More than a decade ago, Asus launched its Republic of Gamers sub-brand to appeal to buyers who like high-performance products that they can show off, and are willing to pay more for that privilege. ROG products typically have grandiose names, aggressive styling, red accents, and lots of bling. PC components in the series are either overclocked or designed to support overclocking, and have elaborate (or at least elaborate-sounding) power, cooling and durability enhancements. The Strix name came about later, targeting gamers with the same aspirations but not necessarily the luxury of a bottomless budget.
ROG has since expanded into a top-level brand with a dedicated community and following of its own. In fact, the notebook we're reviewing today is surprisingly bereft of Asus branding. It's called the Republic of Gamers Strix GL553V, and you won't see the Asus name or logo anywhere on its box or body unless you look for them deliberately.
Asus, or rather ROG, is clearly targeting those who consider gaming their identity. If that sounds like you, read on.
Asus ROG Strix GL553V look and feel
Gaming laptops are usually bulky and heavy in order to accommodate top-end components and the cooling they require, and this is no exception. We would have expected something a lot sleeker, considering the fact that Intel and Nvidia's latest chips run relatively cool, but we think that this is what people expect a serious gaming laptop to look like.
The first thing we noticed when unpacking the Strix GL553V was the neon orange clawmarks and ROG logo on the lid. We're used to seeing details like this which light up when a product is running, but this laptop looks like it's screaming for attention even when it's off. We found this to be a bit over the top, but maybe some potential buyers will like it.
The body of the laptop is plastic, but the surface of the lid is metal-plated. It's black with a nice brushed finish, that would have looked quite good had it not been for the aforementioned orange accents. It does pick up fingerprints and smudges very easily.
When you flip the lid up, you'll see an orange border around the trackpad and another ROG logo on the keyboard deck. While these are thankfully not illumated, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Asus has outfitted this laptop with RGB keyboard backlighting. There's a lot of black plastic around the screen and keyboard, and enough space for a full-sized number pad.
The island-style keys rise out of the surrounding plastic. The space bar is exaggerated and the power button is placed in the upper right corner. The arrow keys are slightly offset so that they're easy to find by feel alone. They're smaller than usual, but thankfully they aren't all squashed into one line. The WASD keys have translucent sides to make their backlighting more prominent, but there's so much bleed from around all the keys that it doesn't make any difference.
Backlighting can be controlled through the ROG Gaming Center app which has its own shortcut key above the numpad. There are four zones, and you can set individual colours for each as well as choose between always-on and a breathing rhythm. There are only three brightless levels despite the brightness slider moving in increments of 1 percent. We couldn't find any way to disable the annoying red flashing pattern that kicks in when the laptop goes to sleep. This is much less control than we've seen on Asus graphics cards, motherboards and desktop PCs, and we've pointed out Asus' lack of consistency before.
We like the fact that the Strix GL553V's lid isn't flexible at all, which means there was no distortion on the screen when we tried to bend and twist it. The hinge also felt solid, and the lid didn't wobble at all when shaking the laptop or typing.
On the left side, you'll find a power inlet, Ethernet port, HDMI video output, two USB 3.0 Type-A and one Type-C port, and a single 3.5mm audio socket. On the right, there's only a DVD-RW drive, a Kensington lock slot and one USB 2.0 port. The speakers and an SD card slot are positioned beneath the front lip of the laptop's lower half, completely out of sight. The heatsink fins visible through the vents on the left, the speaker grilles in front and the rubber legs on the bottom are all the same orange colour as the lid highlights.
The battery is sealed in and there's nothing to see on the bottom other than a small sticker with regulatory information and a tiny Asus logo.
Asus ROG Strix GL553V specifications and software
There are four variants of this laptop, priced starting at Rs. 94,990. We're reviewing the top-end configuration which costs Rs. 1,36,990. For this money, you get an Intel 'Kaby Lake' Core i7-7700HQ processor, which has four cores with Hyper-Threading and runs at between 2.8GHz and 3.8GHz. The other star of this show is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti GPU with 4GB of dedicated video RAM.
There's a healthy 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256GB SATA SSD as well as a 1TB hard drive. That combination will let you boot and load games quickly while still having enough space for loads of media. The screen is a 1920x1080-pixel IPS panel, which Asus says can reproduce 72 percent of the NTSC colour gamut.
For connectivity, there's Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi ac, and Bluetooth 4.0. All three USB ports on the left operate at 5Gbps, which means that even the Type-C port doesn't support USB 3.1 speed. Still, it should be convenient over the years. There's only one HDMI video output - we would have liked a DisplayPort as well. We aren't sure if anyone will ever need to use the 8X DVD-RW drive, but it's still there.
Asus claims that it is using a high-performance cooling system, but there's no support for overclocking in its software. The only thing you can do is push the fan speed, which might at best allow the CPU and GPU to throttle themselves less aggressively.
