Gaming laptops are one of our favourite bits of kit – they’re basically just giant, ludicrously powerful 3DSs.
However, they tend to be pretty hefty due to the extra cooling needed to keep the graphics chips from combusting – Alienware’s 17, for instance, provides top-notch performance but it’s the size and weight of a caravan. Aorus’ X3v3 is slim and light – but can it deliver the grunt needed for today’s games?
Aorus has done a great job in shaving off weight and width where it isn’t needed, resulting in a svelte laptop just 23mm high and 1.87kg.
Decent cooling is essential for a gaming laptop, and as a result there’s a lip behind the screen that is host to a pair of big Harrier-style exhausts at the rear. The brutalist, angular design makes it look like something used to launch missiles instead of Steam.
The touchpad is an oft-neglected part of a gaming laptop – it’s assumed that gamers will use a pad or mouse. But the Aorus’ glass touchpad is up there with a MacBook’s, and running your finger over it is like gently caressing a highly polished piece of anthracite. Or a smartphone.
There’s no way around the fact that you can’t use a touchpad in conjunction with WASD keys for shooters, but it’s really impressive nonetheless.
One sticking point – literally – is the F8 key, but I’m hoping that’s a flaw unique to this one review sample. Aorus includes macro-assignable keys, which are hugely handy if you’re into rapid-fire RTSs and MOBAs.
Operating System: Windows 8.1
Screen: 13.9in LCD with 3200×1800 resolution
CPU: 2.5-3.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M
RAM: 8GB 1600MHz DDR3
Storage: 3 x 512GB SSD
Optical Drive: none
Connectivity: 802.11ac, USB 3.0 (x2), USB 2.0, Mini Displayport, HDMI, SPDIF
Dimensions: 33 x 26 x 2.3cm
OVER OUR HDS
With just a 13.3-inch screen there was concern that the Aorus would be a little cramped, but that just isn’t the case. While it is on the smaller side, its QHD resolution (3,200 x 1,800, pixel fans) makes everything look razor sharp. It’s good to see that Windows has finally got its head around resolutions above HD, too – the odd scaling issues seem to be a thing of the past.
The only compromise is that auto brightness never quite works, switching randomly between being a bit dull and blindingly bright. This can be overridden with manual brightness settings, and it’s a tiny flaw on a small screen that looks far bigger than it is.
In terms of benchmarks it’s up there with the best, delivering results almost exactly on a par with Alienware’s X51 – but in a package about an eighth of the size, and has its own screen.
Behind this performance lies a deadly combo – a fourth-gen Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia 970M graphics chip, backed up with 8GB of system memory.
In real-life gaming terms it’s hugely impressive. Dying Light’s cast of hideous zombies has never looked more attractive, Wolfenstein’s rendition of a Nazi alternate universe is depressingly realistic, while you can almost feel the Himalayan chill as you venture into Far Cry 4’s mountainous regions.
We did this all at maximum resolutions and high settings, too, and the Aorus rarely dropped below the industry standard of 30 frames per second. Drop the detail just a touch and you’ll get a truly silky-smooth performance.
Playing games does make it become remarkably warm – a necessary evil given the thermodynamics of high-end graphics chips. Fortunately Aorus supplies its Control Centre software, which allows you to overcrank the fans. The increase in noise can be a pain, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind that the laptop isn’t about to melt through the desk, the floor, and ultimately the earth’s core.
Of course, all of this takes its toll on the Aorus’ battery, which clocked a total of about four hours during testing. It’s a mediocre result, but not hugely surprising given the number of graphical balls the Aorus has to keep in the air at once. A fairly smart thing here is Battery Boost, which cleverly lowers your games’ frame rates so that you can keep playing without draining the battery.
The Aorus features not one but three 512GB SSD drives. However, these are arranged in a Raid Xpress array, which means you can only access 512GB, but you can do so blisteringly fast. The result is that texture-heavy games such as Wolfenstein load up in seconds. On top you’ll find all the usual USB and SD card slots.
When you’re not killing zombies, Nazis and Nazi-zombies in a variety of cruel and unusual ways the Aorus is ideal for kicking back and watching movies. The speakers are among the best available on a laptop this size, while the screen feels at home with vibrant movies. Plug in headphones and you’re treated to punchy audio.
Other than that pesky F8 key, there is very little wrong with the Aorus X3v3.
This is essentially a mid to high-end gaming PC packed into one of the smallest chassis I’ve ever seen, complete with a drool-worthy Ultra-HD screen, good sound quality and all the storage you’ll ever need. It is pretty pricey, but it will keep you at the top of your game for a long old time.