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Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Review 2021

Last April, we awarded the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB an Editors’ Choice laurel as a top laptop for creative professionals. The Aero 15 OLED XC is a modest refresh with Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 30 Series (“Ampere”) graphics silicon, which nets you an extra 5 or 10 frames per second (fps) when playing games after work. It’s also $500 cheaper ($2,199 in our test configuration), which makes it a screaming bargain—the last time we raved about a high-end creative notebook with a 4K OLED display, it was the $4,491 HP ZBook Create G7. Its webcam focuses on your neck and chin instead of your face, but otherwise this Gigabyte is a slam-dunk Editors’ Choice winner that will thrill any digital content creator. 


Almost a Workstation, Almost a Gamer 

Like the ZBook Create, the Aero 15 OLED XC just misses being called a mobile workstation since it has Nvidia GeForce instead of Quadro graphics and lacks independent software vendor (ISV) certifications for specialized apps. Its touchpad has no buttons, let alone the middle button used by many computer-aided design programs.

It’s not quite a match for the twice-the-price HP because it has an eight-core Intel Core i7-10870H processor instead of a Core i9 and a 1TB instead of 2TB solid-state drive. (You can choose an Aero 15 OLED YC model with Core i9-10980HK and 2TB of storage for $3,499.) But its 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM are double what last year’s model XB gave you, and its 8GB GeForce RTX 3070 Max-Q GPU is no slouch. 

At 0.78 by 14 by 9.8 inches and 4.4 pounds, the Gigabyte is minutely bigger and heavier than the ZBook Create, though half a pound lighter than the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition. Its black aluminum chassis is decorated with a light-up Aero logo on the lid. There’s a bit of flex if you grasp the screen corners, but none if you press the keyboard deck.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC rear view

The top and side screen bezels are so thin that the webcam and its sliding privacy shutter are mounted above the keyboard, giving an even worse up-your-nose view than cameras located on the bottom bezel. The webcam lacks face recognition (neck recognition?) capability but there’s a fingerprint reader in a corner of the touchpad for Windows Hello logins. Gaming laptops are jealous of the Aero’s RGB backlit keyboard, which offers a dozen different rainbow-hued animation effects.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC left ports

HDMI and mini DisplayPort video outputs are on the laptop’s left edge, along with a USB 3.2 Type-A port, a 2.5Gbps Ethernet jack, and an audio connector. Two more USB-A 3.2 ports join one Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port, an SD card slot, and the connector for the AC adapter on the right. Gigabyte forgot a security cable lock slot.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC right ports


Ready for Productivity 

Sound from the bottom-mounted speakers isn’t particularly loud and bass is weak, but audio is clear instead of fuzzy or tinny and you can make out overlapping tracks. Nahimic software lets you try surround sound; sample music, movie, gaming, and communication presets; or tinker with an equalizer and voice, bass, and treble boosters. The nostril cam captures fairly well-lit and colorful 720p images, but its shots are soft-focus, with some static.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC webcam

The keyboard offers dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys above the numeric keypad; the cursor arrows are in the correct inverted T instead of a row but aren’t separated from the other keys. Typing feel is quiet and tolerable—somewhat shallow and more flat than snappy. The midsize touchpad glides and taps smoothly and clicks quietly with light pressure.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC keyboardGigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC touchpad

Gigabyte says every Aero 15 OLED XC’s screen is Pantone certified and color-calibrated at the factory. Like other OLED displays, the bright 15.6-inch, non-touch panel has stellar contrast with India-ink blacks and pristine whites—it meets the VESA DisplayHDR 400 True Black standard, although the company admits black pixels aren’t entirely dark (there’s still 0.0005 nit of brightness). Colors are rich and vivid, covering 100 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut, and fine details are as sharp as 3,840-by-2,160-pixel resolution can make them.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC front view

The supplied Control Center utility doesn’t let you switch among DCI-P3, sRGB, and Adobe RGB palettes as some mobile workstations do, but you can choose among five color temperature settings and activate blue-light reduction. Control Center also provides handy options for everything from changing keyboard lighting to toggling Wi-Fi 6 coverage and admiring a graph of fan speed versus temperature. The Windows 10 Pro system also comes with a utility that Gigabyte claims taps Microsoft Azure server AI to optimize performance. 


