- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Test methods and drivers
- Synthetic 3D benchmarks
- Summarized gaming performance
- Crysis 3
- Bioshock Infinite
- Civilization : Beyond Earth
- Total War : Attila
- Metro : Last Light
- Battlefield 4 Campaign
- World of Tanks
- Shadow Of Mordor
- Dragon Age : Inquisition
- Ashes Of Singularity
- The Talos Principle
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Dark Souls III (DX11)
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Screen / Screen quality
- Competing gaming laptops / alternatives
++ Main reason to consider:
Thin & lightweight along, Thunderbolt 3 and otherwise, overall good gaming/multimedia laptop
-- Main reason to avoid:
Performance/price ratio (current pricing) and PWM brightness control which in this case results in noticeable flickering in lower brightness
+ For $800 (as I bought it), very good performance/price ratio with an I7-6700HQ and a GTX 960M
+ Very good 1080p IPS display with very good colors, contrast, blacks and high brightness. Viewing angles are very good too.
+ Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, may prove useful for eGPUs in the future
+ Quite a good backlit keyboard with good feedback, response, travel depth and spacing. Keys machanism is a little stiff maybe
+ Low noise under high load as well as low/moderate load
+ Hinges seem to be rigid
+ TPM 2.0
+ Nice. simple, solid looks
+ Smooth touchpad
+ M.2 NVMe PCIe slot
- GPU core throttling under full load of Furmark + Prime95, but no so much under gaming load (Crysis 3, Ashes of Singularity)
- PWM brightness mechanism with low frequency, results in noticeable flickering when brightness is set to less than $85-90% (though mostly noticeable for much lower brightness levels)
- Outer lid is not sufficiently robust. Pull with both hands
- Parts of the bottom of the laptop and somewhat the palm rests can get a bit too warm
- No RJ-45 ethernet port (USB 3.0 <-> RJ-45 adapter supplied)
- Default storage is a 5400RPM HDD which results in a bit sluggish performance (non-gaming)
- 2.0 branded speakers aren't really that good
- Touchpad and buttons are a little shakey
- GTX 960M has 2GB VRAM and not 4GB
- 8GB DDR4 RAM soldered to the motherboard. Only one free DDR4 slot (but for gamers it should be ok anyway)
- Some kind of a coiling noise from the motherboard around the center of the keyboard, though that's pretty common
|Price||As tested, $1000, but I bought it discounted for $800 from Newegg|
|CPU||Intel Skylake I7-6700HQ, 4C/8T, 2.6-3.5GHZ, 6MB cache|
|GPU||Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5, GM107 (Maxwell I), 640 shaders, core@1097-1200MHZ, GDDR5@1252MHZ, 128-bit bus|
|Motherboard / Chipset||Asus G501VW / Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)
2xPCI Express x1, 1xPCI Express x4, 1xPCI Express x16
|RAM||Onboard 1x8GB (single channel) DDR4 2133MHZ. One slot free|
|Storage||HDD : HGST 1TB HGST HGST HTS541010A7E630
M.2 slots: M.2 SATA or PCIe/NVMe 2280 (one)
|Display Panel||In review: SAMSUNG 156HL01-104 IPS 1920x1080 panel|
|Weight / Dimensions||2.06kg (~4.54 Lbs.) + ~0.4kg 120W PSU*
383 x 255 x 20.6-21.3 mm
15.08" x 10.04" x 0.79-0.84"
(w x d x h)
|Keyboard||Red backlit (4 levels including off*)|
|Connection Ports||Right side: 2xUSB 3.0, SD Card Slot, audio out/microphone
Left: AC power, 1xUSB 3.0, HDMI (2.0?), Thunderbolt 3 USB-C (USB 3.1 gen2)
Front, Rear: None
|WiFi / Ethernet||WiFi: Intel(R) Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265
Ethernet: None, Ethernet to USB adapter supplied
|Speakers / Audio||2.0 Bang & Olufsen
|Bios / EC version (test unit)||G501VW.205 /|
So, the Asus G501VW is Asus’s latest thin&lightweight cheaper multimedia/gaming laptop. It seems like the less premium version of the premium UX501VW or a slimmed down version of the GL552VW. It’s mostly for those who want the usually $800-$1000 GTX 960M gaming laptop in a smaller form. I bought it for $800 during some of the occuassional discounts, but the price currently is around $950-$1000 for this configuration.
The G501VW ‘premium’ elements except the weight and dimensions is the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port and the IPS 1080p display. In comparison to Asus’ other $800-$1000 offerings, like the GL552VW and the FZ50VW, it has the same CPU and GPU (I7-6700HQ + GTX 960M 2GB), but adds the thunderbolt 3 port and you get the TB3 port, which could be a big plus if an eGPU solution will be enabled via bios update from Asus.
These traits make it a good option for $800-$900, and a unique one even compared to non-Asus laptops. The other laptops in this range of weight are the Acer VN7-592G and the XPS 9550. The VN7-592G costs currently around $900-$1000 and the XPS usually around $1050-$1100, both with a TB3 port.
Let’s see what the G501VW has to offer in practice in this review!
The base unit is good in terms of build quality. It’s quite firm and nice to hold. The keyboard surface feels pretty rigid too and won’t yield easily. Hinges feel also pretty strong. The only part that only a little problematic is the screen’s outer lid which isn’t rigid and I’d consider some protection if the laptop is carried in the backpack. This is disappointing.
The G501VW has a simple, solid and smooth metallic finish.
