad, great battery and total swag factor. But for all it’s good at, you can’t game on it(well you can, sort of but not really). As a result, I’ve been keenly watching the Windows gaming laptop scene, looking for something that can match Apples build quality and performance and also play the latest games.
If you’re anything like me, then the Gigabyte AERO 15 OLED might just be the machine you’ve been looking for. The AERO 15 OLED is billed as a laptop for creators. It has a powerful 9th Gen Intel processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics and one of the most gorgeous screens you’ll find on a laptop.
It’s thin, light and looks perfectly at home in a corporate boardroom. No one will know that you can play Red Dead Redemption 2 in 4K if you wanted to. On top of that, it has a great battery and all the ports that any creator would need.
So have I finally found the perfect work and play laptop? Well, almost.
Gigabyte AERO 15 OLED Review
Alright, let’s get the obligatory specs out of the way. The model we got for review retails for about $3500 and, you get quite a lot of bang for your buck.
|CPU||9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750H (2.6GHz-4.5GHz)|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 With Max-Q Design GDDR6 8GB|
|Memory||16GB DDR4 2666MHz|
|Storage||512GB M.2 PCIe SSD|
|Display||15.6″ Thin Bezel Samsung UHD 3840×2160 AMOLED display|
HDR400, 100% DCI-P3, 1ms response
|Audio||2.0 Speaker configuration7.1 Digital Audio out using HDMI out connection|
|Ports||3x USB 3.1 Gen1 (Type-A)1x Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C)1x HDMI 2.01x DP 1.4 & USB3.1 (USB Type-C)1x 3.5mm Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack1x UHS-II SD Card Reader1x DC-in Jack1x RJ-45|
|Comms||Killer Ethernet E2600Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (Powered by Intel)Bluetooth: Bluetooth V5.0 + LE|
|Dimensions & Weight||14.0(W) x 9.8(D) x 0.78(H) inch2.0 kg|
Designed for sophistication
I love the design of the AERO 15. It looks very classy and is surprisingly tiny. It’s only 0.78-inches thick making it just a smidgen thicker than the Razer Blade 15 Advanced – its biggest rival. Not only that but at 2 Kg, it’s pretty darn light too. Our model came in a smokey black colour but you can get a silver version.
The lid has a backlit AERO logo and a very distinct angled design that looks like an arrow pointing to the back of the laptop. When the lid is open, you can see that it does indeed draw your attention to the rear of the AERO; a posh looking silver badge with the AERO logo on it. The badge is illuminated by tiny white LED’s, giving the AERO a certain air of sophistication. It reminds me of something you’d normally find on a luxury car.
And the similarities don’t stop there. Straight edges, angles and sleek lines are everywhere on the AERO. It looks almost aerodynamic. Several air intakes around the back and sides with a massive grill on the bottom. The ports are evenly distributed on either side of the AERO 15, leaving the back clear for the badge to shine. I’m not a fan of the placement of the power adapter port on the side though because it limits you to be in certain positions. I’d have loved a USB-C charging solution like on the MacBook which allows me to use any port I wish.
The display lid uses two solid hinges and although they are quite sturdy, there is a surprising amount of flex in the display itself. This is likely due to the really tiny bezels around the display. In saying that, it looks stunning because the deep blacks of the OLED panel blend seamlessly with the bezel, making it look like an infinity display.
Speaking of bezels, the AERO doesn’t have any around the keyboard. It’s a truly strange thing to behold. Most laptops will have at least a half an inch of space on either side of the keyboard. Not so here. This has the added benefit of shrinking the overall footprint of the AERO 15’s chassis. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a 14-inch laptop.
Overall, the AERO 15 has an attractive design. It’s not better looking than a Razer Blade or Apple MacBook but it is unique and classy in its own right. I like it.
OLED Display is Stunning
My favourite thing about the AERO 15 is the 4K UHD OLED screen. It’s hands down the most beautiful screen I’ve ever used on a laptop(and I’ve used a lot). If you’ve ever seen LG’s OLED TV’s, you’ll get a good idea of what’s on the AERO. And if you have a Samsung Galaxy S-series phone, it has a similar panel tech. The AMOLED is a special brand of OLED panel made by Samsung.
OLEDs have the unique advantage of turning off individual pixels that aren’t in use which enables pure blacks. The resulting contrast makes every other colour just explode with vibrance. On top of that, each AERO display is individually factory calibrated for an X-Rite Pantone Certification. The panel covers 100% of the DCI-P3 colour space which is great for people like me who do design or do photography and video editing.
The panel is also HDR400 meaning it can display High Dynamic Range content at up to 400nits of brightness. Now let me tell you, the AMOLED panel combined with HDR will give your retinas orgasms. Playing a game like Ori and the Will of Wisps was damn near impossible because of the sheer beauty of the game. I was literally stopping for minutes at a time just to soak everything in as if I was in a trance.
And because it’s 4K, everything on this screen is pin-sharp. Windows text is so clear and sharp without that weird blurriness that you find on lower resolution monitors. You can comfortably work on documents or web browse for several hours without eye fatigue. Man, I could keep gushing about the AERO 15 OLED screen but, you get the picture.
Great touchpad, bewildering keyboard.
If the AERO 15 OLED wants to take on the MacBook, it’s gotta have a great touchpad. I’m pleased to say, it does. The touchpad is a good size making it a breeze to use. It’s a glass panel with multi-gesture support and it feels good to use. A very welcome surprise was the inclusion of a fingerprint reader embedded in the top left corner of the touchpad. This allows Windows Hello to recognise your fingerprint and sign you into the correct account. It’s something MacBooks have had since 2017 and I love the convenience of it.
