In the not-too-distant past, a good mainstream gaming laptop -- one with a decent graphics card a few notches down from the top end, and that didn't immediately feel like a plastic clamshell full of compromise -- was a rarity. Even if one did crop up, you typically had to wait till holiday shopping season to find it at a reasonable price for what you were getting.
Those days seem to be coming to an end, and that has everything to do with Nvidia's latest entry-level 10-series graphics cards. The GeForce GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti GPUs are bringing desktop-level 3D gaming performance to laptops like the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, a budget gaming beast that starts at just $800.
That's not to say the Inspiron is perfect for the price: Dell clearly cut some corners to get the price that low, just not in terms of gaming performance. For a better all-around package, you'll still have to spend a bit more for something like Asus' ROG Strix line, which includes the 15-inch GL553 and the 17-inch GL753. Asus leaves some of those corners intact for the higher starting price of around $1,100.
The GL753VE-DS74, reviewed here, is like ordering the second-least-expensive bottle of wine at a restaurant. It sells for around $1,300 in the US or £1,275 in the UK. In Australia, Asus has a higher-end configuration with a GTX 1060 card for AU$2,600. (The slightly smaller and lighter 15.6-inch GL553VE-DS74 sells for about the same price.) The additional money over the Dell goes to things like a quad-core Core i7 processor; a nice 17.3-inch full HD display with a matte finish and wide viewing angles; a solid-state drive plus a hard drive for storage; a customizable four-zone RGB-backlit keyboard with scissor-style switches; lots of ports and connections including a USB 3.1 Type-C (gen-1); and even an optical drive.
Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74
|Price as reviewed||$1,299|
|Display size/resolution||17.3-inch 1,920x1,080 display|
|PC CPU||2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ|
|PC Memory||16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz|
|Graphics||4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti|
|Storage||256GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
There's also Asus' Gaming Center interface that lets you quickly turn features on and off, such as the trackpad or Windows key, as well as adjust fan speed to keep them quiet for when you're watching a movie or working, or to crank them when you're gaming. It's not exactly a huge reason to buy, but a nice add nonetheless.
Beauty is in the eye of the gamer
My preference for laptop design leans more toward the stealthy looks of the Razer Blade Pro than the more aggressive "gaming laptop" design of the Strix. Asus didn't go too over the top, but between the lid and keyboard lights and the ROG logos and Republic of Gamers branding, it won't get mistaken for a business system. That said, you can shut off the lid lights, and the keyboard backlight can be set to be solid white if you want to tone things down some (you can set up as many as three lighting profiles for the keyboard, too).
The keyboard does give you a comfortable typing experience, and while the scissor switches feel more like a mechanical keyboard, they don't require a lot of force and don't have the loud clicky feedback of the Razer Blade Pro's keyboard. The keyboard is oddly small given the system's size, especially the number pad on the right. It looks like Asus used the same keyboard for both the 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch models.