ASUS Zephyrus G (GA502DU) Gaming Laptop Review


The ASUS Zephyrus G GA502 gaming laptop pairs
an AMD Ryzen CPU with Nvidia graphics in a thinner machine, so let’s check it out in
this detailed review and help you decide if it’s worth it. Starting with the specs there’s an AMD Ryzen
7 3750H quad core CPU, Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q graphics, and mine has 16gb of memory
in dual channel, though the Ryzen mobile platform only supports memory up to DDR4-2400. There’s
a 15.6” 1080p 120Hz screen, and a 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD in one of the two slots. For network connectivity it’s got gigabit
ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5, and you can find links to updated pricing in the
description. The GA502 has a brushed black metal lid with
the ROG logo towards the side, while the interior is all matte black plastic, but overall the
build quality felt good, and there were no sharp corners or edges anywhere. ASUS list the weight of the laptop at 2.1kg,
and mine was spot on with this. With the 180 watt power brick and cables for charging included
the total weight rises a little above 2.6kg. The dimensions of the GA502 are 36cm in width,
25.2cm in depth, and around 2cm in height, so on the smaller side for a 15 inch machine. These smaller dimensions allow the screen
to have thin bezels with a 81% screen to body ratio, I measured them at 9mm on the sides. The 15.6” 1080p 120Hz IPS-Level panel is
6-bit, and I couldn’t see FreeSync available through the Nvidia control panel. I’ve measured the colour gamut using the
Spyder 5 Pro and got 63% of sRGB, 45% of NTSC, and 47% of AdobeRGB. At 100% brightness I
measured the panel at 284 nits in the center and with a 1040:1 contrast ratio, so above
average contrast, but a little lower than the standard 300 nits I like to see. The colour
gamut is on the lower side, but not too unexpected for a gaming laptop at this price point. It’s
fine for gaming, but I’d look elsewhere if you’re after photo or video editing. Backlight bleed wasn’t very good in my unit,
the section down the bottom left corner in particular was occasionally noticeable in
games during darker scenes, but this will vary between laptop and panel. There was some screen flex as the lid is on
the thinner side, but the metal build and hinges being out towards the corners made
it feel sturdy. It was easy to open up with one finger, demonstrating
an even weight distribution, and it felt fine sitting on my lap. The GA502 doesn’t actually have a camera
built in, and unlike the more expensive GX701 there wasn’t one included in the box. Although there’s no camera it does still
have a microphone, and this is what it sounds like. The keyboard has white backlighting, no RGB
or customization is possible here, but even all secondary key functions are illuminated.
I liked typing with the keyboard, here’s how it sounds to give you an idea of what
to expect. I didn’t like the smaller arrow keys, and
these can also be used with the function key to adjust keyboard brightness between three
levels or turned off. Just above the keyboard we’ve got extra
buttons to change the volume, mute microphone, and a shortcut to open the Armoury Crate software
which is the control panel for this laptop. There was only a bit of keyboard flex while
pushing down hard, it was quite sturdy. The precision touchpad worked well, it’s
smooth to the touch, clicks down anywhere and has the usual gestures. Fingerprints were harder to see on the interior
as it’s not a perfectly smooth texture, but this also made it a little harder to clean. On the left from the back there’s the power
input, gigabit ethernet, and I prefer the way it’s facing as you don’t have to lift
the machine up to unplug it, HDMI 2.0b output, USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C
port with DisplayPort 1.4 support, no Thunderbolt though and 3.5mm audio combo jack. On the right from the front there are two
more USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports, an air exhaust vent, and Kensington lock. On the back are air exhaust vents towards
the corners, and then nothing at all on the front. Underneath the thick rubber feet did a good
job of preventing movement while in use, and there are only air intake vents over the memory
slot and heatpipes. Although it looks like there are vents over where the fans are, these
are actually blocked off. On the brushed metal lid the ROG logo lights
up red while the laptop is powered on, and I wasn’t able to customize this. The back
of the lid is cut out down the bottom which lets you see the status LEDs with the lid
closed, and this is also meant to help air get into the vents above the keyboard. The two speakers are found towards the front
left and right corners, and they sounded good for a laptop, definitely above average with
some bass present, they get loud enough while playing music and the latencymon results look
good. Speaking of sounds, it plays this one by default
on boot. Fortunately you can disable this either through
the Armoury Crate software or BIOS. To get inside, we need to take out 15 Phillips
head screws. Once inside, from left to right we’ve got the WiFi card, first M.2 slot
next to that with our NVMe SSD installed, battery underneath here, single memory slot,
and second M.2 slot, however it’s worth noting both M.2 slots are only 2 lanes of
PCIe rather than your typical 4. As we can see there’s just the one SODIMM
memory slot on the motherboard, this is because the GA502 comes with 8 or 16gb soldered to
the motherboard in single channel, so will be slower without a stick installed here.
