A few weeks back, ASUS introduced the South African tech media to their latest range of laptops – as showcased in this year’s Computex expo – across various categories. With a number of ranges already well-known in the South African market, such as the Zenbook, ROG and Vivobook ranges, the (re-)introduction of the TUF Gaming series drew a lot of attention at the launch.
The TUF range brings the ultimate in gaming portability to the end-user, with inclusions such as the Turing architecture, 120Hz displays, AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs, and military-grade ruggedness. Having reviewed the ASUS ROG Strix Scar II GL704 a few weeks prior, it would be hard for any gaming laptop to compete against its sheer power. After receiving the ASUS TUF Gaming FX505D for review, it became clear that the two weren’t fighting for the same slice of pie, with both offering different takes on what gamers would want from their devices. We take a closer look at what makes the FX505D tick.
Build and Design
Unlike the GL704, which has a fairly minimalist build, the FX505D has a lot more in the way of design. One thing you’ll notice off the bat is both how solid it looks and feels. That’s because the unit is manufactured using military-grade standards for the ultimate ruggedness. It features the MIL-STD-810G standard for build quality, making it extremely durable. This creates peace of mind as you game on the go, knowing the unit won’t simply smash into a thousand pieces if you were to drop it.
In terms of the design, let’s start with the lid. The lid, as well as the rest of the unit, has a smooth gunmetal finish. There are eight angled cuts, two from each corner to form an abstract “X” towards the centre where it meets the “ASUS” logo. The logo has an LED light built into it, which means that it changes colour with the rest of the LED layout based on a predefined setting. There’s quite a large gap between the body and the lid due to the two-sided hinge, but it looks fine and feels solid enough not to make me panic about long-term wear and tear. The unit also has an angled corner, and not the standard squared or rounded finish. The angled approach seems to be the standard here, with a few more scattered throughout the unit for good measure.
The FX505D has a number of vents around the chassis. Ventilation and cooling should be a top priority for any gaming unit, portable or not. In the case here, there are intake vents on the top (above the keyboard), as well as below the unit. The exhaust vents are placed on the rear and right-hand side of the unit, which is notable with their red grilles. There are three colour themes for the unit, each of which has different coloured grilles – Gold Steel and Red Matter. The intake vents are fairly small despite their large-sized cuts into the chassis. This is to prevent excess dust from entering the chamber. We’ll discuss the inner workings and performance of the ventilation system further down in the review.
When it comes to ports, we have only a few standard ones in place, all of which are positioned on the left-hand side. This includes the HDMI, Ethernet, auxiliary, as well as x4 USB ports (x2 USB 3.1). Unfortunately, there’s no Type-C port here, lacking any future proof status. That said, there aren’t many devices on the market making use of the Type-C port as yet, with most peripherals going the Bluetooth route. Since a vent is placed on the right-hand side of the unit, there’s no additional room for an SD card reader. Having worked on a few photo edits during this time, I had to rely on uploading to the cloud and then downloading onto the system to edit, instead of a direct copy/paste from the card.
Overall, both the design and build of the unit are pleasing on the FX505D.
Keyboard and Touchpad
While not unique, the keyboard on the FX505D is sunken into the chassis. This puts each of the keys at the same level as the palm rests, making it, in my opinion, a lot more comfortable to use. The keys, however, are a little compact when it comes to spacing to accommodate the numeric keypad. Even the spacebar is quite smaller than normal. The keyboard has ASUS’ Aura RGB LED backlighting, which allows users to add numerous light patterns, or simply just turn it off it becomes too much. The keys themselves are sturdy with good key depressing for accurate typing. After a few days getting used to the smaller frame, I was typing away in comfort again. If there is to be a complaint on the keyboard layout, it would be the strange positioning of the Home, End, Delete, etc. buttons. Some of these are dual buttons, requiring the use of the Function key, which is a personal pet peeve.
There are a few shortcut keys that are useful, the most noticeable being the ASUS key, which opens the Armory Crate application. What’s interesting, however, is that there are two shortcuts that allow you to toggle through the various fan modes. Other shortcuts include presentation mode, disable/enable trackpad, sleep, airplane mode amongst others.
The trackpad is average, producing good enough results and accurate scrolling, gestures, etc. From the single-piece unit.
Screen and Display
For a gaming laptop, the FX505D has a fairly standard screen. The unit has a NanoEdge finish for end-to-end display, which has a 6.5mm bezel on the sides. While the panel itself, however, may seem a little basic, an LG Philips LGD05E8 panel, which has the standard 1920x1080px display, there are a few decent features available. For starters, the colour reproduction is very good with crisp image quality and the likes. It also has an ultra-wide viewing angle to allow more than one user to view the screen at any time. What’s really great, however, is that potential buyers will have an option of choosing between a 60Hz and 120Hz panel, the latter for higher-end builds. The unit also deploys AMD® FreeSync™ technology for better gaming results.
