ASUS ROG Zephyrus Analysis

By:   Fedora Atjeh Fedora Atjeh   |   9/27/2017 05:50:00 PM
ASUS ROG Zephyrus

This laptop is not a normal laptop. It is not by specifications, of course, but above all it is not by a design that surprises both exterior and interiorly. That may be the bet of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus, a team that calls attention for its performance but does so even more for that particular combination of keyboard and touchpad. There is much to be said for this ultraportable gaming notebook: hands down.

The hardware configuration of this ASUS ROG Zephyrus is bestial, something that is usual in gaming laptops, but especially surprising when it comes to a computer with a thickness that is not much larger than the MacBook Air.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501 Specifications
ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501 Specifications
That's why it is striking to have the latest in a proposal as "diet" as ASUS. For starters, an Intel Core i7-7700HQ, a quad-core processor at 2.8 GHz (3.8 GHz with turbo) that has a TDP not negligible: 45W unusual in an ultraportable.  This processor is accompanied in this case by the dizzying figure of 24 GB of DDR4 RAM, in addition to a 512 GB M.2 PCIe SSD drive.

That hardware bet is completed with another very special section: that of the 15.6-inch screen with Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) that falls short in resolution but supplements it with two key elements for gamers: 120 Hz refresh and support for NVIDIA G-Sync technology.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus

There is good news in both wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi 802.11ac and BT4.1 thanks to the Intel Wireless-AC 8265 chipset) as well as its expandability, thanks to the presence of four conventional USB 3.0 ports and especially a USB port -C with Thunderbolt 3 interface. It is a shame that there is no Ethernet port (the thickness of the equipment prevented it), but ASUS has thought of everything and includes a USB to RJ45 adapter so that gamers can take advantage of their network connections to the maximum. What we do not have available is an SD card reader, one of the great disappointments of a team that is outstanding in its choice of connection ports. 

ASUS ROG Zephyrus

The full-size HDMI port is another highlight, while there is also room for the headphone jack and a Kengsington lock that can save us some fright if someone tries to steal the computer while we are not ahead. The last visible element of the sides is the power outlet, which allows to power the laptop thanks to a transformer that unfortunately does not follow the aesthetics of this equipment: that transformer is huge, but it is logical if we want to give enough energy to this portable beast. However the absolute protagonism of the equipment in hardware is taken of course its graphics card, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 "different from the others."

Let's have a hot one? Welcome to Max-Q Technology

The presence of this graph is no coincidence: NVIDIA announced this summer its range of solutions Max-Q for laptops, and ASUS ROG Zephyrus was one of the first to be able to boast of them. The essence of these models is clear: to be able to integrate graphs with a great consumption in portable equipment, something that theoretically would be difficult to do, and more in a equipment as thin as this one.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus

How have they succeeded? Slightly trimming benefits. The normal consumption of a GTX 1080 is 180 W, but in this model that consumption is reduced to 90 W. For this they take a conventional GTX 1080 with 2,560 shaders and reduce the operating voltage, which in turn forces to reduce the frequency of the GPU clock. While a GTX 1080 operates at a standard clock frequency of 1,582 MHz and can rise to 1,771 MHz, in this version Max-Q those frequencies are 1,297 and 1,436 MHz respectively. This reduction allows consumption to decrease as well, which means that there is also a significant loss of performance, as we will see in the test results. There are much bigger laptops with GTX 1080 standards that certainly get better figures, but we believe that the decision of ASUS in this case is beneficial for the players who are looking for a more compact computer ... and for their bills of light.

Significant cooling

It is not too common to dedicate a section of an analysis to the cooling of a laptop, but in a computer for gaming we believe that it is interesting to tell how important this section is and how ASUS can keep all the components at a good temperature.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus

Here the key is the so-called Active Aerodynamic System, a spectacular solution for its design and operation. What is this idea based on? Easy: to "break" the laptop. Logically the laptop does not break as such, but every time we open the screen a mechanism on the bottom separates the housing cover from the next upper part. This allows the outlet of the hot air in a very efficient way thanks to that 6 mm opening that helps the fans to "breathe" better. ASUS 'own engineers explained the idea in detail in their blog, and it is there that they explain how the fans get air from the top (in the keyboard there are small microperforations) and its design, with a new polymer for the blades, manages to create higher airflow at lower revolutions.

