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ASUS Eee Top ET1602 Touchscreen Nettop Review
At first glance, ASUS’ Eee Top ET1602 is the epitome of a niche product. Packing nettop-spec hardware in an all-in-one form factor, with a touchscreen and general design that seem to have stopped by HP’s TouchSmart and the Apple iMac along the way, it’s certainly tough to pin down. Innovative new segment or just another Eee oddity: SlashGear set to finding out.
In the box, ASUS include a wired keyboard and mouse, stylus and a printed manual, together with recovery DVDs and a microfiber screen cleaning cloth. Two color versions of the Eee Top are available, white and black, with otherwise identical hardware specs.
First impressions are positive. Despite the relatively budget price for the Eee Top, ASUS have managed to eke out more than a little style from its plastic casing. Held upright by a strong, spring-loaded metal leg, the body of the Eee Top is white gloss-finish plastic sitting in a transparent tray. Stand (and carry handle) aside, the nettop is just 4cm thick; along the back run gigabit ethernet, four USB 2.0, power, microphone, line-in and headphone ports, plus a Kensington lock hole. On the left-hand side there are a further two USB 2.0 ports, plus a multiformat memory card reader.
Underneath the touchscreen there are buttons for brightness and volume on the left, while the power and screen toggle are on the right. LEDs indicate WiFi and hard-drive activity, and in the bottom bezel there are stereo speakers. A webcam and microphone are at the top above the screen. The Eee Top has vents running across the top and in the center on the back.
Using the included peripherals and a WiFi internet connection, you can reduce cabling to just two wires: power and one USB for the keyboard. The mouse, not entirely necessary if you’re devoted to the touchscreen, can plug into a USB port on the keyboard; on the opposite side there’s a pop-out stylus in a spring-loaded bay. ASUS’ keyboard is surprisingly weighty and pleasant to type on. It follows the same isolated keys as first seen on some Sony laptops, and although lacking a separate numeric keypad the rest of the keys are full-sized. Several have Fn-triggered secondary features, including volume and music control, backlighting, sleep and WiFi, launching the webcam app, toggling through performance modes (more on that later) and changing the Eee Top’s blue underlighting.
The mouse is less impressive, a lightweight blue LED model with scroll-wheel. It’s usable, and the design echoes the white & transparent plastic of the Eee Top’s build, but nothing special. As for the stylus, it’s a basic 14cm stick of plastic with a tapered nib; the only thing worth noting is the strength of the bay spring, which is enough to launch the pen across the desk.
Despite looking a whole lot more grown up than any netbook (and taking up more of your workspace), the guts of the Eee Top are in fact on a par with any of the company’s more recent budget ultraportables. That means a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard-drive. WiFi is b/g/n, but the graphics still use Intel’s GMA 950 onboard chipset and there’s no optical drive. Of course the primary difference is the 15.6-inch touchscreen display, running at 1366 x 768 resolution.
The display uses a resistive touchscreen, rather than either a capacitive panel such as on recent Tablet PCs from HP and Dell, or an active digitizer as on most other Tablet PCs. That means the screen responds to any touch, rather than requiring a finger or a special stylus, but only one point of contact rather than multitouch. Responsiveness in the Eee Top’s case is good, with only a light touch required, and it soon becomes second nature to stab at the screen rather than reach for the mouse.
Of course, the usefulness of finger-input depends largely on software, and here the Eee Top is a mixed bag. ASUS preinstall Windows XP, the Home version rather than the Tablet PC edition, which is not known for its touchscreen-friendliness. To solve that, you get Easy Mode, a large-icon launcher which runs automatically when you start the PC. Four tabs – Communication, Fun, Work and Tools – give access to the preloaded apps, including StarSuite for office tasks, Skype for VoIP, and both Internet Explorer and Opera. There are also a number of ASUS-specific apps, including games, and software for on-screen keyboards, handwriting recognition and other touchscreen-control. Unfortunately there’s no apparent way to add new apps to Easy Mode, nor to change which tab each shortcut is in.
Easy Mode certainly makes loading software straightforward; however the apps themselves vary in their usefulness with the touchscreen. As is usually the case, the ASUS-specific titles are most user friendly, with large buttons and straightforward drag & drop usability. Others, such as the calculator, drop you into XP’s standard GUI: controls sized for mouse use. There’s a sense of ASUS stopping development when Easy Mode was just usable enough: the Eee Memo app, for instance, which lets you drag down virtual Post-It notes and write reminders and messages on them, would make far more sense if the notes were visible all the time. As it is, leaving a message for someone relies on them starting up the Eee Memo app.
