Entertainment-oriented notebooks seem to have turned a bit of a corner. Ultimate machines like Alienware's M18x have traditionally been so large that calling them notebooks or even laptops is misleading, as they aren't systems you would want to carry around regularly. Whilst the Gigabyte P35W v2 can't compete with a monster like the M18x and its ilk for raw performance, it is at least still entirely portable, and decidedly high-end in many areas.
The P35W v2 is essentially an update of the P35K we reviewed in February, and it uses the same basic 15.6in chassis. So whilst the appearance is a somewhat sombre black, it's rather thin at just 20.9mm, and not too heavy at 2.26kg. So unlike 18in gaming laptops, or even reasonably svelte 17in models like Gigabyte's own Aorus X7, this is a system you can pop in a bag relatively easily, despite the powerful components inside.
Central to the specification is an Intel Core i7 4710HQ, which is one step above the P35K we reviewed. This is a quad-core CPU with a nominal 2.5GHz frequency at the standard 37W, but thanks to Turbo Boost all four cores can rise to 3.3GHz at 47W, whilst a single core can reach 3.5GHz. Hyper-Threading turns the four physical cores into eight virtual ones. Gigabyte has partnered the Core i7 with a sizeable 16GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM, which is the maximum the system supports, although you probably won't feel the need to upgrade this for the lifetime of the notebook.
Although the Core i7 processor does sport a reasonable integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 chipset, this only comes into play when the P35W v2 isn't performing strenuous 3D work, as this wouldn't cut it for serious gaming. When a heavier load is detected, Nvidia's Optimus technology will automatically switch to the discrete GeForce GTX 870M, which incorporates its own hefty 6GB supply of GDDR5 memory. The 870M is the second from the top of Nvidia's current mobile graphics range. It sports a hefty 1,344 CUDA cores, with a 941MHz clock plus a Boost option. So this is a potent chipset for gamers, and a significant upgrade compared to the P35K.
There are many storage options for the P35W v2, ranging from a single 128GB SSD or 500GB conventional hard disk, up to two 512GB solid state disks in RAID 0 configuration alongside a 1.5GB hard disk. Our sample came with the latter configuration, but not quite such extreme components, in the shape of a pair of 128GB LiteOn LMT-128M6M SSDs and a 1TB Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000 hard disk. Since the chassis is large enough, an optical drive is included, too. There are two options here – a Super Multi DVD rewriter or a Blu-ray rewriter. Our sample included the former.
There are two screen choices with the P35W v2 – one regular, and one that Gigabyte calls Wide Viewing Angle. Both are Full HD, however, with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. There's no option to step up to the super-high resolutions we have started to see elsewhere, such as with the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. Our sample had the Wide Viewing Angle display, but whilst this is decent enough, with reasonably sharp detail and colour, we have seen brighter screens.
Gigabyte has filled the entire width of the P35W v2 with the keyboard, due to the separate numeric keypad on the right. The action is rather firmer than most of the notebook keyboards we have tested recently. We prefer softer keys, but it's still comfortable enough for touch typing. The reasonably large trackpad is responsive and accurate. Gigabyte has sensibly placed it directly beneath the spacebar, to keep it away from your hands when you're typing. The buttons are integrated at the bottom, with their presence signalled by a grey line.
The 15.6in chassis affords plenty of room for connectivity on the P35W v2. On the left you'll find the SD card reader, microphone and headphone minijacks, with the latter doubling as an optical S/PDIF audio output. There are also two USB 2.0 ports, plus Gigabit LAN and the Kensington lock slot. The right is home to a mini DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports with one supporting Sleep and Charge, full-sized HDMI and VGA, alongside the power connection. The optical drive can be found on the front.
With its 2.5GHz Core i7, the P35W v2 managed to achieve the highest score we have ever seen in the Maxon Cinebench R11.5 rendering test, with 7.09. Similarly, the rendering portion of Cinebench R15 produced 643, the highest we have seen in this test too. The OpenGL results of 61.08 in R11.5 and 103.19 in R15 are also commendable. In the game-oriented Futuremark 3DMark11, the result of 7,097 is one of the highest we have seen, although Gigabyte's own Aorus X7 is better, and Alienware's M18x is still our champ in this area. The score of 4,292 in the more recent 3DMark is the fastest we have seen, although we have only been running this test for a few months.
The application-based Futuremark PC Mark 8 provided results of 3,449 in its Home test and 4,274 in its Work test. So this will be a capable machine with everyday software, although it's not the fastest we have seen. Despite the powerful components, the P35W v2 doesn't have the appalling battery life we normally associate with gaming-oriented laptops. Running the Home test from PC Mark 8, the P35W v2 lasted 167 minutes, which is mildly better than the P35K, albeit a little behind the Aorus X7, while achieving a reasonable score of 2,515. So the P35W v2 might last a bit longer than three hours of mixed activities, which is acceptable for this class of notebook, albeit not outstanding.
Putting things in perspective, the P35W v2 lasted 154 minutes of our intensive Battery Eater Pro test, implying that you could get a couple of hours of full-on gaming away from the power socket as well. The battery is not removable, though, so you can't carry a spare to extend the P35W v2's endurance.
The Gigabyte P35W v2 is not the most exciting looking notebook, particularly for the entertainment-oriented user – but there's a lot of power lurking inside. What's most impressive is the 3D performance, but everyday application processing abilities are very good too. The screen isn't quite up with the truly premium efforts out there, but the storage and RAM allocation are decidedly high-end. Considering the specification, this is a highly capable and portable gaming machine you're getting for the reasonable £1,400 asking price.
Manufacturer and Model
Gigabyte P35W v2
2.5GHz Intel Core i7 4710HQ
16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M with 6GB GDDR5 memory and Intel HD Graphics 4600
2 x 128GB LiteOn LMT-128M6M solid state disk in RAID 0 configuration plus 1TB Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000 7,200rpm hard disk
Super-Multi DVD rewriter
15.6in LED backlit Wide Viewing Angle TFT with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, mini DisplayPort, LAN, combo headphone / SPDIF, microphone, SD card reader
Width x Depth x Height
385 x 270 x 20.9mm
2 years global warranty