If you’re interested in a laptop that won’t break the bank for you and can handle complex multi-core loads like very few other notebooks available as of August 2017, the Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC should be of interest.

It looks like a standard 17-inch laptop, perhaps a little thicker and heavier than the norm these days, but on a first look little else suggests what this can do.

Underneath the shell though this is the first notebook built on an AMD Ryzen processor and AMD Polaris graphics chip. Both are desktop-grade components, so it should come to no surprise this computer gets rather loud and offers abysmal battery life. But it performs flawlessly, especially with demanding chores that actually put the multi-core CPU to work.

Our configuration comes with an eight-core sixteen-thread Ryzen 7 CPU and a Radeon RX 580 graphics chip, and as a result it’s not necessarily a gaming laptop, but a computer engineers, programmers, architects, video editors, graphics artists and everyone else who’d actually need solid multi-core performance should find interesting enough to at least give a look. There’s more than meets the eye about it though, as you’ll find in the article below.

Specs as reviewed

Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC
Screen 17.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, 60 Hz, IPS, matte, non-touch
Processor AMD Ryzen 7 1700
Video AMD RX Radeon 580 GDDR5 4GB
Memory 24 GB DDR4 (2 x DIMMs)
Storage 256 GB SSD (M.2 80 mm SATA) + 1 TB HDD (2.5″)
Connectivity Wireless AC (Qualcomm Atheros QCA9377), Bluetooth 4.1, Gigabit Ethernet
Ports 3x USB 3.1 Type A, 1x USB 3.1 Type C gen 2, miniDP, HDMI, LAN, mic/headphone, SD card reader
Battery 76 Wh, 280 W power brick
OS Windows 10
Size 415 mm or 16.33” (w) x 281 mm or 11.06” (d) x 34 mm or 1.33” (h)
Weight 3.16 kg / 6.96 lbs and 1.32 kg / 2.91 lbs power brick
Extras backlit keyboard, HD camera, upwards facing stereo speakers

This notebook is also available in a 6-core 12-thread Ryzen 5 1600 configuration, as well as various amounts of storage and memory.

Design and first look

The GL702ZC looks like most of the other devices in the ROG Strix line, which means it’s mostly black with a handful of orange accents here and there, like the ROG logo on top of the keyboard, the speaker’s grills or the framing around the clickpad, as well as some silver branding, like the Republic of Gamers under the screen and the Strix logo beneath the arrow keys. They’re not obtrusive though and if it weren’t for the big logo and light bar on the lid, which are backlit by the screen’s panel and cannot be shut off, this laptop could probably fly under the radar even in stricter business environments. As it is, I don’t know, but decals should help.

Looks aside, this laptop is fairly well built and feels strong, although there’s still some squeaking and flex in the hood. In fact, the ROG GL702ZC feels quite massive and that’s because it’s thicker and heavier than the other 17-inchers in the GL702 series, both the GL702VM and the slightly larger GL702VS with Nvidia 1070 graphics. At 7 lbs it’s still not as heavy as some of the top-tier gaming notebooks, but it doesn’t get their capabilities either. Its footprint on the other hand is still fairly compact for a 17-inch laptop, so this will fit well in a regular backpack.

As far as the choice in materials goes, the lid is made of brushed aluminum, while everything else is plastic, but the good quality kind. Both the metal and the plastic are black and will shows smudges easily.

Anyway, let’s turn our attention on this notebook’s practicality. We already mentioned it’s thick and heavy, with the former aspect leading to a tall front lip that’s going to press on your wrists with daily use. It’s not sharp, but not completely blunt either, so using the laptop for a long while can get a little annoying. That aside, there’s not much to complain in terms of build and design.

The arm-rest is spacious and the screens lifts easily with a single hand on its otherwise sturdy two hinges that allow it to lean back to about 145 degrees, which is enough for desk use. Four grippy rubber feet keep it well anchored on a flat surface and the ports are lined on the sides, with the back reserved for cooling and the front for the status LEDs.

