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Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review: AMD has rewritten the rules

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Of their early years, gaming laptops had been meant to be desktop replacements. The primary Razer Blade, launched in 2011, was nearly seven kilos; the 2012 Blade was 6.6. Battery life was a laughing matter. (The 2017 Zephyrus had simply over two hours.) Gaming laptops had been cumbersome and garish. They had been designed for gaming on a price range, not for gaming on the go.

However the age of the ultraportable is right here. There’s now a 2.01-pound laptop computer with six cores, there’s a 3.3-pound laptop computer with a discrete GPU, and a 5-pound laptop computer is taken into account to be on the heavy aspect. Annually, we’re anticipating lighter notebooks that may do extra — and as productiveness laptops transfer in that path, so are the gaming machines.

That’s the place the AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS is available in. For the previous decade, the principle argument for a Ryzen chip over an Intel chip centered on value slightly than efficiency. However AMD has launched a CPU that might, for the primary time in latest reminiscence, compete with Intel’s top-of-the-line mannequin. The 35W 4900HS, with Eight cores, 16 threads, and three.Zero GHz clock speeds that may increase as much as 4.Four GHz, goes face to face with Intel’s Core i9-9880H; it’s meant to energy desktop-class gaming and productiveness in moveable laptops.

We’re getting our first take a look at the 4900HS in its quintessential use case: the $1,449 Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. By some means, Asus crammed a 4900HS and an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q right into a 14-inch pocket book that weighs simply over 3.5 kilos. It additionally has 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 120Hz show. It’s uncommon to see such {powerful} {hardware} in such a small chassis: the G14 is the smallest Zephyrus gaming laptop computer AMD has ever made, and it’s additionally one of many few 14-inch laptops to pair an H-series processor with a discrete GPU.

(You will get the identical mannequin with a Ryzen 7 4800HS, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, and the less-powerful GTX 1660 TI Max-Q for $1,299, or go all the way down to 8GB of RAM, a GTX 1650, and a 60Hz display for $1,049.)

I’m completely satisfied to say that the G14 delivers. The laptop computer is incredible for productiveness, and it’s plenty of enjoyable to make use of. The 4900HS and 2060 Max-Q duo can deal with demanding video games like Purple Useless Redemption II and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. As with every gaming rig, you’ll make some trade-offs for that efficiency. However within the grand scheme of issues, the sacrifices that the G14 asks are small.

I’ll begin by speaking in regards to the gaming expertise since that’s most likely what you care most about if you happen to clicked on this evaluate. Concern not: it’s good. It’s nearly as good as you’d count on from an H-Sequence processor, a 2060 Max-Q, and a 120Hz display.

CS:GO averaged 216fps on most settings, with a low of 49. Movement was clean, and I might see particular person mud particles and sparks flying from varied issues I shot. The extra graphically intensive Shadow of the Tomb Raider was additionally playable on the very best settings (with ray tracing off), averaging round 74fps with a minimal of 58. The play was additionally fairly clean and surroundings, from shiny cities to darkish jungles, regarded nice.

On the final word check, Purple Useless Redemption II cranked as much as Extremely (with quick and multisample anti-aliasing off), the G14 delivered extra of a console-like expertise, attaining a mean of 31fps and a low of 14. Rows of shops and timber had been a bit blurry as I galloped previous them on horseback, and there was some stuttering in flurries of mud and snow. However the sport was useful. Most individuals can have a greater time on Excessive settings, nonetheless, the place the G14 hovered round 50fps.

I think cooling is holding the G14 again considerably. The 4900HS received fairly sizzling below demanding titles; it hit 98 levels Celsius throughout my 80-minute session of Purple Useless, and 97 throughout my hour-long session of Tomb Raider. That’s not surprising from a 14-inch laptop computer operating AAA titles, however a laptop computer with the identical {hardware} however higher cooling would most likely see higher outcomes.

Now, for all the opposite stuff.

Asus has properly refined its retro aesthetic. If there have been laptops in Battlestar Galactica, they might appear to be the G14. A dot matrix covers half of the lid — these can operate as an LED show that may present GIFS, the time, and different neat results, however that mannequin received’t be obtainable for a couple of extra weeks. On the non-LED mannequin, they’re nonetheless a cool design.

Like many thinner laptops, the G14’s display folds below the deck while you open it, lifting the keyboard a bit above the bottom. This, in idea, helps with cooling by permitting air to higher flow into, and it additionally hides a piece of the display’s huge backside bezel. Some folks discover these kinds of hinge uncomfortable of their laps, however I had no downside with this one, which is blunt and rounded.