In use, the 1.6GHz Atom processor means the Eee Top is not going to threaten machines with similar form-factors, such as HP’s TouchSmart or Apple’s iMac. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly capable of sustaining a couple of web browser windows, each with multiple open tabs, without unduly slowing. The absence of an optical drive means the ASUS is unlikely to be asked to do any serious media lifting; however it happily played back a 720p high-definition video from the hard-drive (anything higher resolution caused stuttering). Screen quality is fair, although the panel tends to look washed out when viewed from the top. One point of concern was a pixel-width blue line that appeared down the left-hand side of the display after the Eee Top had been switched on for a while, and which only a reboot would dismiss. It’s unclear whether this is a graphics problem due to heat build up.
As on their netbooks, ASUS has given the Eee Top three different power modes: super performance, high performance and power saving. These can be switched between either through the Easy Home interface or by the Fn+Space shortcut. In practice, there’s little noticeable difference between the three; nothing can disguise the fact that the Eee Top is no media editing or 3D gaming machine. As a media extender though, with a high-speed network connection, it comes into its own; another of the ASUS apps is Eee Cinema, a media-center style GUI for accessing audio and video. It’s here you’ll most miss an optical drive, as Eee Cinema even has an option to watch DVDs. Still, sound quality from the built-in speakers is reasonable.
Also preloaded is a webcam app, that lets you record video and take photos using the Eee Top’s 1.3-megapixel camera. Image quality is as mediocre as you might expect from an integrated webcam, but the app has a number of effects and animated overlays to brighten things up. These range from frames and color-effects, such as sepia, through Batman-style “Pow!” flashes, to being able to draw onto video and images.
In the end, though, we’re surprisingly impressed by the Eee Top. The display may be relatively small compared to what many people have on their desktop nowadays, but given you need to be sitting within comfortable prodding distance it’s less of an issue. It also makes the Eee Top more portable; toting it between rooms is no hardship, and the next-generation model, tipped to have an internal battery, should make that even more straightforward. Even sucking up your mains power, its frugal 27W demands mean the Eee Top is more economical than a standard desktop PC.
Similarly, as long as you’re not looking for high graphics performance, the Eee Top handles web browsing, office chores and media playback with little complaint. ASUS, incidentally, are planning a separate ATI Radeon HD 3450 video option in the next-gen machine. The touchscreen implementation may not be perfect, but it’s certainly usable and the price is far less than HP would ask for a TouchSmart PC. For the same cost as the Eee Top you could obviously find a higher-spec standard desktop PC, but the ASUS’ design charms, touchscreen and general usability still make it a tempting buy.
The ASUS Eee Top ET1602 is available now, priced at around £400 in the UK; the US price is expected to be around $450.Unboxing Video:
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The Asus VivoBook Max X541SA is a low-cost 15.6in laptop. It’s here for people who want to spend as little as possible while still getting something that looks and feels like a proper laptop.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
You can buy the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA for £ 299 from Currys. It’s among the cheapest new laptops you’ll find outside of a Chromebook. However, there are even cheaper options if you’re happy to buy from Chinese websites, such as Chuwi’s 14.1in LapBook which costs way less than £300 even factoring in import duty.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
No prizes for guessing this, but the X541SA is actually all plastic. Like most cheap laptops, the underside is black too, rather than matching the finish of the rest. Similarly, the lid flexes under finger pressure. You have to accept a few build compromises like this if you budget only stretches to £300.
A perhaps more important area is the keyboard. If a keyboard surround flexes too much, it can affect typing feel, and is a constant reminder your laptop isn’t that well-built. There is some slight flexing to the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA keyboard, but not under the pressure of normal typing.
The construction is fine, just not fancy.
One crucial aspect to take on-board is the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA is a laptop for home or work use, not one perfect for taking cross-country on your travels. It weighs 2kg and is 27mm thick, which we’d consider too chunky to carry around day-long. Any 15.6-inch laptop outside of something like a Dell XPS 15 (which has an unusually small footprint) is going to be a rucksack-hogger too.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
Unlike skinny laptops, though, the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA has an optical drive on its right side. It’s a DVD multi-writer.
There’s a good spread of connections as well. On the left are USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and a USB 3.1 ‘C’ sockets plus VGA and HDMI video outputs and an Ethernet port. There’s a bit of everything. A full-size SD memory card slot also sits on the front’s underside.
