With gaming laptops these days, we’re spoiled for choice. Nvidia’s mobile Pascal range of GPU’s means that desktop class performance is now easily achievable in a notebook form factor. Notebooks are improving in relative performance and getting slimmer and lighter, but this still means inevitable compromise, usually with cooling, or battery life or price or all three.
Gigabyte’s SabrePro 15 is what you would call a ‘regular’ gaming notebook. It’s not the slimmest model on the market, or the lightest, but it promises a well rounded gaming experience with its cost/performance ratio being a key factor.
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 comes with a really nice spec for the price. The 4c/8t 7700HQ is a Kaby Lake generation processor with an impressive clock speed for its 45W TDP.
The most important specification for a gaming laptop is its GPU. In this case the GTX 1060 6Gb. This is not some cut down renamed lower spec card. It’s a full desktop class GTX 1060 with all shaders active, with the clock speed being the only differentiating factor. Nvidia’s Pascal generation of GPU’s has really been a blessing for notebook gamers. No longer do you have to put up with half-baked attempts at gaming GPUs that are crippled or clocked so low, they might as well be. Now you can get GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 that are within a few percent of their desktop sibling’s ultimate performance.
In addition to the powerful CPU and GPU, There’s a NVMe 256Gb SSD +2Tb HDD, 16Gb of RAM, USB 3.1 Type-C (but no Thunderbolt support), AC WiFi and a IPS full HD screen, Weight is a somewhat beefy at 2.5Kg which is about on the limit of pure portability. Beyond this, it would be an effort to carry it around in a backpack without really noticing it. But hey, its not some 5Kg SLI behemoth either.
The specifications of the SabrePro 15 for the Singapore market version are listed below.
Design and Build Quality
The SabrePro 15 is a somewhat bulky machine. The chassis is mostly plastic apart from the lid which is aluminum. Gigabyte have clearly gone with a design that skips design flourishes in an attempt to keep the price down.
Despite its plastic construction, the unit feels free of flexing, though with the screen hinges inboard quite a way from the edge, there is some flexing when opening the notebook from the edges of the monitor.
Generally the SabrePro 15 feels solid, but its not in the same league as a one piece construction notebook. Gigabyte does have the Aero series if you want a more premium design, though of course those units come with quite a bump in price despite having essentially the same hardware.
I/O Port Overview
Here’s a look at the sides of the SabrePro 15 and its ports. Overall the port selections and their placement is good.
In the picture below we have, from left to right, Two USB 3,0 Type-A ports, a USB 3.1 Type-C port (no Thunderbolt 3 support though which is disappointing) LED status indicator ports and finally the mic and headphone/line out ports.
Around the other side we have from left to right, the SD Card reader (supporting SDHC and SDXC) a USB 3,o Type-A port and a Kensington lock port for anti theft protection.
Finally, around at the rear of the unit, we have a Gigabit LAN port, Mini DisplayPort and a HDMI 2.0 port. We quite like having these ports at the rear of the unit. They tend to be the ‘plug and forget’ ones especially if the unit is used in a semi permanent desktop location, whereas others like the USB on the sides need to be more frequently accessed.
The HDMI 2.0 port will be a critical inclusion for users connecting to a 4K monitor thanks to its 60hz capability. The CPU and GPU both support 10 bit HEVC and VP9, so playing very high quality video will be easy. VR headsets too will benefit from the bandwidth on tap.
Keyboard & Trackpad
Here’s a look at the SabrePro 15 keyboard. Laptop keyboards have come a long way, and Gigabyte have put some serious effort into this keyboard. The keys use a scissor type switch with a 2.0mm travel. The scissor switches have the effect of reducing missed key strokes. The keys feel quite similar to those of the MSI GS63VR we recently tested, though the keys are larger on the Gigabyte. Both are very good keyboards.
