ASUS FX502VM review – an outcast Republic of Gamers laptop
Looking for a powerful gaming laptop without the need to dive deep into your pocket? Well, look no further than the ASUS FX502 because this – what should have been a ROG-branded laptop – offers an exceptionally fast GTX 1060 GPU paired with quad-core Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor for almost half the price of other similarly configured machines. But, of course, as with every other notebook with an impressive price/performance ratio, you will have to make a few sacrifices along the way.
For instance, the display uses a TN panel with overall poor viewing experience and the build quality may not suit everybody. On second thought, the latter doesn’t seem to be all that bad but in fact, it usefs generally the same design concept and materials as its more expensive ROG-branded GL502VS sibling. In addition, the provided GTX 1060 is paired with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM instead of 6GB but on contrary to our expectations, the GPU features all of the available 1280 CUDA cores. And as we all know, the 3GB version of the GTX 1060 sports fewer CUDA cores than the original version. This is not the case here, whatsoever. Find out more about this crazy bang for the bucks FX502 in the review below.
You can find some of the available configurations here: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
- Video review
- Retail package
- Design and construction
- Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
- Display quality
- PWM (Screen flickering)
- Buy our display profiles
- Specs sheet
- ASUS FX502 configurations
- CPU – Intel Core i7-6700HQ
- GPU – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (3GB GDDR5)
- Gaming tests
Since this is not a ROG-branded laptop, ASUS ships the FX502 in a standard box that includes the usual user manuals, AC adapter, and power cord. There’s also a handy cable tie for your cable management addiction.
Design and construction
Although the notebook is listed as 2.2 kg in weight in ASUS’ official website, our unit weighed approximately 2.515 kg. Interestingly enough, when we lifted up the notebook it felt much lighter than it really is. One of the main reason for this sensation might be the impressively thin profile measuring at just 24.5 mm. While all of this sounds great on paper – a powerful and compact 15-incher at a great price – we are a bit skeptical of its cooling capabilities. We will check that out in the “Temperatures” section below.
The design concept of the notebook is generally the same as the one of the ASUS ROG GL502 – brushed aluminum lid and plastic all around. The lid itself is absolutely the same as the one on the GL502 but lacks all the fancy LED logo illumination and strips and the only thing you will find at the back is ASUS’ boring logo in the middle. The aluminum plate, which is also a huge fingerprint magnet, bends under pressure but not enough to produce the ripple effect on the LCD screen. Speaking of which, it carries the usual thick screen bezels we are used to seeing on ASUS laptops but the hinges stand out somehow. They feel pretty stealth, linear and offer easy opening with just one hand. And as for the bottom piece, it uses hard plastic surface, slightly rugged with interesting ornaments like the ones on the GL502 and even the grills are positioned similarly. Again, only the ROG logo is missing.
The sides are – as we already mentioned – quite thin but offer all the needed connectivity options. The left side holds the DC charging port, LAN, mini DisplayPort, HDMI and USB 3.0 while the right side has the SD card reader, 2x USB 3.0 connector and the 3.5 mm audio jack. As you can see, they are evenly distributed and won’t pose a problem while gaming or working in tight spaces. Finally, the back of the machine integrates only two big vent openings for pushing the hot air out.
Moving on to the interior, you will see a strong resemblance between recently released ASUS ROG gaming notebooks and the FX502. It’s made of plastic imitating brushed aluminum surface and surprisingly, fingerprints don’t stick as easily. The keyboard itself is in the usual ASUS ROG style with red LED illumination, highlighted WASD keys and no media control buttons. The keys feel clicky, stable and typing on this keyboard won’t take much time adjusting to it. However, we feel that the key travel is shorter than it should be for gaming. Sometimes the clicky feedback just isn’t enough for a comfortable gaming experience. We were also disappointed by the touchpad, which seemed to be really jumpy, inaccurate at times but at the same time felt stable (no wobbling) and the mouse clicks were clicky and responsive.
Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
The notebook doesn’t feature a dedicated service lid but its bottom piece is fairly easy to remove and gives easy access to all of the internals.
Storage upgrade options – 2.5-inch HDD, M.2 slot
As expected, the laptop offers a 2.5-inch 1TB HDD manufactured by HGST spinning at 7200 rpm as well as an M.2 PCIe NVMe-enabled SSD slot. Since we reviewed the very basic model, the latter was empty.
|Free M.2 slot||Free||Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)|
|2.5-inch HDD/SSD||HGST 1TB HDD @7200 rpm||Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)|
And here comes the big disappointment for some users. The motherboard integrates a soldered 8GB DDR4-2133 chip and offers only one free slot. You can only upgrade the machine with up to 24GB, which is an overkill for the general user and gaming, but if you are planning to use the machine for other purposes, this will be a deal-breaker.
|Slot 1||Free||Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)|
The Wi-Fi card is located near the left cooling fan and it’s manufactured by Intel. The model is 8260NGW.
The battery is at its usual place and it’s rated at 42Wh
The cooling design seems conventional incorporating two cooling fans connected to the heat sinks using two heat pipes with a third one stitched in the middle. While this cooling system seems reliable on paper, the figures in our stress test speak for themselves.
The notebook uses a TN type of panel manufactured by AU Optronics with model number B156HTN03.8, which features Full HD (1920×1080) resolution leading to a 0.18 x 0.18 mm pixel pitch and 142 ppi. It can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 60 cm.
The notebook’s display offers narrow viewing angles due to the use of a TN panel.
Surprisingly for a TN panel, the maximum recorded brightness is slightly above average – for this kind of panel, of course – and our equipment recorded 233 cd/m2 in the middle and 221 cd/m2 as average across the surface with just 10% deviation. The color temperature is really close to the optimal – 6700K but the contrast ratio seems pretty low – 310:1.
We also measured dE2000 in different parts of the screen and the maximum recorded value was 2.4. Anything above 4.0 is unwanted.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
In this case, the display covers merely 51% of all sRGB colors. This is insufficient for a good multimedia or gaming experience.
Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.
We’ve created a profile with 140 cd/m2 luminance, D65(6500K) white point and 2.2 gamma.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the Office & Web Design profile.
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the Gaming & Movie Nights profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
Gaming capabilities (Response time)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 15 ms. That’s fairly fast response time for a notebook display.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse Width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
We were pleased to see that the display doesn’t use PWM at all. All brightness levels are flicker-free and thus, the display can be used for prolonged periods of time.
Blue light emissions
Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SDP) graph.
We will lie if we say that we weren’t disappointed by the image quality provided by the FX502VM. Quite frankly, we would have really appreciated if the laptop integrated a high-quality TN panel at the very least. We’ve tested on recently on the Acer Aspire F 15 and on the MSI PX60-6QE – laptops with much lower price tag.
Whereas this panel, provides a picture quality suitable for a really low-end everyday laptop. We have low sRGB coverage, extremely low contrast, fairly low maximum brightness and poor viewing angles. Some of the issues with color reproduction, gamma and low-light visibility can be fixed by installing our custom profiles but they can go so far. We do have to note, though, that the display doesn’t use PWM for regulating screen brightness making it harmless to your eyes.
If you are still considering the notebook despite the major flaw in the display department, we suggest spending a bit more on an external monitor. Even the most budget IPS solutions will be better than the built-in display for multimedia and gaming. And you won’t be losing the G-Sync feature as well because this laptop doesn’t support it unless you connect a G-Sync-enabled external monitor using the provided DisplayPort.
Buy our display profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for ASUS FX502VM configurations with 15.6″ AUO B156HTN03.8 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) TN screen, which can be found at Amazon: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]
Read more about the profiles HERE.
[edd_item edd_id_1=’76791′ edd_id_2=’76794′ edd_id_3=’76797′ edd_id_4=’76800′]
The sound quality is good and we didn’t notice any major distortions in low, mid and high frequencies.
