Asus Republic of Gamers GX800 Review
Some time ago I reviewed a GL502VS, Asus’s gaming laptop targeted at students.
Meet the bigger, badder brother.
I was taken by surprise when it arrived in 2 parts: a retail box containing the laptop, and then a separate vacation suitcase with the water block inside.
Yes, in the internet colloquialism: “Heug Liek Xbox”.
Look and Feel
The GX800 built like a tank, metals on the top and on the palm-rests, thick plastic on the bottom, PBT plastics for the keycaps. Nothing can be bent or flexed unless users have been doing weight training. Nothing.
The power brick is HUGE. Unlike the round plugs of lesser notebooks or magsafe adapters that you can easily (and accidentally) pull out, the endpoint is a heavy duty block that looks like an oversized USB pin that locks into place with levers.
The power plugs can be attached the other way up with no ill effects that I can see - they lock into place with a satisfying *click”. The lock mechanism is strong enough that the (reinforced) wire or the port assembly solders give out before the connector can be involuntarily pulled out.
However, they aren’t very flexible, so pretty much the upper left corner of the unit is out of bounds to peripherals.
The secondary selling point of this unit is its detachable waterblock - you can’t buy the GX800 without it. If I recall correctly, it’s the exact same one that came with the GX700 from the beginning of last year.
Using a unique connector port, you can’t use it with anything else either.
The waterblock is made to be a desktop dock and is not meant to be carried around - only slightly lighter than the unit, yet twice as thick with an awkward flat area. Its power brick is exactly the same as the laptop.
To drive home the fact that you’re not supposed to be backpacking the thing, the water block itself comes with its own vacation suitcase, with foam padding to protect the water block during transportation.
The locking mechanism is lever based, and like the power cords will lock into place with a satisfying click.
Assembled with the water block, the unit is extremely large. On a classroom desk you’ll probably have a bit of the unit hanging off.
The whole lot weighs a ton too: close to THIRTEEN KILOS. This is not even an AIO desktop anymore, it’s a small form factor desktop that has the weight of a mini tower with Hewlitt Packard’s or Dell’s all-metal construction. To give some perspective into how heavy this thing is, here’s the list:
- 5.96kg for the laptop alone
- 4.7kg for the water block assembly
- 1.1kg for EACH power supply
Keyboard and Input
Compared to the layout of the GL502VS that I tested last year, the GX800 uses a more traditional laptop keyboard layout - one with the keys closer together, and an integral tray protecting against spills and dirt.
This one’s a little more difficult to clean than the GL502VS’s layout due to the tray being recessed.
That being said, unlike the GL502VS, the keyboard used here is not just an NKRO scissor switch membrane. Underneath the scissor switch, it’s an actual mechanical keyboard, albeit one with a custom Asus design that still allows the tactile feedback of a Cherry Red - without the noise on full press that normal mechanicals generate.
This “MechTAG” as Asus calls it, kinda feels better than Logitech’s Romer G too, due to it using standard, and not oddly shaped keycaps.. What a pleasant surprise!
Unfortunately, there’s no cherry connectors on the top unlike MSI’s GT-8x offerings, so you can’t replace the keycaps on this one with third party ones.
A mouse comes with the unit - standard right-handed, unweighted fare. Its 2800 DPI is very suitable for smoothly traversing 4K of screen real estate in a very controllable manner.
The mouse is made with portability in mind - the wiring can be separated from the body. There’s no need to risk damage by winding the wiring around the mouse for transportation. What a pity that the laptop itself isn’t actually portable.
2 different wires are provided, a normal wire, and one with a nylon wrap. Both feel just as durable, so feel free to use/carry around the best looking one and keep the other as a spare.
Graphics and Gaming Performance
One can argue about how heavy the thing is, but I can’t say that the weight is a waste at all.
The meat and potatoes of the GX800 is the fact that it mounts not one, but two, GTX1080s in a mobile SLI configuration - in conjunction with a Core i7-6820k processor and about 64GB of RAM in 4 slots; dual channel of course.
This setup drives a 17” screen, that’s not just any old laptop screen, oh no - its actual 4K, 120fps max, and G-sync compatible at that. This is literally the BEST gaming display you can get for a laptop, bar none.
Any game that supports dual graphics (from either SLI or DX12/Vulkan multiGPU benefits from this setup - just as long as you aren’t quick to believe in that “2x the FPS” marketing spiel, since this sort of thing is only true for games that do support those technologies.
Gaming with the water block connected actually results in a consistent 10°C reduction in overall load temperatures during long periods of gaming, a maximum of 70°C.
This temperature savings that would be quite impressive on a desktop, mind, and would probably allow you to game without overheating on a hot Singaporean June/July without the air conditioning switched on.
Without the waterblock tho, you don’t have to worry too much - the heat pipe construction is basically standard ROG - heat out the back design, so the palmrest and keyboard will remain at a reasonable temperature.
What can I say? It’s exactly the same as the GL502VS’s, down to the chipset and wireless card. I’m guessing the design is reliable enough to be standard across even Asus’s highest end device.
