Earlier this month, Taiwanese electronics giant Asus launched refreshed versions of its gaming lineup in India. The company added the latest 9th generation Intel core processors along with the latest Nvidia RTX graphics cards. It also launched some new version of its gaming laptops in addition to refreshing the existing devices. Asus launched seven different laptops in total including Asus ROG G703GXR, Zephyrus S GX701, and Strix Scar III. Others include Strix Hero III, Zephyrus S GX531, Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU, Strix G G531, and Strix G G731.
In addition, the company also launched refreshed versions of its ROG-branded desktops. This includes the Asus ROG Huracan G21CX, the ROG GL12CX DT, and the ROG GL10CS. Days before the announcement, the company invited use to experience the latest lineup at an exclusive briefing. We have already covered details about all the gaming laptops in detail in a previous report. Shortly after the launch, the company set across its latest Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU. It is likely one of the first with 9th gen Intel processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti in India.
We have already reviewed some on the notable Asus ROG gaming laptops including Strix SCAR II GL504 and Zephyrus GX701. Given that Asus launched seven different gaming laptops, where does Zephyrus M GU502GU sit in the equation. More importantly, how does ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU perform in an increasingly crowded gaming laptop market? Let’s check out in my review.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU specifications and pricing
As previously mentioned, Zephyrus M GU502GU is powered by 9th generation Intel Core i7-9750H and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. Talking about the GPU, the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti features 6GB GDDR6 VRAM for gaming. Taking a look at the Nvidia GPU lineup, GTX 1660Ti is an entry-level card for people looking for 1080p gaming. Beyond this, our review unit came with 16GB DDR4 RAM (upgrade-able to up to 32GB) and 1TB SSD. The laptop features a 15.6-inch IPS panel with FHD resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, and 3ms response time. Talking about the colors, the panel it Pantone validated and featured 100 percent support sRGB color gamut.
Taking about other specifications, the Zephyrus M GU502GU featured a chicklet keyboard with back-lighting, N-key rollover, with per-key RBG lighting. The company also added dedicated multi-media keys in the keyboard. The laptop also comes with twin bottom firing speakers with Smart AMP technology, and an array microphone. In terms of connectivity, the Zephyrus M GU502GU features one Type-C gen 2 port with USB 3.2 protocol. Users can use this port for display port and charging.
It also comes with one Type A gen 2 port with USB 3.2 protocol, and two Type A gen 1 ports with USB 3.2. Other ports include one HDMI 2.0b port, 3.5mm audio socket, audio jack line-in, RJ45, and Kensington Lock. Asus includes the 230W Power Adaptor that is more than enough to power the device. Users can also use the Type-C USB Port to charge the device. The Zephyrus M GU502GU also features Gigabit Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth v5.0. The laptop does not come with a built-in webcam. Instead, it depends on a external one for all video calling duties.
Stealthy, portable and premium design
If you can seen other gaming laptops in the market, they are usually over the top, flashy, and bulky devices. Usually, a gaming laptop with have somewhat over the top colors and design, usually to accommodate the fans on the sides and at the bottom. However, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU is quite opposite to a traditional gaming laptop when it comes to the design and build quality. It is so conservative and plain that users may confused it any usual non-gaming laptop. The top lid of the laptop features a brushed aluminum finish along with the usual ROG logo with RBG lighting.
Moving to the display, the ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU sports thin side bezels with a thick bottom bezel. Asus claims that it has made the laptop about 25 percent slimmer in profile than most traditional 15-inch gaming laptops. The company has used Magnesium alloy to create a top of the line premium reinforced metal chassis. This results in an absolutely sturdy gaming laptop with no flex around the keyboard or at the bottom of the area. Asus has also added a soft-touch skin finish around the palm rest area below the keyboard for comfort during use.
Talking a look at the sides, one gets the usual mix of ports and cooling vents on both sides of the laptop. The back of the laptop also features cooling vents along with the bottom side of the laptop. Another thing to note here is that the company has done away with the Active Aerodynamic System in this laptop. This means that there is no back plate that opens up to increase the airflow for cooling.
Instead, the Magnesium alloy metal body gives a uni-body finish to the laptop exhibiting a low-key stealth look. The black color across the laptop and compact form factor is enough to even conceal the fact that it is actually a gaming laptop. Closely inspecting the laptop, there are only two things that can reveal that this is probably a gaming laptop. First is the splash of RBG lighting across the keyboard and the ROG logo on the top. Second is the noise and heat produced when the laptop is chugging to chew through the pixels. All this makes it one of the few muted, stealth gaming laptops in the market. Overall, Zephyrus M GU502GU features premium top-of-the-line construction that can both work as you gaming as well as work laptop.
Performance of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU
Let’s focus on gaming performance, the main thing that you are concerned about if you are looking at this laptop. During the two weeks, I tested about eight games on the laptop. These include Apex Legends, Battlefield V, Watch_Dogs 2, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, HITMAN 2, DOOM, and Borderlands 2. To clarify, I did not change any system settings except using the “Performance” and “Turbo” mode as define in the Armoury Crate app. Before I dive into the actual FPS and the temperatures for the games, here is the short version of this section.
ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU is quite capable for people who don’t want to run games at highest of settings. One can get decent, playable frame rates in high quality settings and further improve them by switching to medium quality. However, the decent to good gaming performance does come at the cost of heat and noise. The laptop tends to get fairly loud in “Performance” mode and the noise levels further increase in “Turbo” mode. This makes the presence of good quality earphones or gaming headphones a must to drown out the noise.
