ASUS ROG Zephyrus M GU502 Review: Sleek Operator

by John Nieves  August 3, 2019

We review ASUS’ latest gaming weapon

If you’re tired of lugging around gigantic gaming notebooks and want to try something new, you might want to check out ASUS’ new ROG Zephyrus M GU502. This particular model slots nicely below the company’s top-tier offerings, yet still has enough power to deal with most gamers’ needs. Its fast screen, sleek exterior and oh so pleasurable keyboard makes it perfect for content creators as well as casual gamers, though its obnoxious fan hobbles it when it comes time to raise your MMR.

Sleek design is easier on the eyes, though the loss of the AAS system is a big blow

One of the biggest differentiators for the ROG Zephyrus GU502 compared to its more expensive brothers is the loss of the company’s revolutionary AAS or Active Aerodynamic System. AAS, for those who don’t know, is a small flap on the bottom of the machine that opens up when you open the lid that creates an avenue where fresh air can be sucked through the notebook to cool it down under full load.

On the positive end of the design spectrum, the ROG Zephyrus M GU502 uses a typical notebook design compared to higher-end Zephyrus models, giving users a traditional wrist-rest to type on. While higher-end Zephyrus models looked awesome on their own, the lack of wrist-rest meant it was hard to type on extended periods of time.

The monolithic vibe of the ROG Zephyrus M GU502 make it feel a little bit like Razer’s Blade, and we like it. While there’s gratuitous use of RGB on the keys via Aura Sync, the overall design doesn’t scream “gamer” like the company’s other offerings.

Fast display, but there’s no webcam

The ROG Zephyrus M GU502 uses a 15.6-inch full HDP IPS-level panel, has a fast 3ms response time, and is 100% sRGB color validated by Pantone. That means the display is color-accurate out of the box for serious photography and video work, giving the notebook more flexibility than just being a gaming device.

The display also comes in two different refresh rates depending on your budget: a 144Hz and 240Hz. The notebook that we received for review ran a 144Hz display.

While the notebook has really thin top and side bezels, one concession that ASUS had to do was remove the webcam entirely, though the company does toss in an external one into the package if you really need one.

The keyboard feels nice to type on, touchpad still a wreck

The ROG Zephyrus M GU502 has a full QWERTY keyboard that has RGB illumination, controlled by ASUS’ Armory Crate software that comes pre-installed with the machine.

You get per-key color options as well as preset color schemes with the notebook, as well as other effects that correspond to whatever you’re doing in your game if you desire.

As for the actual typing bits, the notebook’s keys feel great and are comfortable to type on, with the keys having enough travel to give you solid, tactile feedback. The traditional key layout makes the ROG Zephyrus M GU502 more comfortable to type on than the more expensive Zephyrus models, which is great when you’re actually working on a report or doing productivity tasks for hours on end.

Predictably the touchpad of the notebook is still pretty meh, and I’ve had to turn off the touchpad on the notebook on several occasions and just go with a wireless mouse because it was getting in the way.

There’s a bevy of connectivity options available on the ROG Zephyrus M GU502, including a USB Type-C port (DisplayPort 1.4 compatible), 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, 1 HDMI 2.0 port, Ethernet port, 3.5mm audio jack and a Kensington lock.

Powerful enough for today’s games, but man that fan is loud

While the Zephyrus M GU502 isn’t as powerful as its more expensive brothers, it’s still a potent performer considering the hardware underneath its magnesium chassis: the Zephyrus M GU502GU comes with an Intel Core i7 9750H, and either a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU or an even more powerful RTX 2060. Our review unit came with former, along with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of M.2 NVMe PCI-E 3.0 storage.

NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU has enough grunt to power through most modern games on high settings, though you’d probably won’t take full advantage of the 144Hz panel unless you turn settings down. Let’s take a look at the benchmarks:

One thing we didn’t like with the notebook is the fan. It’s incredibly loud, and even in silent mode, you can still hear the thing going, especially in a quiet room. Crank the notebook up to turbo via Armory Crate, and you’ll have to wear a pair of headphones so you don’t get distracted by the fans going full tilt.

Battery life is slightly better than most gaming notebooks plus you can charge via USB Type-C

Gaming notebooks aren’t exactly devices you’d expect to last all day, which is why we were surprised that the ROG Zephyrus M GU502 managed to last longer than typical gaming laptops we’ve tested. Using productivity apps and WiFi and the screen set to 50%, the notebook lasted around 4 hours and 10 minutes.

As an added bonus you can charge the ROG Zephyrus M GU502 via USB Type C if your power bank/charger supports it. Sadly the power delivered isn’t enough to be able to run discrete graphics, though it’s useful if you need to charge the notebook at a pinch.

Verdict: A powerful, premium ultrabook that’s not going to be cheap

The new Zephyrus M GU502 is a sleek, powerful ultrabook that does a lot of things extremely well. The display is accurate out of the box for professional work and has enough grunt under the hood for video rendering and mainstream gaming.

The biggest problems with it is its price: at Php 109,995, the ROG Zephyrus M GU502 definitely comes at a premium. It has a lot of nice features like the color-accurate display, sleek design, and powerful internals, but like anything, those features come at a steep price.

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