Mine also has an 8gb stick installed for 16gb in total though, which does allow it to run
faster in dual channel and it supports up to 32gb. Powering the laptop is a 76 watt hour battery.
I’ve tested it with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled, and all
keyboard lighting off. While just watching YouTube videos I got a
very impressive result for a gaming laptop, well over 7 hours. The Vega graphics were
in use during this test with Nvidia Optimus, and this was providing at least a couple hours
more use than what we’d get with a similarly specced Intel laptop. While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings
and Nvidia’s battery boost set to 30 FPS the average frame rate was sitting around
26, not quite able to hit the cap. The battery lasted for an hour and 42 minutes in total,
but after the first hour and a half with 10% charge left the frame rate dipped to 13 FPS
and was no longer playable. I didn’t have any battery drain with the
180 watt power brick, so it seems to be plenty for these specs, and I’ll also note that
you can’t use turbo mode when on battery power, more on that soon. Let’s move onto the thermal testing. The
Zephyrus design is traditionally known for raising the back of the machine up to improve
air flow, however this feature is not present in this more budget friendly less premium
design. Air is primarily brought in through the keyboard and vents above it, and as discussed
earlier the vents directly above the fans underneath were blocked off, forcing air underneath
to first come in over the heatpipes and memory slot. Inside we’ve got a few heatpipes, with a
couple shared between the processor and graphics, and we can see that air is exhausted out the
side and back with the left fan, and just out the back for the opposite fan. The ASUS Armory Crate software allows you
to change between three different modes, silent, performance and turbo, and I’ve tested all
three. Basically these modes adjust maximum fan speed, CPU power limits, and control GPU
overclocking, as defined here. You can easily swap between these modes through software,
or by holding the function key and pressing the pressing F5, the key with the fan icon. Thermal testing was completed in an ambient
room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, so expect different results in different environments.
No CPU undervolting has been done as this is not currently possible with AMD mobile
CPUs. At idle both the CPU and GPU were on the warmer
side, though realistically not a problem and the fans were quiet, as you’ll hear later. The rest of the results are from combined
CPU and GPU workloads, and are meant to represent worst case scenarios as I ran them for extended
periods of time. The gaming results towards the upper half
of the graph were tested by playing Watch Dogs 2, as I find it to use a good combination
of processor and graphics. The stress test results shown on the lower half of the graph
are from running the Aida64 CPU stress test with only the stress CPU option checked, and
the Heaven GPU benchmark at max settings at the same time to fully load the system. Starting with the stress tests, in silent
mode the 1660 Ti max-q was thermal throttling at 86 degrees Celsius. If we change to performance
mode the GPU thermal throttling is removed as this boosts the fan speed, however the
CPU was now hotter as this mode raises its power limit, I think it was thermal throttling,
however hardware info doesn’t currently report on this for the 3750H CPU so I can’t
say for sure. There were no differences in temperatures with performance or turbo mode,
because as you’ll hear later the fan speed didn’t actually change in this workload.
