Review: ASUS ROG Strix GL502

I’m starting to become a seasoned pro when it comes to reviewing laptops – and I’m starting to notice the things I really like and dislike about the humble gaming laptop, as I’ve used more and more of them. Since I’ve only ever actually owned two laptops in my life (and one was a gaming laptop), getting my hands on other kinds of tech is fun.

ASUS were kind enough to send me a ROG GL502 laptop to play around with and I’m pretty sure this is my favourite one out of the bunch – with one caveat.

To really give the GL502 a run for its money, I essentially replaced my gaming rig/work PC with it since I had a bunch of work to do while reviewing. Two birds, one stone.

The GL502 laptop is a lightweight, compact laptop, designed for the more mobile gamer. It weighs in at just 2.2kgs (4.8lbs) which means that being able pack it up and take it with you won’t break your back. It’s also incredibly slim for what you’re getting. It packs a 15” screen that can display games in either Full HD or UHD, meaning that 4K gaming isn’t out of your reach. Although, my opinion on 4K gaming is similar to 4K TVs – just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s necessary. I don’t really have any wish to play games in 4K because I don’t think it’s really worth it. However, if you’re one of those people who likes to crank everything to 60+ FPS and see every miniscule details, the option is there.

ASUS continue their red and black colour scheme across the GL502 laptop, but it’s far less overbearing than in their other laptops, and that’s something that makes me endlessly happy. The GL502 detailing is scaled back and more subtle, which makes it more pleasing to look at in my mind. It’s not as “Cockpit of a fighter jet” as the other laptops I’ve reviewed, it’s far more sleek and refined which makes me think I’d be happier to show it off on a desk. The red has changed slightly to a more orange undertone which is a little off-putting on the black background, but the accent colour doesn’t dominate the entire laptop, making it easier on the eyes.

Let’s talk about my favourite and least part of this laptop – the keyboard. The keyboard is amazing to type on. I wrote several articles for my freelance gig, plus a few for myself and a bunch of other work stuff I’ve had going on in the background and it handled like a dream. The laptop keys only travel 1.6mm each keystroke so you can be quicker in-game and in real life. The WASD keys are highlighted in the orangey-red tone to give you the impression that this is a gaming laptop and your hands sit nicely atop them.

The thing I hated, and this is no-fault with the series – but the review laptop I got, was that my keyboard was French. If you’ve never used a French keyboard before, it’s in AZERTY format and not QWERTY – however, the GL502 was in English mode so everything was where it should be. This made writing on the laptop a nightmare. While it felt amazing to type on, if I concentrated too hard on what I was doing and didn’t let the muscle memory of touch-typing take over, my brain would confuse my hands and everything was a mess. But that’s a problem for the editors – it doesn’t take away how the GL502 laptop feels in a general sense.

Gaming on this laptop was really nice. Everything I threw at this game from Prison Architect, to Borderlands 2 and everything in between was handled without a fault. The Full HD screen displayed games without missing a beat and it was easy enough to adjust in low light and sunlight without struggling to see what I was doing.

The downside to hardcore gaming sessions on this laptop is the battery life leaves a little to be desired. While the GL502 worked well as an everyday laptop for my freelancing work, any long gaming sessions I wanted to do required a closeby powerpoint so that the battery wouldn’t drain after a few hours. However, if you’re planning on taking it to a LAN, you’re not going to be up and wandering around with it, are you?

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is definitely an investment with the RRP sitting above the $2000AUD mark, but you’re paying for portability and style which isn’t something you can get with a standard PC rig or some other gaming laptops on the market. The particular review model I was sent had 32GB DDR4 RAM installed, along with a NVIDIA GeForce 1070 and a 1TB hard drive. And as I mentioned before, it’s incredibly light for a gaming laptop.

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is probably my favourite ASUS laptop that I’ve been able to review (minus the French keyboard). It’s compact and light, which is perfect for taking it on the go, but it packs enough power and hardware to be able to stand up to anything you can throw at it. It’ll age well, which is something a lot of computers don’t do in the current era of gaming, it’s great for your everyday projects, and it’s not exactly bad to look at. This is the laptop you want to consider if you’re looking to upgrade.

Laptop provided by ASUS for consideration.

