Gaming laptops have a bad rap. Usually, when people think of gaming rigs they picture oversized computers encompassing the entire surface of a desk.
Now, add to the equation the advent of virtual reality gaming. The interactive, computer-generated experience is becoming an increasingly popular way to play games. It’s an immersive experience that incorporates auditory and visual feedback to recreate the real world or build a fantastical environment.
In order to experience this technology the way it was meant to, you need the proper equipment. Again, laptops have long been considered inadequate to accomplish this.
Instead, laptops have largely been relegated to the realm of amateurs and noobs. But with technology improving every day, more portable options are becoming increasingly viable.
In reality, there are a number of laptops that support virtual reality thanks to increasingly effective graphics chips and processors. The advancement of this technology has taken VR gaming portable.
Indeed, there are a plethora of affordable options for VR-ready laptops on the market. They come in all shapes and sizes, some relying on full-size graphic cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX or RTX, while others choose the more efficient Max-Q design to facilitate quieter fans and thinner chassis. Some gaming laptops will make use of 1080p display while others choose the 4K option.
These days, one of the best manufacturers of virtual reality ready laptops is Asus.
The company was founded in Taiwan in 1989. By 2017 was the fifth-largest PC vendor in the world.
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This laptop features an 8th Gen Core i7 processor and GTX 1060 graphics in a 15.6-inch notebook design.
Look and Feel
Like the other Asus machines, the Asus ROG Strix Hero II features a black, brushed look, and is elegant, if slightly cliched.
Orange accents are again present on this laptop, making it conspicuous in a coffee shop, while the barely noticeable bezel helps keep the size-to-screen ratio low. At 15.6 inches, this laptop still manages to feel small.
One of the unfortunate drawbacks to the thin bezel is that it requires the awkward placement of the computer’s webcam. Instead of an optimal position, the webcam has been shoved down into the bottom right corner, which is hardly ideal.
While the keyboard lights up in typical gaming laptop fashion, we were taken by the transparent QWER keys, which tend to be the hotkeys for spells and abilities in MOBA games.
The Strix Hero II isn’t lacking for ports, even if you won’t find anything out of the usual here. It features a USB-C port and two USB 3.1 ports, Ethernet hookup, HDMI output, headphone jack, and a Mini DisplayPort on the left hand side. On the right you’ll find another USB 3.1 port and a headphone jack.
The Strix Hero II offers a 1920 x 1080, 144Hz display, creating a bright and brilliant show when balanced with the thin bezel and making for a more immersive experience.
This computer produces 120 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, creating a vivid and enviable display, even if it falls below the brightness average at 276 nits.
When it comes to the SteamVR performance test, the machine scored above the average of 5.6 with a showing of 7.4.
However, the inclusion of this card manages to drop the price tag of this laptop to a manageable amount, while retaining much of the functionality of its more expensive counterpart.
Like the GM501, you still get a customizable RGB keyboard as well as decent audio quality. It’s greatest weakness is a dim display.
Look and Feel
The ROG GU501 is, indeed, nearly identical to the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501, right down to the two-toned black aluminum coating. The large shining ROG logo sits on the right side of the lid and changes to a threatening red when the laptop is turned on.
Upon opening the laptop, you’ll be greeted with a 15.6 inch, 1080p display, an island-style keyboard that includes a number pad and a row of volume hotkeys.
This is where you may notice the biggest physical difference between the GU501 and the Zephyrus. Where the Zephyrus features an exhaust panel that opens and closes with the laptop, the GU501 relies on two legs on the back of the machine that you can use to lift up the computer and help the heat escape.
But if you’re comparing the GU501 to the Zephyrus, you’ll also notice what’s missing – an exhaust panel on the back of the machine that opens and closes with the laptop, allowing for the heat to escape.
On the GU501, there are two legs in the back that lift the machine up to let a little extra heat escape, but there’s nothing as dramatic as the vent.
Given the computer’s slim chassis, it may come as a surprise that the GU501 features so many ports. The left side of the computer includes an HDMI output, three USB 3.0 ports, a combination headphone-microphone jack, and a power jack.
The right side boasts a Thunderbolt 3 port and a fourth USB type-A (3.0) port, as well as a Kensington lock slot.
Gamers across the web seem to agree that this is a more-than capable machine, offering gamers the chance to take their hobby on the road and enjoy a spin in virtual reality while they’re at it. The battery is slated to last for 4 hours and 43 minutes, which should provide enough entertainment value for the average road trip.
Look and Feel
Much like other Asus machines, the GL502VS features a range of glowing neon orange highlights to make it stand out in a crowd. The machine features orange accents across its keyboard, touchpad, speakers, and more, set against an otherwise black plastic body.
That means that it lacks the premium quality of something like the Zephyrus, but it makes up for that in other ways. The plastic chassis means that this machine weighs a little over five pounds, making it the perfect option for gamers on the go.
Just because it’s made of plastic doesn’t mean it feels cheap though. The brushed palm rest manages to mimic the feel of the aluminum plate that sits on the lid, making for a beautiful and portable machine.
The machine features three USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a headphone jack, Ethernet hookup, and HDMI and Mini DisplayPort outputs.
This machine nearly epitomizes a gaming laptop. In fact, from its wide viewing angles and non-reflective screen, to its deep contrast and bold colors, this machine will appeal to photo and video editors as well.
In fact, the company says that the panel covers 98 percent of the Adobe RGB color space and 100 percent of the SRGB standard measurement.
On the audio front, the Strix features three microphones that are designed to help filter out ambient sound, though some users have found these to be ineffective.
