Aorus X5 Camo review: best gaming laptop 2016

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The Aorus X5 Camo is the coolest gaming laptop I’ve ever seen, bar none. And beneath that awesome camo exterior, the Aorus X5 gets almost everything right. Performance? Gobs of it. Screen? Beautiful. Keyboard and trackpad? On point. If you can afford its premium asking price, there are few viable competitors to this beastly machine.


Pros

  • Unique and stylish camo design
  • Relatively thin, light and quiet
  • Rock-solid keyboard and trackpad
  • Strong performance at 1080p
Cons

  • Camo ain’t for everyone
  • Expensive and unwieldy
  • Not a performance leader
  • Mediocre battery life

score9-200Summary and score

The Aorus X5 Camo is a super-premium laptop, coming in at the very top end of the market. It isn’t the fastest available either, as laptops using desktop CPUs and GPUs will outpace it. But the X5 is still a capable gaming laptop, happy at 1080p and able to handle 4K too.

It’s also a great laptop to use, whether you’re writing up an article, ploughing through images in Photoshop or reading crisply rendered news stories on the web.

Wherever you go, the novel beauty of this laptop will earn equal parts respect and ‘where’s your laptop?’ jokes. And that’s definitely worth the price of admission.


 

Specifications

  • CPU: 6th Generation Core i7 6700HQ (2.7~3.5GHz)
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 980M (8GB GDDR5)
  • RAM: 16GB DDR5 2133MHz
  • Display: 4K (3840 x 2160) IPS
  • Storage: 256GB M.2 PCI-e SSD and 1TB 7200RPM hard drive
  • Ports: 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C, mDP, HDMI 2.0, 2x 3.5mm, SD
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi ac, BT 4.0
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Size: 390 x 272 x 22.9mm
  • Weight: 2.49kg

 

Design

The Aorus X5 Camo combines the thin, evocative lines of the Aorus series with a new MultiCam paint job which really makes it stand out (if you’ll excuse the joke). The laptop includes a glass trackpad with an inset Aorus logo, a full layout of backlit keys, a reflective, backlit Aorus logo on the lid, and a good complement of ports on each side.

I took about three times as many photos as I normally would on an assignment like this, purely because I was so enamoured with the look. Click on the photos to see a larger version with additional information.


 

Impressions

Before we get into the synthetic and game benchmarks, here are my impressions using the laptop for a two week period for games and work.

Gaming

The X5 Camo has a 4K screen, but there aren’t yet laptop-grade components capable of playing games at high settings at 4K. Even on desktops, playing at 4K requires a hefty investment into your processor and (particularly) your graphics card. That means you shouldn’t expect to go into modern titles at 4K without doing some tweaking, lowering detail settings or accepting a lower frame rate than the 60 fps golden standard.

However, playing at 1080p is perfectly viable, and because 1920 x 1080 fits into 3840 x 2160 exactly, you don’t get any weird stretching or distortion, just a less dense image. I played most games at 1080p for that reason, beyond a few older titles that could make the jump to 4K without requiring low or medium settings.

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We played The Division, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dark Souls III on the machine. The Division and Dark Souls III were both quite playable at 1080p and medium to high settings, while CS:GO was playable at 4K once some settings were turned down or off. Outside of raw performance concerns, the keyboard stood up to my frantic ADADAD tapping during CS, and the wireless performance was faultless too.

Overall, the X5 Camo is a perfectly capable gaming PC, even though it can’t quite match the firepower of a desktop machine or a laptop with desktop-class components like XMG’s U506.

Work

It’s not surprising that the Aorus X5 Camo can handle most workloads with ease, thanks to the excess of horsepower onboard. You can have as many Chrome tabs open as you like, processing Photoshop images or rendering video goes quickly, and generally you won’t be left wanting for performance. That’s all quite standard for a gaming laptop, so let’s move onto the other stuff.

When it comes to portability, the Aorus X5 is a mixed bag. It is quite light and thin for its specs, measuring just 23 millimetres thick and weighing 2.5 kilograms. That’s a damn sight better than the XMG U506, which is about 50% thicker and heavier. While it isn’t thick, it’s quite tall and wide, making it hard to squeeze into most laptop bags. I’d recommend picking up a 17-inch laptop bag, as I could only barely fit it into my 15-inch bag.

