Asus ROG Strix Hero Edition review: Refreshing the line-up?

Asus is well known for its Republic of Gamers (ROG) line-up. Within the laptop line, its GL503 series serves as a good option for mid-range gaming. And with improvements coming in the 2018 variant, the laptop will add to one of your potential options when choosing your next gaming machine.

Display

One of the biggest changes on this year’s laptop is the display. It is still a 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 resolution anti-glare display but with a refresh rate of 120Hz. This is double what you got last year and in usage case scenarios, it is noticeable. There’s a sense of fluidity with what you see, which is particularly useful for fast-paced gaming. Asus has also worked to reduce response time to 3ms, which further appeals to serious gamers.

The bottom of the display has a centred Republic of Gamers logo

Visually, the display looks very crisp and color accurate. It comes at 94 per cent NTSC, which means it supports a much wider range of colour accuracy over the traditional sRGB, which comes at 72 per cent NTSC. The colour accuracy is good not only for gaming to differentiate small details but also for video editing.

While employing great technology, the display quality is not too impressive

But while much of the technology behind the display is great, there is a big drawback. The IPS-level panel on the Asus ROG Strix Hero Edition is not very good. Looking at the display off at an angle, there is considerable colour distortion. For many gamers, this may not be a deal-breaker because they usually sit directly in front of the laptop. But in a case where your friends are over and want to watch a movie, the side viewing experience is below par. As for the speakers, there is nothing to complain about. The laptop comes with side-firing speakers rated at 3.5 watts that are clear and loud. With smart amplifier technology built in, they work well during gaming too, so much so that headphones aren’t required if your surroundings are relatively quiet.

Design

A gaming laptop is known for its robust design features and the Hero Edition is no exception. Coming in at 2.4cm thick and 2.6kg, it is no slender machine. Carrying it from one place to another is difficult but can be managed. During travel the form factor should have no trouble slotting into any backpack.

The glowing red ROG logo on the back of the lid is a nice touch

What I tend to look for in laptops is a bottom-heavy build. This allows for clean one-handed opening of the lid when the laptop is placed on a flat surface. I think the laptop does a good job in this aspect. Speaking of the lid, it is made of a matte plastic like much of the rest of the laptop. But one of its outer diagonal has a nice brushed look to it with the ROG logo illuminating red when the laptop is turned on, which compliments the red accents in the cooling vents nicely.

The venting and cooling system of the laptop is impressive

For a laptop like this, cooling is very important. The Hero Edition comes with an upgraded cooling technology. It draws in more air thanks to the faster fans from intakes above the keyboard and below the laptop. During gaming, the laptop makes a fair bit of sound but does not run too hot. You can feel it warming up towards the upper part of the keyboard but that’s about it.

Keyboard

Like many laptops, Asus’ ROG Strix Hero Edition employs chiclet-style keys and for the most part, they serve their purpose. Travel distance is good to facilitate fast typing but the flex on the keyboard is more than I would prefer.

While the keyboard has a good level of customisation, there is a bit more flex than usual

For gamers, the keyboard comes with highlighted QWER keys and just above the keyboard, there are hot key switches to adjust volume and reach the ROG Gaming Centre application easily. As for aesthetics, Asus provides access to Aura Sync technology, which lets you control the RGB lighting on the keyboard and other peripherals. This is a great way to customise the experience using styles such as breathing or rainbow cycling lights.

The mousepad serves its purpose but is not very good for gaming

Just under the keyboard, you will find the mouse pad which is average. It gives back a mushy feel and is definitely not something you would want to use while gaming. And that has been the general theme with my laptop use. Most of the time, I resorted to using an external mouse and keyboard when using the laptop. But if you are in a situation when you must use the laptop’s hardware, it will not let you down.

Power and I/O

The heart of any laptop are its internals. In the case of this laptop, it is powered by the latest eighth-generation Intel i5 8300H or i7 8750H processor alongside DDR4 RAM upgrade-able up to 32GB. For storage, you will get up to a 256GB SSD and a 1TB smart drive for storing your Windows 10 operating system and personal files. As for the GPU, you will find the NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti mid-range graphics card with 4GB of dedicated DDR5 VRAM.

The ROG Strix Hero Edition provides an excellent selection of I/O options

As for I/O connectivity, there are a very few compromises. The laptop comes with three USB 3.1 ports, one USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port. Otherwise, you will find a Mini DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4 port, Ethernet port and a Kensington port. Thankfully, you still find a 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack and a SD card slot to transfer files.

Performance

Running on Windows 10, the laptop does not disappoint over daily use case scenarios. Boot times, transfer of files and general web browsing remained excellent through usage. I particularly noticed the upgrade to the eighth generation Intel processor over the seventh generation one in terms of speed. As for gaming, the performance is right on par. The 1050 Ti GPU on board means you will be able to play games on medium to high graphics at a good FPS. As is now a trend, I tested the laptop playing Fortnite and it gave me a frame rate between 60 to 120fps playing on medium settings. Other MOBA games such as Dota 2 or League of Legends, for which the laptop is made, in particular also work great.

Equipped with the latest Intel processors and NVIDIA GPU, performance is not a problem

Some of the quirks I had with the laptop, though, came when playing these games. I faced more than a few crashes when gaming, which is not something I have faced with other laptops. Sometimes, the audio in-game would glitch if I plugged in a peripheral mid-game with the only fix being a restart to the game. Lastly when using the HDMI ports with a projector, I saw a consistent stutter in performance and a pause of a few seconds every minute or so, which is again something unique to this case. I suspect a future update may iron out these issues.

Battery life

One aspect of laptops I value is typically battery performance. In the ROG Strix Hero Edition, you will find a four-cell 64Wh battery. In typical use case scenarios, the battery should last you a good four to five hours. This may include web browsing, document writing and editing and watching a few YouTube videos over Wi-Fi. For the testing, I also ensured the display stayed at 50 per cent brightness with the backlight on the keyboard turned off.

Its four-cell 64Wh battery performs decently when performing low-intensity tasks

Switching to when gaming, a massive drop in battery life is seen. In this instance, you will be able to squeeze out just over an hour’s worth of entertainment. This is not the most impressive but then again, it is also not very recommended. In either case, you will benefit from tossing the laptop’s wall charger into your bag keeping you powered up in most scenarios.

Verdict

The Asus ROG Strix Hero Edition gaming laptop offers a lot to like. That 120Hz display is definitely something that would appeal to gamers as would the upgraded CPU power. The laptop definitely serves to offer a great gaming experience for MOBA gamers. But at the same time, priced at Dh5,599, it is asking a fair bit of money. Asus’ reputation in terms of gaming may warrant the price tag but for mid-range gaming, there are better options with maybe slightly toned down specifications.