My 4K OLED Notebook Experience – Gigabyte AERO 15 Review
This is the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED. It’s the flagship notebook within Gigabyte’s Aero series, and they’ve made a few subtle design changes to make it somewhat distinguishable compared to last gen models, specifically to classic series, which is still available but this is like they’re trying to make this more premium version of the Aero lineup. Now I have the 4K OLED option and I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this unit because when I looked at it back at Computex, the display was just gorgeous. I really wanted to experience it for myself to see what it’s like watching videos.
At the same time, for a creator like myself, can I take advantage of something like an OLED display for creating videos? I have put it through its paces. I have some thoughts about it. But I also happen to have the exact same notebook with a 1080p 240Hz display, and I was really curious to compare battery life and see if you’re gaining or losing anything by switching to a 4K OLED screen.
The 4K OLED models start at $1,700 and for that you get a ninth gen Core i7 six-core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256 Gigabyte NVMe SSD and a GTX 1660Ti. The model that I have over here comes with a Core i9 9880HK eight core 16 threads, CPU, 16 GB of RAM in dual channel mode, a 512 GB NVMe drive and an RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU and it costs $3,000. Just let that sink in for a moment because it’s not cheap, it’s expensive, but I’m glad that they’re giving users the option to configure these notebooks to whatever they like all the way up to 2080 Max-Q if you really want that way.
New Aero Changes
Let’s go through some of the changes. Talk about the Core i9 performance because this is my first laptop with the I nine CPU, eight cores 16 threads. That’s awesome compared to the i7. But most importantly I want to talk about that 4K display – Is it really worth the upgrade?
There are a few subtle shifts from the previous generation in terms of design. The logo at the front says Aero instead of Gigabyte and it’s LED lit and white, sorry, RGB fans.
The front panel now comes in this two-tone finish with these sharp-edged lines that give it an interesting character, but I still preferred the clean design from last year. They redesigned the hinges on the newer models, but I’m not a fan of it. You see they’re way too small to support the whole display, and the result is a lot of wobble. It’s a step back from last year’s design and I think they did this to expose the front vents for better airflow. They also added more vents on the sides, so we’ll see how that plays out with thermals. There’s also another Aero branding right in the middle of the front vents and there are LED lights pointing at it. You know what it reminds me of? A license plate.
Speaker Sound Quality
I do want to take this time to apologize for something that I mentioned back in our hands-on video at Computex. When we looked at the OLED notebooks, we were told that these laptops would come with front facing speakers, but that isn’t the case. They’re still located at the bottom, and I’m not really sure what purpose this front grill serves. It’s certainly not for airflow, I wasn’t able to feel any air as I was gaming, don’t fool yourselves thinking that that’s a front facing speaker.
Now sound quality is passable, it’s not the best given the location of the speakers. The trebles are a bit too sharp, bass is non-existent and I’d highly recommend getting a pair of headphones if you decide to watch movies.
Now the nose cam has been shifted from the display all the way to the frame right above the power button, which makes it the worst possible location to have a camera. It’s stationary, which means you can’t move it, it’s literally going to point at your fingers, and the quality’s pretty terrible. It’s right beside the microphone too, which means if you’re gaming on it and using the camera and it’s just, it’s a complete fail from Gigabyte. I wish if they relocated that at the top to make it somewhat appealing, but this… is a fail.
The keyboard layout still remains the same with perky RGB lighting, with a few handfuls of lighting effects. However, the keys felt a bit mushy compared to last gen. The travel distance also feels a bit shorter as well, but it’s still good. Better than my Razor Blade 15 for sure, but I still think Lenovo Legion laptops have the best overall keyboard in the business.
Trackpad and Fingerprint Reader
The trackpad hasn’t changed. It still comes with Windows position drivers, although it’s not as smooth or as precise as my Razor Blade 15. The good thing is that it does come with a built-in fingerprint reader. A secure way to log into your PC that I highly appreciate.
They’ve shuffled the port layout this time, but they haven’t cut any corners. On the right-hand side, you have your power, full-size UHS 2.0 card reader, Thunderbolt 3 Type-C, 2x USB 3.1 Gen1, which is disappointing because you’re only limited to 5 Gb/s versus 10 Gb/s with Gen2.