Maintenance and inner parts
You’ll need a Torx screwdriver and you’ll have to peel the two bottom pads that are closer to the hinges, to unscrew two screws that are beneath them. In this version you’ll find only the 1TB HDD for storage. There is one M.2 NVMe PCIe slot and one free DDR4 slot. There are already 8GB of RAM soldered to the motherboard.
Both CPU and GPU are soldered. Two fans cool the system, connected by two heatpipes (one smaller) and are shared between the CPU and GPU.
Keyboard. The keyboard is pretty nice, with good key spacing, good travel depth and feedback, but the typing is a little stiff to my taste. Overall, a nice keyboard, though. No real complaints.
Touchpad. Average. A little shaky and buttons clicking isn’t the smoothest experience. Saying that, it’s pretty smooth and feels ok on the finger.
Average, maybe Average+. The Asus G501VW comes with 2.0 speaker system, located on the bottom’s left and right. They have some strength, with relatively good mids, but that’s more or less all. The lows are missing and highs are messy, I think.
The performance is sometimes a bit sluggish, probably due to the 5400RPM HDD.
Added CPU-Z and GPU-Z screenshots.
OS : Windows 10, fully updated
Drivers: Nvidia Geforce 364.72
Thief sees some advantage using Mantle API over the DX11. Heavily Vulkan/DX12 optimized games/game engines should see much higher improvements.
The new iteration of Total War : Rome II, Attila is a much more demanding game and FPSs are much lower.
No matter what I’ve tried, performance in Metro Last Light remained problematic, it’s like the GPU stopped working even now and then
Stress tests and throttling behavior
As described before, the CPU and GPU have two shared heatpipes and fans. Cool air is sucked from below and thrown out of the rear.
1. Idle, power saver mode
2. Gaming : Crysis 3 gameplay. “very high” settings with SMAAx2 For Crysis 3, “High performance” power mode.
3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.
4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1366×768 test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.
Temperatures are relatively ok, but let’s check throttling and noise levels.
Under Prime95 + Furmark, the G501VW’s GPU core throttles down to around 0.4GHZ for long periods, while CPU maintain higher clocks. That’s not a very smart behavior for gaming as you’d want higher GPU clocks and a bit lower CPU clocks. However, under Crysis 3 stess levels, the GPU clocks remain very high. I didn’t test Ashes of Singularity clocks, but FPSs are relatively high, meaning throttling isn’t that high.
Here is a table that shows the temperatures and the throttling state:
|Throttle||CPU average stable||CPU MAX||GPU|
|GPU Core@0.4GHZ||83||85||79||Prime95 + Furmark|
|GPU Core@0.4GHZ||83||86||79||Prime95 + Furmark CPU@-100mV|
|No (2.6GHZ)||75||78||80||Crysis 3|
The G501VW chassis temperatures gets hot mostly around the areas near to the hinges and the palm rests (mostly the right palm rest). The bottom gets hotter, also around the center of the keyboard. The G501VW performs not exceptionally good or bad for such a laptop, but other laptops with such a hardware but larger frame have better chassis temps, like the Lenovo Y700 and Acer VN7-592G.
The G501VW is obviously optimized for lower noise over lower temperatures. This is a preferable configuration for many people.
- Under high load, fans noise is relatively low and, for example, I could play music while gaming.
- Under light/moderate, the G501VW fans can be heard, but only a little bit, even though they are operating on a very low speed. It’s not annoying or something, but still.
Overall, noise levels are pretty low and for me, satisfying.
The default panel is SAMSUNG 156HL01-104 1920×1080 IPS/PLS display. Subjectively, contrast is pretty high with very good (low) blacks and colors good and my Spyder5Elite measures do show it. Maximal brightness isn’t the highest, but it’s good enough, and coupled with good contrast and viewing angles, watching the screen is pretty a nice experience. Color accuracy seem to be relatively good too.
Unfortunately, I could “detect” PWM brightness mechanism with my (bare) eyes under 90% brightness. You could easily see flickering of the screen. It was actually obvious. I didn’t feel different significantly in a way I could way strongly related to using this laptop, but still.
Overall, my experience was pretty good with this display, PWM aside.
In my tests, the G501VW could do around 6.5 hours of very light use and over 5 hours of general use/work use, like browsing the web + Office stuff + Youtube music.
- As Paul Ryasnoy added in the comments, indeed there is a coiling noise. At first I didn’t mention it, because it seems to be quite common, but maybe it’s better to set the bar
Let’s wrap it up. The G501VW offers low weight and slimmer frame, with good gaming performance for the price, good IPS display and the Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port which is not common for $800-$1000 gaming/multimedia laptops currently. It does uses a PWM brightness control noticeably and thermals and CPU/GPU clocks algorithm isn’t the best, resulting in GPU throttling under Furmark + Prime95 load (but it’s better in games).
As said before, I got it for $800 New from Newegg, I think. For $800-$900, that’s a good price for those who look for a slimmer, more lightweight laptop, and especially, such a laptop with a thunderbolt 3 port. I’d say that for such a price, that’s a good option indeed. However, it is selling for $1000 currently, and for those who’re looking for higher performance for the price or for those who want such performance for lower price, that’s not such a good option (Dell 7559, Lenovo Y700, others).
Compared to the Acer VN7-592G, which also has an I7 and a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port (and PWM), the G501VW is a little more lightweight and has a better IPS display, but PWM slickering is more noticeable and chassis gets hotter with more GPU throttling.
Bottom line, for $800-$850 and even $900, that’s a good option. Just remember that for $900, you get a 5400RPM HDD. Otherwise, with current pricing in mind (of around $1000), I’d consider laptops like the 7559 for $750-$800 and even the Y700/VN7-592G, if it’s just for gaming and you don’t care about the extra 300-500 grams