Gigabyte Aero 16 YE5 Review

by nerdyminutes


Which came first? Gaming laptops that made a creative’s job easier, or a creative’s laptop that allowed them to escape the day’s workload by casually gaming at night? Judging by the new Gigabyte Aero 16 it looks like it’s the latter, and after gaming and using the Aero 16 for a couple of weeks, I can confirm it’s a fantastic laptop for creatives who spend all day editing photos and videos and then want to play a few games at night or over the weekend.

A 4K AMOLED display, an RTX 3080 Ti and Intel’s 12th Gen Core i9 processor are a great combination, but you’re going to pay for it if that’s truly what you want.

Gigabyte Aero 16 YE5 – Photos

Specs

Here are the specifications of the Gigabyte Aero 16 I’ve been testing:

  • Model: Gigabyte Aero 16 (YE5)
  • Display: 16-inch UHD+ (3840 x 2400), Samsung AMOLED display
  • Processor: 12th Gen Intel Core i9-12900HK (24M cache, 5.0GHz Max Turbo)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU with 16GB GDDR6
  • Memory: 32GB DDR5 4,800MHz
  • OS: Windows 11 Pro
  • Storage: 1 x 1TB SSD, 1 x 2TB SSD
  • Webcam: 1080p
  • Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 4 w/DisplayPort, 1 x Thunderbolt 4 w/DisplayPort and 100W PD charging, 1 x USB3.2 Gen2 Type-C, 1 x 3.5mm audio jack
  • Connectivity: WiFi 6E 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.2
  • Dimensions: 14.02 x 9.78 x 0.88-inches (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 5.07-pounds
  • Price: $4,399

The starting price for this Aero series is $2,599, however the review model I received is fully loaded and priced at $4,399. I couldn’t find exact specifications for the less expensive builds, but the Aero 16’s landing page makes it clear you’ll be able to pick between an RTX 30-series GPU, Intel’s 12th Gen Core i9 and i7 processors, up to 64GB of memory and up to 4TB of SSD storage.

Gigabyte Aero 16 – Design

The Aero 16 doesn’t look like the traditional gaming laptop that has a black and red exterior with hard edges that make up random shapes. Instead, the silver housing with 3mm slim bezels that surround the display are at the core of its design. When opening the lid, you notice there’s a lip in the middle of the housing that gives you a spot to pull it up. That “lip” is actually where the front-facing camera and all the necessary hardware that’s required for facial recognition with Windows Hello is located. Just below the camera is a crisp and clear 16-inch 4K UHD+ AMOLED display with a resolution of 3840×2400. The display size of 16-inches means Gigabyte is using a ratio of 16:10, a first for the company.

The display on the Aero 16 is bright, vivid, and full of saturated colors that look fantastic whether I’m gaming or browsing the web. Seriously, it looks fantastic even in 2K or standard HD. There’s one caveat about gaming I’ll dive into in the next section, but I wouldn’t be mad at all if more vendors switched to a similar display.

Just below the screen, you’ll find the power button centered on the deck of the housing just above the keyboard. The keyboard itself has chiclet keys that are white backlit. You can’t change the color scheme – white is what you get. Finally, there’s a fairly large black trackpad below the keyboard.

Both input methods are fine, but not great. The keyboard is better suited for typing, with minimal travel for a registered keypress. The trackpad responded fast and smoothly to various gestures to get around the Windows 11 Pro interface. But, again, there was nothing spectacular about either component.

On either side you’ll find very little in the way of ports. There’s two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports on the right side, the front of which supports DisplayPort for connecting to an external monitor, while the back port also supports 100W PD charging. On the left side there’s a single USB3.2 Gen2 USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack.

This clearly isn’t a laptop that’s meant to have a bunch of gaming accessories and peripherals plugged into it. Gigabyte does include a small Aero Hub in the box. The hub has a single USB-C connector on it that you’ll plug into one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports on the right side of the housing, which then gives you an RJ45 Ethernet jack, a USB 3.1 Type-A port, a miniDP with 4K@120 support, and an HDMI port with 4K@60 support.

Also included is a small USB-C extension cable that allows the hub to sit further away from the laptop’s housing. Depending on how you attach the hub to the laptop, you can potentially block one of the air vents on the right side of the housing. I didn’t want to have to take a chance during testing, so I used the cable almost exclusively.

Using a hub, and a small one at that, isn’t an ideal setup for a gaming laptop. But the fact that Gigabyte included one in the box is a nice touch that at least offers a solution right off the bat.