Almost no premium laptops feature VGA ports these days, but one may be essential if you have a fairly old monitor you need to hook up.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
Keyboard and trackpad
As a larger 15.6-inch laptop, the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA can fit in a NUM pad alongside the normal keyboard keys. There’s plenty of space to go around, and no keys have been made utterly tiny as a result.
The feel is a little more unusual, particularly now we’re accustomed to fairly slim chiclet keyboards. There’s a lot of travel to the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA’s keys, but they are also very springy. Perhaps a bit too springy. Your fingers bounce across the keyboard, and it takes a while to bed into.
In a more expensive laptop this would be a major issue, but like the all-plastic build, a slightly patchy keyboard is to be expected at the price. There’s also no keyboard backlight to help when working in a darker room. At this price we’d have been bowled over is Asus had managed to fit this in, though.
The Asus VivoBook Max X541SA trackpad is solid, but again has some elements that seem rather basic. Positives include that it’s very smooth for a plastic trackpad, is a good size and doesn’t suffer from any annoying driver issues that make it appear to wilfully misbehave with Windows 10.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
Like almost every laptop this affordable, the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA uses a TN screen rather than the IPS kind more popular these days. TN panels tend to have fast response times, but almost universally look worse than the IPS type because of their relatively narrow viewing angles.
This doesn’t just affect looking at the screen from an extreme angle, as the character of the display alters from just a few degrees of tilt. Looking at the laptop dead on, the contrast will actually appear different at the bottom of the screen than the top.
This is only instantly obvious when you’re looking at a pure black/colour screen, but is why, to image quality purists at least, most TN displays never look that good. TN monitors tend to fare better than laptop screens, and this particular one isn’t great.
Cementing its position as a home laptop rather than one to use outdoors, max brightness is unremarkable at 210cd/m2 and a glossy screen finish makes reflections an issue if you’re not careful about how the laptop is angled.
Colour performance is limited too, although that’s no surprise given the use of a twisted nematic panel. The Asus VivoBook Max X541SA covers 59 percent of the sRGB colour standard, 41 percent of Adobe RGB and 42.2 percent of DCI P3. While not a bad result for this type of panel, it’s not great for editing photos.
In person, though, colour is one of the screen’s stronger suits. It’s perfectly good for general use, even if the punch of its tones is reduced by the fairly poor 344:1 contrast.
The X541SA has a typical low-cost laptop screen. It’s flawed in many respects, but is the norm at the price.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
One other big sub-£300 laptop sacrifice is performance. The X541SA uses an Intel Pentium N3710 CPU rather than the Core i-series processors we’d recommend to anyone using Windows 10 every day.
For a little more context, all Core i series can be considered ‘premium’ chipsets, even the Core i3. Intel’s Pentium, Celeron and Atom models are used in lower-cost machines.
For a laptop like the VivoBook Max, the Pentium range is the best of the three. It uses more energy than an Atom, but tends to offer more power than either an Atom or Celeron chipset.
The Pentium N3710 is a quad-core CPU with a clock speed of 1.6GHz, and a 2.56GHz burst mode. It offers acceptable performance with Windows 10, but we wouldn’t say much more than that.
Apps take a little while to load, and the system feels less responsive than a laptop with a Core i3. It’s an important distinction as models like the HP 250 G5 offer Core i3 power for £350. That’s more money, of course, but if you use your laptop several hours a day, we’d argue the performance boost is worth paying for. Core i processors run Windows 10 as Microsoft intended, where Pentiums feel compromised.
Doing much more than browsing, writing docs and so on makes the X541SA feel distinctly slow. And even the basics of Windows run slower than they would in a slightly more expensive machine.
It’s time to consider how patient you really are. However, it doesn’t make Windows 10 feel like a flat-out chore, unlike some Atom-based laptops.
Aside from the CPU, the X541SA has 4GB DDR3 RAM and a 1TB hard drive. There’s plenty of storage, but this is a slow 5400rpm drive, which will contribute to the slightly slow Windows 10 feel.
If you want to play some ultra-casual titles, the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA should handle them just fine, but for more console-like games you’ll need to look for ones at least a decade old.
This is also a fairly loud PC, with fans that seem to turn on regularly even when you’re doing something non-demanding like watching a video. They are not high-pitch but do have a distinct, almost husky tone that is quite noticeable in a quiet room/office. It’s a wheezer, the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
The Asus VivoBook Max X541SA’s speakers are a pleasant surprise after all that. For a cheap laptop, they’re rather good. They live behind the circular grilles above the keyboard and have a much fuller tone, and louder output, than we expected given the sacrifices elsewhere.
