The Asus ROG Zephyrus squeezes a powerful Nvidia 1080 GPU into a thin-and-light chassis, giving you a 5-pound monster that you can easily carry along. The innovative design, whisper quiet performance gives other thin gaming laptops a run for their money.
PROS. Nvidia Max-Q GTX 1080 GPU. Runs quiet under heavy load. Impressive gaming and overall performance.
CONS.Expensive. Below average battery life. Dark and dull display
Asus takes a step in the right direction as it seeks to demystify the narrative that gaming laptops have to be big and bulky. The latest addition to the venerated Republic of Gamers is a clear indication of their commitment to create a new breed of gaming laptops. The Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 is the gaming laptop in question which packs unbelievable gaming power and a slim design.
The laptop boasts of being among the first systems to be built with Nvidia’s Max-Q design. The approach allows the thin laptop to house the GTX 1080, a high-end graphics card for seamless gaming. The Max-Q technology enables the Zephyrus to deliver a performance similar or near that of bigger machines. The 0.66-inch thick laptop easily earns itself the Editor’s choice for high end gaming laptops thanks to its slim profile and powerful gaming power.
Design and Features
The design really matters for pricier items and Asus understands this too well, so they went all-out with the Zephyrus. The Zephyrus suffices as a nicely built laptop with a sleek look that lights up the way for thinner gaming laptops. The unique design aims at putting a GTX 1080 in a thin 15-inch laptop thanks to the Max-Q technology to offer a powerful gaming performance.
It is clad in an all black body, edged in metal with a brushed aluminum lid. The laptop measures 14.9 x 10.3 x 0.7 inches and weighs in at 4.9 pounds, thus making it the most portable gaming laptop with a GTX 1080 stuck inside. The Razer Blade Pro houses the same GTX 1080, but its fans get louder than the Asus and it weighs 7.77 pounds with a 17-inch screen.
The lid maintains a simplistic and clean appearance save for the silver ROG logo that sells it out as a gaming laptop. The copper trim looks nice here and it appears to have been used reservedly as opposed to previous ROG laptops. A sturdy brushed aluminum graces the back plate with the direction of the brushes changing as reach the middle section. The overall rigidity and design concept is all impressive considering that it is pressure and torsion resistant. It is possible to open the laptop using one hand as the hinges provide excellent stability and stealthy linear travel right from the start.
Amazing design features in this model include the bottom panel which opens up the moment the lid is opened. This is important in allowing more cool air to be sucked into the laptop without having any impact on the port placement.
The system comes with a decent port selection for everyday use. It features four USB 3.0 ports, a full size HDMI 2.0, an analog combo audio jack, a Kensington lock and a 40GBps Thunderbolt 3 port. It features 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 for wireless connectivity. The slim profile of this system does not allow it to come with an Ethernet port and a DVD/RW optical drive.
The GX501 is powered by Intel’s 7th generation quad Core i7-7700HQ processor running at 2.8GHz speeds which can be boosted to 3.8GHz. The system comes equipped with 16GB DDR4 RAM that is sufficiently enough to handle any task thrown at it.
The system comes with a Samsung 512 GB SM961 drive that is powerful enough to offer reads in the 3.4GB/s range while writing at the range of 1.6GB/s. there is another model of the GX501 that features 256 GB SSD, but it will be advisable to go for the high-end model if you can afford. This is because the laptop offers just one M.2 slot. It will be more economical to buy the 512 GB model rather than replacing it later on. Additionally, this will offer you plenty of space to store your files, games and other valuable documents.
The GPU is the most celebrated component in this gaming this gaming monster. The GX501 packs Nvidia’s GeForce GTX with Max-Q technology. Now, to bring you into perspective, the Max-Q technology was introduced by Nvidia at Computex 2017 aimed at squeezing extra performance out of its laptop GPUs while minimizing on heat and power output.
The lowering of heat has been made possible with careful hardware tuning and crafting of software. It is important to note that a GeForce GTX 1080 with max has a TDP between 90 to 110 watts, whereas a standard GeForce GTX 1080 puts out up to 150 watts of heat. It is therefore evident that the Max-Q technology plays a key role in the reduction of heat output and power consumption.
The 15.6-inch Zephryus features a 1920x1080p screen resolution that many could argue to be misplaced in the age of 4K displays. The 1080p rises to the occasion thanks to its support 120Hz fresh rate and support for Nvidia G-sync technology for gamers to enjoy. It is also fully capable of VR.The matte finish on the screen minimizes reflections and the screen is bright enough to handle indoor gaming. However, it does not fare well when it comes to outdoor gaming.
The laptop could have been future proof should Asus considered equipping it with 4K. However, they seem to have concentrated so much on speed at the expense of pixel count. Still the system is capable of playing games at very high resolutions but Asus should have at least considered a 1440p
Key Board and Touchpad
The laptop features a chiclet style-keyboard that is located on the front of the laptop to make space. This is likely to raise heads among the users but then legends who ever used laptops in the 1980’s will agree that these used to be the norm back then. It will essentially be reminding them of the good old days. Ideally, the space created is for Asus to place all the high-powered hardware toward the back of the case including the GPU and CPU so that they can be cooled all at once. There is no wrist-rest and this is not a mistake, this is a deliberate move by Asus as they include a small one in the box.
The keyboard on the GX501 is comfortable to type on in as much as the buttons offer little travel. Understandably, this is a gaming rig, so typing business is just but a secondary agenda. The WASD keys are very responsive. Every button in the keyboard comes with an array of LEDs that can be customized with the help of an app. The page Up and Page Down are located above the touch pad with the Home and End keys integrated respectively as secondary functions. Conspicuously missing is the Print screen key on the keyboard.
The laptop kills some of the excitement on the keyboard as it lacks per-key lighting. On the bright side, this means that there will be nothing warm under your wrists. The location of the trackpad to the right is a welcome idea also as it offers exceptional palm rejection.
The GX501 follows the footsteps of the MSI and Razer in locating the trackpad to the right of the keyboard. The trackpad is also good for crunching numbers as it features a virtual 10-key which looks pretty. Whereas the mouse remains the undisputed king while playing games, the trackpad suffices as last-resort method to keep you going.
If you were hoping that the GX501 could come with a more decent battery life, then you ought to start looking elsewhere. The system features a 50-watt-hours battery which is far below the Dell XPS 15 97-watt-hour battery or the 94-watt hour battery packed in the Gigabyte Aero 15. We really didn’t expect much in terms of battery life considering what the system packs. Having jammed a GTX 1080 GPU, a quad-core CPU and hardware to cool the laptop, one department had to be sacrificed. In this case, Asus had to sacrifice the battery capacity to accommodate the other amazing components.
The speakers on the Zephyrus is a disappointment but not a deal breaker considering the fact that many gamers will plug in a pair of headphones. The speakers are located toward the front near the keyboard. They are loud but very tiny. As such, you should not have any plans of using them for a serious movie session leave alone playing music.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus comes out as an excellent gaming laptop that brings out all that is possible with the Max-Q design. This state of the art machine from Asus in conjunction with Nividia taken performance in a thin 15.6-inch laptop a notch higher than what we have been treated to with the likes of Blade pro. There’s much that could be said about the Zephyrus including its portability, affordability compared to other GTX 1080 laptops and its ability to play games on high settings rendering 60fps. The Asus GX501 has given us a glimpse of what is possible with the Max-Q design but we can’t wait to see how other manufacturers will tinker with it. As our Editor’s choice for high-end gaming laptops, the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 fits into the life of gaming enthusiasts who are ready to spend more on this gaming rig.