Just when you thought you had to sell a kidney for the iPhone 7...
Until now, terms like ‘liquid-cooled’ were used mainly to describe the type of cooling employed in vehicle engines. But a certain few eggheads decided to use the same tech in a phone - except it didn’t have any liquid in it. And now Asus has done the same with a laptop, except this one has liquid in it, but not “in it” in it. Confused?
Well, it has an external unit that does all the hickory-trickery just like the one you’d install on a desktop PC. We at Stuff love innovation and that’s what Asus has delivered. But does that transform into real-world performance and is that trouser-troubling ₹4 lac price tag justified for that performance? Let’s find out.
The suitcase race
You can’t help but agree that this laptop is special. And with all things special, this one comes in a special case - errr, suitcase. It’s not those ordinary ones you get on the road; this is quality stuff for sure. It also comes with a number lock commonly found on such cases, except it isn’t. Even the lock is TSA-approved. The handle and wheels are all premium quality and can take some rough use. The front of the case has a nice ROG logo printed on it, along with the words ‘The Choice Of Champions’. The black and champagne colour scheme is in sync with the laptop’s and it looks as good as a juicy burger during lunch time.
The suitcase is required to carry the hefty GX700 and its ‘Hydro Overclocking System’, and honestly, we wouldn’t lug it around any other way. Sure, the laptop on its own can be transported in a bag that holds 17in ogres, but at 3.9kg, it isn’t going to be your back's best friend forever. But that’s not all of the weight lifting you’ll do. The docking unit weighs 4.6kg and won’t fit in a regular bag with the laptop in it (you’ll have to carry two bags). Then there’s the power brick that’s huge and bulky as well. In short, you’ll need the suitcase to carry both the things around.
I am Titanium
Asus rolled out its new Armor Titanium and Plasma Copper colour scheme with the recently launched Asus G752 series of laptops, and back then, we absolutely loved it. The same colour scheme is applied to the GX700 and its looks could charm the bird from the trees.
The highlight of the G752 was the orange vapour vents at the back. On the GX700, those are replaced by regular black vents but with the addition of the ROG-patented connection to the Overclocking Module. We still wish Asus had left those vents the orange colour found on the previous model. But it doesn’t matter too much because when docked, the vents are hidden anyway.
The Overclocking module complements the look of the laptop really well. It’s got a nice window at the centre-front with two in-built lights that give a glimpse of what’s going on inside the unit. This kind of a touch is a welcome thought and gives us and other earthlings another reason to ogle the otherwise bulky unit. A tiny bit that causes a chink in the otherwise gorgeous silver and orange armour is the ‘Push’ release button - it’s made of black plastic. A metal button would look much better and feel premium too. We know we are being super fussy, but if we’re paying the price of two kidneys and a leg, we have the right to do so, right?
While most of the top, bezel and base unit is made of metal, the back panel remains plastic and is pretty prone to damage. Scratches on the bottom are also a cause of concern, and considering the back panel will be used to upgrade the laptop and fiddled around with, Asus should have put in a metal construction there too.
Another thing to note is the keyboard area. This is a rubberised palm rest and although pretty comfortable, you’ll leave a lot of evidence in the form of fingerprints and sweaty wrists. We also think this area, especially where the palms rest, will wear off eventually with regular use and make the laptop look really ugly after a year or so.
There are no other noticeable flaws in terms of build that we could point out. The materials used are really premium and the unit is really sturdy. The lid does not act like one of those dancers whose bodies are made of liquid - it’s sturdy. Even the motion of the hinges and the closing and opening of the lid provides a sense of satisfaction.
The same can be said about the Overclocking Dock. It is a well-built unit that is mostly plastic, but of the good kind. The entire unit sits like the Inchcape Rock and can possibly survive a close-range shot from a shotgun. Okay, we might be exaggerating, but it sure does feel worth the money. The black metal grilles that cover the radiators are also plush and won’t bend or get damaged easily. We just don’t like that plastic push button though. It’s like fitting a green spoiler on a bright red Ferrari. An absolute no-no.
With five macro keys provided, there is no dearth of combinations you can enter in on the GX700. It also has a handy recording button to make life easy and it works like a charm. Lengthy and complicated macros can be filled in as easily as writing them down with a pen - actually, it’s easier than that.
