Gigabyte P34G v2 14-inch gaming laptop review

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I’m back again with another Gigabyte laptop review, but this one’s a little different. This is the smallest Gigabyte gaming laptop I’ve ever reviewed – a 14″ model called the P34G v2. Despite this small size and a 21mm thin chassis, the P34G v2 still includes strong specifications: a Core i7 processor, a latest-generation Nvidia GTX 860M GPU and 8GB of RAM. That could make for an ultra-portable gaming powerhouse – just the thing for a hardcore gamer on the go. Let’s see whether it can follow through on that promise!

Specifications

 

OS Windows 8.1
CPU 4th Generation Intel Core i7-4700HQ 2.4-3.4GHz
Display 14″ Full HD 1920×1080 Wide Viewing Angle LCD
System Memory 8GB DDRIIIL 1600 (1x 8 GB)
Chipset Mobile Intel HM87 Express Chipset
Video Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M w/ 4GB GDDR5 RAM
Storage 128GB mSATA SSD
Keyboard Type Auto-Adjusting Backlit Keyboard
Optical Drive N/A
I/O Port USB 3.0 x2, USB 2.0 x2, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet
SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone/mic combo, DC-in
Audio 1.5 Watt Speaker x2, Microphone
Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater
Communications 1Gbps Ethernet
802.11 n wireless
Bluetooth 4.0
Webcam HD Camera
Security Kensington Lock
Battery Li-Polymer, 14.8V, 63.64Wh
Dimensions 340(W) x 239(D) x 20.9(H) mm
Weight ~1.67kg

Specs given are for the review unit received; there are minor variations in terms of OS, CPU, installed system memory and storage options. Notably, up to two hard drives can be installed; either a solid-state drive (128GB, 256GB, 512GB), 5400RPM mechanical drive (500GB, 750GB, 1TB, 1.5TB) or both. Three battery options are also available; the largest, a 63.64Wh unit, precludes the use of a 2.5″ mechanical hard drive.

Physical Features

At first glance, with lid open, the Gigabyte P34G v2 looks quite ordinary. The silver chassis and black island keys are reminiscent of the MacBook, like so many other laptops in the industry.

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The 14-inch laptop is quite thin at a little under 21mm, with sufficiently small dimensions to fit into a laptop bag intended for 12 and 13-inch models. Given the gaming prowess of the P34G v2, its favourable dimensions and professional (if a bit pedestrian) look are impressive – this is not a traditional back-breaking gaming laptop that screams ‘gamer’ with garish LEDs everywhere.

P34-keyfeatures-08-keyboard-60

The keyboard layout here is quite ordinary, and includes a full Function key row, with Ctrl correctly placed at the far left of the keyboard with Fn beside it. The directional keys are a little small, with up and down squished into the space of a single key in the bottom row. Home, End, Page Up and Page Down are assigned to these directional keys via the Function layer, which seems an appropriate compromise given the limited space available.

There is a large and wide trackpad below the keyboard, with a single click bar beneath. Multi-touch gestures are supported, and can be configured to your liking.

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LED indicators below the trackpad show the laptop’s wireless connectivity, battery life and backlighting. Miraculously, this particular machine came without a legion of boastful stickers attached, but I can’t confirm all retail models will be similarly unafflicted.

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Above the keyboard, there are a pair of ovaloid speaker grilles flanking the circular metallic power button. The laptop’s hinges are dug out of the lower chassis, leaving a nice place for dust to collect.

All of the ports I’d expect are included here. The left hand side contains gigabit ethernet, VGA, two USB 3.0 ports and a mobile/Apple-style combo headphone / mic 3.5mm port. One of the two USB 3.0 ports is marked for charging even while the laptop is off. The mobile-style 3.5mm combo port is interesting; it allows for mobile headsets to be used for both headphones and mic, but shuts the door to headset with separated 3.5mm connectors, which make up the majority of PC gaming headsets. Consider a USB headset if you go for this laptop.

IMG_2161

 

On the right hand side, we have a pair of USB 2.0 ports flanking an SD card reader, HDMI and the DC-in. The presence of power on the right hand side is a bit annoying for right-handed mouse users (I’d guess the majority of PC gamers, but it’s far enough back that it isn’t a dealbreaker. There are no other ports on the front or back.

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The lid of the laptop is clad in smooth metal in a matte grey colour, with a simple metal GIGABYTE logo in the upper third of the centre.

The bottom of the laptop is similarly simple, with the usual collection of grilles, regulatory information…

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and a cover to access the laptop’s RAM (always a welcome addition).

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Testing Methodology

We’ll follow a similar pattern to our other gaming laptop reviews, evaluating the laptop in work and in play. As well as subjective impressions, we’ll also look at a series of benchmarks to get a quantitive idea of performance. These include four synthetic benchmarks, and two in-game benchmarks. Let’s begin.

