This Tech Could INCREASE FPS for Gaming Notebooks
So I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with the above laptop, it’s the Aero 15 from Gigabyte. It’s actually one of my favorite notebooks to date. However, back at CES and Computex Gigabyte was actually talking about the ton of ways that they have been working to improve the performance on this lineup with some pretty unexpected tech. Now I won’t be covering every bit of this notebook – because if you’re interested our full review over here – but there is a particular feature that I really wanted to try out. Specifically, Gigabyte is using artificial intelligence to give these notebooks the best possible performance, as well as give users better battery life. Now I know that sounds like something out of Terminator 3, but it’s not like these machines that are going to rise up and take over the world through these notebooks, because that’s not what we’re dealing with here. Honestly, we all know how artificial intelligence is being incorporated into pretty much every area that it can be, so everything from the automotive world with AI to enhance self-driving algorithms to Windows with image searching. Heck, even the new processors from AMD and GPUs from NVIDIA have some basic form of AI that can optimize clock speeds by predicting upcoming system workloads. Therefore, why not incorporate something like that in a notebook to improve the overall experience?
I do want to take this time to thank Gigabyte for partnering up with us in this video. We also do want to mention that our opinions and performance metrics are solely our own, but Gigabyte did provide us with some technical information so that I could easily understand how AI algorithms work specifically on the Aero notebook lineup.
What is Azure AI?
The artificial intelligence that Gigabyte is using for their Aero 15 is called Azure, and that’s actually a name that includes all sorts of cloud-based technologies from Microsoft. The way it works on this notebook is pretty interesting, so let’s see if I can explain it. Well on a laptop you usually have to constantly switch between performance modes in Windows or a secondary utility like the Control Center from Gigabyte if you want to get the most out of the system. For longer battery life you would select battery saver, but if you need the best overall performance you would go with the high power setting. Some gaming notebooks have their own gaming mode too, which emphasizes GPU performance.
Now you can create a custom power plan in Windows, but the options there are pretty limited. The same goes for technologies like NVIDIA’s Optimus, which can switch on-the-fly between a discrete GPU and a more efficient IGP depending on system demands. However, none of these technologies are able to do it all, they’re either on or off and they don’t have the ability to control things like fan speeds. Not to mention the whole process of switching back and forth between these modes can be a little bit tiring and complicated for novices who just want these notebooks to operate properly. That’s where Microsoft’s Azure AI on the Aero 15 comes in. Think of it as a fully automatic car transmission versus a manual transmission on other notebooks. Well actually, think of it as Azure more as an automatic with paddle shifters, but more on that later.
How does it work?
So what Azure does is that it monitors power consumption in real-time and when it detects an application requesting for more power, if it’s either from the CPU or GPU, it will automatically switch system resources to accommodate them. The Aero 15 then sends information about every program’s requests to the Cloud where Azure AI then stores it. As more of that information is sent to the cloud, the AI learns more about the optimization needed to get the best results in every scenario. More importantly, all the information for applications you use is actually stored locally and new optimizations are sent to and received from the Azure cloud on a regular basis. So that means your system could get even better over time and you won’t lose the benefits of AI even if you’re offline. The benefit is that all of this is done automatically, but for enthusiasts who really like to tweak and tune with certain settings within their notebook, Gigabyte certainly gives you the option to adjust those settings within their Command Center utility. It’s not like they are taking that feature away from you. It’s just for those users who are looking for the best overall performance without having to fiddle around with settings. And that’s where Azure AI in this case can come in super handy.
Now obviously we’re concerned about giving our information, but Gigabyte is actually pretty transparent about that. So for instance, if you set up this notebook from scratch, when you get into the desktop screen for the first time there will be a little pop up window that will ask you for your consent to collect data related to system specs, like CPU mode, operating system version, MAC address, memory, etcetera. And if you’re not comfortable doing that, you can obviously decline the option to upload data metrics to the cloud.
