Gigabyte P57W Review

by Reads (13,235)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 6
      • Usability
      • 7
      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Features
      • 7
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.29
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Very good gaming performance
    • Gorgeous IPS display
    • Hot-swappable upgrade bay
    • Excellent battery life
    • Good cooling system
  • Cons

    • All plastic build
    • Display lacks Nvidia G-Sync support
    • Keyboard could use more feedback
    • Only two RAM slots

Gigabyte announced the P57W as part of its new gaming notebook lineup at CES 2016. This large 17.3-inch gaming notebook features an Intel “Skylake” Core i7 quad-core processor, and Nvidia GTX 970M graphics. It’s a potent combo for the latest games. Besides its performance, the main draw for this model is its thin-and-light design, measuring just 0.98 inches thin, and weighing only 6.4 pounds. The P57W has many admirable features, including a top-notch IPS display, good speakers, almost a full working days’ battery life, and a well-designed cooling system. Its keyboard could have better feedback, and we’d like to see some higher-end build materials, but it’s otherwise a solid choice if you’re in the market for a high-end gaming notebook.

p57 front 2Build and Design

Like previous generations of Gigabyte gaming notebooks, the P57W has an understated design. The only subtle hints that this isn’t a generic big box notebook are the orange accents on either side of the chassis and display hinges. The nearly all black exterior looks otherwise unassuming, both up close and from a distance. Gigabyte’s logo is printed in silver on the back of the lid, and just below the screen. The most attractive part about the P57W’s design is that it’s relatively svelte for a 17.3-inch notebook. It’s just 0.98 inches tall. Its 6.4 pound carry weight is also impressively light, as that’s not much more than budget notebooks this size with less than half the P57W’s performance.

The low weight is partially attributable to the all plastic build. We’d like to at least see some aluminum accents at this price point, or rubberized surfaces. As it stands, the P57W doesn’t exactly feel high end. Unlike competing gaming notebooks in this price range, like the ones offered by Alienware and Asus, the P57W has no customizable lighting system. If your goal is to buy a gaming notebook without looking like you bought a gaming notebook, the P57W is as close of a match as you’ll find. Just be sure to remove the numerous stickers from its palm rest to complete the disguise.

Despite the plastic build, the P57W’s overall strength is admirable. The chassis has minimal flex. We’ve seen less flex in business notebooks, but those typically have metal construction. The P57W’s lid has minimal flex as well. We weren’t able to get ripples to appear in the display panel by pressing in from behind, a good indicator that there’s enough protection. The fit and finish is good, with minimal gaps between parts. There are no sharp edges or otherwise on the chassis.

To put it lightly, we’d describe the Gigabyte as prioritizing function over form. It has the performance and general feature set to match competitors, but without any of the flare.

p57 frontp57 bot

Upgrading the P57W requires removing the entire bottom cover of the chassis. All 16 screws must be removed before it comes loose. The upgradeable parts include two RAM slots, which were each occupied in our review unit by 8GB modules (16GB total); a single M.2. 2280 SSD slot, which was occupied by an Lite-On 256GB SSD; and a 2.5-inch bay, occupied by a 1TB 7200RPM Hitachi hard drive. Read into the next section for more on expanding the storage.

p57 trayInput and Output Ports

The P57W has all the ports we expect to see on a notebook this size. On the left is the lock slot, Ethernet, a pair of USB 3.0, an SD card reader, and separate microphone and headphone jacks. The remainder of the ports is on the right side. There’s a USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type C, HDMI 2.0, mini-DisplayPort, legacy VGA, and an AC power jack. Only the two fan exhausts occupy the back.

On the front, the P57W gets bonus points for including a hot-swap bay. It was populated with a DVD-RAM drive in our review unit, but Gigabyte also includes a storage drive adapter. You can put a 2.5-inch storage drive in this adapter, such as a secondary hard drive, for even more storage. This hot-swap functionality is typically only found in business notebooks. To remove the hot-swap bay, unlock it by sliding the latch on the underside of the chassis, and then gently pull it loose. It comes right out.

p57 ports leftp57 ports right

Screen and Speakers

We found the Gigabyte’s 17.3-inch display to be one of its most attractive features. It has a full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution, which is ideal for a gaming notebook. Although ultra-high resolution 3K and 4K displays are becoming more widespread, the P57W’s Nvidia GTX 970M isn’t powerful enough to play most games at a higher-than 1080p resolution. Even the top-end GTX 980M would struggle. You would have to reduce the resolution in games with such a display, which would result in a blurry picture. Another significant advantage to 1080p is that Windows scaling isn’t necessary to increase text size. Not all apps and programs support Windows scaling, so consider that before looking for a 3K or 4K display.