Subjective Impressions

 

Gaming

We’ll have a look at gaming first – because why else would you be looking at a laptop with a discrete graphics card, right? Here, the P34G performs as well as the larger members of Gigabyte’s latest family, thanks to its inclusion of the same crucial components. The GTX 860M used here provides a good performance delta over previous-gen 760/765M machines, roughly equivalent to a GTX 770M. That means you’re able to run most games at comfortable 40-60 fps, given the 1080p screen size and medium to high settings. The most demanding games (e.g. Battlefield 4, Star Citizen) will require drops to resolution or quality settings to achieve similar results, but there’s very little you’ll be simply unable to play on the P34G v2. The CPU and RAM are also up to task, making for impressive speeds across the board.

Games load quickly thanks to the solid state drive, but the configuration I used (1x 128GB SSD) had only 103GB of usable space; that’s a squeeze if you want to have more than a couple full-sized games installed at once. Definitely consider a larger SSD or that option for a secondary, mechanical hard drive.

Like many other gaming laptops, the P34G v2 doesn’t last for long if you’re playing games away from a power outlet. Battery life shrinks to about 1-2 hours, depending on how hard the system is working. That means you can squeeze in a quick session of something on the train to work, but you’ll be lucky to push a quarter of a transatlantic flight without power.

Noise is another factor. While the laptop remains cool under load (at least while on a solid surface like a table), it does get quite load while gaming, running benchmarks or anything else remotely strenuous. This is understandable given the smaller size of the laptop, but again is something to keep in mind.

The P34G v2 has a reasonable keyboard for gaming, with short travel but a sensible layout and good backlighting. Gigabyte have improved the legends of the keyboard compared to previous models, as they have dropped the outlined WASD keys that looked so awful previously (and helped no one). The touchpad is a generous size and works OK, but you’ll want to use a USB mouse for any serious gaming.

There’s no touch screen on the P34G v2, so you’ll be unable to use Civilization V’s touch-screen mode and the various other touch-screen games from the Store.

 

Working

As a working laptop, the P34G v2 offers the same powerful hardware, good screen and reasonable keyboard as the rest of the Gigabyte lineup… but it is much smaller. That makes a big difference, even going from 15.4″ to 14″, as the P34G is small enough to fit a bite-sized messenger bag instead of requiring a good-sized backpack. In fact, the machine fits well in (at least some) messenger bags designed for 12 and 13″ laptops like the MacBook Air. This portability befits casual use; just toss the laptop in a bag and march out the door.

While the laptop’s size and weight are quite reasonable, there are some downsides compared to non-gaming laptops of equal size. One of these is battery life – the P34G can only last between four and five hours on a charge, even on a light load of web browser and word processor. A compounding factor is the power adapter, which is large and heavy, and partially undoes the portable nature of the laptop.

Other than these factors though, the laptop is generally a good one for work. The system is speedy and applications load quickly, although with the one SSD option you’ll be lacking in total storage space. The screen is another delight, offering a reasonably dense 1920 x 1080 resolution for its 14″ diagonal. Viewing angles here are good, permitting both pair programming and group video watching. The keyboard is another highlight, with minimal travel but a sensible layout and helpful backlighting.

Benchmarks

3DMark

3DMark is a popular cross-platform test of graphics and physics, in a manner that approximates a typical game at four different challenge levels. Ice Storm is designed for mobiles, Cloud Gate is for decent notebooks, Sky Diver is for gaming laptops and Fire Strike is for gaming desktops.

3DMark Ice Storm Cloud Gate Sky Diver Fire Strike
X7 v2 (SLI) 126314 17026 16348 4783
P35W v2 110792 16097 14297 4286
X7 (SLI) 116534 17586 n/a 4171
P34G v2 54862 13102 11269 3735
P25W 44699 9896 n/a 3228
P35K 86517 13154 n/a 2675
P27K 58487 12372 n/a 2557
U2442 42430 4463 n/a 1147
Aspire S7 34113 3928 n/a 548
Aspire V5 32841 3633 n/a 474

The P34G enjoys the latest generation of Nvidia mobile graphics cards (GTX 800 series), so we’d expect to see better performance here than last generation laptops (e.g. P25W, P35K, P27K) and indeed that’s exactly what we get. The dual GPU solution of the first-gen Aorus X7 also eclipses the P34G.

Compared to our other 800 series laptop, the P25W v2, we get scores at least in the same ball park. The scores for the earlier tests are much lower and the final test is still a bit behind, suggesting lower thermal tolerances due to the smaller chassis of the 14-inch P34G v2 compared to the 15.4-inch P25W v2.

This suggests that if you want to wring every ounce out of the GTX 770M hardware, you’re better off using a larger model; you do pay a price in performance for portability.

3dmark3

Cinebench

Cinebench is a nice cross-platform benchmark that stresses the CPU and GPU. All results are shown using the discrete graphics processor, if available.

Cinebench R15 OpenGL CPU
X7 v2 (SLI) 123.18 609 cb
P35W v2 103.04 603 cb
P34G v2 91.10 532 cb
X7 (SLI) 88.42 641 cb
P35K 82.34 636 cb
P27K 82.24 560 cb
P25W 58.18 330 cb

The P34G v2 has a good showing in the Cinebench benchmark, beating out the previous generation Aorus X7 (and all previous generation Gigabyte models we’ve tested). The larger P35W v2 does retain a 10% performance delta, again suggesting inherent limitations of the more portable 14-inch design.

cinebench

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is a benchmark that examines disk read and write performance of the solid state drive.

