Gaming

ASUS ROG Strix GL503 Review: Too little or too much?

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As much as we enjoy reviewing new-age, hyper-expensive gaming laptops, we have to go back down to earth and look at machines that regular consumers can actually afford.

For this round, we’re looking at the ROG Strix GL503. The name is a little daunting at first, but it’s quite memorable after what we’ve been through.

It’s one of ASUS’ midrange gaming laptops, armed with a sleek and solid body that gives it a premium feel beyond its price point, as well as a CPU and GPU pairing fit for certain types of AAA video games.

That’s the gist, but there’s a lot more to it.

What does it feel like?

Despite being on the more affordable side of gaming laptops, the brushed metal casing of this Strix takes some cues from the far more expensive Zephyrus of ASUS. That’s a good thing, because the Strix GL503 feels like it can take a beating but doesn’t feel that heavy at 2.3kg.

And since we’re dealing with a 15.6-inch model here, it fits perfectly in a backpack designed for slim 15-inch notebooks. Its power brick is on the heavy side though, adding weight to what could’ve been a more travel-friendly gaming machine.

How many peripherals can you connect?

This being a relatively standard-thickness gaming notebook at 23mm, input-output ports weren’t compromised:

  • 3x USB 3.0
  • 1x USB 2.0
  • 1x USB-C
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x mini-DisplayPort
  • 1x Ethernet LAN
  • 3.5mm headphones/microphone port
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC card reader

That’s as complete as it gets for a mobile computer. ASUS labels the ROG Strix GL503 as VR-ready, but getting acceptable frame rates might be a stretch with this configuration.

What’s inside?

Here’s a quick rundown of the specifications:

  • 15.6-inch 1080p display (60Hz)
  • Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor (2.8GHz)
  • 8GB DDR4 memory (2400MHz)
  • 128GB M.2 SSD, 1TB HDD
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (4GB)

Looking at the standard refresh rate of the display, high-speed Core i7 processor, and entry-level graphics chip, we already know what we’re in for: low to medium visual settings for graphics-intensive games, yet smooth frame rates for MOBA titles and first-person shooters.

You could also argue that the RAM is lacking. Fortunately, installing more is as simple as popping open the panel underneath and sliding in an additional stick.

How does it perform on benchmarks?

We ran our standard selection of synthetic and gaming benchmarks to see what the Strix GL503 could do. Here’s what we got:

  • Unigine Superposition: 4212 (1080p, Medium)
  • Cinebench R15: 85.74fps (OpenGL), 744cb (CPU)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider: 59.4fps (1080p, Lowest)
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: 48.1fps (1080p, Low)

That’s close to what we expected even before running the stressful software. For the two games listed, you’d have to tone down every major graphics settings to achieve frame rates close to 60fps at a resolution of 1080p.

Clearly, gameplay is a lot smoother when playing titles such as Overwatch and CS:GO, which are what this laptop targets in the first place. The same goes for MOBA games like League of Legends and Dota 2, which demand more CPU power than graphics processing.

Can it stay cool?

One advantage of using a non-anorexic gaming notebook is the extra space allotted for a possibly better cooling system. Indeed, the Strix GL503 can keep itself cool for the output it delivers, though it’s still best left on top of a table rather than on a lap.

Not once did the CPU or GPU exceed 70 degrees Celsius during intense gameplay. Of course, fan speeds had to kick it up a notch to stay consistent, yet it was never really loud enough to fill up a room — something a Predator would do.

Are the keyboard and trackpad up to par?

Benchmarks give you a rough idea of what to expect performance-wise, but they don’t paint the entire picture. How you interact with the games plays a big part, and this is handled primarily by the keyboard and either the trackpad or bundled mouse.

My experience with the keyboard wasn’t so great. While I liked how I could customize the RGB lighting to nail certain keys more precisely, I found the buttons to be overly squishy because of the soft material. It didn’t gel well with the trackpad, which felt too tough to press in comparison to the keyboard.

ASUS must have anticipated these complaints and included a decent gaming mouse in the package. It’s mandatory to use even while you aren’t gaming. Its ergonomics are actually quite good for right-handed use and it never failed me while playing something as fast as Overwatch.

Anything else to know?

We don’t normally bother to extensively test a gaming laptop’s battery, although it’s worth noting that the Strix GL503 has satisfactory endurance for its class. When taking it to a coffee shop to get some writing done, I was always surprised to get almost four hours of life out of it. That’s double what gaming laptops this size used to get me, and nearly as much as what power-hungry convertibles do for me now.

