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July 15, 2012

Gigabyte P2532 Review

In the realm of gaming laptops, Dell’s enthusiast-oriented Alienware is one of the most well-known brands aside from Clevo and — the newcomer, Razer — brands which all come with stingy price tags. For those who are looking to spend less, Asus, MSI and a bunch of other [Asia-based] brands have all made their own versions of desktop replacements available locally for much less.

Gigabyte is one of them, a company that’s well-known for its durable motherboards and elaborately designed cooling solutions for computer components has upped its corporate ante even further in hopes to make a dent on the mobile computing market.

Gigabyte isn’t as popular as other Taiwan-based OEMs such as Asus and Acer in the mainstream market but its P-series laptops are quite well-known in the high-end segment. Our review unit, the P2532, sports the last-gen Intel 2670QM processor. They’ve already outed the P2542 series which feature the latest Ivy Bridge ‘Core’ processors and Nvidia’s GT600 series of Kepler GPUs, the P2532 may be outdated by a single generation when it comes to specs but it’s still one powerful machine that can trump a lot of laptops [and even some desktops] out there.

Gigabyte P2532 specs:
OS: Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium
CPU: Intel Core i7-2670QM Processor (2.2GHz-3.1GHz)
Display: 15.6″ Full HD 1920X1080 LED backlit
Memory: 2X 4GB DDRIII @1333MHz (8GB total)
Chipset: Mobile Intel HM65 Express ChipsetVideo
Graphics: Intel HD 3000 + NVIDIA GeForce GT550M with 2GB DDR3 VRAM Supports with NVIDIA Optimus
Storage: 750GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
Optical Disk Drive: Super Multi DVD
I/O Ports: USB 3.0 X2, eSATA/USB(2.0) Combo X1, HDMI, D-sub, RJ45, Audio in and out, 4-in-1 Card Reader
Audio: Built-in 4.1 channel speaker system, Internal Microphone
Communications: LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet Base-T
WiFi support: 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth: Bluetooth V3.0 + HS
Webcam: 1.3 MegaPixel
Security: Kensington Lock
Battery: 6-cell Li-ion, 5400mAh
Dimensions: 392(W) x 263(D) x 27.6-35.1(H) mm
Weight: 2.6kg (including ODD and 6-cell battery)
Suggested retail price: Php58,000

Design and Build

Majority of the laptop’s exterior is covered in matte-black plastic which looks pretty bland, it leaves much to be desired except for the heat exhaust vents which were meant to look menacing — like a sports car that’ll take on anything. Gigabyte takes pride in their PC cooling designs and their expertise certainly reflects on the P2532, the heat is blown out the back and the air intakes for the CPU and GPU are smartly tucked away from the vents to prevent the backdraft of hot air.

Even if the intake vents underneath are blocked, the fans are able to pull-in air from the front grille right underneath the area where the generously-sized trackpad is found, ventilation is very well thought out on this thing.

The laptop’s plastic base plate is where you’ll find the access doors for the RAM modules, HDD and GPU. The USB 3.0/2.0, audio, HDMI and ethernet ports are found on the right while the VGA, eSATA and DVD drive are found on the opposite side.

Once the lid is lifted, you’ll notice that the interior of the laptop is mostly covered in black [brushed] aluminum. The upper region of the full-sized keyboard is where two of the 4 speakers [and a small subwoofer] are found — behind a strip of precisely drilled holes, the other 2 speakers are found underneath the palm rests. Chrome-plated system buttons are found on the upper right corner of the keyboard, the buttons are very tactile and needs a bit of effort when pressed which is a good thing.

The chiclet-style keyboard is one of the best we’ve used. There’s zero flex anywhere you pushed down, keys have a fair amount of travel and the keys don’t feel wobbly, It feels like typing on a Vaio or Macbook so we felt right at home. We actually wrote this review using the P2532, despite the great fit and finish, the keyboard is not perfect, we’ve had some issues with the placement of some buttons.

