Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC review: An AMD-powered 1080p machine

Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC

Most gaming laptops are Intel this and Nvidia that these days, making the fully AMD-powered Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC something of a rarity. Indeed, while AMD’s Ryzen CPUs may be a familiar sight on desktop PCs, this is the first time their top-end Ryzen 7 1700 chip has been taken out for a spin in laptop form, making it an admirable adversary for its Intel Core i7-7700HQ-equipped competition.

Backed up with one of AMD’s 4GB Radeon RX 580 graphics chips and a massive 17.3in 1920×1080 IPS display, the Asus ROG GL702ZC could be just the ticket for those after smooth 1080p gaming you can (sort of) take on the go. Let’s see whether it’s any good.

I say sort of take on the go, because any laptop with a giant 17.3in display naturally comes with a few portability issues. Yes, it’s easier than carting an entire PC round in a suitcase, but when the GL702ZC weighs a whopping 3kg (or more when you factor in its jumbo power supply) and has a footprint measuring 415x280x34mm, you’ll still need some fairly hefty transportation apparatus to save yourself from crippling your back and shoulders. Really, this is a desktop replacement laptop, as its measly battery means you’ll need to keep it plugged in pretty much all the time.

At least that giant screen is fairly pleasing to look at. While my i1 DisplayPro calibrator showed its IPS panel is only capable of displaying a rather middling 83.9% of the standard sRGB colour gamut, the screen’s high peak brightness of around 400cd/m2 meant that colours still looked like they had plenty of pop and vibrancy. They lost a bit of lustre when I lowered the screen brightness down to about 50%, but on the whole it’s a screen I’d be perfectly happy looking at for both work and play – particularly when it also supports AMD’s FreeSync tech to help eliminate screen tearing and stutter.

Asus GL702ZC rear

Black levels were also a reasonable 0.44cd/m2 (the closer to 0.00cd/m2, the better), and the GL702ZC’s high brightness helps compensate for its slightly lower than average contrast ratio of 894:1. Indeed, when I booted up Little Nightmares, the dark mist swirling around the mysterious Lady figure in the game’s opening sequence showed no signs of disintegrating into horrible, obvious bands of shadow (as I’ve seen screens with lower contrast ratios do in the past), and there was still a decent amount of light and dark detail to be seen in the game proper.

Of course, considering the GL702ZC costs a reasonably steep £1300 / $1500 (although not as ludicrous as the £3000+ MSI GT75VR Titan Pro), you might be disappointed to hear it only comes with an RX 580 graphics chip as opposed to something a bit beefier. However, since the GL702ZC’s resolution only stretches to 1920×1080, pairing it with an RX 580 makes a lot of sense, as I was able to play most of my gaming test suite on the highest graphics settings available without much trouble.

Hitman, for instance, sailed through on Ultra at 1080p, regularly hitting an average of around 58fps, and Doom similarly never dipped below 60fps when kneecapping Ultra-fied demons in the face. Likewise, Wolfenstein II coped extremely well with its top Mein Leben settings, occasionally dropping to around 40fps when wandering through its submarine hub, but the frame rate often settled around 55fps when I was dealing with actual combat.

Asus GL702ZC keyboard

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s tough SSAAx4 anti-aliasing proved a little too much for the GL702ZC at times on Very High, averaging around 35fps across its three benchmarks, but opting for its basic FXAA instead saw the frame rate practically double to a silky smooth 65fps average, meaning I didn’t have to compromise on overall graphics quality.

Naturally, there will always be some games that require a bit more tweaking. Middle-earth: Shadow of War, for instance, felt much more comfortable on High compared to Ultra, as it was only here that I was able to get a full 60fps. On Ultra I still managed to get a perfectly playable 40-50fps, but frame rate fiends may not find this up to their exacting standards.

A similar story played out on The Witcher III. Ultra saw Geralt jog along at around 40-50fps, but dropping the quality down to High instantly restored him to his 60fps best. With Total War: Warhammer II, on the other hand, I had to settle for Medium to get anywhere near this kind of speed, as my Lizardmen could barely muster the strength for a 30fps spear swing when I attempted to do battle on Ultra.