At max volume you will hear some flat-out clipping distortion with certain content, but there’s real mid-range bulk here and an approximation of bass. We’d happily watch a film with this laptop in a pinch as a result.
Asus VivoBook Max X541SA review:
We wouldn’t rely on the Asus VivoBook Max X541SA for use on a work trip, though, as the battery life is not good enough. Lasting just three hours 57 minutes playing a 720p video on loop at standard 120cd/m brightness (the sort of level you might use indoors), stamina is remedial.
It’s final, conclusive proof that Asus hasn’t made this laptop for people who need a portable computer. However, four hours is actually the classic ‘standard’ stamina for work machines like this. Now that (semi) portable machines have become the default buy for almost anyone with £500 or more to spend, we just don’t see laptops this tied to the charger that often anymore.
Such pedestrian battery life is disappointing when the Pentium N3710 is still a fairly low-power CPU with an up-to-date 14nm architecture, though.
The battle for the best gaming laptop rages on and Asus has a serious contender in the new ROG Zephyrus S. It’s a beast of a laptop and that normally means size in the gaming world but this is thinner and lighter than some Ultrabooks we’ve tested only capable of running basic games. If you have £2k to spend then you’re likely to be taken with the Zephyrus S. Although you can save a few hundred quid by going for the cheapest Razer Blade 15, the model with equivalent specs is only £20 cheaper. We’ll have a full review once we get a sample.
Competition in the gaming world is as fierce as ever and although the Razer Blade 15 was the world’s thinnest 15in gaming laptop, Asus has taken the title away with its new stunner. We’ve been hands-on with the Asus ROG Zephyrus S.Asus ROG Zephyrus S: Price and Availability
High-end gaming laptops that don’t weigh as much as a tractor aren’t cheap. Having the world’s thinnest is something you’re going to need to splash out on.
As such, the Zephyrus S (GX531) starts at £1,999 which is a little higher than Razer’s new Blade 15 starting at £1,699 – with lower specs, though.
The Zephyrus S will be available from mid-October in the UK from Box, Scan, Amazon and Buyitdirect.
It’s actually a lot cheaper than the Zephyrus GX501 we recently reviewed, which costs £2,799. It’s got the same Intel processor but boasts an Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card.
We’re focusing on the ROG here but we will compare the two at times. Check out our chart of the best gaming laptops.Asus ROG Zephyrus S: Design and Build
Making an already thin and light product even thinner and lighter is no mean feat. It was all the rage in the phone market not too long ago, but quickly hit a ceiling.
Back in the laptop world, the challenge continues and requires more minute and tricky engineering changes to make it achievable. Asus has worked on various areas of the Zephyrus to make it more compact.
There are various titles flying around and they tend to get quite specific. The Razer Blade 15 is the ‘world’s thinnest 15in gaming laptop, while the Asus ROG Zephyrus M was the ‘world’s thinnest gaming laptop with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 and Intel 8th-gen’. It’s a bit of a mouthful.
Those laptops are 16.8mm and 17.5mm which is impressive but the new Zephyrus S is just 14.95mm at its thinnest point. That’s a seriously impressive figure, knocking off over 2mm on an already thin chassis – 12 percent is notable when it’s already thin.
This also results in a lighter laptop: it’s 2.05kg, down from 2.25kg. This narrowly beats the Razer which is 2.07kg. Without going into too much detail, Asus has done this with things like a thinner lid – which milled rather than pressed like normal – and thinner heat pipes.
For cooling the AeroAccelerator fans now have 83 blades each, 17 percent more than the original. There are more vents and air is actually sucked in through the keyboard. So everything should keep cooler aiding performance. You can choose from Silent, Balanced and Overboost settings depending on what you’re doing.
All of this keeping up with the Joneses behaviour might seem fickle and you’re unlikely to notice a huge difference in size or weight when it comes down to it. However, the technology trickles down lower range devices making them better and thinner and lighter in turn.
Like other Zephyrus models, the new S model is stunning with its all metal design. Like the other models in the range, it has a hatch that opens up when you lift the lid which exposes vents – it looks pretty cool and also gives the keyboard a few degrees of tilt.
The keyboard, as you can see, is at the front of the chassis. This is due to the placement and cooling of internal components like the GPU. It’s still unusual and feels weird for a while (based on various laptops we’ve used with this arrangement.
