Last year, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang presented the original Aero 15X as an example of what manufacturers could do with their Max-Q graphics, starting a boom in laptops for lightweight and thin but powerful games. This year, he took the Aero 15Y. It is still only 19 mm thick, but it is a little heavier, with 4.5 pounds. That is still quite impressive considering the new internal parts.
The only RTX 2080 Max-Q model that is lightest is the 4.2 pound GS65 Stealth from MSI. However, that laptop has a smaller battery and, as you will soon find out, that makes a big difference. The Omen 15 of HP has a RTX 2070 Max-Q and weighs 5.2 pounds, the m15 of Alienware weighs 4.8 pounds, while the ROG Zephyrus S of ASUS, with graphics RTX 2080 Max-Q, weighs just one touch more than 4.6 pounds . None of those weights includes the heavy-power brick often, of course.
Otherwise, the Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 has exactly the same low profile design as the latest model, with only a triangular textured area as a nod to its game genes. It has small bevels, which makes the laptop smaller than its 15.6-inch screen suggests, and easily fits into the back pocket of my Peak Design messenger bag.
Due to the discreet design and high-end components, the Aero 15 Y9 is equally suitable for games and content creation. To be sure, the model I tried had the specifications of the upper drawer. It includes an Intel Core i9-8950H six-core CPU, NVD Intel 760p 2TB SSD, 32GB of RAM (upgradable to 64GB), NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, a 94 Wh battery and a 4K 60Hz display. Gigabyte will finally launch a similar model with a 1080p screen at 144Hz that will undoubtedly be more suitable for games and will have a much longer battery life.
There is no way to control it, just run it in "border" (Gigabyte), "cloud" (Microsoft) or disabled mode. Given the minor performance improvements, it was not particularly useful. However, it is supposed to learn and become smarter over time, so it may improve in the future.
As for the veined ray tracing (RT), I could only use it in a game: Battlefield v. You need a very specific PC configuration that includes the latest version of Windows 10 (version 1806) and recent NVIDIA drivers. I love pretty graphics, and ray tracing is delivered, sometimes, with reflections, realistic lighting and more atmospheric games. A recent NVIDIA patch offers improved RT performance in Battlefield v, and I discovered that I could play without problems at 1080p or less. In 4K, there was a bit of stuttering and delay with the enabled function, unfortunately.
Gigabyte, like many laptop manufacturers, uses the NVIDIA Optimus system, which switches between the Intel Iris 630 and discrete graphics to balance performance and battery life. If you use your laptop with an external monitor via HDMI or DisplayPort, it will be powered exclusively by NVIDIA graphics. That means you can connect an external monitor with a higher refresh rate and benefit from better speeds and features like NVIDIA's HDR and G-SYNC.
The 4K AUO screen is quite beautiful. It covers 100 percent of the Adobe RGB range and is calibrated at the factory with the Pantone configuration. I found that it worked well for watching movies, games and creating content with accurate colors. However, unlike the upcoming Dell and HP OLED display models, it can not handle HDR. At 283 nits, the screen is moderately, but not incredibly, bright. Even so, if you like the 4K resolution, like me, the Netflix movies and games looked incredibly clear and, as far as color is concerned, everything was beautiful and compelling.
In addition to the higher resolution screen, the GPU is another attractive feature for video editors and graphics professionals. The RTX 2080 is the first NVIDIA GPU to support full H.265 HEVC RGB 4K 10-bit decoding, which will eventually make YouTube playback and H.265 video editing smoother.
NVIDIA also joined forces with RED to support playback of 8K video files, which will make video editing and effects much less annoying. I tried to download one (courtesy of Phil Holland), along with Redcine X from RED, and I can confirm that I was able to play a high-fat 8K RED video clip, which is a bit crazy on a laptop.
The Aero 15 Y9 got a little warmer than my Aero 15X, helped by the double fans that drive the air down and out. I was able to place it in my lap during the game sessions, and it never felt uncomfortably warm. The new model was also a little quieter, with a reduction in fan noise, except for more challenging graphics and game play tasks.
As for the writing and the mouse, I liked the keyboard of my Aero 15X, so I am pleased that it has not changed in the new model. Gigabyte fixed the trackpad, luckily, and was less rigid and more precise than the previous one. It's actually pretty good now, and unfortunately, that's more than you can say for most Windows laptops.
In our battery depletion tests, in which an HD video loop was placed until the power ran out, the Aero 15 Y9 ran for three and a half hours. While that may seem sad next to the previous model, which lasted almost eight hours, it is typical of laptops with 4K screens. Calculating and pushing quadruples of pixels has a big impact on battery life, and screens have a lot of power. As mentioned, Gigabyte will soon release a 1080p version with a much faster 144Hz update frequency version of the Aero 15 Y9, and should last much longer on a single charge.
Instead of using Dolby Atmos for audio, as before, the latest model features Nahimic 3D audio for players. That will not make a big difference, since Dolby Atmos on laptops has nothing to do with a true home theater system: it's more about branding than about anything else. Two-watt external speakers still have a tin quality, and basses are just a distant dream.