In the race for the thinnest gaming laptop, we’ve seen plenty of contenders from the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro to the Razer Blade. The promise of a gaming notebook that’s easier to take anywhere is tempting, however, greater portability has also made some of these machines feel underpowered with limited graphics options.
The Asus ROG Strix GL502, on the other hand, strikes the perfect balance between portability and power. This 15.6-inch laptop might be less than an inch thick but it can be fully loaded with serious high-end graphics, including a Nvidia GTX 980M with 8GB of video memory. Beyond parts and measurement, this gaming laptop delivers on all fronts with style, snappy inputs and a colorful screen.
Asus has slowly been edging its way away from the done-to-death black and red color scheme found on most gaming laptops. Instead of crimson highlights, the GL502 has orange trim accenting its black paint job. It’s not a grand departure like the titanium and copper design found on the Asus ROG GX700 and ROG G752, but it’s a start.
Though, we almost wish Asus would have stuck to the purely black and red motif, as the keyboard backlighting is still red.
Aside from the new paint job, Asus has seriously upped the profile of this machine with a new look that’s in line with the rest of its ROG series. Whereas the Asus ROG G501 closely copied the MacBook Pro look, the GL502 stands on its own with an attractive and aggressive design.
Brushed aluminum screen lids are fairly common on gaming laptops, and so, you’ll also find one on this Strix machine. But, the GL502 also features an extra flat edge stamped with the Republic of Gamers tagline.
The rest of the chassis is made out of plastic, which might seem disappointing at first, but it feels solid as any full-metal gaming laptop. What’s more, Asus has given the keyboard deck a similar brushed finish to its top lid, while the underside carries a mechanical design etched into the panel.
There’s a load of branding here, between the Strix logo cut into the keyboard deck and Republic of Gamers featured prominently on the top and bottom of the laptop, but you can’t deny that there isn’t a single boring side to this 15-inch beauty.
Beyond looks, the Strix’s largely plastic exterior also helps keep weight down to a mere 4.4-pounds (2kg). To put that in perspective, Dell’s super slimmed down XPS 15 weighs the same amount with lower-spec parts and a more comparable Gigabyte P35X v5 weighs in at 5.29-pounds (2.4kg).
That said, the GL502 can’t quite match up with lightweight systems like the 4.25-pound (1.93kg) Razer Blade and the 4.2-pound (1.91kg) MSI GS60 Ghost Pro. It’s also isn’t the world’s thinnest gaming laptop measuring in at 15.35 x 10.47 x 0.92 inches (38.99 x 26.59 x 2.34 cm; W x D x H), but this is largely to make room for a much more efficient cooling system.
Beware of blast
Ultra-thin gaming laptops haven’t been the coolest of customers. More often than not, they either get excruciatingly hot, moo like a cow with loud fans or end up throttling components to stop the whole machine from melting itself down. Asus is the first company to make sure its svelte gaming machine is adequately cooled without any of those downsides.
On the rear edge of the GL502, you’ll find two thick heatsinks, and they’re not just painted orange for show. This large exhaust system pushes out a constant stream of air hot enough it could double as a space heater. Internally the laptop features Asus’ new ‘dual thermal design,’ which runs two separate lines of copper heat pipes and fans to cool the CPU and GPU individually.
Thanks to this efficient cooling system, the GL502 never really gets toasty on your lap, and the fan noise doesn’t get too rowdy either. Heck, you might even find a use for all the hot air coming out the back to keep your coffee hot.