Asus GL702ZC keys

In fact, it was only Assassin’s Creed Origins that really saw the GL702ZC work up a sweat, as High returned a clear ‘Unstable’ verdict from its built-in benchmark, despite running at an average of 44fps. Indeed, even dropping it all the way to Low didn’t improve things much. The game was declared ‘Stable’, but the frame rate only nudged up to an average of 50fps, with town scenes dragging it down as low as 30fps.

Fortunately, the GL702ZC handled the beastly Final Fantasy XV much more efficiently. While Highest floundered between rough lows of 30fps and fleeting highs of around 48fps, Average saw Noctis and his pals glide around Lucis at a smooth 55-60fps, saving you from having to deal with its rather horrid, flat-looking Low setting.

On the whole, then, the GL702ZC is a highly capable 1080p machine, and its handy combo of a 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD should give you plenty of space for storing all your games, too.

Asus GL702ZC ports

Its octa-core 3.0GHz Ryzen 7 1700 CPU and 16GB of RAM also give it a lovely bit of processing heft for more everyday tasks like photo and video editing, and its multicore performance in Geekbench 4 easily outstrips its common Intel-based rivals, the Core i7-7770HQ and Core i7-7820HK. Admittedly, its single core score was roughly the same as these particular chips, but overall it still felt perfectly nippy and responsive during daily use.

My only real beef with the GL702ZC is its keyboard. The low, backlit chiclet keys gave plenty of tactile feedback, but their close proximity to the squished in number pad on the right meant I was constantly hesitating or hitting the wrong keys when I wanted to find Enter, Delete and Backspace. Given the ample size of the keyboard tray, a little more breathing room wouldn’t have hurt.

Asus GL702ZC port

Likewise, the fact all the keys are located so high up on the keyboard tray meant that I had to rest quite a large portion of my forearms on the laptop’s hard lower edge. This became quite uncomfortable after a while, although those with larger hands may not have this problem. Still, if the keys had been placed just a little lower down, then I’d be a lot happier recommending it for long gaming sessions. At least the generous touchpad didn’t pose any problems, although I’m sure most of you will be plugging in a mouse as soon as you crack it out of the box.

You’re fairly well catered for in terms of ports as well. While I might have liked a fourth USB port, the presence of a USB Type-C port is a welcome extra to its trio of USB3.1 slots. You also get a full-sized HDMI output and miniDisplayPort for connecting it up to an external display, as well as an SD card reader, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a combined headphone and microphone jack.

Asus GL702ZC face on

Is the Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC a good buy, though? The similarly priced and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060-powered Dell Inspiron 15 7000 I reviewed earlier in the year has the edge on performance, but its screen was so terrible that I’d rather give up the extra frames for the GL702ZC’s nicer looking display. Then again, the keyboard on the GL702ZC is an equally big turn off for me, and a large part of me just wants to chuck both of them in the bin and shell out the extra cash for the lovely little Alienware 13 and its juicy OLED screen. It’s a no-win situation, really.

All things considered, though, you should probably go with the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 if you’re after the best graphics performance around the £1300 mark, as I was able to get more out of it with fewer settings changes. If only I could have the Asus ROG GL702ZC’s screen at the same time…

20 Comments

  1. Dominic Tarason says:

    I’ve basically got the Intel variant of this machine, the GL702VS. 75hz (overclockable to 100) GSync screen, Geforce 1070, i7-7700hq. Exactly the same case and ports, though. It’s a lovely piece of kit. Good line of machines.

    I did manage to snag mine at a significant Black Friday discount during my recent couple of months in America. While games may (mostly) be equivalently priced these days, laptops are vastly more expensive in the UK.

