Gaming laptops have improved a lot over the last decade or so, the gaming laptops of today are much more powerful and portable compared to their ancient predecessors. It is quite a marvelous feat to make something more powerful while also decreasing its size and reducing power consumption at the same time. Imagine yourself losing weight while also getting stronger, faster, and smarter, all while consuming less food at the same time. Well, that is not a very practical or accurate example of how the gaming laptop industry has matured into what it is today, but you get the point. Technology evolves at an extremely fast rate, and this is especially true for the realm of microprocessor architecture and computer systems design. The processors of today are several times as efficient as the processors of a few years ago, and they push more frames in the latest AAA titles while intelligently scheduling and distributing tasks among their many cores to reduce energy consumption and heat output.
But enough of all this chit-chat, let’s talk about the reason you are reading this article in the first place- the ASUS ROG STRIX GL502VM gaming laptop. Fitted with Intel’s latest and greatest quad core laptop CPU, and a full-blown NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB graphics card. Not a cut-down version of the desktop graphics chip, but the full 1280 CUDA core, 192-bit GDDR5 memory interface version of the 1060. This combination allows you to play virtually any AAA game title at high or even ultra-settings with 60 fps on the 1080p G-Sync display that comes with this laptop.
But before we get into what these numbers and technological acronyms mean, we need to discuss about the one thing that truly makes the GL502VM stand out from the rest of the competition. That one thing is portability and form factor- at just 23.5 millimeters in thickness and 2.2 kilograms in weight, this 15.6” gaming laptop is actually closer to an Ultrabook in terms of size and mass. It looks nothing like the overly bulky and boringly styled gaming laptops that you are used to until now. In this article we shall take a look at what the GL502VM is loaded with in terms of hardware specs as well as features such as audio, display, connectivity, I/O etc. We will also discuss about the form factor, design, materials and looks of this brand-new ROG laptop which is touted by ASUS to be “COMPACT AND POTENT”. Is the GL502VM truly unique and amazing, and is it worth your hard-earned money? Let’s find out!
Without lingering around, let’s get straight to it- the GL502VM is equipped with an Intel 6th generation quad core i7 6700HQ mobile CPU that runs at a base clock of 2.6 GHz and can turbo up to 3.5 GHz when the time calls for it (normally, whenever you are playing a modern title that heavily taxes your system hardware). This CPU is more than enough to handle almost any modern game, be it an indie title or AAA release. You should face absolutely no CPU bottlenecks while playing games on 1080p, which happens to be the resolution of the display on this beast of a laptop. About 90% of games today use no more than 4 physical cores, which is why it is often said that a desktop i5 is more than enough for strictly gaming workloads. However, the 4-core CPU on this laptop happens to be hyperthreaded meaning that it can execute more than two instruction threads on a single core at the same time via intelligent scheduling of tasks. It is basically like having one mouth, but using two hands to feed the mouth instead of one (as is the case with non-hyperthreaded processors).
For the graphics part of the equation, we have a NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB unit, complete with all 1280 CUDA cores and running at 1700MHz or more out of the box (or should we say, out of the laptop?). Well, this is the exact same GTX 1060 chip that you’ll find in desktops. The Pascal architecture is so efficient that NVIDIA does not have to cut CUDA cores (stream processers within the graphics chip), or reduce clock speeds to stay within the thermal and power consumption limits of a mobile platform as opposed to a desktop. Previous generations of laptop graphics chips were always scaled-down versions of their desktop counterparts with lower clocks and fewer cores. For example, a desktop GTX 780 would have X CUDA cores, run at Y clock speed, while the laptop version of the same (aka the GTX 780M, M for mobile) would typically have X-25% CUDA cores and Y-25% MHz clock speed. The 25% is an approximate, it could be either more, or less than that for just about any mobile GPU.
