When people think of gaming laptops they typically think of hefty beasts with 17” screens that need biceps the size of Arnie’s midriff to lug around. The Aorus X3 Plus v3 takes a different tack, opting for the Razer Blade route of a smaller, lighter gaming laptop.
Specs and Features
Clocking in at just 13.9”, this is considerably smaller than even your typical laptop. For gaming on the go it’s hard to argue the size of it’s a winner. Underneath the hood however, the X3 Plus v3 is packing some serious power. What you’re getting is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970M mobile graphics card with 6GB GDDR5 memory. This is backed up by an Intel core i7-4710HQ CPU clocked at 2.5GHz, with a boost clock of 3.5GHz. To top it all off, the gaming laptop comes a with a hefty 16GB DDR3 memory, on a pair of 1600MHz 8GB sticks.
With all this power behind it, you’re expecting a top-notch display to look at it on. The 13.9” wide-viewing LCD screen clocks in at a hefty 3200 x 1800 native resolution, with a 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s a vivid display with great viewing angles, so on that front it can’t be faulted.
What is a problem however is the native resolution itself. While you can increase Windows scaling to double to get the desktop environment looking suitable, there are a number of niggly problems caused by it. Steam’s fine, but some other launchers don’t scale effectively and look absolutely tiny at native resolution. Battle.net and the Star Wars: The Old Republic launcher are the chief culprits. On the latter you can barely see what you’re typing when trying to login, let alone read the update notes.
The problem extends to gaming. Some titles just don’t play nice with Windows DPI scaling. You could argue this is a fault with Windows itself, but if you’re going to make a laptop with a native resolution outside of Windows’ remit, you need to make the experience as user-friendly as possible. Civilization V has some incredibly small icons when played at 3200 x 1800, while Crysis runs in a boxed out window. Setting the resolution to 1920 x 1080 eliminates the problem, but then it feels like a waste of such a lovely screen.
The X3 Plus v3 comes with all the usual mod cons, including a pair of built in microphones, webcam, light sensor, touchpad, ethernet port, DC in charging jack, speakers, headphone port, microphone, HDMI out, Mini DisplayPort, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and an integrated SD card reader.
On the front you’ve got a fairly run of the mill keyboard setup which was good enough quality, quick and responsive to use. The only aspect here which really sets itself apart is the series of Macro keys down the left-hand side. THere’s a total of five colour coded ‘Gaming’ keys, along with another button to switch between Macro groups, changing the LED backlight colour to help identify which set. This means there’s a total of 25 Macro keys which can be used for advanced operating, whether gaming or work. I myself haven’t had much use for macros for use, but I’m presuming plenty of MMO players still do.
It's unfortunate Aorus has taken the decision to put the speakers on the bottom of X3, it has a real knock-on effect on sound quality. It's going to depend what surface it's on, but typically the sound is muted and muffled. This isn't conducive to immersive gaming and it's certainly not cutting it for music. If you're wanting to get down to some serious gaming on this then a pair of decent headphones are a must.
Battery Life and Heat
One aspect where the Aorus X3 Plus v3 excels in battery life. We're used to machines of this power giving up the ghost within the hour if not connected to a power supply but the X3 Plus offers some impressive results. From our tests you're looking at close to six hours life when it comes to normal use, although this is cut down drastically during high-end gaming. Performance is throttled without a power supply so if you want to game then you're going to be best off plugging the X3 Plus in.
The laptop typically runs fairly silent during normal use, but load up a game and you can hear it whir into life. It's not annoyingly loud but you can tell it's getting a workout, which has a knock-on effect to the temperature. The Aorus X3 Plus v3 can get mighty hot at times, so if you're thinking about gaming away with it on your lap, our best advice for you and your potential children is not to try this.
Aorus X3 Plus v3 GeForce GTX 970M Gaming Benchmarks
Onto the gaming benchmarks, and the Aorus X3 Plus v3 is a bit of a beast here. I messed around plenty with the GeForce GTX 970M and compared it to its desktop sibling, the GeForce GTX 970. What you’re getting here equates to around 65-70% of the performance in the mobile GPU, as compared to the desktop variant. For some that might still be too large a drop-off, but it’s still some fantastic mobile gaming performance which can make a mockery of the bulkier consoles.
