Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR YC (2021) full review

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR YC

Ever wondered what putting all the best hardware into a portable laptop would look like? The Gigabyte AERO 17 HDR YC can show you. Gigabyte has stuffed in a Core i9 processor, RTX 3080, two 1TB NVMe hard drives and 64GB RAM into this 17-inch beast and yet it’s only 21mm thick and weighs 2.5KG. So, is it going to be an overheating hot mess or can it handle its own innards?

Key Specs of the Gigabyte AERO 17

17.3-inch, matte, 3840 x 2160, non-touchscreen LCD; 2.4-5.3GHz Intel Core i9-10980HK processor; 64GB RAM; 2x 1TB NVMe HDD; Nvidia RTX 3080; 99Wh battery; 2.5KG. SKU: AERO 17 HDR YC. Full specs here.

Design and Handling

The Aero 17 hits a balanced aesthetic of not being to frumpy for a gaming LAN but sophisticated enough to fit into a smart office. The aluminium chassis feels almost completely rigid and the black plastic coating is very solid. The lid flexes very little despite its thinness and Gigabyte tells us that its, “Display bezel bumper” technology further protects it from getting bashed. The lid has some pleasant geometric etching design accents and the Aero logo glows white in an attractive way. All in all, while the rigid straight lines make it look a bit boxy, there’s a strong element of class at play too.

Screen

The IPS screen on the Gigabyte Aero 17 has a matte anti-glare coating that does a good job of fending off reflections too. The 3,840 x 2,160 resolution keeps all text and images incredibly sharp while the X-Rite Panton certification (with Delta E<1) will reassure designers that what they see on the screen is what they’ll get. Each laptop’s screen is individually calibrated in the factory. The HDR400 standard is mentioned but this doesn’t mean the display is truly capable of HDR just that it can reach a 400nit brightness.

The Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR YC has a great, designer-oriented screen.

The resolution means that all office work is a dream but it really shines with its graphical output. Colours are as accurate as you’d hope but there are also few artefacts and banding in colour gradients and areas of uniform colour. Details are visible in dark areas but some detail was blown out in particularly bright areas. Bright areas noticeably don’t pop out of the screen like a true HDR model but what can you expect from a thin laptop screen? We were impressed with the lack of light bleed and halo effect surrounding bright objects on dark backgrounds. However, if you’re going to be looking a great deal of fast-moving action on screen, the motion is not so smooth (even for a 60Hz screen) and objects can get blurry quite quickly.

Speakers

The Gigabyte Aero 17 sports two 2-Watt speakers. They offer reasonable fidelity with a reasonable attempt at bass (for a laptop) and no distortion in the treble range. Vocals are clear enough but the speakers don’t get very loud and lack punchiness. Still… not bad for a laptop.

Ergonomics

The Scrabble-tile keyboard is almost all full-sized (including the arrow keys a and number pad) with only the top-row F-keys slightly reduced in height. It hits the right balance between firm and soft making it accurate and comfortable to type upon for extended periods. It’s also RGB lit and compatible with Gigabyte’s customisable Fusion lighting system. It took us a little too long to realise that the WASD keys are slightly chunkier, but when lit up, it does make them easier to pick out.

The Gigabyte Aero 17’s trackpad is a good size, smooth and accurate. Plus, the embedded buttons, while a bit noisy, are comfortable to use. A Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader is also included.

It’s worth noting that the price of having a uniform, thin, 3mm bezel surrounding the top and sides of the screen mean that the HD webcam (which isn’t Windows Hello compatible) is placed between beneath the screen instead. This does give a rather unflattering, jowly appearance when you’re conferencing – which is more of an issue nowadays than in the beforetimes.

Performance

With a top-tier, 10th Gen Core-i9 processor, 64GB RAM, RTX 3080 and twin NVMe hard drives we expected serious performance from the Gigabyte Aero 17 and weren’t disappointed. It scored 5,867 in PCMark 10 which, PCMark tells us, is significantly better than the average current-gen office and gaming laptops but still a little way behind gaming desktops. However, it’s also a smidge slower than the higher-clocked Core-i7 CPU of the Razer Blade 15, but that’s the general nature of the benchmark’s workload for you. Nonetheless, renderers will like to know that the octa-core, Core-i9 CPU did its thing when it scored 1,559 in Cinebench R15 and 8,137 in Cinebench R23 which is fast in the world of Intel CPUs.

In 3DMark it scored 9,156 in Time Spy (an average of 57fps), 11,130 in Fire Strike Extreme (53fps) and 5,998 in the Port Royal ray tracing test. All of which are impressively high and in line with where an RTX 3080 GPU should be.

Something worth noting is that even when under heavy, consistent load, the Gigabyte Aero 17’s Windforce Infinity cooling technology with its dual, 71-blade fans and five heat pipes) does an impressive job at expelling the heat while keeping quiet. There’s only a light swoosh in the background which doesn’t get annoying (at least compared to many rivals).

Connectivity of the Gigabyte Aero 17

Not all of the connections are the latest versions but all the import options are present and few will lament transfer speeds. On the left are two, USB-A 3.2 (Gen.1) ports, two (headphone and mic) 3.5mm jacks, a UHS-II SD Card reader and, impressively, a 2.5Gbps Gigabit Ethernet port. On the right is another USB-A 3.2 (Gen.1) port, USB-C Thunderbolt 3, mini DP 1.4, HDMI 2.1 and (unusually) the barrel-type power connector. Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

On the left…
… On the right.

Portability

Gigabyte promises full-day battery life for the Aero 17 that is enhanced through Microsoft Azure A.I. machine learning to improve matters the more you use it. Nonetheless, despite the limit-hitting 99Whr battery it only managed to run PCMark 10’s Modern Office test for 6hrs 54mins which is a little disappointing. We ran it again to be sure and it managed 7hrs 6mins.

At 2.5KG it’s light for a 17-inch laptop that carries such hardware (and remains quiet while using it). It’s also solid enough to survive life on the road.

There’s a lot inside Gigabyte’s Creator-friendly beast. It’s well cooled too.

Should you buy the Gigabyte Aero 17?

Being a part of Gigabyte’s Aero brand means it sits more on the side of the Creator fence than the Gaming but the difference (as usual) is mostly felt with the screen. This is one heck of a powerful laptop and it’s very well put together. At $5,999 it’s not cheap but, at the time of publishing it can be had for $5,399 with free shipping. Either way, even with the high price, it’s still good value with no real week spots bar fast movement on the screen. We heartily recommend it.

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