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CheckPoint launches a new Kickstarter to fight stigma around mental illness


Trigger warning: This post discusses mental health, including depression, anxiety and suicide. If you are risk or know someone who could be at risk, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or use the links below.

Mental health and mental illness carries a huge stigma of weakness and loneliness for those who suffer, despite depression topping WHO’s list of ill health and disability worldwide – an increase of 18% in 2017.

This issue is something that the gaming and wider geek community has taken very seriously for quite a while, and with recent studies exploring how video games may actually improve symptoms of depression, an Australian non-profit organisation is creating a new Kickstarter to help produce a web series to assist gamers with their mental health.

CheckPoint is an organisation which revolves around mental health and video games. Their service provides chill-out spaces at conventions, resources for different mental health issues and information for gamers and game developers to improve their mental health. Their latest endeavour is The CHECKPOINT Series which aims to “raise awareness about mental health issues and helping those affected, using the power of video games.”[sic]

CheckPoint have an early target of AUD$55,000 to produce a 16-episode web-series aimed at gamers using evidence-based information which could previously have been out of reach for individuals and their families about mental health.

Divided into two seasons, the first season will focus on what CheckPoint calls the “Mental Health Essentials”, which contain education about different types of mental illness (depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, drugs, alcohol, and addiction, and well-being for the games industry) with the goal of raising awareness around these illnesses.

Season two focuses on breaking down the stigma around mental health, which stops a lot of people seeking the help they need, and how videogames can be used for therapy, as well as how the industry can improve representation around mental health in healthy and effective ways.

Mental health is something that impacts pretty much everyone – whether you suffer or you know someone who suffers. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety (GAD) since I was in my teen years and it’s not something that’s easy to admit to yourself, your family, your friends and it’s definitely nothing something that I’m comfortable openly admitting to in a professional sense, but the important message that The CHECKPOINT series aims to tell is that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help.

The Kickstarter officially launches May 4th, 2017 (that’s today!) and provides a great range of incentives for backers for participating and providing valuable funds for such a vital service. If you’re interested in checking out the Kickstarter, or anything that CheckPoint do, you can check it out here.

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Steam Challenge 2.0 – Get in Marty, we’re going back!

A few years ago I embarked on a mission which, in hindsight, was a bad idea. This year, I refuse to learn from my mistakes and try it again.

I am of course, referring to the Steam Challenge.

The idea is pretty self-explanatory, the execution can be a little more difficult. My Steam list consists of about 140 games, give or take a few betas and demos, and some of those games are multiplayer-only with no real story mode (Let’s Starve Together for example), or VR games (for which, I don’t currently own a headset.)

I’ve decided to approach the challenge with the same gusto I had the first time around, but this time, I’ve got Math and ScienceTM on my side – and by that, I mean I have a spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet is a new addition as it’ll be my way of keeping track of what games I’ve started, how far into them I am, and what I’ve finished. I hope that being able to properly keep tabs on this information will keep me motivated to continue with the challenge without getting horrendously burnt out.

Burnout is something I need to be aware of too. While I have just under 150 games, I get tired of things easily and revert back to old comforts (I’m looking at you, 600+ hours in Borderlands 2) where I can get almost instantaneous satisfaction.

My biggest issue with my Steam list is working out how long to spend on those games that don’t really have a definitive end. Some games have a great list of achievements I can use to use as goals to set as “finish points”, because other games could probably use 10-15 hours to be completed or even longer. But I’m also one of those people who likes to spend some time with a game (see Borderlands 2 play time above) and if I really get into something, I might just accidentally lose half a day in a single game alone.

But to take a lot of the indecisiveness out of the challenge, I’ll be using the rules I found on the Geek Bomb forums. They read as such:

1.You must beat every single player game from start to finish on any difficulty.
1a. With large RPG/Sand box games like Skyrim, you must complete the main story line and the main story line in all DLC expansions you own (ie. Dawngaurd).
1b. In games where there is no ending or main story line (ex. Terraia and Sim City). You must play at least 10 hours.
1c. If a game is far too difficult for you to complete (Super Meat Boy) you must complete 15 hours before rule 1 is satisfied.

