Gigabyte P34G review

Pros

  • Powerful 3D graphics
  • Fast performer all-round
  • Great portability
  • Plenty of storage
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Merely average battery life

Entertainment-oriented laptops are generally found in the desktop replacement category. However, Gigabyte has attempted to buck the trend here, and with some success. The Gigabyte U2442T shoehorned discreet graphics into an Ultrabook form factor, without any noticeable compromise on size. Whilst the P34G can't claim to be quite that dinky, it's not far off, and potentially a whole lot more powerful.

The P34G keeps its chassis relatively small by opting for a 14in display. However, this is not much of a drawback, as the LED-backlit screen has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, whereas lots of 14in Ultrabooks will make do with just 1,366 x 768. It's a pretty nice screen, too, with good brightness, vibrant colour, a matte finish and excellent viewing angles in every direction. We find small text a little dinky on a display this size with such a high resolution, but the level of clarity is also high. The audio quality from the stereo speakers is above average, too, with a decent level of volume available, although it’s still lacking in bass.

The overall dimensions are very commendable. Weighing in at 1.76kg, or 90g less if you forego the second storage drive, the P34G isn't quite up there with true Ultrabooks. But it's still only 21mm thick, and its dimensions in other directions are as expected for a 14in notebook. The silver and dark grey two-tone finish is too understated for the notebook's features. It's not unattractive, but it doesn’t really match up with the powerful components inside this machine.

Despite its compact lines, the P34G has almost the same internal specification as its larger 17in P27K sibling. The CPU is the Intel Core i7 4700HQ rather than 4700MQ, but the differences between the two are minimal. Both are quad-core 2.4GHz processors from Intel's latest fourth generation (Haswell), running with a nominal 47W thermal design power, a 55W Turbo Boost mode where all four cores can run at 3.2GHz, and a top 3.4GHz Turbo Boost mode for a single core. The only notable difference is that the integrated graphics can run at 50MHz faster in the HQ version. Hyper-Threading is also available in both cases, turning the four physical cores into eight virtual ones for improved performance with parallel tasks.

The Intel Core i7 is backed by a very healthy 16GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM, which is the maximum for this system. But if you do purchase the P34G with a lesser quantity, a removable cover on the bottom provides access to the twin DIMM slots, so you can upgrade in the future if you so desire.

The processor also includes the slightly improved Intel HD 4600 graphics, although this isn't as good as the HD 5000 and Iris Pro 5200 graphics found in some processors. You will only be using the integrated chipset in light usage scenarios anyway, as a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 760M graphics card is also provided, with its own dedicated 2GB of GDDR5 memory. This will fire up automatically when heavy 3D usage is detected, courtesy Nvidia's Optimus technology. The GTX 760M has the same 768 CUDA cores as the GTX 765M found in Gigabyte's P27K, but a slower clock speed – 657MHz versus 850MHGz. It should still offer potent 3D performance for a notebook of this size.

Another relatively surprising feature is the dual-drive storage configuration of our review sample, although it's also possible to specify the P34G with a single solid state disk or solid state hybrid hard disk. We were sent the middle option in the range – a 128GB LiteOn LMT-128M6M solid state disk for the operating system and software, plus a 750GB Toshiba MQ01ABD075 conventional 5,400rpm hard disk for general data.

The P34G is reasonably well endowed in terms of connectivity, too. The left-hand side is home to Gigabit LAN, VGA, two USB 3.0 ports and a combo microphone and headphone minijack. On the right, alongside the power plug, there’s a full-sized HDMI port and two USB 2.0 ports either side of the SD card reader.

The Chiclet-style LED backlit keyboard is comfortable to type on. The action is rather light, but definitive. The trackpad is reasonably sized, with a single button along the bottom. It's positioned slightly to the left, directly beneath the spacebar. This is a simple design feature that we always comment on, but it is so effective at preventing you from accidentally brushing the trackpad with your hand when typing, we don't understand why every manufacturer doesn't implement it.

Despite its portability, the P34G is one of the faster notebooks we have tested. Its score of 6.0 in Maxon Cinebench R11.5's rendering test puts it well into desktop replacement territory. Likewise, the OpenGL score of 57.03 is one of the highest we have seen. This is mirrored in the Futuremark 3DMark11 result of 3,862. This laptop should be able to handle most applications or entertainment software you throw at it, which is quite surprising for a 14in notebook this slim.

One area where the P34G isn't quite so outstanding, however, is battery life. Where the P27K boasts a 76.96Wh unit, the P34G only sports a 47.73Wh pack, and this showed in our intensive battery test. In Power Saver mode, it lasted 121 minutes, which isn't as bad as most desktop replacements, but it implies that you will only get a couple of hours of strenuous activity, such as gaming, when on the move. You can expect more than four hours of more everyday activity, though. There had to be compromises somewhere to fit this much processing power into a distinctly portable package, and unfortunately battery life is the main casualty.

Verdict

It's slightly ironic that the more portable Gigabyte P34G has a significantly inferior battery life to the larger and heavier P27K. So although it will be easier to move between locations, you are more likely to need the power adapter. As a result, this is more of an entertainment system that’s best on mains power, which you can use for everyday work on the move, than a notebook you can use for everything anywhere. This kind of dual life will definitely fit some buyers, though, making it an attractive package overall – particularly given its reasonable price tag.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Gigabyte P34G

Processor

2.4GHz Intel Core i7 4700HQ

RAM

16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

Nvidia GeForce GT 760M and Intel HD 4600

Hard disk

128GB LiteOn LMT-128M6M solid state disk and 750GB Toshiba MQ01ABD75 5,400rpm hard disk

Optical disc

None

Display

14in LED backlit TFT with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Interfaces

2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, combo headphone / microphone, SD card reader

Width x Depth x Height

340 x 239 x 21mm

Weight

1.76kg

Warranty

2 years global warranty