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ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS (GTX 1070) review – the low-end high-ender

Shortly after the release of the original ASUS ROG GL502 with GTX 970M, which was featured in our full review a few months back, the company has released a refreshed version of the device with much faster GPU on board – the GTX 1070 with 8GB of GDDR5. However, there’s one key selling point that’s missing from the last generation – the price.

While the previous model was one of the most affordable GTX 970M-powered solutions on the market, the GTX 1070 variant isn’t exactly “budget-friendly” but still holds up to the competition in terms of pricing. It’s also a much more sensible alternative to the beefy ASUS ROG G752VS. What’s more, the ASUS ROG GL502VS is one of the few 15-inch GTX 1070 options on the market and we are quite eager to see how the cooling system handles all that demanding hardware. The previous alteration of the laptop handled the GTX 970M pretty well so we suspect nothing less from this one. Continue reading to find out more…

ASUS ROG GL502VT review

You can find some of the availalbe ASUS ROG GL502VS models here: http://amzn.to/2hSm3pT

Contents

Video Review

Retail package

The laptop comes in a generous package containing a backpack, cable ties, user manuals, AC cord, charging brick and the notebook itself. Keep in mind that the backpack may not be available as a bonus for other markets.

Design and construction

The ASUS ROG GL502VS features a design fit for the premium gaming notebook’s niche, although there are some aspects of the laptop we didn’t like so much. Nonetheless, the overall build feels solid and reliable while weighing just 2.6 kg and a profile measuring at 30 mm. That’s a lot less than most hefty gaming notebooks out there, yet we see an increase in both digits compared to the original GL502VT with GTX 970M, which tips the scale at 2.373 kg and it’s not more than 25 mm thick.


The casing itself isn’t much different compared the last generation. We still have the black, brushed aluminum lid along with the LED-illuminated ROG logo accompanied by two stripes in the middle. The lid itself is easily bendable but doesn’t cause ripples to appear on the LCD panel. Speaking of which, we are only unhappy with the chin and side bezels – they appear to be a bit too thick to our taste and they seem extra large on the 15-inch display. Anyway, the hinges seem stable and require only one hand to be used in order to open the laptop. As for the bottom piece, it’s made of black plastic and serves a big vent opening for extra airflow. The orange silicone legs that match the accent color of the device easily stand out but as you can see in the image above, there’s no maintenance lid. Luckily, the bottom piece comes off easily so that’s not a big issue at all.

As we already mentioned, the sides of the device have grown by 5 mm mostly because the GTX 1070 needs a little bit more room to operate. But the same amount of ports remains and we are also happy to see an identical layout to the GL502VT. The connectors are evenly distributed on the sides and most commonly used ones are on the left where they won’t get in the way when the working/gaming space is scarce. The right side goes with the SD card reader, two USB 3.0 ports and 3.5 mm audio jack while on the left you will find the remaining USB 2.0 connector, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, LAN and a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port supporting fast data transfer up to 10Gbps. The back side of the laptop is reserved to the main exhaust vents, as before.

The interior, unfortunately, is the big let-down. Again, ASUS has made the decision to go with a plastic surface imitating brushed aluminum, which we welcome with mixed feelings. The use of plastic reduces the spread of heat along the keyboard tray so the user won’t feel the rise in temperature around the wrist rest area but, on the other hand, it carries away the feeling of a premium and solid device. A soft-touch matte finish or at least aluminum elements are probably the sweet spot between functionality and looks. Moreover, the keyboard just resembles what we’ve tested on a ROG notebook. Even the budget ASUS ROG GL552VW has longer key travel and a more pleasing stiff feedback in the beginning of the travel. Nevertheless, the LED backlight is implemented well and the WASD keys are highlighted in bright orange that lights up in the dark. The layout is familiar and comfortable but we sill miss the media control buttons. The touchpad is absolutely identical to the ASUS ROG GL552VW’s clickpad when it comes to surface, feel, and ergonomics. The surface doesn’t exactly offer low-resistance matte finish and fingerprints stick quite easily on the contrary to the surface around it. The touchpad is generally comfortable and accurate but fails to register some left clicks and there’s a barely noticeable wobble that might grow in time. We really expected a longer key travel keyboard and a much more refined touchpad for a premium device like this one.

