Aorus X7 Pro v5 review: loud and proud

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The Aorus X7 Pro is the company’s largest laptop, and one of the most powerful too. It packs a pair of GTX 970M graphics cards in SLI and a high-end Core i7-6820HK processor, which should make it a great performer. Look deeper, and you won’t find many weaknesses. Our review unit came with 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 480GB PCI-e SSD and a G-Sync capable 1080p display too. That’s a lot of horsepower in a 25mm thick laptop, so let’s put it to the test!

Pros

  • The most powerful laptop we’ve ever tested
  • Expansive keyboard and touchpad
  • Good port selection, including DP & USB-C
  • Black metal design looks cool, feels solid
Cons

  • Very loud and hot while gaming
  • Too large to fit in most backpacks
  • Only 3 full-size USB 3.0 ports
  • Poor battery life regardless of load


Summary and score

score8-gif-200The Aorus X7 v5 is the biggest, baddest laptop that has ever visited XSReviews HQ, capable of running all but the most challenging games at 1080p and high settings. It’s loud and hot while playing games, but with a good set of headphones and a cool desk you’ll be sitting pretty. It’s even relatively light for a 17-inch gaming laptop at 3.2kg, even if you may need to get a new laptop bag to fit its gargantuan frame. If you’ve got a lot of cash to spend, this is one of the best gaming laptops you’ll find.

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Specifications

CPU Skylake Core i7 6820HK (2.7~3.6GHz)
GPU Nvidia GTX 970M 6GB SLI
RAM 32GB Transcend DDR4 2133MHz
Display 17.3-inch 1920 x 1080p IPS w/ G-Sync (75Hz)
Storage 2x 240GB Samsung SM951 PCI-e SSD (RAID0)
1TB Hitachi 7200RPM HDD
Battery 94.24 Wh
Ports 2x HDMI 2.0, mini DP, VGA, Ethernet
3x USB 3.0, USB-C, 2x 3.5mm, SD card
Wireless Wi-Fi ac, BT 4.1
OS Windows 10 Home
Size 428 x 305 x 22.9 ~ 25.4mm
Weight 3.2kg
 

Design

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At first glance, the Aorus X7 is indistinguishable from its earlier iterations. There’s a backlit metallic falcon logo, in reference to the Egyptian god of a similar name, a raised prow, and a few edges here and there to give it some character. The hinge is pretty substantial compared to other laptops, about an inch thick, which provides a stable platform for the display at any angle and allows you to tilt back a bit in tight spaces — although the sheer size of the laptop doesn’t help here.

It’s about 43cm by 31cm, which is so big that it only barely fits into a backpack designed for 17-inch gaming laptops ca. 2006. It takes up a lot of desk space too, so if you have a big mousepad you might run into some issues.

While it is expansive, it’s not very thick or very heavy compared to most other 17-inch gaming laptops; it’s between 2.3 and 2.5cm thick, and weighs 3.2kg. By comparison, the similarly-equipped Scan 3XS is 4.5cm thick and weighs 4.8kg; they’ve packed a lot of machine into a pretty small and light space. The solidity of the laptop when you grip and flex it underscores that fact; this thing just feels unbreakable (although I didn’t really want to test that theory too vigorously).

 

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Open up the laptop and you’ll see… a screen, a keyboard, a trackpad. What did you expect? There are some nice features here though — there’s a falcon emblazoned on the expansive touchpad and the pick-shaped power button, macro keys on the left side, and all the keys are backlit by white LEDs.

The keyboard feels nice under-finger, with a decent amount of travel. There are certainly better laptop keyboards in the world — the MacBook Pro and most ThinkPads come to mind — but this is pretty decent for a gaming laptop. The touchpad is also nice and big, with a subtle texture near the bottom that distinguishes the clicking area from the tapping area.

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Here’s the port report: on the back, we’ve got a USB port and the power input. On the left, there’s gigabit ethernet, HDMI 2.0, VGA, another USB and a pair of 3.5mm inputs in a sensible arrangement. On the right, we’ve got the SD card reader, USB-C (wow, so modern!), another HDMI 2.0 port and mini DisplayPort. There are also a copious amount of heat grilles on either side, a nice reminder of the power that lurks within.