Using a cooling pad did help a little, despite the vents directly above the fans being blocked
off by the bottom panel as we saw earlier. The gaming results saw a similar trend, with
some GPU thermal throttling in silent mode, with slight improvements to thermals as we
continue making changes. These are the average clock speeds for the
same tests just shown. In silent mode we’re seeing lower CPU clock speeds compared to
the other tests as this mode caps the CPU power limit to 8 watts. Although the clock
speeds in watch dogs 2 look good here, the game was actually unplayable, but we’ll
check out some FPS benchmarks with different modes soon. In performance mode there’s
a nice boost to CPU clock speed as the power limit raises to around 21 watts, and the GPU
sees an increase too as this boosts fan speed and removes thermal throttling. Turbo mode
saw no change to CPU performance due to suspected CPU thermal throttling, however the reported
GPU clock speed raises due to the overclocking turbo mode applies. As there was more thermal
headroom for the gaming test the performance and turbo modes are making more noticeable
improvements. The cooling pad makes a big improvement to CPU clock speed while under
stress test, as it helps address the CPU thermal throttling, however it hardly did anything
while playing this particular game as temperatures weren’t too bad without it. These are the TDP values during these same
tests. I’ve used hardware info for the GPU, shown by the green bars, and we’re not hitting
the 60 watt power limit of the 1660 Ti Max-Q with silent mode enabled due to the GPU thermal
throttling covered earlier. Hardware Info still seems to incorrectly report the TDP
for the 3750H CPU, so I’ve used AMD’s uprof tool instead, however as this didn’t
really give an average over time these results are only approximate values. I don’t have
results for the gaming tests because without a consistent load it was difficult to report
an average. The 3750H has a 35 watt TDP, and as this is only hit once the cooling pad is
in use it sort of implies that we were thermal throttling in this workload without it, though
as we saw this seemed to be less of a problem with an actual game running. These are the TDP values I was seeing reported
by uprof while under a CPU only workload, so it looks like performance mode has a 28
watt limit, though this was not being hit under combined CPU and GPU loads, as we just
saw before, due to thermal limitations. These are the average clock speeds under these same
workloads, as the power limit increases so does the clock speed and performance. More
power and performance typically equals more heat, however we saw the highest temperature
in silent mode, simply because the fan speed was so much quieter when compared to performance
or turbo modes. To demonstrate how this translates into performance
I’ve got some Cinebench CPU benchmarks, with Intel’s last gen i5-8300H quad core
CPU in red just for comparison, though keep in mind the i5 does have a higher 45 watt
TDP limit. I’ve compared these two in a separate video if you’re interested in more
comparisons. As for the external temperatures where you’ll
actually be putting your hands, at idle it was a bit warmer than the standard 30 degrees
I usually see, mainly towards the back. With the stress tests running in silent mode it’s
in the mid 50s in the center, getting up to 60s right up the back where it was hot to
the touch. It was a bit cooler in performance mode as this raises fan speed, and we can
see the cooler spots on the left and right where the fans bring in air through the keyboard.
There wasn’t much difference in turbo mode, still getting to 60 right at the back, but
for the areas you’ll actually be touching it’s not too bad. Here’s what the fans sound like during these
different tests. At idle in silent mode the fan was only just
audible. With silent mode and the stress tests running it’s much quieter compared to most
other laptops I’ve tested. In performance or turbo mode the fan speed was the same,
and pretty average when compared to most other gaming laptops that I’ve tested. I forgot
to test fan speed while gaming, and although it will vary by game, I did notice that while
in performance mode the fan speed did drop back a couple of decibels when not being smashed
with a stress test. Overall the ASUS GA502 gaming laptop will
thermal throttle on the graphics in silent mode, which isn’t too surprising given the
slower fan speed. Thermal throttling was seen on the CPU under combined multicore and GPU
stress test, even with the higher fan speeds, however this was still noticeably cooler compared
to the 90 plus we usually see from Intel based laptops under the same workload. It was possible
to cool it down a bit with a cooling pad, though I suspect this would have helped out
more if the vents above the fans weren’t blocked off. Next let’s take a look at some gaming benchmarks,
I’ve tested these with turbo mode enabled for best performance, but we’ll test with
some different performance modes afterwards. Battlefield 5 was tested in campaign mode,
