Processor: Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ, RAM: 16GB, Dimensions: 380x269x26.8mm, Weight: 2.6kg, Screen size: 15.6in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Graphics adaptor: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M, Total storage: 1TB HDD, 128GB SSD
Sitting just underneath the P57W v5 in Gigabyte’s flagship gaming laptop range, the P55W v5 is essentially a slightly smaller version of its premium big brother, packing everything we loved about the giant P57W into a slightly smaller 15.6in chassis. In fact, apart from the difference in size, you’d be hard-pushed to tell them apart, as they both share more or less exactly the same specs and a near identical chassis design.
Sadly, that means that the P55W also comes with many of the same shortcomings, most notably its rather lacklustre build quality. The plastic chassis isn’t exactly what you’d call sturdy, and I noticed a fair amount of flex when typing on the keyboard.
The upside, though, is that it’s relatively light as far gaming laptops go, weighing in at just 2.6kg. Compare that to the mammoth Asus ROG G752 that weighs 4.4kg, and a bit of flex starts to look slightly more forgivable when it’s so much more portable and easier to lug around in a backpack. I was also pleased to see that the screen hinges are relatively sturdy, as they barely made the screen bounce at all during the course of my testing.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard might have a bit of flex, then, but it is at least relatively tactile and its well-spaced, backlit keys make the most of the available space. It’s a shame there’s not a larger gap between the main keyboard and number pad, though, as it did feel a little bit cramped at times when typing for long periods.
It’s also lacking any kind of gaming-specific macro keys, too, which are becoming increasingly common on high-end gaming laptops. While some gamers might not care about such things, they are useful for MMO-type games that require god-like reflexes and intricate key presses. There’s plenty of space above the keyboard for a couple of macro keys, so it seems a shame that Gigabyte decided not to include any.
The touchpad, meanwhile, is fairly modest in size, but there’s still plenty of room for large swipes and general navigation. Touch gestures were responsive and easy to execute as well. That said, it does tend to pick up greasy fingerprints quite easily, which rather hinders its overall look and appeal.
Put those keyboard issues to one side, though, and the P55W v5 surpasses the P57W in almost every way when it comes to pure performance, beating out the majority of gaming laptops we’ve tested in the past few months with its quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM and Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics chip.
For instance, the P55W v5 laughed in the face of our Dirt Showdown test, producing an impressive 75fps on Ultra at a resolution of 1,920x1,080. With this kind of speed, you shouldn’t have any problem blasting through your old game collection at the prettiest settings they can run, and the P55W also coped surprisingly well with the graphically demanding Metro: Last Light Redux. On Ultra settings with SSAO turned off at 1,920x1,080, it managed a very respectable 55fps, which just edges in front of the P57W’s 51.8fps average.
That said, the fast approaching two-year-old 970M graphics chip is starting to show its age now and isn’t necessarily future-proofed if you want to run the very latest releases at the highest fidelity levels in the near future. It’s not yet confirmed if or when we’ll be seeing mobile versions of Nvidia’s new GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 cards making their way into gaming laptops, for instance, but if running games at the highest settings is important to you, then you may want to hold off for a bit before laying down £1,000 for the P55W.
Thankfully, the P55W certainly isn’t short on processing power, as its Core i7-6700HQ processor was more than capable of handling our demanding 4K CPU benchmarks. With an overall score of 118, it surpassed our reference Core i5-4670K desktop processor by 18 points, so it’s more than capable of handling intense multimedia programs and running several applications simultaneously. It also beat the P57W by an even greater margin, as this only scored a rather disappointing 93 despite sharing exactly the same processor.
The 6-cell 5,400mAh battery gave it's all during our continuous video playback test, too, lasting an impressive 5h 43m with the screen brightness set to our usual measurement of 170cd/m2. Compare that to Gigabyte's P57W, which only managed 3h 46m, and it’s the clear winner. Admittedly, its size means you probably won’t be taking it on long journeys very often, but it’s reassuring to know it’s got a bit of stamina should you need it.
Arguably, the laptop’s main Achilles heel is its rather dull and lifeless-looking 15.6in, 1,920x1,080 IPS display. With its matt finish and sRGB colour gamut coverage of just 82%, colours tended to look quite drab overall, so it’s arguably not the best screen for accurate, high-end colour work.
The matt finish is great at tackling those irritating reflections, though, and a contrast ratio of 936:1 provided a decent amount of detail in our subjective photo tests. However, its viewing angles weren’t quite as wide as I’d hoped, and the colour cast often shifted if I moved my head from side to side. It’s fine if you’re looking at the screen straight on, but I often had to tilt the screen or move the laptop if I happened to adjust my seating position, so those who like to fidget will likely find this screen a bit of a nuisance.
You shouldn’t have many problems with the brightness, though, as I measured a peak white level of 310.4cd/m2. This is more than enough for indoor use, but you’ll likely have to set it on max if you’re using it outside or gaming in a very brightly lit room.
Ports and speakers
You’re definitely not left wanting when it comes to ports, as the P55W v5 has three USB3 ports, one USB3.1 Type-C port, an SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, as well as a VGA and HDMI 2.0 port. The latter is particularly handy, as it not only lets you plug the laptop into a 4K monitor, but it also gives you the benefit of a full 60Hz refresh rate. There’s also 802.11ac wireless and a Gigabit Ethernet port should you want to connect for some multiplayer gaming.
The dual front-facing speakers, meanwhile, aren’t exactly outstanding, but they do a good enough job. The low-end could do with some fine-tuning, and there’s not a huge amount of volume, but overall the sound is relatively crisp and clear. Just don’t expect your music or gaming explosions to blow you away.
In the end, though, the Gigabyte P55W v5 does several things right. It’s a beast of a gaming laptop and its decent battery life makes it a lot more versatile than its nearest competitors. The GTX 970M might be on its last legs, but it’s still a great chip for games here and now.
The only real drawbacks are the P55W’s slightly disappointing display and mediocre build quality. However, when the P57W suffers from the same problems, the cheaper P55W is definitely the better buy overall. I’d also go for the P55W over Asus’ similarly-priced ROG GL552VW, as its GTX 970M chip puts it in much better stead for future games than the ROG’s GTX 960M.
The only other main contender is the Asus Vivobook Pro N552VW, which is a fraction cheaper at around £900 and has a stunning 4K display, but only a 960M chip like its ROG counterpart. As a result, the P55W v5 still wins out when it comes to overall gaming performance, but if you’d rather have something that doesn’t scream gaming laptop and still has plenty of power, then the N552VW is a much better all-rounder for your money.