Asus Strix GL502VT Review (GTX 970M, I7)

Nothing exceptional in this Asus machine

++ Main reason to consider:

Overall good lightweight gaming laptop with relatively very high performance/price ratio

-- Main reason to avoid:

Feature set is very lacking (TB3/MXM, no upgrade future) and base qualities like heat handling and display, aren’t the best. Also, new, much much faster GPUs will be available soon for the same price.

Availability

Current pricing is around $1200 for basic version (in review) and $1400 for the version with an IPS and 16GB RAM

Pro : + Very good performance/price ratio with a GTX 970M + I7-6700HQ for $1200
+ Very good keyboard and a nice touchpad
+ Relatively lightweight at around 2.2kg (except PSU)
+ Quite a quiet laptop, even under higher load levels. Noise under Maximal load levels isn't too annoying
+ GPU does not throttle which is great
+ Speakers, though far from perfect, were rather pleasant to listen to (turn off the "audio master" thing)
+ Though sometimes throttling, generally keeps on low enough temps
+ HDMI + mDP ports, USB Type-C port (3.1 gen1 though)
Con : - Currently an (acceptable) TN panel. Can be replaced easily. $1400 and up versions have an IPS display
- CPU may throttle under full load of Furmark + Prime95 or gaming scenarios, but only rarely. May be changed with future bios updates
- The chassis can get quite hot around the center and left keyboard surface parts, and in the matching areas at the bottom
- CPU and GPU are soldered as well as no eGPU solution (no TB3 port)
- PWM is used for brightness control with noticeable flickering
- Basic $1200 version comes with a slow 5400RPM HDD
- Chassis build quality isn't the best with screen's outer lid being a bit too yielding under pressure
- Asus ROG Styling too visible. What's up with that (And Alienware, and MSI GTs)
- 8GB DDR4 soldered, only one DDR4 socket to play with
- 8GB + 4GB DDR4 configuration seem to be deliver lower memory bandwidth, at least in Aida64 benchmark
- New GPUs from NV and AMD will be available soon for the current price (true for other laptops too)
- No International Warranty on this specific model from BestBuy
- No G-Sync functionality
- M.2 does not support NVMe?
More Reviews :

Introduction

Asus GL502VT Review : looks

Welcome to the Asus ROG Strix GL502VT/G502VT review. The new ROG GL502 series from Asus is the new thin & lightweight and (supposedly) high quality gaming laptops from Asus. The GL502VT in specific comes with an I7-6700HQ CPU, GTX 970M 3GB GPU.

I wanted to review this one because I think many will consider it. The GL502 laptops look relatively nice (though maybe a bit too much “gamer” styled), have good specs and dimensions and the Asus brand is strong, it seems, nowadays. A thin & lightweight gaming laptop for $1200 with a GTX 970M and an I7 would make many interested. This version, for $1200, has a TN panel display and not an IPS. However, for like $50-$75 you can get a very good 1080P IPS display and replace it easily (actually, that’s what I did), and you’ll even get 3 years warranty for the panel (vsv 1/2 years when bought as a package with the laptop). That’s at least $125 difference, for the same laptop. A 128GB M.2 SSD is really $40 currently, so no problem there either. I would recommend this version over the $1400-$1500 versions, just to save money.

Finally, I just want to say that in my opinion, as the new GPUs coming up and may be considerably faster and/or more power efficient, plus having better performance in DX12/Vulkan, I’d recommend to wait till the end of the year to see what comes up. Add to that, that we’ll know more about eGPUs, and there you go.

