P34W v3 First look, impressions and tests - a Pretty Little Beast

Discussion in 'Gigabyte and Aorus' started by fanchiuho, Feb 1, 2015.

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  1. fanchiuho

    fanchiuho Notebook Enthusiast

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    Edit:
    - Pleased the grammar nazis
    - Added notes on adapter compatibility with Razer
    - Slightly more description on monitor quality
    - Slightly more description on keyboard feel
    - Added impressions on portability
    - Added advice on battery saving

    What’s the biggest fear of a gaming laptop? Being an outdated one:p. I figured it’s time to search for something new as my Y580 is reaching 2 years old.

    And what a lucky time to shop for gaming notebooks. We are seeing some of the brightest years in this market as hardware specs began to challenge the limits of the form factor. With Acer, HP and Lenovo rolling out their portable 15.6” models, gaming on a lightweight-class is a dream no more.

    Out of all of them though, the P34W from Gigabyte caught my eye from day 1. I mean, who can resist a 14” form factor with a freaking 970M on a 1.71kg package?:eek:


    1. To shop

    I don’t have to tell you how brutal Hong Kong distributors are when it comes to notebook pricing. A 10-20% markup (from US prices) is almost a norm. Since the birth of the P series I’ve never seen a model sold here, not sure if Gigabyte is unpopular or the line isn’t profitable, I resorted to ordering from TaoBao.

    The seller, G+, from GuangDong is quite nice and sincere towards my queries. I would have never known that this batch is actually shipped to China through HK customs! Oh the irony.

    Despite the hefty price tag at ¥11999(~1920 USD), I thought it was worth it(And still think so), so the trigger was pulled. They managed to ship in just 3 days, and with me taking it home that’s 4.

    Specs:
    OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
    CPI: 4th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-4720HQ (2.6GHz-3.6GHz)
    Display: 14" Full HD 1920x1080 hi-Viewing angle LCD
    Memory: 8GB DDRIIIL 1600, 2 slots(Max 16GB)
    Chipset: Intel® HM87
    Display Adapter: Intel® HD Graphics 4600
    NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 970M GDDR5 3GB Discrete Graphics, NVIDIA® Optimus™ supported
    Storage: 128 mSATA SSD + 1TB 2.5" 5400RPM
    Keyboard: 2-stage back-lit keyboard
    Optical Drive: N/A
    I/O: USB(3.0)*4, HDMI, D-sub, RJ45, Headphone/Microphone jack, SD card reader, A/C in
    Sound: 1.5 W Speaker*2, Integrated Dual mic, Dolby Digital Plus™ Home Theater
    LAN: 10/100/1000 Ethernet
    WLAN: 802.11ac/b/g/n
    Bluetooth: Integrated V4.0
    Camera: HD Camera
    Security: Kensington Lock
    Battery: Li-polymer, 15.2V, 61.25Wh
    Dimensions: 340(W) x 239(D) x 20.9(H) mm
    Weight: ~1.80kg (w/ Battery, m-SSD, HDD)

    2. Looks
    (Note: 1 or 2 pics are missed from the OP in hkepc, due to the 20 pic limit here, check it all out in http://imgur.com/a/5khqs and http://imgur.com/a/dr9aS)

    The whole package… Not too big TBH

    3 gifts: Mouse, Keyboard cover, and speakers… the stock mouse and mousepad? Not here, weird.

    Laptop package, looks thin.
    [​IMG]

    And the reveal. It’s smaller and lighter than I expected. But looks can be deceiving.
    [​IMG]

    Thin profile at about an inch.
    [​IMG]

    The rear(bottom?). Note the intakes on the two sides. The fans would instantly kick in if I blocked them… not ideal for bed use.
    [​IMG]

    Easy access for the memory, by just unscrewing the center screw. The config I had is maxed out at 2x8GB.
    [​IMG]

    3. Hardware

    a. Build & Accessories

    The finish is actually nice looking and uniform. The bottom has a slightly lighter colour than the upper part. It is sanded and have a cool touch to it, but not the Macbook chills you get from aluminium. To guess, I’m heavily inclined on a plastic w/ metal finish, 95% sure after comparing it to the Define R4 front panel. It is however VERY easily smeared so for sweaty hands like mine it’s bad. The included keyboard cloth would help to but a limited degree.

    The seam between the top and bottom halves are fitter, a lesson learnt from v2 I guess. Keyboard and monitors does not present flex or sag when pressed by hand.

    The chassis is supported by numerous, but short rubber feets. See why those fans kick in now?

