Choosing the right gaming laptop is never easy. Battery life, graphics performance, portability, and other factors are all different between machines, and your needs are unique to you. We all have a different budget as well as other needs besides gaming that we would like to fill with our new purchase.
For example, if you also plan to use our laptop for business, the garish look of some of the dedicated gaming laptops may be inappropriate, and battery life may be paramount. Or you may also want to do high-quality video editing, in which case you may need a machine that emphasizes processing power. Today we will take a close look at the latest mid-range offering from Asus, the K501UW-AB78, to see if it is the right choice for you.
Asus K501UW-AB78 Specs and Overview
First, we examine the processor in this machine. The Asus K501UW-AB78 comes with a 6th generation processor from Intel: the i7 6500U. This dual-core processor runs at 2.5 GHz, with turbo boost up to 3.1 GHz. This mode can help to automatically power through demanding tasks. To read more about Intel’s turbo boost mode, read this.
In independent testing by PassMark, this processor is at the bottom of the 6th generation i7 range. Despite a lackluster performance, it should be sufficient for all gaming and general computing needs. For processor-intensive tasks such as video editing, this processor will benefit from the turbo boost mode, but will still fall behind much of the competition, most of which are equipped with a quad-core processor.
To run the graphics, the processor is paired with a GTX960M GPU from NVIDIA. In this laptop, they paired the GPU with 2GB of RAM, while most other laptops in this class are paired with 4. For some games, this means that some of the extras will need to be turned off to maintain a reasonable framerate with no stuttering. Some more graphics intensive games may even be unable to maintain full HD and may need to be downgraded to a medium quality setting.
Since gaming sessions typically use the processor for long periods of time, large amounts of heat are generated. We have all seen evidence of this if we have played a quick game with the laptop in our lap and felt the heat coming out of the vents. This heat shortens the life of the processor and also reduces battery life if it is not dissipated by the cooling system.
For this machine, Asus has come up with an updated cooling scheme to remove heat from both the central processor and GPU. They refer to this system as “hyper cool” and use it to pump cooling air directly where it is needed at the GPU and CPU. Copper heat pipes also help to carry away more heat from where you don’t want it. A demonstration of this system is given on their website.
Coupled with 8 GB of DDR4 SDRAM, this machine is in the middle of similar competition. While most games will be limited by the GPU, not the RAM, it is possible to upgrade the RAM to 16 GB. This will only be of interest to users who plan to also use this machine for non-gaming applications that may require more memory, such as multitrack audio recording. For more information on why RAM is important to a solid gaming experience, read our article on it here.
For storage, the solid-state drive will result in rapid boot up of the OS and games. There should be no issues with lag time in games as the hard drive fails to deliver new assets within the game, which can occur with a traditional hard drive. At 512 GB, it should be sufficient capacity for most gamers, unless you load large numbers of games onto the hard drive.
A solid state drive doesn’t just have faster speeds; it also should have a longer lifetime, with no mechanical parts to fail. This also results in a lower power draw, with the result of less heat generated and longer battery life.
However, if you are using your computer for storing large numbers of video files or other extensive capacity applications, the included drive may be insufficient. In this case, you would need to either upgrade the drive, use cloud storage, or invest in an external hard drive.
The display on this laptop is a 15.6” screen with 1080p resolution, typical for gaming laptops. As mentioned above, you, unfortunately, may not be able to take advantage of this full HD screen for certain games. However, the display is sharp and bright in most situations.
Cheaper machines are built with a TN display but the Asus K501UW-AB78 sports a nice upgrade with the IPS display. This is a feature generally only found at a higher price point and improved viewing angle and depth of color. The increased viewing angle may be wasted on most gamers, though, since when was the last time you played your game from the side of your laptop?
The increased depth of color is very noticeable, however. On games with dark backgrounds, the increased dynamic range of the display helps to make out details in the shadows. You’ll no longer miss out of features in the shadows of the scenery displayed on your screen. Video and photographs also pop on this display, and for these uses, the increased viewing angle can be very useful.
For connectivity, it meets expectations for a mid-range gaming laptop. A pair each of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connections can be made along the sides and should be sufficient for most gaming peripherals you plan to bring with you. For stationary use at home, you could always keep a USB hub if you needed more connections.
HDMI for video out allows you to either use an external monitor or tv as your primary monitor or as a second monitor. However, this will load up the already marginal GPU, so may only be suitable for watching video, browsing, or other general computing applications. Dual monitor games will undoubtedly suffer with this setup.
Wi-Fi and Other Connections
A standard RJ-45 jack also graces the side for wired LAN connection, alongside a combined headphones/microphone jack. The power connection is small, aiding in the layout of the connections, which are all constrained to the sides, as no connections are made to the rear of the machine.
For wireless connections, the built-in 802.11ac wireless LAN keeps you connected with high speeds. Your LAN connection will certainly not be a limiting factor for gaming or for connection with network storage or other network devices. Bluetooth 4.0 allows connection to the new gaming peripherals entering the market that use this standard as well as wireless speakers and other devices.