It’s clear that the main focus of the device is performance and portability. ASUS has sacrificed some features in order to keep the weight, size, and price of the laptop as low as possible but this has resulted in some considerable drawbacks like the input devices and some of the materials used for the build. If this doesn’t bother you at all and you plan to use it with external peripherals most of the time, the ROG GL502VS might just be your next gaming machine.

Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options

Disassembling the GL502 is a very easy task – you just have to remove 10 screws (there are no hidden ones or any special tricks) and then you have to pry up the whole bottom with a plastic spudger, credit card or something else of that sort.

Storage upgrade options – 2.5-inch HDD, M.2 slot

GL502 is equipped with a 2.5″ (9.5mm) hard drive slot, as well as an M.2 slot for SSD storage with NVMe support. But on contrary to the GL502VT with GTX 970M that we’ve tested, our unit shipped with an M.2 SATA Sandisk SSD so be careful when buying your GL502. Make sure you order the variant with an NVMe-enabled drive if you want maximum storage performance.

Also, the location of the M.2 slot has been moved from right to left.

SlotUnitUpgrade price
M.2 slotSandisk SD8SNAT-256G-1002 256GB (SATA, 2280)Upgrade options
2.5-inch HDD/SSDFreeUpgrade options

RAM

On the contrary to the ASUS ROG GL502VT, the GL502VS has two RAM slots each supporting up to 16GB of DDR4-2133.

SlotUnitUpgrade price
Slot 18GB RAM DDR4-2133
Slot 2FreeUpgrade options

7

Other components

Our ASUS GL502 configuration is equipped with Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8260NGW Wi-Fi module and a user-replaceable battery rated at 64Wh (4240 mAh).


9

8

Display quality

The refreshed GL502VS uses a different panel compared to its GTX 970M-powered variant. While the ASUS ROG GL502VT goes for the Samsung 156HL01-104 display, the newer version sports an LG Philips matrix with model number LP156WF6-SPB6. If the model sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve seen the older version of the panel (LP156WF6-SPB5) in several other ASUS laptops like the ASUS N552VX, ASUS ROG GL552VW and even in the good old ASUS N551VW. The new display hasn’t come a long way but fixes some of the issues from the older alteration.

Anyway, the technical specs remain the same as the IPS panel features a Full HD (1920×1080) resolution leading to a 142 ppi and 0.18 x 0.18 mm pixel pitch. It can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 60 cm.

The display offers excellent viewing angles from a 45-degree angle.

We were able to measure a maximum brightness of 324 cd/m2 in the middle and 6770K color temperature, which is quite close to the optimal 6500K. The contrast is 1020:1 before calibration and 930:1 after.

Color reproduction

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 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.

The yellow dotted triangle represents the sRGB coverage of the display, which is 90% of all colors. This enough for an excellent multimedia/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.

The profile is created at 140 cd/m2 luminance, target color temperature 6500K (D65) and gamma set to sRGB mode.

It seems that the gamma settings are more than okay but you will notice that the dark areas of an image will appear dimmer than they should.

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 = 27 ms. This is normal for a notebook IPS panel but the more pretentious gamers will notice the so-called ghosting effects on fast-paced games, especially first-person shooters.

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.

According to you our tests, the notebook’s display uses PWM for adjusting screen brightness from 0 to 99% luminance but at higher frequency than usual – 21.2 kHz. This means that some of the users with sensitive eyes might feel some of the negative effects of PWM during extended use.

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.

Conclusion

As always, ASUS has supplied the notebook with an excellent IPS panel with numerous good properties making it fit for multimedia and gaming experience. We’ve got high maximum brightness, close to optimal color temperature, wide sRGB coverage, high contrast and relatively good color accuracy out of the box. If you require the best viewing experience, we suggest using our custom-tailored display profiles to enhance the image quality by adjusting the gamma, color temperature, accuracy etc.

Unfortunately, the PWM is still present even in the new version of the LG Philips panel but the good news is that the panel might not affect every user as the frequency of the emitted light is higher than usual – 21.2 kHz. Only those with extra sensitive eyes will notice. And interestingly enough, that’s the first notebook with G-Sync that uses PWM for regulating screen brightness.

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 ROG GL502VS configurations with 15.6″ LG Philips LP156WF6-SPB6 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS screen, which can be found at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2aZpyLY

*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 bg.laptopmedia@gmail.com.

Read more about the profiles HERE.

