Tech review: Asus ROG Zephyrus S (GX502) a portable and capable gaming laptop

The laptop weighs around 2kg, which is relatively lightweight for a 15-inch gaming model.
The laptop weighs around 2kg, which is relatively lightweight for a 15-inch gaming model.PHOTO: ASUS

Asus' new ROG Zephyrus S (GX502) gaming laptop tries to strike a balance between work and play with a more conventional design than previous models in the series.

For starters, the keyboard and touchpad are where you expect them to be. This is not the case for its 17.3-inch sibling, the ROG Zephyrus S GX701, which has its keyboard right up to the front edge.

It also means that the GX502 can be used comfortably on the lap, since you do not need to perch it on your knees to type on it like the GX701. Its lap-friendliness is also helped by the fact that the heat emitted by the notebook is tolerable when not running a graphically-intensive game or app.

The laptop weighs around 2kg, which is relatively lightweight for a 15-inch gaming model. It can also be charged by power banks that support the USB-C Power Delivery standard, via its single USB-C port, which lends credibility to its use as a portable work laptop.

Its magnesium-aluminium alloy chassis feels fairly rigid at the palm rest area because of a honeycomb internal structure. The palm rest itself is covered by a soft-touch layer that feels a bit like sandpaper. More importantly, it does not stain easily from perspiration and grease.

The same sandpaper-like feel is present on the keycaps, which are lit up individually by customisable LEDs. The keyboard is shallow, but a light tap suffices to register a keystroke.

Asus has reined in the flashy gaming aesthetics for the GX502. The lid has a brushed metallic finish without the usual gaming laptop flourishes, though the red-backlit Asus ROG logo is a dead giveaway to other gamers. It also has fewer decorative LED lights than the average gaming laptop, which means the GX502 can almost pass off as an office workstation computer.

  • FOR

    Sturdy yet lightweight design

    Can be charged by USB-C power banks

    Soft-touch palm rest resistant against stains

    AGAINST

    Noisy while running games

    Separate Web camera module

    SPECS

    Price: $3,998

    Processor: Intel Core i7-9750H (2.6GHz)

    Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 8GB GDDR6

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    Screen size: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    Connectivity: USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, HDMI, Ethernet port, audio jacks

    Battery: 76 watt-hour

    RATING

    Features: 4/5

    Design: 4/5

    Performance: 5/5

    Value for money: 3.5/5

    Battery life: 2/5

    Overall: 4/5

However, this facade is instantly ripped away when you start up a game because the fans, especially when it is running in Turbo mode for maximum performance, are very loud.

Asus has retained the hinged ventilation system of the previous models. A flap at the back of the GX502 opens up to allow more cool air to enter. It is a good idea, but the flap seems like a potential faultline to me.

Like many laptops nowadays, the GX502 sports skinny bezels on three sides of its matte display. To achieve this near-bezel-less look, the Web camera has been removed, though Asus bundles an external camera as an alternative.

The screen has a refresh rate of 144Hz, which is desirable for smooth and responsive gameplay. On top of that, it supports Nvidia's G-Sync technology that can align a game's frame rates with the display's refresh rate to reduce tearing and stuttering.

It comes with the latest Intel Core i7-9750H processor while its Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics chip is a tier below the flagship RTX 2080 unit found in the GX701. In the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark, the GX502 managed 7,354, which is slightly lower than the 7,837 scored by the GX701.

The RTX 2080 graphics chip of the GX701 gave it a clear lead over the GX502 in Doom and Crysis 3 gaming tests. The GX502 produced an average of 109 frames per second (fps) in Crysis 3, compared to 128fps for the GX701. In Doom, it was 79fps versus 128fps.

In other words, the GX502 is not as fast as its bigger brother. But it is still fast enough for most gamers and more importantly, it is more portable and less expensive.