Powerful gaming laptops are changing significantly and for the better. They are no longer as bulky as they used to be, which also means they are more portable if that is what you need. The newer chipsets made on smaller architectures, newer graphics hardware, and improved cooling systems are some of the reasons for this positive change. Asus’ ROG series now adds the ROG Zephyrus M (GM501) laptop, which ticks off the boxes that are expected from a new age gaming laptop. An update to the ROG Zephyrus, the new Zephyrus M follows on its predecessor's lines, offering high-end specifications and attempting to keep its portability factor intact. Priced at Rs 1,99,990, it does cost a lot of money. But does the ROG Zephyrus M (GM501) justify this price tag?
Design & Build: Refreshing to look at, but surprising rough edges
Just taking out the Zephyrus M from its box builds up a high-level of anticipation for what is to unfold next and we must say the laptop does not disappoint there. Once you place it on the table, you get to see a somewhat familiar yet premium device, and you will admire the design for a moment or two. To paint a picture in words, the Zephyrus M sports straight lines, flat side spines and neatly placed angular cuts that greatly enhance its looks.
One such prominent dissection spreads out diagonally on the top of its lid, separating it into a dual-tone brushed metal finish. While the upper half sports the ROG logo on one side, the bottom spells ‘REPUBLIC OF GAMERS’ at the middle. Other such highlights include chamfered edges at its base which are copper coloured and a very-neat island-style backlit keyboard.
The oomph-factor of the Zephyrus M is something else though. As soon as you open up the lid, the rear of the laptop raises about a centimeter from the table, thanks to a special hinge at its bottom. What’s more, the feature is as practical as cool, as it enables the Zephyrus M to draw a larger air-intake for cooling.
As for its dimensions, the laptop has less than 2cms of thickness, meaning you can carry it around in most of the bags. The weight, however, is not user-friendly, measuring at 2.45 Kgs, though it is less than many of the other gaming laptops in this range. All in all, the Zephyrus M offers a decent portability as a high-end gaming laptop.
That was the good bit. But, this seems to be a clear case of two distinct halves.
While the Zephyrus M has a plenty of visual appeal, it does not seem to offer an equal amount of confidence in its durability. Press at different points of the laptop, and the rough edges show up. For instance, press down even slightly on the palm-rest and you will see a noticeable flex in the panel. Similarly the lid. Many people have the bad habit of keeping the power adapter on the lid of the closed laptop when not in use, but if you do that on the Zephyrus M, the lid is prone to a bit of flex down the middle. Then there is the underside, and the moment you lift it in a conventional style you pick up a laptop, there is this nagging feeling of the below par build quality. And not just for the feels, this has practical drawbacks as well. The special hinge that we talked about, though practical, makes the whole pallet weak (simply because it’s a very thin one) and we
don’t even want to imagine what would happen lest an impact should befall the laptop.
Even the hinges on the lid follow the same suit. They are not very firm and the lid seems to sway for a couple of seconds if you tend to adjust the display. Not a very premium-like experience.
Display: A matte screen, which repels reflections
The Zephyr M offers a 15.6-inch Full HD display which is quite commendable in many aspects. For starters, it enables a wide range of viewing angles, thanks to its matte finish. This means there are no reflections to bother you, particularly if there are annoying overhead lights. The display supports a 144Hz refresh rate for smooth fast visuals, which is more than enough to avoid any flickers on the screen even during graphics intensive gaming. In addition, the display also offers Nvidia G-Sync.
Keyboard: Conventional simplicity
The Zephyrus M sports an island-style keyboard with a numeric keypad. Asus has done a good job on this as the keys are very practically and distinctly spaced that enables an easy travel during gaming and helps in avoiding any mistypes.
The backlighting on the keyboard is also splendid, having been divided into four sections which can be modified as per the user’s preference. To help with the customization, the ROG Aura keyboard lighting control comes in pretty handy, with several pre-set options like ‘Music’, ‘Cinema’, Hip-Hop’ and many more.
Connectivity: Some ports and some dongles
The Zephyrus M offers ample connectivity options, including three USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, a Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port, one HDMI and a 3.5mm socket for both headphones and microphone. The power point has been placed on the left alongside the rising hinge.
A shocking omission from the laptop is that of an Ethernet port, making it one of the very few gaming laptops that skip the LAN connectivity option. We get that most of us are using a Wi-Fi connection these days but then again, this supposed to be a gaming laptop, meaning you might want to use it for LAN gaming in competitions. Guess an external USB to Ethernet adapter is your best bet then as it does not come in the box—and that is another dongle to carry around.
Performance: At par with rivals
Now, this is where the Zephyr M makes up for almost all of its shortcomings. As a brief, the laptop is powered by an 8th -gen Intel Core i7 processor, better known as Coffee Lake-H processor that offers up to 3.9GHz of speeds across its six cores. For graphics, it packs a GeForce GTX 1070 GPU backed by a dedicated 8GB GDDR5 VRAM.
For all practical purposes, this firepower proved its worth for all our gaming experiences, in addition to the daily multitasking. GTA 5, Asphalt 9 and FIFA 18 worked pretty smoothly in both G-SYNC and Optimus modes. As expected, general apps also work well on the Zephyr M, even when multiple apps are being used simultaneously. Slight hiccups were experienced at times while booting into Windows but those were occasional issues and could be because of an app conflicting with the operating system at that stage.
The hardware configuration is also complemented by several software additions like the ROG Aura mentioned earlier, ROG GameVisual for altering the display’s colour profile; Sonic Studio 3 for setting the audio preferences, Sonic Radar 3 for using a visual overlay to represent enemy fire in games and the ROG Gaming Centre that encompasses all of the above and more to keep a check on the laptop’s performance.
Battery: Typical gaming laptop, look away now
The ROG gaming laptop lags significantly in this category, managing close to 3 hours of use including online gaming. Then again, it seems to be a necessary compromise for slimming down the laptop to its present thickness and it might not hurt too much as most of the gamers tend to keep their laptops connected while gaming.
Verdict: All this is great, but rivals cost lesser
Asus could have had a very strong product in its ROG series gaming laptops, but the fact remains that while the GTX 1070 model priced at Rs. 1,99,990. And the GTX 1060 model priced at Rs. 1,59,990 do well in terms of performance, there are undeniable rough edges elsewhere. The build quality of the Zephyrus M could have been significantly better for starters, poor battery life is also no longer an excuse for laptops and the fact that you have to carry around a separate adapter to enable LAN capabilities all count against it, at this price.
Do keep in mind that the new MSI GF63 is available in three variants in India, all of which cost lesser than Rs.1,00,000. And that also has a similar size display, in a considerably more compact form factor, and offers much better battery life too.