Gigabyte Aero 16 – Performance and Gaming

This is the second laptop I’ve had land on my desk that’s equipped with Intel’s 12th Gen Core i9-12900HK, an RTX 3080 Ti and 32GB of DDR5 memory. The core specs, on paper at least, are identical. However, the spec sheet doesn’t tell the entire story. Here’s a look at the benchmark results, comparing the Gigabyte Aero 16 that’s designed for creatives with a smaller and more portable footprint with the unapologetically big MSI Raider GE76, and the also-thin, but lower powered Razer Blade 14.

All tests run at 1080p using the highest available graphics preset.

All tests run at 1080p using the highest available graphics preset.

As you can see from the results, there’s almost no comparison between the two. The Raider is clearly the more powerful laptop, beating out the Aero 16 in almost every test except PCMark 10’s standard test that’s designed to mimic modern office work. Before anyone jumps into the comments and points out that the Aero 16 has a 4K display and the GE76 has a standard 1080p display – you’re right, but all benchmarks were run in 1080p.

As for gaming, well, the same core experience trickled down to that, as well. Playing Warzone, for example, I saw an average of 90 FPS when gaming in 1080p and all graphics settings set to high. Gaming in 4K with the same graphics settings saw an average FPS of 55. I’m not mad at near 60 FPS 4K gaming on a laptop.

Forza Horizon’s 5 caps out the frame rate at 60 FPS, which was easily achieved when playing in 1080p and Extreme settings. Meanwhile at 4K the Aero 16 averaged 40 FPS as I raced around.

So, that begs the question: Why such a huge performance difference between two nearly identical setups? It comes down to the fact that MSI designed the Raider GE76 to be darn near a desktop replacement and optimized everything about it around performance. With the Aero 16, Gigabyte balanced portability with power and performance.

But here’s the thing – the actual experience of gaming on the Aero 16 was just fine. In fact, I’d argue it was slightly better than what I experienced on the GE76 because of a single component: The Super AMOLED display. All of the colors and detail looked fantastic on the Aero 16’s screen, even when playing at 1080p instead of all-out 4K.

One area where I thought I would see more of an impact on the overall experience was with the Gigabyte Control Center’s AI tool that automatically recognizes what you’re doing and adjusts the system’s performance. For example, there’s a dedicated Gaming Mode that is triggered when you launch a game. That mode then changes various settings like fan speed, GPU boost, display brightness and volume. The caveat I mentioned earlier in the review has to do with the AI tool. Without any adjustments, the brightness level when it auto-changes to gaming mode washes everything out. It’s far too bright, which only reinforces that this is a creative-first laptop. Thankfully you can adjust the settings for each AI mode to your liking.

While gaming, I noticed that the housing around the keyboard and trackpad would get very warm to the touch. The top of the deck, near the power button, was especially hot. I couldn’t keep my hand on the housing for more than a few seconds before it got uncomfortable. Even though the housing was that hot, the GPU never crossed 84-degrees Celsius. That said, the palm rest and area around the WASD keys were only slightly warm and not at all uncomfortable, even after extended use.

Speaking of the fans, unless Turbo Mode was activated, they were fairly quiet and didn’t distract from whatever I was doing at the time.

With a total of 3TB combined SSD storage, you have plenty of space to install your favorite AAA games, load up another drive full of raw footage for editing, and still have room to spare.

Gigabyte Aero 16 – Battery Life

Gigabyte estimates the battery life of the Aero 16 at around 7 hours. An impressive number if it was achievable – alas, as is usually the case, our benchmark test proved otherwise. With the display brightness set to 50%, the keyboard backlight turned off and Bluetooth disabled, I ran the PCMark 10 Modern Office battery test.

The Aero 16 powered down after 2 hours and 58 minutes. In comparison, the Raider GE76 powered through 3 hours and 37 minutes of the same benchmark before turning off. Three hours is a respectable mark for any high-end laptop.

Gigabyte Aero 16 – Software

Gigabyte typically takes a light-handed approach to pre-installing software and apps on new laptops. That’s exactly what I experienced on the Aero 16. Outside of the aforementioned Control Center and the standard lineup of Windows 11 apps, the system was virtually vanilla.

The Control Center app has more to it than just the AI feature I mentioned previously. This is the app where you go to view system stats, change keyboard lighting (if equipped) and install system updates, to name a few things.

I appreciate the light handed approach with the software on the Aero 16 and wish more vendors would fall in line.



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