Gaming is all about the GPU.
W hen it comes to gaming laptops, it’s hard to look past the landslide of releases from MSI and Aorus – it seems that every other month they’ve released the umpteenth version of their most popular models. Yet Asus tends to stick to more productivity and consumer focused laptops, which is why the GL552 sparked our interest. Wearing the prestigious Asus Republic of Gamers brand that we’ve come to associate with premium-priced products, it’s a gaming laptop with a remarkably low price point. Considering the RoG branding, that immediately seems a little weird, but let’s see what’s in store at this price point.
This is a full-sized 15.6-inch gaming laptop, and tips the scales at around 2.5kg according to our scales. The screen is a 1920 x 1080 display, and it’s nicely calibrated out of the box; not too garish, not too subtle. The matt finish is a clever inclusion, showing the designers know what gamers want. Despite being an IPS panel, we didn’t notice any motion blur during our gaming tests, and the viewing angle is as wide as expected. Thanks to the larger size, a full keyboard with numpad is included, and it’s backlit too. It appears to be built primarily from plastic, but there’s absolutely no keyboard flex. The ultra-short travel keys (1.8mm) take a little getting used to, but after a while become second nature, yet the touchpad isn’t up to the same standard. It’s a little inaccurate and sticky, yet most gamers will pack their own mouse anyway, so we can forgive this flaw. As expected, the built-in speakers are exceptionally basic, but again gamers will BYO headphones.
Looking at the exterior of the case reveals a decent range of ports – twin USB 3.0 (one if which is Type-C), one 2.0, HDMI and the usual headphone/LAN. On the subject of the LAN port, Asus includes its own GameFirst III technology which prioritises game packets over video and torrents. Check out our Killer Networking article in this issue to see how well it works. We also love the ability to easily slot in more memory and upgrade the M.2 SSD via an easy access panel. The inclusion of 802.11ac Wi-Fi is also most welcome.
Heading under the hood reveals a relatively solid mix of hardware for this price point. Intel’s I7-6700HQ lies at the heart of the matter, with its Hyper-Threaded quad-cores spinning up to 3.5GHz whilst gaming. 8GB of memory is paired with this, plenty for the Windows 10 operating system, which resides on a 128GB SSD (118GB usable – though only 76GB is free out of the box due to Windows and a myriad of software packages). This is supplemented by another 1TB mechanical hard drive.
So far, so good, but the choice of GPU and dedicated video memory is rather humble. Nvidia’s GTX 960M has been employed with just 2GB of dedicated memory. It’s fine for older games such as Grid Autosport, but throw something modern and demanding like Shadow of Mordor at it, with its huge Ultra textures, and it slows to a groan. Considering it’s possible to buy a similarly specced gaming laptop with a GTX 970M for just $200 more, we wish Asus had of invested just a little more to get the next best GPU. At least CPU performance is excellent, as evidenced by our PCMark 8 Home result.
This is an overall solid contender let down by the choice of GPU. With the latest version of MSI’s GS40 offering nearly identical specs but in a 14” package with a GTX 970M for just $200 more, the GL552 comes off as rather underpowered in the graphics department. And that is arguably the most important department in a gaming laptop.