For RAM, you have the option to fit up to 24 GB of high speed and super power-efficient low latency DDR4 memory in your GL502VM laptop. That is more than what you need for gaming, since rarely is more than 16 GB required to play modern AAA titles. If you’re into productivity and creativity based work such as photo or video editing, virtual machines, or 3D CAD design, then the 24 GB of RAM is a huge bonus. The main storage is comprised of a SSD + HDD combo- a single 128 GB SATA SSD paired with a 7200 rpm 1TB HDD for mass storage (movies, video game installers, and more). The SSD makes for a perfect boot drive in which you can store the OS and a few select games or software that you access daily. It is low on space but about 4-5 times faster than the HDD in terms of access/ write and read speeds.
Build Quality and Design:
The laptop is only 23.5 mm thick and weighs just 2.2 kg, that is with the 76 Watt-hour quad cell Li-Ion battery pack installed. The entire body is sleek and sports subtle, but bold styling elements in the form of streamlined corners and accent lines that makes this laptop look aggressive and refined at the same time. It sports a brushed aluminum finish, with the bezel around the 15.6” display being black in color. There are RED LED chicklet keys for the keyboard, and the lighting shines brilliantly through the etched keycaps so that you can have a perfect gaming experience even in low light conditions. You can of course customize the keyboard and set macros as well as play with the lighting to create some cool effects. You can record and modify keystrokes or create a combination to keystrokes to be executed with the press of a single button through the macro editor function in software.
The audio solution is provided by ICEPOWER, and has ASUS SonicMaster technology incorporated into it to enhance aural experience. The speakers are strategically positioned so that the user gets the maximum output with minimum interference and distortion, there is even a little subwoofer in the base of the laptop to provide that extra punch in the form of bass. The chicklet keys on this custom designed gaming keyboard have a tactile feel to them and feature just 1.6mm of travel distance for ultra-fast responses in games.
Storage and Connectivity:
In terms of storage, you are getting a classic HDD + SSD combo- the HDD for storing all the large files and movies, games, photos, etc., while the SSD is for your OS and a select handful of games or software that you use frequently and would like to run at the maximum potential of your system. The SSD in this case is a SATA 128GB unit, and the HDD is a 1 TB 7200 rpm drive that is quite a bit better than the 5400 rpm drives that you see on regular laptops or desktops. For connectivity and I/O, ASUS has provided a fair bit of options- There is an integrated 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, along with 802.11 AC for all those folks who have access to an A/C network or router. There is Bluetooth 4.0 onboard, along with a RJ45 LAN-insert port for wired networking. There is a single HDMI port, along with a single mini DisplayPort and a combo in/out 3.5 mm jack for headphones/mics. There is a multi-format card reader slot, along with an HD webcam and 4 USB ports- 1 USB Type C, and 3 USB 3.0 ports.
The GL502VM comes equipped with all the hardware that you need for smooth 1080p and 60 fps gaming, along with something that is rarely found at this price- a NVIDIA G-Sync display. A G-Sync display has variable refresh rate, and is directly synced with the graphics card output meaning that it will dynamically alter its refresh rate in real time to match the frames that are being output by your GPU. This eliminates the input lag that comes from using V-Sync, and eliminates screen tearing as well as stuttering so you can enjoy a truly silky smooth gaming experience. Less input lag and screen tearing results in a more seamless and enjoyable gaming experience, and lets you compete better in online multiplayer games such as Counter Strike or DOTA/LOL. Playing games such as Witcher III and Rise of the Tomb Raider is a treat on this brilliant display which has a 98% Adobe RGB color gamut and a 100% SRGB color range (it is an IPS panel after all). Colors are very accurate, and the gamma as well as hue saturation is super fine right out of the box. Games and movies look equally awesome on this FHD 15.6” display.
Conclusion and Final Verdict:
For the price of nearly 1500 bucks, this might seem like a slightly expensive purchase at first. But consider the fact that it is a laptop which you can use for both work and play- even take to the college or office with you since it is so inconspicuous and thin. No one will ever recognize that it is a gaming laptop until they see the ROG trademark logo and pay attention to the subtle styling. It is both beautiful and powerful, and the best part is that it comes with a G-Sync display and the latest NVIDIA graphics chip that enables you to play any game in 1080p and 60 fps with all settings maxed out. The style, thin body, performance, and audio as well as keyboard quality easily put this model on our top 3 gaming laptops list for around 1500 USD.