Gigabyte Aorus 15 X9 Review

The Aorus 15 X9 has an RTX 2070 that out-muscles the GPUs used in most rivals – but can it keep up elsewhere?

Verdict

Lashings of gaming speed and cheaper than the rival Razer, but screen and thermal issues hamper this powerful portable

Pros

  • Impressive gaming pace
  • Good components elsewhere
  • Reasonably good ergonomics throughout
  • Cheaper than many rivals

Cons

  • Screen contrast could be better
  • Occasionally very loud
  • Inconsistent build quality

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £2199
  • 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 8GB graphics
  • 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 144Hz IPS screen
  • 16GB DDR4 memory
  • 512GB Intel 760p SSD, 2TB hard disk
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • 2yr RTB warranty

What is the Aorus 15 X9?

The Aorus 15 X9 is a new machine from Gigabyte’s specialist gaming brand, and it takes a different approach to the offshoot’s previous devices. Aorus systems of past have been among the most outlandish on the market, but this new laptop is a little more refined.

It will set you back £2199, though, and it launches into an arena that’s only become more crowded since Nvidia launched its Turing GPUs. Can this toned-down design dhttps://www.trustedreviews.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3708740&action=edito enough to stand out?

Aorus 15 X9 – Design and build

The Aorus 15 X9 is pared back compared to previous Aorus laptops, but this is still undoubtedly a gaming machine with the design flourishes to match.

The lid has a couple of metallic slashes and an illuminated logo. You’ll still find plenty of air vents at the rear and on the side of the machine, although they’re smaller than they’ve been in the past. There are few extraneous RGB LEDs around the Aorus, too – you only get a couple in the corners of the chunky base. The power button is small, and the speaker grille is modest.

However, rival machines still manage to be smarter and subtler. The Aorus’ biggest rival is the Razer Blade 15, and that laptop is even more subdued, with smaller logos and fewer gaming design touches. This, more mature Aorus, still looks like a gaming laptop; the Razer looks more like a MacBook Air.

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Aorus 15 X9 10

Rear ports, L-R: power, HDMI 2.0, mini DisplayPort, Type-C USB, Kensington lock slot.

The Aorus 15 X9 is larger than its key rival; it tips the scales at 2.4kg and is 24mm thick, which plants it firmly in the middle of a market that appears to be shedding millimetres every day. Razer’s machine weighs 2.1kg and is less than 20mm thick.

It certainly isn’t a ruinous size increase, but bear those differences in mind if you want a machine that’s as slim and light as possible for LAN parties and frequent travelling.

Somewhat annoyingly, the Aorus’ extra size hasn’t led to improved build quality. There’s still a little too much give in the aluminium around the keyboard, and too much movement on the base panel beneath. The screen is secured to the base using one central hinge, but that results in the edges of the screen being a little flimsy.

Aorus 15 X9 10

Black, angular and mean-looking, with per-key RGB lights, the Aorus 15 X9 isn’t hiding the fact that it’s a gaming laptop.

The Aorus’ build quality and size issues aren’t terminal problems, but we’d certainly buy a sleeve to protect the machine during trips out.

As far as connections are concerned, the Aorus has three full-size USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, and a Type-C connector that supports the newer, faster Gen 2 standard – and which doubles as a DisplayPort output. Elsewhere, there’s HDMI 2.0 and mini DisplayPort outputs, a microSD card slot and a single audio jack.

It’s an entirely normal and versatile port selection that matches older Razer machines. However, Razer’s newer models, with Intel 9th Gen Core i7 CPUs, do have more USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, resulting in faster data transfer.

Aorus 15 X9 – Keyboard & trackpad

There are no surprises when it comes to the Aorus’ keyboard. It’s a chiclet unit with per-key RGB LED backlighting, and key quality is reasonable.

The buttons display a decent amount of travel, and are firm and consistent, with no wobbling nor hollow feeling. That makes them good for hammering through mainstream games and eSports titles, as well as for typing.

Aorus 15 X9 12

Working on an essay or working on prestiging on Overwatch? The Aorus 15 X9’s keys are very easy on your digits.

Lined up against Razer’s hardware, there’s simply no competition. The Aorus’ keyboard offers decent travel, with a snappy and reliable typing action; the Razer keyboard is far too shallow, with hardly any tactile feedback or travel.

While the Aorus does improve on the Razer, it still offers no competition against proper mechanical units. As such, serious gamers will want to plug in their own keyboard or seek out a laptop with mechanical hardware.

Aorus 15 X9 16

The screen’s central hinge looks the part, but it does leave the sides of the screen feeling a little too flexible.

