Most gaming laptops have focused on getting slimmer and smaller over the last few years, but that’s not the goal for all. The Aorus 17 (starts at $ 1,799; $ 3,699 as tested) is one such laptop that wants to stretch its sizable legs, measuring in at about an inch and a half thick and more than 8 pounds. Its Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU and Intel Core i9-9980HK CPU queue up top-end gaming performance, as you’d expect given the size and price. Ultimately, though, no one feature or design aspect decisively sets it apart from other huge, even-better-performing, laptops. The Aorus 17 is a solid high-end gamer, but the Alienware Area-51m and Acer Predator Helios 700 are our top picks in this tier.
A True Gaming Behemoth
Most people can go their whole lives without seeing a laptop as big as the Aorus 17, but at PCMag Labs, we see a veritable parade of them. Even in that context, I was surprised when handed the Aorus 17 for the first time. Some 17-inch laptops have a way of not looking quite as big as they are, but this system makes no such effort. It’s wide, deep, and most obviously, quite thick. It’s not alone in this regard, but there’s no denying its massive size.
More specifically, it measures 1.49 by 15.6 by 11.5 inches (HWD), bigger than almost anything we’ve seen come through for review that doesn’t have a desktop-class CPU inside. There are, though, a small group of similar laptops. Among super-powered machines, the Alienware Area-51m is a little thinner at 1.2 inches, but is otherwise just as large. Only the MSI GT76 Titan DT really surpasses the Aorus 17 with its all-in design at a whopping 1.7 by 15.6 by 13 inches. If you’re looking for a somewhat portable 17 incher, the Razer Blade Pro 17 (2019) manages a chassis that comes in at 0.7 by 15.6 by 10.2 inches. It falls short of this super-heavyweight class, though—these three other laptops are in a power, size, and price tier of their own among recent machines.
While I’m on the subject of size, I have to mention the fact that there are not one, but two big charging bricks for this laptop. We’ve seen this a handful of times in the past, and most recently on the MSI GT76 Titan, but it’s a noteworthy inclusion each time. Just one of these power bricks is large enough, but two of them reduces the portability of this laptop to a level I would call “only move if absolutely necessary.” The system weighs 8.4 pounds on its own, but the total with both bricks is a staggering 14 pounds. Add in the annoyance of packing and organizing two sets of cables, and you won’t want to bring the Aorus with you anywhere. The laptop will run with just one brick plugged in, but, like when you try to play games off a gaming laptop’s battery only, the performance is diminished.
The Alienware and MSI laptops both suffer from the same issue, for what it’s worth. This level of wattage is mostly necessitated by the powerful GPU (more on that later), and because laptops don’t have the physical space for a desktop-size power supply, this is the solution most manufacturers have landed on. The Acer Predator Helios 700 is also huge, but at least it has a unique physical feature to justify its size, and only one power brick. For me, the dual bricks are a borderline disqualifying feature: It makes the already-cumbersome laptops that much more difficult to take with you. They are technically portable compared to immobile desktops, but unless you’re taking a long trip and will play a lot of games where you’re going, it’s hardly going to seem worth lugging a laptop like this along.
Visually, it’s a big and blocky system that feels more plasticky than it should for the price. There’s some chassis lighting in the form of headlight- and taillight-like strips and a striped row of LEDs above the keyboard. The former are a nice, restrained inclusion, but I don’t really like the look of the stripes. Your mileage may vary.
Also, not that you’ll see it often, but the bottom panel has a cool-looking airflow cutout. It’s shaped like a bird with wings, and Aorus calls it a “Fire Phoenix” design. The lid, meanwhile, has muscle lines the company says are inspired by a fighter jet, while it likens the rear lights to an exotic car. It’s a lot of influences, arguably one too many, but they share enough of the same aesthetic to be cohesive. On the whole, the style is a little on the busy and gamer-aesthetic side, but I don’t dislike the look of the front and back edges.
For some buyers, the power level and even a degree of portability are worth it, though, and a system of this size and price does bring along appealing features. One of those for the Aorus 17, made possible by the thick chassis, is the mechanical keyboard. The key switches come from Omron, and provide both tactile and audible feedback. I found typing on this keyboard to flow quickly, even if the keys are a bit looser than I’d like. The travel (2.5mm) isn’t as deep or as satisfying as on a good desktop keyboard, but it’s way better than the average laptop keyboard.
The keys are also individually backlit. You can customize each key’s lighting color and effect, as has become standard on most high-end gaming machines, through included software. In this case, that’s the Aorus Control Center. This software also lets you change the chassis lighting, alter fan speeds, monitor components, use shortcuts for apps and settings, and more. It’s fairly intuitive, as I found everything I was looking for with ease, and I’d say it offers an above-average number of options.
