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ASUS ROG GL552VX review: Proof that cheap gaming laptops are worth it

ASUS' entry level gaming notebook proves you don't have to spend the earth to have a good time.

ASUS GL552

The Quick Take

Windows Central Recommended Award

With the GL552VX (opens in new tab), ASUS proves that you can have a good experience with a gaming laptop that doesn't cost thousands. The 950M GPU feels underpowered at times, but it still allows play of some of the latest games in a fashion that doesn't make you want to throw it out a window. Its subtle styling and solid hardware makes the GL552 a great all-rounder.

Pros

  • Built like a tank
  • Easy to upgrade RAM and storage
  • Top of the line gaming performance

Cons

  • It's massive
  • It's very heavy
  • Optical drive adds thickness where it doesn't need to be

About this review

This review was conducted having spent a week with a review unit provided by ASUS UK. The review period was conducted without the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

ASUS GL552 full review

ASUS GL552

ASUS GL552

Republic of Gamers (ROG) is the gaming arm of ASUS, and whether you're a fan or not there's certainly one thing this company knows how to do; make good hardware. It also knows how to make hardware that appeals to all budgets, and while the gaming laptop space is still an expensive place to go shopping, there are cheaper points of entry.

One of those is the ROG GL552, a refresh of ASUS' lower-cost gaming laptop. It's not unrecognizable from that which came before, but this one represents the new entry point in the ROG line up. The price has been trimmed as has some of the hardware inside, but it should still offer a competent gaming experience.

Whether it does or not is what we're here to find out.

ASUS GL552 specs

  • Display:
    • 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display
    • 1920x1080 resolution
  • Processor:
    • Intel Core i5-6300HQ processor
    • 8GB RAM
    • NVIDIA GTX 950M 2GB graphics
  • Storage
    • 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
    • SD card slot
    • USB-C 3.1, USB 3.0, Ethernet, HDMI
    • DVD-RW optical drive

ASUS GL552 hardware and design

ASUS GL552

ASUS GL552

There are a few different configurations for this laptop but the one we have here is the bottom rung, entry-level model. For this cheapest £799 configuration we're getting a non-touch 1080p IPS display, an Intel Core i5 6300HQ, 8GB of RAM and a 2GB NVIDIA GTX 950M GPU. If you want to spend a little more you can get a Core i7 processor and a GTX 960M GPU, as well as a metallic lid.

The subtle looks mean you can easily take this into a meeting

The GL552 isn't one of those over-designed, wildly aggressive gaming notebooks, much to its credit. There are little hints of its credentials subtly dropped across its frame, such as the glowing ROG logo on the lid and the red LED backlighting and accents on the keyboard. But for the most part it's very discrete in its looks. To the untrained eye it looks like a regular ASUS laptop. You could sit in the coffee shop with it and not feel embarrassed.

After all, it's entirely plausible that you're not just buying a laptop to play games on, right?

Whether you're playing games or doing other, more boring tasks, the display looks great. 1080p is still just fine at 15 inches and while a higher resolution panel would look nice, it wouldn't make sense at this price. You're not going to play games higher than that resolution on it, after all. Being IPS it has great viewing angles, almost a full 180 degrees ASUS claims, and they're right on the money. It's plenty bright enough at max, and dim enough at minimum to cater to any time of the day.

Since this is no ultrabook, there's no metal body to be found here. Just as well really, given its girth. It's all plastic with the top having a texture to it giving plenty of grip when you're carrying it around or going in and out of a bag. Being plastic is OK, too, when it's built as well as the GL552. It's incredibly sturdy, there's very little screen flex and it's overall a very solid-feeling product. It leaves you with a confident feeling it's going to stand up well to the test of time.

The downside is that the palm rest area and the trackpad in particular are fingerprint magnets. It's impossible to go through a day using the GL552 without those areas becoming a fingerprinty mess. The keyboard area also houses the speakers, just below the screen. And they're speakers. Gamers will probably use a headset, but these sound OK for watching a movie or listening to music.

Turn on the hot zone lighting to ignore those unimportant, non-gaming keys

The keyboard has a bright red LED backlighting, and thanks to the size of the notebook we're getting a full size layout with number pad. The WASD keys are highlighted to stand out in the field of keys, and combined with the ROG software hot zone lighting turning off the non-important to gaming areas, you're always where you need to be. The keyboard is great to type on, with decent key travel but if you're more serious about your FPS games in particular, you'll be hooking up an external mechanical keyboard.

The same goes for a mouse. The trackpad is responsive and a lot better to use than the last ASUS laptop I used, but equally it's not really built for serious gamers, either. It's also a little loose feeling around the edges, with even slight touches physically moving the trackpad, which is offputting.

The GL552 is a chunky thing in part due to the optical drive. With today's game delivery systems being heavily digital, is there really a place for this in 2016? Personally, I'd be happy to see it go and get a slimmer form factor to carry around. It doesn't play Blu-Ray discs as standard, either, which makes it even less desirable. There is an option to have one of those, but it'll cost extra.