The Aorus’ keyboard layout has a couple of quirks, too. The numberpad buttons are slimmer than the rest of the keyboard, and the cursor keys are mall. The Return key is also a little narrow.

The trackpad is wider than most other pads, and it’s smooth and responsive. Its two buttons are snappy and fast, but they push down a little too much. For mainstream and casual games, this hardware is fine. But, as ever, serious gamers need to use a USB mouse to get the best results.

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Aorus 15 X9 – Screen & sound quality

The Aorus has a Full HD IPS screen with a 144Hz refresh rate. That’s a fine specification, although there’s no G-Sync. The 144Hz refresh rate will mean gaming will be smooth, but it would be smoother still with Nvidia’s technology having the refresh rate of the display marching in time to whatever frame rate the GPU can muster.

The Aorus’ screen specification matches one of the options available for the Blade, but Razer does offer greater versatility. As well as a 144Hz panel, the Blade can be purchased with a 4K touchscreen – and with a Full HD 240Hz option. There are limited uses for these screens, because the RTX 2070 won’t play a lot of games at 4K and you get diminishing returns as you increase refresh rates. Nevertheless, the Blade at least offers options.

Aorus 15 X9 02

The Aorus 15 X9’s display boasts excellent colour accuracy, but it’s not the brightest laptop display we’ve seen.

However, the Aorus’ Full HD 144Hz screen is probably the most useful out of those three variants, benefitting from exceptional colour quality too. Its colour temperature of 6539K barely deviates from the ideal 6500K figure, and its average Delta E of 1.72 is below 2 – which means that human eyes won’t detect any colour issues.

The Aorus’ screen produces fantastic, accurate colours, and uniformity is good – the backlight strength only deviated a little during tests. It rendered 89.3% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is a little more ordinary – but absolutely fine for games.

While the colours are good, the Aorus’ other attributes are average. Its brightness level of 269 nits is only just good enough for playing beneath bright lights, but it isn’t high – the Razer topped out at 349 nits. The black level of 0.3 nits is mediocre, and leaves dark areas lacking a little depth.

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Aorus 15 X9 01

At 2.4 kg, the Aorus 15 X9 is relatively lightweight, but a lot of gaming laptops these days are approaching the 2kg mark, so it’s by no means an exception.

Those two results create a contrast ratio of 897:1. It isn’t a disastrous score, but neither is it particularly good; plus it’s a little poorer than the Razer’s 949:1. It means that images don’t have as much punch as they do on other screens; images on the Aorus lack a little bit of vibrancy – the Razer certainly has more impact.

The Aorus’ average contrast ratio doesn’t ruin games at all – indeed, you’ll still have a superb gaming experience using this panel. Just be aware that the Razer screen has more depth, and that many other gaming panels will follow suit.

The speakers have a crisp high-end and a surprising amount of bass, but the mid-range is weak. As ever, a headset will be better to get the most out of games.

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Aorus 15 X9 – Performance

The Aorus includes the full-power mobile version of the RTX 2070 –  most other gaming laptops in this part of the market, including the Razer, rely on the Max-Q version.

Both versions of the GPU use the same underlying architecture, and both have the same number of stream processors and 8GB of memory – but the Aorus’ full-power version offers better clock speeds. The RTX 2070 inside the Aorus tops out at 1440MHz, with a memory speed of 14,000MHz. The Razer’s GPU peaks at 1305MHz, and its memory runs at 12,000MHz.

The more powerful RTX 2070 enables the Aorus to open a lead over the Razer in gaming benchmarks.

For instance, the Aorus ran Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 97fps, while the Razer could manage only 83fps. The Aorus then played Ghost Recon: Wildlands at 57fps, which was five frames faster than the Razer and its Max-Q GPU. The Aorus blitzed through the easier Dirt Rally at 121fps.

Aorus 15 X9 17

Aorus 15 X9 ports on the right hand side: Ethernet, Type-A USB 3.1, micro SD card reader.

Theoretical tests also show the proper RTX 2070 opening a lead over its Max-Q stablemate. The Aorus scored 16,612 in 3DMark: Fire Strike – approximately 1300 points beyond the Razer.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the Aorus’ benchmarks, both positive and negative.

Pleasingly, the Aorus will play any current title with 60fps frame rates at 1080p. The most demanding single-player games will run well on this laptop, and with more pace – and for longer into the future – than machines with the RTX 2070 Max-Q. ESports games will run impeccably, and you also have decent scope for outputting to 1440p panels, VR headsets and widescreens.