Performance Testing: The Eight-Core Elite 

The Aero comes with Nvidia’s creative-app-oriented Studio driver rather than its gaming-optimized GeForce driver, but it is more than fast enough to play the latest games, as well as taking on image rendering or 4K video editing. (Like its competitors, it’s merely idling during Word, Excel, or browsing tasks.) For our benchmark charts, I compared it with two content-creator machines, the HP ZBook Create G7 mentioned up top and the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro, plus two gaming rigs with previous- and latest-generation GeForce RTX graphics respectively: the Asus ROG Zephyrus S15, and the Alienware m15 R4. You can see their basic specs in the table below.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC comparison chart

Productivity and Media Tests 

PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet toiling, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better. (See more about how we test laptops.)

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC PCMark

We consider 4,000 points an outstanding score in PCMark 10, so the Gigabyte’s 6,141 points make it a productivity monster. PCMark 8’s storage measurement is cake for today’s speedy SSDs. 

Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Cinebench

Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing benchmark, in which we put a stopwatch on systems as they transcode a brief movie from 4K resolution down to 1080p. It, too, is a tough test for multi-core, multi-threaded CPUs; lower times are better.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Handbrake

Cinebench scores over 1,000 and Handbrake times under 10 minutes show formidable processing power. The Aero’s taking eight minutes to its rivals’ seven in Handbrake looks like a loss, but it was a near thing—we round times to the nearest minute, and the XC finished the job in 7 minutes and 38 seconds. 

We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and add up the total (lower times are better). The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Photoshop

When you kick Apple’s flagship MacBook Pro’s butt in a Photoshop race, you’d have a superb image editing platform even without the Gigabyte’s gorgeous 4K OLED display. 

Graphics and Gaming Tests 

3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and lets high-end PCs and gaming rigs strut their stuff.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC 3DMark

Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 30 Series asserts itself, with the Alienware and Gigabyte leading the pack. 

Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene, this one rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets and reported in frames per second (fps), indicating how smooth the scene looks in motion. For lower-end systems, maintaining at least 30fps is the realistic target, while more powerful computers should ideally attain at least 60fps at the test resolution.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Superposition

Same deal here. Even a challenging 1080p game simulation is child’s play for these systems. 

The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern AAA titles with built-in benchmark routines. We run these tests at 1080p resolution using both moderate and maximum graphics-quality presets—Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5 under DirectX 11, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider under DirectX 12.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Far Cry 5Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Rise of the Tomb Raider

The Asus’ GeForce RTX 2080 Super isn’t ready for the scrap heap despite the arrival of the RTX 30 Series. For its part, the Aero more than held its own against the gaming laptops. 

Battery Rundown Test 

After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop into airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender Foundation short film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC battery life

The MacBook Pro is in a class by itself, but the Aero did pretty well for a machine with a bright 4K screen. It’ll get you through most if not all of a workday away from AC power.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC keyboard lights


A Faster GPU and a Price Cut? We’ll Take It 

The Aero 15 OLED XC’s Core i7 processor is actually 100MHz slower than that of last year’s model XB, and it was a few seconds behind in our Photoshop and Handbrake benchmarks. But it packs the latest GeForce graphics, the same stellar screen, more memory and storage, and a lower price. Giving it an Editors’ Choice win was a no-brainer; the misplaced webcam is the only major thing keeping it from a perfect five-star rating. Bravo, Gigabyte.

Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC Specs

Laptop Class Desktop Replacement
Processor Intel Core i7-10870H
Processor Speed 2.2 GHz
RAM (as Tested) 32 GB
Boot Drive Type SSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested) 1 TB
Screen Size 15.6 inches
Native Display Resolution 3,840 by 2,160
Touch Screen No
Panel Technology OLED
Variable Refresh Support None
Screen Refresh Rate 60 Hz
Graphics Processor Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop GPU
Graphics Memory 8 GB
Wireless Networking Bluetooth, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)
Dimensions (HWD) 0.78 by 14 by 9.8 inches
Weight 4.4 lbs
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes) 8:45

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