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.