ASUS ROG GR6 Console PC Review

A niche within a niche?

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

15

ASUS ROG GR6 Console PC Review
SRP: £649.00

What is the ASUS ROG GR6 Console PC?

Nothing beats the simplicity of a console. Once connected to your TV, you simply turn it on, fire up the latest title and within a very short time you are gaming away either on your own or with friends. The latest incarnations of the Xbox One and PS4, whilst a huge leap from the ageing Xbox 360 and PS3, seemed to have outdated technology even on day one. This, therefore, brought the inevitable bashing from PC gamers that the new consoles couldn't even do 60FPS at 1080P in a lot of games.

Whilst that was true, the cost comparison to a gaming PC and ease of use still made the Xbox One and PS4 very attractive to gamers, especially now with the Xbox One available for under £300. With the development of Steam's Big Picture mode the ease of use that used to be restricted to consoles is now in reach of the PC gamer. Taiwanese electronics behemoth ASUS have clearly been keeping an eye on this and have released what they consider to be an all new form factor, the 'Console PC'.

The ASUS ROG GR6 Console PC available for around £649 looks to take the best of a Windows PC and a Console and mash it all together and we aren't talking about a Mega PC for those old enough to remember that particular gem. The GR6 uses an Intel i5 5200U CPU at 2.2Ghz, 8GB DDR3 RAM, 1TB HDD and Nvidia GTX960M graphics to offer what ASUS claim to be full 1080P gaming on high settings. All parcelled in a very compact and stylish case that is not much larger than your average Router. A device we are eager to put through its paces, read on to see how the GR6 gets on....

Design and Connectivity

The GR6 design firmly sits it in the home friendly camp, without being boring. Sticking with the Republic of Gamers theme, it's predominantly black with red metallic flashings to the inside of each side panel and will fit very nicely in a bedroom; it's even small enough to fit hidden on a bookshelf (cables permitting!). On each side panel we have the ROG logo cut into the plastic black metallic sides and the unit can be positioned either standing or on its side.

ASUS ROG GR6

Compared to a console or even a small form factor PC, the GR6 is very small and compact. Measuring just 60mm at its widest point, 245mm deep, 238mm wide and weighing just 1.42kg it is also very portable, which makes it ideal for LAN parties .

Despite the small size, this is a fully functioning PC and, as such, the connections are plentiful. The front panel boasts two USB 2.0 ports, of which one supports the charger function, microphone and headphone jacks together with the power button and the Steam Big Picture mode launch button. The rear panel has four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, Display port, network connection, Optical S/PDIF out and three audio jacks (line in, mic and speaker out). No DVD drive obviously, nor is there a DVI or VGA connection but it appears to cover everything you would need.
ASUS ROG GR6

Specification

For £649 the GR6 packs a lot in, but isn't going to set the world on fire. What we do get is the latest 14nm process Broadwell architecture CPU, that being an i5-5200U running at 2.2Ghz with a turbo speed of 2.7Ghz. This new chip integrates Intel's HD Graphics 5500 but it is only a dual core (4 thread) CPU. We aren't stuck with the integrated graphics, thankfully, here we get a GPU usually seen in laptops with Nvidia's GTX960M Maxwell Graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM, together with 8GB of dual channel DDR3 RAM at 1600Mhz. We also have the latest 802.11ac WiFi, but no Bluetooth.
ASUS ROG GR6

The storage is provided in the shape of a SATA 6GB/s 1TB Travelstar 7200RPM 7K1000 HDD. The review sample arrived with the drive partitioned into an OS drive of 149GB and D drive of 762GB. Prior to installing our test games and benchmarks we had 91.4GB free on the OS drive. Using ATTO Disk Benchmark the 7K1000 HDD performs as expected for a non SSD, with an average read of 131MB/s and write of 128MB/s. The storage and memory is accessed via the easily removed side panel. The SO-DIMM RAM can be upgraded to 16GB and the storage is capable of housing up to a 1TB HDD or 256GB SDD.
ASUS ROG GR6
Manually timed from power on with a cold boot gave a reasonable 24 seconds, but our main issue came when launching via the Steam Big Picture Mode button. One of the key selling points of the GR6 is the console like feel, unfortunately with the system shut down when pressing the Steam Big Picture Mode button it takes a full 2 minutes, 10 seconds before the PC has booted and launched Steam. Pretty disappointing to be honest; if this were a console you would already be in a game by then Also, whilst consoles have updates, the sheer number of Windows updates awaiting install is a definite annoyance, a good hour needs to be set aside initially to install all the updates that Windows requires.

