Laptop, Opinion, Review

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Belongs in a Class of Its Own

When the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 made its first appearance at CES 2020, it was easily one of the most exciting gaming laptops to be unveiled at the trade show. Not only does it sport a unique dot-matrix top lid, it is also a modern 14-inch gaming laptop. You don’t often see a gaming machine in such a portable form factor.

To top it off, the Zephyrus G14 is a powerful gaming laptop as well, thanks to the combination of AMD’s excellent Ryzen 9 4900HS processor and Nvidia’s RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU in the range-topping configuration. It’s not quite the end of the year yet, but this is easily the most exciting gaming laptop of 2020 – the G14’s feature set simply puts it in a class of its own.

What’s So Good About It?

First and foremost, the Zephyrus G14 is a 14-inch gaming laptop. This alone gives it a unique, appealing factor compared to other modern gaming laptops in the market now, which usually comes with (at the very least) a 15.6-inch screen. Thanks to the G14’s much more compact form factor, I can comfortably carry it around in my backpack.

In fact, the G14 is actually my daily driver right now; it serves double duty as my work laptop and gaming machine. Not many gaming laptops can strike such a good balance in these two regards, and let me tell you: the G14 can serve as a surprisingly good productivity laptop.

Now, one of the most important aspects of a good productivity-focused laptop has to be battery life, and the Zephyrus G14 simply excels in this area. On average, I can easily get between nine to 10 hours of use on a single charge. Granted, I got this level of battery life with the power plan set to battery saver, and the screen was dimmed to a comfortable level.

Still, it’s amazing how the G14 can deliver over 10 hours of use despite packing some beefy hardware under the hood. The configuration I tested is powered by the excellent Ryzen 9 4900HS; a 35W TDP octa-core processor. Compared to the more power-hungry Intel Core i7-10875H chip, the Ryzen 9 offers notably better multi-core performance in CineBench R20.

Surprisingly enough, even in the single-core test, both processors return very similar results. Just look at how these two chips compare to each other in the table below. We also include the Ryzen 7 4800H to show just how capable AMD’s Ryzen 4000 processors are.

ProcessorSingle-core testMulti-core test
AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS (Asus ROG Zephyrus G14)4814173
AMD Ryzen 7 4800H (Asus TUF Gaming A15)4814106
Intel Core i7-10875H (Acer Predator Triton 500)4833773
Games (max settings @ 1080p)Average FPS
Witcher 3 (HairWorks disabled)65.38
Borderlands 3 (DX11)47.91
Apex Legends102.05

Not only does the Zephyrus G14 offer incredibly good CPU performance, the RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU in this range-topping model can provide high enough frame rates in AAA titles too. Of course, this being the Max-Q design, it is ever so slightly slower than the regular RTX 2060. Nonetheless, it can still offer a respectable level of performance, as you can see above.

Further enhancing the gaming experience of the G14 is the 14-inch display. Two screen options are available: a 1920 x 1080 IPS display with a fast 120Hz refresh rate, or a higher resolution 2560 x 1440 IPS panel with a more conventional 60Hz refresh rate. Regardless of which option you go for, both screens are Pantone Validated with 100% sRGB colour coverage.

Unfortunately, I only managed to test the 1440p panel of the Zephyrus G14. While it’s a sharp, high quality screen with good colour reproduction, the 60Hz refresh rate isn’t exactly ideal for a gaming laptop of this calibre. Plus, the RTX 2060 Max-Q wouldn’t be able to deliver particularly high frame rates in 1440p either.

Unless you absolutely need the higher resolution screen, I highly recommend the 1080p screen option with a 120Hz refresh rate if you want the best gaming experience on the G14. The 1080p resolution is a much more ideal pairing with the RTX 2060 Max-Q, and the 120Hz refresh rate will provide a smoother gaming experience with superior motion clarity.

However, I was told by Asus Malaysia that the 1080p screen option for the range-topping Ryzen 9 Zephyrus G14 will only be arriving here sometime next month in December 2020. Just hold out a bit longer if you can afford to wait.

Beyond the screen, the Zephyrus G14 has a pretty darn good keyboard as well. It offers plenty of key travel with pronounced tactile feedback, both of which lend to a “cushiony,” comfortable typing experience. That being said, the white backlighting doesn’t look particularly good with the white keys, but it will do in a pinch.

As for the trackpad, it works as intended. Every click feels solid, the trackpad’s smooth glass surface allows my fingers to glide effortlessly on it, and it’s accurate too. While I am a little annoyed that I can’t disable the trackpad’s mouse acceleration – disabling it from the Windows settings did nothing – it is ultimately a small issue.

Last but certainly not least is the flashy AniMe Matrix LED lighting on the top lid of the Zephyrus G14. Sure, it may seem gimmicky to some folks, but I had a ball playing around with the feature. The extra layer of personalisation afforded by the AniME Matrix display gives the laptop a truly unique aesthetic that is not offered by any of its competition.

Any Shortcomings?

Like with any laptop, there are some aspects of the Zephyrus G14 that could be further improved. Besides the fact that it doesn’t even have a webcam, the laptop’s system noise is a tad too loud in heated gaming sessions. Thankfully, it’s relatively quiet when I’m doing productivity tasks.

Aside from that, the G14 can get quite toasty as well. While the palm rest area doesn’t get uncomfortably warm when I’m gaming, the CPU does get alarmingly hot. In my testing, the Ryzen 9 4900HS heated up to a whopping 95°C, though the RTX 2060 Max-Q is kept in check much better, only hitting up to 77°C.

And then there’s the asking price of the Zephyrus G14: this range-topping configuration of the gaming laptop costs a steep RM7,699. Of course, you do get 16GB of RAM and a generous 1TB SSD for that kind of money, but there’s no denying that it is a costly gaming laptop.

Conclusion

Despite its high asking price, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a premium gaming laptop in a 14-inch form factor; a combination that is simply not offered by any other brands. As I’ve said before in the beginning of this article, this puts the G14 in a class of its own. Coupled with its powerful performance and incredibly long battery life, you’ve got the perfect compact gaming machine that also serves as an excellent productivity laptop.

Yes, the Zephyrus G14’s system noise and thermals could be better, but that’s the trade-off we have to make to get such powerful hardware in a compact form factor; Asus only has so much space to work with. Hopefully, the next iteration of the gaming laptop would address these issues – I’m absolutely thrilled by the prospect of an even more refined Zephyrus G14 next year.