It’s that time of the year again with refreshes abound and it seems like for Aorus, they are no different.
When Aorus offered me a gaming laptop that was spec’d to something that I would buy, I, of course, wasn’t able to say no to take a look at what Aorus has to offer under the Aorus gaming branding.
Since I had not been keeping up with their particular line-up of refreshes, it came as a surprise to me that the footprint of the laptop was quite small for a gaming laptop with a 15” display.
How does this pretty tiny gaming laptop fare against other laptops in its class though? Let’s check it out.
What is the Aorus 15?
The Aorus 15 is their gaming-branded line-up of laptops that has now come refreshed with Intel and Nvidia’s latest and greatest hardware with 9th Generation Coffee Lake processors and Turing respectively.
Our “SA” model comes with the most modest configuration of the bunch that comes with the i7-9750H along with the mid-tier GTX 1660ti. That’s not to say that it is a slouch in the configs either; like other manufacturers, even this baseline model comes with a high-refresh 144Hz panel along with a decently sized battery coupled with the what-should-be-industry-standard 2 SSD slots on a gaming device.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
Our package comes in a very modestly packed carrying case; nothing fancy, just a nice and sleek carrying case for the laptop and its accessories. The box packaging is pretty nice and simple with the logo coming front and centre with a classy, no-fuss colour palate; minimal but serviceable for an Aorus-branded gaming laptop.
Opening it up, we see that the laptop is tucked safely in packaging foam which is always nice to see. The laptop comes in a small cloth bag with an additional anti-dust cloth sandwiched in between the keyboard and the lid; a nice and pleasant gift for an entry-level gaming laptop.
The contents you get are mostly par-for-course; the expected laptop, charger and warranty card are all there. Interestingly, there appears to be a ribbon cable to riser connection included in the box along with a couple of brackets which would warrant further investigation when we do a teardown later in this review.
The chassis is decently designed and of good build quality. It features a pretty plain and straight design with some angular and “arrow” accents decorated around the ventilation with not much of a “gamer flare” to speak of in terms of color. A mostly black/white/silver affair that actually didn’t feature the dark orange color of the Aorus branding unlike Gigabyte’s GPUs; a positive in my book as it is now better suited for office use.
The top deck of the laptop is made of metal unlike most of its plastic exterior. I find this to be perfectly serviceable as the keyboard exhibits little flex when pushed down and it generally feels like a premium device when touching it.
Ventilation seems to be alright through the typical sides, back and bottom of the case; a small nitpick I had was that due to the “wave-like” groove of the mesh at the bottom, it might be slightly uncomfortable to use placing it on your lap.
First impression I had when opening this laptop for the first time basically went like this: “God damn that’s thin”. The Aorus 15 features your now ever-popular thin-bezel display that you would normally see in lighter laptops along with thinner than average height making this look incredibly sleek from the get-go.
The lid is fairly easy to open with one hand but tips the body of the laptop a little, suggesting a slightly uneven weight distribution. Aorus has also chosen the singular hinge design much like the Dell G7.
Though as I’ve stated previously, there is no compromise in stability over your more standard 2 hinge design in practice; I should know, I’ve tested it. Trying to shake the entire body vertically or horizontally while the screen is in its 90-degree position yields no change in the position of the screen.
What does however, take a hit for such a thin display is with screen flexing. The screen can quite easily be flexed from its corners and due to how thin it is and exhibits quite a bit of discoloration along the majority of the screen going towards the center.
About 70% of the screen can become discolored and look unsaturated through this; though, do note that this is probably a situation where not many users will experience.
Coming in at 2.4Kg with the 180W charger somewhere around the ~300g range, it certainly is about 10% lighter than most typical gaming laptop + charger combinations we’ve seen from other manufacturers.
What you’re getting is certainly very portable from a mobility standpoint and most would have no problem carrying around the additional weight of the charger all day at this weight range.
Aorus has chosen to still stick a full-sized keyboard in here despite cutting down on both the length and width of a typical gaming laptop; it is clear that some sacrifices had to be made to achieve this.
The main enter key has been shrunk down from its typical size and the number keys on the right are definitely made to be slightly smaller than the letter keys.
It is here I would like to suggest Aorus to look into maximizing the entire width of the keyboard deck real-estate, much like what we are seeing with Dell’s 2-in-1 XPS line-up of laptops with their keyboards. Either that, or this chassis could be better served if Aorus provided users a model with a 10keyless design.
