ASUS ROG GA502 Review: for the AMD lovers

Rating: 7/10

Yay:

  • Premium looks and design
  • 120Hz display is crisp and smooth
  • Good for gaming and performance tasks
  • Breathtaking audio output

Nay:

  • Thermal performance is pretty average
  • Keyboard and touchpad are mediocre
  • Better options available at the same price

Introduction

Over the years, AMD has been giving tough competition to Intel with its Ryzen series. This year, with the Ryzen 3rd gen, they’ve launched processors that really give Intel a run for its money. They offer similar performance at a comparatively cheaper price tag. Pair that with the newly launched 16-series Nvidia GPUs and you have a winner on your hands. At least on paper. However, does this unique combination of AMD and Nvidia actually manage to impress us? Let’s find out, in our full review of the ASUS ROG GA502 gaming laptop.

Design and Build Quality

This year’s ROG lineup has become pretty much streamlined. There isn’t a lot differentiating between the ROG GA502 and the Strix Scar III I recently reviewed. Whether that is a good thing or bad solely depends upon your taste. For me, the design of the GA502 is rather appealing. The blockish design is perfectly linear on all sides, making it look symmetrical and also aesthetically pleasing. Weighing in at 2.1kg, it definitely isn’t the heaviest laptops out there. In fact, its design does make it look rather slimmer, which has kind of been the whole idea with the ASUS Zephyrus lineup. How it impacts the thermal performance is something I will talk about later in this review, but for now, the design at least looks good.

Much like the Scar III, one complaint that I have with the device is the lack of a webcam. Considering the price you pay for the system, I really can’t understand why ASUS couldn’t have just bundled a USB webcam with this? Also, talking about things missing from the device, this is a gaming laptop. As such, having zero RGB does raise some flags. To some, that may not be a big deal, but at a price tag of 1 lakh, the least you could have done is install some colored LED lights instead of the plain white ones. That said, the white light coupled with a blockish design does allow the laptop to double up as a work laptop, much like the newer Razer Blade laptops. So if that appeals you, the ROG GA502 might be right up your alley.

While we are on the topic of lights, it is worth pointing out that the ROG logo on the backside does indeed light up. However, I doubt if that’d fill the void in your heart left by the lack of RGB under the keyboard. Apart from the looks, the material used here feels premium, but I doubt its integrity. There is a significant amount of flex in the laptop’s body as well as the display. I will give credit to ASUS for the texture on the laptop which makes it feel premium. That said, based on my time with the laptop, I will have to recommend you to use this laptop with care.

Ports and Connectivity

The connectivity options on the ASUS ROG GA502 are pretty galore. Most of the action is happening on the left side. Here, you get the AC adapter, Ethernet port, an HDMI port, a USB 3.1 Gen. 1 Type-A, a USB 3.1 Gen. 2 Type-C, and 3.5mm headphone jack.

Over to the right side, you get two additional USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, and a Kensington Lock.

The only things missing from this laptop are a Thunderbolt 3 port and an SD Card slot. While I won’t make a fuss about the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port, I do wish there was an SD card slot on the right side. They could have easily accommodated one, and would really help the device be useful for content creators who wish to make use of AMD’s core prowess. 

Display

The ASUS ROG GA502 comes with a 120Hz Full HD display. Interestingly, the display here is somewhat better than what I’ve used on other ASUS laptops. This is because the other refresh rate option is 60Hz and not the 48Hz that most cheaper panels make use of. Speaking about the panel itself, my initial impression was that it isn’t as bright. Indoor gaming shouldn’t be an issue, but this laptop cannot really be used under direct sunlight. That said, the panel is actually pretty good for its purpose. In my testing, I observed no uneven backlighting, which is something I’ve previously faced on some even flagship gaming laptops.

The display itself is placed between a bezel-less frame, that allows for 81% screen-to-body ratio. This really helps the overall experience seem rather immersive. The color reproduction, though, is something that leaves a lot to complain for. At a rating of ~60%, the ROG GA502 doesn’t offer really good colors. Yes, you do get the ASUS Game Visual that allows you to tune and set different profiles for the display, but it can only do so much. To be fair though, the graphics card doesn’t support Ray Tracing anyway, and for most games, the panel should work just fine. However, if you intend to use the laptop for content creation work, either look somewhere else or be ready to shell out more bucks for an external monitor.

Keyboard

ASUS has really come a long way in their keyboard market, and in my opinion, they fall just short of Lenovo’s ThinkPad lineup. However, the keyboard on the ROG isn’t as good as you would have liked it to be. In all honesty, the keyboard is pretty damn good for gamers. However, if you like to use the keyboard for normally work as well, be prepared for a drop in your typing speed.

I usually average at 68 words per minute on LiveChat’s typing test, but on the ROG GA502, my speed dropped down to 53 wpm, which is really harsh. The key travel is shallow, and click feedback is just emulated to make gamers feel good. In reality, when you use it for a long duration, the keyboard starts to show how the switches aren’t that good.

