As far as gaming notebooks go, the ASUS ROG GL552VW can be considered an entry- to mid-level offering. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t expect it to perform at the same pace as notebooks that cost twice as much – but if you’re searching for a gaming notebook that’ll keep you happy for the next couple of years without making a complete mess of your savings, there’s a lot to like about the GL552VW.
It features an impressively stylish design, one that immediately assures you that this is a quality piece of tech. Its sleek curves and attractive aesthetic are sure to turn heads, and I like the ROG logo on the hood, which lights up when the power’s on. It’s a small touch, sure, but it looks great.
The keyboard features red backlighting and is a pleasure to use. The keys are responsive and tactile, and you shouldn’t encounter any problems with discomfort during periods of extended use. The trackpad has a different texture to the rest of the chassis, which is good – although the pad is one solid piece, rather than offering distinct left- and right-mouse buttons at the bottom. Whether or not you’ll appreciate this will come down to preference, but personally I prefer it when the mouse buttons are kept separate from the rest of the trackpad’s surface. Thankfully, the GL552VW ships with a bundled mouse, but even if it didn’t you’d likely still use the laptop with a dedicated gaming mouse, so you’ll rarely need to use the trackpad anyway.
15.6-inch displays have never proven to be the ideal size for a gaming notebook, but the GL552VW’s display makes up for this by being incredibly vibrant and bright. The viewing angle is fantastic and the matte finish means that glare is far less of an issue than it would be otherwise. The audio, meanwhile, leaves a lot to be desired. The notebook ships with ASUS’s SonicMaster tech, which is a bonus if you plan to use a headset or discrete speakers, but the built-in speakers can’t rival the audio solutions presented by some of the competition. The audio they produce is tinny and lifeless, viciously distorting if you push them too far outside of their limited comfort zone.
I can’t really fault the GL552VW in terms of system performance. The Core i7 processor does an excellent job in ensuring productivity software is nippy and responsive, although as I’d expected the GTX 960M does bottleneck gaming performance somewhat. 3DMark’s Fire Strike test produces a result of 4,034. It’s about 2,000 points shy of the performance you’d get if you spent an extra R10,000 on a more beefy laptop, but you’ll certainly be able to play most modern games comfortably at around medium settings. You’ll obviously be free to push some games further than others, but you should expect that you’ll have to do some tweaking to get optimal frame rates. For games like League of Legends and Dota 2, you’ll be mighty pleased with the performance here. The unit we received didn’t ship with an SSD, but it’s an optional extra if you’re prepared to pay for it.
In terms of extras, you’ll find the usual assortment of things: USB 3.0 ports (including a USB 3.1 Type-C port, which is great), Bluetooth 4.0 support, HDMI out and a card reader. One very nifty feature is how easy it is to access the RAM and SSD slots hidden beneath the exterior. Many laptops make accessing their innards to expand their performance a bit of a chore, but here it’s as simple as removing a slide-off panel.
Overall, the GL552VW is a good gaming notebook with a price that’s alluringly low compared to the higher-end laptops out there. It feels like more of a true all-rounder, as comfortable at general software use as it is at running Diablo III without a hitch – and the battery life is further proof of this, getting you more hours off a single charge than you’ll get from a heftier system. Other than the disappointing built-in speakers, you’ll be mighty happy should you choose to make the GL552VW part of your gaming arsenal.