Let's talk about design (for the moment, only from the outside)

It should be pretty good to be a designer of gaming laptops: one can unleash your creativity and get out of the tight rules of conventional laptops. That is noticeable in many of these models, and if there are original gaming laptops, those are those of ASUS.  The firm has already demonstrated it with models such as its ASUS ROG GX700 long ago, and of course this ASUS ROG Zephyrus confirms that taste for surprises. The differential elements start soon, because we have before us one of the thinnest laptops we've ever seen.  That is one of the great virtues of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus, but the team stands out at first glance by a superior case in an anodized black striking that only breaks the Republic of Gamers family logo.

The lines of the equipment are the other surprise: this equipment is more like a conventional MacBook Pro than a laptop to play, because we have an eminently rectangular base (with slightly rounded corners and bevels to soften corners and edges) than a priori does not seem to make think that what it encloses is one of the most powerful laptops of the last times.

Instead of that we find those elegant lines and nothing shrill (something that is usually characteristic in other teams), almost discreet. On the sides, the port display that we have already talked about and, yes, the ventilation grilles to give output to the heat generated by these components of last generation. There is another of these grilles (with a striking copper finish) on the rear edge of the equipment.

The lower part, of course, is much less imaginative: a simple black casing with some special screws (a nice ASUS detail: the screwdriver is included for future expansion) and once again the ROG product division logo.

Even the lighting system under the keyboard is discreet, as small red bands appear to the left and right of the top of the keyboard. What surprises by its elegance and discretion in the outside, nevertheless, does it by original and different in the interior. Go for it.

What does the keyboard do here? Uh, what about the touchpad?

That is the first thing that occurs to us to ask when we first opened the screen of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus and we find its peculiar interior layout. Instead of the traditional one, where the keyboard is glued to the screen and the touchpad just below, on this laptop things change. A lot. For starters, just glued to the screen is a surface apparently useless: a kind of cover with the logo of ROG and the power button of the computer that seems to hide some kind of secret.

That secret is neither more nor less than that of helping to better distribute all the key components: below it are found motherboard, processor, memory or SSD, for example, while in the lower part, where we find almost by surprise the keyboard, the computer's battery is located. That keyboard configuration has a victim: the computer's touchpad is to the right of the keyboard, something that is usually seen in 17-inch notebooks but it is somewhat rarer to see in those with less diagonal.

That decision makes logically manage the computer with this touchpad is, at least, rare. The dimensions of the touchpad are inverse to the norm (higher than width) and under the touchpad we find the left and right button that are attached to the cursor keys. That strange format has its draws, but the touchpad touch is really fantastic, like its speed and responsiveness.

However its layout and especially the buttons causes that in many occasions we have pressed the left mouse button instead of the key to move the cursor to the right. Confusions are frequent, and although as it is usually said is a matter of getting used to it, this arrangement is anything but natural.

That keyboard also has more differences with respect to the unwritten rules between manufacturers. The spacebar has a very ... gamer design, while the famous WASD keys have a backlight and a slightly different design to that of their teammates. There is a curious absence: we have no Print Screen key.

The distribution of the function keys is also peculiar (they separate the F1-F4 block from the rest), and after the Delete key we find fast access to the ROG Gaming Center, page forward and backward (combined with the Start and End keys ) and to another of the surprises of the equipment: the mode of numerical keyboard. Pressing this key will turn the touchpad into a touch-sensitive numeric keypad in which the numbers and symbols of the conventional keypad are overprinted to gain access to part of its features. Thus, we can enter numbers and operators, but we can not use that keypad for ASCII codes and special characters, for example.

1080p screen is enough (or not)

Although the GTX 1080 Max-Q is a protagonist in the team, the other fundamental element of that proposal is the screen integrated by ASUS, which was decided by a 15.6-inch matt IPS panel (non-tactile, of course) with 1080p resolution. 1080p? On a high-end gaming laptop like this, and with a 15.6-inch screen? "What a mess!" Some will think. The decision is of course questionable, but the arguments to carry it out seem reasonable ... and maybe even right.

Firstly, that screen is less demanding with both the processor and especially with the graphics card, something that contributes to a more efficient cooling and a more restrained battery consumption. Second, 1080p resolution is preferred by many gamers, who raise the level of detail to the maximum with that resolution to combine good image quality with enviable fluency.

That does not remove so that ASUS could not put at least a panel 2K (1440p), something that many would have been grateful to play (and work, which is also possible in this team) to this resolution, being able in case of not being comfortable to 1080p resolution. That would also have increased the cost of a computer that is certainly not accessible to all audiences.