The specs sheet provided below is for this model only and may vary depending on your region or configuration.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-6700HQ (4-core, 2.60-3.50 GHz, 6MB cache)|
|RAM||8GB (1x 8096MB) – DDR4, 2133MHz|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (3GB GDDR5)|
|HDD/SSD||1TB HDD (5400 rpm)|
|Display||15.6-inch Full HD (1920×1080) TN, matte|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Thickness||24.5 mm (0.96″)|
|Weight||2.515 kg (5.54 lbs)|
ASUS FX502 configurations
The reviewed unit came with pre-installed Windows 10 (64-bit) but if you wish to perform a clean install of the OS, we suggest downloading all the latest drivers from ASUS’ offical support page.
For 15-inch gaming laptop, the FX502VM sports a relatively big battery rated at 64Wh. But since the notebook features the latest generation NVIDIA Pascal GPU, the integrated GPU of the processor is out of the equation and thus delivers subpar battery performance. However, since the laptop doesn’t feature the so-called G-Sync technology, which doesn’t get along with NVIDIA’s Optimus feature (switchable graphics), we suspect that you can still benefit from the G-Sync technology with an external monitor using the mini DisplayPort. You can see from the results below that the GTX 1060 sips quite a lot of energy even when performing simple tasks like web browsing or watching a movie.
All the tests were performed with the usual settings – Windows battery saving feature switched on, Wi-Fi constantly running and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
The results are slightly below average even for a gaming laptop – 269 minutes (4 hours and 29 minutes).
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Similar, but lower result – 210 minutes (3 hours and 30 minutes). That should be more than enough for a full movie.
We recently started using F1 2015’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.
It’s quite unlikely that you will start a gaming session without being close to a power source, but it’s good to know that you can play for more an hour – 88 minutes (1 hour and 28 minutes).
CPU – Intel Core i7-6700HQ
Intel Core i7-6700HQ represents the Skylake H family and it’s considered as a high-performance chip with high voltage – 45W TDP. This is a step down from its direct predecessor – Core i7-4700HQ but matches its short-lived predecessor Core i7-5700HQ. The Core i7-6700HQ has four cores ticking at 2.6GHz and can go up to 3.5 GHz for one active core and 3.1 GHz for four active cores. The silicon supports the so-called Hyper-Threading technology that emulates one virtual core for each physical and thus establishing a total of 8 threads.
Furthermore, the chip is manufactured using 14nm FinFET process and integrates Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU with 24 EU (Executable Units) clocked at 350 – 1050 MHz. The memory controller supports up to 64GB of DDR3 or DDR4 RAM at 1600 or 2133 MHz respectively. The CPU is suitable for heavy applications and gaming.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-6700hq/
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-6700HQ managed to get 12.300 million moves per second. For comparison, one of the most powerful PCs, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
GPU – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (3GB GDDR5)
NIVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1060 GPU aims to be the mid-tier graphics card from the Pascal generation offering similar or even better performance than last year’s flagship models like the GTX 970M and 980M. However, the GPU will be used in high-end laptop configurations.
The graphics card is based on the GP106 chip built on the 16nm FinFET manufacturing process from TSMC paired with up to 6GB GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 8000 MHz effective on a 192-bit interface but this particular model sports 3GB of GDDR5. On contrary to the desktop 3GB variant, this one utilizes the full 1280 CUDA cores intrinsic to the GP106. The GPU also features the same amount of CUDA cores as its desktop counterpart (1280) and it’s clocked at the same frequencies – 1506 – 1708 MHz.
