If you have a little over $1000 and want to buy a full-size all-round laptop, a machine that can handle everyday multitasking, multimedia content and gaming at ease, the Asus ROG GL552VW is one of the options to consider.
Asus have a long history in this segment with their N-series and later on the G-series notebooks. The GL552VW is one of their latest launches at the time of this article, bundling a matte IPS display, a Skylake quad-core processor, dual-storage options and Nvidia GTX 960M graphics. So at least on paper, it looks like a great buy, but in keep in mind this is a rather chunky and heavy machine, thus not an ultraportable.
Asus sent in a pre-production sample for us to have a look at, and after spending many hours with it in the last week, I’m left with mixed feelings. You’ll see exactly why in the following paragraphs. Or if you want the quicker version, from the included video review.
Before we start our analysis though, you must know that Asus plans to offer the GL552VW in two versions, one with a plastic lid-cover, the one we tested here, and another with a more premium aluminum hood. That’s important, because the entire screen ensemble is flexible and weak on this plastic version, so if the metallic option is available in your region, that’s clearly the one too get.
Now, I can’t tell for sure how much of a difference a thin sheet of aluminum will make, but I at least hope it’s better built. And when you buy an all-round computer and plan to keep it for a few years, reliability and build quality should be important criteria on your list.
Update: Follow this link for updated info on the available configurations and the latest prices of the Asus ROG GL552VW at the time you’re reading this post.
Update2: The metallic version of the Asus GL552VW is actually a big step forward in terms of build quality over the plastic covered variants, and most configurations actually come in this package these days. That’s why I’ve updated the review’s score from 3.5 to 4/5 and I do think now this laptop can be a good buy, if found for the right price.
The video review
The specs sheet
|Asus ROG GL552VW
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, matte, IPS, non-touch|
|Processor||Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ CPU, quad-core 2.6 GHz (3.5 GHz TBoost)|
|Video||Integrated Intel HD 530 + Nvidia GTX 960M 2GB|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 2133Mhz (2xDIMMs)|
|Storage||128 GB M.2 SSD (Samsung MZNLF128HCHP) + 1 TB 2.5″ HDD (Hitachi HTS5410)|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC Intel 7265 , Gigabit Lan, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Ports||4x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1, HDMI, mic, earphone, SD card reader, LAN|
|Baterry||48 Wh (external – not encased)|
|Operating system||Windows 10|
|Size||384 x 257 x 34.7 mm (15.1” x 10.1” x 1.36”)|
|Weight||2.57 kg or 5.66 lb|
|Extras||backlit keyboard with macro keys, webcam, optical drive|
Design and exterior
First of all, you should know the GL552 is not a very portable or thin 15-incher, as it weighs about 2.57 kilos, or 5.7 pounds, and is about 34 mm thick, but at least it’s fairly compact and especially shorter than most other notebooks in its class, as you can tell from the narrow bezel around the screen.
The main competitors are a bit lighter (within 0.5 lbs) and some of them way thinner, and the list of competitors includes devices like the Lenovo Y50, the MSI GE62 Apache or the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black-Edition, with similar specs and price tags.
Plastic is used for the entire case of our ROG G552VW test unit, with a textured finishing for the lid-cover and a smooth one for the interior. The dimpled outer shell feels rather cheap and that silver shield on the hood is also made from plastic. The soft interior shows smudges and prints extremely easily, especially on the palm-rest are the area around the trackpad. On the other hand, I like how the interior actually looks and feels, with the dark background, the few red accents and the graphic design of the area on top of the keyboard. I also appreciate the subtle ROG logo on the hood, which is backlit, but glows mildly and is not as obvious as on other computers.
The more premium version gets a sheet of brushed aluminum on the hood, with a narrow plastic strip for the antennas, but its shape and interior design is identical to the version tested here.
The laptop’s build quality is decent, with the exception of the screen ensemble. The lid is weak and flexible, as you can see in the video, so don’t put anything heavy on this computer and be extra careful when you carry it around in your backpack. The screen’s hinges are weak as well, so fragile that the display actually wobbles when typing. So if you end up getting one of these computers, make sure you treat it nicely and take special care on how you lift up the screen: always grab it from the middle, never from the corners.
