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Review: Aorus X5s V5 Camouflage 15″ Laptop

TL;DR

  • The Aorus X5 doesn’t dress up in just any camo pattern, but official patented MultiCam
  • i7-6700HQ, 32GB RAM, GTX 980M and a 15” 4K display packed in a tiny 5.51lb slim chassis
  • Triple M.2 slots, though only two are PCIe 4X slots
  • Up to 64GB of RAM
  • Downside: Features a USB 3.1 port using the USB-C plug rather than Thunderbolt 3

The new Aorus X5s V5 is a special beast to be sure. GTX 980M, camo, 32GB RAM, camo, 0.9” thick 5.51lb chassis, camo. And then there’s the camo, what the heck is this thing?

Before I go nuts about how this is one of the lightest, slimmest 980M laptop in the world, let’s get to the green and beige elephant in the room, that camo. When I first saw the new Aorus X5, I wasn’t exactly excited, feeling like camo-creep had moved from the hallowed halls of Wal-Mart to my beloved gaming PCs.

But, for some reason, I really love this Aorus X5 with matte finish, mil-spec camouflage pattern. I’ll explain why.

First, the Aorus X5S is part of Aorus’s new line of camo-covered special edition laptops. The model I received had 100/500 on the bottom. There’s also the Aorus X3 Plus V5 13″ model and the 17″ X7 Pro V5, all part of Aorus’s move to Skylake and adding new features.

Regarding the laptop’s fancy styling, the Aorus X5 doesn’t dress up in just any camo pattern, but official patented MultiCam. What is MultiCam? It’s one of the successors to the digital camo pattern that graced troops and Battlefield games since 2004. Called Universal Camouflage Pattern, the digital camo was all kinds of cool and made our troops look like they were, ya know, from the future. But, unfortunately, it didn’t work all the well. Go read Gizmodo’s great article for more about the camo pattern wars. 

After the digital camo was proven to be less than ideal, the military looked for new patterns that actually hid said troops. MultiCam researched and developed camo patterns that work. Here, Aorus licenses the official MultiCam pattern for their new laptops, not just copies a generic pattern. You can tell it’s official MultiCam because there’s little trademarks all over the Aorus chassis.

MIL-SPEC LIVINGROOM GRADE

Let’s be clear: this laptop is not mil-spec and it’s definitely not made for disappearing into Afghan hills and getting in some Division co-op via sat link before engaging hostiles. Hell, the Aorus logo is mirror finished. And, with all the fancy vents and high end cooling, this thing would suck up some desert sand and burn out almost immediately.

Rather, this laptop is for military gamers who want that authentic look on a seriously powerful computer for long sessions of Arma, Battlefield, Sniper Elite or World of Tanks.

QUALITY PRINTING

I used to do some of my own high end printing and the Aorus printing process is legit. It’s called hydro dip printing (among other names like “Water Transfer Printing” and “Bathtub Graphics”) and it involves floating a thin film with your image on a tub of water. Then you dip your product into the water, causing the film to adhere to the surface (and your hands or anything else it touches).

The process is long and tedious but produces seriously nice effects. It’s not perfect for precise printing — UV flatbed printing is better for that — but hydro dipping is great for wrapping designs around corners and into areas normal prints wouldn’t be able to reach. Check out the video below for all kinds of hot dipping action.

Water transfer is also really strong and scratch resistant, no flaking or warping here. In hand, the Aorus X5 camo laptop with its metal construction has a quality feel that sets it apart from the other plastic covers out there. Because it’s metal with the hydro dip on top, the print quality makes the Aorus X5 Camo one of the most impressive laptops out there.

Well done Aorus, I’m super impressed.

CAMO THAT WORKS

Does camo on the Aorus actually do anything useful other than give you flashbacks to Nam? Actually, yeah, gaming laptops these days are magnets for greasy dorito fingerprints. Or any fingerprints. I swear, half the laptops will show fingerprints even after washing one’s hands.

The Aorus Camo pattern seemed clean at all times. Maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you, but to me, it was surprisingly welcome. I’m used to wiping down my laptops on the daily. But the Aorus was always looking brand new. Maybe it’s the matte hydro finish (probably) and the camo pattern together that did the trick. Either way, I love it. More manufacturers should pay attention to the fingerprint problem.

Aorus X5s V5 Specs

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 8 GB GDDR5
  • 6th Generation Intel Core i7 6700HQ (2.60 GHz)
  • 32 GB Memory 1 TB HDD 512 NVME PCIe Gen3 x4 SSD
  • 15.6" 4K/UHD 3840 x 2160
  • 15.35" x 8.66" x 0.90" 5.51 lbs.

SPECS TO KILL FOR

And then there’s the specs. Like I mentioned above, i7-6700HQ, 32GB RAM, GTX 980M and a 15” 4K display. All that goodness is packed in a tiny 5.51lb slim chassis.

When Aorus came on the scene a few years ago, their initial offerings were powerful but decidedly generic and barely more than rebranded Gigabyte laptops without custom engineering.

These days, Aorus has really grown and the new X5 is a serious contender for one of the best ultra-performance portable PCs.

Now, I’ve personally reviewed or used most of the Skylake gaming laptops to hit the market in the last six months and the Aorus X5 definitely ranks at the top for all-around features, performance and livability.

Of course, the Aorus has a price to match its features — $2600.

LIGHTEST 980M IN THE WORLD?

Did I mention this laptop is slim? After reviewing dozens of gaming laptops that were, let’s be real, absolute oversized beasts, it’s refreshing to see a laptop that is, ya know, normal.

