Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED Review
After dismissing the 'top' brands in favour of a less obvious choice of a Gigabyte Aero 15 Oled, was it the right move?
After leaving the Dell experience behind, I was determined to get a laptop that truly met my needs, which meant it had to be a Core i9 CPU and a fast NVIDIA GPU, with the ability to cool it all efficiently to be able to take advantage of the horsepower under the hood.
Given that the new ‘creators’ laptops where only just being released my options were few, but the one I would have bought regardless was the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED. Simply put, it had everything I was looking for (almost) and came in at a reasonable price for what it offered. Most importantly however was the claims being made for the screen which is a new Samsung 4K MOLED panel that by all reports was spectacular.
One of the only things I had to let go of was the touch screen which was something I really enjoyed using on the Dell XPS15. But let go of it I did, and took the plunge on the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED with 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD and the NVIDIA RTX 2070 GPU.
This was not quite the spec I wanted but it was on sale at the time for AU$400 less than full retail and the money I saved allowed me to purchase 32GB RAM to take it to the spec I wanted and with a few more dollars thrown in I added another 2TB Intel SSD giving me 2.5TB of total storage on board.
What I don’t like about the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
Firstly, the edges of the laptop around the palm rest area are too sharp and tends to cut into the hands while resting the palms to type or use the trackpad. Gigabyte really need to round off the edges on the next update.
The offset trackpad is a little hard to get used to. I understand they did it to align it with the centre of the main keyboard because of the extra number keys etc, but I am finding it difficult to adjust, to the point where I have added a bluetooth mouse to use with it instead.
The Gigabyte control centre software that it comes with is quite frankly useless. To my way of thinking, Gigabyte have got it all backwards in terms of how they allow control of performance via the Control Center software. If you take a look at the two images below, the top one is when the Aero is on power, and the bottom one is when it is on battery.
The Device Information panel allows you to select more or less performance of both the GPU and CPU by simply clicking on the white squares (turning them orange) to get more power when needed. The problem is, when on battery you do NOT get that option! To my way of thinking, it is when on battery that I would use that feature to balance performance with battery life, and when on power I want it’s full performance on tap at all times.
Yes you can click on the Manager tab and select the performance level there as well, but it really isn’t very intuitive at all. Yes you can totally remove the Gigabyte Control Center software, but in doing so it also removes all of the software that controls the function keys to do things like screen brightness, speaker volume and a few other things. Essentially it cripples the machine a little forcing you to use Windows 10 software to adjust screen brightness and volume etc, which is less convenient.
Gigabyte support in Australia
Support was the reason I left the Dell behind, it was simply appalling. I had reason to contact Gigabyte support in the first week of owning this laptop purely because I was experiencing odd behaviour of the taskbar, yes the inbuilt taskbar of Windows 10.
It turned out the Control Center software was forcing the taskbar to use small size icons. If I uninstalled the Control Center software the taskbar would be fine. So a support engineer names Eric Lu helped me in a very efficient manner and had the Control Center software fixed up overnight and the problem went away.
This was all fine, however the more I pushed for the rest of the issues to be fixed with this software the less he replied, to the point where now, he simply does not respond at all. Way to go Gigabyte! I almost returned the Aero to be honest, but given it mostly did everything so right and there were little in the way of affordable alternatives, I decided to keep it, for now.
What I really like about the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
Firstly, the Aero feels really well made with a ‘solid in the hand’ feel to it. It has huge amounts of ventilation on the bottom, as well as ventilation on both sides and the rear. All of the ventilation is screened to limit intake of dust, so it is pretty clear this is meant to be a performance laptop and it makes no excuses for that from a design point of view as say an Apple Laptop does which prioritises design over function.
In terms of ports and connectivity the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED has everything you could need; USB 3.0, USB C, Thunderbolt, Ethernet, full size HDMI output, SD Card Slot and of course power.
The keyboard is a backlit RGB keyboard with really nice key feel and plenty of travel on those keys to make it feel like a keyboard and not like you are tapping on a hard surface. I do not really understand why they made it an RGB keyboard when they are trying so hard to push the Aero series as creator laptops and not gaming laptops, but you can through the Control Center software make it a standard white backlit keyboard or make it any colour you may prefer.
The real party piece of the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED is of course the screen. Gigabyte claim that each and every screen is individually calibrated at the factory to ensure colour accuracy which is exactly what you want from a creators laptop where it will be used for photo editing and video work.
The moment you turn the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED on, you know the screen is not like anything else you have used before. It is sharp as a tack, bright with the blackest of blacks and the colour is superb. To find out just how well the factory calibration is, I sat it side by side with my desktop computers display that uses a high end HP display that is calibrated using an X-Rite i1 Display Calibration kit.
With them both side by side it amazes how close the two screens are in terms of colour accuracy. The only way one is better than the other is because of those black blacks of the MOLED panel on the Aero. This makes the images look richer and more contrasty to the point where I would like to use only the Aero for my image work, it is that good! Is it the best screen I have ever used on a laptop or desktop system? Yes!
Battery life is good on the Aero if you ensure you use the power save mode. You can get many hours of constant work done on it in that power save mode, but crank it up to performance mode and all bets are off. It will eat the battery up in less than two hours on full performance mode so unless you really need the grunt at all times, best you keep it powered up.
The final word on the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
So in the end, am I happy with the decision to buy the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED? With some initial regrets out of the way (because of the Control Center software and support drop off) and having come to terms with having to manage the power on tap when not tethered to a power supply I have to say yes.
The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED is not without it’s design faults (but what isn’t) such as the sharp edges and offset trackpad, but in terms of being the right choice for someone like myself who does everything from website development to photography and 4K video editing, it is something of a dream machine.
Having a grunty GPU like the RTX 2070 in a laptop allows for excellent performance in applications like Davinci Resolve where it can render out a 4k edit in a time that is not much more than what my desktop system can with an RTX 2080 GPU. That in itself is amazing.
Working with Capture One on this laptop is stunning, as images are rendered beautifully and brought to the screen in very short order and again, outputing finished files is very quick indeed.
While I enjoyed the Dell XPS15 before the disaster struck, the Gigabyte Aero is simply in another league for someone like me, doing the work that I do. The screen is way better, the 9th Gen Core i9 CPU is faster, and the NVIDIA RTX 2070 simply out classes the GTX 1050 ti in the Dell.
So long as the Gigabyte Aero continues to perform well and proves to be reliable, I see no reason to not give it my thorough recommendation if you are a creative type looking for top level performance in a laptop.