You probably haven’t heard of the Gigabyte P34W v5. It’s a fairly typical gaming laptop, with a standard array of high-end hardware, a decent display, and a body that won’t be setting any records for slimness or lightness. It’s not from a high-profile consumer brand like Alienware, Razer or HP either; instead it’s from a company that’s more commonly known for PC components, even though the P34 is far from Gigabyte’s first gaming laptop.
So why am I even bothering to review the P34W v5, you may ask. Aren’t there more interesting and exciting laptops to review? Well there definitely are laptops that are more powerful, that are thinner, and that include crazy mechanical keyboards, but there are also a ton of run-of-the-mill laptops out there that rely entirely on great hardware at a reasonable price to sell. The Gigabyte P34 is one of them, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be considered when looking for a decent portable gaming machine.
There are two variants of the P34W v5 on the market, although both contain the same base hardware: an Intel ‘Skylake’ Core i7-6700HQ processor, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M discrete GPU with 3 GB of GDDR5 frame buffer. The base model, available for $1,499, features a 14-inch 1080p display with 8 GB of RAM; while the top model, and the model I reviewed, features a 14-inch 1440p display and 16 GB of RAM for $1,759.
Much like the hardware and design of the P34W v5, the price is fairly typical. An Alienware 15 equivalent to the base model will set you back $1,569, and there are also similar systems from MSI and Asus that cost just over $1,600. So how will Gigabyte’s offering stack up in a market with a reasonable selection of options already available?
When it comes to the design, the P34W v5 won’t be standing out from the crowd by any means. The laptop is neither thin (20.9mm) or light (1.9kg) for this class of machine, and the all-plastic body leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, I’m not even sure it is plastic: the body could be made from metal, as it feels reasonably tough and occasionally cold like a piece of idle aluminium, but the finish applied both looks and feels pretty mediocre.
The plastic/metal body is split into several parts, which is a quickly disappearing trend in the laptop market. The back of the lid is mostly a single piece of dark brownish black material, aside from a slightly different lip at the top. The matte-finish, inset display without a touchscreen is surrounded by matte black plastic, while the base is produced from three parts: the keyboard inset, the top brownish black piece, and the black vented underside. Each seam is reasonably noticeable, which adds to the bland nature of this design.
The 14-inch display is surrounded by pretty sizable bezels. Had Gigabyte wanted to include a larger 15.6-inch display, this body would have easily been able to accommodate it, and probably with room to spare for the average webcam and a couple of microphones. Luckily the entire display assembly is thin, and the lid material feels strong and sturdy.
The P34W v5 can be powered on via the central power button, located between what looks like two speaker grills that provide “Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater” audio. These aren’t actually speaker grills (the average laptop speakers are found along the base’s front edge), as they appear to provide cooling pathways to the CPU and GPU instead. To know the computer is on, you can check the bank of five status LEDs below the trackpad, which are out of your usual line of sight and won’t annoy you.
The rest of the cooling solution is located on the bottom of the laptop, with a few vents on the base that draw in air across the CPU and GPU on the left and right sides, before venting out the back. The entire system is quite understated compared to some gaming laptops that include huge vents, but that does have implications for cooling performance (more on that later). The bottom of the laptop also includes easy access screws and removable panels for upgrading various components.
One of the better things about this laptop’s design is its collection of ports. On the left hand side is an Ethernet jack, USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type-C, a headphone jack, and, for some bizarre reason, a VGA port. On the right is a HDMI 2.0 port, two more USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, and the proprietary power jack. More USB Type-C ports would be nice, though in general the P34Wv5 is loaded with all the ports you’d want.