2.You must play at least 7 hours of PvP multiplayer or complete every single co-op mission (ie. Left 4 Dead).
2a. If a game has both you can either play one or the other (ie. Team Fortress 2).

3. You can either start from ascending or descending order; you are allowed to skip games if they follow a few exceptions.

3a. You can skip a game if playing a game have become impossible in situations like the following:
               .Banned from multiplayer (if the game has single player, you must play single player component)
               .An online game (like a MMO) is no longer supported.
               .Your machine is not powerful enough to run the game.
               .Your OS or chipset is not supported.
               .Unresolvable issues that make installation or running the game impossible.
3b. If you already have satisfied rules 1 and 2 on any game then playing that game is optional.
3c. You may skip a game if there are essentially duplicates in your library (ex. You have both Half-Life and Half-Life: Source), but you must play one or the other. This includes Beta clients (ex. Team Fortress 2 Beta)
3d. If it is in your library, you have to play Amnesia to the end you fucking baby. Nut up man, it’s just pixels.

In order to keep this entertaining, I’ll be streaming and recording as much as possible – especially in games like Amnesia and F.E.A.R where I know watching me scream like a huge baby will be rewarding to everyone involved. I’m also trying to get my friends involved to keep me motivated.

I’ll be started the challenge on Saturday 1st, April. I’m not sure what game just yet, but be sure to check my Twitch channel to watch it all kick off and to see me succeed! (Or fail miserable – YMMV)

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Hands on: ASUS ROG G20CB (Sponsored)

Pre-built computers for gaming weren’t always a viable option for your hardcore gamer – they just didn’t have the power to run your favourite games. And if you weren’t confident enough to build your own PC, you probably didn’t want to sink some of your hard-earned cash into a puzzle that can go wrong.

Happily, pre-built gaming PC’s are now becoming reliable for gamers who want a “set it and forget it” option. ASUS’s ROG G20CB is a great looking computer, with the power to back it up – and it’s VR Compatible.

I don’t know what I was expecting when it arrived at my house. Was it going to be a huge tower like my gaming rig? Would it be a tiny case, filled to the brim with processing power? Despite the enormous packing box, it was actually somewhere in between.

While the ROG G20CB 9.5L tower matches the aesthetics that the previous ASUS ROG items I’ve reviewed, it’s definitely something special. It looks aerodynamic, masculine and stealthy – which isn’t my jam. But the front panel has twin colour-changing LEDs hidden behind an alien ruins-esque design when the PC is running. It was an odd match to the rather angular edges on the case, but it was a nice thing to catch your eye mid-gaming session.

Around the back you’ve a variety of 2.0 and 3.0 USB ports to ensure the quickest data transfer and enough room for all your peripherals. Alongside a HDMI-out port (more on this later), LAN port, a Kensington Lock (so people don’t run off with your computer at a LAN) and 7.1 audio.

Under the hood, the ROG G20CB I got to play with has an Intel i7 Processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX1080 8GB, 8GB DDR4 RAM with room to expand up to 32GB RAM and two hard drives (1TB SATA 7200RPM and 512GB SSD). All this hardware makes for a really nice computer.

All of that works together to bring one of the more impressive features for the G20CB. My review computer came with an Oculus Rift headset for some VR gaming goodness.

I’ve played with VR in the past at PAX and it wasn’t the best experience. The Oculus dev kits were awful in hindsight and didn’t sit well with my migraine-prone brain. Luckily, the retail kits are a marked improvement. To really test out the playability of the Oculus, I invited around a few friends to enjoy some games and drinks, and it was definitely a great night. The selection of games I had to pick from wasn’t huge (early access games aren’t my jam), but I’d managed to pick a few winners and the ROG G20CB handled them perfectly. “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” was great fun in VR, when you’ve got four people sharing one set of instructions and screaming conflicting things at you.

@kristyyleighh’s boyfriend is being mindfucked by Oculus

A video posted by Rade (@gamer_rade) on

But one game “Emily Wants to Play”, was the most fun to play with the Oculus headset. The horror survival game is based around creepy dolls and jump scares. I’d show you the footage of my boyfriend noping the hell on out of there but the footage seems to have disappeared…

Creepy, right?

