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)|
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.
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 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.
Through the gaming center utility you have a choice of, sRGB, Cinema, Racing, Scenery, RTS/RPG and FPS screen modes, each of which change the white point, gamma and contrast. Frankly, I found sRGB suitable for everything -- it has the highest gamma (2.2, so you can see the most amount of detail) and contrast (1,184:1) along with the most reasonable white point (8,300K). At its brightest it hits 285 nits, but running at about 75 percent brightness it typically runs about 220 nits.
The speakers get moderately loud, but don't convey enough directionality if you're surrounded by enemies. There's a utility to tweak that, if you want to. I recommend headphones, though. There's no separate headphone and mic jacks for headsets, just a single multipurpose port.
Asus has a Android ROG Gaming Center app for monitoring your system "remotely" -- I put that in quotations because you have to be directly connected to the system, but you can use it to monitor while in-game without having to jump out.
There's also the latest version of the company's network management software, GameFirst IV. It didn't come installed on our test system, though there was an empty directory for it, and it took some hunting to find it online (zip file). (Normally I wouldn't bother, but Asus highlights it as one of the benefits of the GL series.)
GameFirst is very much like the Killer Control Center, and for prioritization it seems to work fine. But it also claims to be able to multigate -- direct specific traffic over different network routes, such as some over Ethernet and some over wireless for up to four different gateways. That's a little trickier.
I find it doesn't always use the designated connection, and whether it even sees it can depend on the order in which you load the applications as to whether it multigates or just prioritizes. Also, while it might occasionally increase total bandwidth without affecting latency, it does sometimes result in dropped frames even with the high bandwidth and latency. Also, unlike Killer's, you can only set the parameters when an application is open; you can't just scan the hard disk to find the ones you want to specify. There's an auto mode as well as a manual one.
Asus ships the laptop with Intel graphics disabled, an uncommon but not unheard-of practice. That's great for performance and means you don't have to futz with the settings in the Nvidia control center to optimize GPU usage, but it also tanks the battery life; hence, the just-under-3-hour result on our tests. Unsurprisingly, it generally scored within five percent of the similarly equipped Lenovo Legion Y720 on our tests, except for battery life. That's also the only test on which it didn't outperform the also-similar HP Omen 15, which uses the GTX 1060 with the slimmer Max-Q design. (Its Geekbench Multi-Core is unusually low because it underperformed on the cryptography test, while the multicore Cinebench test is limited to rendering algorithms.)
It also means you really can't leave your power adapter at home even when you're not gaming, which adds another 1.4 pounds/626g to the already substantial 5.8-pound2.6kg carry weight. At that weight, I'd expect the Strix to feel pretty solid, but while attractive it feels somewhat like smooth premium plastic (possibly aluminum in places). The screen flexes a little too much, and at one point I thought the panel was going to pop out. It didn't.
One reason it feels like plastic is because it doesn't heat up. That's good; after only about an hour of the relatively slow-moving but processing-intensive Talos Principle, the CPU temperature reported as 145 degrees F/63 degrees C with the fans blowing hard and noisily, but the surfaces remained cool.
The ROG Strix Hero GL503VM is a great general-purpose, midpriced gaming laptop but you might want to spend a little less or a little more if you're buying in the Strix line, and pass altogether if you plan to run off the battery for more than 2.5 hours at a stretch.
|Acer Predator Helios 300||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 512GB SSD|
|Asus ROG Strix Hero Edition GL503V||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 256GB SSD+1TB HDD|
|HP Omen (15-inch, 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD|
|Lenovo Legion Y720||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 128GB SSD+1TB HDD|
|Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (Late 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD|