The last couple of weeks I had the pleasure of spending time with a type of device I haven’t spent time with so far as part of our reporting and testing here at TheWinDuck. With the Asus ROG GL553VD we finally had a gaming notebook in front of us for in-depth testing purposes. While I’m far from being the most serious PC gamer out there, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the 15.6″ powerhouse and I appreciated its advantages and features as a gaming notebook but also as a device which offers much more screen real estate as my daily driver, the Surface Pro 4, does. In this full written review I’d like to share with you my experiences with the GL553VD as well as presenting you my findings based on detailed testing.
About this review
We’ve been provided with a review unit of the ROG GL553VD for a time period of about four weeks by Asus Switzerland. Thanks again to Asus for this opportunity!
Specifications and Features
We’ve tested the Asus ROG GL553VD in the following configuration:
- 15.6″ LED backlit FHD (1920 x 1080) display
- Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM
- 16 GB of DDR4 RAM
- 1 TB 7200RPM HDD and 256 GB SATA3 SSD
- Windows 10 Home (Build 14393.1358)
The device features the following ports and drives:
- Optical Super-Multi DVD drive
- 1 x USB 3.1 (Type-C), 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
- 1 x RJ45 LAN
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x 3.5 mm headphone jack
Dimensions and weight:
- 383 x 255 x 30 mm (WxDxH)
- 2.5 kg
As you might expect, the device doesn’t support touch or pen input and sadly there is no fingerprint reader or face recognition camera for Windows Hello support.
Design and Build Quality
As is pretty much standard for gaming notebooks, the Asus ROG GL553VD does set itself apart from ‘standard’ notebooks not only in terms of size and power but also in terms of design. Luckily though, Asus opted for a more modest design language with the whole device being black when closed apart from some elements which are colored in an attractive orange. Probably most noticeable is the Republic Of Gamers (ROG) logo on the lid of the device which is accompanied by two orange lines (see image above). And I’ve got to admit that this actually looks pretty cool! In addition, all the standard size USB ports feature an orange design element as well as the venting and speaker grills. Last but not least, the rubbered pedestals set themselves apart from the black design as well with their orange coloring. When opening the lid, you’re going to find the touchpad being framed by an orange border as well as an other ROG logo on the right side below the numpad. So in terms of color appearance I think Asus did a great job in making the GL553VD look both interesting and attractive thanks to some orange design elements while still keeping things on the modest side. While I still prefer the looks of say a Surface Book or a Dell XPS 15, I quite like the GL553VD’s design for gaming notebook standards.
Apart from the coloring, the device does pretty much look like a standard notebook although you can tell by the overall edgy design that this is indeed a gaming notebook. This does – in my opinion – add a nice touch to the overall design and I do quite like it as Asus once again seems to have found the perfect balance. Speaking of (sharp) edges: One of the few bigger complaints I have about the GL553VD is that the keyboard base has quite sharp edges where you put your arms on which after some time can get quite uncomfortable and annoying. I noticed this the most when writing the 2800+ words of this review.
In order to keep the weight at an acceptable level, Asus had to use plastic for the majority of the device’s chassis which of course does reduce the premium feeling of such a device quite a bit as there is just no other way of describing the hard plastic than that it feels – and sometimes also looks – cheap. Especially the bottom of the device does feel and look extremely cheap though this isn’t that much of a bummer as you don’t really take a look at it directly that often. On the other hand, the lid with the ROG branding is covered with premium-feeling metal (you can tell the difference just by touching the surface) which does look and feel very attractive indeed. Given that this is one of the parts you see and touch the most I do believe that this was a smart move from Asus.
The 15.6″ display of the Asus ROG GL553VD supports a resolution of up to 1920 x 1080 pixels which results in a pixel density of about 141 ppi. Following you’ll find my impressions about the display categorized into different aspects.
With its 15.6″ display, the ROG GL553VD is a fairly big device in today’s world where computer makers tend to favor the 12″-14″ spot aiming at increasing the portability of their notebook offerings. But when taking a look at the gaming notebook market only, the device hits just about the sweet spot in my opinion as it offers more real estate than most of the mobile notebooks out there, but comes in at a size which still can be referred to as being ‘portable’ while I personally definitely would not want to carry around any of those 17.3″ or even 18.4″ notebooks.