It also means the trackpad is sat oddly to the side with a tall rather than wide shape. It’s got physical buttons. This matters less for when you’re gaming as you’ll want to plug in a mouse anyway. It has a nifty features where it lights up, becoming a NUM pad and calculator.Asus ROG Zephyrus S: Specs and Performance
Often with high-end laptops there are various SKUs or models to choose from, each with a different set of specs. For example, the Razer Blade 15 has five different options with varying screen tech, graphics cards and storage capacities.
Well things are nice and simple here because in the UK at least, there’s only one configuration available.
The Zephyrus S has the same Full HD 15.6in panel as found in the GX501. It’s a brilliant screen with a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time – a combination you won’t find elsewhere. It’s IPS level and offers 100 percent of sRBG colour gamut, according to Asus.
Although it’s the same display, the bezels are much smaller giving it a much more modern look and a more compact frame. This follows the general trend recently in the gaming laptop market.
At that price, narrowly ducking under the £2k mark, you’ll get an Nvidia GTX 1060 with 6GB of memory whether you go with Asus or Razer. If you want a GTX 1070 then you’ll need to go with the Blade 15 as the Zephyrus S with the higher spec GPU is only available in the US.
We’re yet to run benchmarks but we’ve tested other laptops with this set of specs so you’re likely to get excellent frame rates. The real test is whether the Zephyrus S can cool all those components while you’re gaming.
Rounding off the specs is 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, full-size HDMI 2.0 and two USB-C and one with the former conveniently positioned at the rear. There are also three USB Type-A ports – one of which is 3.1 Gen 2 – and a headphone jack.
Battery life is unlikely to be anything special as there’s little space for a large cell. The Zephyrus S has a 52Wh battery compared to the Blade 15’s 80Wh. We’ll run our usual video loop test when we get a review sample to see how long it can last.
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 2 might not be a huge upgrade from last year so owners might struggle to justify getting one. However, in the wider market it’s great to see Asus adopting a modern design with narrow bezels and responsive display tech. It’s not the thinnest or lightest gaming laptop around and has poor battery life but offers excellent performance considering what price you can get one for.
As well as a raft of other new products including a gaming smartphone, Asus’ Republic of Gamers arm has updated its popular Strix gaming laptop range. Here’s our Asus ROG Strix Scar 2 review.
There were two new models announced at Computex 2023 in Teipei – the Strix Hero II aimed at MOBA gamers and the Strix Scar II which is tailored to those playing FPS games. We’re using ‘2’ instead of ‘II’ for ease.
You can also check out our Asus ROG Phone review, a new Razer Phone rival, and Asus ZenBook Pro 15 review with its innovative ScreenPad second display.Price & Availability
As we expected, the ROG Strix Scar 2 (GL504) comes in at £2,299 for the model we’ve reviewed – that’s the one with a GTX 1070 (GL504GS). However, you can get it for just £1,699 from Amazon.
In the US, the laptop is oddly lower at $1,999 but Amazon has it for $1,839.
You can get a cheaper model if you like which comes with a 1060 instead (GL504GM). It retails for a more accessible £1,699/$1,699. It’s on at just £1,499 at Currys. It’s $1,322 at Amazon US.
This makes choosing a lot easier than the Razer Blade 15 which comes in a lot more skus. And the 1070 Scar 2 matches the price of the 1060 Blade 15 making it a pretty good deal.
Other rivals include the Gigabyte Aero 15X v8 and Alienware m15. Check out our chart of the best gaming laptops.Design & Build: Light ’em up
The Strix Scar 2 is deceptive in that it appears to be very thin and light, however, it is 26.1mm and 2.4kg. So it’s thicker and heavier than the Gigabyte Areo mentioned above but lighter than its predecessor.
This illusion is primarily achieved by chopping off the corners at the front where no components are in the way. Still, those figures are better than a number of rivals like the Alienware 15 R3 so this is a portable high-end system.
The Strix Scar 2 looks great. The overall style is appealing and it looks like it means business.
You get a two-tone finish on the lid with the ROG logo – RGB lit, of course – sitting within the lighter brushed metal area. Asus says it’s inspired by ‘a bullet homing in on its target’. Shrug.
You also get super narrow bezels that are 2.33cm smaller than its predecessor so this is one key change. The screen is surrounded by a rubber frame in order to protect it, but also make the bezels look even smaller – we’re not sure about the latter.
It’s nice to see a design refresh rather than just hardware so the Strix Scar 2 looks sleek and modern. Asus just didn’t get there first with this XPS-style, er, styling. We particularly like the smudge-proof Kevlar weave around the keyboard and trackpad.
