Gigabyte P56XT – Review
The £1,850 Gigabyte P56XT is a powerful gaming laptop that manages to stand out from rivals – but not with outlandish features or silly design. Instead, this notebook makes an impact because it’s far more suble than many of its rivals.
The P56XT is covered in matte black metal, and the lid is only decorated with a smart Gigabyte logo. The main unit has narrow lines of orange down each of its sides, and the same colour is used on the power button and the hinges – and that’s it.
There aren’t any unnecessary RGB LEDs, or air vents that look like they’re borrowed from stealth bombers or alien spaceships. It’s a similar design decision that underpinned the Medion Erazer X7849, which costs £1,749 and offers similarly subtle aesthetics inside a 15.6in frame.
The Gigabyte’s smart design makes this laptop look the part at work and at play, and it’s bolstered by solid build quality. The area around the keyboard and trackpad is solid, and the underside is similarly strong.
The screen moves back smoothly on its hinges, and our only build quality concern is the screen, which flexes a little when its rear panel is pressed. That’s the norm for gaming notebooks, but it does mean that we’d put the P56XT in a sleeve when out of the house.
The Gigabyte’s 31mm frame helps the build quality, but it does make this machine a little chunkier than most other 15.6in gaming notebooks. The Medion, for instance, is just 24mm thick.
The P56XT’s 2.6kg weight is fine, though – almost a kilo lighter than the Medion machine.
The slightly chunky frame isn’t a big problem for a machine that’s mostly designed to stick to desks at home and at LAN events, and the added weight does mean extra versatility. It’s got USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt ports, a card reader, and a DVD writer – an increasingly rare addition on gaming laptops these days.
The entire base panel pulls away to reveal the memory slots and storage, and there’s a spare M.2 connector. The cooling gear is also accessible, although it’s a little small considering the GTX 1070 GPU and Core i7 processor.
As usual, Gigabyte has used a Scrabble-tile keyboard, and the P56XT’s larger dimensions mean there’s space for a number-pad, full-size Return and space keys and large cursor buttons.
Each key has a dedicated RGB LED that can be customised with different colours and patterns in Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion app, and this software can also be used to save profiles for different games and record macros.
Scrabble tile keyboards are usually good for typing but only mediocre for gaming, and the Gigabyte adheres to these conventions. The individual keys have more weight than most scrabble-tile buttons, which is good, but they still don’t have as much travel as a traditional keyboard. The extra weight also makes these buttons a little bit slower than those on rivals, which isn’t conducive to gaming.
Medion’s machine had a scrabble-tile design that was lighter and more wobbly, so the Gigabyte is certainly the better option – even if it’s still not brilliant for gaming.
The trackpad has similar, minor issues. The pad itself is fine, but the two buttons push down a little too far, which means they can’t compete with the shallow, fast clicks of proper gaming mice.
The GTX 1070 seems to be appearing in almost every gaming laptop at the moment, but that’s no surprise. It’s powerful enough to run any game at 1080p without breaking a sweat, and it doesn’t have the overwhelming thermal output of the GTX 1080, so it won’t need quite as much hardware to keep cool.
It’s paired with the Core i7-7700HQ, which is just as familiar inside high-end gaming machines. It’s a quad-core chip with Hyper-Threading, and its stock speed of 2.8GHz dynamically boosts to 3.8GHz.
There’s a 256GB SSD, a 1TB hard disk and 16GB of 2,400MHz memory. Those latter parts are all good, but none of them push the envelope. Connectivity is normal, too: dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Gigabit Ethernet are both included.
Medion’s machine offers many of the same components as the Gigabyte. It’s also got the GTX 1070 graphics card and a 256GB SSD, and its processor is the equivalent high-end chip from last year’s Core i7 range, so there won’t be much difference when it comes to performance.
CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Memory: 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
Screen size: 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD
Hard disk: 256GB LiteOn CX2 SSD, 1TB hard disk
Ports: 3 x USB 3, 1 x Mini-Displayport, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x Thunderbolt, 1 x D-SUB, 2 x audio, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x SDXC
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 383 x 270 x 31mm
Extras: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi
Warranty: 2yr RTB
There were no surprises from the fast, reliable GTX 1070. Its 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of 7,353 is on the same level as most other machines with the same GPU, including the Medion.
There isn’t much to choose between the two in games benchmarks, either, with both machines easily handling 1080p playback.
