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Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 review

Does Intel’s latest mobile tech bring its A game?

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is an excellent mid-range gaming laptop that, while not the most powerful machine, offers solid gaming performance in a gorgeous thin and light design.

For

  • Great design
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good gaming performance
  • Fast screen

Against

  • Not the most powerful
  • You're paying a lot for the design

Two-minute review

The Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is the newest device in Asus’ much-vaunted ROG Zephyrus lineup of stylish thin and light gaming laptops, which challenge the notion that such machines must be big, bulky and with battery life that disappears in the blink of an eye.

Perhaps the most noteworthy addition to the Zephyrus M15 is the new Intel Comet Lake-H processor. Intel has designed these 10th-generation mobile chips to power laptops that aim to offer excellent performance, even when unplugged, alongside lengthy battery life.

Essentially, achieving that balance of performance and portability is the Holy Grail of gaming laptops, but does the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 succeed?

In our view, it does – but with some caveats. As with previous ROG Zephyrus laptops, Asus has once again designed a thin and light gaming laptop that's stylish and understated, without compromising (too much) on the hardware within. For anyone who still believes that gaming laptops are big, bulky brutes, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 proves this isn't always the case. It's an example of what a gaming laptop in 2020 should look like.

Thanks to dimensions of 360 x 252 x 18.9mm and a weight of 1.9kg, this is a gaming laptop you can carry around with you all day without too much effort. It’s one of the most stylish gaming laptops on the market right now – but that does come at a price.

The model we got in for review costs $1,299 (around £1,000, AU$1,800), and while it boasts a recent Intel Comet Lake Core i7-10750H processor, the rest of the spec isn’t that mind-blowing. The 512GB SSD will fill up with games pretty quickly, and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU isn’t likely to be up to playing the latest games with settings whacked up to full. In a way, it feels like you’re taking a hit on specs to get something so stylish at this price. For some, this will be a fair trade-off. For others, it will be a compromise too far.

However, when playing even graphically intensive games such as Metro Exodus, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 does a decent job even at higher settings. With a bit of tweaking, you’ll get some very respectable results considering the price.

For less demanding games that are fast-paced and frantic, such as Fortnite and CS:GO, however, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is a fantastic choice, mainly thanks to its 240Hz Full HD screen. It isn't the brightest or most vibrant screen, but that fast refresh rate offers super-quick, smooth and responsive gameplay.

The battery life is another area where the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 exceeds expectations. Lasting a lengthy nine hours in the PCMark 10 benchmark tests, it proves that you don’t have to put up with pitiful battery life on a modern gaming laptop.

Combining stylish design, good gaming performance and a competitive price, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is an excellent mid-range gaming laptop of which many of its competitors will be envious.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

Spec sheet

Here are the specs of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-10750H (6-core, 12MB cache, up to 5GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (6GB GDDR6)
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (3,200MHz)
Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS, 144Hz
Storage: 512GB SSD (PCIe)
Ports: 1x Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, HDMI 2.0b, Gigabit Ethernet, headphone, mic
Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Weight: 4.2 pounds (1.9kg)
Size: 14.2 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches (360 x 252 x 19 mm); W x D x H

The Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 we got in for review comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 512GB SSD, 16GB of RAM and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU, and costs $1,299 (around £1,000, AU$1,800). It’s quite hard to find that exact specification in the UK, so we’ve used approximate prices for outside the US.

Much more easy to find in the UK is a model with the same CPU, 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM, plus a 4K screen and a more powerful Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU for £2,000. This gives you a more capable graphics card and higher-resolution screen, but the jump in price is quite significant.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is available in some other configurations, which should mean you're able to pick up a laptop that provides a good balance between price and performance for your budget.

The price of the model we reviewed puts it up against the likes of the MSI GS65 Stealth, which includes older components, and the AMD-powered Asus Zephyrus G14 – both of which are some of the best gaming laptops in the world.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The design of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 will be familiar territory to those who have encountered a Zephyrus laptop before. Although it's far from the thinnest or lightest laptop in the world, with dimensions of 360 x 252 x 18.9mm and a weight of 1.9kg, it's impressively svelte for a gaming laptop.

Asus claims it's 25% thinner and 45% lighter than traditional 15-inch laptops, and when it comes to the likes of the HP Omen 15, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 easily beats it in the portability stakes.

Straight off the bat, then, if you're looking for a gaming laptop that's easy to carry around with you, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is well worth considering.

The laptop has a rectangular design that can look quite severe, but we quite like it. It feels like a gaming device without being too garish or over the top. In fact, it wouldn't look out of place in the office, if you wanted a gaming laptop that also doubles as a work machine.

The metal chassis has a dual pattern on the front. One half is brushed aluminium; the other is what Asus calls a 'prismatic dot design', and is rather elegant. In certain lighting it sparkles in different colors, which is a clever little nod to the laptop's gaming roots, without resorting to distracting RGB lighting.

Despite being rather slim, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 still offers a decent selection of ports. On the left there’s an audio jack in, a 3.5mm audio jack out (with an ESS Hi-Fi DAC), a USB 3.2 port, full-sized HDMI 2.0b port, Ethernet and a port for plugging in the power supply.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502

(Image credit: Future)

On the right you'll find two more USB 3.1 Type-A ports and a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port. That’s an excellent array of ports, and includes some – such as the Ethernet and HDMI – that are rarely seen on laptops these days, but which remain incredibly important for gamers.

On opening up the laptop, there’s a decent-sized keyboard. The buttons are large enough to hit comfortably and accurately, and with full N-Key rollover, you can repeatedly press a key quickly and it will be registered correctly – again, an important feature for gamers.

