Until the Zephyrus came about, there were only two sorts of gaming laptops: large, strong behemoths or the ones slim and portable enough to fit in your back pack with only enough electricity to eke out 1080p gaming. Neither have been particularly quiet when running games.
But now that we have entered a new generation of Nvidia Max-Q laptops with technology that permits them to be up to 3 times thinner and faster, things are shifting. The Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 sits at the top of the new breed of gaming machines plus it offers the ability of a top end desktop at a bundle that's almost as lean as the ordinary Ultrabook.
Read more: Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531
It may sound impossible but, believe it or not, Asus has pulled it off without breaking a sweat during its ROG Zephyrus GX501. It may compromise somewhat on battery lifebut this gaming laptop still comes in at the head of its class with a vibrant and innovative design, a color-rich display, speakers that are amazing and, most importantly, leading gaming performance.
Price and availability
The leading performance of the Asus ROG Zephyrus comes at a cost -- a rather large cost. Priced at $2,699 or AU$3,659 (about £2,105), the setup we have reviewed is highest-end version of the Zephyrus you can get.
It is a lot more than we have ever thought about dropping to a 15-inch gaming laptop, particularly considering progressively more inexpensive models, such as the $1,399 (£1,499, AU$2,249) Gigabyte SabrePro 15 and $1,399 (about £1,100, AU$1,840) Acer Predator Helios 300 -- although, these 2 options include lesser Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics.
Of course, a huge portion of that price point comes down to the laptop boasting an Nvidia GTX 1080 and Intel Core i7 processor. In this aspect, it is a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the both competent $2,999 (£2,999, AU$4,029) Acer Predator Triton 700.
Compared to much bigger gaming laptops that were once required to get the identical degree of performance, the Zephyrus also proves itself to be a bargain within the $3,999 (£3,799, AU$5,899) Razer Blade Pro and $2,098 or £2,499 (about AU$2,766) MSI GT73VR Titan Pro. That said, these monster machines still have their place in the computing world, if you would like to have an overclockable CPU.
Back in August, Asus released a lower-end Zephyrus using a smaller hard drive and an Nvidia GTX 1070 for $2,299 or even AU$3,119 (about £1,790). This model competes more directly using the $2,074 (£1,999, AU$3,499) Alienware 15 R3 along with the $1,299 (£1,703, AU$1,712) Max-Q designed MSI GS63 Stealth Pro.
We did not think that it could be achieved, however, the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 really stuffs an Nvidia GTX 1080 to a 1.79cm-thick (0.7-inch) laptop. That's not just amazingly thin for a gaming notebook, it is thinner than many conventional laptops, including the compact Dell XPS 15.
To effectively cool such a svelte package, Asus created a sophisticated design, which sees the underside panel fall down just like a ramp to get superior airflow. The mechanism participates automatically as you start the Zephyrus, developing a 6mm gap.
That may sound like a fairly small room for airflow, but Asus has engineered a high-air room to provide this ultra-thin gaming laptop the heating capabilities of a far thicker machine.
1 caveat to the widescreen panel is that it ends up feeling flimsy. The bottom extension stinks into the touch and there's a somewhat elastic measure to the laptop when you place it onto a desk. That said, you won't actually see the matter outside of carrying round the GX501 from under while the screen remains open.
Gimmicks and accolades aside, the Zephyrus is a damn amazing piece of machinery. Asus has gone to get a distinctively squared-off design for the metallic chassis. Then, the all-black outside with aluminum trim adds up to some sharp, futuristic style. The screen lid of the GX501 brings your eyes with a clearly geometric design paired with a brushed aluminum finish that fans out in 2 directions.
Branding on gaming laptops is generally something we tend to only dismiss, however, the use of the prominent ROG logos over text onto the outside and inside of the laptop are all fine touches, too.
Between the general aesthetics of the laptop and its changing design, the Zephyrus looks like a gaming laptop pulled from the future, and we all love the way it looks.
Business in front, party in the back
As a portion of the Zephyrus design, Asus chosen to move all of the components and heating to the back of the laptop whilst leaning all the inputs into the front. It is an arrangement we have seen about the MSI GT83VR Titan and Razer Blade Pro, also such as those prior systems, it works well enough although not without any compromises.
The keyboard feels cluttered with big keys even though having to share space with the side-oriented trackpad. There's a good quantity of traveling when hitting the keys, along with a soft, mechanical note to go for this. On the other hand, the Zephyrus lacks the mechanical sting we have experienced typing about the Acer Predator Triton 700.
