Overview: ASUS Strix GL703VM Gaming Laptop
The evolution of the gaming laptop has long been driven by competition between manufacturers, as different companies hunt for that perfect balance between performance, size, and price. Enter ASUS with the STRIX GL703VM, which is part of the gamer-centered ROG lineup.
With the GL703VM, ASUS seeks to create a feature-rich performance laptop that delivers a gaming experience close to a mid-range desktop setup. After spending a few days with it, I’d say the Republic of Gamers has a winner on its hands.
Who Doesn’t Love Brushed Metal?
One of the first things you’ll notice about the GL703VM is its outstanding visual aesthetic. Many gamer-oriented products try a little too hard with sharp, angular edges and lots of unnecessary texture that detracts from what the thing is supposed to centrally be. ASUS dodges that pitfall, but still gives the GL703VM a little bit of an exciting edge that I’d describe as almost “kinetic.”
The unifying theme of the laptop’s exterior is a sort of brushed metal motiff. The outer panel of the screen-half actually is brushed metal, while the top panel inside the clamshell is plastic, but still has a brushed texture running diagonally across half of the panel, and is complemented by strips with the same texture all around the rim of the lower section of the laptop.
Most of the shell of the laptop is black, other than a red ROG logo on the outer shell behind the screen. However, the GL703 features an RGB backlit membrane keyboard, which is a great way to infuse some color. The lighting effects can be configured by ASUS Aura Core software (which came pre-installed as a Windows app), which lets the user choose from a handful of lighting patterns and a full range of user-defined colors. Those four most beloved of all keys, the sacred WASD quadrangle, are further highlighted by rims around each that glow with the backlighting.
There’s also a little touch here that’s my personal favorite. There are four lights at the top of the inside panel, just above where the power button sits: one each for power, battery status, hard drive activity and airplane mode. The screen half is designed so that these four little lights are still visible when the laptop is closed, through a small cutout on the lower edge of the screen panel. It’s a neat little detail that actually pays off when the laptop is closed, but might still be in use with an external monitor.
Perhaps most impressive is the total frame size of the GL703VM. The footprint measures in at just under 16” wide by 11” deep, with a total height of just under an inch. Total weight comes in at just under seven pounds. This is obviously not the smallest or lightest laptop out there, but you’ll understand the incredible size-to-power ratio once we discuss specs later on.
GL703VM Software and Features
Let’s quickly cover some of the more standard features of the GL703VM. While not much in this section is going to be all that flashy, this is the basic meat and potatoes that you need to know when looking at laptops.
ASUS made sure that the GL703VM would have enough connection options to support all the peripherals and accessories a player might need for a session of gaming.
Barrel-Style Power Plug
RJ45 Ethernet Jack
2x USB3.0 Ports
3.5mm Audio In/Out Jack
Type-C USB 3.1 Port
You’ll notice that there are no ports or connections listed on the back. This is because the entire rear of the laptop is dedicated to thermal exhaust to keep the GPU and CPU cool under stress.
The HD display on the GL703VM is a substantial 17.3”, and has a standard 60Hz refresh rate. Right above the display is a little webcam, and the whole display half of the laptop can fold back about 110 degrees.
Inputs for the GL703VM consist of a touchpad and a 100-Key keyboard. The touchpad measures in at just about 4” x 2.75” which puts it on the larger side for laptops. The keyboard is membrane-based, and they keycaps themselves have a slight inward contour to aid in finger placement.
The GL703VM is large enough to accommodate a full numpad, which is something I’d personally consider a necessity in a gaming laptop (World of Warcraft and Arma 3 fans will know what I mean). ASUS makes full use of the F1 through F12 keys by assigning them Fn key functions. Most of these are fairly standard, like media pause/play and screen brightness controls. The most relevant of these extra functions for gamers would probably be the touchpad toggle (which is super-useful when an external mouse is plugged in), and the fan speed cycle. There are four extra buttons above F1 through 4, which are Volume Up, Volume Down, Mic Input Mute, and a ROG Gaming Center Shortcut.