    The pleather sleeve is nice-looking and fits tight… maybe too tight. When in place, the upper side has a few millimeter stuck out so you can’t place the cover to meet the Velcro pads exactly. I'm positive it can resist small bumps and scratches though.
    [​IMG]

    A 19.2V, 7.7A 150W adapter, well what do I expect? Maxwell efficiency can only carry you so far. It is not light, compared to Razer’s, but nevertheless thin. I don't expect Razer's port could fit the A/C in without some kind of adapter.
    [​IMG]

    b. Monitor

    A 1080p IPS panel, pretty much sufficient ppi for a 14”, plus no hassle for scaling and no worries for extra battery drain. The brightness is quite okay even under sunlight, while the lowest setting remains comfortable at dark. The contrast is fair considering the panel type, and viewing angles are great. Colours look accurate enough to my liking, that is all I can describe with my non-existent media editing background.
    [​IMG]
    The hinges are sturdy but does not lift the notebook up if turned.

    c. Speakers & sound card

    Well, the speakers are the weak link on the chain, to say the least. Mids are recessed and lows are almost muted, resulting in a thin and bright signature. Soundstage is just okay. It is loud though, I’ll give them that.

    The Realtek sound card is paired with Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater, with the Music preset bring surprisingly good at breathing life into your headphones by adding some more bass and mids. Interestingly, I use that to play movies and it’s enjoyable on my K712 un-amped.

    d. Keyboard, touchpad

    A chiclet (?) style keyboard with 2-stage backlight, nuff’ said. Key separation are pretty good and each of them are large enough for my hands. They also feel tactile enough and with good travel, but mind you I’d be okay with anything so long it does not scream mushy.
    The keyboard hints that it’s not some regular ultrabook-for-your-glorious-microsoft-word by bolding the WASD keys. I like that. (I laughed when my ‘non-tech savvy’ friends said it has a Macbook vibe to it). It could use some G keys though. On a side note, the arrows keys are placed a bit weirdly.
    [​IMG]

    Touchpad is split into touch and left and right keys that are satisfying to click. It is distinctive from the Macbook touchpads in that you can’t press the pad, but I see it as a plus as I cannot count how many times a misclick was registered with me putting too much pressure beside the palm rest while gaming.

    The palm rest is large enough for my hands (21cm span) to rest and type on quite comfortably, with room to spare. The cooling system resides at the far side of the chassis so naturally I find the rests cool enough. Keyboard could get warm during gaming but that's just around the center position where most keys are not used.
    [​IMG]

    e. Connectivity

    4 USB 3.0 ports around the chassis, which seems good at first glance but I wondered about compatibility. There is a highlighted one with higher max current to charge your phone. Two on the right is separated by the SD card reader, giving you more space for wide drives. I wish every port come with a rubber cover though.
    [​IMG]
    Again, another thing that subtly indicates gaming is the R/J45 LAN port – I mean, by now it doesn’t take an avid gamer to notice what’s the real deal without the whole thing looking like a 12-year old toy. That was where the AORUS series crossed my line.
    [​IMG]

    The wireless card supports a/b/g/n/ac, and with my 100M network downloading a steam game I reached 9.2MB/s max, which I believe could go even higher.

    The HDMI and VGA ports makes it easy for business guys or students for a presentation. They are on opposite sides so no port clashing if you want a multi-output setup.

    f. Others

    One nifty thing with the LED indicator lights below the touchpad is, when you want to check the remaining juice while the laptop is off, right click the touchpad, and out of 5 lights, some will be lit depending on the battery level.

    Below shows a 50-70% charged battery.
    [​IMG]

    The On button looks better than it works; sometimes it took me two clicks to let it register before it can start, also needs more strength to press it than I expected. Maybe it is just not clicky enough.

    The touchpad also inherits the strength problem. I’d appreciate more sensitive detection upon taps.

    The SmartManager features a Win lock, but I use metro a lot so I tend to use it only while gaming (if I remember).

    Dual mics and a cam on the top, standard fare for the cam, have not tested the mic. I believe you can tinker the gain/NC settings on the Realtek software.

    4. Software & Performance

    There isn’t a lot that came with the stock software:

    1. SmartManager v3, akin to a panel for you to control loudness, brightness, Bluetooth, win key locks, and fan profile. No custom fan profile though, aside from ‘stealth’, ‘auto’ and ‘max’

    2. ShowSw, for turning off (seriously?), and rebooting into BIOS.
    [​IMG]

    3. A backup software to make a recovery USB stick, applicable to Win 7 only.

    4. LAN Optimizer

    5. Cyberlink PowerDVD 10, nice addition there.


    Performance tests:
    wPrime 32 – 8.5s
    [​IMG]
    CrystalDiskMark @500MB – Normal 4K R/W levels for a 128GB
    [​IMG]
    PCMark 8 Home
    [​IMG]
    PCMark 8 Work
    [​IMG]
    3DMark – Great results, places itself around a normal desktop gaming PC!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Temps:

    Forgot to cap XTU stress tests, but the CPU-only test maxed out at 85 degrees and averaged 81 degrees. On version 5.1.1, there wasn’t a noticeable improvement even when I lowered the dynamic CPU voltage to -70 mV. Any further and stability in gaming is disturbed, but CPU-only stresses would yield max undervolt at -100mV.

