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Asus ROG Strix GL502VS

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating starrating star

What's Hot: Insanely powerful for a 5.5 lb. 15" gaming laptop. High quality components, good keyboard and display. NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics!

What's Not: Battery life is short. Stereo speakers are anemic.


Reviewed October 3, 2016 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Asus ROG Strix GL502VS

Say hello to my new little friend, the 15.6" Asus ROG Strix GL502VS. He's a little heavier and chubbier around the middle than my previous even littler friend (the 15.6" MSI GS60 Ghost Pro). I'm OK with that: like everyone else I appreciate keen portability, but my trusty Ghost Pro (now rebadged as the smaller of two Stealth Pro models) got hot enough on the bottom when gaming to give my bare legs a sunburn. The fan noise was sometimes sufficient to require headphones, despite pretty loud speakers. If I weren't an ardent gamer, the heat and noise wouldn't have gotten to me after a year, because nothing drives a machine hard like gaming. To the MSI's credit, it troopered through with nary a hardware problem. It's a great machine, but I feel like I've been there and done that with impossibly thin yet powerful gaming laptops (until technology breakthroughs bring down the heat). The Asus' fans are loud when gaming hard, but not as loud as super-skinny gaming laptops and the bottom doesn't get painfully hot.

Before you think the Asus is a krogan among salarians (Mass Effect-speak for a sumo wrestler among geckos), let me tell you it's not. It's a pretty impressively portable 15.6" gaming laptop with a very high end NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics card (oddly, the 17" GL702VS is only available with the GTX 1060). It weighs just 5.5 lbs. (asus claims 5,but our digital scale says 5.5) and is 1.18" thick (the 15" MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro that replaced the Ghost Pro is 0.78" and 4 lbs.). In a world where many really decked out 15" gaming laptops like the Alienware 15 are a mind-boggling 8 lbs., this ROG is a very portable machine.

I know some of you travel all the time and shaving off a pound and 0.4" is stupendous. I don't use this as my primary travel machine, so I'm OK with a little more weight and the bonus of faster graphics. Take away: look to your own needs when deciding. It's nice to have choices, confusing though it might be when you first start shopping.

Asus ROG Strix GL502VS

Who's it For?

Those who need a very high performance notebook in a seriously portable package. Gamers, video editors and hardcore Adobe CC jockeys who use lots of plugins. College students who need decent portability and the horsepower to game in their dorm rooms. If you think the Dell XPS 15 is really cool but it can't keep up with your latest gen AAA titles, the ROG won't be as pretty and classy, but its graphics walk circles around the XPS 15. That said, if the classy XPS 15 is your thing, also consider the more powerful 14" Razer Blade, which should be shipping with NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics in October 2016.


Who Isn't it For?

The ROG (Republic of Gamers) Strix GL502 is orders of magnitude overkill if you just play Minecraft and edit family photos and videos for fun. If you need long battery life, high end gaming laptops in general aren't a good choice, and the GL502VS' battery life isn't great especially because it doesn't switch to integrated graphics. If you want a touch screen or a glossy display, this isn't your machine. Though I really like the orange accents, it may not be to your taste and it will grab a bit of attention at work.

Specs at a Glance

The GL502VS is a significant refresh from the initial launch model that came out earlier this year. In terms of specs and materials it sits above the ASUS ROG GL552, and is the smaller alternative to Asus' flagship 17" ROG G752. Asus tweaked the design a little bit and added a second RAM slot inside. But the most important is the move to NVIDIA Pascal generation graphics for a mind-boggling 40% (and sometimes higher) improvement in graphics performance. We look at the high end $1,699 model, the GL502VS-DB71. We expect a lower end $1,399 config to hit the market with the GTX 1060 and no SSD, as well as a "DS" model with a 4K display rather than our 1080p panel.

