Asus ROG GL552VW DH71 Review
The Asus GL552VW performs well, runs cool and quiet in pretty much every situation, and the IPS screen is a pleasure to look at. On the other hand, the build-quality is only average, and the keyboard and trackpad could use a breath of fresh air. Asus compensates that with some solid prices, that’s why the GL552VW is one of the most popular 15-inch multimedia notebooks available these days.
Before we start our analysis though, you must know that Asus offers the GL552VW in two versions, one with a plastic lid-cover, the one we tested here, and another with an aluminum hood. That’s important, because the entire screen ensemble is flexible and weak on this plastic version, so make sure you get a version with the metallic lid, which is sturdier and better built.
Summary of Key Specifications:
- CPU: Intel® Core™ i7 6700HQ Processor
- GPU: Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 530
- Chipset: Intel® HM170 Chipset
- RAM: 32 GB SDRAM
- Storage: 1TB HDD 5400 RPM
- Display: 15.6” 16:9 HD (1366×768) / Full HD (1920×1080) / IPS FHD (1920×1080) anti-glare
- Dimensions: 384.5 x 256.9 x 32.75 ~34.75 mm (WxDxH)
- Weight: 5.6 lbs
- OS: Windows 10 Home
- Webcam: VGA/HDWebcam
- Wifi: Dual-band 802.11 b/g/n or 802.11 ac (WiDi)
- Bluetooth: Built-in Bluetooth™ V4.0
- Audio: Built-in Speakers And Microphone
- Battery: 4Cells 3200 mAh 48 Whrs
- Ports: Microphone-in/Headphone-out jack, USB 2.0 ports, HDMI
Build and Design:
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.
Keyboard and Trackpad:
Overall Score: 8/10
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.
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.
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.
Overall Score: 8/10
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, 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. 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.
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.
Overall Score: 8/10
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.
I appreciate how little bloatware is on the GL552VW. The few pre-installed Asus apps include Armoury Crate, a one-stop shop for monitoring system performance, customizing keyboard lighting, and freeing up system processes. The app’s interface is clean and easy to use, but some tabs are slow to load and certain customization options are basic.
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.
We should also tell you a few things about the speakers, but we 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.
GL552’s large 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display has a matte-black finish that eliminates glare for stunning visuals without distraction. And with wide 178-degree viewing angles, you’ll enjoy full vivid-color glory from even the most extreme positions.
The engine powering the ROG GL552 is an Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 530 GPU. The machine easily handled Shadow of War at 1080p on very high graphics settings, maintaining between 35 frames-per-second and 55 fps as Lara Croft snuck up on an armed enemy and plunged a pickaxe into his back.
That Intel® HD Graphics 530 GPU seems to be better optimized for some games because the ROG GL552 did a much better job on our Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, running the game at a swift 66 fps. That tops the category average (55 fps) and the GU501 (48 fps), matches the G7 15, and comes very close to the Legion Y740 (67 fps).
The new GL552 features the latest USB 3.1 Type-C port for more convenient connectivity options. The reversible Type-C port ensures a proper connection every time, right-side up, or upside down.
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.
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%).
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.
Author’s Personal Verdict:
The ROG GL552VW is a great laptop, but some of its potential feels wasted. Yes, the GL552VW has a svelte design, a vivid display and a comfortable keyboard for gaming or writing reports. But the laptop’s slim chassis is marred by insufficient cooling and surfaces that trap dirt, and the matte screen could be brighter.