Asus Zephyrus S GX701: A gamer’s delight for those who can afford it

Could you justify the Zephyrus S' price for its performance?

Every once in a while, there comes a laptop that checks all boxes. Asus’ Zephyrus S GX701 is one of them. From an all-round perspective, there is no other laptop that offers what it does. But it does come at an incredibly steep price of Dh13,999.

Design and build

Immediately out of the box, the laptop’s 2.7kg chassis feels solid. Its imposing design is well suited for its target audience and the magnesium build is cool to the touch and gives off a premium vibe. The square casing with sharp edges also makes the laptop unique. Of course, it’s also finished with a RGB-lit chrome ROG logo on the lid.

The square chassis looks industrial and rugged

With the exterior out of the way, the lid opens up to an uncommon interior. For the majority of the top section, you find a perforated venting plate to help cool the GX701. Due to this, the keyboard finds itself lower down than what we’re used to from laptops whereas the mouse moves to the right side. There are quick access buttons placed above the mouse-pad and the mouse-pad can also turn itself into a number-pad whenever required, which is useful.

Easy access to scrolling and volume control is convenient with the moving scroll

While this change in layout is passable, it might not be suited for someone who is left-handed. And as far as the keyboard is concerned, you can certainly use it for general typing and gaming. The added individual RGB lighting is a good addition too but there is something about the keyboard that makes it feel cramped over extended use. So if this laptop is your daily driver, definitely consider using an external gaming keyboard when at home.

Asus’ Active Aerodynamic System helps with cooling the laptop a fair bit

Otherwise, I quite prefer the vertical-moving scroll found on the top left of the laptop. It is an eyesore but provides good functionality especially when controlling volume. The minimal copper accents around the laptop add a bit of character. But most importantly is Asus’ Active Aerodynamic System. With this, the base of the Zephyrus automatically opens up on a hinge creating a small vent that dramatically improves heat dissipation.

Port selection

For a laptop of this calibre, you expect nothing less when it comes to I/O and connectivity. There is a USB 3.1 Type-C and two standard USB 3.1 ports on the right edge. Additionally, the left edge sees an HDMI out, DisplayPort 1.4, standard USB 3.1 and a USB 3.1 Type-C port. Here, you will also find a 3.5mm microphone and headphone jack combo.

All relevant ports are present except Ethernet LAN

This selection will bode well with most gamers and offers great choice. But one omission is the lack of an Ethernet LAN port. This obviously means resorting to an external dongle for the port or relying on WiFi connectivity alone with Asus’ RangeBoost technology. But here, Asus could have gotten extra brownie points if the dongle was included out of the box because with the rise of online games, wired internet is slowly becoming a necessity.

Display

Despite having an external display of my own, one thing that kept me hooked to this laptop was the 17.3-inch 1080p display. Considering the overall footprint of the machine, this size is impressive. But it is not just size that is the wow factor when it comes to the laptop’s display.

The 1080p display with a 144Hz refresh rate hits the sweet spot for general use and gaming

Its super narrow bezel and 81 per cent screen-to-body ratio makes gaming immersive and distraction free. Additionally, the panel comes with PANTONE colour certification, which means it can achieve 100 per cent sRGB colour performance and yet maintain a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time.

I am a fan of the external camera and commend Asus for including it out of the box

With the narrow bezel design though, a notable omission is the webcam. Instead, Asus provides a dedicated [email protected] high quality camera that you can use externally. The GC21 camera is actually not a bad solution and performs much better than a standard built-in camera. Additionally, it comes with a stand, which means you can position it as per your requirements, be it video calling or using it as a face-cam when streaming games.

Specifications and hardware

Powering the Asus Zephyrus S is Intel’s latest eighth-generation i7-8750HQ processor. The six-core CPU with 12 threads can reach speeds up to 4.1GHz and handles gaming and other tasks extremely well. With it comes 24GB of dedicated DDR4 memory and a 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD storage, which can be further expanded with the slots on board.

USB-C power delivery is unique and works to best during travel to keep the machine from running out of battery power

The battery on the laptop is an 11.8A cell, which is sizeable but it will not last on that for too long. However, the Zephyrus comes with a unique charging mechanism via USB-C that comes in handy during travel. With a portable power pack, you can keep the Zephyrus S powered up. Even with a smaller 65W charger, there is enough power delivered to get the essentials done. But by no means can this portable power delivery solution be used for full-scale gaming, for which the laptop needs to be plugged into an AC power supply with the provided 280W charger.

Gaming performance

Asus’ Zephyrus S is one of the world’s first laptops to ship with NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q design and 8GB of dedicated DDR6 VRAM. With this GPU, you get unparalleled performance with not only traditional CUDA cores but also dedicated cores for ray tracing improving the quality of lighting, shadows and other effects in games.

There is a sense of great realism in many games and combined with the fluidity of the 144Hz panel, the experience is elevated. Modern day games such as Fortnite, Apex Legends and PUBG run with no problems whatsoever on high-end settings, averaging 100FPS.

On Epic settings, Fortnite can run at over 100FPS easily

Heavier games like Battlefield 5 or Call of Duty Black Ops 4 will get you an average of about 70FPS, which is still very good.

Apex Legends is another popular shooter that the laptop handles with no problem

While these frame rates and performance readings come with the laptop running G-SYNC, there is an option to run at a lower power rating too. NVIDIA’s Optimus mode allows you to save power and battery life and effectively lets you change between discrete and Optimus graphics with a reboot. In the Optimus mode, it is the iGPU that does most of the processing without the letting the GPU take over, leading to battery saving in the long run.

Verdict

For a gaming laptop and desktop replacement, the Asus Zephyrus S GX701 is the prime choice. There is nothing major to complain about in terms of its performance, build and design. For any gamer, whether casual or hardcore, or even for a media professional, this laptop is the ideal choice. But at its price, it is a steep investment even for the most hardcore enthusiasts.