Thanks to Nvidia’s GeForce 10 series, gaming laptops are a reasonable alternative to gaming desktops these days. For those that want portability but don’t want to sacrifice gaming performance, there are a ton of suitable options on the market covering a wide variety of price points and performance levels. We’ve covered a number of decent options on TechSpot throughout the past six months, and this latest product from Asus is no different.
The Asus ROG Strix GL502VS sits towards the top end of the performance and price scale. It doesn’t have any ludicrous dual-GPU setups inside, but its GeForce GTX 1070 discrete graphics chip offers better performance than your typical gaming laptop or even desktop. It packs a 15.6-inch 1080p G-Sync display and a range of other solid hardware in a form factor that still makes it somewhat portable, unlike a few other laptops I’ve reviewed with similar hardware.
My review unit, which retails for around $1,700, came with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, 16GB of DDR4 memory, a 256GB SSD plus a 1TB hard drive, and of course, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. These are standard specifications for a gaming laptop in 2017; you won’t find too many GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 laptops that stray from this CPU+RAM+storage combination.
The GL502VS is slightly larger than a typical 15.6-inch gaming laptop, although that’s due to the beefier cooling solution required to satisfy the GTX 1070. This laptop is around 30mm thick, but still manages to keep its weight to 2.2kg, making it thicker than most 15.6-inch GTX 1060 laptops but no heavier.
Compared to its GTX 1070 competition, the GL502VS competes strongly. It’s the lightest laptop available in its price class, and only the current Gigabyte P35Xv7 is slimmer; options from MSI, Acer and Alienware are all larger, sometimes significantly so. That’s not to say a 2.2kg, 30mm thick laptop is outrageously portable, but for those that want to carry around something this powerful, the GL502VS is your best option.
As always, keep in mind that the GL502VS requires a significant power brick to use the GTX 1070 at its full capabilities. This is the case with all GTX 1070 laptops, so remember to factor in the additional 650 gram brick in your portability calculations.
To keep this laptop light, Asus has used plastic for most its construction. This leads to a pretty cheap look and feel, with the exception of the lid which is actually metal. The brushed plastic used around the keyboard tries to imitate the metal lid, but it just ends up looking like a budget knockoff. The actual feel of this wrist rest is reasonably hard and harsh, which is in contrast to the pleasant feel that other metal-bodied gaming laptops provide.
I like the use of a black body with vibrant orange highlights, though this color scheme and some angular patterns used around the body do fall into ‘gamer style’ territory. Just in case you had forgotten which keys to use while gaming, the WASD keys are orange with black text, while the rest are black with orange text. This laptop is also available in a silver base color, though from Asus’ product images, the black model looks significantly better.
As with most gaming laptops, the entire rear of the laptop is a massive vent used to exhaust hot air. The hinge design on the GL502VS, which partially blocks the back edge while fully open, means that the vents direct air somewhat downwards and into your desk. Surprisingly small vents along the bottom draw in cool air.
Round the edges you’ll find an Ethernet port, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, USB 3.0 and a USB 3.1 Type-C port on the left; and an SD card slot, two USB 3.0 ports, and a 3.5mm audio jack on the right. It’s disappointing Asus has only included one 3.5mm audio jack, which makes it hard to use headsets with two 3.5mm connectors for the speakers and microphone. Thunderbolt 3 would have been nice as well, though USB-C is decent nonetheless.
The keyboard included on the GL502VS is okay, though it’s far from the best gaming laptop keyboard I’ve tested. In a laptop that’s 30mm thick, I expected better travel distance from the keyboard, but instead the GL502VS’ keyboard is closer to an ultrabook than other gaming laptops in terms of tactile feedback. One positive is the reasonably clicky feel from the rubber dome keys despite the short travel distance.
As for keyboard layout, the keys are adequately sized and the left modifier keys are large enough to easily hit them while gaming. Asus has squashed in full-sized arrow keys, though, which reduces the size of the right modifiers. There’s also a numpad for those that do a lot of number crunching on their laptop.
The trackpad is decent, and provides a good tracking experience. It’s not something you’ll be using particularly often on a gaming laptop, but at least Asus has resisted the urge to include terrible ELAN hardware here.
The GL502VS is equipped with a 15.6-inch TN LCD with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. This display is well suited to gaming thanks to its 120 Hz maximum refresh rate and G-Sync support, making it a great pairing for the GTX 1070. With this GPU, you can often run games in the 60 to 120 FPS range at 1080p, which makes this screen the perfect choice.
This LCD is capable of 323 nits of brightness at its peak, with a decent contrast ratio of 1220:1. Unfortunately the display is far too cold by default, which leads to poor grayscale accuracy and mediocre color accuracy. sRGB gamut coverage isn’t great at just 92% either, although the display looks decent (though far from fantastic) in general. Calibration can improve performance slightly, but I wouldn’t recommend this display for any sort of color accurate work.