Asus ROG GX501 Zephyrus Review: Vision of the Future
Asus shows the world the potential of Nvidia’s Max-Q Design
PHOTO CREDIT: Inc. Southeast Asia
When choosing a laptop, buyers would traditionally have to make a choice between performance and portability. With the ROG GX501 Zephyrus, however, Asus believes we can have it all!
Not satisfied with the astounding performance gains of their latest generation of graphics cards, Nvidia wanted to take it a step further to forever change portable gaming as we know it. The Max-Q Design principle aims to take the raw power of the GTX 10-series and optimize it for ultra-portable platforms.
With Max-Q Design, Asus had what it needed to create the ultimate no-compromise gaming machine. The Taiwanese manufacturers pulled no punches in developing the Zephyrus, even employing some never-before-seen design witchcraft. What we get is top tier gaming performance that fits in the footprint of a MacBook.
How will it fare against traditional gaming laptops nearly twice its size? Read on to find out.
The Zephyrus punches above its weight.
The GTX 1080 Max-Q is pretty much a fully featured GTX 1080 with a lower clock speed. It sacrifices around 15% of its performance for substantially improved power and heat efficiency – ideal for ultra-portable form factors.
Paired with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ, it can pump out well over 100 fps on contemporary e-Sports titles at 1080P on maximum settings. More demanding AAA titles may cause frame rates to dip a little, but nothing you could throw at the Zephyrus will cause it to drop below 60 fps. Gaming on an external 4K display or VR will also yield decent results.
Let’s get to the meat of the issue though, how does the Zephyrus manage its heat and fan noise? The good news is there has never been a quieter laptop at this performance bracket.
The Zephyrus manages its thermals well. You should have no issues using it on your lap, but I did experience some performance throttling under synthetic load. That said, it shouldn’t be a problem on real-world day to day use which includes gaming and video rendering.
Overall, extensive testing puts the GTX 1080 Max-Q squarely between a full GTX 1080 and a full GTX 1070 in terms of performance.
Inside and out, the Zephyrus oozes sophistication.
The Zephyrus sits on the cutting edge of design. It is nothing like traditional gaming laptops in every sense.
If there was ever an antithesis for MSI’s “gamer” aesthetics, this would be it. It’s very clean and understated. It would look good alongside an Aston Martin. The only indication you would get that this is indeed a purpose-built gaming machine is the ROG logo on the cover - which glows ever so subtly. The brushed aluminum body is rigid enough given its lightweight design and gives the Zephyrus a premium look and feel.
The Zephyrus definitely lives up to its namesake. For all the power that it has at its disposal, it barely weighs 2 kilograms. This achievement can be attributed to the amazing engineering that Asus has put forth in cooling this beast. The keyboard and trackpad were shifted closer to the edge of the deck to facilitate its beefy cooling components. Flip open the lid and the base of the chassis splits apart mechanically to elegantly improve airflow.
The Zephyrus scores full marks for design.
Asus made no compromises on the Zephyrus’ display.
Gaming is a dream on its 15.6" IPS panel. With 120 Hz refresh rate and G-Sync, it’s the perfect companion to complement the GTX 1080 Max-Q. Gamers can look forward to silky smooth action sequences with incredible level of detail. Similar specifications on a custom laptop will set you back a pretty penny.
Content creators will love the Zephyrus as well due to its great color accuracy, covering 96% of sRGB and 74% of AdobeRGB. As with any IPS panel, the screen is usable outdoors with great viewing angles and brightness.
Let’s just say you will not be missing the 4K displays on the Zephyrus’ heavier rivals.
You’ll get everything out of the box except an SD card reader.
The Zephyrus’ small body features more ports than you’d expect. You get one three USB-A 3.0, an HDMI port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. A USB to Ethernet adapter is also included for competitive gamers that don’t want to game over Wi-Fi. The icing on the cake is the USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support. If you simply must have full desktop GTX 1080 performance, external graphics is an option.
With its slim profile, the Zephyrus does not come with an over-the-top mechanical keyboard. The tactile response on its full RGB keyboard is pretty good, though, making it comfortable for typing and non-competitive gaming.
The position of the keyboard and trackpad does take some getting used to, and will deter left-handed users. Thankfully, Asus will throw in a detachable wrist rest and decent gaming mouse with your purchase.
The speakers on the Zephyrus won’t blow you away. They produce good clarity for their size, but can’t get loud enough to enjoy a Netflix session with your significant other. For gaming alone, they get the job done considering how quiet the fans are.
Not going to mince words here, the battery life on the Zephyrus is abysmal. While gaming laptops don’t generally last long, the Zephyrus is in a league of its own. With moderate use and maybe some light gaming, you’ll be looking for a power socket within 2 hours. You cannot reasonably expect more from the 50Wh battery that it comes with, given how small the laptop is.
Should you buy it?
While the Asus ROG GX501 Zephyrus may not be the best gaming laptop on the market, it stands as an excellent proof of concept for Nvidia’s Max-Q design.
Sure, it does not perform as well as bulkier gaming laptops from 2017, but it shows ambition from both Nvidia and Asus. Just looking at it makes me excited for the laptops I’ll be reviewing later this year. As soon as battery technology catches up, bulky gaming machines may even be a thing of the past.
Considering all the innovation that went into this device, I don’t think its asking price just shy of SGD 5000 is too much. I can recommend it, but I think it’s better to wait for a more fleshed-out 2018 model. I’m also hoping Asus would produce variants with Max-Q GTX 1070 or even GTX 1060 that should improve its battery life and price-to-performance ratio.
Nonetheless, in a market awash with gaming laptops of a similar design, it is heartening to see a huge manufacturer like Asus make such a new design statement as they did with the Zephyrus. Here’s hoping that the company continues to innovate in this direction.