Okay, so essentially what Azure does is that it detects what’s primarily on your display. So for instance, if you’re gaming it will equally distribute the power to the GPU and the CPU, but most likely the GPU. In this case that would be its priority because it is the key component when it comes to gaming. But say for instance you switch to something a little bit more creative, like you’re editing a video or running an application that’s more CPU intensive, then it will make sure that channel as much as power as a can to the CPU to get the best performance, while also making sure that the fan speeds are well under control. It can make sure the temperatures are under control, but if you do something a little bit more intense it will automatically ramp up those fan speeds as needed. It will also ensure quiet operation when you’re just doing casual tasks like perhaps watching a video, working on a Word document or something like that. Basically, it takes cares of things without requiring the user to fiddle around with different settings. Now I also do want to mention that Azure is not meant to push a notebook to its extreme, but rather offer users a more balanced experience.
Does that mean that they won’t have any control over AI? Not really because you can simply right-click on the icon and disabled it, and you can go back to the Control Center and change different settings to your own desires. This kind of refers back to that previous statement that I made about how it’s basically an automatic transmission but with paddle shifters as well. So it gives users the best of both worlds.
Now interestingly, if you tweak and tune a profile within Control Center and if you’re comfortable using that for your day-to-day tasks you can actually share that information with Azure by simply uploading it to the cloud. Now I do want to add a few more things before getting into the performance segment. As I mentioned earlier, Azure primarily detects what’s on your screen, so if you decide to connect an external display it might actually not work as you’d like it to. For instance, if I have Adobe Premiere or After Effects running on my secondary monitor, and if I have a Word processor running on my primary display, it would still detect what’s on the primary display and it wouldn’t run as efficiently as you’d like it to on your secondary display for that particular application. So in a multi-monitor scenario Azure might not work as well as you would like it to.
One of the many things I noticed when I was monitoring clock speeds while gaming is that when I had AI enabled, the core frequencies on the RTX 2070 Max Q were higher and thus the results or the frame rates were a little bit higher compared to Gaming Mode, which is the highest performance profile in Control Center for this notebook. Lastly, if you decide to unplug the notebook while doing something intensive, it will switch automatically to battery saving mode, which should seem obvious. You’re not going to be getting the most optimal performance for that certain application, but you’re more likely going to get the best possible battery life because the hardware is being optimized to not drain the battery.
All right, so with that out of the way let’s get into the performance numbers. This Aero 15 Classic features a Core i7-9750H with 16GB of RAM in dual-channel mode, a 512GB MVME SSD, and an RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU. Let’s begin with some synthetic tests. Starting with Cinebench R15 there isn’t a huge improvement, but if you look at Blender running the BMW benchmark it actually completes that render 30 seconds faster compared to when AI is disabled. And mind you, when the AI was disabled the laptop was still in Gaming Mode because I did want to give Azure some competition. Moving on to the Adobe media encoder test, I took this 30 minute 4K project and I exported it with the YouTube 4K preset using Intel QuickSync. And as you can see, there is a pretty big difference between AI enabled and disabled, which again means that the laptop was in Game Mode within the Gigabyte Control Center app.
And I was actually monitoring the clock speeds with Hardware Monitor to see what the speeds were when I was running the video. I noticed that with AI, all six cores were constantly reaching 4GHz here and there, whereas with AI disabled the speeds were hovering around 3.3GHz to 3.5GHz. So the fact that Azure AI is actually channeling as much power as possible to the CPU is believable because it actually renders the video a lot faster, which is pretty awesome.
Switching gears to gaming and the performance delta here is very incremental. As you can see, you’re only getting a few frames per second extra with titles like Overwatch, Apex Legends, and Battlefield 1. Doom certainly does take a little bit of a hit, but I think that’s more of an optimization issue. Overall, the results really do speak for themselves. The performance improvement was very incremental, but keep in mind that this was all done automatically without the user having to fiddle around with any settings. All I did was I just turn on the Azure AI and it took over optimizations.
Now we all have concerns in terms of privacy and what we’re giving away to Microsoft and Gigabyte. They have done what they can to minimize concerns, which is why they have that little pop-up window that asks for your consent. So you can either agree or disagree. It’s totally up to the user, but I feel like a Azure AI is a step in the right direction. It’s constantly evolving over time and I can wait to see what Gigabyte and Microsoft can come out with in the next few years. If you own an Aero 15 notebook, have you tried out Microsoft Azure AI and what has your experience been like?