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Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 evaluate: AMD drops the microphone

“With an eight-core processor and a shockingly small chassis, the Zephyrus G14 is in a class of its own.”

Excellent slot machine

Thin, small and light

Game-changing CPU performance

Responsive touchpad

Unique lid design

Noisy at idle

Mushy keyboard

No webcam

The ROG Zephyrus G14 is unlike any gaming notebook you have ever owned. Although it contains an Nvidia RTX 2060, it only weighs 3.5 pounds. It’s not much bigger than a 14-inch laptop that you would see at work.

How is that possible? A very special component is the heart of the G14: the Ryzen 9 4900HS from AMD. The magic lies in this chip with eight cores and sixteen threads.

The Zephyrus G14 has developed a new class of gaming laptops and already costs $ 1,050. But is this new generation of gaming laptops what people want?

Size and portability

Asus and AMD want the G14 to be a laptop that’s as portable as any other laptop – one that you can take to school, take to work, and play anywhere in between.

Laptops like the Razer Blade and the MSI GS65 have tried to reduce the thickness of their machines, but they have retained a large screen size – 15 and 17 inches, respectively. Here the G14 deviates.

With a 14.0-inch display and thin bezels on the top and on the sides, a considerable amount is cut directly out of the laptop’s housing. That means the G14 is smaller than most gaming laptops in almost every way, including weight. At 3.5 pounds, it’s 19% lighter than the 16-inch MacBook Pro and 24% lighter than the Razer Blade 15. The small size helps with weight, as does the magnesium alloy case, which is much lighter than full aluminum.

As someone who mainly uses a 13-inch laptop every day, I was shocked by the space requirements of the G14 when I opened the box. At just 12.8 x 8.7 inches, its footprint is about 5% smaller than that of a 13-inch MacBook Pro.

It’s thin too, though it matches the current Razer Blade at 0.70 inches. When open, the G14 feels thicker than it should due to the raised hinge that adds an additional 0.6 inches and improved airflow.

The only gaming laptop that can keep up with the size of the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is Razers Blade Stealth, a 13-inch laptop with up to a GTX 1650 GPU. It’s significantly smaller, but the graphics and CPU options are also much more limited. The Zephyrus G14 is in a class of its own.

Processor power

The device I tested cost $ 1,450 and is right in the middle of the configuration stack. The Zephyrus G14 is the launch vehicle for AMD’s Ryzen 4000 chips. The eight-core chips of the Ryzen 9 H series in particular are intended for powerful laptops and gaming machines.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 does not use the standard 45-watt CPU, but a special 35-watt variant called Ryzen 9 4900HS with 16 GB RAM (configurable up to 32 GB). The “S” stands for slim and can therefore be cooled in the small chassis of the Zephyrus G14.

Do not worry. This does not mean that performance is affected. This Ryzen processor is incredibly fast, especially if you give it a task that can use its eight cores and 16 threads. This includes creating content, regardless of whether it is 3D modeling or video editing.

This kind of workload is hardly worth comparing to other gaming laptops, most of which use a six-core Intel Core i7-9750H. You just can’t keep up. The 8-core i9-9880HK is a better competitor, although it’s mainly reserved for high-end laptops for content creation like Dell XPS 15, MacBook Pro 16-inch or ThinkPad X1 Extreme.

For such a small and light laptop, the G14 offers record performance.

But here’s the crazy thing. Whether in benchmarking or in real tests – the Asus G14 still convinces laptops with an Intel Core i9-9880HK processor. It surpasses the 16-inch MacBook Pro in Cinebench R20 Multi-Core by a whopping 25%. It even encrypted a 4K file in Handbrake 11% faster, which is equivalent to the performance of the Dell XPS 15.

With the Core i9, you’ll find more power in thicker workstation machines, but the G14 is record-breaking for such a small and light laptop.

However, there is a reason why companies don’t put expensive, sultry Core i9s in any old laptop. First, all eight cores cannot be used efficiently by most games, so you are not doing much good. Then there is an obvious thermal problem that Asus and AMD have not properly addressed. The Zephyrus G14 is a loud little notebook. Playing games or running heavy applications will distract you. But this is forgivable.

My problem is that fans of the Zephyrus G14 keep whirring even when idling (and in silent mode). The result is an irritating coil whine that never goes away. This reduces my desire to use the G14 as a laptop that I want to use every day.

Gaming performance

My Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review device has an Nvidia RTX 2060 for graphics with options for the GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1650 in cheaper configurations. The G14 is the smallest laptop with an RTX 2060, a graphics card that is about as powerful as a desktop GTX 1070 graphics card. The result is smooth, responsive gaming in almost every title I’ve tried.

Battlefield V, Fortnite and Civilization VI were all played at well over 60 frames per second (FPS) in 1080p at maximum setting. This is comparable to laptops like the Dell G7 15, which is 2 pounds heavier. It beat the same RTX 2060 in the ROG Zephyrus M in every game, although it was lighter and smaller in almost every way.

If you decrease the settings a bit, the performance really lights up. Fortnite landed at 118 FPS while Civilization VI hit 132. There is a constant 10 FPS behind the Razer Blade, which we tested with a more powerful GPU, the RTX 2070 Max-Q.

