Perfection is defined as the action or process of improving something until it is faultless. But we know that without faults, there can be no personality. That’s where the Gigabyte Aero 15-X9 comes in. A powerful GPU, equipped with an AI that ensures the components, including the powerful GPU, is working at optimal performance levels. The question is, however, did Gigabyte manage to achieve what they set out to do?
Display - 15.6-inch 1080p 144Hz
CPU - Intel Core i7-8750H
Graphics - Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q (8GB GDDR6)
Memory - Samsung 16 GB DDR4-2666
Storage - Intel 760P 1 TB M.2 PCIe-NVMe SSD
Killer Wireless - AC 1550, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE
HDMI - USB Port - 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
USB - 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
USB 3.1 Type-C
Two 2-watt speakers
Battery - 94 Wh
Power Adapter - 230 W
Operating System - Windows 10 Pro
Weight - 4.7 pounds (2.1 kg)
Price - estimated R37 000+ retail price
The Aero 15 is mind-bogglingly slim, especially knowing that it houses an RTX 2070 Max Q within. The sleek black aluminium separates the Aero from its predecessors, and while it has matured in design, there are still aspects that are reminiscent of the original Aero. The Gigabyte logo lights up just enough to let others know that this is a premium product, while the arrow shape on the lid gives the all-black design some flare. Inside, the top and side bezels are quite thin, and a thick bottom bezel with the Aero logo, which looks even bigger because Gigabyte has decided to place the webcam at a very obscure angle. The deck is all metal, with the keyboard housing the much needed RGB accents.
For owners of the previous Aero, the notebook has gained some weight since last year’s model. However, this is still insanely thin for something packed to the brim with high-end parts. The RTX 2070 Max-Q clocks in at 8GB GDDR6 memory. Compared to last year’s Aero, this is already a massive step up from the 1070 Max-Q. Needless to say, this encouraged some 4K benchmarking, but we found that the Aero 15 can get quite hot and decided against it.
As with all RTX-based systems, I immediately ran Battlefield V to see how the 2070 Max-Q could handle ray tracing. With the game clocked at a high preset and DXR on high at 1920 x 1080, the game ran between 44 and 60 frames per second with the occasional stuttering, but the ray tracing reflections definitely worked, like a town showing on the ice in “Wolf and Dog”. When I dropped the ray tracing settings down to medium (but left everything else on high), it stayed closer to a reliable 60 fps without any hiccups or stuttering.
The Aero 15 uses an AI program, Azure AI, Gaming+, and Professional+, to connect to either Microsoft’s Azure cloud or Gigabyte Control Center to adjust performance and fan speed. This is the first time that the Azure AI programme has been implemented in commercial gaming notebooks, in a bid to increase the vary the performance of the notebook without the user needing to manually change a single setting. However, the AI doesn’t do very much, barely making any difference within the laptop itself, so it could use some tweaking for optimal changes. You can manually change the settings on the Control Center on your own (although, the Aero didn’t come with it preloaded which is rather odd).
The tool only shows in a widget that disappears into the tray. There aren’t a tonne of instructions, and frankly, I don’t expect many users to discern what it even does without having to read Gigabyte’s instructions. Even then, the software just isn’t great. It’s colour-coded but doesn’t explain why. Every time you bring it up from the tray, you’re forced to see a promotional video (though you can exit out of it). But the worst part is that it doesn’t seem to do very much. Perhaps I just couldn’t get it to work, but I found ignoring it proved to be the best course of action.
With an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB Intel M.2 PCIe SSD, our configuration of the Aero 15 X9 is a strong productivity machine. You’ll have no issue using it for web browsing or content consumption. The battery takes a hit due to the high-end parts demanding a lot from the 94Wh battery. That being said, it faired a lot better than expected. Dropping the settings to accommodate the circumstances, you can get upward of 4 hours before needing to plug back in.
The keyboard does well to make use of the space available. It does take a while to accommodate the way it feels and is spaced, but it’s a lot better than I thought it would be. Generally, when a notebook shrinks in size, the keyboard takes the biggest hit. From gaming to typing, I encountered little to no issues in regards to the size and feel of the keyboard.
