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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Conclusion

Gigabyte’s P34W v3 subjected us to a whirlwind of emotions. When it arrived, we didn’t believe that such a small machine could also deliver competent gaming performance. Then we ran the P34W v3 through our benchmark suite and saw how well it cut through the titles we threw at it. But there was no ignoring the noise its cooling fans made as they tried to keep up with the high-end host processor and graphics module. Nor could we excuse that Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970M is forced down to clock rates lower than the company’s advertised specification due to a cooling solution incapable of handling its thermal output.

After all of that, though, the P34W v3 is fast enough to maintain 30 FPS on battery power in demanding games at their highest detail settings. It stretches well above that level plugged in to the wall. And a quad-core CPU ensures snappy performance even in demanding applications like Photoshop and 3ds Max. What more could you want from a four-pound laptop less than an inch thick?

The example we were sent to review sells for just under $1700. You can push that price upward by adding more solid-state storage. There aren’t a ton of options available for customization in the 14” form factor though, and we’re alright with that. As far as balance goes, this is the right combination of parts for playing the latest games at the IPS panel’s native 1920x1080.

How about the competition? There’s Razer’s new non-touch Blade that sells for $2000, comes with a larger 256GB SSD but less DDR3L memory and weighs slightly more. You can still find the Alienware 14 for sale; it doesn’t even come close, though. Asus once had its own 14” gaming notebook as well. However, that one’s ancient history. Really, Gigabyte’s P34W v3 is in a very exclusive group. Aside from the pricier Razer, matching its graphics performance means stepping up to the 15.6” form factor or larger. And while 13.3” machines with GeForce GTX 960M graphics exist, you can’t hope for the same high-detail experience at 1920x1080 with half as many CUDA cores.

Gigabyte’s P34W v3 doesn’t force you to choose between mobility and performance—it delivers both with aplomb. Still, there’s no escaping physics. So, the sacrifice you make is a loud cooling solution that, even at full speed, cannot keep up as you game. Keep your headphones handy, and be thankful for a two-year warranty. While we’d certainly prefer the P34W v3 to at least enable Nvidia’s rated specifications, Gigabyte itself doesn’t make any clock rate claims. More aggressive fans would only worsen the acoustic situation, too. At least the P34W v3’s gaming performance remains wholly acceptable, even under dialed-back conditions.

For its ability to achieve playable frame rates at its native 1920x1080 resolution (using the most taxing detail settings), the 14” Gigabyte P34W v3 earns our Tom’s Hardware Recommended award.


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Chris Angelini is a Technical Editor at Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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