Of course, the keyboard also comes with the almost-obligatory RGB lighting, which is configured via Asus Aura Sync, so it will match up with other compatible devices.

However, note that the Brushed Black edition of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 features per-key LEDs; in the Prism Gray and Prism Black editions (with the aforementioned 'prismatic dot design') the backlighting is just a single zone. Therefore, in the latter two models you can’t change the colors of individual keys, and lighting effects will be limited. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most, but it’s worth noting. We assume the thinking behind this is that the ‘Prism’ devices are for more ‘grown up’ tastes and uses.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502

(Image credit: Future)

The power button sits above the keyboard and is easy to locate, and you'll also find physical buttons for volume control, muting and unmuting the mic, and launching Asus’ Armoury Crate software, which lets you configure the performance of the laptop.

The trackpad beneath the keyboard isn’t huge, but is big enough to use comfortably, and does the job well enough. For gaming, however, we'd advise the use of an external mouse.

When it comes to the screen, there are two options. The first is a 1080p display with 240Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. This fast and responsive screen is ideal for gamers who want to play fast-paced games, and the 1080p resolution means the GTX 1660 Ti graphics card isn’t put under too much strain.

This screen also offers 100% support for the sRGB color gamut, ensuring it’s capable of displaying accurate and varied colors. It was this screen that came with the laptop we reviewed, and it did a decent job. The 1080p resolution isn’t the highest, but it’s a good compromise for the price and specs we have here.

It's also possible to pick up the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 with a 4K display and 100% Adobe RGB. We’d argue that this model would better serve digital creatives looking for an affordable workstation, rather than a gaming laptop, as even with the mightier RTX 2060, the laptop will still struggle with gaming at 4K, so you’d need to turn the resolution down anyway.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

Benchmarks

Here's how the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 fared in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Night Raid: 34,161; Fire Strike: 13,100; Time Spy: 5661
Cinebench R20: 2,769 cb
Geekbench 5 Single-Core: 959; Multi-Core: 5,183
PCMark 10: 5,011
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 9 hours 10 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 7 hours 57 minutes
Total War: Three Kingdoms: 126.4fps (1080p, Low) 44.2fps (1080p Ultra)
Metro Exodus: 130.11fps (1080p, Low), 41.60fps (1080p, Ultra)

Sticking with the screen for a moment, we have to say that we weren’t blown away by the display when it comes to pure image quality. We’ve seen more vibrant screens on a laptop – although, admittedly, they're usually quite a bit more expensive.

However, where the screen does impress is in terms of speed and responsiveness. That 240Hz refresh rate is, as we mentioned earlier, great for fast-paced competitive games. Playing titles such as Fortnite, or even frantic single-player games such as Doom Eternal, at high frames per second is a real joy, and is easily one of the best things about the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502’s display.

When it comes to actual gaming performance, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 performs okay – as long as you're aware that you're unlikely to be able to play modern games with their settings whacked up to their highest levels, and still get decent frame rates. However, even in such instances, it doesn't do awfully. For example, with Metro Exodus, a graphically demanding game, with everything set to 'Ultra', the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 managed an average of 41.6fps.

That may be well below the 60fps we like to see in PC games, and certainly doesn't make use of the laptop's high refresh rates, it nevertheless isn't a terrible showing for a laptop at this price range. You're still getting better graphics and a higher frame rate than the current-gen consoles. Also, reducing the graphical settings to 'low' lets the laptop hit 130.11fps, and proves that there's plenty of wiggle room to configure games to offer a good combination of high frame rates and graphical flair.

For day-to-day use in Windows 10, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 performs very well indeed, and with its understated design, and the fact that it’s reasonably thin and light, it’s a gaming laptop that you could easily use in a work capacity, either in the office or at school.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

One of the most exciting things about devices such as the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502, alongside the Intel Comet Lake-H series of processors powering them, is that they comprehensively destroy the notion that a gaming laptop will come with pitiful battery life.

There was a time when gaming laptops often offered less than four hours of juice away from the mains, but the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 lasted almost eight hours in our 1080p video test, which plays a looped video until the battery depletes.

Impressively, in the PCMark 10 battery life test, which replicated day-to-day tasks such as web browsing and video calls, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 made it through a very impressive nine hours 10 minutes. For a gaming PC this is excellent, and it means this laptop should comfortably make it through an entire work or school day (and a long commute) on a single charge. Of course, when playing games that battery life is likely to deplete more quickly – but we’re loving this new trend of gaming PCs that don’t shut down after only a few hours away from a power supply.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You’re a budding esports player
The screen's high refresh rate makes this an ideal gaming laptop for playing fast-paced competitive games where response times are a priority.

You hate bulky gaming laptops
One of the best things about the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is its design. As with other Zephyrus laptops, this is thin, light and stylish.

You want to work unplugged
It won’t last a huge amount of time gaming on battery power (and there’s still a hit to performance when you unplug it), but for day-to-day tasks this laptop can last an impressively long time.

Don't buy it if...

You’re after the most powerful gaming laptop
The Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502’s specs are good, but they're not cutting-edge. Ray-tracing effects, for example, aren’t available if you get the version with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU.

You don’t like tweaking settings
As a result of the specs, you’ll need to perform a few tweaks in some games to achieve a good balance of performance and graphics. If you don’t want to do this, avoid.

You want an Ultrabook for work
The Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502 is a thin and light gaming laptop that can double as a work laptop, but if you’re not into gaming, then you're better off spending your money elsewhere.