The underbelly get the same design as on the other GL702 laptops, with some graphic details, the aforementioned feet and some intake grills. Given this laptop gets desktop hardware I would have hoped Asus would tweak those out in order to allow better air intake, but they didn’t, yet that didn’t prove to be an issue, as you’ll find out in a bit. There’s no way to quickly access the interior, you’ll have to get past the entire back panel, but that’s a fairly simple task as it’s hold in place by a dozen Philips screws, all clearly visible.

Back to the IO, there’s pretty much everything you’d expect here, except of course for Thunderbolt 3 (as this is an AMD laptop). You’ll find 3x USB A slots, one USB C port, HDMI 2.0 and mini DP for video output, an RJ45 slot, a card-reader, the headphone/mic jack and a Kensington lock. Most of these are conveniently placed on the left edge, which leaves plenty of room to maneuver a mouse on the right.

All in all, the ROG GL702ZC is bigger than heavier than the Intel based GL702 laptops, but given it gets a desktop CPU and GPU, that comes to no surprise. In fact, it’s actually fairly compact and light if we compare it to other 17-inch laptops with desktop grade hardware that are available out there. My biggest gripe is with those pesky light bars on the hood, as this is in my opinion a laptop made for professionals and such accents could perhaps steer some of them away.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard is shared with all the other GL702s and is a mixed bag. I’d reckon most will find it good enough for daily use and I got used to it after a while too, but I still have some nits with both the layout and the experience.

First of all, most keys are properly sized and spaced, but the right-side gets a cramped NumPad with narrower keys, as well as cramped and narrow directional keys. And then, I couldn’t get my typing speed and accuracy to where I wanted on this laptop, not even after typing thousands of words on it.

The keys feel nice to the touch and even seem to perform well, but it’s a combination of their stroke depth and slightly higher resistance that I couldn’t get used to. You should keep in mind I’m accustomed to shorter and softer strokes, so there’s a fair chance many of you will actually find this keyboard a good match, especially if you’re coming from an older full-size laptop.

The keys are at least very quiet. They’re also backlit with red LEDs and three intensity levels to choose from. The illumination is activated by hitting a key or by swiping fingers across the touchpad, as it should be.

 

Speaking of that, for mouse Asus went with an Elan clickpad with Microsoft Precision drivers, which is not the best option you’ll find on a laptop these days. As also it’s not consistent with precise strokes and its cursor is also fairly jumpy, especially when having a finger on the click areas. None of these issues occur all the time, they are erratic and difficult to reproduce, but happen often enough to find them annoying.

The trackpad is made out of plastic, but I don’t have a problem with that. It rattles with firmer taps though and its click buttons are a little on the stiff side.

Screen

For the screen Asus went with an improved version of the 17.3-inch FHD 60 Hz matte IPS panel they put on the GL702VM, and there’s very little to complain about it.

As you’ll see below, it’s bright, fairly rich and doesn’t disappoint when it comes to color reproduction either. It’s still a 70% AdobeRGB panel, but it’s great for everyday use and most will probably find it good enough even for graphics work.

Just keep in mind that the gray levels, blues and gamma are a little skewed out of the box and you should calibrate the panel to make it look more realistic.

  • Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LP173WF4-SPF5 (LGD04E8);
  • Coverage: 92% sRGB, 69% NTSC, 71% AdobeRGB;
  • Measured gamma: 2.0;
  • Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 372 cd/m2 on power;
  • Contrast at max brightness: 730:1;
  • White point: 7200 K;
  • Black on max brightness: 0.51 cd/m2;
  • Average DeltaE: 1.59 uncalibrated, 1.09 calibrated.

Given this is an AMD halo laptop, there’s also support for Freesync, which should help with the gaming experience.

I didn’t notice any obvious light bleeding either, so that’s another plus.

On the other hand, some of you might find the 1080p resolution insufficient on a 17-inch screen and I can’t argue with that, but at least this FHD panel is actually a good match for the GPU in this laptop, as you’ll see below.

