Starting Configuration Price
Handsome 4K screen. Comfortable, colorfully illuminated keyboard. Thunderbolt 3 port.
No G-Sync or 120Hz display. Sticky touchpad and SD card slot.
- Bottom Line
Like other laptops with Nvidia's GTX 1070 rather than 1080 graphics, the Gigabyte P56XT is iffy for gaming at UHD rather than full HD resolution, but a solid choice for work at 4K and play at 1080p.
From a distance, the Gigabyte P56XT (starts at $1,899; $2,099 as tested) can almost pass for a staid desktop replacement instead of a fierce gaming laptop. What gives the black plastic slab away are vivid orange stripes on each side, along with orange-ended screen hinges and swoopy rear vents for the noisy cooling fans—plus, when switched on, an RGB backlit keyboard that puts on a wild light show. The 15.6-inch Gigabyte also has the chops for serious gaming, though its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics aren't quite a match for its 4K (3,840-by-2,160) screen—for that, you'd want a GTX 1080, whether in standard form or the slimmer Max-Q config of our Editors' Choice Asus ROG Zephyrus (GX501VI). But the P56XT—you may also see it listed as just the P56 or P56X—delivers high 1080p frame rates for a few hundred dollars less than many rivals.
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As we said, you won't find an Alienware- or Origin-style light-up logo on the lid or much other bling, just the abovementioned stripes and silver Gigabyte logos on the lid and below the screen. The finger-smudge-attracting plastic chassis feels fairly solid, with some wobble if you grasp the screen corners but no flex in the keyboard deck.
It's not as thin as either one, but at 1.2 by 15.1 by 10.6 inches the system has a slightly smaller footprint than the Alienware 15 R3 (1 by 15.3 by 12 inches) and a slightly larger one than the Zephyrus (0.66 by 14.9 by 10.3 inches). The unit weighs 5.7 pounds, which makes it noticeably easier to carry than the Alienware (7.8 pounds), though heftier than the Asus (4.9 pounds).
Our test unit features a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, a 1TB hard drive, and a DVD-Super Multi drive—first, we were surprised to see that there was an optical drive; second, we were surprised to find it on the front edge instead of one of the sides. The DVD burner can be swapped out for a second hard drive; surgeons who remove the bottom panel will also find a second M.2 drive slot, so our system's 1.25TB is by no means the limit.
On the Gigabyte's left flank, you'll find an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, and an SD card slot which oddly balked at accepting cards unless we pushed with considerable force. The right side holds HDMI, mini DisplayPort, and VGA video outputs as well as another USB 3.0 port, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and the connector for the AC power brick.
Located between a pentagonal power button and a large, buttonless touchpad, the keyboard is a solid, rectangular array of keys—we'd rather see the inverted-T cursor arrows and numeric keypad segregated from the primary keys a bit—but offers ample travel and a precise, if somewhat stiff, typing feel.
There are no dedicated macro keys as on Gigabyte's Aorus laptops, but a provided (and undocumented) Gigabyte Fusion utility lets you edit keyboard shortcuts as well as choose from more than a dozen brightly multicolored animation and lighting schemes. The touchpad glides and taps smoothly, but clicking its bottom corners, especially right-clicking, feels creaky.
The 4K IPS display delivers ultra-fine detail, as you'd expect from its high resolution (though text is invisibly tiny in older apps that don't support Windows 10's scaling). There's plenty of brightness and viewing angles are broad. Contrast is impressive, with crisp whites and deep blacks. Colors—one choice on a SmartManager menu utility lets you choose native color or a temperature such as 6500K or 6800K—don't quite pop like poster paints but are full and rich.
A webcam above the screen captures well-lit and detailed, if slightly soft-focus, selfies. Two front-mounted 2-watt speakers pump out sound that's pleasingly clear and accurate, though not loud—there's no subwoofer to help with bass, and audio didn't fill a medium-sized room when cranked to 100 percent volume. Gigabyte backs the P56XT with a two-year warranty.
Falling Short of 4K Fantasies
The P56XT just missed the 3,000-point mark in our PCMark 8 general productivity benchmark, beating only the HP Omen 17 (2017) among a group of gaming rigs with the same Core i7-7700HQ processor, but its score of 2,949 still indicates a system that's overkill for ordinary Word, Excel, and PowerPoint workloads.
It finished our Cinebench CPU and Handbrake video-editing tests in a dead heat with the Alienware, the Asus, and Origin EVO15-S systems, but its time of 3 minutes and 12 seconds trailed theirs in our Adobe Photoshop image-editing test (while still being more than adequate for managing a photo collection, especially considering its good-looking 4K display).
As we said, however, if you're looking for smooth gameplay at 4K resolution, you're likely looking for Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 rather than its second-best 1070. The Gigabyte beat only the GTX 1060-equipped Origin in 3DMark's demanding Fire Strike Extreme benchmark, scoring a full 500 points below the ROG Zephyrus and its Max-Q 1080.
And in our Heaven and Valley gaming simulations, the P56XT landed narrowly on either side of the 30 frames per second (fps) threshold at native resolution. Downshifting to 1080p resolution, the Gigabyte easily managed 96fps in Heaven and 88fps in Valley, but you should note that its screen has neither the Nvidia G-Sync technology nor 120Hz refresh rate of panels preferred for gaming at north of 60fps.
We also installed and tried a favorite Steam game, last year's Rise of the Tomb Raider, at its top two image quality settings. Running at 4K, the system managed a borderline 34fps in Very High and 40 fps in High mode. At 1080p resolution, the game cruised at 68fps and 77fps respectively.
The Gigabyte got its revenge on the Asus when it came to battery life: Its unplugged time of 5 hours and 43 minutes may not be impressive by ultrabook standards, but is more than double that of the Zephyrus and quite good for a notebook with a 4K display (such screens are notorious battery suckers).
We expect a lot from a $2,000-plus gaming laptop. Minor minuses like its touchpad give the P56XT a slightly generic feel, detracting from its first-rate screen and rainbow-hued keyboard and putting it a half-step below slick, sleek systems like the Zephyrus. But if your budget says no to a GTX 1080 rig, it's easy to say yes to the Gigabyte for editing videos or images at 4K, then stepping down to 1080p or 1440p for gameplay.
By Eric Grevstad Contributing Editor
Formerly editor-in-chief of Home Office Computing, Eric Grevstad is a contributing editor for PCMag and Computer Shopper, where he earlier served as lead laptop analyst and executive editor, respectively. A tech journalist since the TRS-80 and Apple II days, Grevstad specializes in lightweight laptops, all-in-one desktops, and productivity software, all of which he uses when commuting and telecommuting between PC Labs and a cat-filled home office in Old Greenwich, CT. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EricGrevstad…. More »
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