Pre-installed Software

There isn't a huge amount of software that arrives with the PC. Steam is helpfully pre-installed, but launching it requires Steam to update anyway so that really negates any help there. Other than that, the ASUS software is thankfully kept to a minimum. A few worthy of mentioning are firstly the ROG GameFirst III. This is a networking utility that allows you to set priorities for programs or modes such as gaming and media streaming. It also includes a handy network monitor to see the current network usage plus various other tools such as the top 5 programs for bandwidth and total usage. The idea is to give you the very best performance when gaming, but given that online gaming doesn't need that much actual speed - with your ping being the real issue - its usefulness is limited, at best.

ASUS ROG GR6

The next is an interesting one - Sonic Radar 2. For those FPS gamers, first impressions of this seemed like some sort of cheat, but in reality it's no different than a decent set of surround sound headphones. The Sonic Radar 2 provides an on-screen overlay which visually represents sound activities according to their location. It's suggested for Pro gamers to give them that edge, but is also useful to those hard of hearing. It may sound like a good idea but it didn't really work that well during a few games of Call of Duty. Very rarely would anything show up in the overlay and by the time something does you are probably already dead.

ASUS ROG GR6

Other than those already mentioned, AI Suite III offers a quick glance of the current system performance along with system information and the EZ update utility, which gives you a simple way of keeping the motherboard, ASUS software and BIOS up to date. We also get the usual trial of Office 365 and a free version of Kapersky Anti-virus 2015 awaiting install, which when we tried to run the install, instantly caused a BSOD, good old Windows! ASUS also provide 100GB of free cloud storage via their ASUS WebStorage and ASUS HomeCloud which lets you access the GR6 remotely to stream or manage your files.

ASUS ROG GR6 Benchmarks

Our standard tests as shown in the table below are each run at least 3 times, with the average score taken. The tests were all carried out at 1920 x 1080 resolution and using Nvidia 353.03 graphics drivers. The GTX960M is a fairly low performing graphics chip sitting close to that of a desktop GTX740 or Radeon 4890. Using Nvidia's Maxwell technology we have 640 pipelines, a core clock of 924Mhz and memory speed of 2500Mhz.

Benchmark Score Summary

Time to Desktop 24 Seconds 7
Super Pi @ 1M 14.56 seconds 8
3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 42080 3
3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 9784 3
3D Mark - Fire Strike 3964 4
3D Mark - Sky Diver 10406 3
Passmark Performance Test 8.0 2240 4
Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 49.34FPS - CPU 2.83pts 4
Unigine Heaven 4.0 695 4
Unigine Valley 1.0 943 4
PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 2355 4
PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 2628 4
Using what is essentially laptop graphics, we weren't expecting fantastic results, despite the claims by ASUS that the GR6 can offer high detail settings at high frame rates. High settings is perhaps a stretch, on the very latest games but on the whole we managed a decent frame rate on medium settings on most of our test games. With Battlefield 4 we managed 52FPS on high, 55 FPS with Max Payne 3 on normal and in Sims 4 a pretty decent 69FPS with Ultra Settings. COD:AW with the settings as high as the 2GB VRAM would allow did struggle at times but managed 65FPS average. These results are fairly similar to the MSI GE62 laptop we reviewed recently with the same GTX960M graphics but with a far better i7 CPU. As we expected, PC Mark 8 Home Conventional gave a fairly low result of 2355 and Passmark Performance Test 8 of 2240 compared to 2984 and 3619 with the MSI laptop. The graphics tests were similar with Unigine Valley 1.0 of 943 and Heaven 4 of 695.

Gaming Performance

1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps)
Battlefield 4 High Settings 52
Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 39
Sims 4 Medium Settings 80
Sims 4 Ultra Settings 69
Max Payne 3 High Settings 35
Max Payne 3 Normal Settings 55
COD: Advanced Warfare Normal Settings 65

What alternatives are available?