Hardware, performance and upgrade options

Let’s get to what actually matters here. Our test unit comes with an 8-core 16-thread AMD Ryzen 7 1700 processor. It’s a desktop processor with a TDP of 65 W, which explains the laptop’s thickness and increased weight, especially since it is bundled with a desktop graphics chip as well: a Radeon RX 580 with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory. There’s also 24 GB of DDR4 RAM on out sample and hybrid storage, with an M.2 SATA SSD in the M.2 80 mm slot and a 1 TB HDD in the 2.5″ bay.

The processor is the the big selling point here. Simply put, there’s no other similar laptop with an eight-core CPU as of August 2017. There are some notebooks available with Intel Xeon and KabyLake K desktop grade processors, but they’re all massive and expensive. With the Ryzen CPU, the GL702ZC actually gets potential buyers solid multi-core performance in a fairly compact shell and for a good price.

The CPU is clocked at 3.0 GHz with Turbo up to 3.7 GHz, and it worked flawlessly in our tests, without any traces of throttling in benchmarks, everyday loads and even when stressed with Prime95. Asus took their time to design a cooling solution able to handle this processor and actually did a great job at it.

We’ll talk about the cooling in a bit, for now let’s have a quick look at the internals. The back panel is hold in place by a handful of screws and is easy to take apart, allowing access to the RAM slots, storage drives, wireless chip and battery. Our configuration comes with just a SATA M.2 SSD, but PCIe x4 SSDs are also compatible as far as I can tell.

Before we jump to performance, we should also talk about the graphics inside this laptop. Asus went with a Polaris based Radeon RX 580 graphics chip, the 4 GB DDR5 model and under-clocked from the versions you can buy on PCs. That makes sense, because the desktop chip has a TDP of 185 W and that’s too much for this kind of notebook. For comparison, the GTX 1080 has a similar TDP and those laptops are usually more massive. This AMD chip still runs hot even clocked down to a 1077 Mhz default clock speed (from around 1250 MHz on the desktop chip), but at least it performs well with demanding loads and games.

In fewer words, both the CPU and GPU reach fairly high temperatures with demanding loads, but both also work flawlessly, without throttling or dropping in performance with real-life scenarios as long as you keep the computer plugged to the wall. The experience is completely different on battery, with both the CPU and GPU clocking down aggressively, at least on our sample. You’ll find more details on speeds and temperatures in benchmark and games below.

And you’ll also find similar info for everyday tasks like browsing and watching movies below.

Now, let’s get to those benchmark results. Here’s what we got on our test unit, and keep in mind it’s a pre-production sample and these might actually improve on the retail models with optimized drivers. Replacing the SATA SSD with a faster option will also have an impact on some of these scores.

  • 3DMark 11: P13526;
  • 3DMark 13: Sky Driver – 27188, Fire Strike – 9331, Time Spy  – 3776;
  • 3DMark 13 Graphics: Sky Driver – 33206, Fire Strike – 10679, Time Spy  – 3483;
  • PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 5222;
  • PCMark 10: 4228;
  • Passmark: CPU Mark – 13937, 3D Graphics Mark – 7698;
  • Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 3672, Multi-core: 26595;
  • Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 3959, Multi-core: 23725;
  • CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 85.04 fps, CPU 15.28 pts, CPU Single Core 1.49 pts;
  • CineBench R15: OpenGL 102.27 fps, CPU 1407 cb, CPU Single Core 133 cb;
  • x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 156.71 fps, Pass 2 – 65.56 fps;
  • x264 HD Benchmark 5.0 64-bit: Pass 1 – 70.08 fps, Pass 2 – 15.06 fps.

For the sake of comparison, here’s how the Core i7-7700HQ scores, the CPU you’ll find inside most similarly priced performance laptops available these days.

Ryzen 7 1700 Core i7-7700HQ
GeekBench 4 Single Core 3959 ~4400
GeekBench 4 Multi Core 23725 ~13900
Cinebench R15 Single Core 133 ~160
Cinebench R15 Multi Core 1407 ~735
PassMark CPU 13937 ~8900
PCMark 10 – Productivity 7027 ~7000
PCMark 10 – Digital Content 6405 ~5400
PCMark 10 – Video Editing 3168 ~4300

The Ryzen 7 comes in front when it comes to multi-core performance, but trails the Intel CPU in single core results, which is totally normal given the Cores are clocked lower on the AMD platform.

