Asus G501JW review

If you like the style of Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro but need a laptop for Windows gaming, the G501JW could be the very machine. It packs an Nvidia GTX 960M for smooth gaming, and an ultra-high resolution 4K display for sharper graphics.

That’s not to say you can combine the two though – the latest notebook graphic processors are fast but not quite capable of playing action games at UHD resolution without struggling.

In our tests the G501JW could average 32fps in Batman: Arkham City at 3840 x 2160 with middling Normal detail – albeit with dips to 20fps that may prove troubling. Tomb Raider at the same settings averaged 27fps, also too close for comfort.

Halve the resolution up and down to 1920 x 1080 though, and you’re smoking with 55fps of Batman at maximum Extreme detail; and 51fps in Tomb Raider’s Ultra settings. The latter’s top Ultimate detail was less assured at 34fps average and 25fps minimum.

Asus G501JW review: Build and Design

Asus makes arguably the best Windows alternative to the MacBook Air with its Zenbook, and now its G501JW is a true rival to the Retina MacBook. This laptop's all-black, and construction is a plastic sandwich with metal lid back and bottom, but the size and weight – 21-mm thick and 2.0 kg – the curve across lid and bottom, corner radii and hinge design are all very similar to the MacBook's. There’s even a Thunderbolt port.

The 15.6-inch Samsung 4K IPS display is matt-finished (so there's minimal glare) and fractionally smaller overall than Apple’s 15.4-inch, due to the 16:9 ratio. Asus sets scaling to 200 percent, which replicates OS X’s Retina look, with the UHD panel rendering so Windows appears as it would on a screen with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080. Windows 8.1 is supplied, but you can upgrade for free to Windows 10.

It may prove too high a resolution for gaming, but it can be put to great use for viewing and editing photos and video - plenty of phones can record in 4K these days.

Around the edges you’ll find three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and Thunderbolt, plus SDXC slot and headset jack. Trim details are in red, including screen piping and monochomatic keyboard backlight. The keys feels reassuringly well-damped, although the trackpad lacks the precision we prefer from a £1300 laptop.

For storage Asus includes another Samsung strength, the SM951 SSD in generous 512GB form. This fast PCIe x4 drive is a great match for a fast machine. It's the same model - but twice the size - as the firm's 17in G751GT has.

Asus G501JW review: Performance

The 4th-generation Intel Core i7-4720HQ remains a popular part for gaming laptops, more than fast enough to accompany the GPU. With the single 8GB stick of 1600MHz RAM it allowed decent Geekbench scores of 3494 and 12,801 points, single- and multi-core modes. Leveraging the meaty graphics, PCMark 8 Home complete with 3018 points.

The IPS display was vibrant covering 97 percent sRGB, with good if not great contrast up to 530:1. Accuracy could be bettered too with Delta E average of 3.43.

Switching to Intel graphics, the G501JW lasts for  4hr 30mins in our streaming video test. That’s not bad for a gaming laptop but half the runtime of the non-gaming competition.

Asus G501JW: Specs

  • 15.6-inch (3840 x 2160) 282ppi IPS matt anti-glare display
  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (3.6GHz Turbo) 4C, 8T
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM + Intel HD Graphics 5100
  • 8GB (1x 8 GB) 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 512 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SATA SSD (Samsung SM951)
  • 10/100 ethernet USB 2.0 adaptor supplied
  • 802.11ac, 2x2 MIMO (Intel Wireless-AC 7260)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • HDMI 1.2
  • Thunderbolt
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp webcam
  • built-in mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with numberpad and two-level red backlight
  • buttonless trackpad, 104 x 73mm
  • 96Wh lithium-ion battery, non-removable
  • 120W mains charger with IEC C6 inlet
  • 381 x 255 x 20.6mm
  • 2kg
  • 15.6-inch (3840 x 2160) 282ppi IPS matt anti-glare display
  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (3.6GHz Turbo) 4C, 8T
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM + Intel HD Graphics 5100
  • 8GB (1x 8 GB) 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 512 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SATA SSD (Samsung SM951)
  • 10/100 ethernet USB 2.0 adaptor supplied
  • 802.11ac, 2x2 MIMO (Intel Wireless-AC 7260)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • HDMI 1.2
  • Thunderbolt
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.9Mp webcam
  • built-in mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with numberpad and two-level red backlight
  • buttonless trackpad, 104 x 73mm
  • 96Wh lithium-ion battery, non-removable
  • 120W mains charger with IEC C6 inlet
  • 381 x 255 x 20.6mm
  • 2kg

OUR VERDICT

Asus has assembled a fast and lightweight gaming laptop with good results. The 4K-UHD screen is perhaps more about pose than performance, but at full-HD resolution this machine takes Windows games in its stride at high detail.

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