Speaking of the keyboard, this is another area of improvement albeit not a major one. Since the Scar is aimed at FPS players, the WASD keys are highlighted with transparent caps and semi-transparent sides (the Hero is QWER).
Naturally the keyboard has Aura RGB lighting but has improved travel of 1.8mm despite using the same membrane switches as previously. There’s also ‘Overstroke’ technology, which means you don’t need to press as hard to register input and strokes are registered early. It’s nice and responsive and setup nicely for gaming, of course.
There’s a pretty standard trackpad with dedicated rather than integrate mouse buttons. More interesting, though, is the new lighting bar on the front. If you’re not that fussed about the drama of RBG additions then you can just switch it off.
Last but not least is an upgraded cooling system, which consists partly of new 12V fans. The pair has smaller 0.1mm blades so there are more of them and they also spin faster. Asus says the airflow is up to 42.5 percent better.
The HyperCool Pro thermal system also has an extended cooling plate to better spread heat and keep the CPU and GPU below 90 degrees. There’s also a trapezoid cut at the back to avoid the lid blocking airflow.
Should you need it, you can quickly activate Fan Overboost mode for extreme cooling with an Fn+F5 shortcut. Even in this mode Asus claims a maximum of 50dB noise. We found the Scar 2 quiet in use.Specs & Features: Silky smooth
There aren’t just upgrades to the design of the Scar II and the screen will likely be the main lure for a lot of gamers.
Narrow bezels aside, the 15.6in IPS display has a 144Hz refresh rate combined with a 3ms response time. It’s the only one means silky smooth performance.
The Full HD screen is also 20 percent brighter than before and has a non-glare coating, which is always our preference. We clocked it at a decent but not amazing 300cd/m2.
Other specs remain largely the same with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8750H with a Core i5-8300H also available in the US. The six-core i7, as we found on the Aero 15X is very capable.
There’s up to 32GB of 2666MHz dual-channel SDRAM and either 128-, 256- or 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD coupled with a 1TB traditional drive.
In the graphics department is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM or a GTX 1070 that steps things up to 8GB. We’ve reviewed the latter.
As you can see from the results below, it performs very well indeed across the board. Note that the Alienware m15 we tested has 32GB of RAM.
Rounding off the specs includes 11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi with a multi-antenna RangeBoost technology. Asus says the new Strix laptops are the first in the world to do so and means 30 percent more range, higher throughput and fewer dropouts.
For connectivity there is a USB-C 3.1 port (not required for power), three USB-A 3.1 ports, HDMI 2.0, mini DisplayPort 1.2, RJ-45 Ethernet, a combo audio jack and an SD card slot.
The only real downside is batter life which is historically bad on gaming laptops. Although we have seen some good results over the last couple of years, the Scar 2 isn’t one of them, managing only two hours and 37 minutes in our test. Here we loop a 720p video with the screen set to 120cd/m2, that’s 30 percent brightness in this case.Verdict
At full price, we probably wouldn’t be scoring the Scar 2 a nine out of 10, but considering how cheap you can get a GTX 1070 model, it’s a bit of a bargain.
That means, combined with a powerful Core i7, plenty of performance and there are other highlights including the 144Hz screen with a 3ms response time, which is now modern with small bezels.
There’s more to like including the stylish design, array of ports and decent keyboard and trackpad. You’d only be put off the Scar 2 if you want to travel around with it a lot, due to its weight and short battery life.
Gone are the days when gaming laptops used to be large and clunky machines with an over-the-top flashy design language. Today’s gaming notebooks are sleek, light and feature a more subtle design with just a hint of that gamer-y aesthetic. Even though the design might not speak volumes, their performance far exceeds that of notebooks without a dedicated GPU.Asus ROG Strix GL503 Specs:
First off, let’s get the hardware specifications out of the way before I get on with the review. The Asus ROG Strix GL503 packs in a 7th-Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor paired with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or 1060 GPU, along with 8 or 16GB of RAM. On paper, the specifications are great for a budget gaming laptop and the GL503 features a number of unique additions which help it stand out in the saturated budget gaming notebook space. Here’s a quick rundown of the GL503’s specifications:
Dimensions38.4 x 26.2 x 2.3 cm (WxDxH)
ProcessorUp to Intel Core i7-7700HQ
MemoryUp to 16GB DDR4 2400MHz
Storage1TB 7200RPM SATA HDD + Up to 256GB SATA3 SSD
Display15.6″ full HD LED with 178˚ wide-viewing angle
GraphicsUp to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, with 6GB GDDR5 VRAM
I/O4x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C ports, 1x HDMI port, 1x mini Display Port port, 1x RJ45 LAN port, 1x multi format SDCard reader
NetworkingIntegrated 802.11 AC (2×2) WiFi, Bluetooth v4.1
Battery4 cell 64 Whrs
Operating SystemWindows 10 HomeDesign and Build Quality
The first thing I noticed as soon as I pulled the laptop out of the box was its stealthy all-black design. Yes, the laptop does feature a polished ROG logo on the lid, but the new minimal approach is far better than the design of older notebooks in the ROG line which was nothing short of an eyesore. The logo lights up a dull red when the laptop is turned on and I really dig this new approach. Kudos to Asus!
