Review Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) – Best 17” For Creators?

Gigabyte’s Aero series laptops have been my go-to for people that do a mixture of content creation as well as some gaming, so let’s find out what improvements have been made with this year’s Aero 17. I’ve got the highest specced option here with 8 core Intel i9-11980HK processor, Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics, 32 gigs of memory and a 17.3” 4K screen with a large battery. There are also cheaper and lower specced configurations too, you can find examples as well as updated prices with those links down in the description. The Aero 17 has a black mostly metal design, it feels nice and there aren’t any sharp corners or edges, though the side trim seems to be plastic.

The laptop alone weighs about 2.75kg or 6.1lb, then under 3.7kg or 8.1lb total with the 230 watt power brick and cables for charging.

It’s not too thick considering the high end specs inside, we’ll see if this is at the expense of any performance soon.

The 17.3” 4K 60Hz screen looks great, and I’ve measured some of the best color gamut and contrast ratio out of any laptop with it. The screen comes X-Rite color calibrated and Pantone validated. There’s no MUX switch, so we’re stuck on optimus.

It surpasses 500 nits at maximum brightness and is still above 300 even at 80%, and it can also get very dim at lower levels. I managed to get my hands on 2 units, one had basically no backlight bleed but then there was more on the other, so this will vary between laptops. There’s a 720p camera below the screen. It’s got a physically sliding privacy shutter, but no Windows Hello support. So we’ve got a bit of a nose cam situation as the camera is placed right down the bottom and it can’t be adjusted, and your fingers do sometimes get in the way while typing, and this is what it sounds like if I set the fan to full speed, so it’s not doing a great job of isolating my voice over the fan noise.

The Aero 17 has per key RGB backlighting, and it can be adjusted between two brightness levels or turned off with the function plus spacebar shortcut, however the software instead gives us 10 brightness levels. The lighting looks quite nice, but the biggest issue I’ve got is that the secondary functions still aren’t illuminated by the backlighting, and this was the case with the previous Aero 17 too. It’s honestly quite annoying unless you’re always in a well lit room. Holding the function key changes the others you can use to white, but without seeing what the functions are it’s kind of useless. That issue aside, typing itself worked well and I had nothing else to complain about.

The precision touchpad feels extremely smooth and worked well, though I wouldn’t complain if it was a little larger. There’s a fingerprint scanner on the top left corner, and I found it to work very quickly and accurately.

The power button is above the keyboard, so no chance of an accidental mispress, and there also appears to be air vents back there too. The left has an air exhaust vent, 2.5 gigabit ethernet facing the preferred way so you don’t have to lift the laptop up to remove the cable, UHS-II SD card slot, two USB 3.

2 Gen1 Type-A ports, and separate 3.5mm mic and headphone jacks. The right has a third USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port, Mini DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.

1 outputs, the power input, and there’s an air exhaust on this side too. That Type-C port on the right can be used to charge the laptop, but if you connect an external screen it will connect to the Intel integrated graphics. The HDMI and mini DisplayPorts on the other hand connect directly to the Nvidia discrete graphics, and I’ll show you later how much of a speed boost this gives us in games. Personally I would have liked to have seen a second Type-C port. I think just one on a modern device like this isn’t ideal.

It seems like the tradeoff was to get that mini DisplayPort output, as most laptops don’t have one of those anymore. I don’t know about most people out there, but I would have been fine with a Type-C port that also supported DisplayPort out. That way I’d get the same functionality it would just be in a different port and we’d also get the benefits of USB Type-C. The back has an Aero logo in the middle with plenty of space for air exhaust. The front has a subtle indentation in the center to aid with opening the lid, which was easy to do.

The hinges felt pretty sturdy, the action of opening the lid felt nice and smooth.

There’s some screen flex, but not as much as I expected considering the larger 17” size, perhaps due to the metal exterior. There’s a bit of flex to the keyboard when pushing down hard, but it felt perfectly sturdy and quite solid during normal use. The lid has a sort of carbon fiber texture towards the bottom, while the Aero logo lights up white from the screen’s backlight, so no way to control it. The bottom panel has plenty of holes for air intake towards the back half, and we can confirm this by seeing where the purple light shines through.