The SabrePro 15 has full RGB support too. It is controlled from Gigabyte’s Control Center software that we’ll go into later. There are four zones to select individual colors, though no per key support. There’s a range of effects that will be familiar such as wave and breathing and heartbeat. Overall the RGB performance is very good for the more solid colors, though lighter colors tend to lack a bit of vividness.
You’ll note theM1 to M4 keys at the top of the keyboard, just underneath the screen. These are programmable macro keys. This is a nice addition, and something all gaming laptops should have.
The SabrePro 15 trackpad feels responsive and accurate. It has dedicated left and right click buttons which is great for avoiding accidental clicks. Three finger swiping functions the same as alt+tab. It brings up your open applications which you can swipe left and right from. The location is also very good, slightly away from the front of the unit so you will avoid having to bend your wrists when using the trackpad on your lap.
Underneath The Skin
Since this is a review unit, we decided not to annoy Gigabyte and pull it apart.. Maybe next time!
As noted in the spec section, the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 comes with an excellent spec including a i7 7700HQ processor. For the price this is an excellent processor. The higher spec Kaby Lake mobile models really jump in price for little performance gain. The 45w 7700HQ CPU will have all the performance you’ll need
The GTX 1060 6Gb is the key gaming specification. Thanks to the power efficiency of Nvidia’s Pascal generation GPU’s, this is not some cut down rebadged low end GPU. Its the same as the desktop GPU, with just a drop in clocks for power and thermal reasons. it’s very good choice for 1080p gaming. As we’ll see, it can run demanding DX12 games at 1080p with little compromise.
There a two 8Gb memory modules, each running at 2400Mhz. Up to 32Gb can be installed which will be more than enough for years to come. The hard drives are very nice indeed. This model comes with a Samsung 256Gb NVMe SSD (SM961 model) which can get you somewhere in the region of 3100MB/s read and 1400MB/s write speed. Excellent! There’s also a 2Tb Seagate HDD that will be perfect for loading up those TV box sets. Do check with the reseller though as the specific model may be slightly different from the one we have on hand.
The battery is a 60Whr unit according to Gigabyte, this is not the largest battery you’ll ever see, but is a bit larger than you’ll find in many slim gaming notebooks. Ask yourself, do you really care about battery life on a gaming notebook? Our simple general usage test which consisted of typing this review, internet browsing and some photography work got us to approximately 4.8 hours of general use before we got a warning about low battery power. Note that this is without any gaming. If you’re gaming, you can expect much less than this. Bearing in mind that we are using a 45w class CPU that jumps all around in terms of power consumption and clock speed, plus a RGB keyboard, wireless tech and mechanical HDD, we think this is pretty good.
Now onto noise and temperatures. We’re pleased to report that the fan noise of the Sabre15 Pro is relatively acceptable, even under load. Notebooks always face noise issues which are unavoidable with high TDP parts, so its all about the lessening of a necessary evil. When the GTX 1060 kicks into high gear, so do the fans, but they remain an acceptable noise level and perhaps more importantly, tone. Comparing it to the GS63VR, which is a slim design, the SabrePro 15 clearly wins both the cooling performance and acoustics battle. Temperatures remained under 80c for the GPU at all times. This helps to maintain the Nvidia GPU boost for longer. The CPU peaked into the high 80’s which is high and presented some minor throttling, but under 100% load, its still not worrisome. You can always turn the fans up a notch if you are anticipating consistent 100% load, something which is not common in regular day to day use.
Cooling performance is clearly an dvantage of a bulkier laptop. Its no small thing to cram the same hardware into a ultrabook class chassis. There’s no choice but to compromise on cooling, so on temps and noise, its a clear win for the ‘regular’ thickness SabrePro vs the slim design GS63VR.
The speakers are nothing special, as most notebook speakers tend to be, but these are capable of a decent volume and not a bad level of bass, which is not something you’d expect from tiny drivers. They are no substitute for a good set of cans though.