The Aorus also handled ray-tracing. In Metro: Exodus it returned a normal frame rate of 88fps, and that dropped to 74fps with ray-tracing activated. The Aorus’ scores in Battlefield V went from 113fps to 79fps once ray-tracing was activated.

It’s not all good news, though. The Aorus can’t quite handle 4K gaming – and, while its frame rates in tricky single-player games are good, they’re not always beyond 60fps or 100fps. As such, you’ll have to tweak graphics settings if you want that kind of speed to truly take advantage of the 144Hz screen.

The Aorus has a familiar Core i7-8750H CPU. It’s a six-core chip that runs at 2.2GHz with a Turbo peak of 4.1GHz, and it has ample power for gaming and most work and multi-tasking jobs.

Its Geekbench scores of 4652 and 19,446 are impressive – the former matches the Razer, while the latter outpaces it. That’s because the Razer CPU throttles during tough tasks, and the Aorus doesn’t have that problem.

Aorus 15 X9 15

The keyboard has per-key RGB LED lighting, the Aorus logo is boldly displayed, and the X9’s edges have slashed air vents.

The Aorus’ increased pace can also be seen in PCMark 10, where its score of 5913 was 1000 ahead of the Razer.

It’s worth mentioning that the Razer is now available with the Core i7-9750H, although don’t expect anything transformative from the new chip. It has the same architecture as the i7-8750H and only a small boost to clock speeds.

The Aorus delivers a good bill of CPU health, and the SSD helped with decent read and write speeds of 3085MB/sec and 1027MB/sec. It isn’t the top drive on the market, but the Intel 760p has no problem when it comes to keeping the laptop feeling snappy and booting quickly.

The Aorus is fast, but not without flaws – especially in thermal tests. During less intensive moments the Aorus uses its Normal fan mode, and it’s a little quieter here than most gaming machines – even if the pitch of the noise is irritating. During gaming, and with Normal mode activated, none of the components became too hot.

Push this machine, and problems emerge. With Normal mode activated during a full-system stress-test the CPU is too hot, with a peak temperature of 96 degrees Celsius.

In addition, when the Aorus is pushed its Maximum fan mode is deployed – and that’s the biggest issue. The fan noise in this mode is super-loud – certainly louder than almost any other gaming laptop; loud enough to drown out the speakers, and loud enough to seep through a headset. The noise is huge, and it’s often activated automatically during games and other tough tasks.

It’s possible to switch back to Normal mode using a button on the keyboard, but it’s an unnecessary amount of noise.

Aorus 15 X9 11

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 scythes through the latest games and has ample speed for smooth 1080p playback.

The Razer wasn’t perfect here thanks to those CPU throttling issues and its hot metal exterior, but it was never as loud as the Aorus.

Don’t expect much battery life from the Aorus, either. It lasted for 1hr 44mins in our standard web browsing and video playback test, and it could only make it through an hour of gaming. Razer’s machine was much better here.

That’s no surprise – the Aorus has more powerful components and a 62Wh battery, while Razer’s power pack sits at 80Wh.

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Aorus 15 X9 – Different models

The £2199 model reviewed here is the priciest Aorus 15 X9 available. If you can do without the hard disk, though, you can opt for a model that retains the rest of the specification – and drops the price to £1999.

Those prices bode well when compared with the Razer Blade 15. If you want to replicate the Aorus’ specification in the Blade, it will cost £2359.

You could also opt for the Aorus 15 W9. It sports the same exterior and screen as the X9, and it has most of the same components. However, it drops down to an RTX 2060 to reduce the price to £1899. An equivalent Razer will also cost you £1899.

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Why buy the Aorus 15 X9?

The Aorus’ RTX 2070 graphics core is fantastic. It’s comfortably quicker than the Max-Q version of the chip you’ll find in the Razer and elsewhere, and that means more gaming pace for years into the future. As such, it’s worth opting for the full-power part if performance is a watchword.

Elsewhere, you get a reliable Core i7 CPU, good storage and memory and a machine that looks the part. The keyboard and trackpad are easily better than the Razer’s offerings, too.

The Aorus does have its issues, though. The screen is fine for games, but contrast could be better. Build quality is middling, and there are slimmer and lighter laptops to be found elsewhere, if that’s a priority. It’s sometimes annoyingly loud, too.

If you do want more power than most RTX 2070 laptops offer, the Aorus 15 X9 is well worth considering. Just consider if this machine’s noise and build problems are worth those extra frames.

Verdict

The Aorus features decent components throughout, plus its ergonomically better than rivals, too. It’s far too loud, though, and suffers some build quality issues – as well as a screen with mediocre contrast. The Aorus has plenty of power, but if you’re looking for a brilliant all-rounder then this isn’t it.

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