ComponentDescription
ModelASUS ROG Strix GL502VT-BSI7N27
Price$1200 from bestbuy. This version has a TN panel. I thought it was more cost efficient
CPUIntel Skylake I7-6700HQ, 4C/8T, 2.6-3.5GHZ, 6MB cache
GPUNvidia Geforce GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5, GM204 (Maxwell II), 1280 shaders, core@954-1037MHZ, GDDR5@1252MHZ, 192-bit bus
Motherboard / ChipsetASUS GL502VT / Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)
2xPCI Express x1, 1xPCI Express x16
RAMOnboard 1x8GB (single channel) DDR4 2133MHZ + 4GB DDR4 stick SK Hynix HMA451S6AFR8N-TF 2133MHZ
StorageHDD : Seagate ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB 5400RPM
SSD: None
M.2 slots: M.2 SATA or PCIe/NVMe 2280 (one)
Display PanelIn review: N156HGE-EAL CMN 1920x1080 TN panel
Weight / Dimensions2.2kg (~4.85 Lbs.) + ~0.6kg 180W PSU
390 x 266 x 23.5 mm
15.35" x 10.47" x 0.93"
(w x d x h)
KeyboardOrange backlit (4 levels including off*)
Connection PortsRight side: Kensington Key, 2xUSB 3.0, SD Card Slot, audio out/microphone
Left: AC power, RJ-45 ethernet, mDP, HDMI 1.4, 1xUSB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type-C
Front, Rear: None
Camera720p
WiFi / EthernetWiFi: Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 AC 2x2 HMC WiFi Adapter
Ethernet: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC
Speakers / Audio2.0
Realtek chip?
Battery62Wh, 4 cell
Bios / EC version (test unit)GL502VT.202 / (01/28/2016)
Extra features
more details

Build quality, Case, design and looks

The base unit is average in terms of build quality. Hinges mechanism looks like the usual one found in many other laptops, and covered by plastic only. The screen outer lid protector is a not-that-strong plastic, but it’s not too soft either. Not a lot to say – the GL502VT doesn’t feel like a high quality machine.

Looks

Heavy ROG styling and plastic, though not without some gentleness.

 

Maintenance and inner parts

Maintenance is rather easy. The backplate is easily removed by removing ~10 screws. In this version, there is a 1TB HDD. There are 8GB of DDR4 ram soldered, plus 4GB as a stick. Tests show that the system memory performance is pretty far from the expected dual channel performace (Sandra Sisoft)

Asus GL502VT Review : motherboard and cooling system

Both CPU and GPU are soldered. Two fans cool the system, connected by two heatpipes to both the CPU and GPU. I think one more additional heatpipe for each  would have been great. The ventilation fins are pretty small, I think.

Keyboard and touchpad

Keyboard. The keyboard is very pleasant and quiet. The keys are well spaced, resistance is pretty accurate (at least to my taste), while response (keys bouncing back) is also good. Travel depth is also good. Feedback is good too, but could be a little higher. The combination of good levels of all these parameters makes it a good keyboard in my opinion.The WASD keys are colors with strong red-orange, which maybe too much for some (like me).

Touchpad. A rather smooth surface. Clicking on the integrated buttons is not hard and annoying like in some other laptops and the touchpad sensitivity is quite good. I’d say it’s a good and comfortable touchpad.

Sound & Speakers

Well.. Speakers are ok+. They produce a pleasant sound (especially if the “audio master” software is disabled) with relatively good highs and mids. Lows sound a little strange. But the biggest problem with the sound is that it sounds like a boxed sound. Overall, the sound quality is good enough. Nothing special, but certainly nice for most. Maximal volume isn’t the that high though.

General subjective performance experience

The laptop is a little sluggish, probably because of the slow 5400RPM 1TB HDD. According to the motherboard specifications from HWInfo (2xPCI Express x1, 1xPCI Express x16), the M.2 probably does not support PCIe NVMe (which is PCIe v.3 X4 as of today), contrary to what is stated on the Asus GL502VT product page. One of them is wrong.

Added CPU-Z and GPU-Z screenshots.

