Gigabyte SabrePro 15

Since Nvidia 10-series Pascal GPUs hit the scene, there haven’t been many truly affordable and powerful gaming laptops. Instead, we’ve had to choose between mid-range Nvidia GTX 1060-powered notebooks normally starting around $ 1,600 (about £1,400, AU$ 2,070) or budget friendly Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti laptops that don’t have the chops for 1080p gaming at medium-quality settings.

Gigabyte aims to break that trend with the SabrePro 15, which, as its name might suggest, is a higher-end version of its budget Sabre gaming laptop. The 15-incher comes with a faster processor, better graphics and an RGB keyboard over its affordable cousin – but it stops short of breaking the bank with a starting price of $ 1,399 (£1,499, AU$ 2,249).

Price and availability

For what you’re getting inside, the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is a steal at $ 1,399 (£1,499, AU$ 2,249).

Unfortunately, there are two catches with this price tag. The first being that this laptop only comes in one configuration. Secondly, our review unit has a few components you won’t find in the retail version, including an NVMe PCIe x4 SSD that’s faster than the offered M.2 SATA 3 speed flash storage, as well as a hard drive with twice the capacity compared to what’s found in consumer units.

Even with those more realistic specs in mind, the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is far more affordable than other equally powerful gaming laptops, like the $ 1,899 (£1,799, AU$ 2,799) Razer Blade or the $ 2,073 (about £1,630, AU$ 2,730) Origin EVO15-S – the latter of which is only available in the US.

The only gaming laptops to come close to offering the same value is the $ 1,399 (about £1,100, AU$ 1,840) Acer Predator Helios 300.

Design

Design-wise, the SabrePro is a departure from Gigabyte’s toned-down looks. Rather, this 15-inch feels and looks like the quintessential gaming laptop that also took a page out of Michael Bay’s take on Transformers.

The SabrePro’s design is part stealth bomber and hyper car that includes bevels, nipped corners, points and curves on every end. Save for the sides of the laptop, there aren’t any flat edges on this machine. There are so many facets to this laptop that a few end up clashing with the rest of the laptop, such as its curved backend, whereas the rest of its shape is fairly geometric.

Altogether, it’s a very busy design that seems like it’s trying too hard to keep things interesting. Whether you’ll like this look also will depend on your personal preference, though.

Styling aside, the SabrePro is functionally well designed. Thanks to the slightly forward position of the screen hinge, you’ll find desk-friendly ports on the back of the machine including one for Ethernet, plus video out and power connectors. 

Meanwhile, the gaming notebook’s extended front end also allows for front-facing speakers that offer suitable stereo separation – even if they’re a touch too quiet.

Of course, there’s a downside with the bigger chassis in that the SabrePro is both bigger and heavier than its competitors.

While this Gigabyte 15-inch measures 15.4 x 10.5 x 0.9 inches (39 x 26.8 x 2.5cm; W x D x H), the Razer Blade and Origin EON15-S are smaller at 13.6 x 9.3 x 0.70 inches (34.5 x 23.5 x 1.79mm) and 15 x 9.8 x 0.69 inches (38.1 x 24.8 x 1.75cm), respectively. 

The Sabre Pro is also a full pound and a half heavier than the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro, which is the same underlying chassis as Origin’s thin-and-light 15-inch gaming laptop. 

Decked out

Another highlight of the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is the keyboard, which offers the most satisfying amount of 2mm of key travel we’ve had on a traditional gaming laptop. That’s even compared to other machines with mechanical-type keys, like the Razer Blade Pro and MSI GT75VR Titan, though, there isn’t a sharp click when you bottom out the keys.

We’re also not crazy about having the number pad jammed into the arrow keys, which often leads us to scrolling up and down the page when we meant to enter digits or vice-versa. Gigabyte could easily fix this problem by moving the arrow keys a step below the rest of the keyboard.

Unlike most gaming laptop’s, Gigabyte opted to move the macro keys above the keyboard rather than leaving them off to the side. Not only does this give more space for a roomier keyboard, we feel they’re a bit more accessible. Outside of gaming, you can also program these macro keys to cycle power modes, ramp up the fans to the max and assign other quick-access settings.

Surprisingly, the SabrePro also integrates a Microsoft Precision Touchpad and thus the nearly perfect 1:1 tracking with solid multi-touch gesture recognition you should expect.

Despite being much more affordable than other mid-end 15-inch gaming laptops, the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 outperforms other notebooks in its class. In fact, this 15-inch machine scored hundreds of points higher than the Razer Blade and Origin EVO15-S in every test. The SabrePro also flexes its muscles by playing GTA V on Ultra quality settings at 8 to 11 frames per second (fps) higher that both its competitors.

Outside of benchmarks, we were impressed with the array of modern titles – including Prey, Doom and Dishonored 2 – we could play on Ultra settings and still get a silky smooth 60 fps gameplay experience.

A small percentage of this improved performance is due to optimization improving hardware and software over time. However, a bigger factor here is the fact that the SabrePro is a thicker machine that can circulate more air. Combined with Gigabyte SupraCool (not to be confused with the famed Toyota street race car), the SabrePro does a better job of keeping temperatures down and performance up.

Unfortunately, Gigabyte didn’t figure out a way to tone down the fan noise, so the SabrePro still sounds like a hair dryer when it's operating at full tilt.

Battery life

When it comes to battery life, the SabrePro falls behind the already short run times of most gaming laptops. Just 3 hours and 32 minutes was the longest battery life we saw out of this 15-inch laptop, and that was with just playing Guardians of the Galaxy on a loop as part of our standardized movie test.

The punishing PCMark 8 battery test produced an even shorter 2 hours and 53 minutes result that’s on par with the usage time we got with regular web surfing and word processing.

Comparatively, the Origin EVO15-S stood up to our movie test for 4 hours and 3 minutes. The Razer Blade continues to hold its position as the longest-lasting gaming laptop, with a record 7 hours and 29 minutes run time.

Display

The Gigabyte SabrePro 15’s display can look a little lifeless. Colors feel muted and you’ll notice the Windows 10 taskbar is closer to a dark graphite rather than being pitch black. We also wish we could take the screen brightness up a few notches higher especially when using this machine in a brightly lit room.

That said, everything about the SabrePro’s display isn’t terrible. The Full HD resolution renders sharp details you fully appreciate since this gaming laptop can actually handle gaming on Ultra. There’s also a matte coating on the 15-inch screen that does a spectacular job of diffusing glare and reflections.

Thankfully, neither the screen or the speakers we criticized earlier are so bad we feel you’ll need to replace them with peripherals.

We liked

The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is one of the most affordably priced gaming laptops we’ve seen in a long time, for what’s on offer inside. More surprisingly, it offers better performance than more expensive machines despite being equipped with the same components.

We disliked

Many of the things we don’t like about the Gigabyte SabrePro 15 are common with most. It’s short battery life that’s particularly below average makes it unreliable to use away from the power plug, and the loud fan noise becomes a nag while gaming. Aside from these usual annoyances, we only have minor gripes about its weak speakers and middling display.

Final verdict

The idea of paying two grand for a gaming laptop always gives us pause, and so the $ 1,399 (£1,499, AU$ 2,249) Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is a refreshing change of pace. It’s a solidly built, inoffensive gaming laptop – visual aesthetics aside – equipped with all the power you need to really get going with PC gaming. That said, if you’re looking for something with better battery life, there are better options to be had here.

It might not have the build quality of the Razer Blade or be nearly quite as thin, but you’re saving a lot of dough and getting even better performance to boot. The Gigabyte SabrePro 15 is one of the most powerful and affordable gaming laptops you can buy today.

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