Switching over to the left, we have HDMI 2.0, USB 3.1 type-C that also functions as DisplayPort 1.4, another 3.1 type-A, a headphone/mic jack, and an RJ-45 port.
4K OLED Screen
The 4K OLED display is one of the best looking screens that I’ve encountered on notebook. It’s sharp, very bright. Yes, you can take it outdoors, but keep in mind that it is glossy and reflects depending on how you position the screen. And the colors are breathtaking. The display is factory calibrated by X-ray and it covers 100% of DCI-P3 color gamut. It’s beautiful to watch movies on. You get a nice high contrast look with deeper blacks, which means there’s absolutely no signs of backlight bleed given the nature of the panel. And for content creators, this is like a dream come true.
But is it really worth upgrading from a 1080p with higher refresh rate IPS display? And the answer to that really depends on how you decide to use your notebook. If you’re primarily a gamer, skipped the 4K option, just go for the 1080p display because the higher refresh rate is the way to go. It’s fast, it’s fluid, you can’t go back to a 4K panel with 60 Hz. It’s really limiting, especially when gaming plus you can’t really game at 4K given the hardware and the RTX 2070 is still struggles at 4K.
If your primary use will be creating videos, photos or graphics, you’re going to have a blast with this $K option because having spent time with Premiere, going through the timeline and editing videos for test purposes, and of course watching videos, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this display. It’s just that good. The colors are vibrant. Everything about it is just so well done and I don’t really have anything to complain about it. I particularly enjoyed the deeper blacks on this display – That’s the one thing that I really appreciated about this OLED panel, but it’s also the colors too. You just sit in front of it and you get to experience it.
That being said, I have a few issues. When I plug in external USB devices, if it’s a hard drive or a wireless receiver for my wireless mouse, I noticed that the screen flickers for like two seconds and it goes back to normal and that was a little bit odd. I also did notice some flickering issues, just once in a while, as I was browsing to the web and just doing my testing. That is unfortunate and I’m not sure if it was just my sample, but something to certainly keep note of.
Now for display scaling, I didn’t really experience any issues with the apps that I use on a regular basis. Out of the box, this notebook is set to 250%, but I really recommend setting it to 200% for the best viewable experience. You could set it to 100% for a one-to-one ratio, but then you would need a magnifying glass to navigate around this screen. Honestly 4K on a 15” notebook is a debatable topic, but it’s about the experience of using one in the first place. That’s ultimately what it comes down to, and I really enjoyed my time using this OLED display.
But with all of that being sent, we have to address the elephant in the room and that is burn-in. I reached out to Gigabyte asking them about what measures they’ve taken to address this issue, and they did mention that they put these panels through some rigorous testing to ensure that doesn’t happen, but it’s not a 100% guarantee. We’re just going have to wait and see how this panel plays out over the long term. It is what it is.
Upgrading this notebook is pretty straight forward. Once you open the bottom cover, you have instant access to the two RAM modules, which can easily be upgraded up to 64 GB. Then you have the a pre-installed M.2 drive, which doesn’t have the fastest write speed compared to some of the other notebooks that I’ve taken a look in the past. There is an additional M.2 slot for expansion.
I do want to mention that the Killer WiFi card on this notebook was absolutely terrible. I had the worst experience browsing through the web and of course playing multiplayer games. The WiFi would just drop all of a sudden. The whole thing would just disconnect me, which was really, really frustrating. I don’t know why Gigabyte is sticking with Killer WiFi networking cards. It just ruins the whole gaming and browsing experience.
Now both Aero notebooks feature the same size battery at 94 watt hours. I ran my standard light load test, refreshing a Chrome webpage on both the 4K OLED and the 1080p 240 Hz display. The OLED ran about 46 minutes shorter compared to the 1080p model. I expected that because it is a 4K display after all, and the power draw completely depends on what’s on the screen, since every pixel is individually lit. Plus this model is running an i9 CPU versus the i7. The same story goes for the heavy load test running real bench on a loop.
Finally, the performance: The Core i9 eight core 16 thread CPU is really fast. However, it’s nothing significant compared to the Core i7 9750H six core processor. As you can see, the Omen X 2S that I checked out recently is not too far behind in both multi-core and single core tests. But man, that Blender time is crazy though. Interestingly, the Aero 15 notebook featuring the Core i7 CPU didn’t do that great compared to the Omen, but that’s because Gigabyte doesn’t unlock the full potential of that CPU. It gives you a balanced experience without affecting thermals that much. Remember the Omen ran really hot during my testing.