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Overall, it’s a large but well-designed laptop that feels super solid. There are some nice touches that visually differentiate it, without making it into a garish PC nightmare.

Now let’s get to the tests!


 

Synthetic Benchmarks

First up are the synthetic benchmarks, which give us a good measuring stick against other gaming PCs and laptops we’ve reviewed recently — and your own PC, if you’re thinking about upgrading!


3DMark

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 Aorus X7 v5 records a score over 10,000 in Fire Strike; the first laptop we’ve tested to hit that lofty mark. It even comes out ahead of a dedicating gaming desktop, the Acer G6-710. On the tougher Fire Strike Ultra benchmark, again only two gaming desktops from Zoostorm offer better results.

That suggests we should see pretty rock-solid performance at 1080p; we’d hope that we’d be able to run the latest games at high or ultra settings at 60fps consistently. That’s the performance you want to see from a nearly £2000 laptop, so we’ll have to see if the trend continues.


Cinebench

We see a bit of a mixed bag in the Cinebench test, we examines OpenGL (GPU) and CPU performance in two separate tests. The OpenGL test shows the laptop recording a high score of 109, good for sixth best in our test — although this is lower than the 123 recorded by the last Aorus X7 we tested.

The CPU score is a little better at fifth best, beating out all other laptops with a mobile processor (the XMG U506 is a laptop, but it has a desktop-class CPU). So far, so good.


GeekBench

GeekBench is up next, which is largely a test of processor performance. The i7-6820HK processor is a higher spec than the i7-6700HQ that we see on most other gaming laptops, particularly from Gigabyte, and as expected we see the laptop beats out all but two of its laptop competitors in the multi-score test, and has the second-highest laptop score in the single-core test.

This means that the laptop should be able to handle CPU-intensive games, and is also good news for anyone that’s looking to render video or perform other difficult CPU-bound tasks.


CrystalDiskMark

Holy crap. The Aorus X7 v5 has the fastest storage of any laptop we’ve ever tested, thanks to a pair of Samsung SM951 SSDs, each connected via PCI-e and running in RAID0. Sequential read speeds topped out at 2762 MB/s, while writing was nearly as fast at 2323MB/s — absolutely wild. Suffice it to say, apps and games start quickly and you’re never left waiting for Windows file operations. It’s hard to say how much of a real-world benefit you’ll see compared to a(n already fast) single PCI-e SSD, but you can rest assured that storage will never be the weak link in the chain.


 

Game benchmarks

Next up are true in-game performance benchmarks, offering a look at how this system handles a selection of recent titles including shooters, MMOs and strategy titles.


The Division

Our first game test is Tom Clancy’s The Division, a cover shooter MMO set in the frozen wastes of post-viral-outbreak NYC. The game unfortunately doesn’t handle SLI particularly well, and we get results of just 35 fps in the in-game benchmark; similar to what we got from recent single-GPU from Gigabyte, the P55W and P34G. That’s on Ultra settings, so you can definitely drop the game down to High or Medium to reap a fairly consistent 60fps.


Bioshock Infinite

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 X7 acquits itself well, as you might expect, with a superlative score of 175 fps. That’s on High settings, so you shouldn’t have any trouble running Infinite or similarly old Unreal Engine games on their highest settings with room to spare.


Metro: Last Light

Metro is another demanding benchmark, but somehow the Aorus X7 turns in the best result we’ve ever seen: 113 fps! That’s at High settings without Advanced PhysX, Tesselation or SSAA, but it’s still a godly result that beats out even the gaming desktops that we’ve tested. Wow.


Company of Heroes 2

Company of Heroes 2 has one of the most difficult benchmarks we use, offering a kind of ‘worst case scenario’ rather than something more typical of either the singleplayer campaign or multiplayer. 

It’s also a good example of a game that literally doesn’t care that you have a second GPU; CoH 2 will just use one. That results in similar performance to cheaper single-GPU laptops like the Gigabyte P55W, although the better CPU in the X7 v5 still grants a noticeable 5 fps advantage. In the end though, 61 fps is nothing to sneeze at.