[edd_item edd_id_1=’74434′ edd_id_2=’74437′ edd_id_3=’74440′ edd_id_4=’74443′]

Sound

We are happy with the sound quality as the music sounds crisp and full at low and high frequencies almost without noticeable distortions.

Specs sheet

The current specs sheet refers to this particular model – configurations may differ depending on your region.

CPUIntel Core i7-6700HQ (4-core, 2.6 – 3.5 GHz)
RAM8GB RAM – DDR4, 2133 MHz
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB GDDR5)
HDD/SSD256GB M.2 SATA SSD + Free 2.5-inch HDD/SSD slot
Display15.6-inch – 1920×1080 (Full HD) IPS, matte
Features
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • 1x USB 3.1 Type-C (supports Thunderbolt 3)
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x mini DisplayPort
  • 1x Ethernet LAN port
  • 1x SD/MMC card reader
  • 1x Combo audio jack
  • 1x Kensington Lock security port
  • Built-in microphones with ambient noise reduction
  • ICEpower loudspeakers
Battery64 Wh (4240 mAh)
Thickness30 mm (1.18″)
Weight2.6 g (5.73 lbs)

ASUS ROG GL502VS configurations

Software

We used the pre-installed Windows 10 (64-bit) OS on the machine for our review but if you wish to perform a clean install, we suggest downloading the latest drivers from ASUS’ official support page.

Battery

Unfortunately, the battery performance is once again mediocre and not because the big 64Wh battery unit couldn’t supply the system but because once again the integrated graphics Intel HD Graphics 530 is disabled and thus crippling the endurance. It seems that this has become a norm for gaming laptops these days. And if you look at the ASUS ROG GL502VT (with GTX 970M), you will see much better performance in this regard since it has the much-needed iGPU.

As always, we use the following settings when testing the battery life – Wi-Fi turned on, Windows battery saving feature running and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.

Web browsing

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for to automatically browse through over 70 websites.

surfing-Asus-ROG-Strix-GL502

Less than optimal result – 223 minutes (3 hours and 43 minutes).

Video playback

For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.

movie-Asus-ROG-Strix-GL502

Here, the notebook scored even lower result – 197 minutes (3 hours and 17 minute).

Gaming

We recently started using F1 2015’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.

gaming-Asus-ROG-Strix-GL502

As expected, the gaming test took a toll on the battery with just 78 minutes (1 hour and 18 minutes) of play time.

CPU – Intel Core i7-6700HQ

corei7Intel 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/

Fritz

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 12.270 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 1070 (8GB GDDR5)

2016-06-02-image-33The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 is the second fastest mobile GPU after the GTX 1080. It’s part of NVIDIA’s Pascal generation of GPUs and unlike previous releases, the company finally closes the gap between mobile and desktop graphics processors and that’s why there’s no “M” in the branding of Pascal GPUs. All thanks to the 16nm TSMC manufacturing process of the GPU, which allows better thermals and overall performance in a smaller form factor. That’s a big technology jump compared to the 28nm Maxwell generation.

Compared to its desktop counterpart, the GTX 1070 doesn’t differ too much. They share an identical number of ROPs (64) and identical memory – 8GB GDDR5 with 256-bit bus clocked at 8000 MHz. However, there’s a minor difference in clock speeds – the laptop GPU ticks at 1443 MHz and can go up to 1645 MHz while the desktop variant is running at 1506 MHz – 1683 MHz. To compensate to some extent, the laptop 1070 carries more CUDA cores (2048 vs 1920) and slightly more TMUs (170 vs 120).

Due to its performance, thermals and power consumption, which is believed to be 10W more than the GTX 980M, the GPU is suitable for large 17-inch laptops with the appropriate cooling solution.

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 we’ve tested with this GPU: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-gtx-1070-8gb-gddr5/

Gaming tests

cs-go-benchmarks

CS:GOFull HD, Low (Check settings)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, Max (Check settings)
Average FPS255 fps242 fps222 fps

f1-2015-game

F1 2015Full HD, Low (Check settings)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, Max (Check settings)
Average FPS123 fps108 fps104 fps

GTA-V-benchmarks

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5)Full HD, Low (Check settings)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, Max (Check settings)
Average FPS143 fps103 fps52 fps

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)Full HD, Low (Check settings)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, Max (Check settings)
Average FPS143 fps111 fps53 fps

hitman-2016

HITMAN (2016)Full HD, Low (Check settings)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, Max (Check settings)
Average FPS90 fps81 fps38 fps

Temperatures

This simple stress test isn’t the best representation of real-life use because 100% CPU load and GPU load isn’t an everyday scenario, especially to the general user, but it’s still a good way to assess the cooling system and the notebook’s reliability in the long run.