That last one, the ROG Gaming Center, is a software utility that comes pre-installed on the GL703VM. At first, I assumed that the application would just be some throwaway ROG-themed bloatware, the kind of thing that's all too common with laptops these days. Imagine my surprise when I found the Gaming Center to be a deep and actually useful tool.
Most importantly, the Gaming Center clearly lays out system temperature and resource usage stats in a very obvious and concise way, which is excellent for performing diagnostics or detecting anomalies. In addition to the data on display, the Gaming Center has a number of useful functions, most of which you can see in the picture below.
Most of these options are fairly self explanatory, so I’ll just touch on one of the most interesting ones: the “Free Up Memory” button and it’s associated settings. Clicking the gear icon next to the Free Up Memory button will show you lists of all currently running tasks and applications. You can select these with check boxes next to each, and clicking the Free Up Memory button will force-kill all of these selected choices. I could see this being used as a sort of “game mode” button, which kills all running productivity-related applications or pesky updaters, and frees up most of the available memory for an an impending gaming session.
GL703VM Specs and Benchmarks
If knowing all the more basic features and functions is the meat and potatoes, the powerful specs in the GL703 are definitely the gravy on top.
Let’s take a look at what’s under the hood:
Intel Core i7-7700HQ @2.80Ghz
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB DDR5
256GB M.2 SSD (SATA Interface)
1TB HDD @ 7200RPM
Intel HM175 Chipset
So we’re looking at a package that is squarely in the realm in the realm of mid-to upper range gaming PCs, though not quite into the most extreme end of the spectrum. The whole computer is powered by a top-end 7th generation Core i7 processor from Intel. The HQ designation following i7-7700 denotes the CPU as a quad-core unit, which means means there’s some serious potential there for programs that can take advantage of multiple cores.
Between the M.2 256GB SSD and the 1TB hard drive, there’s plenty of storage to go around. The operating system (Windows 10 Home) is installed on the SSD along with other preloaded software. The hard drive comes blank, and serves as a reserve data drive. This configuration ensures a lightning fast boot-up and quick access to a handful of favorite programs, and also leaves plenty of extra room for videos, music, and the forty games you bought on Steam sales that you keep promising yourself you’ll get around to someday. The system also comes with 16GB of RAM (in the form of a single memory module), more than enough for most games on the market today, and certainly in the right range to compliment the rest of the GL703VM's specs.
ASUS has managed to fit one of the better NVIDIA graphics cards into the super slim confines of the GL703VM, in the form of the GTX 1060. We tested some graphically intense games on the laptop and, overall, it delivered a very smooth play experience.
Speaking of which, we started our escapade with a few hours of Tom’s Clancy’s The Division. While shooting and scavenging my way through New York on High settings, the framerate held at almost exactly 60 FPS, even during gunfights and particle-heavy snowstorms. I found out later that I had left Vsync on for this test, so the takeaway here is that 60 FPS is an easily achieved target for the GL703VM
(and, also: remember to check Vsync when you're monitoring your framerates).
I later used The Division’s in-game benchmark mode with Vsync disabled, and actually obtained a slightly higher average framerate. During the test, the framerate went as high as 90 and no lower than 60 FPS, again all on the “High” graphics preset. The 703 delivered a similar performance when we hooked it up to a G-Sync monitor capable of 240Hz refresh through the Mini Displayport connection. After enabling V-Sync and 240Hz in game, the FPS stayed pretty steadily between 60-80 FPS, which resulted in an extremely fluid playing experience.
We also ran the 3DMark “Skydiver” benchmark. Skydiver is described as being tuned for midrange gaming PCs and gaming laptops; under all but the most stressful physics load testing, the GL703VM absolutely smoked the benchmark.
You can see the results from our 3DMark testing below:
There are a couple of things to be aware of when putting a heavy load on the GL703VMs hardware. Firstly, this laptop gets warm, though this isn’t at all unusual for laptops under stress. In fact, ASUS did a good job at ensuring the GL703VM cools as efficiently as it can, considering the size constraints imposed by how slim it is. As I said earlier, the entire rear of the laptop is dedicated to thermal outflow, and there are two blower fans packed inside to keep pushing hot air out.
