From the exterior, and the price point, this looks like a rather standard productivity focused 15.6-inch based laptop. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Asus has endowed this with some gaming prowess, despite it looking or costing nothing like your normal gaming laptop. If you just want a super-portable mobile laptop or convertible, this is not for you – but if you want something that is happy to run Excel during the day and Overwatch at night, it’s actually a rather interesting proposition.
From the exterior, this looks like a relatively mid-range office productivity laptop. There are a few orange highlights that suggest it’s a bit more than that, but overall it doesn’t scream ‘Gamer-machine’ during your weekly meeting with the boss. That price might give it away a little though; if there wasn’t some kind of discrete gaming GPU within, you could easily pick up a competing model for $500 less. From what we can tell – and it’s getting harder and harder to tell every day due to various coatings – the entire chassis is made from a plastic exterior. Weighing in at 2.5kg with battery in place, it’s also rather heavy compared to the ultra-light weights we’ve seen in this form factor of late.
The consolation for this is some rather beefy hardware within. The 15.6-inch IPS screen is a basic 1920 x 1080 model, and we really do mean average. Compared to other laptops in this price range, the colour quality and clarity of the screen is rather lacking. However, the darling of the laptop world is powering this machine, Intel’s 7th Generation Core i7-7700HQ CPU. With quad HyperThreaded cores that boost up to 3.8GHz, this machine has CPU cycles in spades. It’ll cut through anything you throw at it without a problem, a fact helped by the chunky 16GB of DDR4 memory feeding it data at high speed.
Unfortunately the main OS SSD is rather lacking. At just 128GB, with only 118GB of that usable, you’ll be filling this M.2 SSD quicker than you can click on installing the Adobe suite installation button. We had to mount most of our benchmarks on the secondary drive, a 1TB mechanical drive, as it kept spitting up an error that there just wasn’t enough space, despite there being a healthy 75GB of free space on the main SSD; we’re guessing a BIOS update will fix this bug in the future.
Making this a somewhat decent gaming machine is the inclusion of Nvidia’s entry-level GeForce GTX 1050 GPU. As our benchmarks show, it’s doesn’t really have the chops to play today’s latest games at Ultra detail, though it’s fine If you’re more of a casual gamer. Still, at this price it seems a little underpowered; a GeForce GTX 1060 would have delivered massively improved performance. At least it’s not too noisy, hitting the 50dB fan noise that seems to be the basis for all of the new Nvidia mobile GPUs. Unfortunately battery life was pretty abysmal, hitting just 129 minutes in our PCMark 8 Home Accelerated battery test. If you’re expecting full-day performance from this machine, we’d suggest that you’re going to be disappointed.
As far as other features go, things are pretty much par for the course. The inclusion of a Blu-ray drive is interesting, but comes at the cost of USB connectivity. There are just two USB 3.0 and a single USB 2.0 Type A connection, along with a single USB 3.1 Type C connection. There’s also HDMI out and an Ethernet in, but that’s about it.
Asus has tried to deliver a rather unique machine; with a business form factor but the inclusion of a GeForce GTX 1050 to give it a little gaming grunt. However, for the price we think you’re better off with something like an Alienware with external GPU accelerator, which will deliver a much more portable office machine, with real gaming performance when you get home.