and at ultra settings it was still playable and able to average above 60 FPS, with up
to 90 reached at low settings. Apex Legends was tested with either all settings
at maximum, or all settings on the lowest possible values, as it doesn’t have predefined
setting presets. A recent Nvidia driver update boosted performance of this game, so we’re
seeing pretty good results here. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with
the built in benchmark, and at max settings we’re just under 60 FPS, not too bad, and
lower settings weren’t really improving this by that much, but we’ll see how this
game compares with other laptops soon. Far Cry New Dawn was tested with the built
in benchmark, and although the results were lower compared to most other laptops I’ve
tested as this test is heavier on the CPU, 60 FPS was still hit at normal settings. Fortnite was tested with the replay feature,
and as a less demanding game even at epic settings the average frame rate was still
quite good and playing fine, though we could get much higher FPS at lower settings to take
advantage of the 120Hz panel. Overwatch is another well optimized game and
was tested in the practice range, and it was running fine even at max settings, with the
average frame rate still close to the refresh rate of the display. Rainbow Six Siege was tested with the built
in benchmark. At maximum settings 100 FPS averages were still being hit in this test
with a 100% render scale, while high settings took us to the refresh rate of the screen. PUBG was tested using the replay feature,
and high settings and below were all around the 100 FPS point with not really that much
of a difference, while ultra settings was still above 60 FPS too. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was tested with
the built in benchmark and this seems to be a CPU heavy test, though I don’t think it
needs a super high frame rate to play, so these results aren’t too bad. CS:GO was tested using the Ulletical FPS benchmark,
and as a game that depends primarily on CPU power it was around 100 FPS lower than an
i7 based laptop, however 150 FPS at max settings is still plenty to play this game well. Dota 2 was tested playing in the middle lane,
and as a primarily CPU driven game the results are a bit lower compared to an Intel based
laptop, however the performance from this machine was still great, with 100 FPS averages
at ultra settings, while high settings better took advantage of the 120hz display. Watch Dogs 2 is a resource heavy game, however
I think it plays fine with a solid 30 FPS, and we’re only just below this for the 1%
low at ultra settings and it was playing ok even maxed out. The Witcher 3 was still playable at ultra
settings and was averaging right on 60 FPS, however high settings did play nicer, as shown
by the 1% low which was close to the average frame rate at ultra. If you’re after more gaming benchmarks on
the GA502 check the card in the top right corner where I’ve tested 20 games in total. Let’s also take a look at how this config
of the ASUS Zephyrus G GA502 compares with other laptops, use these results as a rough
guide only as they were tested at different times with different drivers. In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the GA502 highlighted
in red near similarly specced machines. It’s worth noting the L340 beneath it is the only
machine in this graph that had single channel memory. The performance was actually quite
similar to the FX505DU, which has the same Ryzen CPU, but non Max-Q graphics. We can
see the higher 1% low result with the Dell G3 which has the same graphics, but has the
higher performing i7 CPU, however average FPS doesn’t change too much between them. These are the results from Far Cry 5 with
ultra settings in the built in benchmark. Again the results were close to the FX505DU
just above it, I think the higher average FPS is due to the non Max-Q 1660 Ti though,
as they’ve got the same Ryzen 7 3750H CPU. The Dell G3 with same 1660 Ti Max-Q graphics
is a fair amount ahead though, which makes sense as this is a CPU heavy game and it’s
both faster and has a 50% higher core count. These are the results from Shadow of the Tomb
raider with the built in benchmark at highest settings. Interestingly this time the GA502
came a little ahead of the FX505DU, I’m thinking this may be due to updates the game
has had or possibly Nvidia driver updates since I tested the 505, as it otherwise doesn’t
really make sense given it has the same Ryzen 7 CPU but slightly better graphics. Overall the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GA502 gaming
laptop is performing fairly well. Unfortunately I haven’t tested all that many other machines
with similar specs to compare against, but as we’ve seen here it is able to perform
quite well in most games even at higher setting levels and is capable of providing a good
gaming experience. As we saw earlier we’ve got the option of
using silent, performance or turbo mode, so let’s see how these modes actually affect
game performance. Battlefield 5 was tested in Campaign mode