On the downside, I was disappointed by how the speakers cracked at high volumes. It doesn’t just happen during explosive moments in video games, but also while watching YouTube videos at max volume. For something that has all this space for proper acoustics, having ample audio output to match the colorful display and keyboard would’ve only been fitting.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s easy to get blinded by the glitzy designs and incredible thinness of higher-end gaming laptops, but it’s mobile machines like the Strix GL503 that are perfect for playing popular games at optimal settings.

With a starting price of US$ 1,199 — or PhP 69,995 for this particular model provided by ASUS Philippines — you definitely get what you pay for out of a sub-US$ 1,500 laptop. No design cues are going to wow you and there aren’t any special features that make this an instant buy.

There are configurations available to upgrade the graphics chip up to a GTX 1070, but that’ll make the price dangerously close to US$ 2,000 and would hamper the per-buck performance the lower-end models offer.

When it comes down to it, the ROG Strix GL503 is the gaming-optimized notebook you’d travel with for quick gaming sessions. Just don’t forget to bring a decent pair of headphones and mouse along.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ROG Strix GL702VM Review: Portable gaming powerhouse

[irp posts=”18002″ name=”ASUS ROG Strix GL702VM Review: Portable gaming powerhouse”]

Gaming

Players finally meet as HoYo FEST kicks off in SEA this November

It’s a grand meetup!

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hoyo fest

miHoYo, the global interactive entertainment developer and publisher behind hit multiplayer games such as Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact, announced that HoYo FEST is coming to Southeast Asia this November.

The interactive festival shall be held in six countries: Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The annual celebration will allow for fellow players to finally convene and meet each other off their screens and in real life, allowing for an opportunity to relive memorable, happy, and touching moments in the game together.

Gaming world-themed cafés

All HoYo FEST-related events will be held at collaboration cafés themed after Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact between November 5 and December 14.

These specific cafés will offer special set menus on dine-in, takeout, and delivery options. Ordering via takeout and delivery also gives customers an additional printed tote bag and cup sleeve.

The interiors will be furnished in the styles of Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact in order, which is accompanied by photography zones.

That way, fans and players will be able to enjoy exquisite foods and immerse themselves in a real-life feel of the game worlds while bonding with new friends they’ve only previously met in-game.

Mystery gifts and exciting merchandise

Ordering collaboration combos or spending a certain amount of money at a café also entitles guests to an exciting mystery gift box.

The pop-up stores found only at specific cafés will also sell a variety of exclusive Honkai Impact 3rd, Tears of Themis, and Genshin Impact merchandise, to be distributed only by the staff of the collaboration cafés.

Preparations for the celebration are underway, so Captains, Travelers, and Attorneys should brace themselves for upcoming surprises.

Festival Schedule

  • Honkai Impact 3rd: November 5 to November 16
  • Tears of Themis: November 19 to November 30
  • Genshin Impact: December 3 to December 14

Collaboration Cafés

  • Singapore: Aniplus Cafe
  • Malaysia: my Burger Lab
  • Thailand: NANA Coffee Roasters Ari
  • Philippines: Moon Rabbit Café + Restaurant
  • Indonesia: Warung Koffie Batavia
  • Vietnam: To Be Announced

For more event details and pandemic precautions, please visit the miHoYo official website: https://mhy.link/686SLBA6.

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War journalists use Call of Duty Vanguard to capture life-like photos

A one-of-a-kind collaboration and experience

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For me, Photo Mode is a wonderful thing to have when doing game reviews every now and then. Honestly, I would prefer setting the mood for those insane game shots instead of just screenshoting them from the device. For Activision, however, they wanted to take this concept to the next level with Call of Duty: Vanguard. With this one, they enlisted some experts in the field of war photojournalism.

Activision revealed a collaboration with renowned war photojournalists Alex Potter and Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini. As a refresher, these two photojournalists have vast experience in taking photos of some of the most gruesome battles in war-torn countries. In this special collaboration, Activision gave them access to the game’s engine through a virtual camera console.

As seen in the trailer, the two photojournalists were inside Activision’s motion capture studios as they grab images straight off the game engine. From the explosion of tanks to the banging gunfire during World War II, these two captured photos that depict the reality of war. In the end, they were at awe at the stunning details and the level of immersion the game brought.

Call of Duty: Vanguard will be available on November 5, 2021 for both current and next-generation consoles and PC.

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Gaming

Hot Wheels Unleashed review: A childhood dream realized

It’s action-packed and rather nostalgic

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Hot Wheels Unleashed

As a kid, I wanted all kinds of toys whenever we went to toy stores in the city. One of the very first toys I had an obsession over was Hot Wheels. From collecting cars to building tracks in the living room, it became the quintessential set of toys that got me into racing games all this time.