 

Gaming Performance

Test Methods & Drivers

OS : Windows 10, fully updated

Drivers: Nvidia Geforce 368.22

Synthetic 3D benchmarks

3DMark performance – link to source:

Asus G502VT Review : 3DMark benchmark

 

Summarized gaming performance

Asus GL502VT GTX 970M I7-6700HQ gaming benchmarks

Just one point – it seems that in this version, which has 8GB soldered + 4GB stick, the memory doesn’t work in dual mode really, or it is quite limited. I’ve tested using Aida64 “memory write” benchmark. Here the results:

Asus GL502VT Review : Aida64 Write benchmark 2x8GB dual mode Asus GL502VT Review : Aida64 Write benchmark 8GB + 4GB fake dual mode

Sorry about the quality. The difference is around 37%. I’m not sure if it’s the Aida64 software fault, not taking into account such configurations (I guess – a bit), or indeed the system doesn’t work at dual mode. What we do see is that the lower score of 22871MB/s is too high to be single-channel mode, which should be around 15-17GB/s probably, for 2133MHZ DDR4 at single channel, so I guess it works somewhat and either the OS doesn’t handle it well, the Intel hardware, Aida64 or it simply doesn’t work at maximal speed when you have two sticks with non matching capacity.

Anyway, 8GB DDR4 can bought for like $25-$30 I think, so don’t worry. And it will probably be even lower soon.

Crysis 3

Asus GL502VT Review : Crysis 3 GTX 970M benchmarks

Thief

Thief sees some advantage using Mantle API over the DX11. Heavily Vulkan/DX12 optimized games/game engines should see much higher improvements.

Asus GL502VT Review : Thief GTX 970M benchmarks

Bioshock Infinite

Asus GL502VT Review : Bioshock Infinite GTX 970M benchmarks

Civilization : Beyond Earth

Performance is a little strange. I guess maybe some of the graphics settings of the “high” preset with newer NV drivers result in lower FPSs..

Asus GL502VT Review Civilization Beyond Earth GTX 970M benchmark

Total War : Attila

The new iteration of Total War : Rome II, Attila is a much more demanding game and FPSs are much lower.

Asus GL502VT Review : Total War Attila GTX 970M benchmarks

Metro : Last Light

No matter what I’ve tried, performance in Metro Last Light remained problematic, it’s like the GPU stopped working even now and then. Happened to me several times with some other laptops – can’t pinpoint it.

Battlefield 4 Campaign

BF4 campaign benchmark

Asus GL502VT Review : Battlefield 4 GTX 970M benchmarks

World of Tanks

Asus GL502VT Review : World of Tanks GTX 970M benchmarks

Shadow Of Mordor

Asus GL502VT Review : Shadow Of Mordor GTX 970M benchmarks

Dragon Age : Inquisition

Asus GL502VT Review : Dragon Age Inquisition GTX 970M benchmarks

Ashes Of Singularity

As already we know, Maxwell GPUs see no advantage from DX12, at least not in Ashes Of Singularity

Asus GL502VT Review : Ashes Of Singularity GTX 970M benchmarks

Anno 2205

Asus GL502VT Review : Anno 2205 GTX 970M benchmarks

Fallout 4

The new Fallout 4 is rather demanding, but the benefits of the high graphics presets are not clear to me.

Asus GL502VT Review : Fallout 4 GTX 970M benchmarks

The Talos Principle

Asus GL502VT Review : The Talos Principle GTX 970M benchmarks

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Asus GL502VT Review : Rise of The Tomb Raider GTX 970M benchmarks

Doom (2016)

The new Doom game. Based on OpenGL 4.5. Not that demanding.

Asus GL502VT Review : Doom GTX 970M benchmarks

Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

As described before, the CPU and GPU share the only two heatpipes. Cool air is sucked from below and thrown out of the rear in disgust.

Four tests:

1. Idle, power saver mode

2. Gaming : Ashes Of Singularity benchmark. “Crazy” settings, “High performance” power mode.

3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.

4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1366×768 test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.

Asus GL502VT Review : CPU and GPU temperatures

The GL502VT is not bad at handling the heat, but under maximal load scenario of Furmark + Prime95, it can’t handle the heat at full speed

Heat

The GL502VT chassis temperatures do get relatively high around the center and left parts of the keyboard and north of it, even when not doing that much. The same goes for the bottom of the laptop. Cool chassis is not its stronghold for sure. However, I didn’t felt it while gaming, plus, it’s pretty hot here where I live (bad, old, walls + almost no wind + direct sun on the house all day with no good isolation), so keep that in mind.

