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.
|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.
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.
The same goes for the touchpad, which is comically small for such a large laptop. It's a good touchpad overall, responding perfectly to multitouch gestures without being jumpy. But considering there's no touch display on the Strix, a larger touchpad would be welcomed.
Although it's not an IPS screen, which are known for good off-angle viewing, the 17.3-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel display looks just fine from off to the sides (the same can't be said for the Dell Inspiron 15 7000). It means you don't have to be sitting dead-center with the screen at just the right angle for the best picture. Plus, the matte finish keeps you from fighting glare while gaming.
Nvidia said from the get-go that you'd be able to play old and modern games with the GTX 1050 laptop GPUs at full HD at 60 frames per second. At first I dismissed this claim as hype, but it turns out to be true and you can turn up detail settings to high. Of course, that's all going to depend on the game, but playing Metro: Last Light, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Battlefield 1 looked and played great. And unlike slimmer game systems I've tested lately, it doesn't get uncomfortably hot under load.
As for regular use, the system's 16GB of RAM and seventh-gen Intel Core i7 offered plenty of power for multitasking. Plus, with the big screen, I could easily leave Netflix streaming in the corner while working, web browsing and photo editing on the rest of the display. And if your plan is use this as more of a desktop, there are HDMI and mini DisplayPort outputs for monitors in addition to one USB 2.0, three USB 3.0 and one USB 3.1 Type-C (gen 1) ports, mic and headphone jacks, Ethernet and an SD card slot.
Battery life was on par with other recent gaming systems we've tested coming in at four hours and 22 minutes on our streaming video test. The Inspiron 15 7000 is a notable exception, streaming for more than nine hours. But in either case, gaming on the battery is going to get you an hour or two at most.
You can certainly spend less than the Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 costs to get a laptop with the GTX 1050 Ti card and get the same solid graphics performance. If you're planning to connect it to an external monitor and peripherals, it's not a bad way to go. Likewise, you could spend a bit more and get a laptop running a VR-ready GTX 1060 GPU, including Asus' own GL702. The GL753 is simply a very good step up from a basic gaming laptop.
|Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|HP Omen (17-inch)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Asus G752V||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,800MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; (2) 256GB SSD RAID 0 + 1TB HDD|
|Razer Blade Pro||Microsoft Windows 10 Home; (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; (2) 256GB SSD RAID 0|
|Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 256GB SSD|