Aorus X7 SLI Gaming Notebook
If you're a gamer looking for a new mobile powerhouse, the Aorus X7 SLI a new kid on the block worth considering
- Excellent power-to-weight ratio
- Strong and good-looking design
- Full HD screen
- Some version 1.0 integration issues to iron out
- Wi-Fi may be impeded by the all-metal chassis
The Aorus X7 SLI is purpose-built for gaming, with more power and much less compromise than the competition. It has a chassis that's one of the slimmest in its class, yet manages to pack a heat dissipation system to support its high-end gaming hardware. It's a sure winner for gamers on the go.
Price$ 2,999.00 (AUD)
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First things first: the Aorus X7 Gaming laptop is simply stunning to look at. It has a tough, matte black, aluminium carapace, which shields a glossy, brushed metal and glass interior.
The lid of the case is emblazoned with the Aorus brand's Horus-inspired logo, which I like, and think looks much like an eagle performing a biceps curl. I also like the sweep of the ridge on the lid, which appears to reinforce the screen against bumps and scrapes; serving a functional purpose besides imbuing the machine with its avian styling.
The machine has been made amazingly sturdy and relatively lightweight, and this belies its powerful components. It has a large footprint, bearing a 17.3in screen, so you'll need a decently-sized backpack to lug it around, though it's certainly not going to drag you down — only weighing a moderate 2.9kg — and it's surprisingly slim, leaving room for power cables, headphones and a mouse. Around the edges, the Aorus houses a minimal, but meaningful set of standard input and output interfaces.
My test rig was configured with the following impressive components:
• an Intel fourth generation Core i7-4700HQ quad core CPU running at 2.4GHz (and with a Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz)
• 32GB of 1600MHz RAM via four 8GB modules
• two 256GB mSATA solid state drives configured in RAID 0 array as a boot disk and optimal install point for games
• a 1TB hard drive running at 5400rpm for data storage
• and it was topped off with the dual GeForce GTX 765M graphics adapters in an SLI configuration (2x2GB DDR5)
Admittedly, on my first 3DMark run, I was a little concerned; the Fire Strike 1.1 test (the most taxing of the tests) only netted only 2440 marks. Scratching my head, I took a look at the SLI configuration and enabled both GPUs via the Nvidia Control Centre. I re-ran the benchmark and achieved a much more impressive 4176; at the time of publication this is almost 30% faster than a dedicated gaming notebook, and compares favourably with Alienware desktops with a similar configuration. I expect that upon retail release of the machine, the SLI setting will be configured from the get-go, but it's worth checking if you're not getting the results you expect.
Disk performance was assessed using CrystalDiskMark in two separate test series as there are two disk configurations: the 512GB SSD RAID 0 array that's for performance, and the 1TB hard drive that's used for storing data. The mechanical disk drive runs at a slow 5400rpm, rather than 7200rpm, but it's not too bad; it achieved 120 megabytes per second (MBps) in both the sequential read and sequential write test.
The real winner here is the striped mSATA SSD array; this achieved a read rate of 995MBps, and a write of 627MBps. It allows for fast booting to the desktop, and rapid level loads for games that are installed on it. Installing frequently-played games here is the best way to go, leaving shared files, backups and other media on the 1TB storage drive.
No complaints here at all. It handled the high-end requirements of Planetside 2 without breaking a sweat, comfortably hovering at over 80 frames per second (fps) on medium-to-high detail at a resolution of 1920x1080. I hosted some friends over for a LAN party and it drove a variety of other games just as well as my desktop. Gaming on this machine was the first time I've had to do a double-take to realise that I was actually playing on a mobile computer!
Taking an orbit around the machine, you'll notice ample ventilation — front, sides, rear and underneath — for its superior cooling. Internally it features five heat pipes that are shared across the CPU and both GPUs, a dedicated fan, and two exhaust ports for each GPU. Despite being on the loud side, it manages to stay relatively cool.
Under sustained load, sitting on a desk with adequate ventilation but otherwise unaided, the temperature topped out at a healthy 72 degrees Celsius during artificial benchmarking, and 62 degrees during gaming. Given that I've used machines in the past with single-GPU setups that have sat around 110 degrees, this is quite a marvel indeed.
Input and output
There's no shortage of expansion ports on this machine, and you won't have to deliberate over which peripherals to use, mainly because there is a total of five USB ports (three of which are 3.0). They're spaced out sensibly along the sides, with two on the right, one of the left, and two at the rear (these are the 2.0 ports). I would prefer to have more than one USB port on the left side, but it's a compromise considering how much else has to be packed in to these sides.
Networking options include an Intel Wireless-AC 7260 Wi-Fi module, which promises better range and speed than 802.11n modules. However, it struggles in during my tests over a moderate distance while connected to an N-class router. I suspect the all-metal design of the chassis may be impairing the signal. The effect persisted after a manual driver upgrade. Parking the machine within a few metres of the router gave me no trouble at all.
The machine also sports a Killer LAN Gigabit Ethernet port, which worked as well as its reputation. If you want as lag-free an experience as possible, this is the connection to favour where available.
There are two HDMI outputs, along with the choice of Mini DisplayPort, which is easily adapted to VGA and DVI (though there is also a VGA port). Having them on separate sides makes architectural sense given the placement of each GPU on either side of the chassis, but it hampers usability a little bit. If you're only driving one external display, then you'll have no worries.
As for audio, you've got optical/analogue line-out with a microphone input port for analogue headsets. The onboard speakers sound surprisingly crisp, easily handling Castle Crashers' chaotic soundscape, although I didn't stretch the setup with any dedicated music playback beyond that. It's configured as two speakers with two additional sub-woofers. I regret not testing them out with some Counterstrike to determine its positional sound.
The display is absolutely gorgeous. It's 17.3in panel with a native resolution of 1920x1080. The colour reproduction is noteworthy; splashes of colour were vivid in my tests, while the stealth black desktop theme that ships with the rig showed off deep and sharp blacks.
It uses a similar coating to a MacBook, which reduces glare without having the fuzz that plagues some matte screen coatings. While the display itself isn't an IPS (in-plane switching) panel, it's a high-end TN panel that can provide great viewing angles, which means you won't be constantly tilting it on its hinge to get the best angle as you slouch over the course of a long gaming session.
Whilst it doesn't ship with much besides basic utilities, a G-key keyboard macro recording tool, a driver upgrade suite and some other goodies, I scratched my head at the inclusion of a DVD playback program; this notebook doesn't bear an optical drive. I like how the system is more or less up to date with drivers, and the Nvidia drivers were running the latest stable build on our test model, which is a boon as they're improving performance all the time.
The Aorus X7 is most definitely targeted at the core gamer niche, and doesn't attempt to be a general purpose machine promising ultra-portability or battery longevity. It struggles without its power brick, it does have a huge footprint, and can be somewhat loud under load.
Still, gamers are wont to expect these trade-offs for advantages in raw processing power and a resilient build to withstand frequent travel in a backpack. It does have a steep asking price, but does compete well with others in its class — especially with its SLI graphics cards and internal upgrade options.
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