When it comes to the VR experience, the Strix works best when running games at their default settings. Any attempt to configure games beyond that can slow down the unit and cause VR headaches and nausea as a result. (This is perhaps why most VR games don’t allow you to configure the graphics on your own.)
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This laptop isn’t meant for hardcore gamers intent on engaging with the highest quality of graphics in their game play. It is, however, perfect for gamers on a budget.
Despite the modest cost, the TUF offers an impressive 1080p display, more than enough storage space, and a plethora of ports that make it competitive with similar gaming machines.
Look and Feel
At this point, it feels a little redundant to discuss the design of any Asus computer. Like the machines above, the Asus TUF Gaming FX504G features a black plastic chassis with red accents.
Coming in at 15.12 x 0.98 x 10.31 inches, the TUF creates a slightly smaller impression than one might expect from a gaming laptop, and at just over five pounds, its portability can’t be overstated. There are computers that are lighter and thinner, but at the cost of this machine, it’s hard to make an argument against it.
The TUF’s In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen offers better viewing angles than on similar machines, which often rely on Twisted Nematic screens to keep costs down. The screen features a 1080 pixel resolution along with a 60Hz refresh rate on most of the models.
There are sufficient ports on the Asus TUF Gaming FX504G, but unlike the laptops above, all of them are concentrated on the left side. Included are two USB 3.0 type-A ports, one USB 2.0 type-A port, an Ethernet jack, HDMI output, and a combination microphone/headphone audio jack.
The right side features the Kensington lock notch so you can tie the machine down with a security cable if you desire.
What’s missing from this model is an SD card reader, any sort of USB type-C port, or any type of Thunderbolt 3 support at all. That means you may need to buy an adapter if you rely on these to play.
Asus offers two graphics processing units with the TUF Gaming FX504G: the GTX 1050 Ti and the GeForce GTX 1050.
This clearly helps keep the price of this unit down, but it will impact the frame rate of more powerful games, especially virtual reality. Still, if you’re dead set on paying small bucks for a gaming laptop, that likely won’t scare you away.
You should expect a medium to high quality graphics performance at decent frame rates when playing games on this computer. Esports players and anyone on a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) should be especially fine with this unit.
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The Zephyrus M GM501 is Asus’ flagship gaming laptop. The first iteration of this machine combined innovative design with the efficient Nvidia Max-Q GPU to create a groundbreaking experience.
The ROG Zephyrus M GM501 is for more serious gamers, but it has enough features that it should appeal to even the most ardent VR users around.
The slick looking black titanium chassis maintains the two distinct panels of the first generation of this computer. The distinct lines operate in a way that gives the laptop a futuristic appearance that is only bolstered by the glowing ROG emblem on the left side of the lid.
Opening the computer’s lid unveils the Zephyrus’ rear exhaust panel with its glowing red light – a feature whose beauty is only surpassed by its functionality.
Along the left side, the Zephyrus features three USB 3.1 type-A ports. A fourth is located on the right side of the computer. The right side also features a Thunderbolt 3 port and a secure lock slot. The left provides an HDMI port, a combo mic/headphone input, and a power jack.
Make no mistake, this computer is built for gamers. The Nvidia G-Sync technology means that players will find little or no latency or screen tearing. The tech actually synchronizes the panel and the GPU for a near-seamless refresh rate of 144Hz.
However, if you feel like taking a break from fighting orcs in Warcraft or stealing cars in GTA, the Zephyrus also makes a great movie-watching machine.
The screen also features 178-degree viewing angles, which means you can position yourself almost anywhere in front of this computer without any inversion or fading of colors.
According to the SteamVR test, the Zephyrus is above average at 10.9, proving that this machine is more than capable of running virtual reality games.
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This 15-inch laptop was essentially Asus’ answer to the Macbook Pro and the Dell XPS 15, both of which are portable enough for their size, but are prohibitively expensive for many. The Asus VivoBook 510 weights just 3.57 pounds.
Look and Feel
With the VivoBook S510, Asus has eschewed its typical black and orange design for a champagne gold-colored chassis with a brushed aluminum lid featuring a matte plastic deck and sides.
The computer’s thin “NanoEdge” bezel is only 0.3 inches on either side and 0.4 inches on the top. This allows for a more appropriate positioning of the webcam than, say the Asus ROG Strix Hero II.
When it comes to ports, you shouldn’t find this machine lacking. The right side features a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB 3.0 port, HDMI out, and a USB type-C port along with the power connector. The left features two more USB 3.0 ports along with an SD card reader.
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This computer’s 1920 x 1080 matte display offers detailed, sharp images and true-to-life colors. Colors remain true up to around 60 degrees to either side of the screen. After that, they fade slightly at wider angles.
The VivoBook’s screen reproduces 82 percent of the sRGB range, setting it above much of its competitors, even if it is behind the mainstream laptop average of 94 percent.
With a light reading of 238 nits, the VivoBook is more than bright enough for use indoors, but taking it outside might prove a challenge.
This machine features 8 gigabytes of RAM and an Intel Core i7 processor along with two storage drives – one 128GB SSD and the other a 1TB hard drive. This makes it perfect for multitasking.
However, serious gamers will likely want to avoid this machine thanks to its integrated Intel HD 620 GPU. The VivoBook managed to play most games at respectable frame rates, and this machine is definitely VR-ready, but if you’re looking for a seamless experience you may want to try elsewhere.
Instead, this is a great laptop that offers a perfect introduction to the possibility of virtual reality gaming. Thanks to its low price tag and sleek design, it’s a great buy for entry-level gamers.
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Sure, gaming laptops have gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years, but Asus has come a long way in proving that laptops are a viable option for serious gamers.
The company offers different price points for its products, which come in a wide range of performance quality, meaning that there is an option out there for just about everyone.