Taking a look at our 12-minute Premiere Pro tests, I was really surprised at how well the i7 and the i9 performed but I have an explanation for that. As I was monitoring clock speeds, I noticed at the Core i9 CPU average between 3.1 and 3.4 GHz on all eight cores while rendering the video versus 3.7GHz and a little over that on the Core i7 model. The higher frequency did come in clutch to close the gap between the two. That’s something to definitely keep note of, especially if you’re debating between the Core i7 and the Core i9, you’re not going to notice a huge difference between the two in terms of pure rendering performance.
Gaming on the other hand was good. Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t recommend picking up the 4K model for it, but if you are comfortable with 60Hz you can certainly get away with over 100 FPS in 1080p set to the highest settings. I was curious to see if the i9 made any difference and as you can see the improvements were very minimal.
Taking a look at temperatures, the Core i9 did peak at 95 C but as soon as I hit that point it shifted the clock speeds to bring those temps down to an average above 85 C. For casual tasks, it was able to maintain about 4GHz and the temperatures were under control. The RTX 2070 Max-Q ran cooler than last year’s model, its core temps peaked at 76 C and the clock speeds were shifting back and forth between 1300 and 1410 MHz, which does align with NVIDIA spec sheet.
Fan noise is certainly not the biggest forte of the Aero 15 notebook. It certainly gets loud under heavy load scenarios, especially if you’re gaming or if you’re editing videos because it’s trying really hard to cool that Core i9 processor and the RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU. I would highly recommend pairing this with a pair of headphones just so you can isolate yourself from all the noise.
I have to admit, I am not really happy with what Gigabyte has done here with the newer Aero 15 models because for one, the redesign of the hinges is just bad. I mean it’s small and I don’t know how far or how long it can support this display because it gets super wobbly.
The nose cam is located at the worst possible location; It’s just not ideal and a complete fail if you were to ask me. The speakers are still located at the bottom, and I wish they were front facing. The IO is also not up to spec, which is really odd, especially since you’re paying almost three grand for a notebook. I mean through USB 3.1 Gen1 is pretty limiting, especially if you’re looking for a notebook with the highest spec. It does come with a full size SD card slots and I guess that’s a bonus.
They played a safe this time with the thermals on the Core i9, they didn’t push it too extreme. It’s respectable, but it’s not something that worth or consider upgrading from the Core i7 models because the performance difference is really not that significant.
Not to mention WiFi performance on both these notebooks were pretty terrible and it’s of course due to the Killer networking cards. Intel seems to have the best in the business right now, and I’m not sure why to Gigabyte decided to go with Killer in the first place.
Finally there’s a question of whether or not if you should go with the 4K OLED display or the 1080p 240 Hz display. Honestly, I think I’m going to stick with a 1080p panel because I love the fluidity and the responsive and the refresh rate in general of the screen. It’s still a very color accurate display that I can comfortably edit videos on it. I don’t think I can you go wrong with a 1080p panel in the first place. And the biggest limiting factor for me with a 4K display is the refresh rate. At 60 Hz, it is a bit limiting, especially coming from a higher refresh rate screen. But the colors on this, the contrast ratio on this is really, really nice. Better than the IPS screen of course, but I think it’s safer to go with the 1080p display because I don’t have to worry about potential burn-in issues on the 4K options.
Wait and see how OLED matures over time. Potentially we could get lower resolution, higher refresh rate, OLED panels, with better durability over time too. Let me know what you guys think about the Aero 15 from Gigabyte, specifically the OLED models. Would you consider one right now and let me know your thoughts about the Core i9 performance. Were you surprised by that? Thank you so much for reading.
Buy items in this review from Amazon at the links below:
AERO 15 (FHD 240hz / 9570H / GTX 1660 Ti) – https://geni.us/AERO15-1
AERO 15 (4K OLED / 9750H / GTX 1660 Ti) – https://geni.us/AERO15-2
AERO 15 (4K OLED / 9750H / RTX 2060) – https://geni.us/AERO15-3
AERO 15 (FHD 240hz / 9570H / RTX 2070) – https://geni.us/AERO15-4
AERO 15 (4K OLED / 9570H / RTX 2070) – https://geni.us/AERO15-5
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