The back of the laptop contains oversized air vents on each side, which look awesome but can become scratched fairly quickly unless you're careful.
The back of the laptop contains oversized air vents on each side, which look awesome but can become scratched fairly quickly unless you’re careful.

The X5 Camo’s battery life isn’t amazing either. That thin frame can only hold a 73Wh battery, which is good for about five or six hours of light usage. That 4K screen and high-end components certainly take their toll, and bringing the (big and heavy) power adapter with you is often a necessity.

Otherwise, the X5 Camo is pretty sweet for work. The 4K screen is great for editing photos or videos, giving you a full-size 1080p preview window and plenty of room left over for controls. Text is sharp and clear too, making writing up articles a real joy. The keyboard and trackpad are also on point; I faced no issues with accuracy or unrecognised gestures here. It’s rare to see a glass trackpad on a non-Apple machine, and it really does feel better to use than the more common plasticky alternatives.


 

Benchmarks

We’ll use the normal suite of benchmarks here, encapsulating in-game benchmarks as well as more general purpose tests for things like CPU performance and storage speed.


3DMark

3dmark 3dmark-ultra

Our first test is 3DMark, a fairly effective analogue of a gaming workload. There are two tests we’re interested in here, the high-end Fire Strike and its 4K upgrade, Fire Strike Ultra. The X5 Camo records solid results in both tests, comfortably ahead most of its laptop contemporaries. The Ultra result is particularly impressive, coming very close to the Acer G6-710 gaming desktop, which of course comes with desktop-grade components throughout, which can operate with less concern for heat, noise and power. It’s a hopeful early sign that the laptop will be able to hack it at 4K resolutions.


Cinebench

cinebench opengl

cinebench cpu

Next up is the Cinebench test. The X5 Camo makes a good showing in the CPU test, coming fourth ahead of all its laptop rivals apart from the superfluous XMG U506. It’s less of a strong showing in the OpenGL test, with the X5 falling within the middle of the pack, about 20% behind the top tier competitors.


GeekBench

geekbench

The X5 Camo does well in the memory-and-CPU-dependent GeekBench test, again showing up behind only the P35X v4 (disregarding competitors with desktop CPUs, including the Acer, Zoostorm and XMG machines). The single-core results leave the X5 Camo in third place overall, eclipsing the 6600-equipped Zoostorm gaming desktop, which is again a hopeful indicator for good performance in older single-threaded games.


CrystalDiskMark

cdm3-r

cdm3-w

The Aorus X5 is an absolute juggernaut when it comes to storage speed, with the same scores (and same PCI-e drive) as the P35X v5. The effect of connecting over PCI-e instead of SATA is not to be underestimated, with a single drive providing roughly three times the performance in sequential reads and writes. That makes the laptop feel snappy throughout, and helps with game load times as well.


The Division

division

Settings: Ultra 1080p

Our first game test is Tom Clancy’s The Division, a recently released cover shooter MMO set in the frozen wastes of post-viral-outbreak NYC. The Ultra / 1080p settings are incredibly demanding, but the Aorus X5 Camo beats out the Acer G6-710 gaming laptop with a score of 50.2 fps; not bad for the highest detail settings. We also tested the laptop at 4K on High settings, and got a slower but still playable score of 33 fps. You’re not going to be playing many more games that are tougher to run than The Division, so consider this a worst-case scenario for 4K in-game performance.


Bioshock Infinite

bio

Settings: High 1080p

Bioshock Infinite represents the easiest workload for our test machines, but it’s still important given just how many games of its era use the same Unreal Engine. The Zoostorm machine hits a comfortable 126 fps, allowing for comfortable 4K performance at high detail settings if desired.


Metro: Last Light

metro

Settings: High 1080p, AF 4x, normal motion blur, no SSAA, DirectX 11 tessellation or advanced PhysX

Metro is another demanding benchmark, and the X5 Camo does struggle here. It records a sub-60fps time at High settings and 1080p; 4K would be rather unplayable. Still, if you were happy with 1080p, then hitting 60 fps should be easy with a few more tweaks.