A Realtek GigE adapter runs the wired portion of the networking. You can’t really go wrong with this one to be honest, as long as your router also supports GigE.
An Intel 8260 combination Bluetooth 4.0 and Wifi AC runs with ~900Mbps of bandwidth. It’s not the full gamut of AC, but it’s close enough to the GX800’s own wired speeds.
As with the GL502VS, the GX800 can hold a reliable gaming level connection over Wifi, even at last generation’s N connections. There’s an extra tho: helpfully provided for Wifi is an optional booster antenna, and a small connector to the right of the laptop where the antenna plug goes in.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the opportunity to properly test if it helps with places that have weak signal strength.
Because with the oversized power cord taking up all of the left side, Asus squeezed everything else there.
The GX800 is one of the last laptops to not use a combination 3.5” audio jack that takes both input and output. It has separate microphone (marked pink) and in-ear monitor (marked green) inputs. Since the sound hardware isn’t Realtek, I’m not sure they can be repurposed - I didn’t pay attention to the driver implementation.
The normal sized USB port on the left of the unit is a 3.1 rated. Its followed by not 1, but 2, USB C-type ports. Note that these ports don’t have the DisplayPort integration (which is seen in the C-type port on the ROG Zephyrus GX501), so you shouldn’t expect too much when attempting to hook up a monitor to these.
A miniDP (version 1.4, and where your secondary monitor should go)) and version 2.0 rated HDMI, rounds out the connectivity, working just like the ones in the GL502VS.
And finally, the network port’s just before the power brick connector.
The right of the unit is fairly sparse, with 2 USB 3.0 ports, the antenna connector for the optional wifi antenna, and a card reader. That’s where your optical input device should go.
Be forewarned - if you’re left-handed like I am, and haven’t learnt to use your mouse with your right hand - the GX800 will take some getting used to. There is literally nowhere else to put an input device, but the right of the unit.
Even though the GX800 has a card reader, there is no optical drive at all, because there simply is no space for it.
While the common Realtek ALC is decent with a proper software equalizer, I’m happy to say that Asus seems to have gone all the way here. There’s an actual audio amp built into the laptop, an ESS Sabre - the very same one built into the LG V10 smartphone that makes it have a reputation for being an excellent media player.
And then it one ups said cellphone.
Because using trashy laptop speakers would be a waste on an AMD, Asus has also attempted to squeeze more than the standard audio setup on this unit. It boasts 2 tweeters at the bottom of the screen, and 2 speakers that actually have some bass in it.
While it’s not the best of audio setups, you’d have to spend at least $50 on speakers or over-ears to beat these out or augment them; it’s good enough for me to consider it a 4.1 setup (where the .1 is the woofer producing the bass).
The amp also helps with microphone input as well, with practically no distortion whatsoever from voice recording. You can pretty much use the unit for voice comms as-is, but I would still advise you to have at least an external directional mic far enough away from the unit to avoid echo feedback or picking up game sounds that you don’t intend to.
Oh by the way, while it does look like a set of decent speakers, that assembly in the water block are unfortunately not a set of speakers, but grills for heat dissipation.
I’ve attempted to get in the innards of the unit, and kinda failed in my endeavour - it's harder than it appears, and I stopped since I’d risk property damage if I proceeded.
I did notice one thing tho, someone else has tried to open it the same way I did, and also gave up halfway, possibly for fear of damaging the rubber bungs.
Oh well - I don’t think you’d need to change anything,
The screws are hidden by rubber bungs. Get to them tho, and you can remove the bottom cover where the RAM and hard disk is - they’re all accessible by a Phillips-head screwdriver.
Amongst all the crazy gaming laptop designs since 2016, many have attempted to make small-as-possible desktop-powered laptops. This takes the cake. Not even MSI, who was the first to field a mechanical keyboard and SLI on a laptop, has actually succeeded nor attempted to make a water loop
The main problem I have with this gaming “laptop” is that… it’s not (technically) a laptop at all! In fact, if you tried to use it like a laptop, it would be akin to the ancient Japanese torture method of making someone kneel, then placing heavy blocks of wood on the knees.
Also, only the laptop can be carried around as the water block is too unusually shaped to fit anywhere the laptop has been. You’d need something reasonably LARGE too, like a duffel, to fit the laptop portion and its power brick - and, your carry weight would still be 6kg, just like the “desktop replacements” of yesteryear.
That said, if you don’t mind paying its price (monetary and otherwise - its S$9,498 for the current version), what you have here is perhaps the absolute best desktop replacement money can buy, without resorting to external GPU boxes.
You probably have the absolute best and don’t need to buy anything else this year, or the next 2 years, for that matter.
Practically seamless double GPU implementation.
Weighs as much as a self-built fullsize tower and monitor.
Disassembly requires some effort.
As of this review, Asus has already refreshed the unit - the only change that I can see here is the processor upgraded to a Kaby Lake i7-7xxx series. I’m pretty sure you won’t mind getting a model with a Skylake processor instead of Kaby Lake as the SLI setup is still the same.