Gigabyte are still a little guilty of pre-loading their notebooks with some unnecessary software. We’d rather see makers include a small capacity flash drive with software that the user can choose to install. They include some backup and camera utilities that should probably be optional.
Having said that, bloatware isn’t as bad as it is some some vendors. Gigabyte’s Control Center in particular is very good and deserves praise for its ease of use, intuitive interface and low resource usage.
There are three main pages. The first of which is for power settings. With one click you can set the SabrePro to a high performance mode which ramps up the fans, or go the opposite way for a quiet lower power use mode with aggressive battery saving hardware modes.
The second page controls the four macro keys at the top of the notebook, just under the screen. If you’re a hardcore MOBA or turn based gamer used to keying in complex commands, you will find these very useful.
The third page is where you can control the RGB colors of the keyboard. You can select from 16Million+ colors with a range of different effects. There are four zones on the keyboard, each of which can be set to its own color. There’s no per key support though.
The Sabre Pro comes with licenses for Xsplit Gamecaster and Xsplit Broadcaster. These add good value to the notebook and are something that many streamers will be thankful for.
We ran through a selection of game benchmarks to see how the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 performs. We compared it to the MSI GS63VR. Given the near identical hardware specs (7700HQ, 16Gb, GTX 1060) we’d expect the result to be basically identical.
The exception is the NVMe SSD, as below. A good quality NVME SSD like the 256Gb Samsung in the SabrePro 15 destroys any and every SATA model with amazing read and write speeds and I/O.
Its nice to see modern demanding games being able to run smoothly at 1080p, for now and into the near future at least. We’d expect the MSI and the Gigabyte models to be neck and neck and they are. The Gigabyte GPU is running a little bit cooler due to its beefier cooling solution, hence the slightly higher fps in games due to a tiny bit higher GPU boost clock.
The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is a very good value gaming notebook at $2499 SGD (less if you shop around) with a 2 year warranty. It may not be the slimmest, or the lightest or the best looking, but its got it where it counts. Performance with a great price. If you want a proper 1080p capable notebook, you need something with a GTX 1060. A 1050 Ti just lacks that bit of grunt and means you’ll have to dial back a few settings. Think of where we’ve come though. A big bulky notebook with something like a GTX 780M a couple of years ago will be absolutely destroyed by the SabrePro 15
You’ll need to consider the Aero series if you want a Gigabyte solution offering the premium all metal design and lightest weight. Though be prepared to pay more for basically the same spec. Ask yourself if saving 0.5Kg and a few mm of width are worth it? If you move around a lot sure, but otherwise you can save and get better cooling performance and lower noise levels.
Notebooks are rarely perfect. There’s always inevitable compromise. We’d like to see a bit bigger battery given the extra internal space on offer, and the plastic casing, lacks a bit of premium feel. We cant argue with the value for money though and don’t lose much sleep over it. it definitely doesn’t feel like a cheap notebook. The matte finish is a great protector against fingerprints!
We aren’t too impressed with the screen, Like the MSI GS63VR we reviewed recently, its screen is not fantastic, though we think the Gigabyte is better than the significantly more expensive GS63VR. G-Sync would be a nice inclusion on a notebook of this capability, or a 120Hz capable panel perhaps. A 72% NTSC gamut panel pretty much rules out a serious photographer or use who demands color accuracy. Its still definitely superior to budget laptop screens that have washed out colors a lot of the time.
At the end of our review, the cost/performance ratio of the SabrePro 15 really stands out. The spec is excellent. You get a great processor, GPU, 256gb NVMe SSD +2tb HDD, 16Gb of RAM, a lot of ports all in a chassis that isn’t a back breaker by any means. Its a spec that will put many desktops to shame. You might think we are crazy awarding a $2500 notebook a Value For Money award, but with this spec, it is deserving!
Excellent value for money
I/O port locations
Very good keyboard with dedicated macros
Noise levels that won’t melt your eardrums
RGB lighting looks and functions well
Display is average
No Thunderbolt 3