One little surprise is that this laptop ships with Windows 10 Home, not Pro. It won't make a huge difference to a lot of users, but we expect Pro at this price level. There's a lot of annoying bloatware, including some software that caused repeated intrusive popups. Asus Giftbox is a completely pointless app store with poor navigation and lots of fake entries which are just links to websites which open in your default browser.
Asus ROG GL553V usage and performance
When we first turned our review unit on, we were completely taken aback by how loud its fans were. With absolutely nothing going on and even the Task Manager showing no CPU activity, there was a constant thrum, and if we did anything as simple as opening Windows Explorer, it would immediately ramp up to a roar. Just as we were prepared to call Asus and ask if this was normal behaviour, our usage was interrupted by a forced BIOS update. A window popped up with a large warning sign saying "1 Critical update" and started downloading data, giving us no choice in the matter.
The laptop then rebooted and took us into the BIOS, where the update was applied. At one point it seemed like nothing was happening, but thankfully we waited it out instead of assuming it had crashed. The whole process took about 15 minutes and required no intervention on our part, but we can't help but wonder how buyers would react to their systems suddenly behaving like this. Not everyone is familiar with a PC's BIOS, let alone the precautions needed when flashing it. This is an extremely sensitive process and any interruption can result in a permanently bricked machine.
After this, the fans immediately began behaving themselves. They became audible only when anything actually demanding was happening, but the noise was still extremely distracting. We like the fact that Asus recognised this problem and deployed a solution, but we think it could have been handled a lot better, and no end user should have to deal with this.
With that hiccup behind us, we set about getting a feel of the Strix GL553V, running all our benchmarks, and of course playing lots of games. The screen can get pretty bright, and viewing angles are good. Colours could have been a bit punchier if the screen was glossy, but we're happy with the choice of a non-reflective finish. 1080p and higher-resolution videos looked great.
The Strix GL553V has very powerful speakers. The sound is loud and clear, but not very rich. It's great for dialogue in movies and games, and multiple people can enjoy watching whatever you are. However, there's no warmth and no bass, which makes music of any kind sound tinny and harsh.
Our benchmark tests showed that there's quite a lot of power under the hood, but some results were unexpected. Cinebench R15 gave us a decent enough 706 in its CPU test but failed to run the GPU-based OpenGL test. POVRay rendered its benchmark in 4 minutes, 17 seconds, which is nearly twice as long as the very similarly configured MSI GP62 7RD Leopard Pro took. PCMark gave us 3956, 4828 and 3431 in its Home, Creative and Work tests respectively which were slightly below the Leopard Pro's scores. On the other hand, the scores of 2,391 and 3,510 in 3DMark's Time Spy and Fire Strike Ultra tests were quite a bit higher than what MSI's competitor managed.
We averaged 43.4fps in Unigine Valley, running at 1920x1080 with the High quality preset. Star Swarm gave us a pretty good 50.27fps. We also ran through a few synthetic benchmarks built into games. Rise of the Tomb Raider gave us 53.56fps at its High preset and 43.64fps at the Very High preset, using the laptop's native 1920x1080 resolution. Ashes of the Singularity managed to pump out 42.8fps and 30.3fps using the Standard and Extreme presets respectively, using DirectX 12.
Moving on to manual run-throughs, we measured quality in terms of frames per second as well as frame pacing, which gives us a picture of how consistent performance is rather than only looking at one average which might mask extreme variations. We ran Rise of the Tomb Raider at its High preset and as the graph shows quite clearly, there were massive variations in frame timings. While the average frame rate of 44fps looks smooth and the average time of 22.7ms is good, pacing was unven throughout, with the 99th percentile time nearly double that at 42.7ms. We then ran Far Cry 4 at its High preset and found that it performed a lot better. The average frame rate was 61fps and pace was 16.3ms, with a fairly tightly packed graph showing only minor variance.
Battery life was quite disappointing. We found that this laptop died in less than four hours when used for casual Web surfing, a bit of video streaming and general productivity. It lasted longer when we were just playing video files, possibly thanks to Kaby Lake's low-energy video playback capabilities. Our CPU and graphics-intensive Battery Eater Pro test ran for just 49 minutes.
Asus is one of the only companies that sells a whole range of gaming laptops in India, and we've tested several of them over the years. We've seen some practical models and some truly outlandish ones, and what's clear is that Asus knows how to reach different kinds of buyers.
The ROG Strix GL553V ditches the familiar and reassuring Asus brand for something much younger and more aggressive. As a product, it reflects this with its brash styling and overall lack of finesse. This is not a laptop that wants to be slim or sleek, even if it could be. Everything about it is loud - figuratively and literally.
However, even if you do see yourself as someone who would like to flaunt that kind of image, it might be worth checking out the lower-priced variants and even some competing products. MSI's GP62 7RD Leopard Pro, which we reviewed just a short while ago, has a smaller SSD and weaker GeForce GTX 1050 GPU, but sells for a significant Rs. 30,000 less.
Price (MRP): Rs. 1,36,990
Ratings (Out of 5)