Fast shooters like Battlefield V go well with the Zephyrus G14, which has a fast 120 Hz refresh rate. And 98 FPS on medium and 70 at Ultra in Battlefield V don’t look bad. The G14 even makes a tough game like Assassins Creed: Odyssey playable and manages 64 FPS at high settings.

The importance of this for AMD cannot be overstated. The company isn’t often represented in such powerful or ambitious laptops.

Design and display

Asus ROG Zephyrus laptops of recent years share one look. They are black and chunky and loaded with a hint of RGB throughout.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 stands out. The laptop made headlines at CES 2020 with its AniMe Matrix display design on the cover. LEDs illuminate the display lid of the laptop with patterns and designs. You can even customize it to display text, animations, or logos of your choice.

It’s a cool feature that costs you an additional $ 500 and my test unit didn’t include it. But the white standard version without the AniMe Matrix Display is also beautiful. The dot matrix adds a touch of interest, and the white color is still unique in itself.

However, the design of the G14 doesn’t feel coherent. The lid is white, the keyboard cover and the housing are gray and the frames around the display are black. It feels like parts of a couple of different laptops put together into one device. The completely gray option does a little better.

The speakers could have used a little more enthusiasm.

The display is an IPS panel with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. It is nothing special in terms of contrast brightness, but has no major weaknesses either. Following the trend we’ve seen recently, it offers accurate colors and a decent range of colors that show 77% of the AdobeRGB color space.

However, the speakers could use a little more enthusiasm. I had high hopes because the G14 includes a pair of upward tweeters and two woofers on the hinge. They are loud enough, but a modern iPhone sounds better. Between the speakers and the whine of the coil, you should pair the G14 with decent headphones.

Keyboard and touchpad

The inputs are a mixed bag. Let’s start with the good things. The touchpad is excellent, which surprised me. Such a good touchpad in a gaming laptop is hard to find, as many manufacturers assume that you are using an external mouse. Not here. That’s a good call, as the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is small enough to be used as an everyday laptop.

Typing on the Zephyrus is not a problem, but there is room for improvement.

The keyboard is also spacious and offers the typical ROG layout. Keys such as the volume control are located above the function line. Larger ROG laptops have additional keys on the right, but have been omitted here. This is wise because I prefer a comfortable layout rather than a button to scroll up and down.

While typing is not a slog, there is definitely room for improvement. Key presses have a lot of leeway, but the bottom-out action is mushy. This creates an inaccurate typing experience that gets tired over time. The keyboard backlight is also limited. It is a single zone that is not customizable, which is rare in a gaming laptop these days. The backlight is uneven and illuminates some keys better than others.

The power switch is located above the standard layout and contains an integrated fingerprint reader. This is important because the Zephyrus G14 strangely does not have a built-in webcam. That means no Windows Hello face detection and no zoom calls. I have the idea – this is not a laptop for video calls. Still, given the potential crossover appeal as content creation and business laptop, it is a strange thing to omit.

Battery life

Gaming laptops are not known for their battery life, even when you are not playing. The Zephyrus G14 doesn’t change that, even though it lasts longer than other gaming laptops. The G14 managed almost 6 hours under a light load from surfing the Internet. This is not a good comparison with a modern ultrabook like the XPS 13 or HP Specter x360, which can take up to 10 hours with the same test.

However, it is one of the best in its class for a gaming laptop. It’s half an hour longer than the Dell G7 gaming laptop and Razer Blade, and hours before laptops with G-Sync like Zephyrus M and Alienware M15.

The Zephyrus G14 performs even better in CPU-intensive tests. The Basemark battery test lasted 4 hours and provides an overview of battery life in heavier applications. Adding 10 hours of local video playback on one charge gives you the best battery life you can get with a gaming laptop.

Our opinion

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 challenges other thin gaming laptops like the Razer Blade. The G14 offers more than enough power for most PC gamers. In addition, thanks to its 8-core processor, it is one of the best content creation and editing laptops you can buy at this price.

Does it also work as a standalone laptop? The constant hum of the fans and the lack of a webcam are not ideal for everyday laptop use. However, the G14’s sufficient battery life and display make it a good choice for work and travel.

Are there alternatives?

No gaming laptop is as small and powerful as the Zephyrus G14. As you become less powerful and even smaller, you can opt for something like the Razer Blade Stealth.

When you step into the world of 15-inch laptops, your options expand quickly. The Razer Blade 15 and MSI GS65 are as thin as the G14, although it’s heavier and bigger. They are also significantly more powerful and offer graphics options up to the RTX 2080 Max-Q. The closest price alternative is Predator Helios 300This offers a similar configuration, but with fewer processor cores and a much larger package.

If you need a 15-inch content creation laptop that can be played on the side, I recommend the Dell XPS 15. It’s not as powerful a slot machine as the G14, but it’s a more balanced content creation option.

How long it will take?

The G14 should have at least three or four years of gaming performance before showing its age. It is well built, current and powerful. Unfortunately, Asus only offers a one-year warranty to cover defects, including the battery. After that you are alone.

Should you buy it

Yes. It is an extremely powerful laptop in a surprisingly small design.

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