This computer isn’t without its faults however. In larger computers, you either have a small, external power supply (think laptop size) or it’s contained within the computer itself. Because the ASUS ROG G20CB case is quite slim and small, the power supply is external and it’s huge. The G20CB power supply unit actually has two separate power supplies to power this beast (180W + 230W). If it was my regular computer, I’d be concerned about it getting quite warm under my desk.

Another issue I had was setting up the Oculus. The computer has 2 HDMI ports; one on the motherboard and one on the GPU – but the one on the GPU comes disabled. This isn’t a huge issue if you only need one HDMI port, or know how to reenable the port on your GPU, but if you’re a “set it and forget it” kind of person (no shame in your game) and you did buy this to use a VR headset, it could become a bit of a pain. This isn’t necessarily an issue with the computer, but I hate finding these things out after the fact and having to waste time fixing a problem that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

Consumers may have trouble with the investment needed with the ROG G20CB. The computer I got to test will set you back a cool AUD$3999 – that’s no small amount of cash to part with. The ROG G20CB has been designed to age well and not need as frequent hardware upgrades as your homebrew computer, thus the larger than usual price tag. Again, you’re paying for the “set it and forget it” PC option. If you can get past the price hurdle, this computer would be an investment that I think would make the most hardcore gamers happy.

The last issue I had was a total user fault: It took me 20 minutes, some adult supervision, and a Google search to figure out how I turn it on. As I mentioned above, the front panel of the computer has an intricate design which disguises the power button quite well. I was worried I’d have to email my friends at Asus and tell them I couldn’t review the computer they’d sent me because I couldn’t figure out how it worked! It’s actually quite embarrassing for someone who does this for a living…

The Asus ROG G20CB is a big investment for any gamer, but with a variety of specifications available through the website, you’re able to get the best bang for your buck. While the issues I had were minor (and mostly my fault),it’s still a great computer if you’re just looking for a computer that’s going to stand up to the best games for the next few years without showing its age. It’s sleek, small, and portable. It made a great PC to have attached to our TV in our loungeroom, and would make a great PC for any study or gaming den.

Listen @asusau, my cat has claimed the G20CB as her own. I can’t send it back without her.

A photo posted by Rade (@gamer_rade) on

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2017 Convention Calendar

N.B: Dates used in this piece are from the 2016 year and may not be the dates these conventions are held during 2017. All care has been taken to try and confirm these dates with organisers, but let’s be honest, they won’t let me announce their conventions for them!

The Australian convention scene is well and truly coming into its own. Compared to 10 years ago, or even five years ago, you’ve got an incredible variety of conventions to satisfy your hunger for geekdom. If you’re anything like me and totally unprepared for the upcoming con season, check out this handy-dandy guide!

January – Nothing good happens in January. For the cosplayers, we’re all a bit too heavy to fit into our costumes after the Christmas / New Year’s period. For regular attendees, save some money for the mayhem that’s coming through the rest of the year.

FebuaryRTX Australia is back for its second year. If you missed my not-so-great review of RTX Sydney 2016, I said that the convention was plagued with problems from air-conditioning (or a lack thereof), VIP ticketing issues and an awkward venue. This year, RTX Australia is christening the brand spanking new Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, right on Darling Harbour. This will hopefully clear up all the logistical issues I had.

March – Perth kicks its con season off with two conventions in March. Oz Comic-Con starts its national tour with a myriad of guests yet to be announced. Oz Comic-Con is a great cosplay convention for beginners and more advanced hobbyists alike with the Australian Championships of Cosplay choosing one winner from each state to compete in the national competition. The Championship helps choose the Australian contender for the ‘Quest for the Crown’ – an international cosplay competition.

The first Anime Festival of the year is also being held in Perth.  The newly annual national event, hosted by Madman, brings cosplay, concerts and anime culture to convention goers. It’s a refreshing change from regular conventions which focus primarily on a catch-all pop culture scene. AnimeFest is anime/manga specific and unites fans from all fandoms in one area. Madman will also be hosting their prestigious Madman National Cosplay Championship with contestants being picked from states around the nation.

The incredibly talented AmenoKitarou (A.K Wirru) is a frequent guest at the convention and successfully competed in the competition, placing 2nd back in 2013 and being crowned Champion in 2010 and 2014 with his stunning Odin cosplay.