As far as graphics performance goes, the snipped RX 580 on this notebook is outperformed by a standard GTX 1060 chip in benchmarks and actual games. It’s also a much more power-hungry option, with a toll on temperatures, fan noise and battery life. On the other hand it does have an edge over the Nvidia chips in terms of computational power, so perhaps you can put this to good use in certain applications.

FHD Ultra – RX 580 FHD Ultra – GTX 1060*
3Dmark FireStrike Graphics 10679 ~11500
3Dmark TimeSpy Graphics 3483 ~3570
3Dmark 11 13526 ~12300
Bioshock Infinite 98 fps ~101 fps
Grid: Autosport 88 fps ~99 fps
Farcry 4 62 fps ~75 fps
ME: Shadow of Mordor 75 fps ~85 fps
Tomb Raider 106 fps ~135 fps
Total War: Atilla 28 fps ~35 fps

*averages based on this list.

We also ran some stress tests on this sample, first pushing the CPU with Prime95 and then the CPU and GPU simultaneously with Prime95 and Furmark. The pictures below show that the CPU breezes through Prime 95, maintaining at 3.2 GHz and under 75 Celsius, but when the GPU kicks in as well the CPU gets much hotter (up to 85 Celsius). It still doesn’t throttle, but the GPU clocks down aggressively and reaches temperatures of around 90 Celsius, so even the complex cooling solution can’t keep it at bay. Of course, stress tests don’t really matter that much, since you’ll hardly have such loads with real-life tasks.

Knowing all that, although I have to admit my experience with AMD Polaris chips is basically null, the RX 580 makes little sense to me on a laptop and the ROG Strix GL702ZC is unbalanced as a result. It’s definitely not a best buy for gaming, but it can be a good option for multi-threaded activities that can benefit from the increased number of cores and the extra computational power of the RX 580 graphics chip. We’ll talk more about that in the conclusions section.

Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers

There’s a massive cooling solution inside this laptop with two big fans and a complex heatpipes architecture. I find it a weird that the vast majority of the cooling solution is meant to cool the CPU (right) and the GPU side (left) gets fewer heatpipes and a smaller fan, given the TDP actually has a higher TDP than the CPU.

The CPU is socketed, thus upgradeable, and the GPU is soldered on the motherboard and cannot be replaced.

The fans are active all the time and they’re far from quiet. They idle at around 40-42 dB and jump to about 44 dB with everyday multitasking, which makes them clearly audible in any environment. But then they get very loud with software like Premiere or games, with up to 55-56 dB at head level in front of the computer and up to 60 dB at the back. So those around you will actually perceive this laptop noisier than you, as the one using it, will. 60 dB is very loud, given that very few other laptops out there get past the 50 dB mark, and that means this laptop is pretty much unusable without headphones and even so, you’d better not have any colleagues.

As you probably expected, the GPU takes the blame for a large part of the fan activity. For comparison, while running Prime95 the fans are much quieter (about 46dB), but they ramp up aggressively as soon as there’s load on the GPU as well.

As far as temperatures go, the ROG GL702ZC gets a little warm with standard multitasking, but is actually quite cool at full-load, as you’ll see below. Of course, a lot of hot air comes out through those exhaust grills at the back, so you shouldn’t have anything sensitive behind it.

*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Far Cry 4 for 30 minutes

There’s Gigabit LAN, Wireless AC and Bluetooth on this laptop. We had some problems with the wireless on our sample as it constantly disconnected and wasn’t able to max-out my Internet speed, but I don’t think those will carry on the final retails units. Still, something to double check.

The speakers are borrowed from the GL702VM with pretty big internal chambers and small cuts placed on the palm-rest. I don’t know who in their right mind thought that’s a good place to put such small speaker cuts, as they’re so easy to cover and muffle with your hands while actually using the laptop, but if you can look past this aspect, they’re actually pretty good.

We measured volumes up to 78 dB, which is about average, and the sound coming out is fairly rich and clean, with lows noticeable down to 50 MHz and no distortions at high volumes.