In fact, it seems far less important to have higher resolution than to do with the two technologies most valued by gamers: a good refresh rate (no less than 120 Hz) and G-Sync technology to avoid tearing effects during sessions game. In the end the effect is prodigious, with a softness and fluidity of the action that until recently we could only obtain in equipment of desktop with gaming monitors. All this makes the choice of ASUS seem especially successful.

Performance: the ASUS ROG Zephyrus is a beast

All those ASUS decisions impact both the user experience and the performance of the computer, which is precisely one of the star components of this notebook for gamers. In fact with that hardware configuration it is not surprising that we are facing one of the most powerful teams we have tried in Xataka. We do not talk about laptops anymore, because with these specifications the ROG Zephyrus can handle even very well-equipped desktop PCs.

The synthetic tests prove this, and while in PCMark 8 the results are a little more average (they depend more on the CPU than on the GPU), in the tests that do take advantage of the GPU this equipment makes the difference with others alternatives that we have analyzed in recent times. The accounts come out, of course: the configuration of the powerful ASUS ROG Zephyrus meets expectations when faced with two other really powerful laptops (the HP Omen 17 and the ASUS ROG GX700) and even with that beast called HP Omen X that we analyzed recently.

As you can see in the following graphs, the performance in all the sections is outstanding, although it is true that the GTX 1080 Max-Q looks almost more like a desktop 1070 than a 1080. We do not have many complaints, of course: with this notebook format the technological achievement is outstanding. In which we tried games like 'Battlefield 1', 'Rise of the Tomb Raider' or 'Dirt Rally'. Unsurprisingly, even putting the detail at maximum frame rates per second at that 1080p resolution were excellent.

In 'Battlefield 1' for example that rate did not used to fall by 100 fps at all times, with many sustained ratios of 115-117 fps. 'Dirt Rally', just as spectacular but less demanding, showed 130-140 FPS continuously in the FRAPS tool marker even though we had placed the graphic preferences in 'Ultra'.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, a somewhat more demanding graphical title, the sustained rate was around 100-110 fps at all times: the fluidity in those games is fantastic thanks to that refresh rate and G-Sync technology , which make the dive bigger, but that yes, the screen is "a little small," and this is where the experience of playing with a conventional monitor can also make a difference.

We were also able to check the excellent performance of the storage unit: this unit includes the Samsung SM961 512 GB in M.2 format with NVMe technology, and its performance is, as expected, fantastic: more than 3 GB / s in reading and more than 1.6 GB / s in writing, dizzying figures that do nothing but help make everything go like a silk in the computer.

A different laptop with a small big catch: the battery

All these results come to confirm what has already been intuited from the first moment with this equipment: this is a laptop for gamers with one of the most remarkable configurations and design of recent times. It should be noted that ASUS also do not forget the software section, and in fact on the keyboard we have a dedicated key to access the so-called ASUS ROG Gaming Center, a control center with an interface worthy of science fiction film.

From here we can establish different profiles of use of the processor, the screen (different modes for RTS and FPS, for example) or access specific applications such as Sonic Radar or ROG Aura, which allows to customize the appearance of keyboard lighting, although the lower than other models. Take advantage of those options or not, the truth is that we are facing a laptop with a fantastic leeway to enjoy video games, but obviously can also behave very well as a team (or already, station) work.

In that experience of course the position of the keyboard and the position and format of the touchpad (left-handed users seem to be out of the equation here) did not help too much at first, and in fact in the ASUS package includes two interesting elements: a comfortable wrist rest with a synthetic leather texture and especially its optical mouse Strix Impact, an essential element to work and play.

The only but really important thing that can be put to this equipment is the one of its battery: in our tests with a conventional use of the laptop like work equipment (to write this article, for example) we have found with an autonomy of less than two hours. The thing is even worse when using it in games without being plugged in, because even the CPU and graphics performance drops dramatically when we use it in this mode to lengthen that autonomy a little. In 'Battlefield 1' we pass from 100-110 frames per second held to a limit of 30 of which the ROG Zephyrus prefers not to pass.

This limitation is logically linked to the noise generated by the computer, which is what we could expect in a notebook for gamers: that GTX 1080, even something below its usual configuration, generates enough heat, and that makes when we are playing the snort continuous and clearly audible of the fans accompany us.

It is not too much trouble if we consider that in the end in those sessions we will play with a good connected headset - another of the ASUS software utilities included in the system is dedicated to personalizing that aspect -, but it is a clear element of a team that by its power is inevitable to make some noise. Not especially annoying, but constant when subjected to a high workload.

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