Gigabyte’s refreshed Aorus 15G for 2021 has a subtle, all-black design that takes a page from the company’s more svelte Aero lineup of creator-focused laptops. It’s a nice upgrade, but there aren’t many other changes from last year’s model, for better or worse. It offers the same wide variety of ports (including the all-too-rare full-size SD card reader), and impressively, Gigabyte fit an excellent 15.6-inch display into a 14-inch wide chassis. But at the same time, the keyboard is cramped and the nostril webcam is awkward to use.
There are some other swings and misses, but it nails what it’s really focused on: gaming. The bump up to Nvidia’s RTX 3070 graphics chip inside is the biggest change, and it helps this thin-and-light gaming laptop run most games beyond 60 frames per second, crossing the bar for reliably smooth gameplay.
That kind of performance is great — and not necessarily a given just because a laptop has this graphics chip. Manufacturers can set its power level to balance performance and efficiency as they see fit. So, despite having a compact chassis, I was surprised to see it perform better with games than the Asus TUF Dash F15. It’s generally much quieter, too. Gigabyte found the sweet spot, and if you plug in an external mouse and keyboard, this machine is a blast to use.
The $1,799 configuration Gigabyte provided for review has the aforementioned Nvidia GPU, Intel’s 10th Gen Core i7-10870H with eight cores, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD, a 99Wh battery, and its 15.6-inch 1080p display with a 240Hz refresh rate is Pantone-certified for color accuracy with 100 percent coverage of the sRGB color gamut. This isn’t Gigabyte’s top-of-the-line model, but it’s close. The step-up config for $200 more has the RTX 3080 and double the storage. A more affordable $1,499 model with the RTX 3060 is also available.
Even though, technically, a laptop with the RTX 3070 is middle of the road between Nvidia’s low- and high-end graphics chips, it can deliver fantastic results. Gigabyte’s Aorus 15G would probably like to credit its gimmicky built-in Microsoft Azure application that automatically optimizes performance with AI, but it’s capable out of the box with default settings. There wasn’t a huge difference in gameplay with or without the Azure app running, nor when I set the GPU and CPU to boost in Gigabyte’s pre-installed Aorus Control Center app. That’s fine by me; the less tweaking required, the better.
Getting right into game performance, Red Dead Redemption 2’s built-in benchmark running on ultra hit a steady average of 66 frames per second, dropping to just 44 frames per second at the lowest. Shadow of the Tomb Raider running at ultra settings with medium ray-traced shadows ran at an average of 93 frames per second. Bumping up the ray tracing to ultra knocked it down to 69 frames per second, which is still a smooth experience. None of these results come close to taking full advantage of the fast-refreshing screen, but older or less demanding games should be able to hit far higher frames per second.
Outside of benchmarks, Cyberpunk 2077 running at ultra ray tracing settings was easily my highlight testing the Aorus 15G. This machine had little issue keeping the game running above 50 frames per second in a more barren or enclosed environment, and it rarely dropped below 40 frames per second in crowded outdoor environments — again, that’s with the most demanding graphical settings cranked up (ultra with every ray tracing setting and DLSS on). The performance here will make a lot of people happy. I was also impressed by Gigabyte’s cooling system, which keeps things surprisingly quiet and cool under pressure. This is the rare gaming laptop you can actually keep safely on your lap while gaming.
I’m fascinated with Nvidia’s new RTX 30-series graphics chips. Not just because they’re good, but because they sometimes provide wildly different results depending on the laptop they’re in. For instance, in the MSI GS66 Stealth, its RTX 3080 delivers very similar performance to the chip inside of Gigabyte’s laptop here, even though it should blow it away. The reason is because this chip has a higher clock speed and power draw than what’s inside of MSI’s laptop.
Specifically, this 3070 tops out at a 105W power draw with 1,290MHz clock speed, whereas the 3080 in question is at 95W maximum power and 1,245MHz clock speed. In short, you’re getting a lot of power in this thin $1,799 machine. Paying $200 more for the Aorus 15G with the RTX 3080 might not get you all that many more frames per second, as it also has a 105W maximum power draw but a slightly slower 1,245MHz clock speed. You might know all of this info, but you might not. Nvidia requires manufacturers to share it, though some of them are still being cagey about it. For the record, Gigabyte is one of the more transparent companies about its GPU specs. I’m keeping tabs on other manufacturers right here.
Outside of gaming, the Aorus 15G is unfortunately a less convincing product. It’s able to run my usual workload flawlessly, consisting of Affinity Photo, about 10 Google Chrome apps, Slack, and Spotify. Given the specs inside, I expected this. What came as more of a surprise is that they don’t translate so well to video production. During an Adobe Premiere Pro test that exported a five-minute, 33-second 4K video, it took about seven minutes each time to render.
There are several other trade-offs that might give you pause if you need a laptop as much for productivity as you do for gaming. The typing experience is fine but not helped by the cramped keyboard layout. It has a tiny trackpad, and its nostril-gazing webcam didn’t cut it for me. Also, Gigabyte claims up to eight hours of battery life, but I averaged around six hours per charge. The new Asus TUF Dash F15 excels at all things Gigabyte didn’t quite land and costs less, but its lack of a webcam is a huge red flag.
This is a fantastic machine if all you want to do is get 60 frames per second (and often, better than that) in most of your games without tweaking many settings. Doing that for under $2,000 is an achievement worthy of praise. But if you care less about mobility and having a thin form factor that Gigabyte’s Aorus 15G provides, MSI’s GP66 Leopard takes the RTX 3070 even further. Its thicker, heavier chassis affords the chip even more headroom to get better performance in games — for the same $1,799 price, no less.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge