Last year we reviewed the original AORUS X7 in NAG magazine and came away with mixed feelings. It was powerful alright, but there wasn’t much more to it than that. It was a slim notebook with great specs which unfortunately at the time wasn’t enough and certainly isn’t today. Now we’ve got our hands on an updated X7 machine from AORUS – who is a relatively new player in the gaming notebook market.
The X7 Pro-SYNC is a significantly better attempt at making a premium gaming notebook and despite what the minor aesthetic changes suggest, it’s an entirely different notebook. It’s grown from passable to desirable, and the X7 Pro-SYNC has in just one generation made great gains in usability and appeal. These improvements, as we have always stated, should be more than just a change in hardware, but in how it all comes together. A meaningful understanding of the target audience has to play a key role in how notebooks are designed and how they are spec’d. This time there is still some discord between what is presented and what is ultimately meaningful and appealing. However, it’s a marked improvement and our favourite AORUS notebook to date.
The X7 Pro-SYNC comes with an updated CPU. Gone is the Haswell-based processor and in its place we find the Broadwell Core i7 5850HQ CPU. This CPU can reach boost frequencies as high as 3.6GHz but still adheres to the magical 47W TDP like the previous generation processors. The most important change with this CPU is its use of the Iris Pro 6200 IGP, which unfortunately is disabled due to SLI and G-SYNC functionality which we will get to later.
The specification that AORUS delivered to us is the fully kitted model with not 16 but 32GB of high-speed G.Skill DDR3L memory at a respectable 1,866MHz. Complementing this are two mSATA 240GB drives in RAID 0. These work as primary storage while a single 7,200rpm 1TB drive serves as secondary mass storage. Not an unusual configuration, and one that works well enough to make the system quick and responsive. Applications open and close near instantly and of course system start-up is lightning fast. The configuration is solid and we’d not expect any less from a premium notebook. Where performance is concerned, AORUS has hit the nail on the head and delivered the fastest user experience that money can buy.
Its highlight feature is the inclusion of two GTX 970M GPUs in SLI. One would be sufficient for 1080p gaming, but two make the X7 more powerful than most high-end desktop gaming machines. With 6GB of graphics memory available, 4K resolutions shouldn’t be a problem when using an external display. Using the native display, however, will bind you to the crystal clear 17.3” 1080p IPS panel. It sports ~72% colour gamut coverage, wide viewing angles and consistent colour reproduction. Visually it is sharp and its colours vibrant without the typical glow you’d get from lower-quality IPS displays. It certainly looks good and helps sell an already impressive notebook.
With that said, we do find the choice of hardware puzzling concerning the two GTX 970M GPUs. This simple design decision has a knock-on effect in just about every performance aspect. It’s easily the most impressive tick-box feature, but sadly the most unwarranted feature of them all. Believe it or not, it’s the fundamental reason why the X7 Pro-SYNC didn’t score higher.
Using two GPUs means that the X7 Pro-SYNC loses out on NVIDIA Optimus technology, in addition to making it impossible to use the Iris Pro 6200 IGP. It’s unfortunate because this single aspect of the CPU is the whole point of the fifth-generation Core CPUs. More graphics power is always appreciated, but implemented this way it comes at the cost of an increased thermal output. This in turn results in an increased noise profile. This is particularly true when dealing with a notebook with such a slim profile. There’s no way to beat physics here as the only way to dissipate the heat is to rotate the fans as quickly as possible. This causes an incredible amount of noise and if you’re playing without headphones this noise will become an issue for gaming using the built-in speakers. If not for you, the fan noise will be a problem for those around you. Thus, as much as we appreciate the high gaming benchmark scores, it would have perhaps been wiser to have a single GTX 970M or perhaps a GTX 980M, especially since it only powers a 1080p display, which means the added GPU power largely goes to waste.
An interesting and definitely worthy addition is G-SYNC support. Playing with G-SYNC is something that one has to experience in person to appreciate, as it enables smooth gameplay with not a tear or any stuttering to be found. Even at the highest graphics settings, enabling G-SYNC makes settings that are extremely taxing on the GPU somewhat playable (excessive AA for example). G-SYNC support is certainly one of the most appealing capabilities of the notebook and one that we hope to see in future iterations as well.
Rounding off the X7 is a competent and comfortable backlit keyboard. It isn’t the best we’ve tested but certainly up there with the finest. The macro keys on the left help sell the gaming aspect and will certainly come in useful for MMO or MOBA players. AORUS has their bases covered here and courtesy of the thin profile, playing with the mouse on a lower surface isn’t a problem. This slim profile is perhaps the one to which all gaming notebooks should aspire, as it really does make the difference when gaming on the go.
Finally we get to battery life and as you’d expect, it’s average for such a high-powered notebook. You could opt to use any of available battery-saving features like limiting frame rates and disabling SLI to extend the battery life, and these will go a long way in improving power consumption and may even allow for an additional hour of gameplay depending on the title in question. Overall, the X7 Pro-SYNC is far better than the previous version and certainly one for those who demand the highest performance on the go. It may not be perfect, but it’s a vast improvement and well deserving of your time and attention.