Make no mistake, this is a heavy machine, especially if you're new to gaming laptops. Compared to some, it's not so bad, but it's big, thick and will weigh on your shoulders.

Do we really need an optical drive in 2016?

You do get an terrific amount of ports down the sides, though, which is a very good thing. On one side you have a Kensington lock, USB 2.0, headphone and microphone socket, great for gaming headsets. On the other side you get a USB-C port, HDMI out, Ethernet and a pair of USB 3.0 ports.

The battery is and removable, so in theory you could carry a spare in your gear bag when you're on the road… or just the charger. If you're gaming sans cable then don't expect much, maybe a couple of hours if you're lucky. For regular, non-gaming purposes, it seems easy enough to get 4-5 hours, which is pretty impressive for this type of laptop.

Upgrading the ASUS GL552

ASUS GL552

ASUS GL552

The model we have here is the bottom rung, the entry level, but you don't have to stick with what you've got. Inside it already has a 128GB SSD boot drive and a 1TB HDD for mass storage, which is not only a little surprising but fantastic standard equipment on an entry level machine.

If what comes out of the box isn't enough for you, then ASUS makes it a cinch to upgrade. Flipping the GL552 over reveals the upgrade panel and with only two screws to pop out you're soon staring at the insides. There's already an empty RAM slot, so buying a single stick of 8GB (opens in new tab) is enough to bump you up to 16GB total. Both the m.2 SSD and the mass storage HDD are accessible to swap out, too, so if you're after a bit more all round it's an easy task to upgrade.

ASUS GL552 performance

Despite being the entry level, the GL552 doesn't shy away from being able to play some of the latest titles in a reasonable manner. To test out its gaming chops we've put it through a number of benchmarks to see what it can handle.

In terms of 3DMark benchmarks, the new DX12 test was pretty much unusable on the GL552, hence reverting to some of the older, more familiar tests.

For in-game benchmarks here's what we're looking at:

  • Bioshock Infinite - average 70 FPS (Ultra)
  • Tomb Raider - average 54.9 (High)
  • Dirt Rally - average 46.2 (High)
  • Forza Apex - 30 FPS (Medium)
  • Gears of War Ultimate - average 51 FPS (Medium)

Older games like Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider are a pretty good experience with the graphics turned up a bit. Dirt Rally, too, which was a little surprising, given that personally I've had some issues with it on NVIDIA cards in the past. Given that the same game is just 30FPS on consoles, anything above that is a win.

It was the two DX12, Windows 10 exclusive games that struggled the most on the GL552. Forza 6: Apex would not go above medium settings and it was pretty locked at 30FPS right through with minor drops from time to time. It looks and plays OK, but it's definitely lacking that slick edge that we're used to getting from Forza.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition faired much better, again on medium graphics, with the benchmark mode pulling out a respectible 51 FPS. Gameplay at 60FPS is possible, and fairly common, but the game still seems to struggle, with frame rates anywhere between 30 and 60FPS plaguing my time testing it on this laptop.

Naturally, less intensive games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive fly along on the GL552, with frame rates over 100 virtually the whole time. But even with just a 2GB 950M GPU on board, it's very pleasing to see the results in more intensive titles.

It's not just graphics that impress on the GL552, the combination of a Skylake Core i5 CPU and a main SSD storage give us snappy performance across the board. Windows boots up in seconds, programs are quick to load and the Core i5 is good enough for most anything you'll want from it. You can see the numbers from the Cinebench CPU test and CrystalDiskMark for the storage above, while on Geekbench 3 it pumps out a respectible 2689 for single-core and 8323 for multi-core.

ASUS GL552: The bottom line

ASUS GL552

ASUS GL552

This review started by asking whether or not the experience offered here is worth the money, even for an entry level gaming notebook. The answer to that question is easily a yes. ASUS knows how to make good hardware and the GL552 is no exception. It's not the sleek, metal-clad ultrabook that you might see in all the cafes and coffee shops, but that's OK.

What you have here is a solid mix of performance, build quality, and price. The GL552 is solid, with a good keyboard and a really nice display, while not running away with your wallet and still letting you play current titles so long as you turn the graphics down a bit.

There's also a lot to be said for its understated design. Too many gaming notebooks shout out loud that's what they are, but they don't look so hot around a conference room table. The GL552 has hints of wildness, with plenty of red and the glowing logo on the lid, but for the most part it looks fairly ordinary. There's a lot of people out there, myself included, who appreciate a gaming laptop with a less-ostentatious design. Especially one that's as good as this.

Should you buy the ASUS GL552? Sure!

The elephant in the room to buying the GL552 is the Dell Inspiron 15 7559, one of our favorite gaming laptops. It is priced in the same neighborhood as the ASUS, but with a 4GB 960M GPU inside alongside an Intel Core i7 processor. So it has the GL552 beat when it comes to raw gaming performance.