We constantly hit ‘Num Lock’ even though we meant to press ‘Backspace’, same with the ‘up’ and ‘left’ directional keys. Hitting ‘Enter’, ‘Ctrl’ or ‘Shift’ needs a precise strike otherwise it’ll result with the cursor moving up or to the left. Gigabyte should have added some gap between the main keyboard and the number pad, lowering the arrow keys a little bit wouldn’t hurt as well since it’s pretty spacious inside. We wouldn’t mind a slightly irregular keyboard if we can work effortlessly on it, keyboard back-lighting would’ve been a nice addition as well.

We also have some caveats with the spacious trackpad. While the dotted texture makes it effortless to glide a finger, it stutters a lot and often mistakes some swipes/gestures as ‘palm detections’ which makes moving the mouse pointer a chore. The aluminum left/right buttons are too flush with the trackpad for locating them without looking away from the screen, the clickable areas are placed too far apart that it frequently required our whole hands to move instead of just a thumb or a finger — we’re not lazy, these are the things one would normally notice if a laptop is ergonomically designed or not, as with the P2532’s case, It’s almost there but not quite.

The laptop is pretty heavy and the size can be a problem to some people, laptops of this type after all, are designed with performance being the first priority, design and portability are more like afterthoughts so to those who are planning on purchasing one, better keep that in mind. Overall, the laptop does not feel as solid as some Asus or Lenovo laptops. There are creaks everywhere, body flex and weak seams but that’s the price we pay for being cheap. Some sacrifices are needed to make sure that the P2532’s price will stay low, and the performance… blazing fast.

Gaming, Benchmarks and Overall Performance

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to include some of the latest game titles due to time constraints so we’re focusing mostly on the benchmarks. But, we’ve included a couple of games we got our hands on just to give you an idea about how this thing performs at 1080p.

Playing StarCraft II with graphics set to ultra (@1080p) is pretty much possible, frame rates per second never reach over 31 though and the laptop starts to struggle as your base’s population and building number grows. Setting the resolution lower or reducing the graphics quality to medium or high easily adds about 15-20fps.

Assassin’s Creed 1 may be outdated but it’s still a pretty good game to test a rig’s overall performance. Sadly, playing the game at full resolution resulted in an average 21-30 fps which isn’t suitable for a fast-paced title like this one. It’s best to try and find the perfect balance between resolution and level of graphical details to get the best experience. 1080p displays aren’t exactly common in the world of laptops and playing games at that resolution requires some serious punch, the GT550m is still pretty capable come to think of it, but it isn’t impressive in any means compared to the GT650m or AMD Radeon HD7660m chips. Most games can be ran on the laptop’s native resolution — on medium details at least.

We know that Modern Warfare 2 is on its way out as well but it’s still a fun game to play, not to mention pretty easy for the P2532 to run with pretty much everything maxed out! Graphics are constantly churned out at 40-50 fps and rarely dives to 30 fps even with 2X MSAA.

Here are the benchmark scores the laptop was able to achieve:

3DMark 11 is one of the most popular benchmarking tool in the overclocking community. It calculates a computer’s 3D physics and graphical rendering power by taking advantage of the DirectX 11 runtime and DirectCompute API, it also adds the CPU’s physics and post processing abilities to the final score. The P2532 got 1,186 points which may sound low but that’s actually on par with most quad core laptops out on the market, to give you an idea about how high those numbers are already for a laptop, the more expensive Alienware m14x R1 scored 1,300 points which is just a tad higher due to its slightly faster GT555m GPU.

As for Geekbench, the laptop was able to score a pretty high 9,939 points which is just a hair higher than the 9,552 tines that the 2760qm-packing Alienware M14x got! Cinebench (V11.5) results on the other hand are 26fps for the OpenGL test and 5.16 points — which is almost equivalent to the performance of a desktop Core i7 960 CPU!

