Gigabyte P34W v3 Gaming Laptop Review

Gigabyte's P34W v3 is one of the only two 14-inch gaming notebooks with GeForce GTX 970M graphics. Can portability and performance really coexist?

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Thermal Performance

It’s a good thing that Intel’s Core i7-4720HQ and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970M have performance to spare, because Gigabyte’s cooling solution can’t quite keep up with the P34W v3’s hardware under load.

We logged the graphics processor’s clock rates as Unigine’s Valley benchmark looped in the background and watched it drop from a GPU Boost frequency of 1038MHz to 848MHz over the course of a few minutes. That’s lower than the 970M’s specified 924MHz base clock rate. This should not happen. It’s the same sort of issue that got AMD in trouble when the Radeon R9 290X first launched. In short, Nvidia’s GM204 is quickly hitting its thermal ceiling and then pulling performance to avoid exceeding it.

Meanwhile, Gigabyte’s fans try their hardest to exhaust the graphics subsystem’s heat. In the process, they get obnoxiously loud. This is where high-end components and a compact chassis come to a head. It’s just fortunate that, when the P34W v3 does succumb to physics, your experience isn’t ruined—there’s enough performance in reserve at those lower clock rates to continue gaming smoothly.

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • royalcrown
    UGH, Stupid, Crappy VGA port...Dissappear already !
    Reply
  • Solandri
    I have this laptop. I'm not sure what brightness setting is 200 nits, but I find 50% good for daytime indoors, and 30% comfortable at night. I only feel the need to crank it above 50% if I'm by a sunny window. At 30% I get over 4 hours of battery life running office tasks and web browsing. Turning off hyperthreading in the BIOS extends that to almost 5 hours.

    The thermal throttling is a problem. But other owners have reported eliminating it by repasting and undervolting the CPU. I'm planning to do that, but haven't yet had time.

    The VGA port is there because Gigabyte knows their market. Real gamers don't mind buying a big and heavy gaming laptop. These thin and light gaming laptops are mostly being bought by business people, who use it as their work laptop when they travel, then relax with some gaming in their hotel room. The lid is very nondescript - completely black with only the Gigabyte logo. Anyone looking at it would never guess it's a gaming laptop. Anyway, the VGA port is there so these business people can plug it into older projectors that are ubiquitous in meeting rooms. The laptop also has a HDMI port (and can output to both + screen simultaneously), though I would've preferred Displayport.

    The fan noise can be obnoxious, but Gigabyte has included an app to let you quickly select fan and performance profiles. At the lowest setting ("stealth") the fan noise is completely acceptable in an office environment. Probably too much for a library when gaming. Performance takes a big hit, but it's more than adequate for most of the games I play. If you plan to use the other settings (low, high, max), break out the headphones.

    Others have complained of problems with fit and finish. Some pieces of plastic aren't completely straight, or have gaps. Backlight bleed seems to be a common problem too. I'm fortunate in that mine doesn't have any backlight bleed or problems with fit and finish. I would buy it again in a heartbeat.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    Just wondering, when the GPU has pulled itself back to 848, is it still quicker than a 960M? If not, maybe Gigabyte would have been better off making this 960M-based, though if the mobile versions differ in the way the desktop cards do, perhaps even a reduced 970M is still way quicker than a 960M.

    Don't laptops at least have the option of running on full power from the battery, instead of always reducing the clocks, etc.? One should at least have the option of staying a max speed even on batter power, kinda handy if one knows the game time is only going to be 30 mins anyway, short train journey or something.

    Ian.

    Reply
  • soldier44
    I stopped reading at 1080p.
    Reply
  • rohitbaran
    @soldier44
    Well, as said in the review, there are not any laptops with that form factor and capability of 1440p gaming since it is really tough to get suitable performance from a card that can suitably fit in that form factor without burning itself out. So what do you expect? Unless you prefer jet engines for cooling fans...
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    16140667 said:
    @soldier44
    Well, as said in the review, there are not any laptops with that form factor and capability of 1440p gaming since it is really tough to get suitable performance from a card that can suitably fit in that form factor without burning itself out. So what do you expect? Unless you prefer jet engines for cooling fans...

    Thank you. Not to mention that generally mobile GPUs have to run at lower clock settings, have cut down shader and texture units, have less memory, and have a cut memory bus all to help keep not only the temps down but the power use down as well. A quick comparison link to a 970M vs. 970:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/nvidia-geforce-maxwell-mobile-gtx-970m-gtx-980m,27833.html

    But with that said, these days I find it hard to justify spending big bucks on a mobile PC gaming solution. I first and last spent nearly $2k on a high end Dell Alienware gaming laptop about 7 years ago (with a 1920x1200 17" display) and will never do it again. No way to upgrade and every new game out continued to need to be detuned in quality. Due to that, portable gaming for me eventually got transferred to the PS3 and more recently the PS4.

    Reply
  • TallestJon96
    It would be nice to get the 970m as a desktop card (960 ti). It's seems nearly perfect for 1080p
    Reply
  • Traciatim
    It would be nice to get the 970m as a desktop card (960 ti). It's seems nearly perfect for 1080p

    The 970m already has desktop equivalents in the 660ti and 760. The desktop 960 already outmatches the 970m by a good amount, the other way you can get a 750ti for cheap 1080p gaming with a good amount of settings turned up.

    There are no desktop 900 series cards yet as slow as the 970m.
    Reply
  • fimbulvinter
    The VGA port is there because Gigabyte knows their market. Real gamers don't mind buying a big and heavy gaming laptop. These thin and light gaming laptops are mostly being bought by business people, who use it as their work laptop when they travel, then relax with some gaming in their hotel room. The lid is very nondescript - completely black with only the Gigabyte logo. Anyone looking at it would never guess it's a gaming laptop.

    I have an older version of this model. Exact same chassis but previous model CPU and GPU.

    But what you said is why I got it. This is a 70% work 30% gaming system for me and I honestly don't think there is too many other gaming laptops out there that don't scream GAMING LAPTOP with garish case lights and logos.

    Although the thing really does scream GAMING LAPTOP when those fans spin up lol
    Reply
  • Manticorp
    I have this laptop - I chose it over the Razer Blade because it was ~£600 cheaper AND I wanted the 1080p display over the 1800p display, and over the MSI ghost pro because I wanted something 14 inch and a bit more inconspicuous - and I have to say, it suits me down to the ground.

    Regarding gaming, it's been able to handle everything I throw at it enormously well. I play Far Cry 4 on a 3K Dell U2515H at max settings and it handles it fine, not an ounce of stutter.

    I also use it at work every day, the battery lasts a good 4-5 hours for normal chores, and it's so unassuming and professional looking that I don't feel conspicuous using it. I have to plug it in if I'm out and about and want to watch a movie, as it'll only go about 1.5-2 hours then.

    But then I go home, plug it into a nice big screen, and that's when the real playtime starts.

    I found the Gigabyte P34W to be the only laptop to offer sleek, inconspicuous looks with extremely good gaming power underneath in a relatively affordable package.

    I have a colleague who bought a Acer V Nitro - I'm so glad the Gigabyte has white backlit keys instead of RED (urgh).

    I absolutely haven't looked back since buying this laptop - it's simply the best on the market if you want to use it for gaming and for work.
    Reply