CDM 3 Read Seq 512K 4K 4K QD32
Aorus X7 v2 (SSD x3) 1331 917.7 32.21 434.5
P35W v2 (SSD x2) 988.8 674.9 29.26 502.5
X7 (SSD x2) 998.6 674.7 28.97 417.1
P35K (SSD x2) 926.8 679.6 24.55 494.6
Aspire S7 (SSD x2) 793.1 333.0 22.3 193.3
P34G v2 (SSD) 511.2 370.8 29.97 315.1
P25W (SSD) 505.7 371.6 30.34 312.2
P27K (SSD) 474.5 353.8 21.37 312.3
U2442 (SSD) 468.0 339.0 21.72 282.6
Aspire V5 (mechanical) 107.2 35.65 0.417 1.003
CDM 3 Write Seq 512K 4K 4K QD32
Aorus X7 v2 (SSD x3) 941.7 847.2 81.21 398.7
X7 (SSD x2) 631.6 627.3 62.59 375.0
P35W v2 (SSD x2) 627.8 630.1 64.07 481.9
P35K (SSD x2) 624.2 574.1 56.59 473.7
Aspire S7 (SSD x2) 509.8 229.2 70.39 61.71
P25W (SSD) 320.3 322.7 66.48 279.7
P34G v2 (SSD) 320.2 321.0 65.30 294.1
P27K (SSD) 317.0 320.7 40.10 262.0
U2442 (SSD) 177.9 178.2 46.07 150.2
Aspire V5 (mechanical) 106.7 50.47 0.973 1.147

The P34G v2 review unit we received comes with a single SSD drive. In order to make a fair comparison, we’ve marked the number of SSDs present for all the results above. Compared to all other single SSD solutions, the P34G v2 receives the highest marks so far. However, there is a considerable performance delta to two and even three SSDs in RAID0 configurations; consider going with a larger laptop able to fit two or more SSDs if you require top-of-the-line transfer speeds. For normal use though, the P34G v2 should be rapid enough.

crystaldiskmark

GeekBench

GeekBench is another cross-platform benchmark that examines memory and processor performance. As usual, I’m using version 3 of the benchmark.

GeekBench 3.1.3 Single-core Multi-core
P35W v2 3186 12262
X7 3196 12044
P35K 3233 11993
Aorus X7 v2 3240 11784
P34G v2 2838 10241
P27K 2820 10212
P25W 1693 6170

This is a CPU and memory test, so we’d expect to see similar results to the P35W v2, and that’s pretty much what we’re getting. A ~10% performance delta remains between the two in the single-core score test, with about ~16% in the multi-core score. Once again, thermal constraints are the most likely cause here due to the more compact chassis.

geekbench

Metro: Last Light

Metro is a challenging game, both on you and your PC. Its benchmark tool is quite formidable, so let’s take a look at how the P34G v2 performs in an actual game. The settings are Direct X 11 renderer, 1920x1080p, High quality, AF 4X filtering, normal motion blur, no SSAA, DirectX 11 tessellation or PhysX.

metro

The 30 fps result here is reasonable, given the high settings and DirectX 11 rendering. You’re going to need to reduce quality settings or resolution to get a really fluid experience, but 30 fps is playable – not bad for a single GPU in a 14-inch laptop.

Company of Heroes 2

Our final benchmark is Company of Heroes 2, an excellent strategy game centred around the Eastern Front of WW2. The game includes a robust worst-case benchmark, so if the game is playable here then you’d expect much better results in actual singleplayer or multiplayer. A large update was recently released, but tests on my main gaming PC don’t seem to indicate any changes in benchmark performance.

coh2

An average FPS of 41 here is quite good. I’ll make my usual note that Company of Heroes 2 doesn’t support SLI, so we’re actually seeing a better score here than the much more expensive dual-GPU Aorus x7 v2. Regardless, a score of 41 in this punishing benchmark pretty much guarantees 60+ fps in the game proper.

By comparison, the previous generation of Gigabyte laptops tested recorded scores of 24, 26 and 20 – so 41 FPS is a big improvement.

Conclusion

The Gigabyte P34G v2 is a surprisingly compact piece of gaming firepower, capable of handling most games on the market with a compact 14-inch frame. While a large power adapter and limited battery life limit the machine’s portability, you’re still getting a highly mobile solution for playing games wherever you happen to be. Just remember to get a model with more than 128GB of storage, and you’ll be golden.

 

Pros

  • Highly portable laptop
  • Strong specifications, resulting in good overall performance
 

Cons

  • Limited battery life given its Haswell processor
  • Keyboard travel could be improved
  • Lowest storage space option is quite restrictive
  • Noisy under load

Score

  • 7/10

About William Judd

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

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