Getting inside requires removing 14 TR6 screws. The panel was fairly easy to pry off using the tools linked in the description below. Inside we’ve got the large 99Wh battery down the front, a PCIe 3 M.2 slot to the left of it, a faster PCIe 4 M.2 slot above the battery on the right, Wi-Fi 6 card to the left of that and then two memory slots just above.

The two 2 watt speakers are found underneath on the left and right sides towards the front. They sound surprisingly bad for such an expensive laptop. There’s no bass, they’re tinny, and they don’t sound clear regardless of the volume, but the latencymon results were alright. The Aero 17 has the largest possible battery you can take on a plane at 99Wh, however it wasn’t quite lasting for 5 hours in the YouTube playback test, a relatively low result, and I double checked this.

It’s also behind the older Aero 17’s I’ve tested in the past, despite those having smaller 94Wh batteries, so not sure if this is just due to Intel 11th gen or what.

That would make sense, given all the other laptops surrounding it are also 11th gen with similar battery sizes. I should also note that I ended the game test with 20% charge remaining, as FPS dipped down to 13. Let’s check out thermals next. The Gigabyte Control Center software lets us change between different performance modes, which include power saving, meeting, gaming, turbo and creator, and you can change the keyboard effect, keyboard and screen brightness, and boost option for each mode. With the AI option on the mode will be automatically selected based on the app you open, and under GPU boost we’ve got options for both Nvidia’s dynamic boost or Gigabyte’s AI boost.

The idle results down the bottom are a little warm, but no problem. I’ve run stress tests with both the CPU and GPU loaded up to represent a worst case. Overall the results are looking quite good, but this is because Gigabyte limits their temperatures at 90 degrees Celsius, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it.

It’s good in the sense that it means it’s not going to get hotter than this, but possibly bad if this means we’re leaving performance on the table. These are the clock speeds from the same tests.

Despite thermal throttling around 90 degrees Celsius in most of the tests, we’re still able to boost the CPU clock speed with the higher performance modes. The GPU speed also drops back a bit too, so perhaps dynamic boost is shifting more power from the GPU to the CPU in this specific workload. None of the modes in the control center software applied any overclocking to the GPU. The GPU is running around 80 watts, but it depends on the mode. Interestingly with the GPU AI set it was able to consistently sit on 90 watts, all other modes were tested with Nvidia dynamic boost as that was the default, so it seems gigabyte’s mode boosts the GPU higher.

The higher fan speed of turbo mode and the cooling pad help improve CPU performance, as thermals are the limit due to the 90 degree cap. Honestly 79 watts on the processor with the GPU also under load is impressive stuff. The Aero series has had higher CPU power limits than most other laptops in the past too, which is probably what gives it an edge in creator workloads, but at the expense of lower GPU power limits. Here’s how the different modes perform in Cinebench R23, a CPU only workload with the GPU now idle. It was possible to manually boost turbo mode by using Intel XTU to increase the power limit further, as out of the box turbo and creator modes have an 86 watt PL1 which was being hit.

Unfortunately undervolting was locked in software and I didn’t see it available through BIOS, so didn’t test with that. It’s not amazing when compared to others in multicore performance, though it’s slightly ahead of the MSI GE76 just below it, which is a much thicker machine. The single core score wasn’t as good though, but still better than all of the Ryzen competition. Things change a bit when running on battery power. Most Intel laptops lose a fair amount of their performance here, but the Aero 17 is holding on, giving the best Intel result in this test for multicore, while the single core score is mostly unaffected.

It’s quite cool when just sitting there idle. 30 degrees Celsius is pretty common for most laptops, and we’re in the low 30s here. It only gets to the mid 40s on the keyboard with the power save and meeting modes with full on CPU plus GPU stress tests going.

Game and creator modes aren’t really too different because the fan speed increases to compensate for the higher performance, and then turbo mode is a few degrees cooler and actually cold feeling on the wrist rest and WASD area, but at the expense of more fan noise, let’s have a listen. I couldn’t hear the fans when idling in meeting mode, which I guess is what you’d want in a meeting!

