April 13, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XA – Review 2020

Here at PC Labs, we have a confession to make: We played games on
the Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR ($3,199 as tested). Yes, Aero is Gigabyte’s brand
for designers and digital content creators—it’s the company’s Aorus laptops
that target hardcore gamers—and the 17.3-inch notebook tested here is particularly
artistic-minded, thanks to its stunning X-Rite Pantone-certified 4K screen, which meets
the VESA DisplayHDR 400 spec. But the Aero 17 also boasts a fiery eight-core
Intel Core i9 CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics, not to mention a
spiffy RGB backlit keyboard. It’s more than fast enough to be a great platform
for challenging games. Call it a best-of-both-worlds example of a big-screen
premium laptop.

Subdued Style

Hardware-wise, this Aero 17 HDR (model XA) review
unit is armed and dangerous, with a 2.4GHz (5.0GHz turbo) Core i9-9980HK processor,
16GB of memory, a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive, and the GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q
GPU with 8GB of its own memory. Even its networking is speed-crazed, with
Killer Ethernet and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) components.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR rear view

To be sure, the Aero doesn’t look like a
spaceship-styled gaming rig—it’s a fairly conservative aluminum slab,
relatively thin and light for a 17.3-inch laptop at 0.84 by 15.6 by 10.6 inches
and 5.5 pounds. In fact, I can quibble that it’s almost a bit too light, thanks
to Gigabyte’s desire to keep the internals cool. A good deal of the bottom,
rear, and sides is carved out for large vents, and if you pick up and grip the
notebook by the right side of the palm rest, the chassis will flex just enough
to apply pressure to the cooling fan, and you might hear the fan blades rub against
the inside of the chassis.

That said, while it may not feel like the most
durable notebook I’ve used, most users of 17.3-inch laptops aren’t overly concerned
with mobility—they’re much more likely to use the system as a stationary
desktop replacement rather than taking it everywhere or trying in vain to open
it on an airline tray table.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR partly open

Privacy buffs will be glad that there’s a
sliding lens cover for the webcam, centered just above the power button above
the keyboard. The drawback to that is the same one that used to affect Dell XPS
laptops—having the webcam below instead of above the screen means unflattering
shots of your chin and nostrils.

Gigabyte packed in plenty of ports, including
two USB 3.1 Type-A ports along with Ethernet, microphone, and headphone jacks
and an SD card slot on the left side. You’ll find both another USB-A port and a
combo USB-C/DisplayPort, plus HDMI and Thunderbolt 3 ports and the connector
for the AC adapter, on the right.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR left ports

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR right ports

A Stellar Screen and a Touchy Subject

4K video editors and Photoshop artists will
absolutely love the Aero’s 17.3-inch, factory-color-calibrated HDR display.
It’s supremely bright and colorful, delivering 100 percent of the Adobe RGB
color gamut, with high contrast and ultra-fine details. Fast-twitch gamers seeking
a high refresh rate and rapid response will naturally have other priorities,
which is why Gigabyte also sells Aero 17 models with a 144Hz 1080p IPS panel, but
it’s hard to imagine a content creator not being delighted with the 4K screen’s
color fidelity and overall visual experience.

The Gigabyte Fusion RGB per-key backlit
keyboard is a beauty to behold and a joy to use. Every key can be customized to
your color preference. You can leave it set to the default rainbow pattern,
make every key the same color, or only light up a few keys that you need to
reference quickly in a low-light environment. Of course, you can also turn off
the keyboard lights completely if you want a more professional-appearing

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR keyboard and touchpad

The large touchpad with integrated fingerprint
reader works well—I enjoyed its precise cursor movement and accurate gesture
controls—but its placement and buttonless design caused a bit of a headache for
me: I usually move my right thumb to make a left-click on a touchpad, but on
the Aero I often ended up making a right-click instead. This happened so frequently
that I stopped using the pad and switched to an external mouse.

When I moonlighted as a gamer, the system’s cooling
fans were loud enough that I needed to wear a headset to block out the noise. But that was only an issue when stressing the hardware to its limits—when web
browsing or streaming online content, the fan noise was audible only in a
perfectly silent room. A supplied Control Center utility lets you adjust the
fan speed as well as display and battery settings, while Nahimic audio software
lets you tweak bass, treble, and surround sound, as well as switch among music, movie,
gaming, and communication presets.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR underside

Performance: Keeping Up With the Gamers

For our benchmark comparisons, I matched the Aero
17 HDR against five other high-performance 17.3-inch notebooks, ranging from
its Aorus 17 stablemate to the
Alienware m17, the Acer Predator
Helios 700
, the HP Omen
, and the Asus ROG Zephyrus S
. All six
delivered exceptional performance, though shoppers with feelings of inferiority
can look to Gigabyte’s Aero 17 HDR YA configuration, which flaunts a Max-Q GeForce
RTX 2080 instead of my test unit’s Max-Q RTX 2070.

