Asus steals the show with its new TUF Gaming laptops

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‘Gaming hardware’ is often looked down upon by regular computer users, who often dismiss their appearances as overly extravagant or, at times, downright garish. The plethora of decorative LEDs and in-your-face textures that typically adorn the appearances of gaming hardware, be it computers or peripherals, often seem to drive this point home. However, it is easy to forget one thing – video games, especially modern high-end ones built for computers, are extremely resource-intensive, and any computer that can run them passably, regardless of their external appearance, are very powerful. The flashy exteriors of gaming computers often belie their formidable processing power. As a result of this, many professionals who require heavy computational abilities often bite the bullet and end up buying a gaming PC.

Taiwanese tech giant Asus arguably owns the most successful and universally accessible gaming brand in the world – Republic of Gamers, or ROG for short. While gaming brands such as Alienware and Razer (the former of which arguably started off the ‘gaudy gamer’ trend with its penchant for gratuitous LED illumination and aggressively ‘edgy’ chassis designs on its computers) are held in higher regard, ROG is more successful because of its relative ubiquity. Unlike many other gamer brands, ROG does not cater exclusively to the premium end of the market. It also offers many options that are considerably more budget-friendly, cutting corners wherever possible, while retaining as much of the essential features as possible. This has allowed ROG to truly become a ‘people’s brand’ among gamers, and many other laptop manufacturers have also followed in these footsteps, with varying degrees of success.

Not one to merely sit back and enjoy the success of the ROG label, Asus has taken a step further to bring gaming-grade processing power – and looks to match – to customers with shallower pockets. The Ultimate Force (TUF) is a renowned sub-brand of Asus, previously reserved exclusively for its high-end motherboards that are capable of withstanding extreme performance conditions, with exceptional thermal management and build quality. And now, for the first time, Asus has bestowed the TUF name upon a new range of its affordable gaming laptops. Its first offering, the FX504, is a tremendous piece of work that can easily go toe to toe with laptops that cost twice as much and still come out on top.

While the FX504’s first appearance screams “Gamer!” straight from the get-go, given the sharp, angular edges of the machine and the bold red accents (the intensity of these vary across its four color options, however), it is pretty easy to see that this is not a machine that is ashamed to flaunt its purpose. And indeed, it does not take long to get used to its aesthetics. Unlike most ROG laptops, which usually feature at least partially metallic construction, the TUF Gaming FX504 nonetheless manages to live up to its name, being hewn from tough plastic that can take a beating. The keyboard of the device comes with a keypad, which can either be a boon or an annoyance, and it is strikingly backlit in the same angry red as the accents that adorn its exterior and palm rest like warpaint. Asus takes great care to mention that the keys on the laptop can handle over 20 million clicks each, and indeed, typing on it is a joy.

While Intel has been receiving some serious flak for the sub-par thermal management of its 8th-generation desktop CPUs, the laptop CPUs of this CPU are spectacular performers. The standard-issue Core i7 CPU on the FX504 has six cores, two more than those of the i7 processors of previous generations, which makes it capable of processing a whopping twelve threads over the eight of its predecessors. This not only makes it far more capable in terms of multitasking but also grants it a serious edge when it comes to productivity-centric tasks such as video rendering and 3D modeling. The everyday performance of the system is buttery smooth, and stutters are rare. A quad-core i5 variant is also available for people who don’t need the extra horsepower.

The 8 GB of DDR4 memory that the FX504 comes with by default is sufficient for most general tasks, but serious users should consider upgrading it at the earliest opportunity, making full use of the available RAM slot. It should be noted that the RAM is clocked at 2666 MHz, which puts it a step above the generic 2400MHz of average laptop RAM modules, yielding better performance.

There are various storage options available for the FX504, but the most ideal one is a combination of a speedy SSD, combined with a 1 TB hard disk drive. This allows for the operating system and installed programs to be stored on the SSD for quicker loading, while other files, such as videos and music, can be stored on the HDD without cramping the SSD’s limited storage. An interesting thing about the HDD used in the FX504 is that it is actually a hybrid drive, with a small solid-state buffer augmenting the regular spinning disks, giving it a noticeable speed boost over typical HDDs.

The FX504 also comes with multiple Full HD (1080p) display options in a comfortable 15.6-inch frame. The display has great viewing angles and decent color accuracy. There is an option for a superior 120Hz display panel along with the regular 60 Hz options, but given that the best GPU that can be had for this system is a mid-range Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, it can probably be said that few games would be able to reach the kind of frame rate that can take advantage of such a refresh rate, therefore most users would probably be happy with the 60 Hz option. However, that is not to say that the laptop disappoints in terms of gaming performance, with both its GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti versions performing admirably in gaming benchmarks, with all modern games being playable at very much acceptable frame rates without having to sacrifice graphics quality significantly, or even at all.

The laptop also sports extremely solid heat management, with two separate fans to cool the CPU and the GPU, and rear-aimed exhaust vents through which the hot air is expelled. The cooling system also boasts a proprietary technology that greatly prevents the buildup of dust inside the system. One of the fans blows some air under the keyboard as well, keeping the user’s hands from getting sweaty, which is a very deft move in terms of user experience design.

Battery life is the only notable weak point of the FX504, with the battery backup lasting barely five to six hours under normal load on a single charge, and diminishing greatly under full load to only about two hours of heavy use. While these are acceptable numbers, it pales before its more expensive competition and virtually necessitates the carrying of the provided power adapter so as not to let the user get stranded without the charge. However, it should also be noted that people who plan on doing heavy work or gaming extensively tend to keep their laptops plugged in unless forced to operate on battery power because of the absence of a power socket in the vicinity, so this may be less serious a problem in everyday life.

The FX504 has already been launched worldwide, with prices starting at a very affordable $800 for the base Core i5 model with a GTX 1050. Considering all the merits of the machine, it is very hard to not recommend it to a potential discerning buyer who requires power without needing to break the bank to pay for it. Sure, there are better options that can be had, but not at this price. However, this should serve to stir up some serious competition in the budget-friendly gaming laptop market, which would all but ensure that no matter what, the customer wins.

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