Wrap Up: Good Specs, But What Went Wrong?
Despite the Gigabyte P34W v5 ticking many boxes on paper, unfortunately the final product isn’t polished or impressive enough for me to recommend it over competing gaming laptops on the market.
I’ll start with the positives, which mostly concern the laptop’s hardware. The choice to use an Intel Core i7-6700HQ paired with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M, up to 16 GB of RAM, and ultra-fast solid state storage was a good one at this laptop’s price point. This hardware combination is capable of playing today’s high-end PC games at 1440p using high or very high quality settings, which is exactly what you’d want out of a gaming laptop with these internals.
The display itself is also generally decent, packing a ton of pixels (if you get the 1440p model) and delivering above average color reproduction as well as great viewing angles. The display isn’t perfect – it isn’t as bright as today’s ultraportables, and a lack of G-Sync hurts the gaming experience – but I can forgive both of these things considering the use case and price of this gaming laptop.
Where the P34W v5 falls down is in pretty much every other aspect. The design is so bland and uninteresting that I can’t truly tell whether it uses metal or plastic for the majority of its construction. You do get a good selection of ports, including HDMI 2.0 and USB Type-C, although the inclusion of Ethernet and, inexplicably, VGA prevents the P34W from challenging in the thin-and-light gaming notebook market.
The keyboard, while adequately spaced and laid out, feels mushy, and I don’t like how Gigabyte relegated key system setting adjustments behind a function key. The ELAN trackpad is awful and needs serious work on both a hardware and firmware level to even compete with the best Windows trackpads I’ve used. It doesn’t register gestures very well, it’s not responsive when it needs to be, and doesn’t feel great to use.
And then there’s the issues with the cooling solution. The Gigabyte P34W v5 runs very hot and very loud, indicating the two-fan-and-heatpipe system is not doing its job very well. While the fans do exhaust quite a bit of hot air during load, the laptop body gets very hot as well, to the point where it’s uncomfortable to use on your lap. Parts of the keyboard also exceed 45°C, which is far from ideal, and the fan noise could easily be described as ‘piercing, like a jet engine’.
At $1,499 for the base 1080p model, and $1,759 for the 1440p model I reviewed, the Gigabyte P34W v5 is very reasonably priced for a 14-inch gaming laptop: in fact, it’s the cheapest 14-inch gaming laptop on Newegg by a margin of $100, and it’s quite a bit cheaper than the $2,399 Razer Blade.
However, that $100 pricier laptop is the MSI GS40 Phantom, which includes mostly the same hardware as the base P34W v5, but in a better, lighter package with double the RAM and features like Killer networking and Thunderbolt 3. When you’re already spending $1,500 or more on a gaming laptop, I’d say spending the extra $100 on a better product is well worth it.
If you’re not completely set on buying a 14-inch notebook, there are also better options for a similar price at either smaller or larger screen sizes, particularly from MSI, Asus and even Alienware. If you’re more interested in a portable gaming laptop, products from Razer and Gigabyte’s own Aorus brand, even though they’re more expensive, may also be what you’re after.
Pros: Decent gaming hardware for the price, including a GTX 970M and up to a 1440p IPS display. Good selection of ports.
Cons: Extremely bland design, with a mediocre keyboard and terrible trackpad. Substandard cooling solution makes the laptop run hot and loud. Smaller than average battery capacity.