  2. Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

    I advise against 17.3inch notebooks if you plan on moving around with it – I had a 17.3inch HP ProBook that was about 4kg and it was backbreaking experience and also note that if you fly, it is easily taking up about half of your carry on allowed weight! 15.6inch is much better compromise between portability and the size of the screen…

    • DeepFried says:

      I know right? the primary job of a laptop is to be portable, this thing is a breeze-block.
      What is the use case? you desperately need to play demanding games whilst out and about? sure there might be a very small niche of people that that makes sense for, but for everyone else get a regular desktop for games and an ultrabook for the road. Even on intel graphics I can play maybe 20% of my steam library (like 100 games).

      • dr.denton says:

        “Really, this is a desktop replacement laptop[…]”

        ;)

        • DeepFried says:

          I understand, I just don’t really get why anyone would want to replace a desktop with a laptop. Like I said there is probably a small niche of people it does make sense for, but why are desktop replacements so popular? I don’t get it.

          • JarinArenos says:

            It’s a gaming PC you can freely relocate with minimum effort. I used one as my primary PC for years, and the weight never really bothered me. You’re not going on hikes with the thing.

          • DeepFried says:

            @JarinArenos yeah I get that, but that still doesn’t explain anything. I guess what i’m asking is why the average gamer needs to easily relocate their PC?

            I understand there will be exceptional circumstances, e.g. someone who moves back and forth between two residences, or spends large amounts of time away from home. But those cannot be common scenarios, and so they don’t explain why desktop replacements are popular.

      • Cederic says:

        It’s significantly more portable than a desktop tower, monitor and keyboard. So if you’re living in two locations (e.g. working away during the week) this type of device gives you a single computer that you can use in both locations.

        Your car doesn’t notice the weight so much.

  3. Blowfeld81 says:

    I am traveling 5 days a week for business with a 5kg 17inch notebook, never found it difficult or heavy. I am quite fit, never bothered me the least to carry it.

    • DeepFried says:

      Well I used to commute with a laptop half that weight and believe me I noticed it. Try an ultrabook for a few days then tell me you don’t see a difference.

      • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

        I agree with that. I kept telling myself it wasn’t so bad, but then I had a work laptop that was like 14 inch for a while and it was a hell of a difference. I have now a 15.6imch Dell Inspiron and I am so much happier with that – it has all the computing power and doesn’t hurt my back. BTW: I helped my wife to pick a top of the line HP Spectre x360 13.3inch and I am seriously jealous of the portability. So frigging light and yet it can handle 4K content, photo and video processing, and some light gaming like Broken Age.

  4. Curry the Great says:

    I bought a laptop with a GTX 1050 and a decent CPU for games and some processing power for programming. Now, getting into machine learning, I found out that Tensorflow, a common library for machine learning, does not support AMD at all. Installing all the dependencies from Nvidia, forcing me to opt in to their “developer program” and forcing me to take their survey pissed me off. I was already looking at an expensive G-sync screen for my main desktop which I managed to score a secondhand GTX1080 for. Now I realize there’s even MORE vendor lock-in. I’d much rather buy AMD but I just can’t. And now I can’t even use AMD anymore.

  5. KingFunk says:

    Did I miss something? Has Katharine got married? Or adopted a nom de plume?

  6. srkelley5 says:

    Can this laptop operate in a dock-like manner? Meaning can you close the lid completely, keep it on a charger while connected to an external display and external inputs?

    • ogopogo says:

      Pretty sure it can, most laptops I’ve used for the past ~5 years seem happy to do that. A little length of HDMI cable (and maybe one of those DVI adapter widgets) makes any 1080p-optimized laptop an extra handy thing to have around.

      If you’ve got a favorite monitor and keyboard for one dock and a suitable TV for another then the built in monitor might not even get all that much use — this also increases the potential lifespan of one of the laptop’s more expensive parts. It’s an approach that can work really well if you’re on a budget or just travel lots.

    • DeepFried says:

      I think thats more an operating system thing than a laptop thing, though sure the drivers need to support it i’d be surprised if any laptop didn’t.

  7. Arathorn says:

    Is it me or is a 4GB Radeon 580 a little light for the price you are paying? I know video cards are stupid expensive at the moment, but only 4GB doesn’t sound very future proof and for a whopping €1500 I would expect a laptop to last me at least four years.

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