(See how we test laptops for more on our benchmarking regimen.)

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR configuration chart

Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests

PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites
developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The
PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and
content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for
office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and
videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to rate
the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both tests generate a proprietary numeric
score; higher numbers are better.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR PCMark

We consider any PCMark 10 score over 4,000 very
good. The Aero passed with flying colors, but so did the competition. The PCMark 8 Storage score, meanwhile, is dead-on for a high-end laptop with a PCI Express-based SSD as a boot drive.

Next is the CPU-crunching Cinebench R15, which
is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. This
test stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result
is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR Cinebench

The eight-core, 16-thread Core i9 chip in the
Aero 17 HDR really shows its strengths here, crushing mere six-core CPUs like the
Core i7-8750H.  More cores always result in higher Cinebench scores and
that also applies to our video editing test, Handbrake, where we put a
stopwatch on systems as they render a 12-minute clip of 4K video down to 1080p

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR Handbrake

Between its strong silicon and dazzling
display, it’s no surprise that the Aero 17 HDR is a stellar performer in Adobe
Photoshop. In this image editing exercise, we use an early 2018 Creative Cloud
release of the software to apply 10 complex filters and effects to a JPEG test
image, timing each operation and adding up the total. The Photoshop test
stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of
most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful
graphics can see better scores.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR Photoshop

Graphics Tests

3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by
rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize
particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, which are suited
to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is
more suited to midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for
high-end gaming PCs.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR 3DMark

The Aero’s GeForce RTX 2070 easily outpaces older
GeForce GTX 1000 series GPUs, even if it falls short of systems like the Asus
ROG Zephyrus S GX701 using the GeForce RTX 2080.

Next up is another synthetic graphics test,
Unigine’s Superposition. Like 3DMark, this test renders and pans through a detailed
3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the
company’s Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario for a
second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. We present two Superposition
results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets and listed in frames per
second (fps).

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR Superposition

Here, the Aero 17 posted scores that rival what we’ve recorded from some GeForce RTX 2080-based systems.

Real-World Gaming Tests

Synthetic tests of 3D rendering performance are
a nice indication of a GPU’s overall capabilities, but there’s no substitute
for frame rates in actual games. We use Far Cry 5 (DirectX 11) and Rise of the
Tomb Raider (DirectX 12) for our real-world testing, running both games at
1080p resolution with both the moderate and maximum graphics quality presets
(Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5; Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR Far Cry 5

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR Rise of the Tomb Raider

For a non-gaming rig, the Aero does well,
though its results are in line with less expensive systems’. Without a
high-refresh-rate screen, frame rates above 60fps are less meaningful on this
laptop, anyway.

Since the Aero 17 HDR comes with a 4K display,
we couldn’t resist rerunning the Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider
benchmarks at that resolution with maximum image quality. The machine averaged
39fps and 40fps, respectively. You can lower the detail settings to achieve the
desired 60fps, but 4K gaming remains more the realm of cost-no-object desktops
rather than notebooks.

Battery Rundown Test

After fully recharging the laptop, we set up
the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance
mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in
preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off,
putting the laptop into airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a locally stored
720p video with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent
until the system quits.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR battery life

None of these big-screen machines rivals the
runtime of ultraportables or convertibles, but the Aero 17 HDR’s six and a half
hours of stamina isn’t bad. If you take a lunch break and don’t stress the
graphics card, chances are that you can make it through an eight-hour workday
or a full day of classes on a single charge.

A Stylish Switch Hitter

If you’re looking for a creativity-focused
desktop replacement, or even an after-hours entertainment system that doesn’t take
up massive space on your desk and doesn’t look like an obnoxious gaming rig, the
Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR is a fine choice.

Gigabyte Aero HDR 17 angle view

The modest flexibility in the chassis
is only a concern for people who plan to use the notebook as a mobile laptop
instead of the desktop alternative it was clearly designed to be, and its swift
performance and sunny, colorful 4K screen are huge pluses. I’m not a big fan of
the touchpad, but I’m a huge fan overall.

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XA Specs

Laptop Class Gaming
Processor Intel Core i9-9980HK
Processor Speed 2.4 GHz
RAM (as Tested) 16 GB
Boot Drive Type SSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested) 512 GB
Screen Size 17.3 inches
Native Display Resolution 3840 by 2160
Touch Screen No
Panel Technology IPS
Variable Refresh Support None
Screen Refresh Rate 60 Hz
Graphics Processor Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 (Max-Q)
Graphics Memory 8 GB
Wireless Networking 802.11ax, Bluetooth
Dimensions (HWD) 0.84 by 15.6 by 10.6 inches
Weight 5.5 lbs
Operating System Windows 10 Home
Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes) 6:44

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