5.51lbs puts it in everyday territory. Other laptops with GTX 980M cards typically run between 8 and 10lbs. The closest competitor with a 980M is the Acer Predator 15.6”, but that clocks in at 7.5lbs, a full 2lbs more than the Aorus.

The Aorus doesn’t take the crown for the lightest and slimmest 980M in the world, Gigabyte (Aorus’s mothership company) beats the Aorus by a few points in every dimension. But among the other big players, Aorus absolutely crushes it.

Additionally, at 5.51lbs, the Aorus really does make real world livability doable. This isn’t a freak that you have to leave at home. I’ve been hauling the Aorus from office to home to events and the laptop is incredibly well made and bombproof. I don’t have any trouble recommending the X5 to stand up to your everyday battle even if it’s not made for real life jungle warfare.

RAID ALL THE DRIVES

The Aorus, like a few other manufacturers, has gone absolutely bonkers with M.2 RAID. Have you used a single NVMe SSD? They’re 400% faster than normal SSDs. Raiding two together is, simply, so fast you won’t even notice (though real world performance isn’t as bonkers as the jump from SATA to NVMe). Rebooting your PC is faster than waking an old PC from sleep. It’s insanely fast, levels on The Witcher III load instantly, no time to read the load screen tips.

The Aorus has triple M.2 slots, though only two are PCIe 4X slots, the last one is 2X which is still faster than SATA. You can also opt for a 2.5” SSD or HDD for a total of 3.5TB of storage. That’s pretty insane in a laptop thinner than an inch.

The model here has 32GB of RAM, though you can go up to 64GB. Again, insane. I feel like “insane” should be this laptop’s buzz word.

Now, I’ve personally reviewed or used most of the Skylake gaming laptops to hit the market in the last six months and the Aorus X5 definitely ranks at the top for all-around features, performance and livability.

FILLING OUT THE PACKAGE

The Aorus X5 isn’t all specs and camoed bits, let’s look at some of the other creature comforts.

First, the Aorus features a switchable macro setting on the left. I like the placement and responsiveness, though the software could use a little improvement. I’d love to see some really flushed out profiles from the beginning, like a media setup, FPS setup, MOBA, etc. Maybe Aorus will include more in the future. But, for now, you get your pick of numerous macro buttons to set up as you like.

Now, the trackpad is a single surface affair, no separate buttons. The responsiveness is okay, which is a little disappointing because I love good trackpads. But, honestly, I use a mouse at all times with the Aorus, even on the couch, so the trackpad isn’t critical.

The keyboard is average though not bad. There’s a new crop of mechanical laptop keys floating in the wind. Maybe I’m getting greedy, but I’d love to see this slim laptop with the mech keys. Okay, yeah, I’m totally greedy.

The 15.6” IPS screen has resolution for days and a professional matte finish, no glossy here.

MURDER THE MACBOOK PROS

Now, I’m going to get a bit subjective here, mostly because the PC vs Mac debate has come up in my personal life all too often, mainly around Mac laptops and how they’re made for “professionals.” What kinds of professionals? Fruit professionals, I guess, because PC laptops absolutely murder Macs in the performance department.

First, Macs don’t support Adobe CUBA acceleration via NVIDIA GPUs for video editing, so there’s that.

But from a specs standpoint, the Aorus 15.6” absolutely body slams the Macbook Pro 15.4” — up to 64GB RAM, 3.5TB SSDs , higher rez screen, 980M graphics and, ya know, a power powerful Skylake processor since Apple hasn’t updated their laptops in eons.

All for roughly the same price.

What does the Macbook Pro have? A lighter laptop by about a pound and, of course, the Apple logo. And some additional customer support and a locked software ecosystem tighter than a North Korean prison.

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENTS

The Aorus X5 features a USB 3.1 port using the USB-C plug rather than Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt is the future, so hopefully Aorus upgrades the USB-C to Thunderbolt 3 specs. Why would this matter? Because Thunderbolt 3 allows you to plug in a GPU dock with a Gigabyte 980 Ti or other cards to run VR systems.

Also, the screen, while a fantastic 4K IPS affair, isn’t G-Sync. Sure, you can attach a separate G-Sync monitor, but some other manufacturers are including G-Sync in their laptops. Price for G-Sync usually jumps up by $200.

As for the styling, I’d love to see some other patterns. MultiCam makes an Arctic camo (as well as many other styles) but I’d like something that’s not military themed. Maybe something performance car related, who knows, just don’t be gimmicky.

BENCHMARKS

Finally, a quick run through 3DMARK 11 using the Fire Strike Ultra 4K Benchmark (the most brutal of benchmarks) rendered a score of 2307. 

That’s pretty dang impressive, especially for a 0.9” thick laptop, showing the bigger dog laptops with 980Ms really don’t have much of a spec improvement over the Aorus. The only area where the bigger laptops shine is in long-term cooling. The Aorus was surprisingly silent, though, of course, the fans did kick on during multiple Fire Strike runs. Even then, the X5 wasn’t nearly as loud as some competing laptops stuffed with jet engines. 

However, the Aorus’s benchmarks are frustratingly close to the minimum requirements for VR (Fire Strike 4K result of 2596). I want my HTC Vive with a slim laptop combo today, people. I know Aorus has VR-ready laptops in the works, but the first company that makes a laptop with the Aorus X5 form factor and the serious horsepower to run VR is going to absolutely dominate. Aorus, make my dream come true!

OVERALL

The Aorus X5s V5 Skylake Camo version is a truly excellent laptop, not just for gaming, but for anyone desiring serious performance in a slim package. If this had Thunderbolt 3 and a 980 capable of Vive VR, I’d be in mobile heaven. Of course, if you’re a serious military sim guy or just love everything beige/green, then your camouflaged dream has just come true.