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Asus ROG Strix GL553VE laptop review: A well-designed powerhouse
It’s not easy buying a gaming laptop. While specifications are important, thermal management is far more important and it’s almost impossible to measure that without thorough testing. It’s also difficult to draw the line when it comes to horsepower.
So how does one balance the aspects of price, performance and portability?
Asus appears to have the perfect answer to such questions, and it’s called the ROG Strix GL553VE FY127T. Here’s why…
Build and Design: 7.5/10
The GL553VE is big and heavy, weighing in at 2.8kg, but it’s not a flimsy device as such. The lid features a really thin, flexible top cover that you can depress with a finger. The keyboard area is also similarly flimsy and I could feel the region flexing as I typed. These areas aren’t critical for the overall build of course, and the rest of the device is very sturdy. More importantly, the thin areas aren’t brittle, so I don’t think they’ll break easily.
The rear half of the device appears to be given over entirely to the chipset and cooling. The front portion houses the battery, speakers, USB ports and everything else. I personally prefer the USB ports to be towards the rear half of the device, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Speakers fire from the front of the device, where you’ll also find the 2-in-1 card reader.
The laptop itself is covered in brushed aluminium and painted black, but you’ll find red accents on the grills, the rubber feet and the logo on the lid.
Keyboard and Trackpad: 8.5/10
I love the keyboard and trackpad. As mentioned earlier, the keyboard tray itself is a little flimsy, but the keys offer generous travel (2.5mm) with precise response. These aren’t mechanical keys by any means, but they’re among the best laptop keys I’ve used.
RGB lighting is also a bonus. Asus says that the keys support 30-Key Roll Over (KRO). You also get a full NumPad.
Asus’ own software provides a bunch of tools for managing lighting profiles on the keys.
The keyboard’s LED backlight is also of good quality and high refresh rate. Some manufacturers scrimp out on the quality of the LEDs, resulting in headache-inducing blur when looking at the keyboard.
The trackpad is also a pleasure to use. It’s very responsive and Windows 10 gestures, including vertical and horizontal scrolling, work perfectly. In fact, this is the first touchpad I’ve used, since that on the Surface Pro 4, that I actually liked. The trackpad could have been a little larger though. It’s easily as responsive as Apple’s stellar trackpads.
The Asus GL553VE is packed to the gills with features. Connectivity comes in the form of 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac support, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, one USB 2.0 Type-A port, USB 3.0 Type C port and an HDMI jack and headphone combo jack. A 2-in-1 card reader is also present.
The screen is a Full HD IPS panel.
The hardware is also very good as you get a seventh generation Intel i7 7700HQ processor (45W), 16GB of DDR4 RAM at 2,400MHz, a 256GB SSD and a 1TB HDD for storage and, of all things, a DVD drive. The graphical grunt is provided by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti, which is also very capable. More on that later.
For the first time, I’m also impressed with the software that Asus provides. Miscellaneous programs like X-Split and CyberLink are unimportant, but Asus’ own ROG Core provides a surprisingly comprehensive overview of your system’s status.
It shows you temperatures, clock speeds, gives you fan control for cooling, etc. The information is well laid out and the dedicated ROG key on the keyboard to access this is a nice touch.
The software for customising the keyboard colours, etc., is also quite capable.
The ROG Game Centre even comes with an Android app, but the setup process is a little finicky (using Wi-Fi Direct for communication) and I ended up just ignoring it.
The last time we tried Asus’ software, it only came in the way of the device and I was much happier with it gone.
The display is sufficient. It’s a 15.6-inch Full HD display with a 60Hz refresh rate with good colour rendition and contrast ratios. Asus claims that it’s an IPS panel with 72 percent NTSC support, which is about average.
We found the contrast ratio to be quite good on the device, but sharpness, black levels and white levels were strictly average. Deeper blacks and whiter whites tend to blur together. This is normal for a display and we’re only mentioning it in passing.
Subjectively speaking, the response time and viewing angles were also decent.
There is a bit of backlight bleed, noticeably in the top left and bottom right corners of the device. It’s not noticeable except in really dark scenes, so that’s a good thing.
Brightness is more than enough to game comfortably in a well-lit room.
Considering the hardware, we expected excellent performance, and that’s exactly what we got.
I think the thermal management has a lot to do with the excellent performance that we saw, but whatever the case, the 7700HQ-powered GL553VE completely thrashes the 6700HQ-powered G551VW in CPU benchmarks.
The Nvidia 1050Ti is also quite a beast and gameplay was a fun and fluid experience, as the benchmark results below clearly demonstrate.
Doom gave us a consistent 40+ FPS at the Ultra preset, Project Cars consistently offered between 70-120 FPS and Hitman also comfortable stayed above the 60 FPS mark at the highest settings.
Fully maxed out at 1080p, even Unigene Heaven, a traditionally heavy benchmark, ran at a playable 36 FPS. Ashes of the Singularity was a minor blip, only managing 30 FPS in extreme settings, but still managing a very playable 40 FPS at the standard preset.
The best part was that we saw no performance dips despite over an hour of gaming. Laptops generally tend to heat up excessively and throttle down within minutes.
Asus has certainly done an excellent job with the thermal management of this device.
While the CPU never actually hit its 3.8GHz peak, it did manage around 3.4GHz under medium loads and 2.8GHz on all cores under heavy loads.
The SSD speeds weren’t as stellar as we were expecting, but at a 500MB/s read speed and 260MB/s write speed, we’re not really complaining. The 1 TB HDD also managed a consistent 125/122 MB/s read/write speed, which is to be expected of a 7,200 RPM drive. Most laptops use a 5,400 RPM drive.
Operating temperatures were high and we saw load temperatures touch 82 degrees Celsius. Idle temperatures hovered at the 55 degrees C mark.
Because of this, you can’t use this device on your lap while gaming. The side where the heatsink exhaust resides tends to get very hot at over 55 degrees C.
The audio comes from a pair of speakers on the front of the laptop. It’s quite loud and there’s certainly some meat to the audio. There’s no bass to speak of, but the audio isn’t tinny, like most laptop speakers. Stereo separation is also quite good.
The onboard audio solution was good enough to drive my Audio Technica ATH M50X and overall, I was quite pleased with the quality. The quality doesn’t beat a dedicated DAC like an Audioquest Dragonfly, but it’s not bad at all.
On a side note, Nvidia claims that the GTX 1050Ti on laptops today is the same chip that’s found in desktops. Tests show that the chip is 10-15 percent more powerful than the previous generation 970M and about 10 percent less powerful than its desktop counterpart.
All things considered, it’s a powerful chip.
Battery Life: 3/10
If there’s one thing this laptop’s bad at, it’s with battery life. Our standard battery benchmark rated the device at just under two hours. When gaming continuously, we only managed around 50 minutes of playtime. This despite enabling Nvidia’s BatteryBoost technology that throttles GPU performance when on battery power.
Gaming on long flights is certainly out of the question and you’ll barely be able to get through a full movie before the power runs out.
But hey, this is a gaming laptop, and a beefy one at that. This much power on tap will inevitably drain batteries very quickly. The battery life is about 10 minutes worse than the GL551 mentioned earlier, but that’s still quite an achievement considering the performance benefits of the 1050Ti.
Verdict and Price in India
I have to admit, this laptop is quite impressive. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop in India, the GL553VE at Rs 1,36,990 is an excellent choice. This laptop is for gamers who care about their gaming experience.
It’s powerful, well designed and an excellent package, but it’s certainly not the cheapest option around.
Despite that, it’s hard to beat a deal as good as this.