Due to this, I had my fair share of tapping on the single quotation key by accident (more often than I should) which would be a sore point for me that is primarily doing programming-centric work where both keys are used a lot.
This is definitely something you need to get used to if you intend on purchasing this device; the difficulty of adjusting to which will need to be considered on a user-to-user basis (it was still somewhat difficult for me).
During my Typeracer test where I test the typing experience and ergonomics of the keyboard, I came up to an average of 81 WPM over a 5-run average making it the highest run I’ve had across all the previous devices.
However, this result should come as no surprise as the typing experience is basically the same as what I’ve been using as my own daily driver, the Clevo P650.
Despite the above-mentioned sacrifices and the gripes that I have with this device, the overall experience (minus the enter key) appears to be good with nice tactile feedback and key travel that you can come to expect from the typical gaming keyboard on a gaming-oriented laptop and is overall pleasant to type on.
Zone-based RGB lighting is still present in this model if you care for making your keyboard just a little bit more colorful.
The trackpad, like the keyboard, has also been taken to a minor slimming session to accommodate the size of the device. The height of the track pad has been reduced to more of a “rectangular-ish” shape than what manufacturers have traditionally which is more akin to a square; a small usability compromise that I quickly got used to.
On the usability front, I find the trackpad to be smooth and decently accurate though initially I had some trouble scrolling/moving the mouse vertically as I thought there would be more space for me to not re-adjust the position of my finger.
Tactility of the clicks can also be improved as I find the clicking feedback to either be too subtle or not even there at all; either not matching up with the clicking sound or not depressing enough to feel like a click has been made.
Overall, it’s a decent trackpad for a gaming notebook but it’s not one I’d use for an extended period of time if given a choice.
Unfortunately, it didn’t do so well in terms of not tracking fingerprints. During the 2 hours of casual usage, I found it tracking much of the fingerprint oils already so pack a micro fiber cloth if you are going out with this thing.
Wi-Fi, Connectivity & Storage
The Wi-fi solution that Aorus has chosen to use is once again the Killer Wireless-AC 1550 that we’ve seen in several laptops now.
Done again using our steam download test where we used a 5Ghz network 5m away from the router like we’ve always been using, the Killer Wi-Fi definitely achieves good results here; even eking out a slight edge compared to the same chipset on the Alienware m15.
Though again, do take note that this might be a SSD vs HDD bottleneck as we were downloading games onto the m15’s hard drive but nonetheless, a good showing even if it didn’t beat the currently fastest tested.
Despite the small size, no compromise seems to have been made on the connectivity of the device. Connectivity is plenty and they even managed to squeeze in a microSD card slot!
Below are the ports for this device:
- 1x Eternet Port
- 1x mini DP 1.3
- 1x HDMI 2.0
- 3x USB 3.1 Type A Gen 1
- 1x USB 3.1 Type C Gen 2
- 1x MicroSD card slot
- 1x Audio combo jack
- 1x Power jack
Very interestingly, Aorus has chosen to give this device 2 connections for external output via both the HDMI and (mini) DP standard which is very odd to see.
A welcome, but still odd choice from Aorus as I’ve not seen something like this from any manufacturer ever since having both VGA and HDMI for laptop outputs fell out of place in the early to mid-2010s.
Personally, I feel like that additional connectivity should’ve made way for a full-sized SD card slot if possible but this is just my bias as a content producer speaking. Still, massive props to Aorus for even including one in the first place on a small chassis.
Storage options, despite being a smaller than average for your gaming laptop, still packs the necessary I/Os for a variety of storage options.
Our test unit only came with a 512Gb Intel 760p NvMe SSD that is basically your ideal storage medium for laptops like these.
While the storage device didn’t amaze me with its speed, it is still decent, and more importantly, cheap enough for the user to buy in higher capacities without breaking the bank due to the use of TLC NAND technology.
Since there is a total of two SSD slots (one unpopulated in our own testing unit), it’s easy for the user to upgrade to a better storage should the need arise.
As always, it is recommended to go for larger storage capacities as 512Gb will only get you so far when it comes to installing large steam games.
Since I don’t really own any high-speed microSD cards, I tested the speed of the microSD card slot with a typical Sandisk Ultra 128Gb.
I’m glad that Aorus didn’t cheap out on using a slower controller and just slap it in there for the sake of being able to say that they do have these connectivity options; the drive reached typical speeds in sequential read and writes (the most important metric in media-centric workflows) and does not bottleneck the microSD card at all.
Pricing, Specs and Comparison
The Aorus 15 lands itself competing with laptops from other manufacturers in the entry-level gaming laptop segment.
While not domineering in the value proposition compared to everyone else, the value it provides is still decent.
You can see the comparison below:
|Aorus 15||Clevo P960RD||Dell G7|
|GPU||GTX 1660ti||RTX 2060||GTX 1060 Max-Q|
|Storage||512Gb NvMe SSD||1Tb HDD + 512Gb M.2 SATA SSD||1Tb HDD + 256Gb SSD|
|Display||144Hz IPS 1080p||144Hz AHVA 1080p||60 Hz IPS 1080p|
|Wifi||Killer AC 1550||Intel 9560||Intel AC 9560|
|Warranty||2 Years||2 Years||3 Years|
Performance, Cooling & Synthetic Benchmarks
Heat and noise are definitely some sacrifices that had to be made to shave off the weight of the device whilst keeping the computing power of an entry/mid-range gaming laptop.
In our Cinebench R20 benchmark, it achieved pretty good results from our testing beating even the heavier Dell G7 that we recently reviewed. It maintained an all-core boost of 3.0Ghz 1 minute after starting the test with clock speeds maintained throughout the test. However, it did get quite loud and hot to achieve this, reaching an average core temperature of 92 degrees Celsius at stock settings.
In our Timespy benchmark where both the GPU and CPU are stressed, the cooling was surprisingly adequate. It averaged mid-80 Celsius for the CPU and the GPU only sat a tick over 75 degrees Celsius when running the tests. Of course, the fans were probably running at close to maximum to make this happen, but this is to be expected these days.
Special mention has to be made here that the fan whine produced by this laptop, even at low RPMs, is quite a bit more irritating than other laptops I’ve tested. Characterized by a “whistling” noise that you could hear on a commercial airplane, this sound, unfortunately, persists even on a less demanding load such as on our steam download test.
While I have no clue how they would be able to come up with a solution engineering-wise, I hope that they definitely look into this in their next revision of this device.
Gaming Benchmarks – Power to Mobility sweet spot
The Aorus comes equipped with the current generation mid-tier sweet spot GPU, the GTX 1660ti. To be frank, this is the kind of performance that should be in a gaming laptop; Good enough to run games using a mix of High and Ultra settings in 1080p that doesn’t come with an exorbitantly high price tag to buy.
In our revised testing suite, we are taking out Hitman 2 in favour of the new game on the block, Total War: Three Kingdoms; made by the guys at Creative Assembly.
Any entry in the series is sure to give any GPU a run for their money as they are the market leader in pushing the graphical fidelity of the RTS genre.
Of course, as always, we will try to run the games at playable settings targeting average framerates higher than 30 fps. How does the 1660ti perform against these titles? Let’s take a look.
In our legacy GTA V title, we would of course see good performance. It averaged about 78 fps in all scenes and only ever dipped into the below-60 range from the intense waterfall benchmark section with the above settings.
Outside of that, during actual gameplay, it had no trouble hitting above 60 at all times and everything was smooth with no hiccups. Though it could hit 100 fps at times, it is not common and users shouldn’t expect to hit the maximum refresh rate if you still want to keep good in-game quality settings.
In our modern titles, we see that the i7-9750H and the 1660ti makes a good pairing. It performed admirably although it was still no match for more intensive titles like Metro Exodus and Total War Three Kingdoms. We had to drop several settings for both games in order to get good framerates.
Interestingly enough, our Tomb Raider benchmark had our CPU hitting around 97 to 100 degrees which was much more than what we had in our TimeSpy benchmark. In regular gameplay, I mostly saw the CPU sitting on the mid to high 80s in this title which should be more reflective of a practical situation.
We also switched out the FF 14 benchmark with the FF 15 benchmark; it achieved a pretty good score of 4172 under max settings.
Display & Sound
The display of this device is no slouch either, featuring the 144Hz LG Display panel (model: LP156WFG-SPB2) that we’ve seen been used in other compact laptops such as the Lenovo Y540.
The high refresh rate for this panel is good to see though it probably isn’t super needed with this configuration as you will rarely be able to hit that in modern games.
