AORUS X5S v5 Review (MultiCam)

by Reads (6,343)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 6
      • Usability
      • 7
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 6
      • Total Score:
      • 7.57
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Excellent gaming performance
    • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
    • Vivid 4K display
    • Thin and light design
    • High quality MultiCam camouflage finish
  • Cons

    • Chassis gets blistering hot while gaming
    • Very loud fans
    • Display lacks Nvidia G-Sync support
    • Pricey

AORUS is a premium sub-brand of Gigabyte. The brand is gaming-focused, producing notebooks as well as gaming peripherals including keyboards, mice, and headsets. Our AORUS X5S v5 review unit, model X5S v5-SLCM, is a limited edition featuring MultiCam camouflage. For $2,599, it offers a 15.6-inch 4K display, Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core processor, Nvidia GTX 980M 8GB graphics, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB PCI-e SSD, and a secondary 1TB hard drive. It weighs just 5.51 pounds and is only 0.90 inches thin, which is almost unheard of given its powerful components. We admired its design, quality, and overall level of performance, but it’s not without flaws. The chassis gets blistering hot while gaming, and the fans make a lot of noise. Still we found this machine worthy of consideration, especially if you’re interested in owning an exclusive product. Read this AORUS X5S v5 review to find out why.

AORUS X5S v5 front

AORUS X5S v5 review unit

Build and Design

An upscale design is one of the main reasons to pay the premium for an AORUS notebook. The X5S has clean, angular lines that lend it an aggressive yet classy appearance. Relative to a typical off-the-shelf 15.6-inch consumer notebook, the X5S is a bit wider at 15.4 inches, but has less depth at 8.66 inches. The most impressive measurement is its 0.90-inch thinness. We normally expect 15.6-inch notebooks to be around one inch thin even for non-gaming notebooks, so it’s certainly a pleasant surprise to see one beat the average while packing an obscene amount of gaming power. To top it all off, this notebook is just 5.51 pounds, making it one of the lightest notebooks available with an Nvidia GTX 980M graphics card.

Our AORUS X5S v5 review unit is one of 500 limited editions featuring MultiCam camouflage finish. (If camouflage isn’t your thing, note AORUS offers the X5S in a traditional black). MultiCam is a real-life camouflage pattern used by numerous militaries around the world. The finish isn’t a mere sticker or a paint job. Rather, it’s water transferred, a considerably more involved process. Take a look at the following video to see how it works. The nature of the process ensures each MultiCam X5S has a unique camouflage pattern. Another benefit to the process is that the camouflage pattern is applied even to the small details, like the inside of the cooling vents and the port openings. The MultiCam finish is anti-glare and smooth to the touch. We were impressed by the consistency and overall look. We noted it could look quite different depending on the lighting.

AORUS X5S v5 review unit backThe X5S has a cool feel, temperature-wise, because most of its exterior surfaces are aluminum. That includes the lid, palm rest, and underside. The fit and finish is generally good, though our one nitpick is that the edges of the lid are a bit rougher than we expected.

The protruding rear of the chassis serves as an anchor for the display hinge, and also holds the two stealth-like cooling exhaust vents. The display hinge placement limits the lid to folding back only 45 degrees past vertical. We liked that the lid could be easily opened with one hand. The top of the lid overhangs the front of the chassis to allow your fingers to get a grip.

The overall chassis strength is very good. The lid is especially rigid, with almost no flex or play. No ripples appeared in the display’s picture when we pressed in the back of the lid with our fingers. The chassis has no flex or weak points either. Tapping the chassis surfaces with a fingernail yielded a solid sound.

Upgrading this AORUS notebook is a bit of an end-user adventure. You’ll need a special screwdriver to remove the 12 star-shaped screws that hold on the bottom cover. The X5S has an impressive three M.2 Type 2280 (80mm) slots for SSDs, a traditional 2.5-inch bay supporting 9.5mm height drives, and four RAM slots. All RAM slots, the 2.5-inch bay, and one of the M.2 slots was occupied in our review unit.

Input and Output Ports

The port selection on the AORUS X5S v5 is quite reasonable for a notebook this size. It even has VGA and Ethernet. The USB Type C port is also notable, as are the three standard USB ports.

ports leftports right
back ports

The left edge has the Kensington lock slot, cooling exhaust, mini-DisplayPort, an oddly filled-in HDMI port (non-functional), separate headphone and microphone jacks, USB Type C, and a speaker grille. On the right edge you’ll find another speaker grille, an SD card reader, a pair of USB 3.0, HDMI out, and another cooling exhaust. Along the back is the AC power jack, VGA, a USB 2.0, and Ethernet. Nothing except the status lights is on the front of the notebook.

