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Asus ROG Strix GL503 review

A gaming laptop whose strengths don't make up for its weaknesses

Asus ROG Strix GL503

Gaming laptops live and die by how well they handle modern games. Unfortunately, the GL503 fails to excite. 

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is adequate on the GL503, but if you have a gaming PC you want to show off, ‘adequate’ doesn't cut the mustard. 

You can crank the settings to Ultra if you don't mind the classic ‘cinematic frame rate,’ of 24 frames per second (fps), but the recommended GeForce settings put the game at medium to low to maintain a smooth frame rate.

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Asus ROG Strix GL503 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 17,468; Fire Strike: 5,706; Time Spy: 2,346
Cinebench CPU: 730 points; Graphics: 91 fps
GeekBench: 4,542 (single-core); 13,105 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,332 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 21 minutes
Battery Life (techradar movie test): 5 hours and 20 minutes
Total War: Warhammer II (1080p, Ultra): 21 fps; (1080p, Low): 50 fps
ME: Shadow of War (1080p, Ultra): 24 fps; (1080p, Low): 62 fps

The GL503 can't compete against the Apache Pro and its more powerful graphics card, and the benchmark scores reflect it. 

The real discrepancy is battery life and, in this case, the GL503 blows the Apache Pro out of the water.

Battery life

On the PCMark 8 Battery Life test, the GL503 scored 3 hours and 21 minutes.

But, on our own battery test, playing Guardians of the Galaxy on repeat, we were able to get over 5 hour of life before it shut itself down. 

That's awesome for anyone who wants to use the GL503 for more than just a gaming laptop.

If you do lots of work on the go, the GL503 won't leave you stranded and looking for an outlet.

Sluggish storage

As great as battery life is, the storage on the base unit is a big problem. It's nice to have 1TB available, but the hybrid drive surprisingly slows everything down considerably. 

If you're used to booting your operating system (OS) from an SSD, the GL503 is jarringly slow. It's not just boot times that suffer, either. Even watching movies saved on the hard drive presents problems in the way of an occasional stutter as it reads.

If you're considering the GL503, it's definitely worth upgrading the OS drive to an SSD.

We liked

The ROG Strix GL503 puts a beautiful screen inside an attractive chassis and sprinkles extras on top, like a super-cool, light-up logo, RGB keyboard and fantastic battery life. The screen alone might be enough to raise its standing, especially with an available 120Hz option.

We disliked

Going back to hard-drive based booting – even if a hybrid drive – after getting accustomed to an SSD is rough. This laptop takes forever to boot comparatively. Having all that room for games and videos is nice, but the trade-off for sluggish performance is hardly worth it.

Final verdict

As great as the screen and battery life are for the GL503, for the price there are better choices. Movies and games look wonderful on its bright 1080p display, but modern games are stuck in the medium to low settings, so it almost feels like a waste. 

Even with a GTX 1050 with 4GB of video RAM, the GL503 fails to set itself apart in price, where it could have an advantage over more powerful competitors running better specs. Price is almost lockstep with upgrading to one of the more powerful models, so even with the high-end GL503 there are cheaper, equally powerful gaming laptops to consider.

Sadly, this gaming laptop’s great screen and superb battery life can't make up for its slow boot times, entry-level components given the price and a case prone to stains. The Asus ROG Strix GL503 looks the part of a gaming laptop, but function doesn't follow its form.