You could say that Taiwan-based computer maker Gigabyte prefers the scattergun approach. Whether you’re looking for a wallet-friendly gaming laptop like the P55K or one that can play the latest 4K-optimized games (P35X), the company’s wide range of systems usually includes something that might catch your eye.
The fifth iteration of the P55W is one I’ve been looking particularly forward to. It’s basically a smaller version of the 17-inch P57W v5, which impressed on the back of its capable Nvidia hardware and eye-catching display. Can good gaming laptops come in medium-sized packages?
Looking at the specs, the answer could be yes. The P55W v5 squeezes the P57W v5’s Nvidia GTX 970M GPU and top-of-the-line Intel Core-i7 processor into a comparatively compact 15-inch chassis. Even though the difference in size is just two inches across the diagonal, the P55W is much easier to sling into a backpack and transport.
It’s cheaper too, although configurations vary. It can be picked up for $1,224 (around AUS$1,694) in the US, while UK buyers can find the P55W online starting £1,178 from retailers listed on Gigabyte’s website. That places it in the same price bracket as the Acer Predator 15 and Schenker XMG P506. The question is, which one would win in a fight?
Gigabyte’s gaming laptops tend to favor functionality and performance over dazzling looks, and the P55W is no exception. (If it’s a super-slim portable gaming machine you’re after, check out models by Gigabyte subsidiary Aorus such as the X3 Plus V3 instead.)
Decked mostly in matte black plastic that’s broken up with an orange trim running along the outer edge, the P55W’s tiger-esque color scheme is inoffensive yet slightly bland compared to aluminium-clad models such as the Asus ROG G752. Nor does Gigabyte’s machine bother with any of the ostentatious design flourishes found on Acer’s newer Predator 15 and Predator 17 models. Depending on your view, that may be a good thing.
Whatever you think of its design, the P55W is a solidly-built machine. Two hinges on the left and right-hand sides of the display prevent the lid from wobbling when moved into position, and it can be raised with a single hand with ease. Subtle cutaways in the lid combined with a chassis that doesn’t succomb to flex combine to make for a laptop that feels great to hold. Vents are located on the left-hand side and underneath the machine, while the P55W’s power button is located under the display and lights up white with the power turned on.
Here is the spec sheet of the Gigabyte P55W v5 provided to techradar:
- Processor: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost)
- GPU: Nvidia Geforce GTX 970M (3GB GDDR5); Intel HD Graphics 530
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Screen: 15.6-inch full HD 1,920 x 1,080 IPS anti-glare LCD
- Storage: 128GB SSD; 1TB SSD
- Optical drive: Super Multi DVD-RW
- Ports: 3 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x Type-C USB 3.1, HDMI 2.0, Mini DP, VGA, RJ45, microphone-in, analogue/optical headphone-out, SD card reader
- Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
- Camera: HD webcam
- Audio: 2 x 2 watt speakers, microphone, Dolby Digital Plus Home Theatre certified
- Battery: Li-ion 6-cell 5400mAh (63Wh)
- Weight: 2.5kg (5.5 pounds)
When it comes to specs, the Gigabyte P55W is primed for 1080p gaming at high quality, if not maximum settings. Nvidia’s GTX 970M, which is still the second-most powerful single-configuration mobile GPU available in gaming laptops, is more than up to the task of chewing through the latest titles helped along by its healthy 3GB of video memory. Having Intel’s flagship Core i7-6700HQ inside only helps in this area.
The SSD size is sufficiently sized to store a handful of files that you require faster access to, along with two or three games. The majority of your Steam library will sit on the capacious 1TB spinning hard drive.
The trackpad and keyboard are located to the left of the machine which takes some getting used to if you’ve been using centered laptop keyboards. There’s a decent amount of travel in the keyboard’s keys which makes it more comfortable to type on than other Gigabyte laptops with short-travel keys – including the P57W v5. The disadvantage is that it lacks that laptop’s left-positioned macro keys, which will be a disadvantage to MOBA players.
The trackpad is is roomy and provides plenty of space for executing Windows 10-specific commands. There is a small amount of flex in the keyboard but nothing serious unless you press down hard on it. Overall, key size is sufficient except for the left-hand shift key which would have benefitted from being larger. That said, it’s far from a deal-breaker even for typing up long documents and using in-game chat it never caused me any serious problems.
Port selection is excellent, with VGA, ethernet, HDMI, micro USB and a traditional USB-A port on the left-hand side. On the right hand side are two more USB-A ports, a headphone jack and a microphone jack and a DVD writer and the power plug. The power brick is large but not excessively so.
Here’s how the Gigabyte P55W v5 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 21,526; Sky Diver: 19,130; Fire Strike: 6,590
- Cinebench CPU: 675 points; Graphics: 62.34 dos fps,
- GeekBench: 3,798 (single-core); 13,511 (multi-core)
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,407 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours and 27 minutes
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Ultra): 54.61 fps; (1080p, Low): 114.90 fps
- GTA V: (1080p, Ultra): 22.64 fps; (1080p, Low): 132.62 fps
The P55W produces benchmark scores in-line with 1080p gaming, with the machine falling only just behind laptops that house a GTX 980M. That includes the Acer Predator 15, which scored 67 fps in Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor’s Ultra benchmark compared with the P55W’s 54.6 fps. Gigabyte’s machine similarly lagged behind in 3D Mark’s Sky Diver test, racking up a score of 19,130 compared to the 21,829 achieved by the Predator 15. Translating that performance into gaming prowess, you can expect to have to dial down a graphical setting or two on the P55W which will be worth it considering its value.
The choice of a 1080p display is a sensible one as the 970M inside would not be able to power with 4K to deliver fluid frame rates all of the time. It likely would with details turned down, but gigabyte has gone for lower cost and it makes perfect sense at this moment in time. The display itself has pleasing brightness and crispness. It’s a matte display that holds up very well under strong lights and is even good enough to view outdoors. However, viewing angles aren’t terrific. It’s fine if you view it head-on and slightly to the side but the more you shift around the side the more the saturation fades.
The battery life is surprisingly good, lasting well over four hours in our test. This is a laptop that you could take and use to get some work done, particularly thanks to its impressive keyboard which makes typing a pleasure, a rarity for a gaming keyboard Compare the battery life to some other models such as the Alienware 15 (3 hours and 17 minutes) and Schenker P506 (3 hours and 11 minutes) and the P555W really shines.
Its design might not rev your engine, but Gigabyte’s P55W v5 has many redeeming qualities. Its Nvidia GTX 970M inside is a capable performer, and although it’s not quite as strong as the 980M in other laptops Gigabyte’s choice of mobile GPU helps keep costs down. Featuring a pleasingly bright display and a tactile, deeper-travel keyboard, The P55W v5 is a laptop you can get real work done on in-between bouts of gaming. Whether using it for entertainment or being productive, the P55W’s battery life can extend past the four hour mark which is a rarity for gaming-focused machines.