Typical of most gaming laptops these days, there is a small camera built into the lid. However, while most now are coming with a full HD camera, this comes with only a VGA camera. Video quality also is lackluster. If your only need of a camera is for interfacing with other gamers, it will be sufficient. For making video blogs or other uses, it will be disappointing, and you will likely need an external camera.
Asus K501UW-AB78 Battery Life
Where this machine stands out is in the battery life. The Asus K501 battery is a Lithium Ion Prismatic battery, a departure from the cylindrical Lithium Ion technology used in lower end laptops. Even at this price point, much of the competition does not use a prismatic battery.
The use of a prismatic battery has two significant benefits. First, the different construction technique allows for the battery to be much thinner. The Asus K501UW battery also will likely have a longer reliability than if it used a cylindrical battery. More can be read about the difference between these two battery technologies here.
This upgraded battery results in the Asus k501uw laptop battery life of well over 4 hours for typical uses. By gaming laptop standards, this is excellent. For many situations, the 3 cell 48 watt-hour battery will allow you to leave behind a charger when you hit the road.
If you primarily game at home and only need to occasionally take this laptop to the road, this may not be a primary concern. But eventually, we all find ourselves in a situation where we are trying to complete a task while watching our battery life dwindle. In those situations, you’ll appreciate that this battery should last at least an hour longer than other laptops in this class.
The design of this laptop is also a departure from most gaming laptops. The striking colors, overstated logos and other features we come to expect from a gaming laptop are conspicuously missing. Asus decided to forgo the vibrant advertising normally seen on laptops in this market, instead making a machine with a more refined look.
The brushed metal case will look at home in an office or cafe, something that will be appreciated if this laptop will be serving dual purposes. You can easily fit in at meetings at your day job, then pack up and head to a game party in the evening.
The lighted keyboard will aid in orientation if you tend to game in a dark room. While the 1.6mm of key travel may feel anemic compared to an external gaming keyboard, for a built-in keyboard, it feels stable and responsive.
One interesting idea that Asus implemented on this laptop is their “IceCool Technology.” While this has been around for a few years, it has yet to catch on with other manufacturers. This system cools the palm rest area of the case. For long gaming sessions, this can help to reduce the discomfort that can otherwise occur when this area becomes hot.
The physical dimensions of this laptop are among the smallest of any laptop with a 15.6-inch screen. It is far thinner than most gaming laptops in this class, likely aided by the use of the prismatic battery technology. It is also remarkably light at only 4.4 pounds. Again, this exceeds the majority of the competition. For a gaming laptop, this is as portable as it gets, easily slipping into any laptop case or backpack.
Is This a Good Deal?
The Asus K501UW-AB78 laptop is a bit of a unique machine. When compared directly to other mid level gaming laptops, it tends to underperform in CPU and graphics. For hardcore dedicated gamers looking for a laptop with nearly the power of a desktop, this is a poor choice.
However, the exceptional portability cannot be beaten at this price point. No other mid level gaming laptop can compete with this machine for portability. The only laptops this light and thin are much lower power laptops that would struggle greatly as a gaming laptop. This adds up to the Asus K501UW a great deal for a gamer looking for an ultra-portable gaming platform, as long as they are willing to accept a slight reduction in performance.
Asus was founded in the late 80s from former engineers with Acer in Taiwan. Originally a manufacturer of motherboards and other related hardware products, they have continued to expand, now making a wide range of products including branded monitors, cell phones, and other devices outside of their start within the core computing market.
With their first laptops aimed at the budget market, in the past decade, Asus has risen to one of the major players in the gaming world. Their top tier line of Republic of Gaming machines can be counted among the best laptops on the market. Their higher end machines are generally regarded as having good specifications for their price point. The Asus K501UW-AB78 appears to be an attempt at creating something new in their line. Never before have they offered something this portable with this level of performance.
Asus K501UW-AB78 Review: In Closing
The battery life is excellent for a laptop capable of running modern games. Being able to play for up to an hour longer on battery alone may allow you to leave the charger at home for many trips, further increasing the portability of this package.
The performance of the GPU does fall behind other midlevel laptops, however. For hardcore gamers willing to take a larger machine, this will be a definite downside. The simple upgrade from 2 GB of RAM in the GPU to 4 would have been a significant increase, and it is frustrating that this simple upgrade wasn’t added.
Overall, however, if you are looking for an ultra-portable gaming platform at a midrange price, this machine is a clear winner. Combined with the excellent battery life, most users will be willing to accept a lower video frame rate or reduced settings. We rate the Asus K501UW-AB78 a solid 8/10.
If you think you might want it, buy it on Amazon here:
While this laptop may be slightly less powerful than other mid-range gaming laptops, it remains a capable platform for most games. The benefits of the thin case and lightweight exceed any of the competition. If you are frequently bringing your computer on the road, this will be a clear positive. The quick boot up times found with the solid state will go hand in hand with the portability. This laptop can be pulled from your bag, and you can begin gaming in half the time of most other laptops. The understated design will also allow you to use it anywhere, even in a professional setting.
Dane started off gaming at the tender age of 3 with the first Atari console. His favorite video game genres are turn-based RPGs (can I get a shout out for Tactics Ogre?) and fighting games. Read more...