Asus has diversified its ROG Zephyrus line of super slim gaming laptops to reach different price and market segments. While the Zephyrus S models are still as slim and powerful as possible, the Zephyrus M and Zephyrus G models are aimed at buyers with a higher entry level. They are still relatively lean, but not to an extent that drives manufacturing complexity, and therefore cost, to a stratospheric level. You also don't get the very best hardware like the S series. Today we're introducing the Zephyrus M GU502GU, which strikes a balance between performance, size and cost that should appeal to many gamers.
The latest Asus ROG gaming laptop range was launched in April this year, shortly after Intel and Nvidia launched new CPUs and GPUs. Many of these models have just been launched in India and our Zephyrus M GU502GU has new components that make it very interesting. Price at Rs. 1.49.990 and weighing just under 2 kg, could this gaming laptop find a permanent place in your backpack? Read on to find out.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU design
The ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU is definitely light enough to be worn every day and moves between real ultraportables and powerful gaming laptops. Slenderness is said to be the defining feature of this device, and at 18.9mm it is on the narrow side for gaming laptops. It's also wide and deep enough to accommodate a 15.6-inch screen.
The lid is made of plain black metal with a diagonally brushed structure and a large, off-center ROG logo that glows red when the device is in use. The edges are chamfered, but not shiny. We are a little surprised that there is no "gamer" flair in the form of aggressive edges and colorful accents.
There's a fairly large cutout between the two hinges on the back, so you can see a piece of the dotted metal strip that's in the lower half above the keyboard. At first we thought this looked neat on an otherwise very sober device, but soon we noticed that small lint and dust particles tended to get stuck in the dots. Through the recess, the LEDs for power supply, battery and memory status are visible when the lid is down. Unfortunately, holding the device in one hand when closed also makes it a bit cumbersome.
It's possible to lift the lid with just one finger, and once that's done you'll see the 15.6-inch screen. The edges at the top and sides of the screen are extremely narrow, but the chin is very thick. We don't mind because the screen is raised to a more comfortable height. However, the hinge does not tilt the screen back as far as we would have liked.
Our main objection is that Asus has thrown the webcam completely overboard. Other laptops have had uncomfortable precautions with the camera in their chin or even on the keyboard, but there are certainly better solutions than simply getting rid of them. If you want to chat via video chat, stream while playing, or take a few shots for fun, you'll need to buy (and carry around) an external USB webcam.
The keyboard is quite large, although Asus doesn't take up all of the available space. We appreciate the dedicated buttons for volume and microphone mute. The arrow keys are a bit too small, but at least not all crammed together. There are also a few strange quirks. For some reason delete and insert share a key, PrintScreen is in the bottom row and in the bottom right corner is a huge additional Fn button.
There are shortcuts to changing the backlight pattern and brightness of the RGB keyboard. You can also turn off the Windows key to prevent accidental game interruptions. There is also a special button that launches Asus' Armory Crate utility, which we'll discuss later.
The trackpad is located directly on the front lip of the device, which puts a little strain on the wrists. It also targets the case, not the keyboard. It doesn't have separate buttons, but it's a decent size and nice texture. The area around the keyboard and trackpad is made of metal with a matte texture and a very slightly speckled design, which we really liked.
On the left are the DC input, an Ethernet connection, a normal HDMI output, a USB 3.1 Gen2 (10 Gbit / s) type A connection as well as individual 3.5 mm headphones and microphone sockets. On the right are two USB 3.1 Gen1 ports (5 Gbit / s) and a USB 3.1 Gen2 port (10 Gbit / s) of type C, which are used for both DisplayPort video output and for charging the laptop can. Each side also has large hot air vents.
The stereo speakers are located on the underside of the ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU. You will see two fans and the heat pipes leading through the air intake openings on the bottom to the main components of the laptop. Unfortunately, there is no hatch or panel for easy access to upgradable components.
Although the laptop itself seems to be very portable, the included 230 W device is enormous. However, you can (slowly) charge this laptop with a certified 65 W USB charger (Type C) or even a power bank.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU specifications and software
Asus launched this portable slot machine in India in a single configuration at the price of Rs. 1,49,990. You get a 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H CPU with six cores and Hyper-Threading and a base speed of 2.6 GHz and a boost speed of 4.5 GHz with a TDP of 45 W. The other highlight is the new discrete GeForce GTX 1660 Nvidia's Ti GPU, which is based on the same new Turing architecture as the GeForce RTX series, but without the dedicated ray tracing hardware.
There is 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB PCIe SSD. The RAM is soldered, but there is a free slot so you can add up to 16 GB more. There is also a second free M.2 slot that can accommodate either a PCIe or a SATA SSD. It's nice to have some scope for upgrades even in a slim laptop. Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5 are built in, but strangely, there is no SD card slot that we would have liked.
The 15.6-inch screen has a standard resolution of 1920 x 1080, but there is a bonus in the form of a refresh rate of 144 Hz that should excite gamers. Unfortunately, the variable refresh rate standard G-Sync is not supported by Nvidia. According to Asus, this panel has been validated for Pantone color rendering and can cover 100 percent of the sRGB color space.