We start off with 100% CPU load for an hour and as you can see in the image below, the chip was able to maintain relatively low temperatures under load ~75 °C and also keep the clocks steady at 3.1 GHz. This is the maximum operating frequency of the Core i7-6700HQ for four active cores.

After one hour, we ran the GPU stress test as well and then things started to heat up. For instance, the CPU reached temperatures as high as 97 °C while the GPU at full load was pretty hot – 86 °C. This resulted on the CPU to tone down to 2.7 GHz, which is the base frequency and can’t be considered as thermal throttling while the GPU was running at 1645 MHz for a while but then slowly slowed down the tempo to 1450 – 1550 MHz. This concludes that the cooling system did well considering the form factor and the size of the machine but we can’t miss mentioning the fact that the fans get really loud under load. Probably because they have to compensate for the lack of airflow inside the relatively thin chassis.

However, the temperatures on the surface were a bit higher than what we are used to seeing on a ROG machine. As you can see from the heat map below, the center and the upper-center of the keyboard are a bit hot and may cause some discomfort to the user. That’s, of course, after an extensive 2-hour long stress test and the temperatures will be lower during a normal gaming session. Still, be aware that the area around the center of the keyboard gets warmer than usual and the base between the screen hinges (where the main exhaust vents are placed) gets quite hot. What also caught our attention is the prominent coil whine under load. If you are wearing headphones, you won’t notice it but otherwise is easily heard.

Verdict

Just one change has completely altered our verdict of the notebook. While we really liked the version with the GTX 970M GPU due to its portability without sacrificing performance, good build and decent pricing. However, since the GPU and price got updated in the G752VS configuration, we have a totally different opinion now.

The ASUS ROG GL502VS should have been a more affordable 15-inch solution but instead, it rivals the 15-inch Acer Predator 15 (G9-593) and fails to match its features and performance. Yes, sure the Predator 15 costs $100-150 more but these pennies are definitely worth it. Not only does the Predator 15 stands out with a more sturdy and pleasant build but also offers more storage configurations and always ships with an NMVe-enabled SSD. We also liked the keyboard and touchpad way more.

Now let’s put the Predator 15 aside and focus on the ROG GL502VS. For its price, you get an excellent G-sync-enabled IPS panel, although with high-frequency PWM from 0 to 99% brightness, cool-looking design, the all-mighty GTX 1070 GPU on board – but with somehow lower performance than usual – and an M.2 PCIe NVMe storage support. Be careful, though, not all units ship with the latter and you might have to settle for a SATA SSD.

Moreover, the battery performance is way lower than expected due to the lack of iGPU – an issue all modern laptops are suffering from. It probably has something to do with the new Pascal generation graphics cards. If battery life is of great importance to you, get the GL502VY to GL502VT instead, as they both offer the much-needed iGPU for prolonged work away from the charger.

The bottom line is: the ASUS ROG GL502VS is a good 15-inch powerhouse with compelling features but despite its relatively low price, it’s hard to recommend it over the new Predator 15, which excels in all areas where the ROG GL502VS fails. The ASUS ROG G752VS is also an option if sacrificing portability and the slightly higher price aren’t posing a problem to you.

You can find some of the availalbe ASUS ROG GL502VS models here: http://amzn.to/2hSm3pT

Pros

  • Refreshing design for a gaming machine
  • Decent overall build
  • Excellent IPS panel with G-Sync support
  • Powerful hardware in a relatively small form factor and size
  • Supports PCIe NVMe SSDs
  • Brings various connectivity options including mini DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3 via USB Type-C


Cons

  • Noticeable coil whine under load
  • Some units ship witn an M.2 SATA SSD instead of PCIe NVMe drive
  • The screen uses PWM from 0 to 99% screen brightness (Health-Guard profile eliminates that)
  • The touchpad and keyboard aren’t convincing enough for a notebook at this price range
  • No integrated graphics and thus lowered battery endurance
  • Somehow crippled GTX 1070 performance