Yet again we took to Google to take a look at the metric of this display; This panel has its performance basically be in line with a mostly colour accurate display (for laptops) with the additional benefit of high refresh so no qualms here. At 95% sRGB and 61% AdobeRGB coverage, it is about as good as you can get in a IPS-like display for laptops at the 1080p resolution.
The brightness, while not overwhelming, is decently bright and will do the job at about 40 or 50% brightness under most lighting conditions. The display retains its brightness and contrast even at steep viewing angles so users should have no problems using this as a display for consuming content.
From personal experience, I really couldn’t find anything to nitpick about the display though I will say that our model came slightly tinted towards the red spectrum so some color calibration is indeed needed for best color accurate results.
A solid performance nonetheless and I’m glad to manufacturers are not cheapening out on providing a good display at this price segment.
The sound on this laptop is once again powered by a Realtek chipset coupled with side-firing speakers.
Looking (or rather hearing in this case) at the volume, the sound really only gets mildly loud I find, even at 100% volume. You are definitely going to want to connect to an external speaker if you intend to fill a room; definitely a weak showing here. There is also some slight distortion coming from the high notes at this volume, but is not too audible unless you are actively looking for it.
Feeling blessed today, I had opted to play Africa by ToTo as my song of choice for testing out the speakers of this system. Initial impressions of the speakers were definitely average for me.
From the initial instrumental of the drums, maracas and synthesizers, nothing really pops in terms of clarity even if, in terms of rhythm, I’m supposed to hear the clear yet harmonious distinction between the 3 instruments. The speaker blends most of the instruments together and only the drums felt distinct to me.
Coming into the vocals, the performance gets better as I find them to be clear and of pretty decent quality compared to my own desktop speaker setup. The drum transition into the chorus is also quite mellow and lacks the punch that you should expect from such instruments.
The quality did get better in the later parts of the song when the marimba was introduced along with the highs from the recorders whose sound feel more in line with the mood and melody rather than underdelivering on the execution due to the speakers.
Overall, the slightly above average mids from the vocals didn’t really do the song justice as it relies heavily on the instruments to set the mood which these speakers simply underdelivers.
While it can be palatable to listen, the overall experience just isn’t that great and is definitely a sore spot in the device compared to the other laptops I’ve reviewed.
Despite being a rather small chassis, Aorus still managed to stick a 62Wh battery inside this thing which is quite impressive. In our YouTube loop test where we play music at 50% brightness and volume, the device managed an impressive 2Hrs 40mins from 100% charge which is great to see.
Users can easily squeeze close to 4 hours using just the stock settings provided doing more productivity-oriented tasks with lower brightness levels.
The battery takes an average amount of time to charge coming in at slightly under 1.5Hrs from our testing.
Serviceability is also a strong suit of the device with the lid popping open once the 11 screws are removed and takes no time at all to get to the insides. Though next time we would appreciate if Aorus didn’t hide one of the screws under a warranty sticker.
Looking inside, the components are neatly packed and every nook and cranny is stuffed to the brim without much empty space left for anything. Here, the storage devices, RAM slots and even the wifi card is easily accessed for replacement or servicing.
However, I would like (and hope) manufacturers to provide a model without the 2.5” bay in exchange for a larger battery; A configuration that is, in my opinion, highly desirable in this mid-range segment.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find a place where the riser would fit; perhaps it is used as an external extension of some sort. The brackets are definitely for the 2.5″ HDD slot of which was unoccupied in our particular configuration.
The refreshed Aorus 15 is certainly a valiant effort to cut down from the chunky “X5” models from the previous generation. If anything, it’s now more closely resembles the in-between of budget laptops and their slimmer and higher quality Aero designs without the high price tags.
It serves as a decent compromise for the budget conscious but does have some subjective weak spots that would annoy people like me in particular.
Subjective things aside, this is definitely a strong competitor for this segment and only minor quality of life changes are needed to be improved in order to make this a standout device.
Good performing laptop with a few (personally) frustrating aspects. Up to you to decide whether these are a deal breaker or not.
|The good||The bad|
|+ Compact size, Good compromise of price/performance/weight||– Fan whine (even at low RPM) is irritating|
|+ Serviceable cooling||– Weak showing in the sound department|
|+ Good battery life||– Small enter key may be annoyance to some|
|+ Multiple storage options (inc. 2 SSD slots)|
|+ microSD card slot|