On The Inside
Naturally, cramming high-end hardware into a compact gaming notebook requires efficient use of space, and Gigabyte appears to have capitalized on every square inch. The Core i7-4720HQ and GM204 sit right next to each other, covered by heat spreaders and two flattened pipes. Those pipes run from one side of the P34W to the other, ending in arrays of cooling fins. Fans blow across them and out the back.
Intel’s -4720HQ is a quad-core, Hyper-Threaded processor with a 2.6GHz base clock and 3.6GHz peak Turbo Boost frequency. It sports 6MB of shared L3 cache, AES-NI support and a dual-channel memory controller capable of running at data rates as high as 1600 MT/s. While the company’s HD Graphics 4600 engine serves up unimpressive 3D performance, it adds QuickSync and Wireless Display support, both of which can come in useful on the road.
When it comes time to game, the GM204-based GeForce GTX 970M kicks into gear. The GPU has 1280 of its CUDA cores enabled, along with 80 texture units and 48 ROPs. An aggregate 192-bit memory bus attaches to 3GB of GDDR5 memory. There’s a 6GB version of the 970M as well; however, the 3GB implementation is ample for any combination of resolution and detail settings you’d ask of the cut-back GM204.
There are only two SO-DIMM slots on the P34W v3, so pick your modules carefully. Our sample came with two 8GB sticks of DDR3L-1600 from Transcend, totaling 16GB. Bear in mind that although Intel’s memory controller does support 32GB, Gigabyte’s platform tops out at 16.
The P34W v3 doesn’t give you tons of room for storage upgrades, though the one mSATA slot and a single 2.5” bay are more than enough for most gamers. A 128GB Lite-On SSD in our notebook is powered by a Marvell controller and rated for 512 MB/s sequential reads and 320 MB/s sequential writes. Gigabyte also supports 256 and 512GB mSATA drives. Given the relatively small SSD we’re testing, though, a 1TB HGST disk comes in particularly useful for game installations and user data. Really, the SSD/HDD combination is perfectly balanced for such a small high-performance gaming machine.
Gigabyte implements two networking interfaces: a PCIe-based GbE controller from Realtek and Intel’s dual-band Wireless-AC 7260 2x2 mini-PCIe card. In addition to supporting 802.11ac at up to 867 Mb/s on the 5GHz band (enabling Wireless Display in the process), the little module also includes Bluetooth 4.0.
Much of the P34W v3’s internal space is dedicated to a 61.25Wh Li-ion battery. Remarkably, even though this system is small and filled with fast components, it exceeds two hours of run time in two of our battery life tests and approaches three hours in a third. Don’t plan on getting much from it if you’re gaming on the road. But when you need to get some work done away from the wall, the P34W v3 won’t leave you stranded.
Two oblong drivers sit in front of the battery, right up against the notebook’s edge. These are truly diminutive. Although Gigabyte advertises Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater audio technology, there is no getting around the limitations of 1.5W speakers facing downward. If you want to drown out the cooling fans, attach your own headset to the P34W v3’s 3.5mm jack.
Rounding out the otherwise exceptional hardware package is an AU Optronics B140HAN Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle (AHVA) panel with a hard anti-glare surface. Its viewing angles are unbeatable, as we’d expect from IPS technology, and you’ll find the screen easy to use indoors or out.