UPDATE: An earlier version of this review mistakenly referred to the Intel Core i7-10875H as a 6-core processor with 12 threads. It also mentioned that there was no NVIDIA Studio version of the AERO but Gigabyte Australia reached out to use to confirm that there is. These changes have been made in the review in order to accurately reflect the available product
When I think of premium business-class gaming laptops, only three names come to mind – Razer Blade, MSI GS Stealth and Gigabyte AERO. Apple MacBook Pro should be on the list but let’s be real – no one games on a Mac. I recently reviewed the excellent AERO 15 OLED which I absolutely adored for its mind-blowing OLED screen, its productivity and gaming prowess all wrapped in a sleek package.
I thought I’d finally found my perfect laptop but the keyboard was too frustrating for me to adjust to and I was left gutted.
So when Gigabyte asked if I’d like to give the bigger AERO 17 a shot, I was cautiously optimistic. The AERO 17 is almost identical to its little brother but sports a bigger 17.3-inch display, brand new 10th Gen Intel processors and NVIDIA GeForce RTX Supers.
Gone is the incomparable OLED panel which is replaced by a VESA Certified DisplayHDR400 panel. Oh, and I had a much better time with this keyboard.
Gigabyte AERO 17 Review
Gigabyte has wisely gone the route of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ leaving the design of the AERO 17 practically identical to the smaller AERO 15. And that’s fine by me because that’s a great looking device. The aesthetic is clearly more for professionals of the boardroom variety than the Twitch kind and that’s also fine by me.
I’m all for these clean designs that aren’t bursting with neon lights or aggressive red/black color schemes. The AERO 17 comes in only black with some nice flourishes like the arrow design on the lid that points you to the illuminated logo badge on the back. While the design is mostly understated, I find the exhaust vents a little too aggressive and that steals from the clean look.
The chassis is just a hair thicker than the AERO 15 coming in at 0.84-inches which is still tiny but the overall heft of the laptop is very apparent. It’s 2.5 kilos which is not the heaviest laptop out there but you will feel it when holding it with one hand. It certainly made me appreciate the convenience that the smaller AERO 15 offers. In saying that though, I’m a sucker for big screens. The 17.3-inch display has tiny 3mm bezels around three sides which helps keep the overall laptop size down. I also really like the rubber lip that protects the screen from scuffs or gouges when the lid is closed.
Unfortunately, tiny bezels means no room up top for a webcam. The AERO’s webcam sits underneath the bezel which means people are always looking up your nose during video calls. And you can’t type while on a call without your hands constantly covering part of the video.
It’s a terrible placement that I wish Gigabyte could fix but, at least it has one, unlike the Asus Zephyrus G14.
Great keyboard, when you get used to it
I’m happy to report that my experience with the keyboard on the AERO 17 is way better than it was with the smaller AERO 15. The AERO 15 squeezed a full keyboard into a tiny deck which made for a terrible typing experience. I was always hitting the key left of my intended one which was beyond vexing.
This was much less of an issue on the AERO 17 largely due to the wider keyboard deck. I still had a learning curve to go through that required I consciously look at the keyboard while I type — much like a learner. With time, I suppose I could have mastered it but honestly, I shouldn’t have to. Literally every other laptop I’ve used is more intuitive to type on than the AERO’s which is incredibly frustrating.
In spite of this, the keyboard is actually pretty good. The keys are tactile with a decent travel and soft touch allowing your fingers to gently glide across them. It’s got per-key RGB lighting of course and if you want every single key to be a different color, you can. One big fail with the AERO’s keycaps is that only the main key function gets lit. Secondary functions like symbols, media controls and Fn keys are not translucent so you can’t see them in darker conditions.
You manage the lighting as well as system performance profiles in the Gigabyte Control Center software. It’s honestly more than a little dated in UI(being a designer, I’m nitpicky about these things) and is possibly one of the worst from major laptop brands. It feels almost like it was chucked in there as an afterthought.
The touchpad is the same excellent one from the AERO 15 and the built in fingerprint reader remains one of my favorite things about this laptop. I hate typing in passwords a bajillion times a day when a single touch could suffice. The reader on the AERO’s is very fast and accurate and I barely ever had any failed attempts.
Great display but HDR comes up short
The display is a 17.3-inch 4K IPS LCD panel. The 4K resolution feels cramped on the smaller AERO 15 but here it feels just right. Each panel is individually factory calibrated for colour accuracy and it shows with vibrant and punchy colours that aren’t oversaturated. This will matter a lot to creative professionals whom Gigabyte is targeting for these laptops.
