A good-looking, thin, fast and quiet machine, that really wants to remain tethered to the wall.
- Very thin
- Good sound
- Quiet fans
- Slightly esoteric layout
- Weak battery
There are certain trade-offs you expect when purchasing a gaming laptop. If you want power, you're going to have to settle for something that looks and weighs like a stack of bricks, and makes a noise like a Harrier Jump Jet. Want something sleek, thin and quiet? Buy a whippet.
Until now. The Asus ROG Zephyrus manages to combine a sleek, attractive and lightweight shell with the sort of performance usually reserved for machines that make you reinforce your desk before you risk putting them anywhere near it. And, incredibly, its fans do little more than whisper.
It does this in part thanks to Nvidia's Max-Q technology - basically a set of engineering feats the chip manufacturer has pulled off in tandem with a few laptop manufacturers, which means we no longer have to buy laptops we can barely lift, and turn volumes up to 11 just to hear them over the roar of their own fans. It's all about efficiency, both electrical and thermal, and boy have they cracked it with the Asus ROG Zephyrus.
But then for the £2,799.99 which the model we tested will set you back, you'd hope for something a bit special. Our model included an Intel i7-7700 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card - so it's already in the ‘special' category from specs alone.
And that specialness continues, with the machine arriving in the most well-presented box we've seen for a laptop, and then you flip open the lid…
It's a slightly peculiar design, with the speakers taking up much of the non-screen real-estate, leaving the keyboard and trackpad seemingly crammed down one end of the base. We found it odd to start with, but soon got used to it. Besides that, the black metal chassis with copper detailing gives it a refined air, and the hinge - which brilliantly acts to lift the base off the desk, improving airflow and therefore cooling - feels smooth and durable.
So, it's a looker, but how clever is it?
The answer is: very. Running on 64-bit Windows 10, the machine managed an overall score of 5615 on Time Spy, the 3D benchmarking test from Futuremark. That puts it very much towards the top end even for dedicated gaming laptops, which is what you'd expect for a high-specced machine running an Nvidia GTX 1080. That score broke down into 5954 for graphics, and 4248 for its CPU, though you're unlikely to care too much about the latter unless you're planning on using it for long duration-Dwarf Fortress games.
We also tested Forza Horizons 3, running at 1920 x 1080 (the maximum resolution the 15-inch screen is designed for), with all settings at maximum. The game was very smooth, and looked beautiful on the screen. Frame rates averaged out around 84, going up to the high 90s in some sections, and briefly down to about 70 in some of the high density jungle roads. That's significantly above the Lenovo Legion Y520, which could only manage around 23-30 FPS at that resolution, though it is of course a much cheaper and lower specced machine. You get what you pay for.
In fact, the Zephyrus was beaten in performance only by the Alienware 17 R4 in our upcoming gaming Ultrabook roundup tests - a machine with similar specs, but a concertedly dissimilar approach to size, weight and fan noise. It proved itself more powerful than the similarly specced Legion Y720 from Lenovo, though to be fair that machine is around £1,200 cheaper, and packs an NVidia GTX 1060, rather than the Zephyrus' 1080.
Still, it packs more than enough power for all the games of today and no doubt the next few years too.
And what of those speakers, taking up so much space as they do? The fact that they're so loud and clear, whether streaming music or gaming, is perhaps one of the reasons we were so quick to forget the slightly squashed keyboard. They sound is rich enough, and the laptop quiet enough, that you won't feel the need to automatically reach for your headphones every time you turn it on.
Coming back to the screen, it won't go above 1920 x 1080, which is slightly surprising in modern times, but actually at 15 inches, your not-yet-bionic eyes will struggle to discern any extra detail that higher resolutions might bring anyway. It is at least sharp, with decent viewing angles, and strong colours.
In fact the only thing we found worthy of criticism was the battery life, however to a large extent that goes with the territory with gaming Ultrabooks. This is not a machine for genuine gaming on the go, despite its size and weight. We could barely managed more than an hour of gaming from the battery, and struggled to do much better than double that when using it only for typing and web browsing. So if you're looking for something to while away hours in the coffee shop, this probably isn't the machine for you.
But for anyone looking for high-end gaming in an attractive, powerful and above all quiet package, you could do an awful lot worse than the Zephyrus.