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Aorus X7 Pro Notebook Review: GeForce GTX 970M Gets Slim In SLI

How We Tested The Aorus X7 Pro

Test Hardware Configurations
Aorus X7 ProMSI GT60-2PC-424USQ3 $1600 Performance PC
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4870HQ: 2.5 - 3.7GHz, Four Physical CoresIntel Core i7-4800MQ: 2.7 - 3.7GHz, Four Physical CoresIntel Core i7-4790K: 4.0GHz - 4.40GHz, Four Physical Cores
Graphics2x Nvidia GTX 970M: 1038MHz GPU, GDDR5-5000, SLINvidia GTX 870M: 967MHz GPU, GDDR5-5000PowerColor 290X: 1050MHz GPU,  GDDR5-5400
Memory16GB Crucial DDR3-1866 CAS 10-10-10-308GB Kingston DDR3-1600 CAS 11-11-11-28 (single-channel)8GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 8-9-9-24
MotherboardGigabyte X7V3: BGA1364, HM87 ExpressMS-16F4: FCPGA946, HM87 ExpressMSI Z97 Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express
CaseAorus X7MSI GT60Enermax Ostrog GT
CPU CoolerAorus X7MSI GT60Phanteks PH-TC14PE 140mm
Hard Drive2x Lite-On LMT-256L9M 256GB mSATA 6Gb/s SSD, RAID 0HGST HTS721010A9E630: 1TB, 7200RPM, 32MB cachePlextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerChicony A11-200P1A: 200W, 19V, Level V Efficiency (~87%)Delta ADP-180NB: 180W 19.5V, ExternalEVGA SuperNova 750 B2: 750W, 80 PLUS Bronze
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsNvidia Mobile Version 344.24Nvidia Mobile Version 337.5AMD Catalyst 14.4
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.0.1027Intel INF 9.4.0.1023Intel INF 9.4.0.1026

Unlike boutiques that can match hardware to specific test requirements, Aorus sells turnkey systems with limited configuration options. That sales method provides buyers with improved pricing, but also forces us to compare the X7 Pro to another pre-configured system. MSI’s GT60-2PC Dominator is the closest of our previously-tested machines, but it has only one GPU.

A head-to-head between a single GeForce GTX 970M and one GTX 870M would have required us to remove one of the modules from the X7 Pro, except Aorus doesn't use modules. The next option was to chisel the second GPU off the X7 Pro’s motherboard. We didn’t do that either. Rather than destroy the notebook to get accurate single-GPU power numbers, we decided to put more of our focus on the performance aspect.

Aorus was so certain that its notebook would deliver desktop-class gaming performance that it offered to send along a GeForce GTX 980 discrete card for the sole purpose of making the comparison. After the firm failed to meet both its own delivery deadline and its desktop hardware commitment, I decided to put it up against my System Builder Marathon $1600 Performance PC using the full set of SBM benchmarks.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 4Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 11, 100-Sec. Fraps "Tashgar" Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA, 4x AF, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4x MSAA, 16x AF, HBAO
Grid 2Steam Version, In-Game Test Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Arma 3Version 1.08.113494, 30-Sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase" Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC., SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CCVersion 12.0.0.404: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premiere Pro CCVersion 7.0.0 (342), 6.61GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.99: Video from Canon EOS 7D (1920x1080, 25FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000Hz, 2-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1kHz, 2-Channel, 16-Bit, 224Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat 11Version 11.0.0.379: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.68A, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.30 alpha (64-bit): THG-Workload (1.3GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.5.0, Benchmark Only
3DMark ProfessionalVersion: 1.2.250.0 (64-bit), Fire Strike Benchmark
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware SandraVersion 2014.02.20.10, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia / Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.