It’s astonishing how far gaming laptops have come in such a relatively short time. Gone are the days of tremendous power for portability trade-offs. The bulky, steaming-hot monsters of yesterday look downright primitive compared with today’s svelte machines. Even relatively affordable laptops, like the Asus ROG Strix GL503, are bursting with the kind of power that was simply not possible in a laptop just a few years ago.
While powerful compared to the laptops of yesteryear, this year’s Strix doesn’t stand out against the backdrop of modern gaming laptops. The GL503 lacks ‘wow’ factor, sticking to a 1080p display and a GTX 1050 graphics card, given its price against key rivals. It’s not as powerful as neither the MSI GE62 Apache Pro, which sports a GTX 1050 Ti, nor the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming with its GTX 1060, and it lands between the two in price in spite of it.
The Asus Rog Strix GL503 configuration we tested will set you back $1,099 (£1,473.99, AU$2,599), but there are more powerful configurations available. The Hero Edition ups the display refresh rate to 120Hz, pumps the graphics card up to a GTX 1060 with 6GB of video memory and adds a 256GB solid-state drive for $1,599 (£1,409.99, AU$2,599.00).
Up against the Apache Pro and the Inspiron, the GL503 falls squarely in the middle when it comes to price. It’s hard to really balance out a meaningful comparison of value against the Apache Pro. Spec-wise, they’re nearly identical, with the Apache having a stronger GPU and thus better scores in benchmark testing. It’s $300 more than the GL503 in the US, but in addition to the better GPU it also comes with a 256GB SSD on top of a 1TB HDD.
We haven’t yet tested out the Dell Inspiron 15 7000; but, on paper, it already beats the GL503 in value. You get the 1060 GPU in a super-thin frame starting at just $899 (£799, AU$1,199).
The Asus Rog Strix GL503 is definitely a gaming laptop. The top features the ROG logo in a beautiful reflective metal lid. The lid itself brushed metal, but it goes a step further by adding lighting to the logo. By itself, it looks great, but the addition of light makes it look awesome.
The interior is also extremely attractive, with a programmable, full-sized RGB keyboard. The chiclet style keys feel a little mushy, but travel is just right and overall it feels comfortable to use. The trackpad is entirely adequate, with no notable good or poor qualities.
However, the trackpad suffers from the same problem as the rest of the laptop in that it’s a magnet for fingerprints. No amount of hand washing is going to stop you from sullying the obsidian black of your GL503. It just wants to pick up a reminder of you every single time you touch it.
It’s especially bad on the metal parts. Just one touch is all it takes, and the prints don’t fade away. They can be wiped off with a soft cloth, so definitely pack one in your laptop bag.
The GL503 is thinner than the Apache Pro and a little lighter, too. At just over 5 pounds (2.2kg), it’s about average for a gaming laptop. There are no surprises with the power brick, either. It’s one of the smaller ones we’ve tested, which is great news if you’re going to be schlepping the GL503 around in a laptop bag.
The 1080p display on the GL503 is easily its finest feature. Games and movies look fantastically crisp, clean and colorful. When watching Guardians of the Galaxy on the GL503, we had to double-check the specs to make sure it wasn’t a 1440p or UHD screen. This is absolutely the best part of the laptop.
Gaming laptops live and die by how well they handle modern games. Unfortunately, the GL503 fails to excite.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is adequate on the GL503, but if you have a gaming PC you want to show off, ‘adequate’ doesn’t cut the mustard.
You can crank the settings to Ultra if you don’t mind the classic ‘cinematic frame rate,’ of 24 frames per second (fps), but the recommended GeForce settings put the game at medium to low to maintain a smooth frame rate.
The GL503 can’t compete against the Apache Pro and its more powerful graphics card, and the benchmark scores reflect it.
The real discrepancy is battery life and, in this case, the GL503 blows the Apache Pro out of the water.
On the PCMark 8 Battery Life test, the GL503 scored 3 hours and 21 minutes.
But, on our own battery test, playing Guardians of the Galaxy on repeat, we were able to get over 5 hour of life before it shut itself down.
That’s awesome for anyone who wants to use the GL503 for more than just a gaming laptop.
If you do lots of work on the go, the GL503 won’t leave you stranded and looking for an outlet.
As great as battery life is, the storage on the base unit is a big problem. It’s nice to have 1TB available, but the hybrid drive surprisingly slows everything down considerably.
If you’re used to booting your operating system (OS) from an SSD, the GL503 is jarringly slow. It’s not just boot times that suffer, either. Even watching movies saved on the hard drive presents problems in the way of an occasional stutter as it reads.
If you’re considering the GL503, it’s definitely worth upgrading the OS drive to an SSD.
The ROG Strix GL503 puts a beautiful screen inside an attractive chassis and sprinkles extras on top, like a super-cool, light-up logo, RGB keyboard and fantastic battery life. The screen alone might be enough to raise its standing, especially with an available 120Hz option.
Going back to hard-drive based booting – even if a hybrid drive – after getting accustomed to an SSD is rough. This laptop takes forever to boot comparatively. Having all that room for games and videos is nice, but the trade-off for sluggish performance is hardly worth it.
As great as the screen and battery life are for the GL503, for the price there are better choices. Movies and games look wonderful on its bright 1080p display, but modern games are stuck in the medium to low settings, so it almost feels like a waste.
Even with a GTX 1050 with 4GB of video RAM, the GL503 fails to set itself apart in price, where it could have an advantage over more powerful competitors running better specs. Price is almost lockstep with upgrading to one of the more powerful models, so even with the high-end GL503 there are cheaper, equally powerful gaming laptops to consider.
Sadly, this gaming laptop’s great screen and superb battery life can’t make up for its slow boot times, entry-level components given the price and a case prone to stains. The Asus ROG Strix GL503 looks the part of a gaming laptop, but function doesn’t follow its form.