Priced a good $500 more than the budget range, $2,000 gaming laptops need to justify the price hike, yet can’t afford to go all out like a premium model. Gigabyte’s P55W v5 is the fifth iteration of the P55W, and while very little has changed since the last outing, it’s done a solid job of establishing a firm foothold in this tricky territory.
Forget about this laptop if you’re looking for an ultra-portable to haul around all day. At this price you’re not going to get the specialised miniature enclosure designed for gamers on the go, weighing in at a hefty 2.5kg. It’s still no desk-bending brute, but the overall size is dictated by the 15.6 inch screen. As to be expected at this price, the case is primarily constructed from rugged plastic, enhanced with bold orange lines that hint at its gaming prowess without screaming from the rooftops that you’re playing Starcraft 2 instead of working. Given the size of the screen, the 1920 x 1080p panel is fine to keep those nasty pixels at bay, though we did find it a little odd for an IPS panel. These usually have a very wide viewing angle of 178 degrees, but the field of view here seemed a little smaller, not that it’ll matter to Lone Gamers who sit front and centre. Thankfully the colour accuracy and contrast performance are above average for a laptop of this price; Gigabyte obviously buys these in huge volumes to get such high quality in an affordable package. Most importantly, motion blur isn’t an issue, crucial to a quality gaming experience.
Laptop keyboards aren’t generally anything to write home about, but there’s something about the keys on this model that feel extra good. Perhaps it’s the extra travel required to register each key-press, making it feel more like a standalone keyboard than a laptop model. There’s a tiny amount of flex in the centre, but not so much that you’ll be annoyed at this backlit beauty. A numpad is also included, but we’re surprised to notice a lack of any macro keys, which Gigabyte usually delivers in spades. The touchpad isn’t quite as friendly, requiring a hefty click to activate, but gamers will likely pack their own dedicated gaming mouse.
A stack of connectivity options are included – triple USB 3.0 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI 2.0 out, D-sub, Gigabit Ethernet, Mic in and headphones out, and a full-sized SD card reader. The HD web camera isn’t a showstopper, but will be fine for Skype calls.
It’s what’s inside that makes this worthy of your attention though. At its heart is the component that makes this the version 5, Intel’s new Core i7-6700HQ CPU. As far as laptop CPUs go, this is a beast, featuring four fully HyperThreaded cores that max out at 3.5GHz. A very generous 16GB of DDR4 memory cranks by at 2133MHz, while twin hard drives deliver the storage goods. The primary OS drive is a smallish 128GB SSD, but it’s connected via NVMe PCIe, delivering blistering performance. A secondary 2TB mechanical drive delivers oodles of space for your larger or more plentiful files.
Finally there’s the ace up the sleeve of this machine, Nvidia’s excellent GTX 970M GPU with another 3GB of dedicated memory. As our benchmarks show, it’s a perfect match for the rest of the system specs, and blitzed through our games with ease. Best of all though is its audio profile, reaching a mere 44dB on our sound meter while under load. Compared to the buzzing monsters of 2015 it’s a delight to finally have a gaming machine that won’t cause tinnitus. Obviously a machine with these specs won’t do too well on battery though, which was highlighted by our 158 minute result in the PCMark 8 Home Accelerated battery test.
It might not be a huge step up from the last version, but the use of Intel’s new Skylake CPU is a welcome inclusion indeed. Offering exceptional value for money, the P55W v5 is one of the best mid-range gaming laptops on the market… as it should be after five generations of improvement.