The laptop breezes through just about any task we throw at it, It’s very fast and responsive even while editing 16 megapixel photos on CS6 and browsing on Chrome with over 18 tabs open on a separate monitor thanks to the fast and roomy 8GB of DDR3 RAM and adequately powered graphics card. The only problem we’ve encountered in the software front is the lack of GPU driver updates from Gigabyte, we weren’t able to install drivers which were downloaded directly from Nvidia’s website probably due to manufacturer lock-downs (custom drivers/hardware).

Display, Battery life and Temperature

The P2532’s anti-glare,15.6-inch Full HD display is hands down one of the best laptop screens we’ve ever used. It’s crisp, bright, vivid and the blacks are deep even if the back-light is cranked to max, viewing angles are also stupendous! The display quality is very similar to a 23-inch iMac with an IPS display, no harsh comments with this thing’s screen at all — in short, we love it. It’s worth noting though that Gigabyte offers a version of this laptop with a similar sized display which supports Nvidia 3D Vision for watching 3D movies and a higher refresh rate of 120Hz — but with a drastically lower resolution of 1366×768 pixels. We’ll choose the 1080p display over the latter any time.

A laptop with a beautiful screen and great performance is nothing if it can barely let you finish at least one email right? Thanks to the power-sipping LED back-lit display and Nvidia’s Optimus tech, the P2532 constantly lasted anywhere between 4 to 4 1/2 hours of light use like browsing, watching movies, writing spreadsheets or sending emails with brightness set at a comfortable 30% and power plan set to ‘Balanced’.

Playing games when on battery is not a good idea, once the Core i7’s Turbo boost and the GPU kicks in, the laptop can barely last for an hour and a half! The discreet graphics card guzzles up an immense amount of juice when being ran, try to avoid playing games on this thing when you’re at Starbucks if you don’t feel like carrying the giant power brick to keep it alive.

As for heat and noise, the P2532 can pretty much roast your thighs to a crisp and the exhaust fans spin fast enough to the point of sounding like a Boeing 787 taking off. Underneath the laptop, heat often starts to build up from the middle-left part of the base then slowly creeps toward the left vent [when flipped upside down], we think the heat from that region is produced by the quad-core processor itself since it still occurs even when the GPU is not being used. Not only is the heat felt from underneath, but it’s also noticeable on the upper right corner of the keyboard (near the system buttons) and directly on the number pad area, it gets so hot at times that the aluminum trim surrounding the system buttons feels like hot iron radiating an immense amount of heat.

The right exhaust vent also gets pretty toasty once the GPU is activated, mostly if the laptop’s plugged in, we weren’t able to measure the temperatures but we’re pretty sure that the heat being blown out of the exhaust ports is hot enough to dry your hair.

The right palm rest where the HDD lies also gets warm after a while, If you don’t stay somewhere breezy or air-conditioned, your entire right wrist area is guaranteed to get sweaty in a couple of hours — just something to keep in mind.

Did we mention that the laptop sounds like a hair dryer when running intensive applications? We didn’t? Now you know. Good thing is, if we’re just using the laptop like most internet-savvy people, the thing barely produces any whirring noise at all. The cooling fans on this thing are always running by the way, they’re never switched off by the system [regardless of the load] for whatever reason.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the quadraphonic speaker set up doesn’t do much in terms of the THX ‘surround sound’ effect, the overall sound quality is better than most laptops but it’s certainly not as great sounding or as loud as the Harman Kardon speakers Toshiba put in theirs. The subwoofer on the other hand acts more like a mid range woofer that sounds very muddy but it does add up to the joy of watching action movies due to the rumble we could feel on the keyboard. The webcam works really well even in dimly lit conditions so that’s a plus. All in all, the P2532 is a really good buy for everything that comes with it.

There are lots of competing models from various laptop makers within the same pie that Gigabyte wants a slice of. There’s the Asus VX7, MSI G series and many others which have pretty much the same specs (or less) but ‘usually’ for a higher price — that’s where the P series aces.