The interior is better crafted, doesn’t squeak or flex much in daily use, but there’s still a slight amount of warping in the keyboard frame, which has an impact on the typing experience.
Now, once we look past the craftsmanship quality and choice in materials, the GL552VW is actually a fairly good laptop. The interior is roomy and houses a full-size chiclet keyboard, the IO on the sides includes 4 USB slots, one of them being an USB TypeC connector, plus full-size HDMI video output, a card-reader, an optical drive and a LAN port, while the matte screen is a pleasure to look at.
Still, I can’t stop thinking that this GL552VW is actually a step backwards from the GL551 and the N551 models in terms of build quality and how the laptop feels in daily use. And that for me is hard to understand, or accept. I mean, how on earth can you take a rather chunky, yet strong body, and turn it into a still chunky, yet weak one?
Asus chose a FullHD IPS panel with a matte finishing for this laptop and I can hardly say anything bad about it. They replaced the Samsung panel used on the G551 with an better LG Philips one, and the numbers below talk for themselves. I’m using a Spyder4 sensor for my measurements and the Spyder4 Elite software package.
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LP156WF6;
- Coverage: 93% sRGB, 69% NTSC, 72% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 282 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 760:1;
- White point: 7100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.37 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 2.65 uncalibrated, 1.07 calibrated .
With a nearly 300-nits brightness and 750:1 contrast ratio, good color coverage and large viewing angles, I’m pretty sure this display going to satisfy most users. You might want to calibrate the screen if you want to use the computer for color-accurate work, as out of the box it has a cold tint.
There is one aspect to keep in mind here, and that’s potential light bleeding. Our test unit came with serious light-bleeding in the upper right corner, and I blame this once again on the poor craftsmanship, as the plastic bezel puts pressure on the panel in that certain point, which causes the bleeding. So make sure you check your unit for any problems when you get it out of the box and send it back if it doesn’t meet your standards. Slight bleeding is acceptable on matte panels, but this kind of bleeding is only visible at high brightness on a dark background, and shouldn’t be visible in everyday use.
Keyboard and trackpad
Back to that keyboard, well, it’s alright, but someone who types thousands of words per day will probably want to look elsewhere.
First of all, it inherits the same layout we’ve seen on Asus’s mainstream 15-inchers for a while, which unfortunately includes a cramped right side, with narrower directional keys and NumPad section. There’s also that Power key in the top-right corner, but I’m not even going to complain about it, since you’ll get used to it after a while.
The keyboard types alright, and I didn’t need much time to get used to it, as it has a short stroke just like most of the ultraportables available these days. However, the keys feel a bit mushy and lack a precise click, which leads to occasional missed strokes if you don’t hit each key vigorously and preferably in its middle, not on the sides.
Last but not least, I’m definitely not a fan of the Black and Red color scheme, which makes the keys undistinguishable in dim rooms, but at least the keyboard is backlit and as long as you keep the illumination active and set on the top intensity, the keys should be visible enough.
As for the trackpad, well, it’s smooth and mostly accurate, but it’s not consistent when it comes to gentle and precise swipes and there’s no way to adjust the sensitivity or the cursor’s speed. It handles taps and gestures well most of the time, but even in their case I did ran into some occasional stuttering when scrolling in Edge or occasional missed taps, especially those gentle ones, so the experience leaves something to be desired.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
But how about performance, as people are going to buy this computer primarily for what it’s capable of?
Asus put a Skylake Core i7-6700HQ processor inside our test unit, paired with 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, Nvidia GTX 960M graphics and hybrid storage, with a M.2 SATA SSD and a 2.5” HDD. The computer runs Windows 10 and the preinstalled software package is frugal, with an Office and McAfee Trial, Dropbox and only a few other programs.
There are two memory DIMMs, both accessible through the service trail on the laptop’s back, hold in place by just two Philips screws. You’ll also find the M.2 slot and the HDD bay in here.