Our GL502VS-DB71 model has Intel's 45 watt, quad core Skylake Core i7-6700HQ 6th generation CPU, same as most high end gaming laptops. It has 16 gigs of DDR4 RAM as one SODIMM RAM module, which means the other slot is open if you wish to upgrade (no need to throw existing RAM away). It ships with the NVIDIA GTX 1070 8GB DDR5 dedicated graphics and a 1920 x 1080 matte IPS display with G-Sync at 60Hz. It has a red backlit keyboard, a very fast 256 gig PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD drive and a 1 TB 7200 RPM HDD. Those are impressive parts and specs for the price. It has plenty of ports including Ethernet, mini DisplayPort and the once rare HDMI 2.0 port to drive a 4K display at 60Hz. It has USB-C Gen. 2 (the faster USB-C standard) but not Thunderbolt 3.

Asus ROG Strix GL502VS


Build, Keyboard, Trackpad and Upgrading Internals

Like many gaming laptops in this price range, you get an aluminum lid and rugged polycarbonate base. The wrist rest is faux brushed black aluminum (actually plastic) and the lid is actual brushed black aluminum that's a dead ringer for MSI's gaming laptops. There's no chassis or lid flex. It might not be MacBook Pro chic, but it's a sturdy laptop that's very well put together with no hints of corner-cutting to save money.

The bottom lid is affixed with Phillips head screws and the entire bottom panel comes off, granting easy access to both RAM slots, M.2 SSD slot, 2.5" drive bay, Intel 8260AC wireless card, fans, battery and everything else. Well done, Asus. Upgrades are super-easy, though the components are so well-spec-d that I don't foresee wanting to immediately change components other than the 2.5", 7200 RPM HDD. Sure, that's a fast HDD, but an SSD would make for much quicker game load times and 2.5" SSDs are reasonably priced these days.

The keyboard is very good-- it has 1.6mm of key travel, anti-ghosting, a crisp and damped feel and even red backlighting (no chroma multicolored backlighting). I've typed several reviews on it, and I really like it. Since there's a number pad, the trackpad is offset from dead center and is instead centered under the spacebar. That's typical for laptops with number pads, but it might take you a while to adjust. Speaking of the trackpad, it's extremely well-behaved thanks the Microsoft Signature drivers. It tracks perfectly and multi-finger gestures work well.

Asus ROG Strix GL502VS



Heat and Noise

The machine has two large fans with bold reddish-orange grilles. This traditional cooling design works well, and the non-crazy skinny design means it never gets burning hot on the bottom. Oddly, the 17" GL702 has a third small fan that seems to not work as well as the simpler design on our GL502. The wrist rest and keyboard area don't get hot. The hotspot on the bottom rear center exceeds human body temperature when gaming (112F in Dallas where it's still hot). That's significantly cooler than MSI's skinny competition, but hotter than bigger and thicker laptops like the MSI GT62 Dominator 15.6" model or Asus' own 17.3" ROG G752. Happily, that 112F area is between your legs if you're gaming with it on your lap, so you won't contact it. That spot's not hot enough to feel burning hot, but it will feel uncomfortable. When doing most anything else (productivity work, streaming video, Photoshop), the machine is much cooler--comfy enough for lap work and quiet enough too. When gaming, the fans are loud, though quieter and less strident than the Razer Blade and 15.6" MSI Stealth Pro. That's a good thing, because the upward firing stereo speakers on the wrist rest area are pretty wimpy (shame on you, Asus). The laptop runs much quieter when gaming if placed on a passive laptop cooler that provides more ventilation space underneath-- something like the Targus Chill Matt with its open lattice plastic surface. CPU and GPU temperatures are similar to other 15" gaming laptops-- 50-65C for the CPU (most often closer to the lower number since most games don't tax the CPU) and 70-75C for the GPU.