There’s a small sticker below the display that reminds you that the 15.6-inch, 1080p display is Pantone-calibrated for colour. This certification means that colours are actually implemented based on serial numbers to achieve accuracy, leading to a more vivid colour palette, and it makes sense because the screen is beautiful. I loaded a Mortal Kombat 11 wallpaper and the blacks were truly black, with the other colours popping beautifully. Text feels sharp and video-playback is done justice by the brightness and colour saturation of the display.
Audio isn’t going to blow you away, but it will do just perfectly when you don’t have access to a pair of headphones. Bass is not in the foreground, with mids taking the centre stage. They aren’t particularly loud, but it will be fine in a room where you call the police on anyone who makes a sound.
The Aero 15-X9 gets on the hot side. Unfortunately, this is the trade-off when it comes to smaller notebooks. However, this doesn’t make the Aero unusable, though, you do worry about the components within. While it may not get blisteringly hot, you may want to be careful with this on your lap during productivity sessions. Of course, the notebook gets significantly hotter when gaming. The keyboard starts to warm up to a noticeable level, with the main exhausts almost too hot to touch. A simple fix for this is a raise in the notebooks level, which will give you better performance as well, as the fans are able to blow the hot air out more effectively.
While I have managed to forgive everything else the Aero 15-X9 doesn’t do right, the webcam is absolutely horrendous. I don’t use webcams often, however, the Aero’s 720p webcam does a great job of showcasing your nostrils to the innocent viewer on the other end of the video call. Just pretend it doesn’t exist.
The Gigabyte Aero 15-X9 is by no means the perfect notebook, but it's filled to the brim with personality. It is almost as if the Aero and I have grown a partnership during my testing. From its sleek design to the high-end horsepower, you get the feeling that it is trying its hardest. Yes, it does heat up a little too much. Yes, the battery life isn’t the longest lasting in its price range. But its giving you everything it has got - all the time. That’s what truly matters. If it weren’t for the hefty price tag, I would recommend this notebook without a doubt.
We live in a world where the demand for high-powered machinery on-the-go is ever increasing. Gigabyte helped pioneer that movement in 2015, with the creation of the Aorus X5, a laptop for gaming enthusiasts on-the-go. Gigabyte has gone back to the drawing board and redesigned their X5 to bring us its spiritual successor - the Aorus 15-X9.
Model: Gigabyte Aorus 15-X9
CPU: Intel i7-8750H 2.2Ghz
GPU: RTX 2070 8G
OS: Windows 10 Home
Display: LG 144Hz FHD IPS
System Memory: SAMSUNG 8GB/16GB/32GB DDR4 2666MHz, 2 slots (Max 64GB)
Storage: m.2(PCIe) SSD @ 512GB, HDD 2TB
Audio: Nahimic 3 powered audio drivers
Network: Killer Doubleshot Pro LAN
Weight: Estimated 2.5KG (including battery, M.2 SSD)
Price: Estimated R40 000
From the spec sheet alone, we can see that this is a no-compromise notebook, set to give the best possible gaming experience on the move. Gigabyte has selected some of the best components from the likes of Intel and Samsung to power this device and the performance rings through every interaction you have. The narrative for Gigabyte is pretty much set in stone with the Aorus 15-X9. You take the best parts money can buy, and put it into a compact package that offers near-to-no compromises.
If I were to compare the Aorus 15-X9 to anything, I’d say it looks like a blacked out Lamborghini; the lines are hidden by the colour, but at the right angle, the reflection lets you know that there’s something ready to maul you under the hood. That feeling is further emphasised by the Aorus logo and LED decals that give the notebook a subtle touch of sexiness. It is an understated, stealthy look which does just enough to remind innocent viewers that it’s not an ordinary notebook.
As per the gaming notebook laws, the Aorus 15-X9 is filled to the brim with RGB lights. It adds a bit of colour to an otherwise plain look, but the RGB lights themselves aren’t intrusive. The good thing is the GameCenter software allows you to customise these lights to your needs - even as far as turning it off entirely.