The P57W’s display has an anti-glare a.k.a. matte coating, which is helpful in situations where there is ambient or CCFL overhead lighting. It eliminates glare – no more looking at your own reflection. We noticed no sparkle in the display from having this coating, as we’ve seen with some anti-glare displays. The image quality is positively gorgeous. There’s plenty of color saturation and contrast for gaming, multimedia, and general usage. The viewing angles are 178 degrees, which means you don’t have to worry about a distorted picture if you look at the display from an off-angle. The brightness is outstanding, to the point where we used it at 70 or 80 percent indoors. You can adjust the white balance using the included Gigabyte Smart Manager software.

p57 screen frontp57 screen side

p57 screen forwardp57 screen back

The display unfortunately doesn’t support Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, which is available on the competing Asus G752. This technology is essentially an advanced version of v-sync, which helps reduce tearing as a result of high framerates in games.

There are two speaker grilles positioned under either side of the palm rest. The speakers project sound downward onto the surface in front of the notebook for a bit of extra amplification. The P57W needs to be sitting on a solid surface to produce the fullest sound. The sound created by these speakers is quite respectable for a notebook. There’s ample volume, a hint of bass, and little in the way of distortion, even at maximum volume. The only issue we noticed is, due to the speakers’ placement below the palm rest, placing your wrists on the keyboard to type can block some of the sound.

p57-keyboard-1Keyboard and Touchpad

The P57W’s full-size keyboard has two levels of white LED backlighting, which you can toggle by pressing Function and spacebar. The backlighting is visible even in a brightly lit room. The layout is mostly desktop-like, with the exception of the arrow key cluster being jammed into main keyboard area. It should be divorced out into its own cluster. The number pad zero and right shift are about half their usual size to accommodate this arrangement. With the exception of those two keys and the top Function row, all keys are otherwise full-size.

The keyboard’s overall typing experience is average. The key travel distance is too short, resulting in limited feedback; there’s not enough of an up-and-down movement. In addition, the key feel is too light. There is some keyboard flex, but it’s not noticeable unless you’re using above average pressure. The keys fortunately make minimal noise. All told, we had no issues typing for extended periods. It took a few hours, but we did get used to the limited feedback.

touchpadThe button-less clickpad is centered beneath the keyboard area, offset in the left side of the palm rest. It has an anti-glare surface, with plenty of grip. It’s the right size for the P57W’s 17.3-inch display. As it lacks physical buttons, press down anywhere to produce a click. The clicks could feel more precise; the amount of pressure required to produce a click is just right, however. There’s an audible click when pressed. Although unlikely loud enough to disturb anyone, we prefer clicks to be as quiet as possible.

Performance

The P57W isn’t the gaming heavyweight in Gigabyte’s lineup – for that, you’ll want to look at the P37W v5. The P57W is designed to strike a balance, yet still has the specs to qualify it as a high-end gaming notebook.

The centerpiece of this notebook is its Intel “Skylake” Core i7-6700HQ processor. It has four cores, with hyper-threading technology so it can process up to eight threads at once. The base clock is 2.6GHz, and it can automatically run at up to 3.5GHz courtesy of its Turbo Boost feature. We observed it running at 3-3.1GHz with all four cores at 100 percent load. It’s one of the fastest processors available in a notebook.

The Nvidia GTX 970M is Nvidia’s second-best mobile GPU. The P57W’s version has 3GB of memory, which is sufficient for today’s games. This is the ideal card for running games at a 1080p resolution with high details. Lower-end gaming notebooks tend to use the GTX 960M, which is still capable of 1080p gaming, but with lower detail settings.

Inside the chassis, you’ll find 16GB of total RAM in a 2x 8GB module configuration. It accepts up to 32GB maximum via two DIMM slots on the motherboard. This is a slight disappointment, as high-end gaming notebooks in this size typically have four slots.

p57 backInternally, the P57W has one 2.5-inch bay, and one M.2 2280 slot, both of which were occupied in our review unit’s configuration. Storage is split into a smaller 256GB M.2 SSD, where the operating system is installed, and a secondary 1TB 7200RPM Hitachi hard drive, configured for storage. With this kind of setup, you install programs on the SSD, and map documents, pictures, and other media to the hard drive. This is a best-of-both-worlds approach to storage. As noted earlier, you can expand the P57W’s storage further using the hot-swap bay. Using the included adapter, you can fit another 2.5-inch storage drive. By comparison, Gigabyte’s P37W v5 notebook has two M.2 2280 slots.

The M.2 SSD is a Lite-On variant with middling performance. It’s not an NVMe SSD as we’ve seen in some notebooks as of late. Those drives can boast over a 1GB/s transfer rate, whereas the P57W’s SSD is less than half of that. For general usage, there won’t be much of a difference, however. It’s far more responsive than a traditional hard drive.

Rounding out the components is Intel’s latest wireless card, the Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260, which supports the 802.11ac standard. Integrated Bluetooth is also standard.

All of the above will run you $1,699, which is fair and in line with competing models from Asus, Sager, MSI, and Alienware. Gigabyte offers a lower-spec version, the P57K, which has a GTX 965M graphics card. With all else the same as our review unit, it has an MSRP of $1,499.

It’s worth noting the P57W comes standard with a two year global warranty. Gaming notebooks from most makes are usually covered by just a one year warranty.