ASUS know full well their target market here. That is the console gamer, looking for the step up in performance and full PC and Windows functionality, yet still keeping a compact design and console like feel, and also the PC Gamer looking for something more affordable and portable than a full desktop gaming PC.
ASUS ROG GR6

The competition is fierce, but it's one ASUS are hoping the prospective buyer isn't interested in. The Xbox One console without games is currently available for just £280 and the PS4 is £325. That's a hefty chunk less than the GR6. A prospective buyer weighing up a console and what could amount to 8-10 games, compared to the GR6 with no games may have an easy choice on their hands. Then on the other spectrum, for £649 you can easily build a full desktop PC that would blow the GR6 out of the water, but perhaps that's probably missing the point with regards to who the GR6 is aimed at.

This leads us on to one of the major issues we have with the GR6, that being it's bigger and older brother, the GR8. Currently available for just £50 more, the GR8 comes with a faster i7-4510U CPU (albeit still a dual core, four thread variety and older 22nm Haswell architecture) but more importantly has a full desktop GPU in the shape of the GTX750Ti. Whilst still a relatively low budget card, it outperforms the GTX960M. If the target market can step up from a console, but don't want the full desktop gaming PC, we have to ask why would you pay £649 for the GR6 when you can pay £50 more for the GR8?

Media Integration

Thanks to the compact and portable nature of the GR6, it would make for a great media centre addition to your TV or home cinema, if perhaps a slightly expensive one given the alternatives available. As it's a fully functioning PC, you can simply connect via HDMI to your TV and away you go. Streaming or watching movies from the hard drive can be done very simply.

Testing with our 4K TV, it worked fine with 1080P Netflix and YouTube for example. But the system performance limitations came into force when we tried 1440P or 4K, it just couldn't cope and presented a lot of stuttering.

System noise and heat

The HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our benchmark and gaming test sessions. The CPU core temperatures, at idle, are just 39°C and under test conditions these reached a reasonable 75°C with the NVIDIA GPU reaching the same 75°C.

ASUS ROG GR6

ASUS make a big claim with the GR6 that it offers quiet and cool gaming. This is a claim that definitely has merit. Our sound level meter which starts at 30dBs couldn't even get a reading with the system under load during gaming or benchmarking. The design was very efficient at expelling the heat to keep the components cool. The GR6 will quite happily sit in the main viewing area or bedroom and apart from the red light on the front you would never know it was there, as it is as near silent for the majority of the time.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Great design
  • Portable
  • Very cool and quiet
  • Steam Big Picture Mode

Cons

  • Too Expensive
  • Poor overall performance
  • GR8 a better proposition
  • Very few upgrade options

ASUS ROG GR6 Console PC Review

Should I buy the ASUS ROG GR6 Console PC?

The GR6 is aimed squarely at the console gamer who wants the extra that a full fat PC will give, you whilst retaining the ease of use a console provides. In part, the GR6 does this with the simple Steam Big Picture mode launcher, albeit you may want to go and make a cup of tea, whilst it eventually loads up - OK some exaggeration - but when it does, it's very simple to navigate with a controller and works very well.

The GR6 features a very compact and stylish design, great for taking to LAN parties but the specification - particularly the mediocre core i5 CPU makes for, at times, a very frustrating experience. For console gamers and PC gamers, alike, a system that seems to take far too long to carry out simple tasks, such as opening the file explorer or launching programs, won't be one they will come back to very often.

It does have many positives, such as the ability to take it anywhere for plug-n-play gaming but the specification along with the price suggest it will be overlooked by the alternatives; perhaps more importantly, its bigger brother - the GR8 - is only £50 more. Simply put, it doesn't offer the simple and quick console feel to grab console gamers and nor does it possess the performance to tempt PC gamers; upgrade options are also limited. If the £649 price was £449 or the CPU was upgraded to an i5 Quad Core, it would be a much more tempting proposition.

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Features

.
.
.
7

Specification

.
.
.
.
6

Included Software

.
.
.
7

Benchmarked Performance (averaged)

.
.
.
.
.
.
4

Noise Level

10

Gaming Performance

.
.
.
.
6

Video Playback Performance

.
.
8

Sound Playback Perfromance

.
.
8

System Temperature

.
9

System Connections

.
9

Upgradeability

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
3

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
.
5

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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