With such a powerful configuration, the laptop feels very snappy in daily use. It easily handles browsing and multimedia content, including 4K or HEVC clips. It can cope well with more demanding software too, like Photoshop or Premiere, and that Nvidia 960M graphics chip can tackle some games, as long as you don’t expect to run the most recent titles with maximum details.
Now, the Core i7-6700HQ processor is not that much faster than the Core i7-4710HQ used on the previous generation G551, as you can tell from this article, but it does provide a slight performance boost, runs more efficient and cooler.
I’ve added a few benchmarks results below, and I’ve also compared them to those recorded on the Asus G551 tested a while ago, with a very similar configuration (Core i7-4710HQ processor, 16 GB of RAM, dual-storage and Nvidia GTX 860M graphics).
|Cinebench R11.5 CPU||7.44 pts||6.94 pts|
|Cinebench R11.5 CPU – single core||1.48 pts||1.40 pts|
|Cinebench R15 CPU||677 cb||638 cb|
|Cinebench R15 CPU – single core||145 cb||135 cb|
|x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 – Pass 1||157.2 fps||145 fps|
|x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 – Pass 2||42.45 fps||38 fps|
|x264 HD Benchmark 5.0.1 – Pass 1||70.95 fps||–|
|x264 HD Benchmark 5.0.1 – Pass 2||15.1 fps||–|
|Cinebench R11.5 GPU||46.09 fps||58.35 fps|
|Cinebench R15 GPU||52.89 fps||97.35 fps|
|3D Mark – Sky Driver
|3D Mark – Fire Strike||3820||3594|
The Cinebench GPU benchmarks are skewed, but all the others show a 5-10% boost for the GL552VW, so not a major increase. However, compared to the GL551JM, the newer laptop does run cooler, as you can see in the pictures below.
I’ve also taken the GL552 through our stress tests. For the first part, I pushed the CPU to its limits with Prime95. For the first 3-4 minutes the processor ran at its maximum 4-Core TurboBoost speed of 3.1 GHz, but once the Cores went past 90 degress Celsius, it started to trickle down a bit, jumping from 2.8 to 3.1 GHz. That’s still over the default frequency, so no throttling here.
Then I pushed both the CPU and the GPU with Prime95 and Furmark and in this case you will notice that while the processor keeps running between 2.8 Ghz and 3.1 GHz, the graphic’s Core frequency quickly drops and stabilizes at 405 MHz. I’d reckon this is a safety measure implemented by Asus here in other to prevent overheating and potential damage and is a limitation imposed by the single-fan cooling solution with linked heat-pipes.
However, there’s no trace of throttling or performance loss in everyday use, when rendering videos in Premiere or when playing games for hours, including demanding titles like FarCray 4 or Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. And this is what actually matters. Keep in mind the Nvidia 960M chip is a mid-level solution, so don’t expect to run smoothly the latest games with maximum settings, but as long as you trim them down to High or even Medium, you should be able to enjoy most titles.
The 1920 x 1080 px native resolution is perfectly suited for the chosen graphics chip and personally I wouldn’t get a 4K panel on such a configuration if I was planning on running a lot of games on it.
|FHD High||FHD Low|
|Shadow of Mordor||29 fps||37 fps|
|FarCry 4||22 fps||30 fps|
|Grid Autosport||44 fps||79 fps|
|Tomb Raider||65 fps||31 fps|
|Bioshock Infinite||41 fps||68 fps|
|Total War: Rome 2||21 fps||79 fps|
|Total War: Attila||11 fps||29 fps|
To wrap this section up, performance wise the GL552VW performs impeccably. It’s also easy to upgrade, which is a welcomed bonus and would allow you to get a lower end configuration and then upgrade the RAM and storage when you get extra funds.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
Now, performance on a modern laptop needs to be properly inter-weaved with thermals and acoustics, and the GL552 scores high in these sections as well.
