Most gaming laptops, even at the entry level, are around $1,000. But starting at $699, the Asus TUF Gaming FX504 seems like a downright steal. Its 8th Gen Intel Core i5 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics can play games on low or medium settings, and the audio is decent. But the laptop's solid-state hybrid-drive (SSHD) storage is slow, and its 1080p display doesn't show off games and other media well because it's dim and bland. You get what you pay for, so there are sacrifices you'll have to make with this affordable machine.
The TUF Gaming FX504 ain't exactly pretty. It's a black hunk of plastic with faux-aluminum blushing and red paint in an angular, lined pattern that suggests Asus really wants you to think of "the cyber" when you look at it. Asus' own logo is in reflective red in the center of the lid. The lid has a small cutout, so you can see the status lights even when the laptop is closed, which is a neat feature it steals from the premium Zephyrus line.
Lifting the lid reveals that the inside is pretty much the same. The 15.6-inch display is surrounded by a chunky bezel, and the deck is the same plastic with ugly red lines. The keyboard is backlit, also in red.
At 5.1 pounds and 15.1 x 10.3 x 1 inches, the FX504 is thicker than competitors but in the middle of the pack on weight. The Acer Nitro 5 Spin is a lighter 4.9 pounds and 15 x 10.2 x 0.7 inches, and the HP Pavilion Power 15t is a heavier 5.6 pounds and 14.9 x 9.9 x 1 inches.
The left side of the laptop houses the power jack, Ethernet jack, HDMI output, USB 2.0 port, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack, while the right side has only a Kensington lock slot.
Asus definitely cut corners with the 15.6-inch, 1080p display on the FX504. It's dim, bland and lifeless. I watched a 1080p trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp and was bored by the dull colors, like the yellow accents barely popping off of the Wasp's blue suit or the sordid-looking red of Ant-Man's costume.
On the bright side, the screen was sharp, and I could make out every shard of a shattered glass window. When I played Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, there was a loss of detail in dark areas, and Talion's red outfit was muted.
The FX504 covers just 66 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is well below the 98-percent entry-level gaming average, as well as the showings from the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (105 percent) and the HP Pavilion Power 15t (68 percent).
The panel on this Asus averaged only 220 nits on our light meter, which is dimmer than both the average (256 nits) and the Nitro 5 Spin (296 percent). The Pavilion Power 15t, however, fared even worse, at just 173 nits.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keys on the TUF Gaming FX504 offer 1.4 millimeters of travel and require a strong 76 grams of force to actuate. While that's just off of our usual preference of 1.5 millimeters, I never felt as if I was bottoming out. My bigger issue was that the keys felt ever-so-slightly bouncy, which took some getting used to. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I reached 114 words per minute, which is standard for me, but I had a 3-percent error rate, which is slightly higher than normal for me.
The keyboard has a number pad and is backlit, but only in red. At this price, you can't fault the FX504 for not having a full RGB keyboard.
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The 4.1 x 2.8-inch touchpad has a Windows Precision touchpad that responded to gestures like four-finger taps to invoke the Action Center and four-finger swipes to reach the Timeline. But when I navigated Windows, the plastic felt slippery and cheap.
The speakers on the TUF Gaming FX504 are nice and loud, easily filling up a midsize conference room (and attracting attention from some people outside it). The sounds of Bruno Mars' "Grenade" brought the volume, and the speakers were great at highlighting the vocals and piano.
But the song's signature drums and bass were lost a bit in the mix, even with Bass Boost on in the included DTS audio app. Some people might appreciate the Volume Leveling option, which made the mix more consistent, but I think it's best to just leave the Bass Boost on and never touch the app again.
When I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the audio was loud and clear, and I could make out grunts in battle, boots hitting the ground as Talion jumped from a tall wall, and orc guts spilling after a particularly brutal kill.
Gaming and Graphics
The TUF Gaming FX504 sports an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of VRAM. That won't tear through intensive games, but it's enough to get you by on most titles at low or medium settings. When I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War at 1080p on medium settings, the game ran at 41 to 47 frames per second. On low settings, it ran at 54 to 65 fps, but with a lot of the geography popping in as I approached it.