Thankfully, Gigabyte kept the webcam where it should be - at the top of the display. The bezels have been reduced, giving the Aorus 15-X9 a slimmer feel, while keeping you focused on the screen.
To be frank, the AORUS 15-X9 isn’t that thick in the first place. It measures at a weight of 2.4KG, which is still within a permissible range. The additional weight comes at a small compromise for those willing to get the extra performance.
The added thickness shows Gigabyte focused a lot of their efforts in cooling this machine, as most of the space within the system is taken up by fans and heat pipes. Turning the Aorus 15-X9 on its back and you will have the fan setup in full view. There are a total of 6 heat pipes and 9 air vents to make sure the full-sized Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 gets sufficient airflow.
Gigabyte didn’t just simply improve the cooling; they used the larger space to sneak in a 2TB built-in Hard Drive. There won’t be any concerns for storage space considering this 2TB is an additional block of storage over the Intel 760p SSD. Gigabyte took this a step further by giving us 2 x 8GB DDR4 SODIMM, instead of a single 16GB stick. This increases usable performance dramatically in Dual-Channel mode.
The speakers are where the dream notebook started to fall apart. The fans on the Aorus 15-X9 are rather loud, but the speakers tend to get washed out by the fans. The Nahimic audio integration does a good job and making the hardware on offer sound decent, but it isn’t particularly loud. Bass is lacking with a mid-
sounds slightly muffled and a greater focus on highs.
That being said, you’re not going to use the speakers on offer when gaming, as you will probably resort to using a headset. That is where Nahmic starts to shine. The Nahimic App will tune the audio profile and frequency focus of the speakers to suit different occasions. The level of immersion is far greater and audio performance increases, especially in FPS games.
Displays are one of the core-pillars to any gaming experience and Gigabyte tends to deliver on that front. The 144Hz high refresh rate makes everything feel more responsive, while making gaming feel a lot smoother than usual. The colour calibration out of the box was perfectly suited to my needs and using the notebook in outdoor environments didn’t hinder my experience. I wouldn’t say that this is the best display to ever grace a notebook, but the IPS display on offer is a remarkable all-rounder.
Of course, other than the display, the audio performance of a notebook holds equal importance to the whole user experience as well. Thanks to the Nahimic technology, the initially “flat” sounding music and sound effects were improved with better depth. This makes the sounds come to live. Where the speakers fell short during gaming, consuming content on the Aorus 15-X9 was a much better experience overall.
If you’re in the market for a notebook that provides good battery life, this is definitely not the one for you. The Aorus 15-X9 will last around 4 hours with light usage. Even just using it for day-to-day activities, the notebook consistently begged to be tethered to some form of power source. Unfortunately, this is the trade-off when it comes to wanting immense power in such a small notebook.
The RTX 2070 on offer is no slouch. I put the Aorus 15-X9 through its paces with Battlefield V to see how the Ray Tracing would affect the notebook, and to my surprise, it handled things with only minor hiccups. The Aorus 15-X9 definitely has the horsepower to run any modern game you throw at it. The small form-factor does mean that the RTX 2070 suffers minutely in performance, but it is almost negligible.
Many notebooks often come with a lot more compromises in order to gain a few advantages over the competition. The Aorus 15-X9 comes with almost no compromises and offers a package that many will find hard to refuse - given that you’re willing to pay the premium. That being said, a full-fledged RTX 2070 coupled with an 8th Generation Intel Core i7, makes this a worthy system for your favourite games.
Razer has been in what seems to be an iterative cycle when it comes to audio headsets and the Kraken Tournament Edition epitomises this. Rather than revolutionising headsets and bringing something brand new to the party, the Kraken Tournament Edition is a hardware refresh that takes lessons and small innovations from other headsets to update the headset.
Outwardly the Kraken Tournament Edition looks just like any other model in the series from prior years. In fact, putting my current Razer Man ‘o War set next to this one shows almost no physical difference between the two. Of course, this makes manufacture cheaper as you don’t have to redesign any of the tooling, a smart business decision. While that is the case, and much like Apple with their iPhone or Samsung with the Galaxy phones, the standardised design loses that wow factor when a new piece of hardware is announced. Gone are the days when I would look forward to a new Razer press release just to see what crazy ideas and designs are coming out of that company.