But the ASUS pulls ahead significantly in other areas. For starters, you get a combination of SSD and HDD storage as standard, meaning fast boot up times for Windows 10 while still leaving a bucket of space to store your frequently-access files, apps, and games for quick access. The Dell (opens in new tab) comes with a horribly slow 5200rpm HDD by default, requiring extra spending to speed things up.

If you're looking for a quality, budget-friendly gaming notebook, the GL552 should definitely be on your shortlist.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

19 Comments
  • That's too expensive.
  • Yeah and GPU memory is the reason for low performance for that video card, these days a 4Gt video card memory is almost a requirement for video card to get some real performance out of it. Everything else is good in this laptop but it has 2Gt video card memory and that explains alot of the "underpowered" feel.
  • Last year a bought a Lenovo Y70-50. i7 4th generation, GTX960M and 256GB SSD. Did only cost 1000€. I'm shure you can get it cheaper now, with still better performance than this Asus.
  • I bought both laptops, the Asus definitely fared better. The Lenovo just had too much bloat. Its a shame because the Lenovo started out so good.
  • Would this GTX 950M 2GB be enough for running AutoCAD 3D renderings, 3D studio max and a bit of Lumion as well? 
  • For CAD & 3D CG software you want to invest in CPU and RAM, lots of RAM. So yes, the GPU will be fine with the software. I still run AutoCAD, Lightwave, Mudbox, Vue Infinite, and ZBrush all on a laptop with a GTX560M, but it's Core i7 & 32GB DDR3 memory.
  • I have ROG GL752VW - 960M with 4GB of video memory (i7,8GB RAM, SSD + HDD ...)
    I am very pleased. The only criticism goes bad battery.
    Games in FHD resolution are going smoothly and fluidly.
  • Viewed from the app, this article is a mess. Font sizes are all over the place, formatting is busted, html broken. Just a wonderful experience.
  • Looks fine here. There are elements which aren't as nice, granted, but there's no issues with font sizes or html being broken. There are H2s in the review as there are any big review published by mobile nations. That is a larger font because it dictates the start of a new section. The app is a continual work in progress. But the website is designed first, it's what pays the bills.
  • If only you could change the cpu and gpu out as well.
  • lol...not at this pricepoint.
  • Just bought the G752VY (GTX980M) strictly for gaming. It's pretty solid but $$$. I have a 5 year old ASUS G74SX (GTX560M) that still does very well and use it for light gaming and 3D design work. I've found ASUS laptops to be well-specced and reliable for the money.
  • My Inspiron 15 7559 does a great job. Have it for 4 months already and it's a beast. Would still recommend it over this. Especially for the graphics card at that price. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • For anyone looking for extra RAM, Kingston HyperX is a pretty solid deal. I think it's $35 for 8 Gb (1 stick). It also comes with a cool little decal to put on the laptop.
  • I have the same Laptop ad it is good as hell.
  • I use this laptop (GL552VW) to run my YouTube channel and play some games, abet the slightly higher spec model which has a 960m. I have no major issues with the laptop at all, agree with the optical drive its a waste and would even preferred to another HD dock inside. I'm thinking of upgrading it to 32GB memory but not sure if it will add anything, I do use it to render video which I believe it would speed up.   My YouTube Channel is McSherlock Gaming & Nerd Talk where I run some games on the GL552VW Version (i5 Nvidia 960m) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-nX19Di6FrfSvPe5jI7Dpg      
  • I got last year asus gl552... 4th gen i7 with 950m Nvidia... All in all it is really good except the horrible sounds.. Through headphone it's okay but the on-board speaker is horrible Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I own one of these. Not entirely agreeing with the wiegh. Its not heavy and massive bit bit thick. Not happy with the USB ports though. Its pretty light and gives a plastic feel. Performance it pretty good. Price is littlebit higher. Gaming performance is good. 
  • How the hell do they use the words "Buit like a tank" and "little to no screen flex"? When this is the main issue this model has and most people hesitate on buying, what kind of credibility can this review have when you do such mistake or avoid such topic? And use the fact that it comes with an optical drive as a cons when a lot of people see this as an useful addition? Its complaining for getting more food in the plate. For people believing "built like a tank" and "little to no screenflex", just search the video review made by GadgetJM on Youtube and check how much it twists and depresses everywhere he touched it, seriously even the bottom plastic cover does this... And for as much as all reviewer says "get the metallic lid version", i have seen zero metallic lid version reviews or credible source on how it really is metallic and not some brushed plastic with alluminum alike coating.. I already heard a owner of this laptop in metallic version saying it still does a lot of screenflex. This laptop is also far from massive or heavy, it is mainly plastic and any of its competitors easily heavier. This is not an Ultrabook, do not expect thin or ultra light laptops specially at this laptops cooling performance. This laptop is awesome, flawless on specs, monitor color accuracy/contrast and brightness at a cheap price, but the build quality on the casing and lid makes me hesitate 100% on purchasing it. Why they even made a GL552 with worse case/lid build quality than the previous GL551 is just out of my mind.. Seriously do you people even touch your laptops when you review them?