There are only a handful of gaming laptops out there that manage to strike a healthy balance between powerful hardware and portability. Asus’ Zephyrus series has been consistently offering both, especially in the higher tier of Zephyrus S laptops. Asus has somehow, and consistently, managed to pack in the best PC hardware available in a slim, portable chassis?
The Zephyrus lineup comprises two categories: Zephyrus S and Zephyrus M. The former comes equipped with premium specs and build quality whereas the latter is focussed more towards offering mid-range hardware in a slightly toned down build while maintaining portability.
For this review, I'm checking out the Zephyrus S GXG531GWR that’s powered by an Intel Core i7-9750H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 (Max-Q design) GPU.
It has a 15.6-inch IPS-panel display with a full-HD resolution and a refresh rate of up to 240 Hz. However, our review unit had a refresh rate of 144 Hz. The display is capable of reproducing 100 percent sRGB colours and it comes with Pantone-certified calibration. In the storage and memory department, there’s a 1 TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD onboard with 16 GB of RAM.
The laptop provides good enough connectivity options through one USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port that supports DisplayPort 1.2, and another USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C port. There are three USB-A ports where one of them is USB 3.2 Gen2 and two of them are USB 2.0. It has an HDMI 2.0 port for video output and a 3.5 mm headphone and microphone combo jack for audio.
(Also read: Making sense of the ridiculous USB naming convention)
Display: Impressive viewing angles
Colour accuracy isn’t really a big deal when it comes to gaming but if you’re going to use the same display to watch movies or edit photos and videos, you will definitely complain about it. The GX531GWR has an IPS-panel display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Since it’s capable of producing 100 percent sRGB colours and with Pantone Validation, you will be able to enjoy an impressive display with wide viewing angles.
Carrying the 'Pantone Validated' logo means that the manufacturer has implemented colour correction for better fidelity of the screen in reproducing Pantone Matching System (PMS) colours. It ensures that the screen is able to produce accurate colours on the display, something that is preferred by professionals. The logo states that it has been evaluated and approved by Pantone. So, you can be assured that whether you're playing games, editing photos or videos, you have a highly colour-accurate screen.
It has a refresh rate of 144 Hz with a 3 ms response time, which is slowly becoming a standard in high-end gaming laptops. Asus says that the laptop also has a 240-Hz variant. Your gaming experience will be super smooth with such high refresh rate screens. The multimedia viewing experience was also satisfactory because of the colour-accurate display.
Before pushing a gaming laptop to its limits during a review, we put it through its paces using a set of multiplayer titles. These include Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Fortnite, Apex Legends, etc. These are the most popular games currently played on PC, and if a gaming laptop comfortably runs them, it becomes easier to recommend the laptop. I didn't expect the GX531GWR to run into any problems and it didn’t. We consistently saw frame rates above 100 fps at the highest settings.
Using an Intel Core i7-9750H paired with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 (Max-Q) ensures that the laptop is sensibly powerful, i.e. it's powerful enough to run most AAA games at ultra settings while not carrying excess horsepower that will only be a drain on the battery. The laptop was easily able to run every game we threw at it. Things did get hot in graphic-intensive games such as Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Metro: Exodus and Battlefield V. However, do note that with RTX turned on, you won’t be able to enjoy the sweet 60 fps mark in ultra settings. The left side of the keyboard would get warm but not too hot that it would make hinder your gaming experience. However, there wasn’t any thermal throttling, so performance stayed consistent throughout while the fans got really, really loud in the Turbo fan profile.
Battery life isn’t really great in gaming laptops. Although there are exceptions, the Zephyrus S almost gets there. In our PCMark 8 Creative battery test, the laptop lasted for almost three hours (two hours and 49 minutes to be precise). In a more real-world scenario, we were able to stream a two and a half hour movie without running out of battery. On the gaming side, we were able to play DOOM for almost an hour until it gave away, which is a good enough.
There really isn’t anything pulling down the Zephyrus S gaming laptop from offering a satisfying overall experience. It doesn’t break any sweat when it comes to running AAA games and you will be able to run almost every game in ultra settings at full HD resolution without the frame rate dropping below 60 fps (except in certain graphically-intensive games, especially with RTX turned on). Whether it is to watch movies and TV shows or editing photos, the display is brilliant. The speakers are loud enough for multimedia content.
The biggest selling point of the laptop has to be how it manages to deliver this much performance in a small chassis without showing any alarming overheating issues. It does get hot while playing intensive games, so there’s no way you can place the laptop on your lap during a gaming session though. I was able to fit this laptop in a bag meant for 14-inch laptops, showing exactly how portable it is. Even its 230 W charging brick isn’t too bulky.
For me, the only letdown was the keyboard. In a bid to make things compact, the travel distance of the keys is too low for my taste, making it slightly uncomfortable to type on. Another issue is the placement of the keyboard right up front, which makes it slightly difficult to type on unless you’ve placed the laptop on a desk or table. Also, since the touchpad is placed right beside the keyboard, I ended up clicking the Right Ctrl key instead of the Left-click several times. It did take some time to get used to it.
However, these points are completely subjective and if you’re comfortable with this design, it shouldn’t bother you.
If you’re looking for an ultra-portable laptop for a wide range of use-cases that includes a lot of gaming, multitasking and watching movies and TV shows, the Zephyrus S should be your top choice.
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