April – If you’re a fan of pop culture, then April is the month for you! Supanova starts its national tour in the Gold Coast, with Melbourne following the weekend after. Supanova is another great convention if you’re new to the scene with an easy-going feel and wide selection of international guests. It’s also a great place to check out your local cosplay scene, with many cosplayers bringing out their costumes for people to oogle. The trick with Supanova (and Oz Comic-Con) is that their tours are done in different segments. Melbourne and Gold Coast usually experience different guests to Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth; but this is entirely reliant on guests schedules. I’d recommend hitting up the “Supa-Star Guests” page on the Supanova website to see where your favourite celebs will be. Holiday to the Gold Coast, anyone?

May – With the weather starting to cool down, May slows down in the cold with Comic Gong dominating the calendar month. Comic Gong is a one-day event in Woollongong, south of Sydney. While the event sounds small, it definitely packs a big punch with well-known Sydney cosplayers regularly attending the event. If you’re keen to dip your toes into the convention scene, and you’re in the area, Comic Gong might just be the one for you.

June – Supanova swings into Sydney and Perth in June. Sydney Supanova is arguably the biggest Supanova in the tour and often attracts a very enthusiastic crowd of fans and cosplayers alike. The Artists Alley is always a delight to hit up if you’re keen on lightening your wallet a little.

Madman brings their Animefest to Brisbane early in June. Another round of the Championship will discover the Queensland contender for the cosplay crown.

July – First off the rank is Haven Expo, held in sunny Mackay, Queensland. A big event for a lot of cosplayers – they’re already announcing their guests who include Californian Lyz Brickley and Aussie cosplayer Yeliz Cosplay. Both women are incredibly talented artists and you’ve probably seen their work in various areas of the internet.

AvCon is a standalone convention held in Adelaide and it’s definitely on the list for a lot of con-goers. AvCon covers anime, gaming, and cosplay so that all your needs are covered, as well as holding a variety of different competitions for cosplay, lolita, digital media, and speed running. AvCon is a unique convention specifically for Adelaide fans and it’s on my convention bucket list.

Oz Comic-Con hits up Melbourne in early July, too.

August – August brings you Sydney SMASH. SMASH is definitely one of the more relaxed conventions. With a focus on anime and manga, SMASH combines cosplay, workshops, and a great museum-esque collection of Gundam to keep you entertained for hours. SMASH is held at Rosehill Gardens, near Parramatta, which can be a bit awkward to get to, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re interested.

September – September is Oz-Comic Con month, with the tour coming to both Brisbane and Sydney. If you’ve avoided Oz Comic-Con Sydney in the past because of the location, they’re now going to be gracing the halls of the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. Brisbane always attracts great crowds and equally great cosplay. Recently, Oz Comic-Con reviewed their props policy to make it easier for cosplayers to add more detail to their costumes, as long as it’s within reason.

October – October brings EB Expo to Sydney at Olympic Park. EB Expo has a trade-show feel that’s open to the public. Last year was a disappointing year for EB Expo, with a strange layout and an unenthusiastic crowd. Hopefully EB bring some new and exciting things to their expo this year.

November – November is the biggest month in the convention calendar. Supanova finishes their national tour in Brisbane and Adelaide – we’ll find out who wins the chance to compete in the cosplay championship. The 2016 winner Henchwench is competing this year to hopefully keep the crown that Major Sam bought home in 2015.

Madman are also finishing their short tour in Melbourne. We’ll find out who wins the Madman National Cosplay Competition. It’s another competition that always manages to bring some spectacular talent to the stage.

PAX Australia returns to Melbourne for its 5th year. This is my biggest convention of the year, and a lot of my friends feel the same. The 3-day event seems to be the time when everyone blows off steam and just relaxes – or as much as the gaming/cosplay/nerd community can relax in an energized city like Melbourne. In 2015, I had the pleasure of being on a panel with some of my wonderful friends, met some new friends, hung out with some awesome cosplayers, and to got to attend some really cool parties. PAX Australia weekend is the weekend that the whole industry just seems to bring it.

December – Nope, con season is over. I mean, where else are we going to find time to get fat for January.

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