Screen and Speakers

The 15.6-inch display panel on the AORUS X5S v5 has a 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) resolution. It has four times the number of pixels of an FHD panel (1,920 x 1,080). It’s an ideal resolution for multimedia, photo viewing in particular, and general entertainment. As powerful as this notebook is, however, 4K is still too high of a resolution to get playable framerates in modern games. The sweet spot for performance is FHD, which actually works out in the X5S’s favor because FHD is one quarter the resolution of 4K. On a 4K display, four pixels are used to represent one when it’s running at FHD. This means the display panel can be set to an FHD resolution without loss of quality.

screen frontscreen side
screen forwardscreen back

The image quality is top notch. The ample color depth (AORUS doesn’t specify the exact gamut coverage) should be enough for non-professional photo and video editing. The contrast is also high, to the point where the black looks truly black, even in a dark room. The IPS display panel technology provides 178 degree viewing angles, for a non-distorted image from any viewpoint.

The display’s anti-glare surface prevents annoying reflections in well-lit areas, especially those with overhead CCFL lighting. The only downside we noted about this display is its lack of Nvidia G-Sync support. You’ll have to get by with the traditional V-sync settings in games to smooth out your framerates.

The X5S has two speakers and a subwoofer. The speakers project out either side of the notebook from opposite ends of the palm rest. Combined with the subwoofer, this setup provides a better listening experience than most notebooks. The sound is full rather than tinny, with special thanks to the subwoofer for providing a low-end. There isn’t enough volume to entertain more than one or two people, but it suffices for playing most games by yourself. We noticed little distortion even at top volume.

keyboardKeyboard and Touchpad

The full-size keyboard on the AORUS X5S v5 provides a comfortable typing experience. The keyboard has two levels of white backlighting, toggled by pressing the Fn key plus spacebar. There’s no flex in the keyboard deck using normal typing pressure. The Chiclet-style keys have a soft feel with limited travel. The tactile feedback is adequate, if not particularly engaging. The layout is close to that of a standard desktop keyboard. We appreciated the fact AORUS used the entire width of the chassis to fit in a full-size number pad. This is a welcome surprise, as 15.6-inch notebooks usually have two-thirds size keys in the number pad. The only layout oddity is that the arrow key cluster is squished into the main keyboard area, instead of being divorced out. This makes for a one-third size number pad 0 key, and a smaller right Shift key. Gamers can use the included Gigabyte software to disable the Windows key.

There are five dedicated macro keys down the left side of the keyboard. Switch between the five profiles by pressing the G key, which changes color to indicate the profile. It’s possible to store up to 25 macros. The included software allows you to assign macros. Even non-gamers can use these, as you can set them to launch applications.

The ELAN touchpad is oversized. Its slick surface is easy to track across with one or more fingers. This touchpad has integrated buttons which allow you to press down on the surface to perform a click. We generally prefer a dedicated set of buttons, but this clickpad worked quite well. The clicks took the right amount of pressure; not too much to make it a chore, but not too little where it would be easy to accidentally press. The pressure required to click is uniform from the top to the bottom of the pad, too. As an additional positive note, we liked that the clicks were quiet.

Performance

The AORUS X5S v5 with the MultiCam finish is offered in only one configuration, but it’s a good one. Intel’s Core i7-6700HQ (“Skylake”) quad-core processor is the heart of the machine. This processor has four cores and can process eight threads simultaneously. With a base clock of 2.6GHz, and a Turbo Boost dynamic clock up to 3.5GHz, it’s one of the fastest mobile processors available. It’s coupled to 32GB of DDR4-2133 RAM in a 4x 8GB module configuration. This is overkill for gaming, as 16GB is usually enough, but don’t think we’re complaining.

For storage, the X5S’s 512GB Samsung SSD is a bleeding edge PCI-express model supporting the new NVMe protocol. It had over a 1.5GB/s read and write performance in our testing, about ten times greater than a typical hard drive. Speaking of which, SSDs are still limited in storage, so AORUS also includes a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive for traditional storage. The operating system and programs were installed on the SSD, and you can use the hard drive for static data like documents and pictures. It’s the best of both worlds. As noted earlier, the X5S has three M.2 slots, so you could install two more SSDs if desired.

Naturally, it’s the graphics performance that makes the headlines when it comes to gaming. The X5S has Nvidia’s flagship GTX 980M with 8GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory. Aside from Nvidia’s mobile desktop GTX 980 (non-M), which is found in but a few extremely large and expensive notebooks, this is the fastest single card currently available. In our testing, the X5S had no trouble producing smooth framerates in today’s demanding games. We achieved 47 FPS using the benchmarking tool in Rise of the Tomb Raider, with every setting maxed out minus anti-aliasing at a 1,920 by 1,080 resolution.

front 2Our AORUS X5S v5 review unit has the following technical specifications:

  • 15.6-inch 4K IPS display (3840×2160 resolution, anti-glare surface, non-touch)
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core processor (2.6GHz, up to 3.5GHz Turbo Boost, 6MB cache, 45W TDP)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M w/ 8GB GDDR5 dedicated memory
  • 32GB DDR4-2133 dual-channel RAM (4x 8GB; 64GB max. supported – 4x 16GB)
  • 512GB M.2 SSD (NVMe Samsung MZVPV512)
  • 1TB 7200RPM hard drive (HGST HTS721010A9E630)
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 wireless network adapter
  • Internal Bluetooth 4.1
  • Built-in 720p webcam
  • Li-polymer 73.26Wh battery
  • Dimensions: 15.4 x 8.66 x 0.90 inches
  • Weight: 5.51 pounds
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • Price: $2,599