But one thing left me totally bewildered and disappointed and that’s the keyboard. The AERO 15 has a full keyboard that includes a number pad. The keys feel good individually and have a nice travel and bounce back. But for some reason, typing on this keyboard was such a frustrating experience. No matter how I positioned my hands, I ended up with way too many wrong keypresses and inaccuracy in my typing.
I thought that maybe, it was because the keys were smaller in order to fit a full-size keyboard in such a tiny chassis. I even went so far as to measure the keycaps with a ruler and compared with those on the Asus ROG Mothership which I also had at the time. They were literally identical in size but the typing experience was literally night and day between the two. It remains a mystery to me and a huge disappointment because nearly everything else was perfect on the AERO 15. So because I couldn’t identify exactly why it was bad for me, my only advice to you is to spend some good time trying it out in a store before you buy.
Excellent performance meets HDR gaming
The AERO 15 model we received comes with a 6-core, 12 thread i7-9750H. There’s also an 8-core, 16 thread Core i9 for those who want ultimate performance. The 16Gb of memory is fine for gaming but not so much for pro apps like Adobe Photoshop or Premier. The AERO 15 also has a 512Gb 1x NVMe PCIe SSD drive for really fast data transfer. It’s odd to think that 512GB isn’t enough but instal a handful of AAA games and you’ll be out of space.
So how does it perform? Pretty good actually. Looking at the graphs, I’ve compared the AERO 15 to the similarly specced Aftershock Vapor 15 Pro. They performed neck and neck in most tests with the AERO 15 losing out in 3DMark11, UniEngine and Cinebench. But I chalk this down to the AERO needing to drive more pixels since the Vapor 15 has a 1080p display.
For gaming, the AERO uses the very capable GeForce RTX 2070 with Max-Q design with 8Gb of RAM. This card performs excellently at 1080p and 1440p as the results below show. Even with Ray-tracing on, the AERO 15 was able to play Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 44fps.
4K gaming was essentially on par with an Xbox One X with most titles running at 30fps or better. The exception, of course, is SoTR and Metro Exodus which were just unplayable with ray-tracing on. Now, these were all running at Ultra settings so turning things down a notch would easily boost frame rates to the 40-50fps range. It’s worth repeating that gaming on an OLED panel is a stunning experience you might have a hard time letting go of. And when you get a game that has HDR built-in, Woah!
Forget the dongle life
If you use your laptop as a hub for your home battle station, the AERO 15 has plenty of ports for your devices and accessories. Starting with external monitors, a DisplayPort 1.4 via USB Type-C and a trusty HDMI 2.0 port so you can easily have a triple monitor setup going.
Photographers and videographers will appreciate the UHS-II SD Card reader which will make transferring data from cameras to the AERO 15 fast and easy. There’s also three USB Type-A ports and the increasingly rare 3.5mm headphone jack. If you’ve already jumped ship into the world of wireless headphones, the AERO 15 supports Bluetooth 5.0.
Network access is provided via Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 module which I found to work really well. The Wi-Fi signal was very strong with good speeds on my home broadband. One really cool thing is the ability to use the AERO 15 as a Wi-Fi extender for an instant mesh network. So if your home wifi is weak, the AERO 15 can then act as a repeater to boost the signal using the Killer hardware. Lastly, hardcore gamers who can’t tolerate any latency can use the RJ-45 Ethernet port for upto 2.5Gbps speeds.
What do you know? A good battery for a change
This is such a breath of fresh air. The AERO 15 is the first gaming laptop I’ve reviewed that can actually last longer than 3 hours on a charge. In fact, in my experience, it lasted closer to 5.5 hours per charge. While this is just about half what Gigabyte claims, I was still very impressed. The 94.245Whr battery is pretty big although you wouldn’t know given how thin the AERO 15 is.
Another good reason for this longevity is the AMOLED panel which is more power-efficient than LCD panels. You see, LCD panels require a power-hungry backlight while OLEDs can light up individual pixels when needed. So when pixels aren’t needed, saying in dark interfaces, a ton of power is being saved.
Additionally, the AERO 15 supports a couple of battery helping technologies like Nvidia Optimus which switches from the RTX 2070 to the integrated graphics when not gaming or doing any graphics-intensive tasks. It also uses Microsoft Azure AI to intelligently adjust CPU and GPU power.
The AI learns how you use the AERO 15 and gets better at predicting power needs to help you extend battery life. I can’t speak for its efficacy but I do know that the AERO lasts much longer than other mainstream gaming laptops. The ability to provide a whole day of use makes this a fantastic productivity machine for the road.
Verdict: Should you buy?
At a retail price of AUD $3500 for the configuration we reviewed, it’s a resounding yes.
The AERO 15 OLED met most of my expectations and surpassed others. What you are getting for the money is an incredibly well built and handsome machine that packs a ton of power in a tiny package you’d proudly be seen in public with. The performance for productivity and gaming is excellent and it has all the ports you need, a great battery and one of the best displays you’ll find on a laptop to date.
My only problem with the AERO 15 is the keyboard. I’m still confused as to why it was such a poor experience for me personally. Again, I advise you to try it out for yourself. And if the price of admission is too high, you can get a model with the GTX 1660Ti and shave some dollars. In saying that aside, the AERO 15 is one of the best laptops you can get and is very well priced for what you get.
The Gigabyte AERO 15 was loaned to PowerUp! for this review.
Product Name: AERO 15 OLED XA
Offer price: 3500