In September we reviewed the AORUS X7 Pro-SYNC, which was outfitted with some of the best hardware available including an SLI graphics solution and 32GB of high-speed DDR3 memory.
Now we’re looking at the X5: the less-powerful version of the two but, oddly enough, only R5,000 cheaper than its beefier sibling. In any other context R5,000 is a lot of money, but remember that we’re talking about high-end notebooks which normally retail for over R30,000. As such, these price differences – although seemingly large – are in reality not a reflection of the difference between the two notebooks.
First, let’s begin with the build quality, aesthetics, and overall product impressions. As always with AORUS you’re never left feeling you’ve bought a budget product. While there are competing notebooks with similar specs (and perhaps even better in some instances) they tend to make compromises in build quality, and one is sometimes unconvinced by the build materials. This isn’t the case with the X5, which feels solid with wonderfully crafted plastics and a design that is familiar, but just as refreshing as when we first saw it. Of course, compromises have to be made when dealing with such a low-profile notebook, especially one with SLI graphics; but for the most part, AORUS has pulled it off. The engineers have managed to keep the GPUs and the CPUs at a healthy temperature within the 2.3cm high frame.
I wouldn’t call the X5 minimalist, but it isn’t as obnoxious as some notebooks these days; especially since it does not make use of an RGB colour system for the keyboard, which, while appealing to certain age groups, does not lend itself well to anyone who is likely to have the money for such a machine. As such, we appreciate the simple backlight system that will allow you to not only work and game in the dark, but do so without the ‘80s neon-coloured assault that happens all too often. [But… hot pink? – Ed] Aesthetically the X5 is great, offering a near-perfect balance in all respects. It follows the X7, and as such whatever you felt about that notebook is likely to be the same here.
What you’re even more interested in, we suspect, is its internals and how it all comes together. This is where the X5 simultaneously shines and misses the mark. It’s not a complaint we can level at AORUS exclusively, as competitors are also suffering from the exact same inability to match displays and the GPUs that power them. In this case, we have a beautiful 15.6” IPS display that packs an incredible 4.6 million pixels for a 211.82 pixels-per-inch density. It’s an IPS display with vivid and crisp colour reproduction at virtually any angle. That PPI value means you receive better image clarity than you would at 4K resolution on a 19” LCD monitor. Naturally, for the most part this is complete overkill, and given the screen dimensions a full 1080p display would have sufficed. Moreover, despite the valiant efforts of the GTX 965M SLI combo, it is not always capable of powering that number of pixels at a meaningful quality above 50fps. As such you’ll find you play most games at 1920×1080 or so, where the lack of 1:1 pixel mapping produces some visual artefacts. Fortunately these can be alleviated by sitting a little further away, using anti-aliasing, or using an external display running a relevant resolution (which in some ways defeats the purpose).
As if AORUS was aware of the troubles which may come to face the GPU/display combination, this notebook is G-SYNC compliant. So as it happens you can actually play at the native resolution provided you always keep G-SYNC enabled. In doing so, performance is greatly improved, or rather tearing and stutter is eliminated almost entirely. When that is said and done though, remember that because of the screen size, it will be near impossible to resolve any additional detail over and above what you would at 1080p on another 15.6” screen. So you end up with a combination of three component technologies that are compensating for a conundrum that should not have existed in the first place (a single GTX 980M or overclocked 970M would do).
That is the only questionable part of the entire notebook. As stated earlier: it is near identical to the X7 in many ways. The Broadwell 5700HQ CPU is not in any practical sense slower than the 5850HQ, and while this notebook offers half the DRAM capacity, it is of the same frequency and timings. As far as memory transactions and operations are concerned, there is no difference in performance. The same applies to the primary storage solution, which remains one of the quickest RAID setups money can buy; it is blisteringly fast and makes for one of the quickest notebooks you’re likely to ever experience, especially since it’s driven by Windows 10.
As this is a notebook, what you will be concerned with as much as performance is battery life. Fortunately this offers a longer life than the X7. It isn’t much more but it does make a difference as the X7 could hardly reach over an hour at near full load. This time you will receive around an hour and thirty-six minutes of use before you need to find a wall plug. With the many technologies at your disposal, one may use G-SYNC in conjunction with single-GPU mode and lower resolutions to extend battery life without any adverse impact on performance. In such a configuration, you may very well add an additional half hour to your play time.
There is plenty more to this notebook but as stated earlier, it’s similar to its stablemates and offers what can only be said to be a premium gaming notebook. As an added extra, AORUS includes a stylish notebook bag which by itself would be worth well over R1,000. It’s a quality bag much like the notebook and is easily capable of storing your short gaming keyboard and gaming mouse.
For all the things that may not be right with the X5, it does hit the mark more times than not in just about every area. It is only in pricing where it may be just too close to the X7, but offering less in terms of memory and GPU power it will be up to you to decide if the additional R5,000 makes the X7 a better buy. Whichever notebook you decide on you’ll not be disappointed in any way. If the Broadwell solutions are this good, we can only imagine how much better the Skylake-based versions will be. The AORUS X5 is definitely worth your consideration.