ASUS RoG Zephyrus GX501

A thin gam­ing lap­top that gives us our first look at Nvidia’s Max-Q tech.

APC Australia - - Contents - Bo Moore

Thanks in a large part to the GTX 10-se­ries GPUs — Nvidia’s Pascal ar­chi­tec­ture — which of­fers ex­cel­lent per­for­mance at lower tem­per­a­tures than gen­er­a­tions past, the lat­est crop of gam­ing lap­tops of­fer su­perb power in a shell that’s thin and light, free from huge, bulky fans.

At Com­pu­tex this year, Nvidia re­vealed its new ‘Max-Q’ de­sign phi­los­o­phy, which is cen­tred around find­ing the right bal­ance be­tween power and ef­fi­ciency, in or­der to put high-per­for­mance graph­ics cards into the thinnest note­books pos­si­ble. The RoG Zephyrus is the first Max-Q lap­top we’ve tested, and it de­liv­ers on that prom­ise of thin, quiet, pow­er­ful gam­ing, while mea­sur­ing just 20mm thick when closed. To be clear, the Zephyrus’ GTX 1080 is not as pow­er­ful as its desk­top equiv­a­lent — or even one found in a (much bulkier) non-Max-Q lap­top. In fact, it’s about 15% less pow­er­ful than those mo­bile op­tions.

What it loses out on in raw power, the Zephyrus makes up for in size and sound. It’s sig­nif­i­cantly qui­eter than any gam­ing lap­top we’ve seen. More im­pres­sively, all of these other ‘thin-an­d­light’s have mostly sported GTX 1060 (or be­low) GPUs, so even if the Zeph’s GTX 1080 is un­der­pow­ered com­pared to a desk­top GTX 1080, it’s still vastly more pow­er­ful than ev­ery­thing else called ‘thin and light’.

To keep tem­per­a­tures cool (and also stay quiet), the Zephyrus has a some­what awk­ward key­board lay­out that gives way to a rather in­ge­nious cool­ing so­lu­tion. The key­board is lo­cated right at the front of the chas­sis — where the touch­pad and wrist rests are nor­mally sit­u­ated — with the touch­pad smooshed over to the right. This leaves the top half of the chas­sis — where a key­board nor­mally sits — free for a meshed ven­ti­la­tion area. A num­ber of fans sit here, suck­ing in air to cool the GPU, be­fore spit­ting it out the back through a gap that opens up when the lap­top is open.

The key­board lay­out is a lit­tle awk­ward to use (the Zeph comes boxed with an ex­ter­nal rub­ber wrist rest to im­prove things a lit­tle), but is far from un­us­able. More than any­thing, it means you’ll sit­u­ate the Zephyrus a few inches fur­ther back on your desk than a nor­mal lap­top, which might be an is­sue if you lack desk real es­tate. Sim­i­larly, it’s even more awk­ward to use on your lap, and not some­thing we’d rec­om­mend.

The Zephyrus has all the stan­dards of a cur­rent-gen gam­ing lap­top: In­tel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 512GB SSD, 16GB RAM. It also fea­tures a 15.6-inch anti-glare wide­view panel, with a 1080p res­o­lu­tion, 120Hz re­fresh rate and Nvidia’s G-Sync tech­nol­ogy. Those fi­nal two bits are the most im­por­tant, be­cause aim­ing for a higher frame rate at 1080p is a much bet­ter use of GPU power than at­tempt­ing to run games at higher res­o­lu­tion.

The Zephyrus out­per­forms the GTX 1070 lap­top in gam­ing tests by about 5–10% but falls short of the full-size lap­top or desk­top GTX 1080 sys­tems by 10–15%. But the trade-off in per­for­mance is more than made up for by the Zephyrus’ sleek frame.

The lap­top starts at $4,999, which sounds like a lot for its level of per­for­mance (by com­par­i­son, the RoG Strix GL502VS that it barely out­per­forms is only $2,999). But in this case, you’re pay­ing for the con­ve­nience of a sleek, tiny frame, and the en­gi­neer­ing re­quired to keep ev­ery­thing cool and quiet.


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