Touchpad

In terms of the touchpad, I already had my expectations set quite low. Over the years, I’ve come to accept that gaming laptops cannot feature good touchpads. The ROG GA502 did little to change that mindset of mine. The touchpad you get here is a pretty basic touchpad, something you’d expect to get in 2019. It comes equipped with Windows Precision Drivers, so all your gestures work right out of the box. I admire the fact that is a little tall, but other than that, there isn’t much to praise about.

The surface isn’t smooth, and in signature ASUS fashion, you can experience cursor jumps here and there. You can also feel a significant amount of recession. Also, unlike most gaming laptops out there, there are no physical left and right clicks. Instead, you get a rather force touchpad that isn’t half as good as it sounds. Add to that the fact that the surface would do little to help the laptop from looking old in just a couple of months is something worth mentioning. All in all, the touchpad is right about what you’d expect from a mid-range budget gaming laptop.

Audio

The audio on the ROG GA502 is something that really stunned me. Despite having bottom-firing speakers, the output on this device was actually quite loud. What’s more, is that they are darn too bass-heavy. As a result, if you’re playing shooters such as PUBG or Rainbow Six and you don’t have your headphones on, the heavy bass on the speakers can actually assist you in finding the position of your enemies. That is actually a pretty neat feature to have.

And if you don’t like that, you also get access to the ASUS Sonic Studio III. This is the company’s own software that allows you to modify and fine-tune the audio settings as per your preferences. You can use it to set custom profiles, get a vocal boost, and more. All things considered, there hardly is anything wrong in the audio department of this laptop.

Performance

The ASUS ROG GA502 comes outfitted with an AMD Ryzen 7 3750H processor coupled with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. As for graphics, you get the Nvidia 1660 Ti GPU with 6GB of VRAM. On paper, this sounds like a great mid-range gaming laptop. Thankfully, it performs mostly like that. Except for a few shortcomings. You see, one thing to remember is that the 1660 Ti here is a Max-Q variant. Not only will it perform slower than the 1660 Ti PC variant, but it will also be a tad bit slower than the 1660 Ti standard notebook edition.

For most games, you can use the card to play at Medium/High settings while still around the 60fps mark. However, when you move on to AAA titles, especially the likes of Metro Exodus or Final Fantasy XV, I’d recommend turning things down a bit to get respectable framerates. Despite having a 120Hz display, the only games that’d allow you to make full use of the display would mostly be eSports titles like Rocket League or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Thermals

Being a gaming laptop and also packing such beefy hardware, a dual fan setup is a must. While the ASUS ROG GA502 does come equipped with one, it does not account for the slim factor of the Zephyrus lineup. In most cases, the fans switch to the Turbo mode, breaking the noise barrier. In my normal testing, the temperatures soared as high as 88-degrees within just an hour of PUBG. That said, the laptop, at least on the surface, never felt super hot or unusable, which is a plus.

In the long scheme of things, I’d still recommend getting a cooling pad for those extended gaming sessions. The thermals aren’t bad, but with the CPU and the GPU both sharing the same heat pipes, it would be better to add something on your end to help the system cool a bit.

Battery Life

To be fair, I usually don’t care about the battery life on gaming laptops. However, as highlighted above, the GA502 has a design that does allow it to be used as a work laptop. Which is why my testing was mostly done around that use case. In a standard workload of word processing, web browsing, running Spotify in the background and such, the device lasted a little over 4 hours, which is pretty decent. The 76Whr battery can be used to play games like Apex Legends on the side too, but after playing a match in which my frames couldn’t exceed the 40fps mark due to power throttling, I just quit it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, gaming shouldn’t be done on the battery, and if you’re someone who intends on doing that, get yourself checked. It’s just wrong. 

Should you buy the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GA502?

At a price tag of Rs. 1 lakh, the GA502 isn’t cheap. That said, it does offer some pretty good value for money when you put everything in context. The Ryzen 7 and the 1660 Ti is a powerful pairing, a match that consumers have long asked for. However, the thin design doesn’t do full justice to the hardware, and you’d definitely need a cooling pad. Add to that the fact that both the keyboard and touchpad are mediocre and prove to be just enough for gamers.

In comparison, the Lenovo Legion Y540 comes with a 9th-gen Intel Core i7 processor coupled with the same GPU. It promises better thermals, a better display with a 144Hz refresh rate, a larger storage combination, and merely a weight bump. All, for roughly the same price. As such, it becomes hard for me to recommend the ROG GA502. The Nvidia and Ryzen combo is good, but the design limitations, the bad keyboard, and the price make it a hard sell, especially when the Legion Y540 exists.

If you still find the ROG GA502 to be a better buy, you can check out the product by clicking the buy button below:

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Varun Mirchandani
varun.mirchandani@u2opiamobile.com

Varun is your go-to guy for everything related to technology. Someone with a keen interest in the Android world, he installs a new custom ROM every week and is always living on the bleeding edge of technology. When not writing for Mr. Phone, you can find him gaming on his beastly gaming rig which is also his prized possession.