Gigabyte Aero 14 GTX 970M Gaming Laptop Review
John Williamson / 4 years ago
A Closer Look
Gigabyte decided to focus on a professional yet stylish aesthetic design which wouldn’t look out of place in an office environment. As you can see, the neutral black colour scheme is attractive without being overbearing and should appeal to a wide audience. Furthermore, the textured section adds a more distinctive appearance and provides a marvellous contrast. Please note, Gigabyte has created two alternative models featuring more lavish colours. The lime green and orange versions cannot be purchased as of yet in the UK but I’d like to see them in retail channels to provide customers with greater choice.
Here we can see the product has numerous ventilation grills to aid airflow which ensures heat is dispelled in an effective manner. The logical placement optimises the air direction and provides surprisingly good dissipation in a slim form factor. To prevent the machine from moving around, Gigabyte included six durable rubber feet. These feature a large surface area and have been attached with high-quality adhesive. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find any weak points and don’t expect the rubber feet to erode over time.
The bottom portion houses two 1.5-watt speakers which offer exceptional audio clarity and consistently output great noise levels without distortion. Ultrabook speakers tend to be overly tinny and lacking in bass due to space restrictions. Thankfully, the Aero 14’s speakers are vibrant, with a superb dynamic range. Of course, it’s not going to compete with a premium set of headphones, but the rich audio tone should please the majority of users. Not only that, the audio segment supports Dolby Digital Plus to create a virtualized surround sound experience when playing games or watching immersive video content.
Opening the laptop is a relatively simple task if you have the right tools. As per usual for modern gaming laptops, Gigabyte has resorted to Torx screws to discourage end-users from cleaning or upgrading their hardware. Honestly, this is a cogent strategy and should deter those who are likely to cause damage from prying the protective cover off. If someone has a set of Torx bits ranging from T1 upwards, they’re probably going to have a greater level of technical expertise. Therefore, the probability of damage by user error is lower. To dismantle the laptop cover, simply unscrew the 15 Torx screws and gently lift the plastic housing upwards. Unlike some solutions, I didn’t have to insert a plastic tool between the cover and chassis.
The machine’s cooling hardware revolves around two large fans and two heat pipes which combine to adequately cool both the CPU and GPU. As expected, the slim form factor is quite limiting and it’s not possible to utilise a large number of heat-pipes or fans with a thicker surface area. Given these restrictions, I think Gigabyte has managed to compile a good layout.
Despite being a really compact system, Gigabyte hasn’t taken any liberties when it comes to battery life. More specifically, the Aero 14’s battery is rated to 15.2V, 6200mAh/94.24Wh. This is nothing short of astounding and a major selling point.
Unfortunately, there’s no room to install a traditional SATA drive which means the M.2 standard is used instead. Positioning the M.2 NVMe next to the cooling hardware should prevent the drive throttling and help the storage device to maintain high speeds. Also, the unit contains two DIMM slots which are populated with 2133MHz modules from Crucial. To reiterate, the PCB layout is superb with a very clean design and I’m pleased to see any excess cabling held in place with industrial non-conductive tape.
Even though the review system only utilises a single storage solution, it’s possible to add a secondary M.2 drive. This level of flexibility is wonderful and users who require extraordinarily fast storage could create a RAID array using NVMe devices like the Samsung SM951. On another note, the M.2 connector is easily accessible and doesn’t require you to uncouple ribbon cables or other key components.
Connectivity-wise, the Aero 14 has from left to right, a USB 3.1 Type-C connector capable of speeds up to 10Gb/s, Mini DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports and a DC-in jack.
There’s also a Kensington lock slot, HDMI 2.0 port which supports a 4K 60Hz output providing the display in question is HDCP 2.2 compliant, USB 3.0 port, 3.5mm combo audio port and an SD card reader. Clearly, the most glaring omission is an Ethernet connector. I’m not entirely sure why Gigabyte took this approach as many users prefer reliable traffic via a wired connection. Perhaps, the Ethernet port just exceeded the laptop’s extraordinarily slim frame.
Whatever the case, I’m pleased a USB to RJ45 adapter is included free of charge which makes this issue less of a concern. Another slight disappointment is the USB 3.1 Type-C connector’s inability to support Thunderbolt 3. This is important because GPU enclosures which rely on this technology can transform a laptop’s gaming performance.
The Aero 14 is fitted with a 14-inch 2560×1440 IPS panel which equates to a pixels-per-inch rating of 209.8. Even though Gigabyte brandishes this screen with a “3K” tag, it’s a little bit disingenuous and the 1440p standard is colloquially referred to as 2.5K. Despite this slight annoyance, the panel’s high PPI rate ensures the text is incredibly sharp and easy to look at for long periods.
I’m glad Gigabyte didn’t include a 4K display because it would have forced the end-user to run games at a non-native resolution. This might still apply to the 2560×1440 screen because the GTX 970M is intended for 1080p scenarios. However, the 1440p display shouldn’t pose a problem when using fairly low settings. According to my testing, the display is capable of 70% sRGB coverage.
As expected for an IPS panel, the colour reproduction is immense and a joy to use. Also, the viewing angles are excellent and have a reduced colour shift. From what I could see, the panel didn’t suffer from backlight bleed or have uneven brightness levels. Speaking of brightness levels, the laptop reduces the brightness down to 20% once the power cord has been unplugged. This is just about usable in a dark environment, but I would recommend setting the brightness to 30-50% unless you need the battery to last a long time.
Gigabyte has utilised an aluminium casing which adds a premium touch and makes the unit seem more substantial. On the other hand, the screen is prone to some minor wobbling but you adjust to it relatively quickly. This is a byproduct of the thin frame and cannot be avoided.
Laying the unit flat provides an insight into the stunningly slim form factor.
The Aero 14 features an island-style keyboard which is really comfortable to type on even if you’re accustomed to mechanical switches. Each key has a fair travel distance (1.7mm) which accentuates every key press without slowing down the typing process. Additionally, the keys emit a satisfying noise and feel responsive. On another note, the lettering is of a very high quality without any cosmetic imperfections and should stand the test of time. The Aero 14 even incorporates a number of macro keys and you can configure commands to be executed on-the-fly.
Here we can see the laptop supports white illumination which aids typing late at night. The lighting is consistent and I didn’t detect areas lacking in colour. Ideally, I would have preferred the option to blend different colours together using RGB backlighting. I’m not entirely sure why Gigabyte hasn’t embraced RGB technology into their laptop range and it’s one area that could be improved upon in the future.
The touchpad has a marvellous soft finish and large surface area. This means it’s extremely accurate and doesn’t become tiring to use for long periods. Personally, I think it’s one of the best touchpads around and the incredible soft coating cushions your fingers rather well which improves comfort.
Gigabyte includes a piece of software entitled “Smart Manager” which allows you to adjust the volume, brightness setting, power mode, enable/disable the integrated webcam and much more. The one aspect I really enjoyed was the Smart Colour which houses different options to modify the panel’s hue. Furthermore, the Fan Tweak is handy if you’re not overly fussed with the noise output and want to enjoy lower temperatures.