What really stands out here with the unit is that it doesn’t use PWM – Pulse-Width Modulation. In short, PWM is the pixel lighting technique used to turn each on/off, as with most digital panels. In most instances, if you wish to dim a screen to 50% or so, the light will flicker on and off to create the illusion of the screen being dimmer. It’s this frequency that often causes headaches and similar issues for a lot of users, without even realising why.
Performance and Battery Life
When it comes to performance, as well as specs, it’s not at the same insane levels as those on the GL704. The unit still has a solid enough build, however. The specs include an AMD Ryzen 7 3750H with 2.3GHz Quad-core CPU. The unit received for review included 16GB DDR4 RAM, an Intel 512GB PCIe SSD, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU with a Windows 10 Home 64-bit build. It also includes ASUS Hypercool technology.
The FX505D isn’t going to be winning any benchmark contents, but it’s a very solid unit when it comes to overall performance. I was very impressed by the overall results of the build with the AMD setup. Running graphics-intensive games such as GTA V, Project Cars 2, and the likes, it managed to power through 1080p resolution above the magical 30fps benchmark, for the most part, reaching above 50fps in some instances. The 1660 Ti is an above-average GPU positioned at gamers looking for great performances, but still lacking sufficient budget. Turning the graphics up to maximum on all levels reduced the performances a tad, but it was still very usable. In this instance, there were one or two noticeable GPU lag moments, but nothing that caused prolonged frustration.
The unit has three fan profiles, along with numerous other settings. For the first two profiles, Silent and Balanced, there very little fan noise to speak of. On Overboost, however, there’s a noticeable change in the fan speed on account of the audible noise it produces. The unit switches between these fan modes when required (or manual when needed). Where the noise becomes a bit annoying, however, is when the CPU or GPU is under a little more workload. One would understand this when running graphics-intensive games, but that shouldn’t be 100% of the time and not for all games. I was unable to determine whether the additional fan speeds were a requirement due to the design or that the CPU or GPU actually required additional cooling.
The unit received for review had an Intel 512GB PCIe SSD, which had a fairly good performance. For those we seek additional performance from their storage, the FX505D supports NVMe. The unit sports a 48Wh battery, which does a decent enough job, provided that you’re not using it for gaming at all. While a battery may not be the biggest drawcard on a gaming unit, providing less than an hour’s worth of battery life when gaming without the charger doesn’t look good on paper. Under normal working conditions, the unit is capable of reaching roughly five hours on a single charge. The results fluctuate a bit depending on the load, with intensive gaming pushing the unit to its limits.
While I’m not typically a fan of laptop sound quality, the 7.1-channel virtual surround-sound, powered by DTS Headphone: X Technology, delivers some good acoustics. The sounds are immersive and well optimised for games, sports and movies, with a built-in equaliser if you need to tweak the various sounds according to your taste. The speakers are downward-facing drivers situated on the left and right-hand sides for optimum quality.
As with the GL704, the FX505D features the same pre-installed applications. These include Armoury Crate, Game Visual, McAfee and MyAsus. While all the applications are useful, the Armory Crate includes the most features, many of which directly affect the hardware and the smooth running thereof. The unit has a dedicated ‘ASUS’ button as part of the multimedia shortcuts, which opens the Armory Crate application.
The ASUS TUF Gaming FX505D is a very capable mid-range unit, with good, all-round performances. That said, there is no knock-out blow that the unit has to outclass its competitors, relying instead on stability across the board than any great features. The unit doesn’t make use of the standard PWM, causing screen flickering, so that’s a big advantage for gamers sensitive to specific light frequencies. The unit may have some overkill on the diagonal angles, but it’s still a fairly lightweight and portable gaming unit, all things considered. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a solid portable gaming unit, the TUF Gaming FX505D may just be one you might consider.
ASUS TUF Gaming FX505D
The ASUS TUF Gaming FX505D provides a good all-round performance across the board for a steady mid-range unit at a reasonable price.
- Reasonable Pricing
- All-round performance
- No PWM to adjust screen brightness
- NVMe support
- Noisy fans under load
- Below average battery life (especially when gaming)
- No USB Type-C and card reader
- Ease of Learning 0%
- Ease of Use 0%
- Design 0%
- Performance 0%
- Enjoyment 0%
- Value for Money 0%