Name: Gigabyte P2742-G
Type: Gaming laptop
Specifications: Click here for full specs
Price as reviewed: £945
An affordable gaming laptop that promises “unprecedented performance”, can Gigabyte’s P2742-G punch above its weight when it comes to running the top PC games? Read our full review to find out.
Performance and specs
When it comes to gaming laptops, you don’t get much for £1,000, but Gigabyte’s P2742-G does well to offer a well-rounded spec sheet for just under the £950 mark.
A 17-inch machine, under the hood you’ll find an Intel i7-3630QM processor, clocked at 2.4GHz (3.4GHz for Turbo Boost), 8GB Ram and two storage drives – a speedy Liteon 128GB mSATA SSD and standard 5400RPM Toshiba 1TB HDD. It’s a solid base upon which to build a gaming laptop, but the budget nature of the machine rears its head with Gigabyte’s GPU choice.
The P2742-G is equipped with a Nvidia GTX660M 2GB dedicated graphics chip, a generation off the pace from the latest GTX700M-series laptop GPUs, and decidedly mid-range even when released last year. While still capable of playing top games at low to medium settings fluidly, it’ll struggle with more graphically advanced titles, as our benchmark and frame-rate tests will show in a bit. For the price, it’s still a decent set-up, but Gigabyte’s insistence on positioning this as a top-tier gaming machine is at best misguided, and at worst misleading.
And while we applaud the use of dual SSD and HDD storage devices, it’s poorly implemented here. Waiting around 40-50 seconds for the machine to hit the Windows 8 Start screen, it doesn’t take advantage of the instant-booting capabilities that an SSD should deliver.
Seeing as Gigabyte claim the P2742-G is capable of “unprecedented performance”, we ran a series of tests to see just how capable the P2742-G was when under a heavy load, as well as under slightly less stressful conditions that seem better suited to its mid-range discrete GPU. Running Windows 8, we used the built-in benchmarking demos of both Batman: Arkham City and Metro 2033, as well as the 3D Mark 11 benchmarking app.
Batman: Arkham City – 16fps average – 1080p extreme (DX11), all settings maxed out
Batman: Arkham City – 33fps average – 1600 x 900, FXAA high, DX11 off
Metro 2033 – 9fps average – 1080p extreme (DX11) , all settings maxed out
Metro 2033 – 20fps average – 1600 x 900, DX 9, AF 4X, very high settings
3D Mark 11 – 2670 3D Marks
As the above results show, the P2742-G struggles when faced with the most advanced DirectX 11 effects at high resolutions that top-tier games offer, barely able to hit double-digit frame rates with Batman: Arkham City and near-crippled by the demanding Metro 2033. Admittedly, few laptops do achieve stellar results when faced with such challenging software, but even dialling back the graphical settings and the resolution here to something more suited to its capabilities sees the machine struggle.
When in practice, playing the above titles at 720p resolutions and tweaking the settings to boost performance did see the machine hit comfortable frame rates, resulting in an enjoyable play session that would have bettered the above games’ console counterparts in terms of looks. But overall you’re looking at a decidedly mid-range laptop when stood next to the competition.
Design and build quality
Gigabyte have kept the design of the P2742-G relatively simple, and it makes for a good looking, if a little chunky, laptop. Available with both a matte black lid and orange lid (we tested, and prefer, the black), for the most part it’s a well constructed, well connected machine.
Measuring roughly 412mm wide x 275mm deep and 45mm thick, and weighing in at 3.2kg, it’s a sizeable machine, but nothing extraordinary within the usually-oversized gaming laptop market. Angular and with rear-mounted fans that keep the laptop from getting too hot without churning up too loudly, the black edition we tested would be right at home in Batman’s Bat Cave.
In terms of ports, it’s well equipped, with 4 USB ports (1x 2.0, 3x 3.0, with one a combined eSATA port), HDMI out, a mutli-card reader, an Ethernet socket, headphone connections and an S/PDIF out jack. On the rear can be found the power port and a VGA external monitor port. A Blu-ray disc drive is also included.
Considering it’s using a TN panel rather than an IPS one, the non-touch display is also pleasing to view. Large at 17.3 inches, it runs at a full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution, and has accurate colours along with good brightness levels. Employing a semi-matte screen finish, the viewing angle can be a little tight, but that’s a fair trade to make for the ability to continue gaming in harsh lighting. A sturdy hinge looks as though it’ll support the heavy screen without too much strain for many years to come too.
Though the keyboard lacks backlighting, the keys themselves too have just the right amount of sponginess to get some real typing done on them too, should the laptop be required for work as well as gaming purposes. Featuring a full numberpad, there’s a number of handy shortcut and function keys, including control over VGA output, a sound muting button and Wi-Fi switch.
However, the less said about the mouse pad and mouse buttons the better. Too small to be useful, the textured pad isn’t responsive, and has a tendency to trigger unwanted gesture shortcuts almost at random. The buttons too are equally unresponsive, and feel terrible cheap. They flex and rattle within their housing when touched, and only trigger a press when pushed on their far extremes. Keep a proper mouse plugged in at all times.
The speaker quality is also very underwhelming. Considering the heft of the machine, there’s room for a little more audio wizardry to be squeezed in, but gaming sounds were tinny and lacking in warmth or bass. Don’t expect to be immersed unless you have a pair of headphones handy.
Gaming laptops aren’t renowned for their battery performance, and while the Gigabyte P2742-G does little to buck this trend, it at least falls achieves parity with its rivals in this regard. We managed to squeeze 1 hour and 15 minutes from the laptop when playing Batman: Arkham City on a fully charged battery. Considering some gaming laptops struggle to go over 45 minutes, that’s not half bad, but you still won’t want to leave the house without the charging power pack.
Though billed as a high-performance gaming rig, the Gigabyte P2742-G never really manages to rise above the sort of experience you’d expect from an affordable gaming laptop. While the screen is a high point, middling in-game frame rates and a truly shoddy mousepad let the machine down considerably. Lacking in both portability and performance, you’d do better to save a few extra quid for a premium gaming laptop, or save yourself a bit of cash and enjoy the superior gaming performance that a desktop build would bring. Laying final judgement on the P2742-G is difficult – priced affordably, Gigabyte’s marketing of the machine is like seeing a featherweight boxer put into a heavyweight title fight. It’s a solid mid-range machine, nothing more and nothing less, and is worth a look if you insist on investing in a cut-price gaming laptop.