at ultra settings. With silent mode enabled it was still quite usable, the 1% low wasn’t
too different to the other results, and it was only around 15 FPS lower compared to turbo
mode with much louder fans. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with
the built in benchmark at highest settings. Again there wasn’t much difference to frame
rate between performance and turbo mode, however silent was a fair bit lower this time. Far Cry 5 was tested with the built in benchmark
at ultra settings. In this test there was a much larger drop with the silent profile
in use, and like I mentioned before I couldn’t play watch dogs 2 in silent mode, so it seems
to vary by game, basically I wouldn’t rely on silent mode for quieter gaming. I did test
these games at max settings though, they’ll likely be more playable with lower settings,
but this does show you the difference between the modes. I did have some issues trying to play games
with Vulkan though, basically they seemed to fail to detect the Nvidia graphics and
would error and not open. I had this same problem with the FX505DU, which also has an
AMD CPU and Nvidia GPU, but I was able to bypass it by disabling the Vega graphics through
device manager, however that work around didn’t allow me to play Vulkan games here, so hopefully
this gets fixed in a future update. If the game supports something other than Vulkan
you can still play it just fine. Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested
Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike, Timespy, and VRMark
from 3DMark, just pause the video if you want a detailed look at these results. I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the
storage, and the 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD was performing ok. Remember both M.2 slots are going to be
limited to two PCIe lane speed. For updated pricing check the links in the
description, as prices will change over time. At the time of recording in the US it’s
going for around $1200 USD, although it does go on sale from time to time. I think this price is a bit too high when
you consider that the Acer Helios 300 goes from $1100 to $1200 USD, and even as low as
$1000 on sale. As we saw earlier it performs significantly better as it’s got a 6 core
higher clocked CPU with non Max-Q graphics, so I’d only consider the GA502 if you’re
able to get it for a good deal. With all of that in mind let’s conclude
by covering the good and bad aspects of the ASUS Zephyrus G GA502DU gaming laptop. Overall the AMD Ryzen 7 3750H and Nvidia GTX
1660 Ti Max-Q combination is offering decent gaming performance, however it’s worth keeping
in mind that the last gen i5-8300H does outperform it. A benefit I’ve noticed with these Ryzen
based laptops though is that they tend to run cooler compared to Intel options, possibly
due to the lower TDP, less power equals less heat. The Ryzen CPU does have some nice advantages
though. The Vega graphics built into the CPU are better than Intel’s integrated graphics,
and we saw this in the battery testing where I got one of the best results for a gaming
laptop. It was possible to improve thermals a bit
with a cooling pad, despite the vents directly above the intake fans being blocked off, however
undervolting with Ryzen is unfortunately not an option at the moment. I’m not a fan of the soldered memory to
the motherboard, my unit only has 8gb, but I think it’s also available with 16gb, and
you do still have the option of running dual channel if you have a stick in the single
slot. It was also good to see two M.2 slots considering this is a smaller 15 inch machine,
especially when the larger and far more expensive ASUS GX701 only has one, though they are limited
to two PCIe lanes which will reduce speeds if you use faster drives. The screen looked ok for gaming, but the 6-bit
panel with lower brightness was on the lower side in terms of colour gamut, again especially
compared to the far superior panel in the Helios 300 which can be picked up for similar
money, and the backlight bleed in my unit wasn’t great either. There’s no camera built into the laptop,
so you’ll need to use an external one if you need one, however it does still have a
microphone. I wasn’t personally a fan of the smaller arrow keys, but the keyboard was
otherwise good to type with and no issues with the touchpad. The strange issues with
Vulkan games that I first identified months ago still seem to be present with these AMD
and Nvidia laptops, so hopefully that gets fixed in the future. In the end though, purely in terms of gaming
performance the GA502 does perform well with decent settings in most games while coming
in a slimmer and lighter package, but I’d only be considering it on a good sale as there’s
just a lot of competition at this price point. Let me know what you thought about the ASUS
Zephyrus G gaming laptop down in the comments, and if you’re new to the channel consider
getting subscribed for future laptop reviews and tech videos like this one.

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