Hands on: ASUS TUF FX504 review

ASUS toughens up its TUF FX504 gaming laptops.

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Asus’ idea to create a longer lasting range of gaming laptops is great in theory and the TUF FX504 has a number of unique innovations that make it worth the asking price, but we’re not sure the configuration is future-proof enough to really warrant the additional lifespan.

For

  • Faster SSHD storage
  • Anti-Dust fan
  • Powerful CPU

Against

  • Sticky trackpad
  • Bulky form factor

PC and peripheral maker Asus has a tradition of selecting the most durable electronic components and combining them with sturdier casings in its The Ultimate Force (TUF) motherboard range. And now, the Taiwanese giant has decided to bring that resilient TUF moniker to a new range of ‘long-lasting’ laptops. Asus is claiming that the TUF FX504 will be sturdier, more reliable and have a longer lifespan than a “standard laptop” thanks to a few key technologies like a patented anti-dust cooling system and a keyboard that’s rated for 20-million strokes per key. 

Asus is planning on releasing the new TUF models in Australia only initially, with the two available configurations expected to hit retailers in late April 2018. At this point we’ve only been able to get an early engineering sample, but given the product’s release date it shouldn’t be long till we can get some performance benchmarks on a final consumer model. 

As for validating just how rugged the TUF series is, it’s actually quite difficult to benchmark the exact effects that better thermal design and active dust management have on lifespan, or to verify the 20-million-key-press durability — at least not without using the device day in and day out for a few years. 

In a large sense, you’ll need to take Asus at its word then, a more reliable gaming laptop seems like a good offer, but how does this TUF pioneer hold up to the competition in the current gaming market? 

Price and availability

The TUF FX504 from Asus is a 15.6-inch gaming laptop that features an 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8750 CPU, 16GB of memory and a discrete entry-level gaming graphics card. 

At launch, Asus is making this model available in two specific variants. There’s the FX504GD which offers an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card with 128GB PCIe solid state drive, 1TB hard disk drive and a 15.6-inch 1080p TN panel. Then there’s the FX504GE, which gets upgraded with a 1050 Ti GPU, a bigger 256GB SATA SSD, a 1TB SSHD hard drive and an IPS display.

Both units will be available in Australia by the end of April 2018, with prices for the FX504GD and FX504GE landing at AU$1,699 (about US$1,290 and £920) and AU$1,899 (about US$1,440 and £1,030), respectively. 

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Design

Intricate design elements aren’t normally a big focus for budget gaming laptops, with the overall appearance generally losing out against performance and price considerations, but the TUF series is hoping to add a stronger focus on engineering into this segment and, in the process, build a gaming laptop that’s designed to last. 

You could argue that the six-core Intel 8th-gen CPU’s lower base frequency and more distributed workload should lead to lower overall temperatures and less system stress — both of which will increase longevity, in theory. That said, most gaming laptops from here on out will also use a Core i7-8750H CPU, so it’s not exactly a unique longevity boost. 

Asus’ patented ‘Anti-Dust Cooling’ system is designed to actively expel dust using two capture tubes that are fed by the fan blades to prevent it from collecting in the system and damaging it over time. Adding to this, a cutaway on the hinge-edge of the laptop shell allows for a bigger rear fan vent and facilitates up to 27% greater thermal dispersion than a conventional laptop case. This combines with HyperCool fan-response software, which gives users better control over the thermal/noise balance and, hopefully, keeps the laptop’s components running at peak performance for longer.

The TUF FX450 scissor switched chiclet keys have a 0.07 inch (1.8mm) travel distance that feel nice enough when typing or gaming and the 15-inch form factor means that there’s enough space to offer a full sized keyboard... just. There are some space constraints that require the number pad to be pressed directly up against the main keyboard — making it feel a little unnatural to type on when going for the right-side backspace, return and shift keys. The decision to shift the directional pad out of line with the main keyboard however, is a much better solution than abbreviating the number pad further. 

The FX504’s keyboard features some neat gaming design perks like an inlet fan below the WSAD key group, to keep ventilation flowing to your hand under long gaming sessions. If we continue on the longevity bandwagon, the FX504’s keyboard is also reportedly twice as durable as the industry standard for gaming laptops, withstanding up to 20 million key presses. 

The trackpad is too sticky for our liking and while it isn’t out of place in the ranks of gaming laptops, it’s got a long way to go to be on par with the best. Left of centre trackpads seem to be pretty commonplace on 15-inches (on account of the added number-pad), but this will make the device harder to use for anyone unaccustomed to left handed trackpad control.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.