ASUS has built a reputation of being a reliable and a solid competitor in the PC gaming market. Not just hardware, but the company offers a very strong portfolio of gaming desktops and notebooks in India. Earlier this year the company dropped the ROG Zephyrus G14, and I only noticed the machine due to some really positive reviews all around the global markets.
Well, the company has finally brought it to India, and before I dive into the review, I have to admit, this was one of the best and most exciting products that I tested this year.
Right out of the box, the machine gives off this compact feel. It isn’t super slim like an ultrabook or anything, but is still very sleek. My excitement grew as I saw a really well-made sleeve for the notebook bundled in the box. Now this notebook is premium, and it's not just the looks. You can feel the materials are premium even though there is use of plastic on the lid. It is available in two colours- Moonlight White and Eclipse Grey.
The bottom chassis is made out of magnesium-aluminum alloy while the lid comes with 6,536 precision CNC perforations that makes this whole product unique. You see under these perforations, there are white LEDs that in a way adds another display to the laptop. ASUS calls this AniMe Matrix, which is user configurable and customisable to showcase almost any kind of text or pattern. More on that later.
The Zephyrus G14 takes aesthetics seriously and it clearly shows. You won't find any flashy RGB lighting or ROG branding apart from a sleek metal plate on the bottom corner of the lid. The inner deck is also clean with just regular white backlighting and dedicated keys for volume, mic control and the ASUS Armoury Crate software. The power button has a unique hexagonal design which also embeds a fingerprint scanner for Windows Hello login. The machine also makes use of the company’s Ergolift design that slightly raises the lower deck for improved airflow for the internal fans.
The inner side of the lid comes with plastic bezels and a rubber lining. Also, there is no webcam on this notebook, which seems like a weird decision, considering this machine has enough power for gamers who want to stream their content.
This is one of the most premium looking ASUS laptops that I’ve seen in awhile. While It might not look like a gaming laptop, there is a certain flair about the G14 that allows it to blend in almost any environment. Not to mention, it is fairly slim and easier to lug around.
ASUS is offering two display options both of which come with an anti-glare matte finish,100-percent sRGB, Pantone Validation and adaptive sync. The unit I got was the WQHD (2560 x 1440) panel with 60Hz refresh rate. There is also an option for a full HD (1920 x 1080) panel with 120Hz refresh rate.
Now the display is not of a very high quality, in fact ASUS calls it IPS-level instead of a proper IPS panel. However, colours look good and I was pretty satisfied with the viewing angles. It isn’t the brightest one out there, and at 320-nits there is definitely room for improvement especially when you use it in bright environments. Having said that, this display should be good for everyday workloads and gaming. I didn’t get to try the 120Hz panel, but from what I’ve heard it is pretty much similar in terms of colour reproduction and contrast.
KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD
The notebook comes with a chiclet keyboard with white LEDs under the keys and a claimed 1.7mm of key travel. In terms of usage they do feel really good and I got used to them pretty quick. I didn’t like the way the backlighting was implemented as it looks very uneven on the silver keys. Also, they aren’t really silent, as one would expect on such a keyboard, but if you are used to a mechanical keyboard like me, then it shouldn’t be an issue. I like the fact that ASUS has given dedicated keys for the microphone, volume adjustment and Armoury Crate software. Makes life easier.
The touchpad has a glass finish on top and seems fine for daily usage. It could've been bigger in size, but seemed pretty accurate and responsive thanks to the Windows precision drivers. I am not much of a gestures person, but those felt on point as well.
ANIME MATRIX LEDS
ASUS is offering the G14 with something very unique. Something that is not seen on any laptop. The AniMe Matrix LED lights are available on the higher tier models, while the base configurations just come with the perforations. Now of course I got the model with the AniMe Matrix LEDs. It adds some character to the notebook, and in a way acts as a secondary display. Now strictly speaking, it is meaningless as it doesn’t solve a purpose, but it's there, and is a fun element to the notebook.