Having said that, the adage of “if it ain’t broke” applies. This design works from both an aesthetic as well as comfort and durability point of view. Firstly, unlike the Razer Nari Wireless, the earcups are adjustable and don’t use that good in theory but not quite effective adjustable headband that just doesn’t quite work. I prefer the fact that I can adjust the length of each earcup to suit my head and that it clicks into place with a satisfying “click”. None of that headband slippage leading to the feeling that the headset is not quite secure on my head. Additionally, the wires, again making it different to the Nari, are embedded in the headband meaning that accidental damage is limited as the wires aren’t exposed.
The faux open back design is not going to give you the benefits of real open back headsets, but they do like nice. The earcups have taken the cooling gel technology from the Nari and just like that headset are nice for a while but are not effective over prolonged use. The memory foam is comfortable and did not hurt my ears at all, and once the cooling gel lost effectiveness, the fabric did a decent job of keeping things comfortable. I’m not sure what it is made of, but it feels soft to the touch and very pleasant, almost like suede so it feels good to the touch and on your ears. I was able to use the Kraken Tournament Edition over long periods, certainly longer than my Man ‘o War set.
I do want to give Razer credit for finally realising that gamers with glasses have a bit of a tough time with headsets. For years I have had to take a break from using any headset, be it my Sennheiser’s for music, or my Tiamat on PC or Man ‘o War set on console as the clamp force digs my glasses into my temples and eventually hurts me. Razer have thought of this and included a “notch” in the earcups for your glasses’ arms. This reduces the pressure on them and thus on you, making things far more comfortable. It’s a simple idea, but one that literally no headset manufacture that I can think about has ever though to include in their designs.
A second welcome innovation is the included large inline remote control. This is attached to the USB dongle for use on PC and is a welcome addition to the headset as it allows you to control game/chat balance, bass, volume, THX Spatial Audio (PC only sadly) and mute the mic. This is great as it gives you more control over all aspects of the headset without resorting to the simple volume control wheel on the 3.5mm jack cable, that can easily move from your preferred level to too high or low simply by rubbing against your shirt.
Unfortunately, the controls are connected to the detachable USB dongle, so are clearly designed for PC use. On console, the only available controls to you are the volume and mic mute. If, like me, you sit further than 1.3m from your console, the cable is pointless. You can still use it on console via the 3.5mm jack plug in your controller, but then you can only use the too loose scroll wheel to control volume. It would be great if you could use the audio controls in full, but that’s just not on the cards.
In terms of audio enhancements, at least on PC via Razer’s Synapse software, you get the benefit of THX Spatial Audio just like on the Nari. Like that set the software enables you to identify direction more distinctly and easily and is certainly more immersive. Unfortunately, there isn’t a console version of the Synapse software or even a standalone THX Spatial Audio app, so you will not benefit from this on the couch. For console I suggest spending the $5 on the Dolby Atmos app, it makes a world of difference.
The Kraken Tournament Edition is, as far as I can tell, the first Razer headset that allows you to adjust the bass levels. Razer boasts that there are 17 different levels allowing you to choose just the right level of bass for your comfort. This is certainly welcome in games and I could tell the difference between most of the levels, but if you are going to plug these into your phone you are going to lose that feature. Despite that the default bass level is good, this is clearly a headset designed by fans of bass heavy music.
Curiously, and thankfully, the Kraken Tournament Edition does not support Razer’s Chroma lighting system. So for those of you looking to “customise” your headset to stand out from the crowd, you will just have to make do with the neon green version. No funny unicorn poop lights for you!
Overall if you have a Razer headset, the Kraken Tournament Edition is not for you. It is a wonderful refresh of the popular line, but just does not do enough to justify the R1 700 price tag. But for those rocking cheaper headsets or looking to finally get a set, they are at just the right price and feature set to change the way you hear gaming audio so much so that you won’t want to go back. The limited feature set on console is unfortunate, but hopefully Razer starts to see that they have a growing console fanbase and puts some money into console R&D as bringing the full feature set to console is only going to win over more fans to their incredible line-up of products.