Deals and Shopping:


Asus ROG Strix GL502VS Video Review


Asus ROG Strix GL502VS vs. MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro Comparison


Alienware 15 R3 vs. Asus ROG Strix GL502VS Comparison

Performance and NVIDIA Graphics

Like most quad core gaming and pro apps laptops, this is about as fast as it gets in the world of portables. You can get something a little faster with Intel's overclockable Intel Core i7-6820HK CPU, but only in larger laptops at a higher price. The fast PCIe NVMe SSD (Samsung SM951 gen 3 in ours) and very high end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics are where this relatively small laptop shines. Since the 10 series GTX cards are so much faster than the previous generation, NVIDIA has changed up the lineup. The 960M isn't replaced by the GTX 1060, for example. In terms of marketing and available configurations, most laptops that shipped with a GTX 970M now ship with a GTX 1060. GTX 960M laptops like the Dell XPS 15 and Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 will likely get a GTX 1050, when available. The base graphics card for the high end gaming laptops was the 970M, now it's the 1060--get it? There's a GTX 1080 card, but it's so far much rarer than the 980M-- only a very few 17" and above beefy beasts get it. Since the GTX 1060 is actually faster than the 980M, and the 1070 trounces everything in the 9xx lineup, I can understand why the 1080 isn't considered a mainstream configuration card (it's also power hungry and hot). The GTX 1070 with 8GB DDR5 VRAM is already something most of us hadn't dreamed of having in a truly portable computer--from VR to AAA titles at very high to ultra settings in full HD, or high settings at 2K to 4K (depending on the game). NVIDIA dropped the "m" designation from their Pascal mobile GPUs because performance is just 10% shy of their desktop counterparts. Obviously the chipset and clocks aren't identical--just look at the size of an NVIDIA GTX 1070 desktop graphics card and you know there's no way it fits into a laptop like the GL502.

Asus ROG Strix GL502VS internals


The ROG Strix has NVIDIA G-Sync, which syncs frame rates between graphics card and display so you won't see the usual visual tearing when you pan quickly (great for first person shooters and fast action games). It really does look better when gaming. Since the laptop has a 60Hz panel, that means 60 fps gaming at 1080p (the display is 1920 x 1080), which the Asus can do easily at high to ultra settings in any game currently on the market (we tested GTA V, The Division, Fallout 4 and Far Cry Primal). You can turn off G-Sync in the NVIDIA control panel, but why would you? It also supports G-Sync with external monitors that have G-Sync. The downside is that NVIDIA can currently do G-Sync or Optimus (automatic graphics switching between integrated and dedicated graphics), not both in the same machine. So the Asus has G-Sync but can't switch to power frugal integrated graphics to improve battery runtimes. If you want to use an external monitor and game at higher resolutions, that's doable with the GTX 1070. I tested Fallout 4 and Far Cry Primal at 4K resolution using an LG monitor at high settings and got a playable 45-50 fps.

The ROG Strix GL502VS has an advantage compared the MSI Stealth Pro, Razer Blade, Asus ROG GL552 and some Apache Pro models since those ship with the GTX 1060 (the GL552 might ship with the GTX 1050 rather than 1060). Aging graphics cards drive gaming laptop churn since the graphics cards aren't upgradable. You want the fastest you can get now, so the machine will remain viable in 2 years when even more graphically demanding titles come out and VR becomes more mainstream and affordable. That makes the GTX 1070 even more tempting here. Of course, the MSI Stealth Pro (and the bigger ROG Strix GL702VS) have a Thunderbolt 3 port that you can use with a Thunderbolt 3 external graphics amplifier like the $500 Razer Core (in addition you must also buy a graphics card to put in the Core). Since the Razer Core is currently the only Thunderbolt 3 external graphics amplifier on the market and 1) it's very expensive especially after you throw in the cost of a good graphics card 2) it's bigger than a toaster so it won't work for road warriors, I'm currently less bullish on that as a great upgrade path. Say you spend $1,000 on the Core plus a good graphics card--that's more than half the price of a replacement laptop... hmmm.