When Hot Wheels Unleashed was released, I instantly knew that this was a game I didn’t want to miss. As someone who plays a ton of racing games, this one felt right at home next to Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Unlike CTR:NF, the nostalgia I felt for this game was more on the side of “playing my toys on a virtual screen” type of thing.

However, if you’re looking for another game to help you pass the time, is this a game worth considering?

A racing game at its core

As with most games involving toy cars, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels right at home as a racing game. It even comes with some of the most standard game modes you can think of for any racing game, so you won’t necessarily miss out if you’re a racing game fan. Where this game sets itself apart is in its easy-to-grasp game mechanics.

Usually, all you have to do is drive around the course and win 1st Place by outspeeding and outsmarting (in some situations) your opponents. You still do that but with some key differences, particularly towards boosting. Honestly, I like the fact that boosts are activated by button pushes and accumulated by drifting. To me, it’s friendly even to new players getting into racing games.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

The other thing I like is the fact that each Hot Wheels toy car comes with its own cart stats, and not just a general one all throughout. This also gives you an incentive to try and get every available model in the game and try them out for yourself. Furthermore, you can even upgrade these stats using Gears, and customize their Livery to however you like.

Creativity and originality in track design

Every racing game needs some interesting tracks to race around, especially with something like Hot Wheels. In Hot Wheels Unleashed, you have access to 5 main backdrops, each with about 8-9 different tracks that come with their own surprises. From high-arching loops to acid pits, each track will have you doing things a bit differently each time you race.

In fact, the first thing I noticed was that the elements in the tracks are quite similar to the actual models in those track builder sets. The designers did an incredible job with maximizing the entire backdrop to produce tracks with enough twists and turns along the way. Also, I would even argue that these tracks let you play around with the driving mechanics.

Now, I have some good news and bad news for you on these tracks. The bad news is that when you start the game, most of the tracks are locked as in-game transactions. If you wanted to unlock them the easy way, just pay a few bucks to get in-game currency and buy them.

However, the good news is you can unlock them by completing the Hot Wheels City Rumble mode. Although it will be an immense grind on your part, but I honestly think it’s worth it!

Wait, you can make your own tracks?!

Yes, you read that right: Hot Wheels Unleashed also allows you to create your own tracks to race on with your friends online. See, one unique mode to the game is the Track Builder, and I guess the name is self-explanatory. To be honest, this game mode was the best and it actually brings me back to my childhood.

Once you start the game mode, you basically have a blank canvas to work with, depending on the main backdrop you choose. After choosing your desired backdrop, you have a variety of track builder pieces to choose from and customize. Also, it even comes with your set of obstacles and boost pads to add some flavor to your tracks.

I absolutely enjoyed going on Track Builder as someone who collected Hot Wheels track sets before. Basically, you can create some of the most death-defying tracks that your younger self could not afford to before. Seriously, Hot Wheels track builder sets are expensive, and this game basically lets you experience this without spending a hefty amount.

Some low points

Much like most racing games, this one doesn’t come with its own set of shortcomings. To no one’s surprise, this game comes with a Hot Pass that allows you to earn more cars, tracks, and track builder sets. The good thing about it is, well, it’s more content at your disposal. At the time of writing, they’re currently running one with Batman vehicles as the main rewards,

The thing I don’t like about it is that you have to pay for it. I genuinely feel that this is something that would have been better off as a Battle Pass-type of package instead of paid DLC. I mean, it’s additional content that people also want to try out but with a rather hefty price tag. Maybe if they did it this way, people would continue to grind out the game.

Another thing that felt lacking in my eyes was the Basement, particularly the customization aspect.

I get it, it’s another main backdrop for your tracks and you can work with a ton of elements when creating your own. However, I didn’t like that the customization was limited to just the exterior design. Honestly,  I was looking for more customization options like moving the furniture around.

A roaring good time

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a racing game that feels right at home with the best of them. From a vast selection of carts to creative and unique track design, it feels fresh to anybody trying to get into racing games. Also, if you grew up playing your Hot Wheels car collection, this takes you back to simpler times.

Again, it’s not perfect and hopefully with upcoming patches, the game does get better. However, they missed out on some opportunities to make it a worthwhile game to play for any occasion. Sure, if you had money to burn, this wouldn’t be an issue; for others, however, they want a lot more without spending too much.

Overall, this game will give you a roaring good time, especially when you just need some down time from all the stress. What made it even more special for me was that this game pretty much made one of my childhood dreams a reality!

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