The battery life is up to 8 hours, but Asus has not specified the actual battery capacity. One thing worth mentioning is that the RGB keyboard backlight is configurable per key and there are three selectable brightness levels.
You get Windows 10 Home and pre-installed Asus apps. Many functions have been combined in the Armory Crate utility, which is now standard for all Asus ROG laptops and components. You can optimize fan profiles, create and manage RGB LED effects, and check for updates. There is also a 30-day McAfee LiveSave trial that occasionally shows huge pop-ups on most of the screen.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU performance
We hardly had any problems with the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU for general purpose use. This laptop is able to act as an everyday machine for productivity, especially if you need something with a large screen that is not too difficult to carry. It has more than enough power for basic use and multitasking, and can handle heavy image or video editing tasks.
We always appreciate an anti-glare laptop screen, and the one on this laptop is great for indoor use. The colors are vivid without being oversaturated, and the viewing angles are decent. The high refresh rate of 144 Hz also makes a difference outside of games. However, you can only use them when the Zephyrus M GU502GU is disconnected from the mains. In battery mode you fall back to 60Hz. and the screen goes black and there is a 2-5 second delay each time the mode is switched when you connect the charger or unplug it.
Apart from the compressed arrow keys, the keyboard is relatively comfortable. Your right palm rests on the trackpad while typing, which feels strange, but at least the refusal to touch the palm is good. The trackpad is also fluid, and multi-finger gestures work very well. Unfortunately, the speakers sounded hard and thin – they might be good enough for simple effects in games, but dialogues and music didn't sound good.
We started testing the performance of the ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU with some synthetic benchmarks. The PCMark 10 achieved a total score of 4,572 in the standard test and the Extended run a score of 5,792. CineBench R20 scored 435 points for a single CPU core and 2,452 points for all cores. POVRay ran its render benchmark in 1 minute and 58 seconds.
With CrystalDiskMark 6 we achieved pretty good SSD performance values. Sequential reads and writes reached 1813.2 Mbps and 970.5 Mbps, and random reads and writes reached 339.8 Mbps and 415.8 Mbps, respectively. In our real file compression test, it took 4 minutes and 8 seconds to compress a 3.24 GB folder with different files using 7zip. Recoding a 1.3 GB AVI file to H.265 with Handbrake took 1 minute and 1 second.
With 3DMark we then focused our attention on the GPU. The Time Spy test scored 5,348, while Fire Strike Extreme scored 6,287. Unigine Valley could not run and crashed every time we tried to start.
We started our game tests with Far Cry 5, which ran with the native resolution 1920 x 1080 in the ultra preset. An average frame rate of 63 fps was found at a refresh rate of 144 Hz and only a frame rate of 66 Hz at 60 Hz. We found that the higher setting almost eliminated the tearing and wiggling that we saw at 60 Hz when the average dropped below 60 fps.
In "Shadow of the Tomb Raider" we got an average of 61 fps with the graphics default "High" and activated TAA at 144 Hz. By reducing it to 60 Hz, this number was increased to 65 fps. Metro: Last Light Redux's benchmark does not offer refresh rate control, but ran at an average speed of 98.47 fps using the "Very High" preset with SSAA disabled and 58.49 fps with SSAA enabled.
By manually playing through Doom (2016), we were able to determine frame rates between 90 and 100 frames per second even during intense fights.
The Zephyrus M GU502GU does not have a flap on the bottom that can be opened to improve air circulation, like its predecessor, the Zephyrus M GM501GS. We found that this laptop did not warm up at all when used occasionally, but as soon as we launched some games, benchmarks, or content creation tools, the fans turned and became very loud.
The entire metal keyboard deck got too hot too soon. The palm rest became uncomfortable after about 30 minutes. Even the plastic keys in the middle of the keyboard got very crispy, even though the WASD keys were fine.
The intensity of the fans was enough to drown out ambient noise, and there was sudden noise and speed loss that we found annoying. When playing games with an external mouse, you should keep your hand at least 15 cm from both sides of the laptop as the hot air will flow out.
That brings us to battery life. We don't normally expect much from a gaming laptop, but the Zephyrus M GU502GU still manages an acceptable six hours on a single charge for occasional non-gaming use. It is not enough to get through a full day of work, but it shows that this machine is not designed to only sit on a desk while it is connected to its entire life. The intensive Battery Eater Pro benchmark ran for 2 hours and 57 minutes, which is also positive.
As we can see, such a slim gaming laptop has its downsides. The thermal design is somewhat inadequate and you may want to limit yourself to lower settings or less intense games to feel more comfortable. You also want to invest in a headset to hear your games over the noise of the fans, and you can forget about not disturbing anyone around you. Asus also made some strange decisions regarding the design – the missing webcam and the off-center trackpad are the most outrageous.
The price of this laptop is reasonable given its modern hardware, 144 Hz screen and portability. You could buy a more powerful gaming laptop or a lighter ultraportable for the same amount of money, but what you get here is a compromise that gives you the most benefits from both.
Aside from gaming, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GU502GU can be a decent portable notebook for those who need power or just like their style and can afford the luxury.