I’ll also mention the camera placed on top of the screen and flanked by microphones, both decent for occasional use. I’d get something better for streaming, there still so much this one can do, especially in dimmer environments.

Battery life

There’s a 76 Wh battery on the ROG Strix GL702ZC but with the AMD hardware inside, the battery life is abysmal, as you can see below.

  • 42 W (~1 h 45 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Power Saving Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 45 W (~1 h 40 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Power Saving Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 42 W (~1 h 45 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app,Power Saving Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 45 W (~1 h 40 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Power Saving Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 51 W (~1 h 30 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Power SavingMode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
  • 65 W (~1 h 10 min of use) – gaming, High Performance Mode, screen at 30%.

The screen’s brightness was set at 30%, roughly 120 nits, but that matter very little in the whole scheme. I also switched the laptop on Power Saving in most cases, because the Balanced mode is actually aggressive and keeps the CPU at full-clocks even with very basic activities, so eats even faster through the battery.

The power hungry hardware also requires a big power-source, and as a result this notebook comes with a massive 280 W power brick that weighs nearly 3 lbs (1.3 kg) for the European version, including all the cables. The battery needs about 2 hours to fully charge.

Price and availability

The GL702ZC is listed at $1499 in the US for the configuration we had here, with the Ryzen 7 processor, RX 580 graphics, 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD.

That’s actually competitive, just a little more expensive than most 17-inch laptops with Intel Core i7-7700HQ processors and Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, so the price shouldn’t be a decisive factor in your decision, but whether if you actually need the processing power this laptop offers and are willing to sacrifice on portability, noise and battery life for it.

Ryzen 5 six-core and eventually even Ryzen 3 quad-core configurations might be available, but this Ryzen 7 option makes the most sense to me.

Follow this link for more details and updated prices at the time you read this post.

Final thoughts

There’s no other similar notebook out there at this point, but even so the ROG Strix GL702ZC is a mixed bag.

On one hand it looks like a standard 17-inch notebook, albeit a rather thick and heavy one, and don’t forget you’ll also have to carry that big power-brick around. It also feels like a notebook, with a good screen, proper IO, a nice keyboard and the whole standard package. But it doesn’t act like a regular notebook, as it’s built on desktop grade hardware, which comes with excellent performance in certain situations, but also with very noisy fans and very short battery life.

The eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 1700 is the big selling point here, an excellent option for multi-core tasks. I’d reckon programmers, engineers or architects would find good use in such power in a portable frame. Graphics artists might as well, given the screen is pretty good and the Adobe suits still emphasizes much on CPU, but at this point the AMD RX580 chip that’s part of this build might become a limitation, as Lightroom, Photoshop and Premiere are known to work better with CUDA processing units, something the Nvidia Pascal counterparts excel at.

And then there’s the gaming aspect of this laptop, with the snipped RX580 barely a match for a GTX 1060 chip while having the high power consumption, noise and heat inconveniences. Gaming Youtubers might like this computer, as an option that would allow them to play mid-range games (MMORPGS, shooters) smoothly and also stream and even edit at the same time, thanks to the multi-tasking capabilities of the Ryzen platform. Those interested primarily in gaming though will find much better value in one of the more portable and more affordable 17-inch laptops with Intel HQ processors and Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics that sell for about the same and even less, like the Asus ROG GL702VM, the Acer Aspire Nitro V17, the Acer Predator Helios 300.

So all in all, while some might find good value in the Ryzen CPU, the choice in graphics greatly limits this laptop’s pool of potential buyers, so whether this is something you’d be interested in is entirely up to you and your particular needs. I for one am much more excited about future laptops with AMD processors and Nvidia graphics though, as I believe those will make for better balanced desktop replacements with improved performance and fewer compromises. But AMD should move fast and have something for use until Intel release their Coffee Lake six-core laptop platforms.

For now though, the GL702ZC is an interesting new addition to the market, but its quirks and limitations make it a niche product that will only cater to very specific needs.

With that in mind we’ll wrap this up here, but the comments section is open for your feedback, impressions and questions on this Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC and other similar computers, and we’re around to help out if we can.