Personally, as someone who is more part of that mobile notebook market with the Surface Pro 4, I very much appreciated having the chance to finally use a noticeably bigger device for some time again. This clearly helped me to rerecognize some of the advantages of bigger screens, although I’ve got to admit I only used the GL553VD at home as a stationary device and thus did not really take full advantage of having a portable gaming machine.
While 1080p might look outdated to some, Asus made the right decision by neglecting 4K in the case of the GL553VD. There are several reasons for this: First and foremost, the Nvidia GTX 1050 is just fine for intensive gaming in 1080p but struggles at 4K. Secondly, there is still the problem that some desktop programs don’t scale properly on screens with a higher resolution than Full HD. And last but not least 1080p is just good enough. And that’s also my comment for the resolution: Good enough for daily use and for gaming purposes the perfect choice for the given hardware!
During the review period I almost exclusively used the device with the brightness set to 25% which is enough for indoor usage in most cases. But if you need a brighter screen, you can of course easily increase it and you should get enough brightness for almost all use case scenarios. Sadly, the GL553VD doesn’t have an ambient light sensor for automatic brightness adaption. I don’t expect many will use this device in direct sunlight but if you want to you should be pleased to hear that Asus opted for a non-glare, anti-reflective display.
In terms of colors, the device’s screen (due to being a non-glossy one) doesn’t display colors very vibrantly but still they look quite attractive indeed. Blacks look great too while I’d wish for the whites to be a slightly less greyish.
In terms of viewing angles I have no complaints at all! Colors look stable from almost every possible angle one might look at the screen.
The keyboard with a key travel of 2.5mm is just one of the many aspects which demonstrates that this notebook is mainly dedicated to mobile PC gamers: Not only are the WASD keys specifically highlighted but it also features a bigger space bar as well as isolated arrow keys. In addition to that, the keyboard supports anti ghosting technology and a 30-key rollover meaning that you can press as many as 30 keys simultaneously and they all will be recognized correctly. Moreover, the keyboard features – as one would expect – a dedicated numpad on the right side.
Furthermore the keyboard has – what I personally consider to be more of a gimmick (although a really cool one I have to admit) than a vital feature – 4-area RGB (the keyboard is divided into four different areas which all can be illuminated separately) lighting which can be modified with Asus own Aura Core software where you can store up to three different layout preferences. There you can either adapt the lighting of the keyboard for the whole unit as one or for all four areas independently. Options include the personal choice of a specific color, choosing your favorite effect (static, pulsating or color change) and setting the appropriate brightness. The software is very easy to handle and the illuminated keyboard looks very cool indeed!
As far as typing is concerned, I didn’t encounter any problems at all as I got used to the size and the layout of the keyboard extraordinarily quickly. In fact, I’ve written this review in all its completeness on the Asus ROG GL553VD itself.
The GL553VD is equipped with a fairly big touchpad with a size of 10.5 x 7.4 cm and two integrated clickable mouse buttons. The touchpad’s smooth surface allows for easy and comfortable operation, while the mouse buttons are easily clickable and function properly. While they are a bit on the louder side, they’re definitely not too noticeable (especially given that the fan is hearable almost all the time – in particular under load). As it is Precision Touchpad it supports all the great Windows 10 mouse gestures with up to four fingers.
While I expect most passionate gamers to plug in a serious gaming mouse most of the time, it’s still great to know that you’ve got a fairly good trackpad at your disposal should you need one. Personally, as someone who hardly ever uses a dedicated mouse and quite enjoys using integrated touchpads – provided they are comfortable and precise – I definitely appreciated having a Precision Touchpad on this Asus gaming notebook. No complaints at all in this regard!
The speakers on the GL553VD are located on the front of the device in the keyboard base part and thus they are both facing the user directly while also using the surface on which the notebook is standing on (e.g. your table) as resonate area in order to amplify the already loud sound output even further. In terms of sound quality I was quite impressed with the set of stereo speakers which definitely offer a great immersive sound experience for games and also sound pretty good when watching YouTube videos or movies.
The HD camera on the front is good enough for video conference and the likes although quality in general is quite disappointing.
Equipped with an Intel Core i7 from the latest Kaby Lake generation (i7-7700HQ), 16 GB of DDR4 RAM and a mid-range Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM, the Asus ROG GL553VD undoubtedly is a powerhouse of a laptop – of course one would have expected this given the targeted audience.
Be it editing a word document, writing an e-mail or browsing the web – the GL553VD handles everything with ease and outstanding performance. You definitely won’t have to worry at all that you’ll get into performance issues regarding daily tasks – after all this is a gaming notebook.