Total War: Rome 2

We conclude with a look at performance in a large-scale RTS, Total War: Rome 2. The X7 v5 again turns in a good result, 105 fps. That’s more than enough to grant a stable 75fps frame-rate, and another encouraging sign that this is a properly capable gaming laptop.


 

Impressions

With our benchmarks concluded, our attention turns to performance in other games, and a look at the other qualities that can make a gaming laptop good or bad.

The bad stuff: heat, noise & battery life

The point that comes out most often in my notes is the sound of the machine while it’s doing something challenging, like playing a game. The fans really ramp up dramatically when this happens, basically necessitating headphones to hear the game at reasonable volume levels. It’s understandable given the amount of power on tap, but it’s definitely something that you (and people around you) will notice.

Heat is another factor — you’ll notice this laptop gets pretty toasty when under load, making it not very suitable for lap use. There’s very little clearance for the lower vents of the laptop, even on flat tables, so you may find that elevating the far end provides better thermal performance.

You never expect brilliant battery life from a gaming laptop, particularly a thin one like the Aorus X7. Capacity has increased to 94Wh, yet run time is still super low. Using the laptop for nothing more taxing than Chrome and Notepad, we got just three hours of use before the laptop gave up the ghost. I walked into a one hour meeting with 50% charge, and the X7 didn’t last until the end — very annoying. If you’re gaming, or you turn up the screen brightness, don’t expect it to last more than a couple of hours; this is a laptop that you’ll want to use when plugged into the mains almost all of the time.

The good stuff: display, keyboard, trackpad, ports

Otherwise, there’s little complain about here. It’s great to see a laptop with a screen that goes beyond 60Hz, even if it’s just to 75, and the inclusion of G-Sync means that even new and challenging games don’t feel too stuttery at low fps counts. 1080p feels like an appropriate resolution in games and work alike, although if you prefer easier-to-run games then a laptop with a 1440p or even 4K panel (and otherwise equal specs) might suit you better. Viewing angles are good, and colours feel accurate enough.

The keyboard and trackpad are also solid — they’re nice and big, there’s a numpad and even macro keys included, and I didn’t have any issues mousing around or typing up sections of this review. The port report is favourable too; 3 USB 3.0 ports is probably the acceptable minimum for a 17-inch laptop, but the inclusion of USB-C, HDMI 2.0 and mini DisplayPort make it hard to complain too vociferously.

Gaming Report

Dark Souls III: Dark Souls is a great RPG series that was initially hamstrung on PC by a lazy port from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. Fast forward to the third game in the series, and things are much better — mouse and keyboard are supported, graphics settings can be changed and it looks quite beautiful too. The X7 v5 handled the game at high settings without dipping below 50fps, and even in frantic boss fights the laptop still felt quite responsive — I feel G-Sync helped a lot here.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: The Witcher 3 is a pretty challenging game at high settings, so it’s not surprising to see a frame rate between 30 – 45 fps at the highest Ultra settings at 1080p. Turn things down to Medium or High though, and you’re pretty much stuck at 60 fps which is awesome.

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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: CS:GO is the ultimate competitive shooter, and that usually means sacrificing visual fidelity for maximum frame rates and minimum latency. At 1080p, the game ran pretty flawlessly at High settings, and you can knock a few key settings down to give yourself some extra wiggle room.

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Driver report

On the latest Nvidia drivers (368.81) under Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it was impossible to enable SLI. We received messages stating that “The setup has changed. Update the SLI configuration.” When rolled back to the previous driver, SLI was available once again. Hopefully this issue will be fixed in a future update, but if you’re having trouble on the latest driver you might fare better on the previous version as we did.


 

Wrap-up

The Aorus X7 Pro v5 is a stunning laptop, and overall it’s the fastest laptop we’ve ever tested. Sure, it’s loud when gaming, and yes, its massive frame doesn’t fit easily in most laptop bags. But there’s so much to like here — the distinctive black metal design, the dependable keyboard, the modern range of ports and features, the blisteringly fast RAID0 storage. You expect a lot when you buy a £2000 laptop, but the X7 Pro v5 delivers.

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About William Judd

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

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