Using the Armoury Crate software, you can control these LEDs to showcase some of the pre-loaded ROG art, as well as text or art of your choice, system information and even some effects that react to music. The controls are fairly simple to use although it can be tricky to apply custom artwork as it can look distorted. You can also get information like your battery status, or the number of emails you’ve received, while you fetch your meal from the kitchen. But if you have a desk like me that faces the wall, the whole purpose of this arrangement makes no sense. There is also a feature where the LEDs have this shooting star sort of a pattern going on when the notebook is shut while being charged.
A novelty addition, I must say, that it is very unique. It is more of a show-off feature, like RGB lighting. But I am not very sure how much of a problem solver this feature is. Maybe in the future ASUS can figure something out.
This is a slim gaming notebook and ASUS continues to offer two full-size USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports (one of which offers DisplayPort and USB PD features) an HDMI 2.0b port and a headphone and mic combo jack. There is also a dedicated barrel charging port which is of course necessary to deliver power for the onboard graphics. I wasn’t too happy with the placement of the ports as they are placed in the middle of the right and left edges of the machine, which isn't the most appropriate location as it hinders the usage
Coming down to business, I was sent the top of the line variant with the AMD Ryzen 4900-HS octa-core processor that is clocked at 3GHz with boosts speeds of 4.3GHz. Along with that there is 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and 1TB of PCIe M.2 SSD. As for graphics, the machine came with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM.
There are other configurations available as well including an AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS processor that comes with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q GPU. As for the memory, there is only one SO-DIMM slot, while the other 8GB of RAM is soldered. This means you can go to a maximum of 24GB. The M.2 SSD slot is accessible, but there is no option for a second SSD.
Now having an 8-core CPU in this small form factor just sounds brilliant. It runs super fast and performance is stellar. It puts most high-end Intel powered notebooks to shame with Geekbench multi-core benchmark scores surpassing the Core i9 9980-HK. That’s not all, it also offers impressive file transfer speeds as well as render times on the Handbrake video editing test.
As for the gaming performance, I was in a bit of a situation as I was sent over the WQHD panel with 60Hz refresh rate. So to test the gaming capabilities, I hooked the notebook to my LG UltraGear 27GL650 monitor. I was able to get over 100fps on Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order and Rise of the Tomb Raider while games like Titanfall 2 and Fortnite were around the 144fps mark.
Of course, the machine does get toasty under heavy loads and I saw the CPU hitting peak temperatures of 93-degrees with the GPU reaching 80-85-degrees. This is obviously due to the small form factor of the notebook. This also means that the fans can get really loud. Now the palm rests were fairly usable while gaming, although the top part of the keyboard gets extremely hot due to the exhaust vents. I didn’t notice any major thermal throttling, but over a period of usage this could be a major concern.
As a day-to-day workstation, I was quite happy with this notebook. The G14 is great for typing, streaming movies or just juggling between numerous Chrome tabs.
I think the implementation of the speakers are nicely done. There are two top-firing tweeters with two bottom firing speakers. It gets loud, and offers a little bit of thump as well. It felt great for music and watching movies, and I think it should also be really good in case you don’t use headphones while gaming.
Like most of its gaming oriented products, ASUS offers various performance and fan profiles on the G14. Turning on the silent mode helps in saving battery life especially when you don’t have a lot of heavy workflow. I was able to get 7 hours of non-stop battery with medium to low screen brightness which is pretty impressive for a gaming machine. To power up the Nvidia GPU you need to plug in the 180W charging brick which tops up the battery in about an hour and 30 minutes. The notebook also supports USB PD 65W charging via one of the Type-C ports, which takes over two and a half hours to charge the battery.
The Zephyrus G14 is clearly a solid product from ASUS. Choosing the AMD Ryzen CPUs has made a lot of sense as it blows away the competition and makes for the fastest 14-inch notebook on the market. The laptop also impressed me with its new-age design although it isn’t perfect, but very close to it. Overall, if you are looking for a balance of design and superior performance, you cannot go wrong with this one.