The keyboard is similar to the one bundled with the G752 and Asus claims it is the world’s first backlit 30-key rollover anti-ghosting keyboard (which means it will register keys that you strike with your hands or even legs, and you’ll still have 10 more keys you can press. Call over a friend, may be?).
While the quality of the keys and the bottom-highlighted ‘WASD’ keys are appreciated, we can’t help but complain about how soft the keyboard really is. We wish there was a tad more feedback and the keys were slightly stiffer. The softer keys sometimes lead to a hit-and-miss situation. The red illumination is also on the darker side and makes you go “Really? Is that the brightest it can get?”.
Another rickety bit is the feedback you get from the touchpad buttons. The touchpad, however, is placed under the spacebar and is pretty big - a blessing for those who have huge fingers and use the gestures of Windows 10 to their fullest.
Back to the buttons now. They clatter and have a certain amount of play which tinges the entire experience. Generally, at this price, when we depress these buttons, we look for the same satisfying feeling we get when the door of a Rolls-Royce automatically snaps shut - that little click of joy and satisfaction. That’s what top-end quality is all about, and we are sorry to say, those buttons do lack the sophistication of it all. May be that’s why Asus supplies a mouse with the laptop (wink, wink).
Thunderbolt and lightning...
...very, very frighteningly fast. The GX700 comes with Intel’s Thunderbolt tech which gives you the advantage of transferring data at warp speeds - 40Gbits/s - which is four times that of the now standard USB 3.1.
But does that mean you don’t get USB 3.1? Obviously not. That would be like supplying a Lamborghini with three wheels. The GX700 isn’t any Lambo-rickshaw, it comes loaded with the kind of connectivity that you’d expect when you have to pay for the damn thing with body parts and organs. On board are 1 x SD card reader, 1 x RJ45 LAN jack for LAN insert, 1 x HDMI ,1 x microphone-in jack, 3 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 x headphone-out jack, 1X AC adapter plug, 1 x USB 3.1 TYPE C ports, 1 x Thunderbolt port and a handy mini Display Port. Said card reader also functions at supersonic speeds and it clocked an average of 220 MB/s while transferring various files.
The war between resolution and FPS is as old as Manmohan Singh, but it’s as loud as Arnab Goswami. And to be honest, we were quite disappointed when the SLI-totting MSI Titan only came with a Full HD display, but we soon found reason and made peace with the fact. We had also said that such a huge 4K display with G-sync tech was pretty hard to conjure.
As it now turns out, it’s not that hard to deliver after all. The 4K display on the GX700 is yet another reason to boast. It is superbly bright and the contrast levels are outstanding. The colour levels are pretty decent too, as we found out while we played some GTA V. Trevor's dirty clothing and sun-tanned horrible skin was put forward with panache and excellence. Even Assassins Creed Black Flag benefited and Jackdaw’s wooden structure contrasts very well with the blue and green surroundings.
Matte is our mate, especially when using the laptop outside. The display is hardly reflective at almost any angle and is an absolute delight for the eyes.
When the sky falls
The party trick of the GX700 is the overclocking of the Core-i7 6820HK. This is achieved by, no prizes for guessing, the Hydro Overclocking system that uses a specially formulated coolant. Once connected, the CPU can be clocked at a superb 4.0GHz. Overclocking and Asus have been old friends and it all started when the Tytan desktop had a button that enabled you to reach speeds of up to 4.5GHz. But that was a desktop, this is a laptop, which is incredible or, in other words, proper innovation.
Benchmark scores on PCMARK 8 Accelerated 3.0 saw the GX700 score a healthy 4203 and PCMARK 8 Home Conventional 3.0 garnered a similarly high 3869. These readings are the result of Asus adding the ultra-fast M.2 SSDs in a RAID 0 array that make up the 1TB of storage space available.
Talking of SSDs, we are as delighted as a toddler in a toy shop. Why wouldn’t we? With write speeds of around 2498 MB/s and read speeds of an Usain Bolt-beating 2923 MB/s, we are more than delighted. These speeds surpass those you get on a regular HDD like a cheetah on steroids whizzing by an arthritic tortoise. Even regular Sata-III SSDs are left behind by said cheetah on steroids.