Throttling

Under Prime95 + Furmark, the GL502VT can keep 2.6GHZ base clocks with relatively ok temperatures (or more precisely, less than maximal), but from time to time, the CPU deeps to the lowest clocks in gaming mode. That’s not too common and maybe will be fixed with future bios releases – I had no luck trying ThrottleStop.

 

Here is a table that shows the temperatures and the throttling state:

Throttle CPU average stable CPU MAX GPU
33 41 Idle
No (2.9-3.0GHZ) 78 81 Prime95
Base (2.6GHZ) 88 94 79 Prime95 + Furmark
Same 87 87 83 Prime95 + Furmark CPU@2.6GHZ
Yes, rare deeps to 0.8GHZ 78 81 74 Ashes Of Singularity

Noise

  1. Under high load, the fans’ noise is there, but it’s relatively low and not annoying.
  2. Under light/moderate, the GL502VT fans run quite slow and the noise produced is quite low too.
  3. Under very light or idle scenarios, I really didn’t notice the fan noise.

Relatively, I’d say the noise is quite lower than in laptops like the MSI GS40 or the Gigabyte P34W. It would be nice to have some control over this, because sometimes you want a little more noise for a little lower temps, but like in many many laptops, you are locked out of all these basic functionalities (very annoying, but that’s how they work)

Screen & Screen quality

The default panel is, surprisingly, the TN panel found – the N156HGE-EAL. It has – again, suprisingly – very high color coverage (83% NTSC, 88% adobeRGB!), but the low color accuracy really makes it a somewhat pointless. Viewing angles again not that great, at least vertically.

My camera tests show that it uses a PWM brightness control mechanism for almost anything less than 100% brightness (maybe even then) and the frequency is around 200HZ (I used 1/25 shutter speed).

Overall, I’d give it 5-6 out of 10, at most. The screen is not unpleasant to look at, but you’ll feel the lower quality right away. That’s annoying. However, remember that the price difference to the higher GL502VT model is not worth it – just buy a good panel for $60-$80 and replace it yourself!

I’m adding the xRite i1Profiler contrast and brightness readings – as you can see, they are much more reasonable than the Spyder5 readings.

Contrast White Luminence Black Luminence Screen Brightness
388.4785819793 263 0.677 100.00%
371.8309859155 132 0.355 50.00%
400 54 0.135 20.00%
ContrastBrightnessBlack levels
263 388 0.677
sRGBadobeRGBNTSC
100 88 83

Battery Performance

With good sized battery, the GL502VT can achieve around 7 hours of very light use and 5 hours of typical use – that’s not exceptional, but I think this is acceptable for many people.

 

Asus GL502VT Review battery performance

Issues

Mostly the throttling/heat.

Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

    • MSI GS60, which is more lightweight, and has a TB3 port (not sure it’s in all versions), but costs a lot more new – around $300-$400 for the 970M version, but with a 128GB SSD and an IPS display.
    • Gigabyte P55Wv5 – a little heavier, but comes with an IPS and a 128GB SSD for $1300.
    • Asus GL502VT versions with 16GB RAM and an IPS display – starts at $1400 and not worth it
    • Heavier : Alienware 15 R2, with TB3 and proprietary eGPU solution (the “Amplifier”), it is a more convincing machine for gamers, although heavier. GTX 970M version can be found for $1200-$1300 from time to time.
    • 14.0″ machines like the Clevo P640RE, Gigabyte P34W and MSI GS40, but they are hotter and much louder. Come with an IPS display.

Conclusion

Well, the Asus GL502VT ROG Strix gaming laptop can’t really convince us, no? The machine itself has no too significant caveats for such a price. Performance is good as can be expected. Noise is relatively low. Keyboard and touchpad are quite good and comfortable. It is relatively thin and lightweight.

The screen in this specific model is a lousy TN panel, but it can be easily replaced and it will be much more cost efficient than purchasing the laptop with an IPS pre-configured. Same goes for an M.2 SSD and a 8GB DDR4 stick, if needed. CPU throttling is a bit of an issue, but doesn’t seem to have significant impact in gaming situations. for current games and with a GPU like the GTX 970M where the performance will be limited by the GPU well before it will be limited by the CPU, almost in any case.