The Gigabyte’s weakest average was a score of 88fps in Fallout 4, and its best result came with 128fps in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The Gigabyte’s minimum framerates were great, too, with results of 55fps or better in every game.
Those results mean that this laptop keeps up with the Medion and will play any current title on its 1080p screen, but that’s not all. There’s enough power here to output to VR headsets or even a 1440p panel.
We don’t have any qualms about the processor. Its Cinebench result of 741cb is a little faster than the Medion, which used a last-generation Core i7-6700HQ chip. In the Geekbench tests the Gigabyte returned a multi-tasking result of 13,757, which is one of the best we’ve seen from the Core i7-7700HQ.
The results amply demonstrate that the Core i7 processor has enough power to avoid games bottlenecks, and it’s also got the grunt for general-purpose computing and more demanding productivity tools. It’s a versatile processor, and its popularity is well-deserved.
The SSD is solid, too, thanks to read and write speeds of 2,377MB/s and 782MB/s. The former is the star figure, but both are better than the Medion’s efforts – no surprise, because the P56XT’s NVMe drive will always beat the SATA hardware inside the Erazer laptop.
The P56XT is a fast and consistent performer, but its thermal results aren’t as impressive. By default the Gigabyte is tuned to its Gaming Mode, which restricts its fan speeds to less than their maximum pace – so the CPU and GPU peak temperatures reach 97°C and 90°C.
The P56XT wasn’t loud, but those figures are too hot, and the base and the area above the keyboard became noticeably warm during gameplay. A full-system stress-test saw the temperatures remain at those figures, but the outside got hotter and the CPU was reigned in to around 2GHz.
We increased the maximum fan speed to 90% to bring the CPU and GPU temperatures down to 86°C and 76°C, which are both better. The exterior remained warm, though, and the laptop was just as loud as many other gaming notebooks. With the fan speed improved the CPU ran at around 3.2GHz, but that’s still not its top speed.
It’s possible to further fine-tune the fan speeds and temperatures, but the P56XT never excels in this department: when it’s running quietly it’s too hot on the inside and out, and the only way to drop the temperatures is by increasing the noise output.
Medion’s machine was consistently better in this regard, with cooler CPU and GPU peak temperatures and modest fan noise.
The 91Wh battery delivered no shocks with a result of three hours and 12 minutes in an application benchmark. That’s only four minutes more than the Medion, and both machines lasted for about an hour in a gaming test.
Screen and Speakers
The Full HD resolution is mediocre when you consider the GTX 1070 inside, and there’s no sign of syncing hardware from AMD or Nvidia or even an increased refresh rate on this panel.
It’s a bog-standard specification, and it was paired with middling benchmark results. Its brightness level of 290cd/m2 is ample for brightly-lit rooms, and the black level of 0.33cd/m2 is fine too – good enough to produce reasonably inky black levels.
The contrast ratio of 887:1 is good enough for gaming and high enough to serve up solid colour variation, but it’s unable to match the best gaming notebooks – those head past 1,000:1 in the same test.
The P56XT’s Delta E of 0.73 is superb, but the rest of the Gigabyte’s colour performance is more ordinary. Its colour temperature of 8,264K is too cool and robs colours of a little vivacity, and the other colour modes included didn’t do enough to change that result. The Gigabyte’s screen also only displayed a middling 81.8% of the sRGB gamut.
The middling contrast and colour levels are absolutely fine for gaming, and this screen’s issues won’t become apparent in the middle of a gaming session or a movie. Look elsewhere if you really do prize colour accuracy, though, or if you need a laptop for colour-sensitive work as well as after-hours gaming.
The speakers offer good high-end clarity, but the bass and mid-range sounds are a little weak and often sound like they’re blended together. Again, the hardware here is fine for gaming, but it doesn’t excel.
The latest Gigabyte machine has good benchmark pace and its newer processor and faster SSD help it sneak ahead of the Medion when it comes to real-world performance, but that’s the only area where this machine takes a convincing lead.
Its screen is reasonable rather than excellent, for example, and it’s never brilliant in the ergonomic department. It has solid build quality, sure, but its thermal performance and battery life are underwhelming.
In many ways, then, it’s a typical 15.6in gaming laptop, with plenty of power but a lack of finesse in other departments. The Gigabyte is a solid option if you need a powerful machine that’ll play any top-level game for the next few years, but it’s not one of the best we’ve seen.