What we like about it:
• Great full Hi-def display
• No bloatware
• Webcam works well even under low-light conditions
• Fast
• Powerful GPU
• Exhaust vents look cool
• Good battery life
• Inexpensive for its specs

What we didn’t like about it:
• Flimsy build quality
• Keyboard takes some getting used to
• Speakers aren’t as great as we’ve thought
• Excessive heat passes through the keyboard

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25 Responses to “Gigabyte P2532 Review”

  1. Pinuno
    Twitter: nohjmychael
    says:

    parang mahal compared sa specs nya..mas maganda pa specs ng MSI GE60/GE70 0NC.. hnd nmn nagkakalayo price nila..

    • Kevin Go says:

      The GE70 costs almost the same as the P2532 [slightly lower price tag I mean] but the GE70 only comes with a dual core Ivy bridge processor, albeit 30% faster than most mobile dual core processors, it’s still no match for the tried and tested 2670 QM which is great if you want to keep your mouse cursor or keyboard input responsive when gaming.

      It also has the Kepler GT650m GPU which is about 20% faster than the P2532’s so that’s pretty much a win-win.

      The G series from MSI though comes with a lot of bells and whistles so kudos to that. All in all it’s up to you which one to purchase really, as for me?

      I won’t buy any of these laptops, I’m perfectly happy with a Core2Duo or Core i3 as long as I can keep writing articles on it and the keyboard is comfortable.

      Thanks for reading! :D

    • jay says:

      MSI GT70..

  2. raul barrios
    Twitter: kryptobarrios
    says:

    I got a better bargain for a MSI GE620 DX with very similar specs but only at 37,900 pesos only.

    • Kevin Go says:

      I doubt if that’d be brand new or if it’s the model equipped with the 1080p display though.

      Otherwise, you really got lucky on that purchase indeed! That’s the same price as a cheapo Vaio E series lol

    • raul barrios
      Twitter: kryptobarrios
      says:

      I got the 1080p display. PRetty lucky I guess…

    • Obob says:

      Sir Kevin,

      Ayos po ang review sana mas maraming ganito kahit twice or thrice a month. lagi na lang kasi smartphone nkakasawa na

  3. asuseroako says:

    Sir Abe,

    Pwede pasama ng ArmA 2 game pag gumawa ka ng benchmarks sa mga susunod na ‘gaming laptop’ reviews nyo?

    Salamat ho.

  4. alainL
    Twitter: kurogami207176
    says:

    Thanks for this article. Contemplating on buying a laptop sometime soon. :)

  5. Eduardo
    Twitter: pinoyblognet
    says:

    Oh! my grabe sobrang taas ng presyo ata ah….pero ok medyo ok sa akin ang features.Sana nga lang makabili ako nyan.

    • yuga says:

      Looks like a good trade-off:

      – DOS vs. Win 7 (4k)
      – 4GB vs 8GB RAM (2k)
      – GT540 1GB RAM vs. GT550 2GB RAM (5k)
      – 14″ vs. 15.6″ (3k)
      – 1366×768 vs. 1920×1080 (4k)

      Worth the 18k difference?

  6. Iyan Sommerset
    Twitter: iyansommerset
    says:

    I’m not so sure 1080p on a 15.6″ screen is livable. Sure, it’s cool and all when you’re watching movies and gaming, but when doing normal everyday tasks like writing documents or viewing the web (stock size)? You better be getting prescription eyeglasses bundled in with that.

    • raul barrios
      Twitter: kryptobarrios
      says:

      Well I guess you can always downgrade the resolution to 1366 x 768 for a larger display but you can’t upgrade the 14″ to 1080p. :)

  7. psikick says:

    The NEO Elan LD2JL offers better bang for the buck.. It’s a Clevo built unit. User impressions here http://www.tipidpc.com/viewtopic.php?tid=273807&page=1

    all positive so far..

  8. Daryl Dy says:

    I think the P2532 has the sleek design as well as the price is best bang for the bucks.

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Kevin is a blogger, avid gamer and always keeps himself updated with the latest trends in technology. He's still a bit shy so no Twitter and Facebook link here.

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