The noise these fans make is the second issue worth noting. At full fan RPM, these blowers make a ton of noise. However, they do a supremely good job at keeping the GPU and CPU cool enough for extended use sessions. Under load, the GPU never exceeded a comfortable 86℃ (even after a few hours in The Division), and dropped down to the low 40s when at rest.
FPS on the ROG
So we know that the GL703VM’s hardware can deliver smooth, fluid gameplay. Now let’s talk about how it feels to actually dive into some games with it.
In the interest of full disclosure, none of our review gaming was done with the touchpad. Instead we used the ASUS ROG Gladius II mouse. I’m sure some of you laptop diehards out there can 360-noscope like a pro on a touchpad, but I’m simply far too accustomed to a traditional keyboard and mouse setup. I also don’t feel like this is cheating or anything. ASUS clearly went out of their way to provide plenty of connections on this laptop; I’d be a fool not to take advantage of them.
I should also again address the noise that the 703 makes when it’s cooling system is going full blast. It’s my biggest mark against the system, but it’s an understandable one, especially when one considers the temperature tradeoff I mentioned above. While the built-in speakers are fine (and more than suitable for use with Netflix or Spotify, for example) and plenty loud, there was definitely a little too much conflicting background whirr for my taste, especially when playing a game where precise audio awareness is important. In this case I was again grateful for the number of USB ports on the GL703VM. I leveraged another port to use with my HyperX headset, which blocked out the drone of the blowers. I’d highly recommend pairing the GL703VM with a quality gaming headset.
In a nutshell, playing The Division on the 703 felt very close to playing the game on my home battlestation. The display is obviously much smaller than standard gaming desktop monitors, but 17.3” is generous for a laptop, and the view is super crisp. I never for a moment felt like I had any issues with target acquisition or reading anything on the HUD, even in some of the game’s most hectic scenarios.
While I said before I couldn’t deal with using the touchpad for a third-person-shooter, in no way do I feel like the same is true for the GL703VM’s keyboard. The keys are spaced out more like one would expect on a desktop keyboard, instead of the compact, clustered layout that is common to many laptops. The keys are membrane-based as opposed to mechanical, but even as someone who swears by MX Blues, I felt like the GL703VM’s keys got the job done. The membrane is rigid enough to provide solid tactile confirmation of each keypress, and strong enough to resist accidental keypresses.
In addition, each keycap has a slight inward curvature to ensure accurate finger placement, and thy keys themselves have a very short travel distance. All in all, I feel like the keyboard on the GL703VM was designed so that each keystroke could be executed with precision and confidence.
I also had a colleague here, who is fairly new to PC gaming, test out the GL703VM with a few matches of Fortnite. She took to it pretty naturally and didn’t seem to have any problem using the large keyboard on this laptop, despite having much smaller hands than I. She also clearly had a ton of fun, and ended up asking a lot of questions about the GL703VM. All talk about specifications and ergonomics and features aside, I actually felt like this was one of the best indicators of the laptop’s worthiness. There’s a special magic to watching a novice gamer get excited about hardware, and it’s telling that the GL703VM can inspire that.
As a final anecdote, I tried the GL703VM in a stand-in tower configuration. That is to say, with the laptop itself closed and tucked away behind a monitor, with a keyboard, mouse, and headset plugged in. As a said before, the laptop has no problem driving a 144Hz or faster monitor, and has enough USB ports to have the essentials hooked up. For the user who wants one computer to be both their home system and on-the-road machine, the GL703VM might be it.
The ROG GL703VM: Packed With Power
With the GL703VM ASUS has managed to pack an impressive amount of power into a frame less than an inch thick, and that also weighs less than seven pounds. In the ongoing quest to balance power, size, features, and price, this is a clear stand-out.
Boasting specs like an NVIDIA GTX 1060, a Core i7 7700HQ, and over a terabyte of storage, the GL703VM has what it takes to rival any mid-range tower build. It’s also chock-full of ancillary features that any serious gamer can appreciate, like a crisp, clear 17.3” display, a backlit RGB keyboard, and plenty of connection ports.
You can pick up the GL703VM on Newegg, where it's currently available for $1,399.