Disclaimer: Yes, I know this site is geared towards Canadians who just happen to be Android enthusiasts but I think this product review can still fit in just fine.
ASUS has been making laptops for as long as I can remember and even their gaming laptops have earned a very large following in the PC gaming world. In 2006, the Taiwanese company unveiled a special branding specifically meant for those into PC gaming and called it Republic of Gamers (ROG). It actually turned out to be a huge success for the company since back then, laptops were extremely inferior to their desktop counterparts when it came to gaming performance.
Now ten years later, ASUS has officially released their newest ROG laptop, called the GL502. Let me tell you the specs now, because on paper, they are outright amazing.
First off, the ASUS ROG Strix GL502 features a 15.6-inch 1920×1080 IPS panel with a matte finish to help prevent annoying glares from various light sources.
Next is Intel’s newest and most powerful mobile Skylake processor, the i7-6700HQ which has a base clock of 2.6 GHz and turbos to about 3.5 GHz depending on the work load. This is complemented by NVIDIA’s last generation Maxwell mobile GPU, the 970M. Additionally, the laptop I received was configured with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, 1TB HDD and a 6 cell battery.
In terms of features, it comes with an illuminated chiclet keyboard (which I’ll talk about later), 802.11b/b/n/ac WiFi, gigabit ethernet and Bluetooth 4.0. As for ports, it came with a single 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack, 3 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB-C, 1 HDMI, 1 x mini display port, 1 SD card reader an an AC adapter.
The laptop weighs around 2.2kg, or roughly five pounds, and surprisingly sports a very slim profile similar to what you find on ultrabooks.
After using the laptop for two full weeks, I took the performance of the 6700HQ and the 16GB of RAM for granted. With pretty much every workload, the processor handled it like a champ. With roughly 200 Chrome tabs opened, I saw almost no slowdowns and the responsiveness of the laptop was no different to when nothing was open. I played a couple of games from my Steam library almost regularly and maxed out the graphics settings and while the GTX 970M did get hot, the laptop’s air cooling system made sure it did not reach the thermal threshold.
As for storage, the 1TB hard drive was more than enough for my initial testing and read/write speeds were accpetable for an HDD. My only complaint is the laptop could have largely benefitted from an SSD and it’s too bad my unit did not come with one.
While I mostly used the laptop with my own monitor, mouse and keyboard, I still had the chance to try out ASUS’ scissor switch keyboard. The key presses were a lot more tactile compared to regular rubber dome laptop key switches and I enjoyed typing on it whenever I could. As for the display, the 1920×1080 matte display did its job without any issues or complaints but with a laptop of this calibre, I feel ASUS should have at least provided an option with QHD (2560 x 1440).
Unfortunately, I had a lot of frustrations with the trackpad. I couldn’t believe how it could be so unpolished in terms of scrolling and zooming and the buttons themselves felt very cheap. Not to mention that it was completely useless for gaming and that’s where my trusty Logitech G502 came in handy.
Another major disappointment was ASUS’ preinstalled applications, which these days is better known as bloatware. It was absolutely unacceptable to notice the 6700HQ struggling to open Microsoft Office with applications like ASUS Giftbox, liveupdate, screensaver, McAfee, Webstorage and other annoying stuff running in the background. I could only get a true feel for the laptop’s potential performance after doing a clean install of Windows 10 and uninstalling almost every built in application provided by ASUS. Once that was done, I was very happy.
Pros: i7-6700HQ, 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD, 1080p display, keyboard with LED lighting, GTX 970M, surprisingly good heat management, weight, overall design and build quality.
Cons: Bloatware bloatware bloatware, trackpad, under average battery life, few usb ports, no SSD by default.
All in all, I still enjoyed using and reviewing this laptop and I would be ecstatic if ASUS could really cut down on their preinstalled applications. Once those are removed, the laptop’s performance is mind blowing and can even replace traditional desktop gaming PCs while being suprisingly light and thin and of course, good looking.
You can now purchase the ASUS ROG Strix GL502 from NCIX for $1849.98 although MSRP is $1799.