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
aoruswprimechart

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
aoruspc8homechart

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
aoruspc8workchart

3DMark 11 measures the overall gaming performance of the GPU (higher scores mean better performance):
aorus3d11chart

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer DirectX 11 benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
aorus3dfirestrikchart

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test (SSD on left, HDD on right):
CDM_SamsungSSDCDM_HitachiHDD

Heat and Noise

Cooling a powerful Intel Core i7 quad-core processor and Nvidia’s GTX 980M graphics card is challenging enough. AORUS upped that challenge by putting them inside a 15.6-inch chassis that’s just 0.90 inches thin. The positive news is that the AORUS X5S’s cooling solution keeps the components within an acceptable temperature range. Using Gigabyte’s Command Control utility, we observed the GPU not exceeding 86 degrees C, and the CPU 70 degrees while gaming.

The less optimistic news is that the AORUS X5S v5 runs hot while gaming. And by hot, we mean blistering. The bottom left of the chassis, as well as the top piece above the keyboard were too hot to touch after an extended gaming session. It looks like the aluminum chassis is being utilized to dissipate some of the heat. This makes sense to engineers, but not to consumers.

botFurther down the less optimistic path is the fan noise. The AORUS X5S’s twin fans are located on either side of the rear of the chassis. They push air out the exotic-looking back and side vents. The fan on the left is primarily responsible for cooling the GTX 980M. Even while the notebook was idling, the fans were always running with a slight whine that was audible from several feet away. While gaming, the fans at top RPM were enough to make us put our headphones on to hear the quieter sounds in games. They have a highly distinct whine. It’d be a bad idea to play games with this notebook in an environment where quietness is valued, such as a library. At least the fans maintained predictable RPM changes; the RPMs wouldn’t suddenly jump to full speed. Rather, there was always a gradual RPM ramp-up or ramp-down.

Heat was a non-issue while running non-strenuous tasks like web browsing. The X5S’s aluminum surfaces were downright cool to the touch. Both the GPU and CPU idled around 30 degrees. Nonetheless, the chassis surface temperatures and general level of fan noise while playing games are our two primary complaints about the AORUS X5S.

Power Adapter

The AORUS X5S’s 200W (19.5V x 10.3A) power adapter is slimmer than expected, given the power rating. It measures 6.75 x 3.75 x 1.00 inches. The whole setup, including the brick and cables, weighs only 1.82 pounds. The wall adapter has a three-prong connector. The brick gets warm under load and while charging the battery, as expected.

Battery Life

We use our Powermark benchmark to measure notebook battery life. This test is more demanding than the typical battery rundown tests, running a combination of automated web browsing, office productivity, video playback, and gaming workloads. We run the test at approximately 50 percent screen brightness with wireless disabled. The numbers from this test are a worst case scenario; they’re the lowest you should expect while running unplugged.

PowerMark “Balanced” battery life test results listed in minutes (higher scores mean better life):
aoruspowerchart

The AORUS X5S v5 review unit lasted for two hours, 41 minutes, which is about what we expect from a gaming notebook. You can add about 20 percent to get a real-world estimation of battery life under less demanding situations, which would put it close to four hours. The power-hungry 4K display is a leading reason why the time isn’t longer. To the AORUS’s credit, the X5S still outpaces some premium non-gaming notebooks with 4K displays like the Dell XPS 15 (2016).

Conclusion

Spending $2,599 on a gaming notebook probably isn’t the easiest decision you’ll make, even if it has a water transferred MultiCam camouflage finish. That’s not to say the AORUS X5S isn’t a good value; it’s one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks on the market with an Nvidia GTX 980M graphics card. Its 0.90-inch thin, 5.51 pound chassis is strong and well designed, and we admired its aggressive yet classy lines.

It’s hard to argue with the X5S’s excellent gaming performance numbers, its top notch 4K display quality, and its comfortable backlit keyboard and oversize touchpad. Its battery life isn’t the greatest, but should get you through half a days’ work.

This notebook is marred by two glaring issues. The bottom of the chassis and parts of the top get too hot to the touch while gaming. It’s understandable to use the chassis as a heatsink, though we think this notebook takes it to the excess. Secondly, the fans are too loud at top RPM and have a highly distinct whine. Even though the X5S has a rather decent pair of speakers, we found ourselves reverting to headphones to hear quieter sounds in games. These issues are both sacrifices made to achieve such a thin and light design. You’ll have to decide whether the trade-offs are worthwhile.

Nevertheless, the AORUS X5S v5 left us with an overall positive impression. This is one of the more exclusive gaming notebooks on the market, made even more so with the MultiCam finish. With quieter fans and a cooler chassis, it’d be a true diamond in the rough.

frontPros:

  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
  • Vivid 4K display
  • Thin and light design
  • High quality MultiCam camouflage finish

Cons:

  • Chassis gets blistering hot while gaming
  • Very loud fans
  • Display lacks Nvidia G-Sync support
  • Pricey

 


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