The vast majority of the games of Steam can be played maxed out no problem, while the more recent titles can all hit High / Very High, with Dying Light in particular achieving very near parity to when I benched the desktop version. There is a caveat to this, however, and that is that the Aorus X3 Plus v3 achieves all this, but at 1920 x 1080 resolution. Attempting to play some of the current benchmark kings at the native 3200 x 1800 resolution slows frame rates down to a crawl unless settings are dropped down low.
Aorus X3 Plus v3 GeForce GTX 970M Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor 1080p / 1400p / 1800p High & Ultra Benchmarks
Shadow of Mordor performs surprisingly well on the Aorus, averaging close to 30 frames per second when played at Very High. The 6GB GDDR5 video memory is likely a big help with this, and we saw Shadow of Mordor was the main title which played havoc with the 3.5GB high-speed video RAM on the desktop GTX 970.
Aorus X3 Plus v3 GeForce GTX 970M - Dying Light 1080p vs 1800p Ultra Benchmark
With Max View distance and High settings, the GTX 970M achieves impressive results at 1080p, averaging around 50fps and never dropping below 37 frames per second. Drop the viewing distance down to 50%, which has very little impact on visual quality, if any at all, and you can see the frame rate climb up to the 60s.
However, if you want to crank the screen resolution up to 3200 x 1800, you’re going to need to take a graphics hit. Playing at Medium has the frame rate occasionally dropping down into the 20s, so any higher settings than this and you're playing with fire.
GTX 970M - Alien Isolation 1080p vs 3200x1800 Ultra Benchmark
As we’ve come to expect for Creative Assembly’s incredible sci-fi horror game, the GTX 970M perfects great, even at higher resolutions. It’s worth bearing in mind the PlayStation 4 version runs at 1080p on High equivalent settings at 30fps with occasional notable drops. The 970M runs in Ultra at an average of 115 frames per second, which is quite staggering really for a mobile device. Even when played at 3200 x 1800 it never dips below 33, with an average of 43fps. Obviously Alien Isolation is set within very confined spaces, but it goes to show the mobile GPU can achieve some impressive visual fidelity.
GTX 970M - Total War Attila 1080p vs 3200x1800 High Benchmark
The Total War series is extremely CPU-driven, and Total War: Attila is no different. This is a great test of the i7-4710HQ processor inside the X3 Plus v3. Attila takes no prisoners and can bring down even the most powerful of PCs at max settings, so these benchmarks at the Quality setting, which is the High equivalent. You can see okay frame rates on display, usually into the 30s or 40s, but Total War: Attila is an example of a game that really begins to suffer when opting for 3200 x 18000 resolution.
Now then, it's that awkward moment where we move onto price. Game laptops aren't cheap, and this problem is only exacerbated by trying to cram all of this into smaller hardware like a 13.9" device. If you shop around you can find the Aorus X3 Plus v3 for in the region of £1680, which could get an absolutely monstrous desktop PC that could be upgraded further down the line. We all know the limitations of laptops by now, but people who tend to pick up gaming laptops have a good idea what they're letting themselves in for.
With a powerful card like the GeForce GTX 970M, the i7-4710HQ CPU and the hefty 16GB of RAM, this gaming laptop is well built for the future. For the next two or three years, we'd expect this to storm through most games at 1080p resolution. When that time's up, however, you're looking at upgrade time, which will require a whole new laptop. What you're essentially doing is paying £600 a year for this laptop, so whether you think it's worth is going to come down to how much cash you've got available.
The Aorus X3 Plus v3 is a well made and hugely competent laptop let down by a few niggling problems and a hefty price point. The speakers are weak and muffled, it can run extremely hot and it suffers some teething issues with resolution scaling that will put off many. Despite this, if you've got the cash, this offers genuine portability thanks to its diminutive size, capped off by a 970M which can pull in some impressive performance.