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ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) Review




ASUS ROG’s Zephyrus line takes thin-and-light gaming laptops to a different level thanks to their low profile and functional design while keeping power. Today, we’re taking a look at the smallest of the bunch, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531).

It’s panning out to be an ultimate staple for gaming on-the-go, so let’s see if it holds up to that reputation. The unit used for this review is the 2018 model with a GTX 1060, not one of the RTX-powered ones recently launched at CES 2019.

Design and Construction

At first glance, it’s what you expect from a Zephyrus. It’s thin, it’s stealthy, and if it’s your first time seeing one, it’s jarring. Most people would be confused at the sight of the keyboard’s position, but that’s okay. We’re going to discuss that later on.

The 15.6-inch screen is surrounded by thin bezels on the side with a slightly thicker forehead and even thicker chin. Since this is a laptop and not a smartphone, the bigger chin is acceptable, especially since ASUS was able to squeeze in the webcam on top.

The RGB keyboard and trackpad setup is a two-sided coin. You may think it would be weird to use since you would usually rest your palms on the bottom portion of the notebook, which is true, but there are two experiences this affects.

One one hand, it’s great for gaming. If you think about it, if you were using a standalone keyboard, your palms would be resting on the tabletop anyway. The trackpad being on the right doesn’t matter in this situation either, because who games without a mouse anyway?

On the other hand, the unusual setup doesn’t make it too comfortable to use when you’re working on the go, when the unit is on your lap. The position isn’t too comfortable, and the trackpad being so small and on the right side, doesn’t help either.

Speaking of which, the trackpad also doubles as a numpad, which objectively, is a great use of space. But it’s definitely a pain to use, especially if you do anything else that isn’t gaming.

When it comes to being the thinnest gaming laptop, the Zephyrus S definitely delivers. We see the return of that awesome scissor-door hinge that opens up when you lift the lid to allow more air intake. It’s also smart about the port selection and placement.

On the left, we get the DC-in, one USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, two USB-A 2.0, and a combo audio port. On the right, a USB-A 3.1 port and a USB-C port with support for DisplayPort 1.2.

Interestingly, at the back, we also get a full-size HDMI 2.0 port alongside the Kensington lock. This will make setting up an external monitor or VR headset look really neat, as you won’t see the cable sticking out from the side.

Despite not conducive to work on the go, this device is definitely great for gaming on the go. At just a little over 2kg, it doesn’t hold you back too much when it’s in your backpack, and as long as you’re gonna be gaming on a table big enough to accommodate both the laptop and a mousepad, then you’re golden.


Display and Multimedia

The Zephyrus S comes with a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS-level panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. For competitive gaming, this is an awesome panel. It’s bright, fast, and responsive.

I also wouldn’t rule out doing any sort of creative work, since we do get 100% coverage of the sRGB color space. Hardcore content creators probably won’t go near this thing, but let’s say if you’re purely a video editor and not a colorist, it will suffice. Add that to the fact that the device is very portable, too.

ASUS is somewhat known for having great audio, and the Zephyrus S is no exception. The two 2W speakers are loud and clear. Watching movies on this thing without headphones is great. The sound isn’t too muffled at high volumes, but there is clarity and slightly noticeable bass.

Performance and Benchmarks

Under the hood, our unit sports an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, and a 512GB NVMe SSD. For a device this thin, it’s amazing that we get an H-series processor and not just a U-series one.

We tested one AAA game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and a heavier esports game, Overwatch. In-game graphics settings are at the maximum possible.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 36FPS (ave.)
Overwatch: 82FPS (ave.)

With an average FPS of 36 in RoTTR, bumping down our settings to maybe medium or even high will likely get us to the optimal minimum of 60FPS. For Overwatch, we got a surprising 82FPS at Epic settings, which means that if we were to go way down to Low settings, then we will definitely be able to take advantage of that 144Hz panel.

3DMark Fire Strike: 7712
3DMark Time Spy: 3022

We also tested performance using 3DMark Fire Strike and Time Spy. By desktop standards, these scores aren’t great, but not too shabby for a thin-and-light gaming laptop.

The fact that we get a full-on 6C 12T processor and a GTX 1060 is another reason this device is great for content creators, especially ones who are on the go. It’s certainly not as versatile as a MacBook, but at least you can also actually play games.

Conclusion

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S one hell of a sleek thin-and-light gaming notebook. It has a functional but beautiful design, hardware that can please both gamers and creatives, and portability that all desktop gaming PCs secretly envy. You do have to get past the keyboard & trackpad setup and somewhat lacking I/O, but once you do, you’re definitely in for a lot.

The thing is though, is that it’s very pricey! At PHP 129,995, it’s a giant investment. For that money, you can go the team Apple route if you’re a content creator, or go the PCMR route and build a desktop that’s miles ahead in terms of gaming performance. But for the amazing portability and badass ROG badge of pride that you get, I’d say it’s worth it, but definitely not for everyone.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) specifications:

  • 15.6-inch Full HD IPS 144Hz, 3ms IPS level display @ 1920 x 1080
  • Intel Core I7-8750H 2.2GHz processor (Max turbo at 3.9GHz)
  • Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5)
  • 16GB DDR4 2666MHz SDRAM (8 x 8 dual channel)
  • 512GB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD
  • WiFi 802.11ac 2×2
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 2x2W speakers with smart amplifier technology
  • HDMI 2.0
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
  • 2x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
  • Combo Audio Port
  • 4-cell 55Wh battery
  • 360mm x 268mm x 14.95-15.75mm
  • 2.1kg

What we liked:

  • Functional, beautiful design
  • Capable performer
  • 144Hz screen
  • Surprisingly good audio

What we didn’t:

  • VERY expensive
  • Not suitable for working on your lap

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) is priced at PHP 129,995.

 



Joey graduated with a degree in Digital Filmmaking from the De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde last March 2017. A filmmaker by heart, he has since put aside cinema to focus on his other passion, technology. PCs, mechanical keyboards, audio, cameras, and gaming are among his biggest tech interests.

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