ASUS ROG GX700 and G752 review: Super-powered gaming notebooks

ASUS ROG GX700 and G752 review: Super-powered gaming notebooks
The ASUS ROG GX700 (left) may look similar to the G752, but it is quite a different beast entirely.
PHOTO: Hardware Zone

We've talked about over-the-top gaming laptops before. There was the Aftershock W-15, which came with a desktop-class Intel Core i7-4790K processor (4.0GHz, 8MB L3 cache) and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M graphics card. That was certainly impressive, even if gaming performance would get a greater boost from a more powerful graphics configuration.

Then there was the MSI GT80 2QE SLI, which featured a full-fledged mechanical keyboard, dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980Ms in SLI, and a whopping four 128GB SSDs in RAID 0. Crazy, right? It was difficult to see how any other laptop could top the sheer extravagance of that machine. Or so we thought then.

Enter the ASUS ROG GX700, a veritable beast of a laptop with the first ever overclockable mobile processor - an Intel Core i7-6820HK (2.7GHz, 8MB L3 cache) - a desktop-class NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, two M.2 512GB SSDs in RAID 0, and a whopping 64GB of DDR4 RAM. These specifications sound like a dream, but we haven't even gotten to the best part yet. The ROG GX700 is the world's first liquid-cooled notebook, which means chilly temperatures, more overclocking headroom for both CPU and GPU, and even more performance.

Thanks to a hefty liquid-cooling dock, you'll be able to enjoy the best of both worlds. This means the relative mobility of the undocked notebook, and when you're ready to get settled for some mad fragging, the extra performance that liquid-cooling will unlock.

But those of you who aren't already throwing money at your screens probably have some good questions in mind. For instance, how much performance does the liquid-cooling dock enable? Does it really run a lot cooler? Furthermore, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 may be a desktop card, but it has still been shrunk down to fit in a notebook, even if NVIDIA has not compromised on the specifications (number of CUDA cores, clock speeds etc.) in any way. Does it really offer desktop-equivalent performance? We'll be looking to answer those questions and more in this review.

Here's a teaser though. The dock actually automatically overclocks the CPU quite aggressively, boosting the CPU multiplier to 40 for a maximum Turbo speed of 4.0GHz - a huge boost over the default 2.7GHz base frequency.

Oh, and did we mention that it comes in its own luggage? If you thought the GX700 was over-the-top, the packaging it comes in only confirms that fact. The GX700 and the dock are nestled in some thick, dense foam, and it looks like ASUS thinks that you might possibly want to bring the notebook and its dock somewhere. Way to look like you're headed on a vacation when you're really going to a LAN party.

In addition, we've also benchmarked another of ASUS' new gaming notebooks, the ROG G752, to use as a reference in our comparisons. That notebook is no slouch either, equipped as it is with the latest sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor (2.6GHz, 6MB L3 cache) and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M card. However, it comes equipped with a 1TB 7,200rpm mechanical HDD and a more modest - although by no means paltry - 16GB of DDR4 RAM.

Water-cooling dock aside, these are two very powerful and high-end notebooks. But as it turns out, even the premium gaming segment can be split into merely high-end notebooks, and those that border on sheer luxury. The ROG GX700 clearly falls into the latter category on paper, but we'll be taking a look at how much of an edge it really has over the "average" high-performance gaming notebook.

We've already covered further details like design, build, usability and features on both notebooks in two separate hands-on articles which you can access in the links below:

With that out of the way, we'll be diving straight into the benchmarks results in the next section.

Test Setup and Performance

If the ROG GX700 has piqued your interest, you're probably wondering how it compares to all the other top-end gaming notebooks out there. We've rounded up a handful of high-performing notebooks for our comparisons, with the lowest graphics specification being a fairly respectable NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M. We also included notebooks with dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M cards to get a better idea of how the desktop-class GeForce GTX 980 will perform compared to the best possible mobile graphics configurations.

Here's a full list of the notebooks we'll be looking at:

  • ASUS ROG GX700
  • ASUS ROG G752VY
  • ASUS ROG G751JT
  • MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro G
  • MSI GT80 2QE Titan SLI
  • Aftershock Titan v2.1
  • Aorus x7 Pro

We ran the notebooks through our usual benchmark suite as below:

  • PCMark 8
  • 3DMark 2013
  • Tomb Raider
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

The GX700 is listed locally as having just 512GB of SSD storage (RAID 0), because that's the highest capacity you can get locally, but our review unit actually came with 1TB of SSD storage, also in RAID 0. The scores we got below are representative of the 1TB model, so you should expect slightly lower storage scores on the 512GB configuration, but all other performance numbers should be fairly accurate.

PCMark 8

Note: We didn't manage to get figures for the Adobe application tests on the ROG GX700, which is why those results are absent.

PCMark 8 attempts to measure the real-world performance of various test systems by putting them through real-world programs and productivity applications. However, because it is reflective of the average workload of a typical user, it does not really highlight the strengths of the respective gaming systems.

Nevertheless, the ASUS ROG GX700 topped most of the charts here, especially when it was docked. In fact, a look at the performance of the GX700 with and without the dock shows a performance gap even in everyday tasks like word processing. Of course, you're not going to notice a difference if you're just doing regular things like surfing the Web, but it's clear that the dock does boost performance even in non-gaming scenarios.

Unfortunately, the ASUS ROG G752 couldn't really compare to the GX700 at all, in large part due to its use of just a single 1TB mechanical hard drive. The absence of an SSD pretty much sticks out like a sore thumb, given the otherwise high-end specifications of the machine. This translated into lower scores across the board, most notably in the Storage and Applications benchmarks, where the G752 posted scores that were less than half of the other notebooks.

We also ran the AS SSD benchmark to illustrate the speed you get with the dual 512GB SSDs in RAID 0. Judging by the numbers, even storage performance gets a small speed bump while docked!

3DMark

Now for a more relevant benchmark, which assesses the notebook's performance with a mix of graphics and physics tests at different resolutions. ASUS says that we can expect the undocked GX700 to serve up performance similar to notebooks with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, and that certainly seems to be the case here (in fact, it was even slightly faster).

Both the ASUS ROG G752 and MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro G feature the latter mobile graphics card, and the GX700 turned out to be around 10 per cent faster than the G752 in 3DMark Fire Strike. This meant that it was also no surprise that the undocked GX700 couldn't match up to the notebooks with dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970Ms and 980Ms, with the Aftershock Titan v2.1 coming in at around 70 per cent faster.

When we plugged in the dock, its performance was boosted as expected. This was to the tune of a 19 per cent and 24 per cent improvement in Cloud Gate and Fire Strike respectively, which is actually quite a significant increase. And when combined with the automatic CPU overclocking, it easily leapfrogged the GeForce GTX 980M notebooks by quite a large margin. For instance, it was now 37 per cent quicker than the G752 in Fire Strike. However, it still couldn't beat the notebooks with dual mobile graphics cards.

The lower temperatures afforded by the GX 700's liquid-cooling dock has likely reduced GPU throttling and enabled it to run at higher speeds. But the most impressive part has to be the fact that its score of 11555 actually exceeded the 11142 we got when we reviewed the desktop-sized GeForce GTX 980. We also ran the more demanding Fire Strike Extreme benchmark to get a better idea of its performance. This time, the docked GX700 posted a score of 5941, which also surpassed the score of 5639 we got in our initial review of the desktop card. While we would stop short of trumpeting that ASUS' implementation of the mobile GeForce GTX 980 is faster than the desktop-sized version (this is after all just a single synthetic test), it is certainly an excellent result.

So yes, you are really going to get desktop-like graphics performance on a notebook.

Tomb Raider

There was an even bigger jump in performance when docking the GX700 in Tomb Raider. We saw whopping 75 per cent increase on High settings after docking it - clearly, the liquid-cooling is working wonders here.

One thing to note is that the ROG G752 actually beat the undocked GX700 on High settings (but not on Normal), likely a result of some speed throttling going on to keep the temperatures in check. And as in 3DMark, the notebooks with SLI configurations topped the charts again. It looks like there's no beating dual-graphics setups, even if they are mobile GPUs.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

The difference was less pronounced, but still significant, in a more demanding game like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The undocked ROG GX700 performed very similarly to the G752 and other GeForce GTX 980M-equipped notebooks, and even managed to take a small lead. It looks like the specification advantages of the GeForce GTX 980 - more memory bandwidth, more CUDA cores, and higher clock speeds to name a few - are contributing to the performance lead even if the card is operating at lower speeds without the dock.

Once the liquid-cooling dock came in, performance improved by approximately 38 per cent on High settings and a more modest 23 per cent on Ultra settings. There was still no eclipsing the dual GeForce GTX 980M notebooks however, and they continued to power ahead to the top of the pack. On Ultra settings, the Aftershock Titan was about 23 per cent faster than the ROG GX700 while docked.

