It would be an understatement to say that gaming notebooks have enjoyed tremendous popularity over the last five to seven years. The numbers from all reputable sources and ODMs will indicate as much. Their orders for mobile parts have increased dramatically for these notebooks, despite the downturn in the general notebook shipment numbers.
It’s not surprising for this market, given that they’ve grown more powerful with each successive generation, with battery life and overall design seeing many improvements. Where previously these were business machines with vinyl or some kind of “gamer” livery applied to them, they have grown into a market segment unto themselves that continues to provide a viable option for gamers to whom desktops have little to no appeal.
Whatever your reason for wanting a gaming notebook, there are plenty of options on the market and the GIGABYTE P55K V4 is one of them. Unlike its competitors, this one doesn’t necessarily sell itself as a gaming notebook exclusively. In fact, it is only upon closer inspection of its orange highlights and curves that it reveals itself as a notebook that’s a little special.
For instance, build quality is a contentious issue for most gaming notebooks and it is usually in the little things such as keyboard flexing, and lifting of the notebook’s lower portion when opening the screen where the design shows flaws. This is where many notebooks fall short, instead using technical specifications as a way to impress. Fortunately for GIGABYTE, their engineers have taken a more deliberate approach which has paid dividends by making the P55K V4 one of the more appealing notebooks in this segment. It suffers none of the pitfalls of a cheaply-made notebook. It uses a lever mechanism that ensures the body of the notebook stays in place as you flip open the screen, and the keyboard is solid with no flexing, even when typing with undue force.
Often overlooked, the keyboard is at the heart of a notebook’s usability. The P55K has one of the best keyboards I’ve come across. It is backlit as you would expect, but not in such a way as to make it look like an earnest attempt at reliving the bright colours of Miami Vice-inspired ‘80s fashion. No, the P55K instead chooses to stick with a few levels of brightness for its white light. It’s subtle even at its brightest settings, but it works well because it never competes with the display for your attention. It’s hardly noticeable in the day, but is perfect in low-light situations. Be it intentional on GIGABYTE’s part or otherwise, this is the level of light that I find most comfortable and possibly where other vendors may stand to learn a thing or two.
I found the display to be fairly comfortable. It isn’t an IPS or VA panel, but it does produce great colours with consistency even at the most extreme angles. There’s little to no colour shifting whatsoever. It could do with slightly better colour saturation, but this can be compensated for using software. Precision is admirable courtesy of the Full HD 15.6” panel which delivers a solid 141.21 PPI. A sensible pixel density given that it’s driven by a GTX 965M GPU with only 2GB of GDDR5 memory (80GB/s bandwidth).
With games such as GTA V, the 2GB could prove to be limiting, but for most applications it is more than enough and the GTX 965M has the punch to drive the 2MP display. In game testing, the P55K V4 delivered an impressive 58fps in 2013’s Tomb Raider at the highest possible detail settings barring anti-aliasing. The minimum frame rate was a healthy 48fps which is more than enough for butter-smooth gameplay. In future we will be adding more game benchmarks to the notebook reviews, but as it stands this is one of the better performing notebooks I’ve come across.
PCMark 8’s Creative test produced an impressive 5,797 score courtesy of the combination of the 5700HQ CPU and GTX 965M GPU. To give you some context to this score, the previously reviewed GIGABYTE P35X with the GTX 980M delivered a score of 5,224 in the same test suite. So the overall system performance from the P55K V4 is actually better even though the 3DMark Fire Strike score as you can imagine is significantly lower.
Battery life is always going to be important for this kind of notebook as it isn’t sold exclusively as a gaming unit. It is of the utmost importance that it has some longevity when you’re on the go. With that in mind, the P55K delivered impressive battery life, where under the full load of PCMark 8’s looped Creative Suite it managed a healthy two hours and 48 minutes – a little longer than what the P35K could deliver, although the P35K has a more powerful GPU and many other aspects which would result in higher power draw. Nevertheless, it does speak to the efficiency of the P55K V4 and its suitability as both a gaming notebook and mobile work machine.
The single gripe I have with an otherwise sublime notebook is the trackpad buttons. They form part of the sensitive track area with no distinctive texture that separates the two. However, the issue here is that where the two buttons are located, the trackpad has no sensors. That is, the mouse cursor will not move at all at the bottom of the trackpad and there’s no way you can know that you’ve reached this non-sensitive area via tactile feedback. All that happens is that as you move the mouse cursor, it suddenly stops responding. It is an oversight that can be easily remedied by having a different texture where the buttons are located, but for some reason this was missed during design.
Other than that, this is a great notebook and one that I’d not hesitate to recommend. For the price it really does offer great value and performance. Moreover, you’ll get a wonderful high-quality backpack and gaming mouse with it. There aren’t many (if any) alternatives to the P55K V4 at this price, so this one is a definite winner.