Asus ROG Zephyrus S Hands-On: A Slim, Capable, Expensive Gaming Laptop
December 13, 2018 Andrew Cheng

Thin and light gaming laptops have been around for quite some time now, and in recent times, laptops in this class have gotten much more refined. Take the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531GM, which has just landed in Malaysia. Sporting a very thin design with equally thin screen bezel, it’s a really handsome gaming laptop.

But unfortunately, as sleek as the Zephyrus S is, it’s also a very costly gaming laptop – its hardware does not match its steep asking price either. Nonetheless, let’s see what the laptop is all about.

Without a doubt the highlight feature of the Zephyrus S is its slim design, and measuring 14.95mm to 15.75mm thin, this is easily one of the slimmest gaming laptops in the market now. Weighing 2.1kg, it’s not all that heavy either. You’d still feel the weight of the laptop in your backpack, of course, but it’s still relatively lightweight for a gaming machine.

Besides that, most of the Zephyrus S’ chassis is made out of metal, and it feels very premium. Build quality is definitely one of the laptop’s strong points, but I don’t particularly like the plastic bezel surrounding the display. It feels cheap, and it doesn’t fit the Zephyrus’ positioning as a premium gaming laptop.

On the bright side, the Zephyrus S does have very thin bezels. This gives the laptop a very modern-looking design, but if I were to nitpick, I wish the bottom bezel can be reduced too. It would’ve made this gaming laptop an even sleeker-looking machine.

When it comes to connectivity, the Zephyrus S is quite alright. It features two USB-C ports, three full-size USB connections, an HDMI port at the back of the laptop, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. It would’ve been great if it had an ethernet port too, but it’s likely Asus didn’t want to sacrifice the Zephyrus’ thin design.

Oh, interestingly, the Zephyrus S also has a rather ingenious design to help with airflow. It’s something Asus calls Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) – when you open the lid of the Zephyrus, the bottom portion of the laptop opens up ever so slightly at the back to improve cooling.

I can’t say for sure if this unique design will really help with the laptop’s cooling performance, but Asus claims that it improves airflow by up to 22%.

Okay, so that’s the design of the Zephyrus S; what about its other hardware? Powered by an Intel Core i7-8750H processor paired with 16GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM, it should have enough processing power for gaming and everyday usage. However, the Malaysian market will only get the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU option; no choice for a GTX 1070 model.

While the GTX 1060 GPU – the 6GB variant, of course – under the hood of the Zephyrus S is capable enough to run modern games well, it doesn’t match the asking price of the laptop. Anyway, more on that later.

Aside from that, the Zephyrus S also comes with a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 AHVA display with a 144Hz refresh rate. It’s a fast panel, no doubt, and it’s fitting for a premium gaming laptop. Although it’s not an IPS display, the Zephyrus still has a bright and vibrant screen with good viewing angles.

In terms of storage, the Zephyrus S has a very generous 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIE SSD – a very fast drive.

Moving on, we have the Zephyrus S’ RGB keyboard, which is positioned on the front of the laptop for better cooling performance. Offering only 1.2mm of travel, the keyboard feels shallow to type on, but the keys are quite tactile. This makes for a rather pleasant typing experience, and even though the Zephyrus S doesn’t offer the best typing experience (not by a long shot), I can adjust pretty seamlessly to the keyboard.

Much like its predecessor, the Zephyrus S’ trackpad…is on the right side of the laptop. I have to be honest: it feels very jarring to use at first. However, I’m positive I can get used to the odd positioning after some time, and the trackpad can track my fingers accurately. I also like the fact that the trackpad also doubles as a numpad with the touch of a button.

That being said, it would’ve been great if the trackpad was slightly larger – it feels pretty crammed.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus S is a premium gaming laptop, and it has several winning qualities, including a slim and light design, fast display, and great build quality. Unfortunately, it carries a very premium price tag too. In Malaysia, the Zephyrus S retails at a whopping RM7,999.

For that kind of money, you can easily get a more capable gaming laptop than the Zephyrus S. In fact, a laptop with a GTX 1070 GPU won’t be all that hard to find at this price point. However, it will be quite a challenge to find a laptop with a similar design as the Zephyrus S.

If there’s any reason you’d want to get the Zephyrus S over any other gaming laptop, it would be for the design of the machine. You can definitely get another laptop with similar hardware for less money, but if you want a slim and light machine like the Zephyrus S, you’ll have to fork out a premium for it.