The port choice is serviceable: two USB-C, two USB-A, an HDMI, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The G14 can cost by way of USB-C, however there’s additionally a jack for Asus’ 180W adaptor if you happen to don’t need to take up a port. There’s no Thunderbolt 3, unsurprisingly, since that’s Intel’s proprietary commonplace. That is an unlucky draw back of utilizing an AMD system in the intervening time, although the G14’s HDMI and DisplayPort capabilities offer you different choices for connecting to peripherals.

This most likely received’t shock you if you happen to’ve owned a smaller gaming laptop computer earlier than, however if you happen to plan to make use of the G14 for shopping and productiveness, the most important trade-off you’re making is display high quality. The pocket book has a 1920 x 1080 display with a 16:9 side ratio, which is par for the course with smaller gaming machines. You’re not more likely to see many 14-inch 120Hz panels at any greater decision, and a 4K panel can be a giant ask of the 2060 Max-Q.

Which means the G14’s display is superb for gaming, and it’s not unhealthy for video-watching both. It’s matte and kicks again nearly no glare. Darkish scenes from Altered Carbon regarded nice, even in shiny rooms. Some lighter tones (akin to a marriage costume and Joel Kinnaman’s pores and skin) had a greenish tint to them, however it’s not noticeable if you happen to’re not on the lookout for it. (The display covers 100 % of the SRGB spectrum and 75.35 % of Adobe RGB.) I noticed much more glare open air, however it’s usable there in a pinch.

The draw back is that if you happen to plan on doing plenty of shopping or productiveness work, you’ll be extra cramped than you’d on a 3:2 show akin to that of Huawei’s MateBook 13. I needed to zoom out to 70 to 80 % to comfortably work two home windows aspect by aspect.

The second downside is the followers. The G14 does a powerful job maintaining itself cool, given the ability of the {hardware} it’s packing right into a 3.5-pound chassis. In case you’re utilizing this machine on its default fan settings for multitasking, you’re more likely to hear a continuing whine. It’s loud sufficient that your workplace neighbors will hear it. I received used to this pretty rapidly, however it’s a truth price noting if you happen to’re choosy about fan noise.

You can even change to Asus’ “Silent” profile, which makes the followers inaudible. I used to be frightened that muffling the followers would trigger the 4900HS to fry itself, however shopping on this profile was nonetheless very doable. You received’t need to use this mode for intensive gaming, in fact, however even whereas operating a number of Chrome tabs and a variety of different applications, together with Slack, Spotify, and a few benchmarks, the G14 was downright chilly in my lap, and the CPU didn’t go 35 levels Celsius.

Talking of the touchpad and keyboard, they’re each nice. The Home windows Precision Trackpad is an efficient measurement and really straightforward to press. The keys are clicky with first rate journey, with out being loud sufficient to harass officemates. The deck is sturdy, with little or no flex. The labels do retain Asus’ sci-fi font that appears prefer it belongs in a Johnny Rockets restaurant; you may take your individual view on that design selection. I additionally like that the G14 has a separate panel containing the amount controls and a key that mutes or unmutes the microphone, in addition to a barely much less useful button that opens Asus’ management panel.

I by no means thought I’d be saying this a few gaming laptop computer, however the battery life can also be superb. Throughout my regular workday of swapping between a dozen Chrome tabs, operating Slack, and sometimes streaming Netflix or Spotify at 50 % brightness and a balanced battery profile, I received round Eight hours and 50 minutes of juice. Which means the G14 could make it by a workday on battery and may deal with a protracted bus or airplane experience as properly. The machine took 41 minutes to cost as much as 60 % on Asus’ plug and 53 minutes to do the identical by way of USB-C.

After all, don’t count on to be doing a lot gaming on battery. Purple Useless on excessive settings ran round 18 to 20fps when the G14 wasn’t plugged in, dropping all the way down to the low teenagers at round 40 %, and the low single digits at 10 %. I received an hour and 38 minutes of gaming on a cost.

On the finish of the day, the Zephyrus G14 can deal with the multitasking you want it to. The keyboard, touchpad, and battery life are very good. In case you don’t thoughts a low-resolution display and followers you could hear, you’ll be proud of the G14 as your major machine. (If these are deal-breakers for you, although, you’ll want one thing else for shopping and work.)

However primarily, Asus and AMD have efficiently put Intel on discover. Final yr’s Core i7-powered Blade Stealth 13 was the primary 13-inch machine that got here with a GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU. Probably the most demanding sport it might deal with was what Engadget referred to as “a stuttery Future 2 expertise.” Nonetheless, many players hailed it as a triumph for being a 3.24-pound laptop computer that might run that title in any respect.

The Ryzen-powered G14 weighs only a bit greater than the Stealth GTX and it video games higher. I see no motive to purchase the Stealth GTX or any pricier gaming ultraportable when this laptop computer exists. AMD has rewritten the foundations of what a gaming laptop computer may be.

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