The laptop also tends to get quite hot due to absence of Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) and presence of a rather closed off design. For the people unaware for the AAS cooling design, Asus used AAS to ensure maximum cooling performance on its laptops. Asus designed the laptop in such a way that opening the lid elevated the laptop from the bottom plate. The space between the bottom plate and the laptop body was significant enough to properly cool the system down. Lack of AAS results in significant heat being produced inside the system. This ensures that this is not a laptop that you can put in your laps while gaming.
I noticed that the laptop got quite toasty after 20 minutes of gaming towards the top of the keyboard. This is the second hotspot in addition to the one present at the bottom side of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU. The hot air is noticeable as it escapes from the right side heat vent as I gamed using an external mouse. The good part about this is that the laptop does not get hot around the palm rest or around the keys. This makes extended gaming session a comfort regardless of the head produced.
Now, let’s talk about the frame rates in the games and the temperatures generated. This will likely given you an idea about the games that you want to play on the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU. First up, we have Apex Legends which maintained about 50-60fps in high graphics and 75-80 when I lowered the graphics. Battlefield V only managed about 25-30fps in medium settings and making up to the 45fps mark in low settings. Next, Watch_Dogs 2, managed 30-45fps in almost Ultra settings which grew to 50-60fps in High settings.
Moving to Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus , it managed about 35-45fps in low settings. However, I could not increase the settings as the game started throwing warning of running out of video memory marking a limitation with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti. The next two titles that I tested came as a bit of surprise in terms of performance. The first one is Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a game that maintained 48-55 fps in maximum graphics settings. You won’t really get the RTX ray-tracing magic but the game is just so beautiful regardless. The second title is Hitman 2 which got about 42-55 fps in maximum graphics settings. The included Asus Armoury Crate app does allow over clocking the CPU, the GPU and the fans. However, all that won’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things.
All the said games pushed the laptop to its limit while producing excess noise and sound. The temperatures hovered around 75-85 degrees in decent ventilation for about 3-4 hour long gaming sessions. However, If you are playing in a room without proper ventilation, the temperatures can even reach 95-105 degrees resulting in thermal throttling. Regardless, as mentioned above, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU does a decent job in gaming. You will not get the maximum quality at the highest of frame-rates, but that is by design.
Display and Audio
Moving to the second section, the display and audio performance of the ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU. Talking about the display, we get crisp, vibrant and colorful images all around with the Pantone-calibrated display. The 144Hz refresh rate is easily on the eyes while playing games or anything when plugged in. Asus has also added a matte finish on the display to reduce the glare which works quite well. Moving to the Audio, the bottom firing speakers are just ok. The speakers tend to distort the sound at higher or maximum volume with tinny output that is just bad. But, moving to the 3.5mm audio jack things change as Asus has added a Hi-Res Audio compatible DAC for impressive audio output.
The day-to-day portion of performance
Talking about the day-to-day performance, the laptop chewed through everything that I threw at it. This includes web browsing with 15-20 tabs open, Netflix, word processing, watching to music and more. There was no stutter or lag while performing these tasks which is a good thing for the Zephyrus M GU502GU.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU: Keyboard and Battery
Up next, let’s talking about the keyboard and the battery on the laptop. Let’s kick things off with the keyboard. I won’t really throw much technical terms at you while describing the keyboard and its performance. Asus has packed a really great keyboard in the laptop. Though it is not a mechanical keyboard, but, for a chicklet keyboard, it is quite amazing. They keys are spaced in a nice manner with good clickey-feel to them. Trying long form articles or the usual typing is a breeze on the laptop. In fact, I zipped while writing this review on this laptop without any problem.
Next up is the battery backup of the laptop. Under regular use, the battery lasted about 4 hours while performing day-to-day tasks at max brightness. It is possible through a number of tricks that the company employs. One of which is dropping the screen refresh rate to 60Hz from the full 144Hz glory when unplugged. The second is supporting Nvidia Optimus technology to switch to integrated Intel Graphics when the GPU is not is use. Asus Armoury Crate app also switches to “Silent” profile on battery power. The battery can be increased by decreasing the screen brightness but personally I am not a fan of that.
The laptop managed about an hour and some time on battery but that should not even be considered. This is because gaming laptops are not made for gaming while away from the wall plug. You won’t even be able to enjoy the 144Hz display when on battery so no point about that. It takes about 2 hours to charge the laptop from 0 to 100 percent with the included 230W power adapter. Lastly, you can even use the included Type-C to charge the laptop when in crunch. It may not really actually charge your laptop if you are actively using it. But, it will still manage trickle charge the laptop or decrease the rate of discharge.
Verdict: Should you buy the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU
After properly testing the ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU and running the top end games that the market has to offer, I think I have reached a conclusion. If you are looking for a stealthy yet classy gaming laptop, this laptop by Asus is an ideal choice. The Rs. 1 lakh 50 thousand price is somewhat steep when compared to the competition and additional investment. It includes buying a good gaming mouse and pair of earphones or headphones to down out the fan noise.
However, this is the cost for a premium, extremely well built gaming laptop. It will not give you the maximum frame rates at the highest possible quality. But it is more than enough for good, casual gaming. The laptop sits between its offerings while offering a unique professional looking, gaming laptop. This unique thought-process behind it ensures that it is not competing with any existing laptops from Asus ROG in the market. If you need more performance, you should look at its beefier brothers mentioned at the beginning.