Our Gigabyte P57W review unit has the following specifications:

  • 17.3-inch display (1920×1080 resolution, anti-glare surface, IPS panel)
  • 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 970M w/ 3GB GDDR5 dedicated memory
  • 16GB DDR4-2133 (2x 8GB; 32GB max. supported – 2x 16GB)
  • 256GB SSD (LITEON L8T-256L9G)
  • 1TB 7200RPM hard drive (HGST HTS721010A9E630)
  • Hot-swappable optical drive bay with DVD burner (MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ8G2); 2.5-inch storage drive adapter is included
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 wireless card
  • Integrated Bluetooth
  • Integrated 720p webcam
  • Dimensions: 16.57 x 11.42 x 0.98 inches
  • Weight: 6.4 pounds
  • 2-year global limited warranty
  • Price as configured: $1,699

Benchmarks

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

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
pcm8homechart

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
pcm8workchart

3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3d11chart

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer benchmark measuring overall graphics card performance for visually demanding games (higher scores mean better performance):
3dfirestrikechart

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance tests:
CDM

Heat and Noise

p57 botThe P57W’s cooling is split into two parts. Rear-facing fan exhausts are located on either side of the notebook. Looking at the front of the notebook, the fan on the left is primarily for the processor, while the one on the right is for the graphics card. The fans were perpetually on in our testing, but remained at low speed during general usage. They rarely increase RPM unless you’re running intense applications, such as games. Nonetheless, they are audible at all speeds. Even at high speed, however, the fan noise isn’t particularly intrusive. It’s overall muted, with just a hint of whine.

The fan speed is partially controllable via the included Gigabyte Smart Manager software. There are four fan profiles: Normal, Quiet, Gaming, and Customize. We left it on “Normal” for all testing, with no ill effects.

The top of the chassis remains cool all over for most usage. The center of the keyboard, as well as the center of the chassis underside, can get lukewarm to warm after extended periods of gaming, but it’s certainly not what we’d call hot. You’ll want to always use the P57W on a hard surface while gaming, as the fan intakes on the underside can be blocked easily.

Power Adapter

The P57W’s power adapter is rated for 180W (19.5V x 9.23A). It weighs 1.7 pounds total, including the cables. End to end, including the length of the brick, it stretches 10 feet, one inch. It’s relatively lightweight for the amount of power it provides. The brick gets warm while charging the notebook, but that’s expected.

Battery Life

We use Futuremark’s Powermark benchmark software to provide a worst-case battery life test – as in, this is the minimum unplugged runtime you can expect from the notebook unless you’re playing a game at max detail settings. This test is a combination of automated web browsing, gaming, video playback, and multimedia workloads. We run the test with the display brightness at 50 percent.

Powermark “Balanced” battery life test results (listed in minutes – higher scores mean better battery life):
powermarkchart

The Gigabyte managed four hours, two minutes in this test, which is an excellent time for a gaming notebook. It beats the competing Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 17-inch by nearly 25 minutes, and the Alienware 15 by 69 minutes, which is quite a feat considering it has a smaller 15.6-inch display. In less demanding situations, you can expect to get perhaps another 20 percent on top of these numbers, especially if you reduce the screen brightness. That’s nearly five hours in the P57W’s terms.

Conclusion

The Gigabyte P57W checks all of the right boxes for us to give it a full recommendation. It’s a well-balanced platform for 1080p gaming with the details cranked up to high, courtesy of its powerful Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor and Nvidia GTX 970M graphics. Its cooling system does a good job keeping it running cool and quiet over extended gaming sessions.

There’s more to this notebook than just good performance. Its 17.3-inch IPS display has outstanding image quality, and a practical anti-glare surface. The P57W’s excellent showing in our battery life benchmark was a surprise. It lasted over four hours, where most gaming notebooks go for around three. It even has a very respectable set of speakers. Gigabyte gets a gold star for the P57W’s hot-swappable optical drive bay. An adapter is included, which allows you to install a 2.5-inch storage drive instead.

The P57W’s sub-one inch thin chassis is impressive, as is its 6.4 pound carry weight. Its all plastic build probably helped keep the weight in check. That’s actually one of our complaints; we’d like to see some use of aluminum, or at least rubberized surfaces at this price point. As it stands, the look and feel of this notebook is borderline generic. It furthermore lacks a customizable LED lighting system, as is offered on some competing gaming notebooks from Asus and Alienware. The keyboard is another area where the P57W could use improvement. There’s just not enough feel, though it does have a good layout, and is comfortable for long typing sessions. Last on our list of complains is the display’s lack of Nvidia G-Sync support, which is starting to become a more popular feature on gaming notebooks.

At $1,699, the P57W is fairly priced as reviewed, considering it has the Core i7-6700HQ processor, GTX 970M graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 1TB hard drive. It’s notably backed by a standard two-year global warranty, which is twice as long as what is standard on most notebooks.

Overall, the Gigabyte P57W’s pros far outweigh its cons. It’s a solid gaming notebook through and through, and we’re glad to send it off with a full recommendation.

p57 front 2Pros:

  • Very good gaming performance
  • Gorgeous IPS display
  • Hot-swappable upgrade bay
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good cooling system

Cons:

  • All plastic build
  • Display lacks Nvidia G-Sync support
  • Keyboard could use more feedback
  • Only two RAM slots



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