The laptop has a premium feel to it, with a metal lid and a solid plastic chassis that has minimal to no flex. The display hinge has been tuned for one-handed opening and there’s absolutely no screen wobble, which is great for intense gaming sessions where you might sometimes lose your cool.
When it comes to connectivity, the Asus ROG Strix GL503VD features every possible connectivity option any typical gamer would need. It has a better selection of I/O than most of the other laptops in this price bracket and in my opinion, a typical user will never fall short of ports or feel the need to resort to a dongle.
The GL503VD includes four USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, an HDMI port, a mini Display Port, an RJ45 LAN port, and a multi format SD card reader. The ports are placed on either side of the machine and have been appropriately spaced out so that users won’t face any issues when all of the ports are populated at the same time.
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from the GL503VD on the display front, considering the fact that other laptops (read Dell) in the segment still ship with TN panels, but I was pleasantly surprised. The display on the GL503VD is pretty great, to be honest. Not only does it get fairly bright on the maximum setting, but it also fairs well when it comes to color reproduction.
According to Asus’ website, the GL503VD comes with a full HD LED backlit display with a 60Hz refresh rate and a matte anti-glare finish. The panel has a 178˚ wide-viewing angle and the company claims that it covers 100% of the sRGB color range. Not only is the display good enough for gaming and media consumption, but it’ll also hold up well if you choose to use it for image or video editing.
I used the review unit as my primary device for about a week and since my work entails a lot of typing (as you’d expect), I was more than happy with the keyboard on the GL503VD. Now I wouldn’t compare it to a mechanical keyboard, but for a laptop, the keys are quite responsive and have a decent key travel. The keyboard is silent, so you wouldn’t have to worry about your teammates hearing you bash your keys, but the feedback is a bit on the mushy side.
The keyboard layout is more or less standard, with well-spaced letter keys, but I’m not really a fan of the numpad and arrow key placement. Also, the large right control key annoyed me a bit in the beginning, but I got used to it within a couple of hours. The dedicated volume, microphone toggle, and ROG Gaming Centre keys on the top left are a neat addition, in my opinion.Touchpad
The plastic touchpad on the GL503VD is a decent size and has a smooth surface which, at first, is amazing to use. On my first day of using the notebook, I remember placing it at par with the touchpad found on Macbooks, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.Speakers
The GL503VD features 3.5 W side-firing stereo speakers which are rather disappointing. They’re not quite loud to begin with and can easily be muffled if the laptop is placed on an uneven surface (like a lap).
Quality wise, the speakers are average at best and lack bass. The sound is dominated by mids and highs, which make them sound tinny on higher volumes. However, due to the placement, the stereo separation is pretty great which could be good while playing FPS games when you forget your headphones. But I’d recommend that you don’t forget your headphones.Bundled Software
Much like most OEMs, Asus also includes some of its proprietary software with the GL503VD. While I uninstall all bundled software while setting up a new system as a matter of principle, some of the software bundled with the GL503VD is kinda useful.
The ROG Gaming Center, which is a staple of the ROG line, offers a basic system monitor which allows users to check the CPU and GPU clock speeds and temperatures, along with the available storage and memory use.
The Asus Aura Core software, which I mentioned earlier, can be used to customize the 4-zone RGB keyboard backlight and the ROG Gamefirst IV software monitors and prioritizes network access to prevent programs from affecting your online gaming experience.Performance
Coming to the section you’ve probably been waiting for- performance. Powered by an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, the GL503VD is exactly what you’d expect of a budget gaming notebook. It’s more than a capable multimedia machine and it can comfortably run any modern title at low to medium settings. To test the gaming performance, I tried out multiple titles, including League of Legends(LoL), Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (ESO), and the notoriously unoptimized PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).
