First Impression: Cool Looks and Slimmer Than Most
The review unit I was sent by ASUS is the ROG Strix Hero Edition, with “Mayan” pattern details. It’s a sharp looking machine, with a profile that’s slim and sleek for a 15.6-inch gaming laptop, with a prominent Republic of Gamers logo on the lid (silver with red backlighting). The treatment adds visual interest, makes the laptop look less bulky and helps to avoid fingerprints. It’s a nice look, but not over the top.
Also immediately obvious is that ASUS made sure you can use all your accessories and peripherals. There are plenty of ports, including four standard USB 3.0, a new USB-C and multiple video outputs.
They keyboard also stands out, with its Aura LED-backlighting system.
A single screw unlocks a panel on the bottom of the laptop that gives you easy access to RAM slots and drive bays should you opt to upgrade in the future (it will take a maximum of 32GB of RAM).
Easy Setup, But Set Some Time Aside for Windows Updates
The ASUS ROG Strix Hero Edition came with Windows pre-installed, so it was pretty much ready to go out of the box. Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant is there to walk you through the configuration basics, including getting connected to Wi-Fi. However, there was a wait of three hours or so while Windows 10 updates downloaded and installed. All of this is automatic, though, so you can go and have a coffee while you wait.
Once that was done, I used ASUS’ Aura app to configure the keyboard’s LED lighting.
High Performance Gaming and an Excellent Display
Does the ASUS ROG Strix Hero Edition have what it takes to be a mobile PC gaming system? That’s the big question. And one key spec is a dead giveaway about its capabilities: VR-ready. Virtual reality is about as demanding as it gets at the moment, and if a gaming PC is VR-ready, then it’s going to have decent performance.
And the VR-ready ROG Strix Hero Edition is definitely ready to take on gaming. It has a 7th generation Intel Core i7 CPU at 2.8GHz with 16GB of fast DDR4 RAM on tap. There’s bulk storage in the form of a 1TB Seagate FireCuda hybrid drive (an interesting choice since most gaming laptops make do with a regular HDD) along with 256GB of PCIe solid state storage. These make for snappy system performance and can significantly reduce game load times.
The key component is the video card, and in this case it’s the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 video with 6GB DDR5 VRAM. I was able to play Starcraft II with all the setting maxed out, and still hit frame rates of 125fps.
The display is worth mentioning as well. It’s a 15.6-inch Full HD panel, so no 4K gaming—unless you plug in an external monitor. But it was a really enjoyable display to use. It was bright and had extremely wide viewing angles with low reflectivity. It also has a 120Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth graphics and ASUS says it offers 100% sRBG gamut coverage. This display is excellent for gaming, viewing video and it was also crisp for web browsing.
Were there any downsides of this gaming laptop compared to other I’ve tested? Several times, the fans ramped up loudly (once during those Windows upgrades). Not a regular occurrence, but the few times it happened, they sure made their presence known. Otherwise, I didn’t run into any negatives worth spiking out.
ASUS ROG Strix Hero Edition Specs (as tested)
For full specifications, check the ASUS ROG Strix product page.
Battery Life: The Achilles Heel of Any Gaming Laptop
It’s a remarkable feat of engineering to cram the high performance components needed to support virtual reality gaming and 4K graphics capability into a laptop. Especially one that’s as thin as the ASUS ROG Strix Hero Edition. But something has to give, and as is usually the case with gaming laptops, that something is battery life.
A gaming laptop with a power-sucking graphics card and Core i7 CPU would need to be the size of a suitcase to get the kind of battery life an ultrabook class laptop can get these days. No-one wants to lug that around, though. The 64 Wh battery in this laptop is rated at up to 3.5-hours of use, but that assumes you have battery-saving settings in place—which can degrade gaming performance. Yes, I was able to get in the 3.5-hour neighbourhood when streaming video and surfing the web, but for gaming without compromise, I would say 2-hours to 2.5-hours is more realistic.
Is This Your New Gaming Laptop?
There’s a lot to like about the ASUS ROG Strix Hero Edition 15.6-inch gaming laptop. I can’t help but compare it to the ASUS Zephyrus I looked at last month. It doesn’t have quite the same cool factor as that one did, and from a practical standpoint I did prefer the (virtual) numeric keypad setup of the Zephyrus.
However, the ROG Strix Hero Edition is a solid choice as a gaming laptop and it’s still slimmer than most, while still delivering a VR-ready gaming experience and offering a very nice display. Plus it gets better battery life than the Zephyrus and costs considerably less. I’d say that if you’re looking for a solid mobile PC gaming experience, the ASUS ROG Strix Hero Edition 15.6-inch gaming laptop deserves to be on your short-list.
Check out all the latest ASUS ROG laptops, as well as the full complement of gaming laptops from all the leading brands, at Best Buy.