Company of Heroes 2

coh2

Settings: Medium 1080p, no unit occlusion, v-sync or anti-aliasing

The single-GPU setup of the Aorus X5 is well suited for the Company of Heroes 2 benchmark, offering a moderately good result of 55 fps at 1080p. Once again, a few more tweaks and you’d easily be able to hit 60 fps consistently in-game, particularly given the brutality of this benchmark compared to typical gameplay.


Total War: Rome 2

rome2

Settings: Ultra 1080p

We conclude with a look at performance in a large-scale RTS, Total War: Rome 2. The X5 Camo records a handy 86.9 fps performance at Ultra and 1080p, making the argument that 4K gaming at lower detail settings should also be possible.


 

Wrap-up

The Aorus X5 Camo isn’t the best performing laptop we’ve ever tested, but it feels like the most complete package. It has good-enough performance, a beautiful screen, a good range of ports, a solid keyboard and trackpad, and of course insane – and unique – looks. I rate it highly, and if you’ve got stacks of cash then this is an awesome choice.

 

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About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.

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  • 4k, 1080P, Army camo paint job? I’m sold. Want!

  • Evon Naicker

    The Aorus X5 Camo combines the thin, evocative lines of the Aorus series with a new MultiCam paint job which really makes it stand out

  • RedLeader

    How did the XMG u506 outscore the X5 v5 by such a huge margin with the same GPU?!

    Was it OC’d, do you think the desktop CPU in the XMG contributed to that big lead, or was the Aorus thermal throttling?? In Metro: Last Light, going from 104FPS on the XMG to 52 on the X5 v5, the XMG literally doubled the performance.

    • I’m guessing it’s down to a combination of the desktop-class CPU and a bigger chassis, which should allow for better cooling and thereby less thermal throttling. Still, it’s a single result; outside of this single game we generally observed much smaller performance deltas between the two laptops.

      • RedLeader

        Ah, but you guys didn’t record in your tests whether it was throttling or not? That seems like a pretty big issue that would bear mentioning in a review if it did occur.

        Essentially, IF this laptop did throttle, whoever buys it is paying full price for basically 40% less performance – that’s a *huge* issue.

        > “it’s a single result; outside of this single game we generally observed much smaller performance deltas”

        Not really. Looking at your other benchmarks, this laptop barely outperformed the laptops with the 970m chips, despite having a 980m.

        In Company of Heroes 2 the Aorus X5 scored 56 to the Gigabyte P34w’s 48. That’s 8 FPS difference for about $1,000 more. And it’s 22FPS or 29% slower than the XMG’s score.

        We see a similar difference in Bioshock Infinite, too.

        That sort of disparity indicates either a software/drivers issue, a testing issue, or massive throttling, which should be noticeable in the testing as the FPS start high and then tank.

        You guys should re-run a couple of them if you still have the laptop, to see what the answer is. And, be on the lookout for these discrepancies in the future so that the readers can be informed as to why one of the devices is falling so far behind the competition.

        • It’s my view that performance limitations will always occur to some extent in a slim laptop, whether that’s through the manufacturers setting the clock speed lower out of the box or through throttling once temperatures are too high. The idea of these tests is to show real-world performance, regardless of its cause (although sharing insight when we have it is of course preferred!).

          Looking back at the Metro: LL results for the Camo, frame rates were pretty stable; there’s some variation as the scene becomes more or less challenging, but the graphs look pretty similar to other laptops and desktops that we’ve tested (see attachment).

          All of our tests are performed in the same place / conditions (as much as is possible without air conditioning ;-)), with the latest drivers (unless specifically noted). There will always be some small variations, as games get patched and whatnot, but we do the best we can with the tools we have.

          We don’t still have the laptop; we only get the laptops for a one to three week period (normally around 2 weeks), then return them. We normally don’t have more than one laptop at a time. I say ‘we’ here, but it’s just me, really.

          Anyway, I agree that it’s important to look out for discrepancies like this. Thanks for taking an interest; I want to get this stuff right for detail-oriented guys like you and I’ll keep your comments in mind for future tests.