Cooler Master has been coming out strong with their peripheral range lately, with their new SL600 Case, their Masterkey 750 keyboard, and now their MH751 headset. The MH751's have an unparalleled comfort level, but what other tricks does have up its sleeve (well, cable)?
The Cooler Master MH751's offer 40mm Neodymium drivers to deliver audio from your PC, console, or mobile device, along with a leatherette padding system along the earcups and headband. The earcups feature a swivel action for added comfort and customisation, enabling you to position them exactly where you want them, without compromising on security and comfort.
For the real techies out there, the Cooler Master MH751's feature a frequency response rate of 20-20, 000Hz, with a 26 Ohm impedance, and 97 dB +- 3dB sensitivity. The headband is made from steel and plastic, ensuring solid durability and a snug fit, while remaining comfortable.
The MH751's utilise a 3.5mm audio jack to connect to a multitude of supporting platforms, with a dual 3.5mm audio connector for PC's, separating the audio and microphone. The braided cable comes in at 1.5 metres, so there is no reason you will be running out of cable room, no matter what you are connected to.
The microphone features an omnidirectional pattern, with a response rate of 100-10,000Hz, and is detachable for convenience. Flexibility is key to Cooler Master MH751's, as the microphone can be adjusted to sit anywhere you need it to, thanks to the coil-like protective sheath.
First off, we need to look at the comfort of the Cooler Master MH751's. I have never experienced a more comfortable set of headphones, and that's including my short time with the Razer Nari's. In much of Cooler Master's marketing for these, they claim "The only way it could be more comfortable is if they were marshmallows". Honestly, marshmallows are even too hard to compare to these; the comfort levels really are unprecedented.
Those that wear glasses (like me) will know the struggle of the "top ear pinch", where your headphones will pinch the top of your ears against your glasses, and will crush your glasses into your skull, giving you the worst, and most impromptu, bionic augmentation. The MH751's, even after a solid 10-hour gaming session, as well as working throughout the day, were still super comfortable, they cleared my ears entirely to surround them completely, and, at times, I barely even remembered I was wearing them. Until I stood up and took my PS4 controller with me.
The adjustable earcups, as well as their swiveling action, made adjusting for my "I need to wear a cap tonight" gaming sessions super easy, and the amount of adjustability you are offered, means that any head size can use these comfortably.
The breathability of the cups was also incredible, surprisingly, as most headsets that feature a "leather-esque" padding, tend to make you hot under the collar (well, ear). Lastly, weighing in at just 280g, there is no fatigue on the neck or surrounds from prolonged usage.
The cable offers players a way to adjust the volume without having to use your keyboard, with their in-line volume adjuster. Keeping it simple, the cable also offers a mic un/mute function, allowing you to quickly mute your voice in-game, without needing a hotkey. A pretty common feature on today's gaming headphones, but its nice to see a simple implementation of them.
Speaking of the mic; the clarity is unbelievable. Not only does it sound like I am in the same room with the people online, but the mic was able to pick up any frequency I could throw at it (I like to bust out the high melodies). Personally, I am not a fan of omnidirectional microphones, and the MH751's sometimes remind me why, as Cooler Master could work on reducing environmental ambient noise by improving their noise suppression. However, in order for you to move the mic around different positions and still be heard clearly, it is necessary to have omnidirectional pick-up.
The Cooler Master MH751's sport a "timelessly good looking" aesthetic, with a black colour scheme all-around, as well as a simple logo outline on each cup. For once, I am glad there are no RGB functions, as RGB on a headset is just impractical. I mean, you can't see it.
Moving on, the cups also feature a matte feel to them, similar to a smooth sandblasted effect. It's a small and simple detail, but it prevents the MH751's from looking cheap rather than understated. Further adding to the premium aesthetic, are the adjustable headbands that expose the shiny steel, injecting that smidge of "pop".
Overall, the Cooler Master MH751's deliver a good audio experience, and what it might lack in bass, it more than makes up for comfort. Seriously, I cannot emphasise how comfortable these headphones are enough. The price range of R1100+-, is more than fair, thanks to the versatility, the clear microphone, and, of course, the marshmallow ear cups.