MAX-Q Laptop Battle - ASUS Zephyrus vs Gigabyte Aero 15X

Author: SKYMTL
Date: November 28, 2017
Product Name: ASUS Zephyrus / Gigabyte Aero 15X
Part Number: GX501VI-XS74 / 15X-BK4
Warranty: 1 Year / 2 Years
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A few months ago during Computex, NVIDIA officially launched their MAX-Q technology which endeavored to offer desktop-class gaming performance in an Ultrabook-sized portable form factor. Back then, I described the resulting notebook designs as a significant step forward for notebooks and a glimpse of what the future had in store for gamers.

Fast forward to today and MAX-Q designs have firmly entrenched themselves in the product lineups of numerous vendors like ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte, Dell, Acer and Aorus. NVIDIA’s promise of excellent performance, battery life and acoustics has obviously struck a chord and now, about four months after most of these notebooks became widely available, they’re becoming more affordable as well. So with MAX-Q’s maturity through driver updates, Black Friday coming up and the Christmas shopping season almost upon us, what better time to look at some of the most interesting notebooks on the market?

The two notebooks I chose for this review may both have the MAX-Q design language beating at their hearts but its implementation is quite different. The ASUS Zephyrus was first utilized as the poster child for NVIDIA’s budding technology and the sample that made it into our hands is the flagship version which used to retail for over $3000. In the other corner is Gigabyte’s Aero 15X, a newer notebook that has implemented what can be considered a “second generation” MAX-Q design which further optimizes the harmony between size, battery life, acoustics and graphics power.

Let’s start out our deep dive with the ASUS Zephyrus since it has been around for a bit longer and doesn’t quite have Gigabyte’s new car smell. But what the Zephyrus lacks in newness, it more than makes up for in raw processing horsepower. There’s an i7-7700HQ processor paired up with a GTX 1080 MAX-Q GPU and 16GB of 2400MHz memory which all powers a 15.6” IPS panel that comes equipped with a 120Hz refresh rate and G-SYNC. This is a specification list that would make most self-respecting gaming desktops blush with envy.

The back-of-house features aren’t any less impressive –especially that 512GB Samsung NVMe SSD- but ASUS did have to make one glaring sacrifice to attain their waifish ¾” thick chassis: the battery is rated at a pathetic 50Whr which is less than most low power Ultrabooks. That’s going to be a major problem for this thing; what’s the use of a thin and light gaming notebook if it doesn’t have enough battery life to actually stay alive for a gameplay session?

Compare and contrast all of this to the Gigabyte Aero 15X and you can understand why I’m considering it a quasi second generation device. It uses the same i7-7700HQ processor and 16GB of memory as the ASUS but that’s where the similarities end. It substitutes out the GTX 1080 for a more efficient GTX 1070 alongside a standard 60Hz 15.6” IPS screen and a fast as greased lightning Toshiba SSD.

But the advantage for the Aero 15X lies beyond the raw internal hardware specs since I think Gigabyte added some features that make it an infinitely more usable device. Not only does the battery almost double up on the Zephyrus’ capacity but there’s also an SD card reader, a mini DisplayPort and an integrated Ethernet connector. Somehow it weighs less too despite the extra heft of a larger battery. It really feels like Gigabyte was more focused on creating a versatile device instead of a one trick pony that is only targeted at the gaming crowd.

Naturally, pricing will factor heavily into the purchasing decision when it comes to any sort of new device and neither of these notebooks is what I would consider inexpensive. The Aero 15X is part of Gigabyte’s larger Aero family, some of which are equipped with a GTX 1060 and very similar secondary specifications for under $1700. This one however hits the ground running at $2200USD which is a massive premium for a graphics card upgrade. Nonetheless, if you are looking for significantly more gaming juice in a slim chassis then the MAX-Q GPUs are the way to go.

The ASUS Zephyrus was and continues to be one of the most expensive gaming notebooks on the market and with good reason; it has the potential for mind blowing performance. However, for its price of $2700 USD you could effectively build an ultra high end gaming desktop and still have money to burn on an reasonably capable Ultrabook. But then again, there’s a certain allure in owning something like the Zephyrus since its nothing but unique.

So there you have it. These are two notebooks which may be cut from the same basic cloth but their intents are actually quite different. The question here is whether Gigabyte has taken the advantage of time to create something that’s more palatable to a wider range of users.

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