The display also gets incredibly bright; upto a maximum brightness of 400 nits. I found that anything higher than 30% would quickly strain my eyes. I also found no evidence of blue light filtering technology built-in. But there’s a good reason for such a bright screen — High Dynamic Range or HDR. The AERO 17 carries the VESA Display HDR400 label which means it can show HDR up to 400 nits of brightness. There are different levels of HDR quality with HDR400 being the lowest. Given the right panel, it can be enough but sadly not on the AERO 17.
The AERO’s panel doesn’t have enough contrast to pull out the details in the darkest or brightest parts of the picture. I tested the HDR in a variety of videos and games was left rather unimpressed. The panel needs to get really bright to display HDR and unfortunately, this causes black areas to often wash out and lose definition — especially around the corners of the screen. Furthermore, I didn’t see any remarkable boost to colour vibrance that HDR brings so if you want the best display on your laptop, stick with the AERO OLED.
Work hard, play hard
Regardless of which display your AERO has, you get some fantastic innards to power it. Gigabyte recently refreshed its entire laptop line with the new 10th Gen Comet Lake Intel processors and NVIDIA RTX Supers. Our test unit has the Core i7-10875H running 8-cores and 16 threads at a base clock of 2.3Ghz with a boost of an astounding 5.1Ghz. There’s an even more insane 8-core i9 processor for those who demand more power.
I put the AERO 17 through my usual test suite and you can see a big jump over last years i7-9750. In Geekbench multi-core performance and Cinebench I saw an average 30-40% performance boost. The i7 is paired with 16GB of fast 2999Mhz and an NVMe SSD drive helps everything just fly. Windows 10 native apps, browsers with tons of tabs, streaming music and Adobe Creative Cloud tools running never even made the AERO 17 stutter.
In games, the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q proved to be about 11% faster on average than the regular RTX 2070 Max-Q. Shadow of The Tomb Raider was an unplayable 26FPS on the AERO 15 but the 17 ran it at a steady 46FPS. In saying that, you will want to take a step down or two in quality settings if you plan on gaming at 4K as most games were just barely above 30FPS. Again, while you can game in HDR, the effect like I said is just not worth it. The OLED panel on the AERO 15 looked amazing in every game even without HDR on.
Performance, however comes with a heat bill and while the AERO remains relatively cool, you’ll suffer some fan noise. The AERO 17 is quick to ramp up those fans to high speeds even when the laptop is just idling or doing basic Windows tasks. Our review unit also exhibited periodic clicking sounds from one of the fans. I experienced the same thing on the AERO 15 OLED so I’m not sure if it’s a flaw with fan design or just coincidence.
The AERO 17 has a great port selection with a wide range of USB Type A and C which are essential to make this a workstation for creatives. You also HDMI 2.0 and min DisplayPort 1.4 for connecting extra hi-res monitors. Connecting to my 1440p MSI 32-inch monitor a wide desktop experience.
Photographers and videographers will appreciate the UHS-II SD Card reader which will make transferring data from cameras to the AERO 17. Like most gaming laptops, the AERO uses Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 module which can also turn the laptop into a Wi-Fi extender for an instant mesh network. An RJ-45 Ethernet port is on hand for those who want the lowest latency connections.
There’s no USB-C charging on the AERO – something I find extremely vexing in principle and practically. The DC power port is on the right side and that can be surprisingly limiting in how and where you position yourself. And you will need a power point nearby a lot because the AERO 17 doesn’t have the most spectacular battery life. My unit lasted just about 4 hours on average which is about half what Gigabyte claims. The big hog here is that 400nits display which really sucks battery power. If you are content with running at really low brightness, turning off the keyboard lighting and running battery saver mode, I believe you can extend to 6 hours.
The AERO’s also have Microsoft Azure AI which is supposed to learn how you use your laptop and adjust power profile intelligently to save your battery. I’m not sure how much time is required for it to learn but I suspect it’s at least a month of daily use — which is a lot longer than my review period.
Verdict: Should you buy?
The AERO 17 HDR unit we had for review costs $4,700 here in Australia. That’s a lot of money. But you are getting an extremely well-constructed package with a ton of power for work and play. You also beat out the MacBook Pro 16 which can’t compete on the wealth of connectivity options that make it so easy to use without annoying dongles.
And yes, I’m not a huge fan of the keyboard but only because it doesn’t feel as intuitive to just pick and use. And yes, the HDR Display pales in comparison to the OLED panel but you still get a big, 4K screen that’s color calibrated and great for SDR content. Indeed, everything about the AERO laptops screams for the attention of creative professionals and indeed, Gigabyte also has NVIDIA Studio certification on some models.
For my money, I would love to see an OLED version which would elevate the AERO 17 to one of the best 17-inch creator/ gaming laptops money can buy.
The Gigabyte AERO 17 was loaned to PowerUp! by Gigabyte Australia for the purpose of this review.