As mentioned in the introduction, I’m definitely not an intensive PC gamer (I just don’t own the right hardware personally and quite frankly don’t have the time for it) – which of course doesn’t mean there aren’t any games I enjoy to play so I thoroughly relished the time I’ve spent with the ROG GL553VD and loaded up some games which I know and love from let’s plays.
- Forza Motorsport 6: Apex
Probably the first game I downloaded and installed on the device was Forza Motorsport 6 Apex as the Xbox counterpart is by far my favorite game on my Xbox One S. Sadly though, I wasn’t able to get pass the start screen (press “A” to log in) due to some Xbox account log-in issues.
- RaceRoom Racing Experience
So I decided to install another racing game I’ve been eager to try out for a long time: RaceRoom Racing Experience. As expected, the game ran absolutely fluently without any lags whatsoever at 1080p with medium to high settings – the experience was just absolutely phenomenal!
- American Truck Simulator (Demo)
Next up was the American Truck Simulator – at least the demo (as I did not want to buy a game I would not be able to play again once the review unit had to be sent back). Just as RaceRoom the game ran just fine at 1080p with a mix of medium and high settings – when setting everything to high or even to ultra, things started to get a bit rough and frame rates dropped significantly. Nevertheless, graphics looked just fine and the experience was great too!
- Bus Simulator 2012 (Demo)
Last but not least I also loaded up TML’s Bus Simulator 2012 which ran smoothly at 1080p and high settings.
So all in all, the Asus ROG GL553VD with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 has enough power in store for all the games mentioned above at 1080p with medium to high settings and should – based on others’ findings in benchmarking the GTX 1050 with games – also run newer games at 1080p just fine although users might have to adjust specific settings in some cases to get better frame rates. I’ve I were in the market for a gaming notebook right now, I’d definitely consider the GL553VD as I don’t really need the power of a GTX 1080 and notebooks with a GTX1050 seem to offer enough performance for pretty much every game at 1080p and are much more affordable in prize.
When purchasing a GL553VD you should definitely be ok with hearing some fan noise pretty much constantly. While the fan doesn’t really work at an extreme sound level when doing some light tasks such as web browsing and writing mails, it still is noticeably hearable (especially for someone with the trained ears of a Surface Pro 4 user who is used to complete silence pretty much all the time) although not too annoying. Under heavy load (such as gaming or Windows Update service running) the fan noise does increase substantially which can be annoying sometimes although it didn’t really bother me when running a game as the game sounds easily drown the fan noise.
While charging the device always takes about 2.5 hour (50 % after one hour), the length of the battery life on this device depends more than ever on the kind of tasks you’re executing. Under full load (e.g. playing intensive games) you might see a runtime of just about one hour (or even less), while you might reach those 5 hours+ indicated by the Windows 10 battery icon when watching videos and having the screen brightness reduced quite a bit. So even though the ROG GL533VD has a lot of power in store for a portable gaming device, this on the go experience gets somewhat limited by the mediocre battery life. Because at the end of the day you’ll probably find yourself carrying around the power brick in addition to the 2.5 kg notebook in order to be on the safe side.
The device does of course come with Windows 10 Home (in our case Build 14393.1358) pre-installed out of the box. Sadly, this also means that you’ll find tons of bloatware pre-installed by Asus: While there are definitely some useful and nice programs included (such as the keyboard software Aura Core mentioned above), I’d just wish Asus (and others) would stop pre-installing rubbish software such as McAffee. Apart from the Xbox-related sign in issues described above, I did not encounter any problems with Windows 10 running on the Asus ROG GL553VD.
At the end of the day, I really don’t have a lot to criticize at all: The Asus ROG GL553VD features an attractive and catching but nevertheless modest design, uses a lot of plastic for weight reduction while having a premium-feeling metal lid, has a great anti-reflective 15.6″ display with absolutely sufficient 1080p resolution, incorporates two great speakers which face the user directly, has a more than decent keyboard optimized for gaming purposes which is accompanied by a Precision Touchpad, offers outstanding system performance while the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 is good for 1080p gaming at medium to high graphics settings and runs the best Windows ever built.
Some minor complaints can be expressed about the predominance of plastic in the chassis construction, the sharp edges of the keyboard base and the more or less constant fan noise.
But all in all, the Asus ROG GL553VD is definitely a compelling option if you’re in the market for mid-prized gaming notebook with a lot of power whilst still being portable.