Two big drawbacks, in my opinion. First, there is no upgrade solution. No thunderbolt 3 for future eGPU support and no other eGPU solution. The CPU and GPU are soldered too (as in many such laptops). I know, most of the laptops have soldered CPU/GPU for years now, but it is a problem to the laptop user (and it’s only because the manufacturers can do it). In this regard, desktop are usually vastly more cost efficient and future proof and an eGPU solution could make this gap a lot smaller. Secondly, models with the new GPUs/CPUs should be here before the end of the year. They should bring a considerably higher performance/price ratio and some additional features plus better power efficiency.

For $1200, that’s a nice deal, considering the competitors in the same weight range doesn’t offer more really (Gigabyte P55W, Clevo P651SE). However, the MSI GS60 has a TB3 port (or an MSI “super port”), I think, and it’s a bit more lightweight. The Alienware 15 R2 has TB3 AND proprietary eGPU solution, but it’s a lot heavier.

So, really, it’s a bit hard to justify the Asus GL502VT, since it has nothing exceptional, if you want a premium, future proof laptop. Remember we are talking here about $1200, and that’s with a lower quality TN display and no SSD. So, no, for now.

.

  • John Restauro

    Hi, i just bought this at best buy in an open box. I played dota 2 in medium settings. About 10 minutes into the game, the laptop gets very hot. The fan is quite noisy too. I even put it on top of books to elevate it. Is it normal? Thanks.

    • not sure. What exactly got hot?

      • John Restauro

        The top right of the keyboard. Around the top of f10-power. I read reviews that says theirs get really hot as well. Im just not sure if mine gets really hot like yours. Do you think a cooling mat will help or should i just return it? This is my first time buying a laptop and i dont want to regret it, thanks!

        • I think this is the area of the cooling system, so yes, it should be hot
          I don’t think that hot plastic is a problem. Some laptops are better than this, but the chassis of most of them will get hotter at some points

          • John Restauro

            So the high heat when im playing dota 2 is regular and wont damage the laptop? Ahhh, im really scared of it breaking soon, haha. I downloaded speedfan and ill let you know later the temps when im playing dota 2. Thank you so much for the help!

            • if you are talking about this specific area of the laptop – then it’s pretty normal and is ok. I would keep the laptop elevated so it can take cooler air easily
              How much did it cost you? USA?

              • John Restauro

                I swapped it for a close box. I paid about $980 in total. Hopefully this doesnt heat up as much, haha.

                • but you can get a laptop with a GTX 1060 for that price!

  • AlfredM303

    So 6 months later would you say this laptop is worth 899? I got the best buy model for 899 and I am trying to figure out if it is worth upgrading and keeping this machine or has something better come along in the 1K neighborhood. I have until Jan to decide as they have an extended exchange period for the holidays. Thanks for the great detailed review.

  • Mike Hernandez

    can you tell me how to replace my LCD? I have the IPS screen ready to install.

    • I think it’s better to find a video tutorial on youtube, but :

      0. BEFORE ALL: open the bottom cover and disconnect the battery!
      1. First, remove the two rectangle at the base of the screen. These are stickers. Use some kind of a flat, sharp tool (like a flat screwdriver). Beneath you’ll see a screw – remove it.
      2. Use something like a credit card to remove the bezel. Be careful
      3. Then you’ll see the panel. Remove the screws and gently pull it. You’ll see the connection on the back’s bottom of the panel

  • Puppet H

    Maybe it’s just me but ASUS have been really failing with their laptops recently

    • I don’t remember that they had great laptops
      Actually, it’s hard to come by very good laptop. You see, if they design a very good laptop, it can result in people not buying other, more profitable models

      • Puppet H

        True, they did have great laptops 3 years ago, their N series where very profitable like the N550 and N56DP with the sleek design, now it’s hard to find their recently released models from April anywhere online. It’s like they gave up and either went for their gaming ROG series or to their tablet models. Well, everyone went to the Dell 7559 and Lenovo Y500 so Asus are failing, lol. They need to compete. Oh well.