As there isn't any space to get a hands rest, Asus comes with a rubberized wrist break that sits right up from the laptop's front . Sadly, this excess accessory gets cluttered quite quickly -- even after only a couple of minutes of use.
The excess palm rest also does not make it any more comfortable to type with the laptop on your lap. Because of how near the keyboard is towards the end of the notebook, you will have orient your palms in a T-Rex-like style to type anything.
The right-side touchpad also takes a tiny bit of getting used to. We catch ourselves accidentally stumbling on the keyboard instead of the pointing device we planned to use. The touchpad itself can also be somewhat too small for our liking and needs multiple swipes to maneuver the cursor throughout the screen.
It is good news, then, that Asus went with a glass-lined Microsoft Precision Touchpad that monitors perfectly and handles multi-touch gestures nicely despite adapting no more than three fingers.
We also much prefer this on the Acer Predator Triton 700's touchpad, which can be implanted directly in the middle and behind the keyboard. The pointing device on the Zephyrus comes with the convenient feature of turning right to an electronic number pad with the press of a button.
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You might be forgiven for believing that such a slender gaming laptop could not slug it out with the big hitters -- but you would be incorrect, this plucky, 15-inch machine really decimates the most effective systems we have ever tested.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus completely trounces the Razer Blade Pro in each exam with scores hundreds of things beforehand in the two processor and graphics benchmarks. Conversely, however, the significantly bigger and heavier MSI GT73VR Titan brings ahead of the GX501 with greater 3DMark scores, but we also see in real games it strikes an ordinary frame rate that's a couple of ticks lower.
Read more: Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531
Although most of the systems we have compared have an Nvidia GTX 1080 using 8GB of GDDR5X video memory, the Zephyrus' Max-Q designed GPU is slightly different in that it's runs in a lower wattage and clock rate. A conventional Nvidia GTX 1080 delivers 150W of graphics power using a foundation block rate of 1,556MHz, meanwhile, the Max-Q version runs involving 90-110W with clock rates between 1,101MHz and 1,290MHz.
Going by specs alone, the Max-Q designed Zephyrus should theoretically function worse than a conventional gaming laptop, but Asus has managed to song its thinnest 15-inch gaming laptop run equally well, if not better.
What is even more striking is the way much more quietly GX501 runs than many gaming laptops this powerful. Instead of sounding like a jet, the Zephyrus just gets too loud as a mild breeze, quieter compared to the AC vent or fan cooling your space in the summertime. With significantly less intensive tasks, such as web surfing and streaming media, this 15-inch gaming laptop can also be practically silent.
Loud and clear
With this kind of a softly running gaming laptop, you are able to fully appreciate the sound speakers Asus has integrated in the Zephyrus. Two speakers sit on the surfaces of the keyboard, delivering balanced and loud sound ideal for listening to anything from movies and music to explosions in games.
The screen deserves lots of notice, also. Even though it's only Full HD, you will have the ability to make full use of all of the Zephyrus' overpowering capability to run games in a smooth frame rate of 120 fps. Both in games and out, we love the vibrant colours and rich comparison the GX501's display leaves.
The one thing that's not striking about the Asus ROG Zephyrus is the highest battery life of 2 hours. Regardless of however few applications we conducted in the exact same moment, or turning off the keyboard backlight, we weren't able to squeeze some more battery life out of the GX501. Best of luck with getting more than a hour whilst gaming, holding a video call or doing something strenuous while the laptop is unplugged.
Two hours of battery life is horribly short for practically any type of laptop, but frankly, it does not appear as much of a surprise. The laptop features just two of the highest-end, many power-demanding mobile components you are able to fit into a 15-inch chassis. With everything pushed to the back room, that means the only area for batteries whatsoever is simply under the keyboard and trackpad, just further confined by the thinness of the notebook.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus sets a gold standard for what a Max-Q designed gaming laptop should and may be. Our expectations of a 15-inch gaming notebook are improved significantly from the beauty, performance and sound profile of the GX501.
However, $2,699 or even AU$3,659 (about £2,105) is definitely a fairly significant chunk of money to spend on a gaming laptop, but anyone who's demanding the absolute horsepower that this laptop offers must be prepared to lose this much money regardless. Because of this, the Asus ROG Zephyrus should not be anticipated to be your sole computer for both work and gaming that could be used everywhere.
Obviously, the Zephyrus creates a great deal of sense for people who are looking for a desktop replacement, as it is equally as effective of becoming dramatically lighter, smaller and much thinner.