It’s still relatively quiet with stress tests going, about the same in both meeting mode and power saving mode. Creator and gaming modes sound about the same and were louder, then turbo is the loudest as it maxes the fan. You can also max the fan at any time with the function plus escape key, the one with the fan icon. I don’t have an issue with the louder maximum fan noise as Gigabyte gives us some of the most granular fan control I’ve seen in any laptop, so you can really dial things in and get the optimal fan curve that suits your needs. Now for some creator tests.

Adobe Premiere was tested with the Puget Systems benchmark.

The Aero 17 was doing very well here, at least compared to the games. It’s the 2nd best result that I’ve recorded so far, and given the top 4 are all Intel 11th gen, it would appear that Intel has an edge over Ryzen in this test. The Adobe Photoshop results are also dominated by Intel 11th gen laptops, and the Aero 17 is doing very well here too, especially when considering that the only two machines ahead of it are quite a bit chunkier. DaVinci Resolve is more GPU heavy, and the Aero 17 lowers a few positions now likely as a result of its lower GPU power limit, though it’s still ahead of many other higher wattage 3070 and even a 3080 laptop, so it would seem 11th gen is also helping out here too.

I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads. Now let’s find out how well this configuration of Aero 17 performs in games and compares against other laptops. Of course this isn’t marketed as a gaming laptop, but with those specs inside we should definitely be able to play some games.

Cyberpunk 2077 was tested in little China with the street kid life path on all laptops, and I’ve got the Aero 17 highlighted in red. There are absolutely better results coming from other laptops with the same CPU plus GPU combination, like MSI’s GE76 2nd from the top, but that is also a much thicker machine, so higher power limits are possible.

The Aero isn’t the slowest RTX 3080 at least, beating the ASUS Zephyrus G15 slightly. I’ve got less results at the higher 1440p resolution because there still aren’t a whole lot of laptops that go above 1080p. This time the G15 was slightly ahead of the Aero, but I’d say they’re essentially tied here. The lower GPU power limit is likely what’s holding the Aero back compared to others at this higher resolution. Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested with the game’s benchmark.

The Aero was doing much better in this game, and was more in line with those higher power limit 3080s at the top of the graph and beating all of the 3070s this time.

At the higher 1440p resolution the Aero gets overtaken by some RTX 3070 machines now, again presumably because at the higher resolution we’re more GPU bound, and higher power limits are more beneficial for higher performance in a game like this with higher settings compared to things like extra VRAM or more CUDA cores. Control was tested running through the same part of the game on all laptops. It’s only just above the Aero 15 OLED just below it, which has RTX 3070 graphics, but the same power range. It is a slightly older 10th gen model, but I don’t think the processor matters as much as the GPU in this game.

At 1440p it’s ahead of the G15, which as we saw wasn’t the case earlier, and I’m presuming this is owing to the more GPU demanding nature of this game, but hey that said the much smaller Razer Blade 14 is able to outperform it slightly, though that does also have a higher wattage 3080 in terms of the lower side of the power limit range.

It is possible to get a speed boost by connecting an external screen directly to the HDMI or mini DisplayPort outputs, as those connect directly to the RTX 3080 graphics bypassing optimus. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with the game’s benchmark, and it was possible to boost the average FPS of the Aero 17 by almost 8% in this test, so not bad at all for such a simple change. I also tried this test with both Nvidia dynamic boost and Gigabyte’s AI GPU boost, but I didn’t see a performance difference in this specific game, despite the stress tests earlier indicating higher GPU power was possible with Gigabyte’s mode. 4K 60Hz screens generally don’t do well in terms of screen response time testing, and that’s the case here as we’re looking at a 26ms average grey-to-grey result.

It’s one of the slower screens when compared to others, though not the worst I’ve ever tested, but hey it’s not like the Aero 17 is marketed towards gamers, and plenty of AAA games don’t necessarily need high response time.

It was the slowest when it came to total system latency though, this is the time measured between a mouse click and when a gunshot fires in CS:GO. Here are the results from 3DMark for those that find them useful. The 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD that Windows is installed on is quite fast, a benefit of Intel 11th gen is faster PCIe Gen 4 storage.

