Intel's latest Haswell processor generation has arrived with perhaps a little less fanfare than some of its predecessors. It does offer some performance benefits over the Ivy Bridge range, but not quite the leap of previous generations. My last look at Haswell was in the shape of Toshiba's Satellite S50t-A-118, which was let down by poor battery life for a 15in notebook. Now we have another taste of Haswell, this time in Gigabyte's P27K, which in theory should be even worse in the battery department, with its 17in screen and entertainment orientation.
Our P27K was supplied with Intel's Core i7-4700MQ, the same as the Toshiba, which runs at a nominal 2.4GHz, but offers Turbo Boost that allows a single core to reach 3.4GHz, or multiple cores to reach 3.2GHz, although only with a power consumption increase from 47W to 55W. There is also HyperThreading on hand, giving this quad-core processor eight virtual cores. A Core i5-4200M version is also available as a cheaper option. The processor is backed by 16GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM, although there are actually three DIMM slots, and with a Core i7 installed, which supports triple-channel memory, you can use all of them for a maximum of 24GB. With a Core i5, 16GB is already the maximum.
The processor also supplies Intel's updated HD 4600 graphics, which is an improvement over the already decent HD 4000 graphics of the previous Ivy Bridge generation, although not as much of a step on as the HD 5000 graphics available with some Haswell CPUs. However, whilst the integrated Intel graphics will be called upon when only modest 3D acceleration is required, when it comes to more intensive 3D needs Nvidia's Optimus technology will switch to the P27K's discrete GeForce GTX 765M chipset instead, which comes with its own dedicated 2GB of GDDR5 memory. This is a pretty powerful 3D accelerator, sporting a hefty 768 CUDA cores, so should provide desktop levels of performance.
The storage provision is decidedly high-end. There's a 128GB LiteOn LMT-128M6M solid-state disk for the operating system and main applications, which provides fast load times and reduced power consumption. For greater storage needs, a 1TB Toshiba MQ01ABD100 5,400rpm hard disk is also included, which isn't the quickest in its class but will provide plenty of capacity. There are two optical drive options for the P27K – a Blu-ray DVD combo drive and a Super-Multi DVD rewriter. Our sample came with the latter, so it wasn’t able to act as a portable Blu-ray player.
With all these high-end components, the P27K is unsurprisingly a pretty large notebook. However, it's not unbearably huge, weighing 3.2kg, although the 48.8mm girth at its thickest point will be a bit much for many laptop bags. The styling isn't as adventurous as most notebooks aimed at entertainment usage, particularly in the all-black guise of our sample. In fact, it is decidedly understated for its genre, unless you choose the orange-lidded option.
The sizeable chassis is primarily there to accommodate the 17.3in screen, which sports the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution we expect from this display size. This is a bright, clear screen with good viewing angles. It will be great for enjoying multimedia content either on your own or with a group. The speakers can provide enough undistorted volume to aid the group experience, although they still don't have the bass response of the best desktop replacements, such as HP's Envy TouchSmart 15-j004ea.
The keyboard has a nicely tactile action, making it quite pleasant to type on. The width of the chassis means there is room for a numerical keypad on the right, and there are extra keys on the left for turning off the 2-megapixel webcam, muting the audio and enabling aeroplane mode. However, the typing experience is slightly marred by the positioning of the trackpad. It's not quite central, but it is some way to the right of the spacebar. So whilst it is accurate, with responsive discrete buttons, it's quite easy to brush it accidentally with your hand when typing.
The P27K is pretty well endowed with ports. On the left, behind the optical drive, can be found separate minijacks for headphones, microphone, and S/PDIF digital audio output. There is also a solitary USB 2.0 port. The right-hand side is home to the multi-format SD card reader, which also supports MemoryStick, behind which are three USB 3.0 ports, one of which is a combo eSATA port. Beyond this is an HDMI port and Gigabit LAN. On the rear, next to the power jack, a VGA port is available for legacy analogue video connections.
The P27K offers well above average 2D performance, although it isn't quite up there with most high-end notebooks. The result of 4.19 in the rendering portion of Maxon Cinebench R11.5 is well ahead of the fastest Ultrabooks, but can't match the most powerful desktop replacements, such as the HP Envy TouchSmart 15-j004ea, and it’s also mysteriously behind Toshiba's S50t-A-118, which uses an identical processor.
The Cinebench OpenGL result of 52.43 is pretty potent, however, and we have only seen better from the top mobile workstations and gaming laptops. The Futuremark 3DMark11 score of 3,733 is also phenomenal, only beaten by Scan's high-end MGW-20 workstation and Alienware's monster M18x.
Surprisingly, the P27K fared much better in our strenuous battery test than Toshiba's Satellite S50t-A-118. It lasted 144 minutes with its processor and graphics at full pelt, with the screen at half brightness. If you were playing 3D games the whole time, you would only get a couple of hours of usage away from the power socket. But for everyday applications and Internet usage, you can expect four or five hours of battery life, which is pretty decent for a notebook this size, with this much power available. So the P27K is not just for desk-bound entertainment – you could consider using it for work on the move too.
The Gigabyte P27K is a pleasant surprise, with greater flexibility than we usually expect from the 17in form factor. The 3D acceleration is very potent, and the screen vibrant and detailed. But whilst its size and weight won't make you want to carry the P27K around with you on a regular basis, if you do, you will be able to perform everyday tasks for some hours before the battery packs in. With a reasonable sub-£1,200 price, this is an affordable, powerful entertainment notebook with a few extra tricks up its sleeve.
Manufacturer and Model
2.4GHz Intel Core i7 4700MQ
16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Nvidia GeForce GT 765M and Intel HD 4600
128GB LiteOn LMT-128M6M SSD and 1TB Toshiba MQ01ABD100 5,400rpm hard disk
Super Multi DVD Rewriter
17.3in LED backlit TFT with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
2 x USB 3.0, eSATA/USB 3.0 combo, USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, headphone, microphone, S/PDIF out, SD card reader
Width x Depth x Height
413 x 277.5 x 48.8mm
2 years global warranty