Gigabyte’s Aero is a model that the company has long touted as a creator-specific line. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about that. Gigabyte is known far and wide as a gaming company, and despite their branding, Aero models aren’t usually all that different from the company’s Aorus gaming lineup. Outside of Dell’s XPS lineup, Windows-based “Creator laptops” are typically known as gaming laptops in slightly smaller and less RGB-loaded cases.
This particular Aero makes sense as a device best bought by workers who have some heavier duties in their workload or want to play games here and there. Sure, it’s got a snazzy OLED screen that hits 400 nits of brightness and covers 100 percent of the sRGB color space, 98 percent of Adobe RGB, and 98 percent of P3. The discreet aluminum housing is suitable for the office. But it also has Intel’s flagship processor, which is pretty powerful when it comes to creative work, and Nvidia’s top-of-the-line mobile GPU. This is a setup best used by people who want the best CPU they can get, but may not need the GPU as often.
Well, here’s the catch: The model was sent to me is $4,399. This device is almost $2,000 more expensive than that the most expensive model the ROG Zephyrus G15, my current top gaming laptop pick. It’s even a little more expensive than a comparable 16-inch MacBook Proa common choice for creative professionals.
So, spoiler alert: Creators who buy the MacBook Pro will find it better than the Aero in a number of ways (especially battery life and fan noise). But alongside its powerful Alder Lake processor, which certainly rivals the M1 chips in terms of raw CPU performance, there’s one key area where the Aero is way ahead: gaming. If you’re looking for a device that’s close to the productivity of the MacBook while also serving as a gaming option, the Aero is a place to turn your attention.
The Aero model that was sent to me has a Core i9-12900HK, GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (with 105W TDP, which is on the low end), 32GB RAM, 3TB storage, 99Wh battery and a UHD AMOLED display. This is the most expensive model I could find. I saw one too Core i7 / RTX 3070 Ti / 16GB / 1TB SKU floating around for $2,349.99. I imagine there are many people for whom Aero is a better deal, but as is my consistent policy I will only review the configuration I have.
In terms of chassis, the Aero is 5.07 pounds and 0.88 inches thick. It’s decently well built, with little flex and a nice silver finish that doesn’t smudge or scratch easily. While it’s nowhere near as thin as premium titans like the Razer Blade 17 or MacBook Pro, it feels more portable than the average bulky 16-inch you’ll find in gaming.
The lid has a lip of sorts that houses the front-facing camera. This is an area where Gigabyte has taken a different direction than notch-performing companies like Apple. While that lip might look odd in photos, it quickly faded into the background during my aero testing and didn’t affect my life in any way.
Exactly how well does this game work? Not surprising at a native resolution of 3840 x 2400. Shadow of the Tomb Raider an average of 26, 34, and 38 frames per second with ray tracing set to Ultra, Medium, and Off, respectively. Cyberpunk 2077 would basically not run with ray tracing on Ultra and would stumble at an average of seven frames per second; Turning on DLSS brought this to 32 frames per second, and turning off ray tracing (but without DLSS) brought it to 29. For some reason Red Dead Redemption 2 wouldn’t even give me the option to run it in 4K. I’m not sure what was going on there, but red dead can be fussy at times.
Everything was, of course, much more playable in 1080p, easily maxing out the 60Hz screen. Tomb Raider hit 80, 104 and 115 frames per second with ray tracing at ultra, medium and off while red dead averaged 70 on its built-in benchmark. The Aero still had a rough time with ray tracing cyberpunk, averaging just 38 frames per second with DLSS off, but jumping to 63 with DLSS on auto. With ray tracing switched off, the average was 66 frames per second. (All games were run at the highest possible settings.)
These results are okay and, unsurprisingly, miles better than what we’ve seen from Apple’s M1 Pro machines. However, they’re not head and shoulders above what we’d expect from a well-cooled, powerful RTX 3070, underscoring the fact that what you’re really paying for with the Aero 16 is the CPU performance (and the OLED display ). For example, last year’s Aorus 15G with an RTX 3070 and a Core i7, which was thousands of dollars cheaper than this Aero, was only about 5 to 15 frames per second slower across titles.
The other thing I should point out is that this device is loud. I had the turbo fan profile enabled (which is what you want for the maximum possible performance). The fans were so loud that I had trouble hearing a video on another computer right next to me, even with the volume turned all the way up. Cooling seems to get the job done: the CPU would hit the low 90s from time to time, but generally avoided throttling temperatures. However, the keyboard and palm rests were also often warm (even outside of benchmark tests) and only just short of getting uncomfortably hot.
The device was much quieter during my general usage tests when I was mainly using the Normal and Eco cooling profiles. (It was still often audible though.) In those instances, Aero was able to easily run my normal heavy Chrome load and power an external display with Battery Saver turned on. It also performed much better in Premiere Pro tests than we generally see from gaming laptops. This is to be expected given that the Aero uses Nvidia’s Studio drivers (with a focus on creative use cases) rather than the GeForce drivers found in gaming rigs. It completed our Premiere Pro 4K export test in two minutes and 15 seconds, beating the M1 Pro MacBook models (but not the M1 Max models, which are a bit expensive). The Aorus took over seven minutes to complete this task. The Aero also scored a solid 941 on the Puget Systems Benchmark for Premiere Pro, which also beats many of the gaming systems in our database and isn’t too far off the M1 Pro.
However, this all comes with a pretty big caveat: battery life. We’ve never expected Windows workstations to last all day, but I had faint hopes that Intel’s move to the Big Little architecture with Alder Lake would start an efficiency revolution. Unfortunately, the Aero 16 only lasted about two and a half hours on a charge with Battery Saver turned on, the screen set to medium brightness, and the GPU disabled. This should be an important consideration for anyone looking to use this on the go.
One more thing to note: while this device appears to have a number of USB-A ports on the sides, these are actually vents. The actual connection selection is limited to two Thunderbolt 4, one USB-C 3.2, one DC-In and one audio jack. Those with USB-A and SD requirements will be in dongle land, which is a bummer. You might also want to connect an external camera, as this webcam is so-so and noisy (despite supporting Windows Hello biometric logins).
The Aero 16 is an effective combination of a color-accurate OLED screen, impressive CPU performance and portability. This combination doesn’t come cheap, however, and the price combined with the battery life can make it a difficult purchase for many people to justify. Those who like what the Aero offers but hope to spend less might consider Razer’s Blade 17, which is available with the same GPU and a 4K screen for $100 cheaper, or a QHD screen for several hundred dollars cheaper. Those who like the looks of the Aero but want better gaming chops should check out Gigabyte’s range of gaming-focused Aorus laptops and you can get a 3080 much cheaper.
The main selling point for the Aero is that its CPU can deliver MacBook-competitive performance in creative applications, while being much more powerful than those MacBooks on the gaming front. Of course, an M1 Pro MacBook has several other advantages over the Aero: it can last over six times as long on battery power. But if you want a laptop to create, play occasionally, and stay at your desk, the Aero has a legitimate case.
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