The larger 1TB D drive was slower PCIe 3, but still had decent read and write speeds. The UHS-II SD card slot was doing nicely for the reads, but much lower comparatively for the writes. I don’t think this is much of an issue as most people would be using this to dump content onto the laptop. The card sticks out a bit when inserted, so try not to bump it. There’s nothing too exciting going on the BIOS, a few more options compared to some others I’ve looked at but nothing special, and it has TPM 2.

0. I booted an Ubuntu 21 live CD to test Linux support. Out of the box the touchpad, keyboard, speakers, Wi-Fi, ethernet and camera all worked. You can still adjust keyboard brightness with function plus space bar, and the volume adjust keys work too, but screen brightness keys and the shortcut to max out the fan appear to need software support, as these did not work.

Let’s discuss pricing and availability next.

Both of those will change over time so refer to those links down in the description for updates. At the time of recording, the lower specced 11800H plus RTX 3070 model seems to be $2400 USD, while the i9 and 3080 version is considerably more. Honestly for most people, it’s probably not worth paying the $1250 extra just to get the i9 and 3080. You really do start to see diminishing returns for the dollar once you get to the top of a product stack. For what it’s designed for, content creation, the new Aero 17 does offer some nice improvements compared to the last generation model.

This includes Intel 11th gen, which as we saw earlier actually offered a pretty good speed boost in the creator workloads such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, plus this also gives us faster PCIe 4 storage, and there’s also Thunderbolt 4, but there’s not really that much differences between Thunderbolt 3 and 4. The most important part of Thunderbolt 4 as far as I see it is that part of the spec requires USB Type-C charging, and we didn’t previously have that with the older Aero 17, so it’s a nice welcome addition.

All of the gaming and creator tests were done in turbo mode with the defaults, so it might be possible to get some further gains by using the Gigabyte AI GPU boost option or with power limit boosts through Intel XTU, which can get quite high. I think it’s nice that it’s got some headroom for tuning, but it would have been icing on the cake if we had undervolting support too. The larger battery sounds good on paper, but in practice I found it to last less time than the older models, which from what I’ve seen so far appears to be a downside with 11th gen.

Personally I pretty much always use my laptop on wall power, so that’s not really a problem for me. That said, the Aero 17 is by no means perfect, here are some issues that I do have with it. The most annoying thing for me is that the secondary key functions still aren’t lit up.

You can hold down the function key and it lights up the keys you can interact as white, but without actually shining through all of the secondary functions it kind of makes it useless. It might sound kind of small comparatively, but to me that was the most annoying thing about using this laptop – please Gigabyte fix this in future.

I thought the speakers were pretty bad, and one USB Type-C port on a laptop for creators might not be ideal.

The screen does look great though. It’s got good brightness, good contrast and good color gamut, so perfect for content creation until we get 17” OLED panels, as currently OLED is only available on the 15” models of the Aero. You can definitely game on this laptop, AAA titles will be fine, but for competitive fast paced shooters I’d either look elsewhere or be prepared to attach a faster external monitor, as the response time of the 60Hz screen leaves a lot to be desired.

Personally, I’d have no real problems using the Aero 17 for content creation, I mean those secondary functions not being backlit probably would drive me crazy eventually, but hey as it’s a relatively thin 17” laptop that still packs in some good power I can fit it in my camera bag which is designed for 15” laptops, so it still ends up being quite portable while getting that bigger screen, and just speaking from personal experience using my Gigabyte Aero 15X from a few years ago, that smaller 15” screen does get a bit crammed when editing at 3am at CES.

But that said, that older model is also 1080p. I think a better sweet spot for me personally would be the 15” with OLED, not only because OLED looks stunning, but it is smaller than this and more portable, and given I only really use my laptop when travelling, size does matter. So let me know what you thought of the Aero 17 down in the comments below. Get subscribed for future laptop reviews like this one, come and join me in Discord and get behind the scenes videos by supporting the channel on Patreon, and come and check out some of my other videos here next, including one on that smaller 15” model.

Read More: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H vs Intel i5-11400H – Best 6 Core Laptop CPU?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *