With its strong build, snappy SSD storage and full HD display, the ASUS ZX53VW-AH58 is one of those excellent entry-level gaming laptops you can have for much less than the competition, but still delivers top-notch performance on both gaming and general use than you’d expect.
PROS: Sleek build and design. Back-lit keyboard. Dedicated graphics card. Solid overall performance.
CONS: Middling battery life.
Sometimes getting a gaming laptop that offers solid performance at a very reasonable price is never easy, but the ASUS ZX53VW-AH58 $798.99 at Amazon , and a few others, do come with impressive features affordably. This system is powerful enough to provide a smooth gaming experience on all but the highest settings with its full HD display and discrete NVidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics card, and when not playing, it can efficiently perform daily work and media tasks. The configuration puts it head-to-head with our previous top-picks in the gaming category– Dell i7559-763BLK, ASUS K501UX and ASUS K501UW-AB78. All of these are at the very top of the category, and they do offer a significant increase in performance, and the latest ASUS ZX53VW adds variety into the entry-level gaming category.
That said, the ASUS FX502VM-AH51 beats the competition on a feature-by-feature basis by including a Pascal-based Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card, 16GB memory and 1TB storage. It remains our Editors’ Choice entry-level gaming laptop.
Design and Features
The ASUS ZX53VW sports a metallic and slim chassis with F-22 stealth fighter-inspired lines that make it look stylish; with looks that mimic Asus’ Republic of Gamers (ROG) laptops. It has imposing curves on the lid alongside the ‘ASUS’ label on the lid, though the lines extend to the keyboard deck making it look awesome. Its metallic chassis measures 0.8 by 15.1 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.5 pounds, making it slimmer but heavier than its stablemate the ASUS FX502VM-AH51 (0.9 by 15.4 by 10.5 inch; 4.9 pounds). If you need to carry it around, you can slide it into the Bonvince 18.4″ Laptop Backpack, which has nicely placed compartments for the power adapter, mouse and other peripherals. The 15.6-inch, matte-finish display gives you the benefit of both a wide viewing angle and reduced reflections from ambient lighting.
It’s a bright screen with a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, which on first flush can seem a little small when high-end ultraportables have 4K screens like the MSI VR Ready GS73VR Stealth Pro, but 1080p is better for mobile gaming. For such a small machine, butter-smooth 3K or 4K animation would require at least three GPUs, which is quite impractical on a laptop. For instance, the GS60 GHOST PRO 3K-097 has trouble keeping up with smooth frame rates at its native resolution of resolution of 2,880 by 1,620. The FX502VM does a fine job at native resolution with all the eye candy turned on.
The red, backlit, chiclet-style keyboard is comfortable blends well with the black chassis, and is among the comfortable keyboards have used lately (offering up to 1.8mm key travel distance), with enough space for a full numeric keypad. The touchpad is very responsive, and it features highlighted WASD keys, which make it comfortable during long gaming sessions. Speakers are loud and clear, with a subwoofer for a little extra low-end sound. The system has dual rear vents, so heated air is channeled away from the user.
Connectivity is excellent. The sides are choked with I/O ports, including: an Ethernet port, a headset jack, an HDMI port, a line-out jack, one USB Type-C (Gen 2) port, and a D-Sub port. Wireless connectivity comes via Integrated 802.11 AC and Bluetooth 4.0. If you occasionally binge on movies, the Nvidia GeForce 960M can drive up to three displays simultaneously (the internal display, HDMI and D-Sub), allowing you to have game screens, instant messaging, Web browsing, and a movie all playing at once).
Our review unit has a 6th generation (Skylake) Intel i5-6300HQ (2.3GHz; turbo up to 3.1GHz) processor, 8GB system memory, 512GB SSD and NVidia GeForce GTX 960 discrete graphics (with 4GB). This combination is well suited for most work/college tasks and gaming needs. Being a quad-core processor, the machine can pretty much deliver on anything thrown its way, and if you have some bottlenecks, it won’t be the processor for sure. During our tests, the system remained surprisingly cool and quiet even after hours of use.
The system was able to complete media projects in record time and I was even able to edit some HD videos and process some spreadsheets concurrently without the machine stuttering. This is quite something the office user or student who once in a while indulges in MS Office projects, but later jumps into gaming.
On the gaming front, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB isn’t the best in its class, but it isn’t the worst either for an entry-gaming laptop. The system uses the same graphics card we’ve seen in most entry-level gaming laptops including the ASUS K501UW-AB78; though we’ve seen others in the same category with potent GPUs. For instance, our Editors’ Choice entry-level gaming laptop the ASUS FX502VM comes with a the latest Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU with 3GB, while the ASUS ROG GL502VS-DB71 comes with the more powerful Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card. Both of these are mid-range gaming rigs, but for an entry-level gaming laptop, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M is still acceptable.
During testing, the system was able to produce playable frame rates of 50 frames per second (FPS) on popular games like GTA-V at the default 1920-by-1080 resolution. Other games such as cities and Skylines, but on heavyweight titles the eye-candy began to stutter, thus we had to tone down the settings to Medium-quality (1,366 by 768 resolution).
The gaming performance isn’t lackluster when compared with competitors that boast the more powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU like the ASUS FX502VM, which offers better frame rates than what the ASUS ZX53VW produced. Combine this with the discrepancy between the GTX 960M card that many steps behind the Pascal-based GTX 1060, and the ASUS ZX53VW isn’t the best alternative for a hardcore gamer, but still good enough for a budding gamer.
Battery life is average for a gaming laptop, at 3 hours 9 minutes on our battery rundown test. That’s within a few minutes of the three hours and change garnered by the Alienware 17 (2014) and the Origin EON 17-S. The outliers are the Origin EON17-SLX (1:13) and the battery champ Asus ROG G750JZ-XS72 (5:32). Basically, all of these systems will work untethered for a short period of time. Gaming-oriented processors and large screens tend to drain battery life quickly.
The ASUS ZX53VW-AH58 $798.99 at Amazon is an excellent value, offering good gaming and productivity performance at a reasonable price. It scores close to more-expensive systems during testing, even beating them in some cases. Plus, it sports a solid, metallic chassis and a full HD display and manages to include extras like a backlit keyboard, and decent port options. Compared: it does eschew competitors with its snappier 512GB SSD, dedicated graphics card and backlit keyboard. All these make it an easy choice to recommend for anyone in the market for an affordable gaming laptop that will handle almost anything thrown its way. Still, the ASUS FX502VM-AH51 $995.00 at Amazon remain our Editors’ Choice entry-level gaming laptop as it beats its rivals on a feature-by-feature basis with features such as 16GB of system memory and the latest Pascal-based Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card that make it formidable enough in terms of gaming performance and processing power.