Playing the right card
With the entry of the GTX980, NVIDIA has finally bridged the ages-old gap between desktop chip performance and its mobile counterparts. Asus makes the deal even sweeter and extracts every bit of performance from the card thanks to the overclocking system. Letting the card reach and stay at maximum core speed along with the overclocked CPU makes the GX700 appear like an angry king Leonidas charging full speed ahead, ready to down anything in the way, including benchmarks.
On the 3DMARK Fire Strike benchmark, the Asus scored a tall 11,521, while on the new DirectX 12 benchmark called Time Spy, a score of 4281 was achieved. Fire Strike Extreme resulted in 5715 and Fire Strike Ultra, which is specially designed for 4K systems, returned a bruised but commendable 3027.
We see a similar result with gaming performance as well. Run them in the native 1920x1080p resolution and they perform like Cupid playing a harp in a cloud of roses. There’s nary a stutter even at high settings. We played a few of our favourites, like Call of Duty - Black Ops 3, at Ultra settings in Full HD and got a steady 90fps, but the same game when run in 4K returned a soul-wrenching 32fps.
Other games also had similar results. We loaded Fallout 4 and at Full HD we were happy bunnies getting an average fps of about 82, but switch to 4K and happy bunnies turn into sad sloths as the fps drops to an eye-irritating 31. Even GTA V, which saw an average fps of about 65, plummeted down to an appalling 25. Which clearly shows that even with 8GB of memory, the GTX980 chip can’t keep up with 4K resolutions. You’ll need the power of at least two such cards or a miracle for higher fps in 4K resolution.
While noticeable noise from the Hydro Overclocking unit when under stress is an annoyance, it’s the performance and the coolness (quite literally) it brings to the table that makes you turn a deaf ear to it. We ran a few tests, one of them being FurMark, and recorded GPU temperatures of just 64deg C, which is pretty good for a laptop.
While the Overclocking unit does a lot for the internals, the surface temperatures are pretty much constant. The keyboard area around the WASD keys and in the middle does get a little warmer compared to the rest, but it isn’t much of an issue. Here, we’d like to point out that the previous Asus G752 did a better job of managing surface heat.
Four point oh!
A 4.0 setup makes for the audio prowess of the GX700. Problem is, there’s hardly any prowess. There’s no subwoofer integrated and that makes for a thin bass output that lacks definition and attack. Explosions and gunshots sound much better on the recently reviewed MSI GT72 that has audio taken care of by Dynaudio.
However, things improve by a mile when you connect headphones. Asus uses something called the Sonic Studio II that allows for customisation and tweaking of the sound. There’s three presets - Music, Movies and Gaming - and for a change, they’re well suited to the genres. You also get an equalizer and surround sound options.
Along with the EQ and surround sound, there’s also something called ‘Perfect Voice’ which works wonderfully well when you chat in-game. There’s ‘Noise Reduction’ available on incoming voice as well as outgoing, and ‘Noise Gate’ tech is available for both as well. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a ‘Casting Enhancer’ available too, which enhances the audio recorded in game for your streams.
Bloat the goat
Thankfully, Asus hasn’t clogged the GX700 with a lot of bloatware. There are essential apps like the main ROG Gaming Center that allows you to customise and is the main centre for when you want to overclock. Then you have the ROG MacroKey, with which you can set your macros for the five profiles available. Asus GiftBox and other regular software is present, but that’s about it.
So, at ₹4,12,900 and for everything the laptop does, is the GX700 worth it? The answer is not that simple. The laptop looks good, has some killer specs, is liquid-cooled and is a thing to brag about, but that’s the thing. At the end of it all, the GX700 remains something just to brag to your friends about. That’s mainly because someone looking for outright performance will build a desktop, and someone looking for a laptop with extreme performance would invest in something like the MSI Titan or one of the Aliens with the Graphics amplifier unit, which will actually increase performance by a mile. Hey, even the Asus G752 is a great option and is much cheaper.
The GX700 with that overclocking module does display desktop-level results, but they’re not worth the asking price and the slipped disc you’d get if you carry the thing around everywhere. And to think about it, the full potential can’t be had without the cooling module. Even that 4K display that the graphics card struggles with is another pointless inclusion made for bragging rights. You can’t play at 25fps, for crying out loud. A Full HD display would make much more sense here. Honestly, we would pick the superbly practical and powerful Asus G752 which we reviewed previously over this monster bragger, or build our own PC and own a four wheeler at that price.