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ASUS ROG STRIX GL502VS review: The Goldilocks Machine

Quick Read

With the latest Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card, this update to the GL502 manages to strike the perfect compromise between performance and mobility. The machine is sturdy enough not to miss out on the latest games, and the machine is light enough to be used wherever you want to game.

Build and Design

Image courtesy: Tom Oliver
Image courtesy: Tom Oliver

ROG says that they wanted to give the STRIX Gl502 a unique look while maintaining some of the core design values of the ROG lineup, they wanted the laptop to appear fresh and new. They very much succeeded in this regard, as the GL502 looks distinctive from its laptop cousins, but keeps certain elements (the flash of orange). Not as flashy as some of the larger models, this laptop does its best to be understated. For a gaming laptop, that is.

Image courtesy: Tom Oliver
Image courtesy: Tom Oliver

Another selling point is the size and weight. Gaming on a laptop can be frustrating affair when it is either too small or too big. The GL502 feels just the right size. I had no trouble using the keyboard for any purpose or seeing anything on the screen. However, it is also just over 2kg in weight and about 3cm thick, meaning it can fit into a standard backpack or messenger bag. Even the PSU feels lightweight and transportable.

Ports

Image courtesy: cukusa.com
Image courtesy: cukusa.com

If Apple were to be believed, having a laptop means sacrificing ports. Not the case here. Aside from the usual Ethernet port (which supports gigabit transfer), card reader and headphone/mic combo jack, the laptop boasts three USB 3.0 ports and one type-c 3.1 USB. Combined with the HDMI 2.0 port and you have plenty of options for dual-screen gameplay. ROG have never suffered from a lack of ports, and this trend continues here.

Screen and Speakers

Image courtesy: Tom Oliver
Image courtesy: Tom Oliver

While not the pinnacle it used to be, the Full HD 15.6” IPS wide view display is great. Every game and benchmark I threw at it looked gorgeous. The extra-wide viewing was also very pronounced, making everything feel grander without stretching.

The dual 2W 18mm speakers perform admirably, but nothing out of the ordinary. With no subwoofer, the best option is a good pair of headphones. After all, if you’re playing in public, be a good citizen and don’t blast music loudly.

Keyboard and touchpad

Image courtesy: Tom Oliver
Image courtesy: Tom Oliver

ROG like to backlight their keyboards with vibrant colours, and the GL502 is no exception. Orange is the colour chosen here, which normally I’m not a fan of but works well with the colour scheme. For gamers, the WASD keys are highlighted to help guide your fingers, which is a nice feature. Aesthetics aside, the 1.6mm key travel and 30KRO makes the keyboard responsive and satisfying to use.

The touchpad is fine, works well enough for casual use, but for any serious gaming, a mouse is mandatory. Using the touchpad for anything other than the simplest of tasks can be a headache. However, this is more an issue with Windows touchpads as a whole, not with the laptop in particular.

Storage

Image courtesy: Tom Oliver
Image courtesy: Tom Oliver

The GL502 has two storage spaces, one 128GB SSD, and one TB SATA HDD. The SDD is a bit on the small side but would be just about right for a couple of dedicated games or programs. If it isn’t enough, there are four SSD slots available, but 1TB should be sufficient for most users. No issues were had launching programs from either drive.

Cooling

Image courtesy: Tom Oliver
Image courtesy: Tom Oliver

ROG did a good job with the cooling system. The CPU and GPU are cooled individually, but the units are together. This helps the laptop to balance out the thermal output of the machine. Not a quiet as a liquid-cooled system, but the fans didn’t drown out the machine either. There shouldn’t be any worry of being a nuisance in public while handling any high-intensity gaming.

Performance

Image courtesy: Tom Oliver
Image courtesy: Tom Oliver

Nvidia’s GTX 1070 GPU is a beast with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. Combined with a massive 16GB of DDR4 memory and this machine tears through any graphical demands. Anything from strategy games to physics-heavy romps like Just Cause 3 ran at high frame rates with little to no stutter. No doubt a dual-card SLI setup would provide that little bit more oomph, but I never felt like I was missing out by only having the one card. This is really what separates this laptop out from the competition: no laptop at this price range should be able to handle games like that with so little effort. No doubt this laptop could even handle VR gaming without too much trouble, but this couldn’t be tested.

Benchmarks

Image courtesy: forums.totalwar.com
Image courtesy: forums.totalwar.com

Total War: Attila – Average FPS:36.4 (Ultra Settings with unlimited video memory)

This would seem low, but it needs to be said that the Total War series, especially the later entries, are never good for high FPS gaming. Getting anything above 30 is a miracle for most machines, and that the GL502 managed on ultra.

Image courtesy: geforce.com
Image courtesy: geforce.com

Heaven by Unigine – Average FPS: 75.4

The environment simulator that is the Heaven Benchmark was handled without any issues at all. In fact, this might have been the smoothest I’ve seen the benchmark run on any PC I’ve reviewed.

Final Thoughts

Image courtesy: englishpcsales.com
Image courtesy: englishpcsales.com

There is so much good to be said about this laptop, and just about no gripes. Performance wise this laptop is a serious contestant with even dedicated tower builds, which speaks volumes about the work that has gone into the 1070 graphics cards. Even the battery life is a healthy three and a half hours with average use, a marvel for a gaming laptop.

Image courtesy: Asus.com
Image courtesy: Asus.com

The best part, however, is the price. At S$2,698, this is a very affordable gaming machine for the power you get out of it. However, even though it is relatively cheaper than some gaming PCs, at no point does it feel like there has been any compromise regarding quality. As a low-weight, a high-hitting machine for those who want a great gaming experience with limited space, this is close to perfect.

Conclusion

Image courtesy: rog.asus.com
Image courtesy: rog.asus.com

ROG have done well with the GL502. The addition of the Nvidia 1070 series of GPUs makes this portable gaming machine a powerful tool for players without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, the laptop has not launched in Singapore quite yet, but keep an eye out for when it arrives.

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