Another software feature is collaboration with the Microsoft Azure AI cloud platform. What this essentially offers is smart switching between appropriate power modes for your CPU and GPU, depending on what kind of task you’re doing. For some, that won’t be that appealing. For example, you may only intend to play games on this laptop, and when you do so, you expect the components to crank out as much juice as they can.
Other users may want to do content creation and other tasks, however, and not run the system at full power all the time. You can toggle the AI assistance with the “Gaming and Professional” app included on the laptop, and choose different settings (limited offline use, whether or not to share your data with Microsoft, and so on). If you leave the AI option on in the background, you can expect some frame-rate upticks in gaming without manually changing power modes. It should memorize your settings and keep them in a database for future use. I did indeed note an uptick of a couple of frames per second while gaming when using these settings, so you can leave it running, if you wish.
Display, Ports & Configurations
The Aorus 17’s screen measures, as you may have guessed, 17.3 inches diagonally. The resolution is only full HD (1080p), which I have mixed feelings about.
On one hand, this resolution is a surer way to make use of its 240Hz refresh rate. The lower pixel count will be less straining on the components, and the laptop therefore will be better able to display more frames per second. Maximizing frame rates is the goal of many enthusiasts, especially in competitive multiplayer games and in esports scenarios, and this system is very well suited to doing just that.
On the other hand, getting only 1080p feels a bit disappointing at this price point and screen size. 1440p is a popular desktop-monitor gaming resolution (though most gamers are still using full HD), and the powerful components are borderline overkill for 1080p. If truly hitting 240fps is one of your top priorities, this should be music to your ears, but a sharper picture for AAA games and watching videos has its own appeal. I associate higher resolutions with more premium builds, but many gamers may indeed value the 240fps capability more. You’ll have to make that call for yourself.
Outside of the resolution and refresh rate, the panel is X-Rite Pantone certified for more accurate colors, and it features an anti-glare coating. This does cut down reflections (though it doesn’t eliminate them), but the picture is duller for it. There is no touch capability on this screen.
The rest of the physical build is rounded out by a swath of ports. The left side hosts two USB Type-C ports, one of which supports Thunderbolt 3, as well as one USB 3.1 port, and headphone and mic jacks. The right flank holds two more USB 3.1 Type-A ports, another USB Type-C port, and an SD card reader. That’s not all, though, as the rear includes an HDMI connection, an Ethernet jack, and the two power ports.
Finally, we come to configuration options. Our tester (model YA-9US2452SH) is the top-end version of this laptop, ringing up at $ 3,699. For that, you net an Intel Core i9-9980HK processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, 32GB of memory, a 1TB SSD, and a 2TB hard drive. Note that the GeForce RTX 2080 is not the Max-Q version of the chip, but the full-power mobile GPU.
Max-Q GPUs are tuned-down versions of the mobile chips that have their power and heat output capped so they can fit in slim laptops. Clearly, that’s not needed here, and so you get more graphical power (and energy draw, hence the extra power brick). The Aorus 17 also includes support for Optimus, for smart switching between the discrete GeForce GPU and integrated Intel graphics to save you power when you don’t need the RTX 2080.
Aorus offers three less expensive SKUs below our model. The lowest starts at $ 1,799 and offers a Core i7-9750H CPU, a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 144Hz screen. The next model up costs $ 2,199 and includes the same processor, RAM, and storage as the previous build, but bumps up to an RTX 2070 GPU and a 240Hz display. Third is a $ 2,999 config that offers the same processor, memory, and 240Hz display, but also includes an RTX 2080 and a 1TB SSD. The difference between it and our top model, then, is the jump to a Core i9 CPU and the extra 2TB hard drive. These cover a wide range of budgets, though even the least expensive is hardly entry-level pricing.
Performance Testing: Power to Match Its Size
For performance testing, I compared the Aorus 17 to other top-end 17-inch gaming laptops. Some of these aren’t quite as big or expensive, but they’re all about as close as you can get among modern machines. The chart below shows what components each one packs…
I covered the Alienware ($ 4,409.99 as tested) and the MSI ($ 4,599 as tested) earlier, and they are indeed the only laptops here more expensive than the pricey Aorus. The similarly hulking Acer Predator Helios 700 ($ 2,199.99 as tested) isn’t quite as expensive, and it includes the step-down RTX 2070 GPU and a lesser CPU. Razer’s machine ($ 2,799 as tested) is the least powerful on this list, with a Max-Q version of the RTX 2070, but it’s by far the sleekest and most portable. This is what the Aorus 17 is up against, so let’s see how it did.