On our budget gaming test, which runs Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p at a mix of medium and high settings, the FX504 rendered the game at 42 fps. That's higher than the entry-level gaming average (38 fps) and the frame rate from the HP Pavilion Power 15t (41 fps).
The FX504 earned a score of 147,174 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, surpassing the average (143,763), the Pavilion Power 15t (135,247) and the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (113,373).
Considering that the FX504 packs an Intel Core i5-8300H CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB SSHD, I hoped it would be a little faster. With 20 tabs open in Google Chrome, including one streaming a 1080p Twitch stream of Fortnite, there was more lag than usual when switching between tabs. I also noticed that the laptop had a particularly long boot time.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the FX504 earned a score of 12,038, surpassing the HP Pavilion Power 15t (11,214) but trailing the entry-level gaming average (12,718) and the Acer Nitro 5 Spin (13,477).
It took the FX504 54 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of files, for a rate of 94.5 MBps. That's far slower than the entry-level gaming average (199.3 MBps) and the Nitro 5 Spin (103 MBps) but still quicker than the Pavilion Power 15t (68.8 MBps).
On our Excel macro test, it took the FX504 1 minute and 13 seconds to pair 65,000 names and addresses. That's a few seconds behind the average (1:10).
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But the FX504 excelled in our HandBrake video editing test. It transcoded 4K video to 1080p in 11 minutes and 15 seconds, which is faster than the average (14:20). Both the Nitro 5 Spin (20:12) and the Pavilion Power 15t (20:24) took far longer.
If you hope to use the TUF Gaming FX504 for work and play, think again. It endured for only 3 hours and 57 minutes on Laptop Mag Battery Test 2.0, which continuously browses the web, watches videos and runs through graphics benchmarks at 150 nits of brightness. The entry-level gaming average is 4:39, the HP Pavilion Power 15t endured for 6:59 and the Acer Nitro 5 Spin ran for 7:08.
The FX504 can keep its cool under a light load. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, it measured 79 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, 91 degrees between the G and H keys, and 96 degrees on the bottom -- just a smidge above our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The FX504 also managed to stay cooler than I expected while I was gaming. When I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the touchpad was unchanged, the keyboard reached 96 degrees and the bottom measured 104 degrees.
The 720p webcam on the FX504 isn't great with colors. In a photo I took at my desk, the blue stripes on my shirt appeared gray, and navy headphones I was wearing looked black.
Although the light from a nearby window wasn't blown out, some areas were in heavy shadow.
Software and Warranty
The TUF Gaming FX504 comes with a fair bit of junk you'll want to remove when you get it. It comes preinstalled with McAfee Security and McAfee WebAdvisor, as well as Netflix and LinkedIn apps. The most useful app is Asus' Splendid Utility, which lets you change the screen's color temperature for late-night gaming sessions.
Otherwise, there's just a bit of bloat that comes with every Windows 10 PC, like two versions of Candy Crush, as well as Disney Magic Kingdoms, March of Empires: War of Lords, Dolby Access, and Hidden City: Hidden Object Adventure.
The Asus TUF Gaming FX504 we reviewed was the $699 base model with an Intel Core i5-8300H CPU, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 2GB of VRAM, and a 1TB SSHD.
For $799, you bump up to a GTX 1050 Ti, while $999 gets you a GTX 1060 and adds a 128GB NVMe SSD alongside the 1TB drive. A $1,299 model bumps you up to a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a faster, 120-Hz display.
The Asus TUF Gaming FX504 is among the cheapest gaming laptops we've ever seen. Its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of VRAM can play games on low or medium settings, which will at least get you playing for now. But the display is bland, and the SSHD storage was slow in our testing.
Among competing budget gaming laptops, the Acer Nitro 5 Spin is a better alternative. It gives you a brighter display and longer battery life, and you can get a version with a 7th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, a 256GB SSD and a more powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti for $690 on Amazon (as of this writing). Additionally, Asus has several more versions of the FX504 with better specs, but we didn't test those.
If you want to spend as little money as possible and still play games, the FX504 is worth a look.
Credit: Laptop Mag