The hardware is cooled by a single fan, as I mentioned before, which spins quietly in everyday use and only ramps up at high loads. Despite that, both the inner components and the outer case remain cool, with very few areas going past 40 degrees mark, even when running games for a long time, as you can see in the pictures below. The are on top of the keyboard gets hotter than any others, even than the underbelly.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in Edge for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
In other words, you shouldn’t have any problems using this computer on your lap or even when you cover the air intake grills on the bottom (although that’s definitely not recommended), as long as you don’t perform very demanding tasks.
Asus did a great job with the connectivity options on this device, adding a fast wireless chip and a Gigabit LAN solution. I’ve used the GL552VW mostly on wireless and it was able to max-out my connection easily, both when right near the router, but also at 30 feet with 2 walls in between. That means the antennas are really capable on this machine and will allow it to perform well even in those areas with dodgy Wi-Fi signal.
I should also tell you a few things about the speakers, but I actually can’t, as they weren’t working properly on this test unit. Should be decent, since they are placed on top of the keyboard and push the sound towards the user’s ears, although some reviewers complained about the audio quality on the GL552JX model, which probably bundles the exact same speakers. So that’s something to keep in mind.
One final aspect to mention here is the fairly good webcam placed on top of the screen, backed up by an array of dual microphones. It will handle videocalls well and you could even used it for your streams if you want to, but it’s still and embedded webcam, so don’t expect anything spectacular.
There’s only a 48 Wh battery on the Asus GL552VW, which is rather small. However, I’d reckon many of you will be happy to know the battery is actually easily removable, as it’s not encased within the frame. In other words, Asus sacrificed capacity in order to get you a removable battery.
Personally, I would have preferred a larger and encased battery, cause in the end the battery life ends up suffering with this approach, as the laptop can only go for a maximum of 5 hours of light use on a single charge, with the screen brightness set at around 120 nits (40%). More details below.
- 7 W (~7 h of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 10 W (~4 h 40 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12 W (~4 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11 W (~4 h 15 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13 W (~3 h 40 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in VLC Player, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 27 W (~1 h 50 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
Asus bundles the GL552 with a 120W power brick and a full-recharge takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes if you use the computer while it charges, and a little over two hours if not.
Price and availability
The Asus GL552VW is available in stores for $1099 (or around 1000 EUR over here, across the pond) and that kind of money will buy you the version with a metallic lid cover and a Core i7-6700HQ configuration with 16 GB of RAM, a 1 TB HDD and Nvidia 960M graphics.
There’s no SSD included, but that’s actually a good thing if you ask me, as it allows you to buy your own M.2 SSD cheaper or a better one then the Samsung MZNLF128HCHP chip sold by Asus. And then you just have to place it inside and reinstall Windows, which should be a walk in the park.
Now, Asus will release a few other configurations later this year or early into 2016, and those of you that are not comfortable with what I described above will find models with an included SSD, while those on a lower budget will find cheaper versions with a Core i5-6300HQ processor and probably 16 GB of RAM, for under $1000. However, make sure you pick the IPS screen option and not the TN HD or FHD panels that will be bundled with some lower-end models.
Update: Follow this link for updated info on the available configurations and the latest prices at the time you’re reading this post.
As we draw the line on the Asus ROG GL552VW, I can’t really recommend the unit tested here, with the plastic lid cover. And that might sound harsh, but shows how one bad design decision can ruin an otherwise good laptop.
Our test unit performed smoothly, ran cool and quiet, and packed a great screen. The battery life is average, while both the keyboard and the trackpad leave something to be desired. But the weak lid is the major deal-breaker. You might think I’m getting carried away here, but from my experience, those who buy this kind of computers expect to keep them for a long time. And they expect them to work flawlessly during this period, which can’t be the case if the screen breaks, can it?
In conclusion, stay away from the plastic version tested in this post.
The metallic variant on the other hand is much stronger buitl, from the reviews and reports I’ve seen online, so that one gets a rating of 4/5 in our review. It’s not the absolute best pick out there, but for the right price, it can be the one to get.
With that in mind, it’s time to wrap this up. Let me know if you have anything to add to this post or get in touch in the comments if you have any questions, I’m around and will help out if I can.