Gaming laptops are meant to add portability to PC gaming. But rarely do computer companies manage to get the balance of gaming performance and travelling convenience.
Either, a lightweight form factor means that the hardware required to make the laptop perform on par with desktop peers just isn’t there. Or, the laptop can keep up with desktop PCs but is a behemoth of a device that’s heavy and bulky.
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when ASUS struck the right balance with the ASUS ROG Zephyrus.
While ASUS frequently rolls out impressive hardware under their Republic of Gamers brand, the Zephyrus marks a major milestone in gaming laptops.
Here’s a quick summary of the specifications of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus (8th Gen CPU model):
- Intel Core i7-8750H CPU @ 2.20GH 2.21 GHz
- Up to 24 GB DDR4 RAM
- 15.6-inch Full HD (1920x1080p) IPS-level panel with a 144Hz refresh rate
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Max-Q)
- 256GB/512GB/1TB NVMe PCIe SSD
The laptop is also equipped with plenty of I/O ports, including a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C over Thunderbolt, two USB Gen 1 ports, two USB Gen 2 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack, and a Kensington lock port.
You can see the full list of specifications on the ASUS ROG website.
When it comes to its looks and design, the Zephyrus is the belle of the ball. While the ROG logo on the top of the laptop clearly shows that it’s from a gaming brand, the rose gold accents and black brushed metallic cover give it a professional rather than gaudy or tacky appearance. (Though it should be noted it attracts fingerprints more than a crime scene).
The design is part of the reason why the laptop manages to be relatively compact. Rather than making the laptop thick to accommodate large cooling fans, Asus has implemented a neat mechanism that makes more room for airflow when the laptop is opened. The company dubs this their active aerodynamic system.
“When the laptop is opened, a portion of the bottom flexes to create 20% more open space for air circulation. Along with our unique AeroAccelerator technology, this gap improves airflow by 32% and reduces temperatures by 20% compared to conventional cooling. ”
When you close the laptop again, this space closes and the device returns to its slimmer profile.
The Zephyrus weighs just 2.2kg — less than some standard laptops and much less than the 5kg heavyweights often seen in gaming laptop lineups. It’s no ultrabook, but it is still slim and lightweight.
Overall, using the Zephyrus for daily tasks and gaming is an absolute treat. It’s light enough to use on portable, folding desks in multiple locations around the home.
Its large screen and vivid colours immerse you beautifully in the visuals of games. It was a welcome break from the small display of my ultrabook.
However, it takes some time to get used to this orientation when you’re typing. You end up relocating both your hands to the left of the device, which gives you a decidedly off-center feeling. This isn’t too much of an inconvenience, but does pose some hassles. This would probably be even more pronounced if the user is left-handed.
While on-the-go portability is a great feature of the laptop, plugging it in and setting it down is when it truly comes to life. Performance is increased and the laptop is ready to take on games using its full potential
This is when you can also bring out your peripheral devices to make a truly comfortable gaming experience. There are ample I/O ports which you can use to add a mouse, a keyboard, your headset, and other devices to the setup.
When plugged in, its performance is outstanding and the bright screen immerses you in your gaming. It may not have the same feel as a widescreen, but it’s still an awesome experience.
The laptop also includes the ROG Gaming Center software, which makes it easy to customize your experience. You can enter Game Boost mode, which optimizes the system’s resources to focus on the best game performance. You can also easily tweak your RGB settings for the keyboard.
My favourite little feature though is the automatic recording of key moments in games. The software can record moments such as your death in a game. It’s not always accurate when it comes to identifying the important moments, but it’s a pretty fun feature that makes it easy to share clips of your fails or successes in games.
Gaming: how it performed
So we know that the Zephyrus is a great laptop in terms of power and portability. But how does it measure up in gaming performance? After all, it is a gaming laptop.
I tried out a variety of recent and popular games on the laptop. The laptop was flawless, handling each game with ease. Here are a few of the summaries of its performance in each game:
The Zephyrus performed exceptionally well in both Fornite PvE and Fortnite Battle Royale. At the highest graphics settings, it sustained a framerate of 60FPS (the game’s current cap).
In general, it was a significantly better experience when compared to playing the game on the PS4 Pro. The PS4 Pro is optimized for 4K gaming, but in the console version of Fortnite, frame stuttering is common.
This could be because the console build of the game is not as stable as the PC version. But issues that I’m used to in Fortnite on PS4 (such as frame skipping and lag when explosive weapons are used) were not there when I played on the Zephyrus.
I decided to try out Destiny 2 on the Zephyrus since it is a relatively recent AAA title where frame rate performance is important.
On the highest graphics settings, the game averaged at 144FPS. The gameplay was smooth, with no frame skipping or jittering.
This is the kind of game that puts the Zephyrus through its paces. I noticed the laptop heating slightly, but it quickly recovered once the fans’ higher speeds kicked in.
When it comes to the Zephyrus compensating for heat and high-performance requirements, it recovers exceptionally well. Any drops in performance are temporary, and the laptop is able to get back to the performance seen when starting up the game in no time with its quick cooling.
I played CS:GO at its highest settings and, due to the title being older than the others that I tested, the Zephyrus unfazed by the performance load required. It averaged at between 210 and 250FPS.
A temporary drop in performance from the laptop’s heat reduced this to 190FPS but the laptop quickly recovered and achieved its previous average.
I also ran the Zephyrus through a series of benchmarking tests for a more quantitative view of its performance. And the laptop did not disappoint.
In the 3D Mark Run benchmarking test, the laptop achieved results better than 96% of 3DMark benchmark results. This includes achieving a slightly higher score than the average 4K gaming PC.
This was also the case with the 3D Mark Sky Diver test.
The Time Spy Stress Test looked at how the laptop performs under pressure for longer periods of time. It passed the test with 98.5% consistency in framerate stability.
Drawback: Battery power
The Zephyrus balances performance and portability perfectly. But the lightweight form of the laptop does mean it has one drawback — its battery power.
The laptop has a range of automated power conservation tweaks. When you unplug the cable, the device goes into a power saving mode. This includes capping gameplay at 30 FPS and reducing brightness. The laptop’s RGB lighting also reduces.
But even if you’re not gaming, the laptop’s battery does not last very long when unplugged. On standard mode, it has a maximum life of two hours. Even when doing non-intensive tasks such as internet browsing and writing, the laptop doesn’t last very long.
This means that while the Zephyrus has wonderful portability, keeping it plugged in is definitely a requirement if you want it to use it for any moderate period of time.
The only other noticeable flaw on the laptop was the speaker performance. While the sound quality is great, if you raise the volume to a high level, it becomes easily distorted.
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus gaming laptop is the kind of device that gamers who want to have both performance and portability in a device need. It sets itself apart by being lightweight and powerful, but also extremely adaptable.
This is the kind of era in gaming laptops that players have been looking forward to. The next step is to pack in the required battery power, but ASUS has truly outdone itself with this well-designed gaming masterpiece.