With less demanding titles like LoL and CS:GO, the GL503VD faced absolutely no issues and the games were easily able to run at high settings at 1080p while maintaining well over 60 FPS at all times. However, with demanding titles like ESO and PUBG, I had to turn down the settings to medium and very low, respectively, in order to maintain 60 FPS at all times. I didn’t notice any frame drops or stutters, which is expected of a gaming laptop of this caliber.
Although the GL503VD was able to do fairly well while gaming, the meager 8GB RAM, in my opinion, was a major bottleneck. The effect was most prominent while browsing the internet and watching videos in full screen if a number of Chrome tabs were open at the same time. The system took a little more time switching between tabs and switching from windowed to full screen made videos stutter for a fraction of a second.Thermals
Asus has done a great job with the thermals on the GL503VD and the exterior heat is managed well. While playing ESO, even though the CPU reached 90 degrees after 15 minutes, the fans automatically went into overdrive and I experienced no throttling whatsoever. If fan noise isn’t an issue, you won’t have any problems while gaming on the GL503VD.Battery Life
Subtle yet eye-catching design
Premium build quality
Compact and lightweight for a gaming laptop
Good keyboard with 4-zone RGB lighting
Fans can get fairly loud under load
Air intake above the keyboard can get very hot
Average battery life
SEE ALSO: Acer Nitro 5 Spin Review: A Gaming Laptop That’s Not for GamingAsus ROG Strix GL503VD: The Best Budget Gaming Laptop?
Starting at just under Rs. 90,000, the GL503VD is a compelling buy for any gamer on a budget. The notebook not only performs well, but also has a stealthy look and a premium finish, so you can easily use it as your work laptop. However, if you’re planning on purchasing the notebook and have a little bit of wiggle room in your budget, I’d suggest you to go for the higher end variant with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 and 16GB of RAM. Along with the performance boost with the upgrade, you’ll get yourself a budget VR rig on which you can enjoy a number of VR titles.
Buy Asus ROG Strix GL503VD from Amazon: ₹88,499
On its own, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Tablet doesn’t look as if it’s about to set the tablet wars on fire. But after spending time with the Transformer ($399 for the 16GB model, $499 for the 32GB version) and its matching keyboard dock, I think Asus is on to something.
Another big change involves the Asus keyboard. The stock Honeycomb keyboard is available as an option, but by default the Transformer uses Asus’s own keyboard. The redesigned keyboard has a row of number keys up top; and keys in both the number row and the first letter row are slightly taller than the ones on the rest of the keyboard. The keyboard appears to occupy about the same depth as the regular Honeycomb keyboard, but with the added benefit of the number row (a native first among Android 3.0 tablets). The keyboard incorporates Google’s predictive text, too, another native first for an Android 3.0 tablet. Unfortunately, this feature behaved a bit unpredictably in my testing. For example, it didn’t work consistently when filling in fields in the Web browser. Also, the keyboard sacrifices some of its QWERTYness–by having its Z and S keys stacked, for example. On the whole, the keyboard was responsive.
The Transformer gets its name, of course, from its companion piece, the $149 Mobile Docking Station. And Asus got this crucial part of the equation right. Though I wish that the USB ports weren’t protected by covers that I’ll often have to remove to reveal them, and though I regret that the space bar depresses below the bezel separating it from the touchpad, those are minor drawbacks.
The Mobile Docking Station transforms the Transformer into a netbooklike clamshell that weighs just under 3 pounds when combined (the docking station itself weighs 1.41 pounds). The two pieces fit together seamlessly and easily, unlike keyboards that are of separate sizes and designs from the tablet (as is true of Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad 2); and the solution is far more integrated and elegant than even the best-designed iPad cases I’ve seen that include a keyboard. The Transformer ends up looking smart and acting clever: The touchscreen is fully operational while plugged in, save for access to the on-screen keyboard; but in addition, some key buttons–including Android back/exit and home buttons–are integrated into the keyboard. The island-style keys are distinct and easy to press; they made accurate typing a breeze for this touch-typist. And by marrying the two components, you’ll get extra battery life (which Asus estimates will increase by about 72 percent over the battery life for the tablet alone). If you needed to grab the Transformer and its Mobile Docking Station on the run, you could do so with one hand, a convenience for mobile professionals.
Asus clearly is being aggressive with the Transformer. The 16GB model costs $100 less than the comparable Apple iPad 2. The Android 3.0 app environment remains a big question mark, but the Transformer plus Mobile Docking Station has the potential to be a winning combination for prospective tablet owners who plan to use the device for both productivity and entertainment. Look for more details in my forthcoming full review.
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