Asus ROG Strix Hero Edition (GL503VM) review: Less a hero than dependable sidekick

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The Good Solid performance for its specs, a snazzy but not flashy design and a really good keyboard for both gaming and not-gaming are the highlights of the Asus ROG Strix Hero Edition.

The Bad The battery life. Oy.

The Bottom Line A likeable general-purpose gaming laptop that can handle work and play equally well, as long as you don't need to run off the battery for more than 2.5 hours.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 6

Asus calls this particular configuration of its 15.6-inch ROG Strix GL503 series "the Hero Edition," because it's ostensibly optimized for your big arena battles, cleverest strategizing and hardest roles to play. It isn't really. It's just a middle-of-the-Strix-road configuration, with an i7700HQ CPU and GTX 1060 graphics, and a different set of highlighted keycaps. But it's also a fine general-purpose gaming laptop with a couple of design aspects that stand out.

Asus defines its "Hero" differently in different regions, as well; it's a great example about how these "optimized" systems are optimized more for marketing than actual gamers. In the US, this "ideal" system for MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), RTS and RPG costs $1,600, and comes with 16GB RAM, a Core i7-7700HQ and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. 

In the UK, I guess you don't need as much power for MOBA, because there the Hero has a Core i5-7300HQ, 8GB and half the SSD -- you can't find it in Asus' online store, but its RRP per Amazon is £1,300. The same laptop without the Hero moniker, is £1,365 direct from Asus. There doesn't seem to be an analogous configuration to our Hero: A version with 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD + 1TB hybrid HDD option goes for a little over £1,320 or a GTX 1070 model for £1,970.

Australian MOBA fans don't seem to need GPU strength; the AU$2,000 Hero model has an i7-7700HQ and 16GB RAM, but only a GTX 1050 and 128GB+1TB storage. On the other hand, the equivalent of our Hero configuration is the AU$2,600 Strix SCAR, Asus' "optimised for FPS" model.

To bring it all full circle, in the US, the "only for top shooters" Strix SCAR (GL503VS) has a 144Hz display and a GTX 1070, which really is a nice FPS configuration.  

Asus ROG Strix Hero Edition (GL503VM)

Price as reviewed $1,599
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 display
PC CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
PC Memory 16GB DDR SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Storage 256GB SSD+1TB hybrid (Firecuda), SD card slot
Ports 4 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x USB-C, 1 x Mini DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI 2.0
Networking Ethernet, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
Weight 5.8 pounds/2.6kg

Pricewise, the ROG Strix GL503 series sits in the middle of the pack. The Dell Gaming laptop in the same configuration costs only $1,350 (£1,350, AU$1,850), but there are some more upscale competitors, like the Alienware 15 or Acer Predator 15, which offer the configuration for around $1,700 (£1,400, AU$2,500). You can save about $500 if you drop to the GTX 1050-equipped model, which is OK if you don't (yet) care about VR and if the types of games you play don't benefit from the frame-rate increase.

However, if you have some leeway in your budget and expect the system to last you a few years,  I'd recommend upping to the GTX 1070; with it, you'll get better-than-OK VR as well as notably better performance, and it'll give you better VR performance once VR starts to get higher res. That means the Strix Scar Edition (GL503VS) for about $400 more.

High points

I like the keyboard a lot, both for playing and typing. The keys are the right size and where you expect them to be when you're on the move. At first the keystrokes felt a little dead-ended -- Asus uses a technology to actuate the membrane keys earlier in the stroke than usual, which means you're pressing a little too hard during the non-resistant portion of the stroke. But once I got used to it, found it very comfortable and responsive, with no rollover issues. 

There's a slide-off panel on the bottom for quick memory upgrades as well.


The QWER keys are double-backlit (they have translucent sides so the backlight glows through) instead of WASD, which is the only noticeable way in which the Hero is optimized for non-FPS over the other systems in the line. I don't find highlighted keys much help for gaming, but YMMV.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The touchpad also has a more premium feel and sensitivity than usual for a gaming notebook, which makes a big difference for out-of-game navigating. But it doesn't have a backlight to go with the four keyboard lighting zones, nor could I find a NumLock indicator anywhere, which is just silly.

The display is pretty good for the price. It seems to be the same (or at least similar to) that of the Alienware 15 we tested, a TN-WVA (wide viewing angle)  panel, which manufacturers have taken to labeling as "IPS-level." It measures at about 94 percent sRGB; if the white point were lower, it probably would meet the 100 percent gamut-coverage spec -- it's the right size -- but it's so cool (color temperatures between 8,300K and 12,000K) the entire gamut is shifted.