We rolled out a diverse family of updated ROG gaming laptops to coincide with the arrival of Intel’s 7th Generation Core processors, otherwise known as Kaby Lake. The lineup runs the gamut from entry-level machines with good overall performance to high-end marvels overclocked beyond stock speeds. People keep asking me which one is best, and the answer really depends. Each has a unique mix of components and attributes tuned for different types of gamers—and different budgets. Some people want a burly desktop replacement with no-holds-barred performance, while others need a more portable battlestation to carry around all day.
If you’re looking for the ideal blend of performance and portability, the right ROG gaming notebook can be narrowed down to two choices: the 15.6" Strix GL502VS and 17.3" Strix GL702VS. The 7th-gen models are virtually identical apart from their screen sizes, and both boast NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics paired with G-Sync goodness at refresh rates up to 120Hz.
I've been playing with the GL502VS-DS71 for more than a week, and it’s not only a fantastic gaming rig, but also an eminently capable all-rounder.
The key to the machine's versatility is its easily portable chassis. At only 1.2” thick and 5.2 lbs, the GL502VS fits into most laptop bags and backpacks with plenty of room to spare. So does the GL702VS, which has the same thickness but a slightly larger footprint. It's also a bit heavier at 6.4 lbs. Thinner and lighter designs do exist, but they often sacrifice cooling and performance to shave a few millimeters. We don’t think that’s good trade-off for ROG laptops that put gaming before everything else.
New for this seventh generation, the Strix GL502 and GL702 adopt the Titanium Copper colorway familiar from more exotic ROG gear. The brushed metal lid lights up with glowing accents that add a little bit of flair to a relatively understated design. Brushed textures extend to the main deck, which includes a full keyboard backlit in ROG red.
Gaming at 120Hz—and 120 FPS
If you really care about looks, pay close attention to the display. Both laptops have IPS-type panels with vivid colors that maintain their richness across wide viewing angles. Games are appropriately saturated even when viewed from askew, so you can share the screen with a small group of friends and be confident that even people pushed to periphery can see what’s going on. If you want to blow things up on a bigger screen, integrated HDMI and Mini DisplayPort outputs are ready for big-screen TVs, projectors, and desktop gaming monitors.
Realistic colors are just one part of the equation. On-screen movement and animation need to be smooth to maintain immersion, so the brothers Strix employ two techniques to ensure maximum fluidity. The first and arguably most important is an optional 120Hz refresh rate that redraws the screen twice as frequently as typical gaming laptops. This doubling puts more frames in front of your eyes, enabling a true 120-FPS experience. Doubling the refresh rate also halves the delay time between new frames, which reduces input lag and ultimately makes gameplay feel more responsive and connected.
Games need to sustain at least 120 FPS to get the most out of the display, but that can be a tall order if you want to enable all the eye candy. Intricately detailed games like The Witcher 3 require a lot more horsepower with maximum graphics settings than stylized shooters like Overwatch. And, to be fair, The Witcher’s slower pace of action is more forgiving of lower frame rates than the frenetic mayhem of the average Overwatch match. NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology offers the best experience in both scenarios by tightly coupling the refresh rate of the display with the frame rate of the graphics card. Syncing these components reduces the visible stuttering that can occur when performance dips below the maximum refresh rate. It also eliminates visual tears that cut across the screen, disrupting your view of the scene. That’s what we call a win-win, and when you add the display’s higher refresh rate, it’s really a win-win-win.
120Hz displays demand fast graphics, which is why the new GL502VS and GL702VS come with NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1070. The Pascal-based GPU is clocked only a smidgen slower than its desktop counterpart and has the same 8GB of dedicated video memory, so it’s well-equipped to push ultra-high frame rates at the native 1080p resolution of both 120Hz panels.
If you prefer resolution to refresh rate, the GL502VS and GL702VS are also available with 4K displays capped at 60Hz. You still get G-Sync, which is especially important for maintaining a smooth experience at Ultra HD resolution, but you lose the heightened engagement higher refresh rates provide. For fast-paced play on screens of this size, 1080p at 120Hz strikes the best balance for me, especially since the GPU is strong enough to keep up. You can crank the details in most games and still get into 120-FPS territory.
Check out the following performance data from the GL502VS. We used Fraps to log individual frame times for real-world gameplay and then converted the values to FPS. Everything was run with the details maxed and vsync enabled in-game for optimal image quality. It’s possible to hit even higher frame rates by tweaking those settings, but this is the sweet spot for speed, visuals, and overall smoothness.
And oh how smooth it is. The relentless forward motion of Redout and Race the Sun is especially silky at the limits of the 120Hz screen.
Thumper's rhythm on rails is more visceral, and Doom's brutal, hell-fueled action is more satisfying.
Other first-person shooters like Overwatch, Star Wars Battlefront, and Counter-Strike feel just right, with immediate input and flawless animation that inspire confidence in the heat of battle.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst is more of a first-person runner, but the effect is similar, if not more noticeable given how the game encourages a trance-like state when you're in the zone. The performance fluctuations seen in some of the games are completely normal, and G-Sync does a great job of compensating.
Fair warning: high-refresh gaming is addictive. I’ve had the pleasure of playing beyond 100Hz on multiple laptops and a collection of desktop gaming monitors, and the experience has sort of ruined me. Gaming on 60Hz displays feels awkwardly sluggish and unresponsive after a high-refresh session, especially with the fast-paced titles that dominate my Steam library.
Jacks of all trades that master many
While the ROG Strix GL502VS and GL702VS are designed for hardcore gaming, they can do much more than that. Their GPUs are VR-ready, so you can connect a headset and experience virtual worlds from a completely different perspective. And they're available with up to Core i7-7700HQ quad-core CPUs that make quick work of demanding tasks like video editing and heavy multitasking, so you can mix work and play on the same machine. There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing the chip’s eight logical processor cores displayed in the Windows Task Manager, especially alongside up to 32GB of DDR4-2400 memory.
Storage is a dual-drive affair split between an M.2 SSD and conventional hard drive. The SSD’s nearly instantaneous response times are ideal for your OS, applications, and frequently played games, while the hard drive's massive capacity provides room for all your media and other files that don't need to be accessed at warp speed. M.2 options include both SATA- and NVMe-based drives up to 512GB.
The stock configurations aren’t destiny if you’re handy with a screwdriver. 10 Philips screws hold the bottom panel in place, and they can be removed in less than a minute if you want to get at the guts. Both memory slots and storage bays are easily within reach. The CPU and GPU are soldered to the motherboard under a dual-pipe cooler linked to twin turbines that exhaust hot air out the back of the chassis, away from your hands.
You don’t need to pop open the case to expand these machines. Three Type-A USB ports offer ample connectivity for existing devices, while a reversible Type-C connector is primed for next-gen gear capable of speeds up to 10Gbps. On the GL702VS, Thunderbolt support lets the Type-C port push up to 40Gbps—and tap into the ROG XG Station 2 external graphics dock. We’ve also courageously integrated Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card reader, and an analog audio jack to make the system as versatile as possible, with no dongles required.
Specced to game and priced to move
No one gaming laptop can be all things to all people, but the 7th-gen ROG Strix GL702VS and GL502VS come close. They're powerful without sacrificing portability and include all the little things gamers crave, like anti-ghosting keyboards and bundled XSplit streaming software. Serious gamers who are constantly on the move should have these machines at the top of their list.
For more details, head to the full product pages for the new GL502VS and GL702VS. Check with your local ASUS representative for information on the configurations available in your region.