Asus ROG GL502VS benchmarks

Asus ROG GL502VS benchmarks


The GL502VS has a 1920 x 080 matte non-touch IPS display. We expect a 4K version to come later, and it will likely also be IPS and matte non-touch. The 300 nit display is quite bright, and glare isn't an issue since it's a true matte panel. Color gamut is good enough for pro work (unless you do wide gamut print work for a living). Like most high end laptops, it covers the entire sRGB spectrum and 72% of Adobe RGB. Color calibration using the default normal setting in the Asus Splendid Color app is good, and calibration corrected for the slightly low 2.1 gamma to improve rendering of dark areas. The hardware white point is excellent at 6800K, and black levels are good at 0.47 at max brightness for a contrast level of 610:1 at max brightness (higher at mid brightness). All this translates into lovely looking movies, photos that don't look dithered or posterized and games that are colorful and contrasty enough to see in dark dungeons.

Asus ROG Strix GL502VS


Battery Life

Well... this isn't the high point of the review, and it rarely is for very powerful gaming laptops. Since the Asus GL502VS lacks Optimus, it will never switch to power-frugal integrated graphics (there's no hardware switch either). With these smaller and lighter powerhouse gamers, the battery is the casualty--it's one of the few things a manufacturer can reduce in size and capacity. The ROG Strix GL502 has a 4 cell, 65 WHr battery. To put that in perspective, dual core Ultrabooks with integrated graphics have 40 to 50 WHr batteries, and they consume much less power. The Dell XPS 15 with the larger battery option has an 84 WHr battery. The competing MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro also has a 65 WHr battery. I averaged 3.5 hours of streaming Netflix video at 50% brightness, and 4 hours of lightweight productivity work at 30% brightness.

The laptop ships with a 180 watt large power brick. Though I'd have expected a 230 watt charger for a quad core laptop with this level of graphics, the charger mostly managed to keep up when gaming (the battery level sometimes dropped 5% per hour when plugged in and gaming with very graphically demanding games). The charger does get hot when gaming, because it's working at max capacity when gaming. Otherwise it's just warm, as are all notebook chargers.


For years we've had PC specialists--the desktop for really heavy work and the best gaming quality, the 15" jack of all trades home or work laptop with a screen big enough to see easily and a roomy keyboard, and the 13" Ultrabook (or convertible) for those who need to take their PC everywhere, every day. The Asus ROG Strix GL502VS is a marriage of the first two, and it's light and compact enough to be a machine that hits the road (or the commuter train) frequently. I'm glad technology has come this far. The Strix GL502VS is a pricey piece since it has powerful AAA game-ready internals, but I'd say it's fairly priced and is significantly less expensive than much of the competition with similar (or slightly lesser) graphics capabilities. Recommended.

Price as tested: $1,699


Related Reviews:

Alienware 15 R3 Review

Alienware 17 R4 Review

MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro Review

MSI GT72 Dominator Pro G-Sync Review

MSI GE62 and GE72 Apache Pro Review

MSI GS40 Phantom Review

Razer Blade Review (2016)

Lenovo Ideapad Y700 Review

Dell Inspiron 15 7559 Gaming Model Review

2016 HP Omen 15 Review

Origin Eon 15-X Review

Dell XPS 15 Infinity (9550) Review


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Display: 15.6" IPS full HD 1920 x 1080 matte, non-touch IPS display. 4K IPS display also available. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB DDR5 graphics. HDMI 2.0 port, USB-C 3.1 gen. 2 port and mini Display port.

Battery: 65 WHr, 4 cell Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside. 180 watt charger.

Performance: 2.6 GHz Intel Skylake 6th generation Core i7-6700HQ quad core with Turbo Boost to 3.5 GHz, 45 watt processor. Intel HM170 chipset. 2 RAM slots, 16 gigs of DDR42133 MHz RAM in most configurations (32 gigs max). 256 gig M.2 boot PCIe NVMe SSD and 1 TB HDD (7200 RPM).

Size: Weight: 5.1 to 5.5 lbs. depending on configuration.

Camera: 1080p webcam with mic.

Audio: Built-in stereo speakers, built-in mic, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and 3.5mm mic jack.

Networking: Intel 8260AC WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth.

Software: Windows 10 Home.

Expansion and Ports: 3 USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C 3.1 gen. 2 port, mini DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5mm combo headphone-mic jack and SD card slot.



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