Productivity, Storage & Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better. PCMark 8, meanwhile has a Storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s storage subsystem. This score is also a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
I’ll keep this short, since you probably would’ve guessed a laptop like this is more than capable of handling every day home and office tasks. It was the second-fastest on this test, and given the baseline for these powerful systems is high, the Aorus 17 will speed through any workaday programs you throw its way. Its SSD speed was minutely slower than the rest, but all of these represent snappy drives that will boot and load quickly.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here.
These two tests are much more strenuous than PCMark 10, and the Aorus 17 did well. It was particularly quick on Photoshop, slower only than the beefy MSI. The two desktop-grade Core i9 laptops were the only ones that performed better on Cinebench, but they performed markedly better—you can see where the extra juice comes in for these demanding multi-threaded tasks. The Aorus 17’s chip is short of the i9-9900K’s level, but it’s still a lusty Core i9 CPU. You may want this laptop primarily for gaming, but it’s plenty capable of legitimate multimedia and other strenuous professional work.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.
The 3D prowess of the Aorus 17 is on full display here, posting high results on the two more demanding tests (3DMark Fire Strike and Superposition High). The two muscle laptops edge it out in each case, but considering the extra price and power, the Aorus 17 holds up well.
On a less head-to-head basis, these scores are objectively high, and point to a lot of graphical power. For non-gaming tasks like video editing, animation, modeling, and more that require potent graphics hardware, this non-Max-Q RTX 2080 is more than up to the task. As for gaming…
Real-World Gaming Tests
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world video games at various settings. These are run on both the moderate and maximum graphics-quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) at native resolution to judge performance for a given system. The results are also provided in frames per second. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for the benchmark.
As discussed earlier, these components are more than ready for 1080p, and the results here show just that. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are far from competitive titles where you need the very highest frame rates, and this laptop still pushes 117fps and 144fps, respectively, at maximum settings. More-demanding games will push those frame rates a bit lower, but at 1080p, the stress of the most cutting-edge titles will be diminished somewhat.
These games demonstrate that the Aorus 17’s parts aren’t quite overkill for 1080p, since the frame rates don’t, in fact, hit the 240Hz cap in games like these. You may only need 60fps in AAA games, but more frames does lead to a smoother experience. In multiplayer titles that are much less taxing, this system will make much better use of the 240Hz refresh rate. For example, in a trial I ran using Rainbow Six: Siege at maximum settings and 1080p, it averaged 254fps on the built-in benchmark test.
In total, the performance is in a rare tier for laptops, even if it takes its significant size to get there. For example, the Blade Pro 17 is an expensive, slick laptop with undeniably high-tier hardware, but even then there is a clear gap between it and behemoths like the Aorus 17. I will also add that for a laptop of this size, it wasn’t too loud, and remains fairly cool thanks to its “Windforce Infinity” cooling system and vapor chamber. If you ramp the fan speeds to maximum using the Aorus Command Center, the system gets very loud. It will add a couple extra frames to your games, but it may not be worth the noise.
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in Airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender Foundation short Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
One area where the Aorus 17 doesn’t shine—no surprise—is its battery life. I predicted a poor result like this with just one look at the system; laptops this size rarely last very long. The hardware and feature set is simply draining, as reflected in the sub-three-hour battery life. Even if you do bring the Aorus 17 with you, I can’t envision a scenario where you’d want to use it off the charger for long. It’s not lap-friendly, and it won’t fit on any airplane tray I’ve ever seen. Remarkably, two of the systems in this batch drained even faster, while the MSI gets credit for lasting as long as it does given its size and power.
Big & Bold, But Not Our Favorite Beast
The Aorus 17 is a beast of a gaming laptop, though I wouldn’t call it the best in its class. It is less expensive than its main competitors, but value is hardly a concern in this over-the-top price tier, and the variety of configurations means you should take defined price differences with a grain of salt. The other top-tier options and their desktop CPUs offer superior performance across the board, and their builds are nicer to boot. The Alienware Area-51m, in particular, has an attractive design that’s simply a step above, as opposed to the huge black chassis that define the Aorus 17 and the MSI GT76 Titan DT.
The Aorus 17 delivers high frame rates at maximum settings, but that’s the table stakes from a laptop of this size and price. It’s competitive, to be sure; it’s just not an unassailable pick for spending more than $ 3,000. In this price range, even if you’re not getting value, you want to at least feel like you’re getting the peak of design and components. The Aorus 17 is just a bit off that mark, and since it’s priced much closer to its behemoth-laptop competition than the midrange options, it’s difficult to recommend in the $ 3,699 model we received. (I suspect I’d have been a bit keener on a configuration like the $ 1,799 entry one.) If you do want a laptop this big and powerful and are trying to stick to any kind of budget, this will save you some cash. Otherwise, go all in with the Editors’ Choice Alienware Area-51m or the unique, sliding-keyboard Acer Predator Helios 700.