    On gaming, the CPU maxed at 85 degrees and the GPU 74 degrees@1038MHz. Observing XTU for a while, I found out the CPU throttled to 2.87GHz at 3 cores active.

    Sound:

    For a laptop of this size expect fans to get loud. The fans seem to adjust itself around 5 speeds, with the 2nd gear being on normal use, 3rd gear on videos and maybe game startups, and 4th gear on loads. It rarely kicked into the 5th gear unless I'm running PCMark or 3DMark combined tests.

    The stealth fan profile do help by lowering each by one level at the cost of temperature. I never dared using full speed. :confused:

    All testing done at 14 degrees ambient and AUTO fan profile.

    Battery:

    Not the strongest in its league. Expect 4.5-5.5 hours of use at <50% brightness with wifi off. I'd advise going into great lengths ensuring the lowest battery drain by tinkering with max CPU usage, undervolting, and probably optimizing windows by disabling visual features, background programs and the like.

    As it is equipped with an SSD, I don't mind letting it hibernate, sacrificing a few seconds' boot time for more juice as opposed to sleeping.

    Portability:

    At barely an inch think this thing is a breeze to carry. An hour of one-hand holding with the sleeve on on transit results in minimal strain to the wrists and elbows.
    Bringing the full gear on a backpack is not too heavy to boot with but I usually just leave the adapter inside and hand-carry the notebook.
    The abundance of rubber feet is a godsend when using them in lecture theatres with ridiculously small tables.

    7. Conclusion

    The Good:

    14” notebook with by-far the highest perf/kg ratio, surpassing even 15.6” alternatives.

    Just the right ppi at 1080p.

    Backlit keyboard and a satisfying touchpad.

    Absence of bloatware.

    Nice I/O layout, geared towards games and work alike.

    Subtle and pretty look, classy finish.

    Premium-feeling sleeve.


    The Bad:

    Freaking lipophilic finish, arrrggghh!

    Weird arrow keys.

    No G keys.

    Awful speakers.


    The Ugly:

    You can’t defy the laws of physics: It’s going to be flarkin’ hot pumping 150W into this volume.


    The verdict:

    Very nice machine that stands out in performance but stays cool on the looks. Not on the temps though.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
  2. LVNeptune

    LVNeptune Notebook Virtuoso

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    Nice review. You forgot to mention the lack of a display port and being replaced for vga :p
     
  3. Micaiah

    Micaiah Notebook Deity

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    Thank you for the review, I ordered one as well and will be receiving it tomorrow from HIDEvolution. I had them removed the factory RAM and HDD and will be putting in a pair of 8GB Corsair DDR3-1600 RAM and a 512 GB Plextor M5 Pro SSD.

    That's actually not bad, especially the gaming temperatures. I would assume it may be closer to 90C/80C in warmer climates or summertime?
     
  4. fanchiuho

    fanchiuho Notebook Enthusiast

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    Ops good call. I guess that totally flew over my head since I'm convinced I won't be in the market for UHD throughout the life of this notebook. Not until dem UHD panels and projectors are more commonplace.
     
  5. fanchiuho

    fanchiuho Notebook Enthusiast

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    I can't help but be OCD about temps ever since I got my hands on both a Y580 and Y480, with the latter constantly BSODing on a Sandy i7, and the former absolutely fine on the same specs.

    If you are to bear with a humid 35C in summer Hong Kong, you'll make sure your workhorse does too.
     
  6. LVNeptune

    LVNeptune Notebook Virtuoso

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    UHD is nice but my concern is outputting to a 120hz+ monitor @ 1080p which you can't do over HDMI for most things. I think this is HDMI 1.4 which does support it but very few monitors actually do.
     
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  7. Micaiah

    Micaiah Notebook Deity

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    That's understandable, are you planning on replacing the factory thermal compound with something like Arctic Silver 5 or IC Diamond? From some of the reviews on the previous generation of the P34, replacing that factory compound lowers the CPU/GPU temperatures by about 5C. Every little bit helps. :)
     
  8. fanchiuho

    fanchiuho Notebook Enthusiast

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    Fair point. We could always stay optimistic though! Worst case, we don't get 120Hz support, but mobile GSync is confirmed, thus support on this machine is a possibility. That'd be good enough compromise for me personally.
     
  9. fanchiuho

    fanchiuho Notebook Enthusiast

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    Very, very likely. Seeing how similiar in construction are the v2 and the v3, I don't find it potentially hard to replace (repaste;)) it with my Noctua NT-H1, which had worked wonders on my friend's ye olde' Toshiba.
     
  10. Pcguy07

    Pcguy07 Notebook Geek

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    I'm wondering if this laptop has a a similar bend issue as the P35X? Can you take a pic like this?
     

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