Depending on the cooling solution, the GPU can be found in large 17 and 15-inch notebooks but some slimmed-down 14-inch notebooks are also an option. The TDP of the GPU is somewhat lower than the last generation GTX 970M.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook with this GPU that we’ve tested: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-gtx-1060-3gb-gddr5/
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
|CS:GO||Full HD, Low (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||225 fps||215 fps||187 fps|
|F1 2015||Full HD, Low (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||113 fps||101 fps||88 fps|
|Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5)||Full HD, Low (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||128 fps||94 fps||37 fps|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)||Full HD, Low (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||122 fps||89 fps||29 fps|
|Tom Clancy’s The Division||Full HD, Low (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||164 fps||84 fps||18 fps|
The extreme nature of the stress tests that we perform isn’t a good representation of a real-life use but at the same time it’s the best way to determine the cooling capabilities and the stability of the system in the long run.
We started off with 100% CPU load and we were pleased to see the notebook keeping relatively normal temperatures while utilizing the full clock speeds (3.1 GHz for four active cores).
Unfortunately, though, after turning on the GPU stress test as well, things went south really fast. The CPU reached dangerously high temperatures while the GPU’s frequency slowly decreased and the system shut down to prevent any damage due to the high inner temperatures. While we were expecting a bit hotter than usual casing considering the thin profile, of course, we actually didn’t expect the notebook to shut down by itself. So far we had only a handful of similar situations and mostly with pre-production samples.
While this seems alarming, just keep in mind that the extreme nature of this stress test forced a system shut down. This will never happen during normal gameplay but it’s a clear sign of failed cooling design, nonetheless. Also, since the system shut down before we were able to measure the surface temperatures, here’s a heat map during normal gameplay.
As you can see, the upper part of the keyboard tray between the hinges and the center of the keyboard gets hot. To be exact, the hottest point reached 54.0 °C. Regardless, the palm rest area remained cool.
All in all, the FX502VM is a powerful gaming notebook with impressive hardware for the asking price but as with every performance-centric laptop, you will have to make some serious sacrifices along the way. And this time, it’s not about build quality. In fact, the FX502VM is quite on par with the recently reviewed ASUS ROG GL502VS as they both share the same design concept and materials. Also, the FX502VM is surprisingly thin and relatively portable. Yes, sure we would have really appreciated a more premium selection of materials but let’s not get too picky.
The real problem with the notebook is the unreliable cooling system, which keeps the internals hot under load, you can feel the interior getting warmer than usual and the system even shut down during our extensive stress test. Something we haven’t seen before on a gaming laptop, especially ASUS-made one. Probably the system shutdown won’t occur during normal usage and gaming but it will surely put stress on the hardware in the long run. Usually, more heat means less stability throughout the years.
Along with the cooling system, there’s a serious issue with the screen as well. ASUS used a lackluster TN panel to keep the costs low, which can be considered okay for some users but we really would have appreciated a better TN panel or a budget IPS solution at the very least. On the other hand, our equipment didn’t detect any PWM, which is of great importance. However, if you wish to use this notebook for gaming at home and work on the go, we suggest looking around for a basic external IPS monitor. You can find a bunch of alternatives here all of which are better than the built-in display.
So do we recommend the ASUS FX502VM? Well, it really depends on your needs. If the extremely good price/performance ratio is the most important factor then, yes, it’s really worth considering. But if you are looking for a more balanced solution, we suggest looking elsewhere.
You can find some of the available configurations here: Buy from Amazon.com (#CommissionsEarned)
- Thin and portable
- Somehow decent build quality
- Excellent price/performance ratio (Intel Core i7-6700HQ + NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (3GB GDDR5))
- The panel doesn’t use PWM for regulating screen brightness
- Unreliable cooling system
- Subpar screen quality due to the nature of TN panels
- Jumpy touchpad
- Below average battery life
- Only one RAM slot availalbe for upgrade
Given that this laptop has a mini Displayport, can it be connected to a 4K monitor at 60Hz or just 30Hz?
I have one of those (the 8gb + 1060 6GB version) and i use a 2.5k external monitor with not limit whatsoever. Running “The division” at 80%+ highest setting (looking at how good the graphics are, i think it’s a pretty good benchmark tool) with an average of 100+ fps, so since it’s an HDMI display port (at least on mine) i assume you can even plug it on a 8k 144hz monitor if you want to.