We also monitored the GPU clock speeds using GPU-Z in an attempt to better understand the performance differences on the GX700 with and without the dock. The GPU core clock was able to hit a maximum boost speed of 1,227MHz, regardless of whether it was docked or not. However, running the GX700 on the dock appears to allow it to run at the top speed more consistently, as we noticed that the undocked notebook ended up dropping to around 1,215MHz eventually. As we noted earlier, some form of speed throttling is going on to help keep temperatures in check when the notebook is undocked.

Temperature

Because the liquid-cooling dock cools both CPU and GPU, both of which have separate thermal modules, we've also measured the CPU temperatures using CPUID's HWMonitor utility. We haven't done this in the past, which is why CPU temperature readings are missing from the rest of the notebooks. We measured the temperatures after looping Tomb Raider's built-in benchmark for 30 minutes on Ultra settings.

As it turns out, the liquid-cooling made the biggest difference in terms of GPU temperatures, where we observed a 9°C drop when moving to the dock. All of our other tested notebooks had higher GPU temperatures, so the cooling dock is certainly hard at work here. However, the drop was less stark for the CPU package temperatures, which showed a 6°C decrease while docked. And compared to the ROG G752's Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor (2.6GHz, 6MB L3 cache), the higher clocked Core i7-6820HK (2.7GHz, 8MB L3 cache) also ran quite a bit hotter, even while docked.

However, the GX700's higher CPU temperatures don't come as much of a surprise, considering that the dock automatically boosts the CPU multiplier to 40 for a maximum Turbo speed of 4.0GHz, which is a lot higher than the default 2.7GHz base frequency.

If you take a closer look at the other temperature figures between the two, it's also evident that the undocked GX700 generally runs a bit hotter than the G752, with slightly higher surface temperatures. As we'll note in the next section, the GX700 is quite a bit thinner than the G752, and it may be that compromises have been made in terms of air-cooling performance to cut down on the bulk.

Our external temperature measurements at the four different quadrants of the notebook also displayed marginal differences, although going by the figures, the liquid-cooling did still make the palm rests a wee bit cooler to touch. Still, it wasn't a tangible difference that we noticed, and the biggest thing you're going to get out of the dock temperature-wise is probably the lower CPU and GPU temperatures.

Battery Life and Power Consumption

Unsurprisingly, the battery life on the ROG GX700 wasn't too impressive. Despite having a larger 93Wh battery, it still fell short of the ROG G752 and other notebooks with even smaller battery capacities. Both processors on the GX700 and G752 have the same 45 watt TDP, so the difference is likely due to the desktop-class NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 found in the former.

However, it managed to outlast the MSI and Aftershock notebooks with dual GeForce GTX 980Ms, so its battery life isn't actually too terrible. You'll be able to spend some time away from the plug without having to make a dash for the power adapter, albeit with an eye on the battery meter at all times.

The higher power consumption of the GeForce GTX 980 in the GX700 was also evidenced in the overall power consumption figures, where GX700's 43.59 watts was quite a bit higher than the G752's 28.27 watts. However, it did well compared to the MSI GT80 2QE Titan SLI, which consumed a whopping 65.12 watts with its dual GeForce GTX 980Ms.

It's also worth noting that the ROG G752 did quite well here, lasting longer than equivalent notebooks with a GeForce GTX 980M. It even had the lowest power consumption among all the notebooks, likely thanks to its more efficient Intel Skylake processor.

Portability Index

Our portability index rating takes into account the notebook's weight, dimensions, and battery life in calculating a relative measure of how portable it really is. This may come as quite a big surprise, but the ROG GX700 actually came in second here, behind only the Aorus x7 Pro, which was the lightest of the lot at 3kg.

As it turns out, the GX700's good standing here was buoyed by its unexpectedly thin design. At 38.5mm at its thickest, it is quite a bit thinner than the G752, which is 51mm thick. At 3.6kg (inclusive of the battery), it is also almost a kilogram lighter than the latter's 4.4kg. The difference in weight was really quite palpable as we took turns strutting around with each notebook in hand.

ASUS has designed the GX700 to offer the best of both worlds with a decent mobility and a high-end gaming experience while tethered to the dock. It has clearly made an effort to shed the pounds and millimeters to make the notebook more portable, and that's a design decision we appreciate.

Conclusion

When all's said and done, the ASUS ROG GX700 manages to combine mobility and performance quite successfully. Its performance, even while docked, may not quite reach that of the dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M notebooks, but its trifecta of an overclockable mobile processor, desktop-class GeForce GTX 980, and liquid-cooling is really hard to beat. Furthermore, the 75Hz G-Sync display might even help to compensate for the slightly lower graphics horsepower (compared to the GeForce GTX 980Ms in SLI). Because G-Sync synchronizes the display's refresh rate with the frame rates the card is pushing, you'll get an overall smoother gaming experience, even with lower frame rates. In fact, you might even experience screen tearing on the SLI notebooks as they lack G-Sync displays of their own.

ASUS was treading a fine line in creating this beast of a notebook. Instead of striving for sheer performance at the expense of portability, it opted for the detachable dock that would allow it to slim the notebook down and still retain the ability to achieve desktop-equivalent graphics performance.

And now for perhaps the most important aspect of all - price. ASUS didn't go to these lengths to create an affordable solution for the masses, and the ROG GX700 is a premium, luxury product through and through. At S$6,198, the GX700 isn't something you just go out and buy on a whim. It's not even likely to appeal to the vast majority of consumers, who will reason that they could build a much more powerful desktop system for that price. However, do note that this price actually applies to the top-end model available locally, which comes with dual 256GB SSDs in RAID 0 for a total of 512GB of storage. Our review unit has double that capacity with two 512GB SSDs, but it is not available locally, which is why we don't have a price for it.

Nevertheless, all these gripes and grouses about the price miss the fact that the GX700 isn't alone in its stratospheric pricing. In fact, it isn't even the most expensive notebook here. That dubious honour goes to the MSI GT80 2QE Titan SLI and its S$6,599 price tag. And that doesn't even come with a desktop graphics card or overclockable processor! Of course, it does have two NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M cards and posted higher numbers in most of our benchmarks, but the GX700 is arguably more suited for the enthusiast and overclocker. Just how overclockable is it? We'll be working on a second article on that, so stay tuned.

Yes, the dual GeForce GTX 980M notebooks may be more powerful. One of them, the Aftershock Titan v2.1, is also cheaper at S$4,208. But that notebook is thicker (38.5mm vs 49.7mm) and heavier (3.6kg vs 3.9kg) and doesn't offer the same compelling mix of an overclockable processor and desktop graphics, not to mention the liquid-cooling capabilities and RAID 0 storage. Furthermore, while the S$4,499 MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro G does come with the same overclockable Intel Core i7-6820HK processor, the lack of liquid-cooling capabilities means that you probably can't squeeze as much performance out of the CPU.

We'll be realistic here. The GX700 is a great piece of engineering and hardware, but we're not advocating that you, as the average gamer, run out and buy it. But frankly, its price is not unjustified because of what it brings to the table. Everything is top of the line, even down to the mind-boggling 64GB of DDR4 RAM and all the latest interfaces, including one USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C port and one Thunderbolt 3 port. Our unit also came with a 1080p display - although there are plans to release one with a 4K display as well - which means that you should have no problem running just about any game title you care to buy. This freedom, combined with its liquid-cooling support and relative mobility while undocked, is nearly unprecedented on a laptop of this class and size.

Even if you can't afford it, it's worth just stepping back and marveling at what ASUS has created. If you can, well, maybe you're already out on your way to get it.

Then there's the ROG G752, which is a much more representative sample of the vast majority of gaming notebooks on the market. At S$2,898, it is also over three grand cheaper than its bigger brother, the GX700. Taken on it's own, it's actually a fairly strong performer in our gaming benchmarks, more than matching up to other NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M-equipped notebooks. Pair that with the top-end Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor (2.6GHz, 6MB L3 cache), 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 75Hz G-Sync display like that on the GX700, and you have quite a high-end machine.

However, the thing that really drags the G752 down is its lack of an SSD. Its 1TB HDD feels markedly slower, even in regular activities like launching programs and browsing files. The laptop also took a much longer time to boot, compared to the dual 512GB RAID 0 SSDs (or dual 256GB SSDs for the top local model) in the GX700, and it feels a lot more sluggish compared to any other laptop with an SSD. This was borne out in its overall lower scores in PCMark 8, especially in the Storage and Applications benchmarks. Fortunately, the storage drive can be easily upgraded after popping off the bottom panel, so you won't be stuck with a whirring HDD forever.

The G752 also features all the latest ports and interfaces, including a USB Type-C port that supports both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 (Gen 2). So if you want to use the notebook as a desktop replacement and hook it up to a series of 4K displays, there's nothing stopping you. All in all, it's a very capable notebook, albeit one which you won't really want to take around with you.

Ultimately, we feel it would be unfair to compare the ROG GX700 and G752. Both may be high-end gaming notebooks, but they cater to quite a different crowd. The GX700 is without a doubt for those who want the best possible laptop gaming experience, and who are willing to pony up whatever is needed to get it. On the other hand, the G752, while not cheap by any means, is a more reasonable option for gamers who want a high-end machine, but don't see the need for liquid-cooling or bleeding-edge performance.


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