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Asus ROG Zephyrus S Review

It's so thin and light, you'd hardly know it was a gaming laptop. The new Zephyrus S from Asus is more compact than some Ultrabooks but has a GTX 1060. Find out how in our hands-on review.

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • £1,999
Competition in the gaming world is as fierce as ever and although the Razer Blade 15 was the world's thinnest 15in gaming laptop, Asus has taken the title away with its new stunner. We've been hands-on with the Asus ROG Zephyrus S.


PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
High-end gaming laptops that don't weigh as much as a tractor aren't cheap. Having the world's thinnest is something you're going to need to splash out on.

As such, the Zephyrus S (GX531) starts at £1,999 which is a little higher than Razer's new Blade 15 starting at £1,699 – with lower specs, though.

The Zephyrus S will be available from mid-October in the UK from Box, Scan, Amazon and Buyitdirect.

It's actually a lot cheaper than the Zephyrus GX501 we recently reviewed, which costs £2,799. It's got the same Intel processor but boasts an Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card.

We're focusing on the ROG here but we will compare the two at times. Check out our chart of the best gaming laptops.

DESIGN AND BUILD
Making an already thin and light product even thinner and lighter is no mean feat. It was all the rage in the phone market not too long ago, but quickly hit a ceiling.

Back in the laptop world, the challenge continues and requires more minute and tricky engineering changes to make it achievable. Asus has worked on various areas of the Zephyrus to make it more compact.

There are various titles flying around and they tend to get quite specific. The Razer Blade 15 is the 'world's thinnest 15in gaming laptop, while the Asus ROG Zephyrus M was the 'world’s thinnest gaming laptop with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 and Intel 8th-gen'. It's a bit of a mouthful.

Those laptops are 16.8mm and 17.5mm which is impressive but the new Zephyrus S is just 14.95mm at its thinnest point. That's a seriously impressive figure, knocking off over 2mm on an already thin chassis – 12 percent is notable when it's already thin.
This also results in a lighter laptop: it's 2.05kg, down from 2.25kg. This narrowly beats the Razer which is 2.07kg. Without going into too much detail, Asus has done this with things like a thinner lid – which milled rather than pressed like normal – and thinner heat pipes.

For cooling the AeroAccelerator fans now have 83 blades each, 17 percent more than the original. There are more vents and air is actually sucked in through the keyboard. So everything should keep cooler aiding performance. You can choose from Silent, Balanced and Overboost settings depending on what you're doing.

All of this keeping up with the Joneses behaviour might seem fickle and you're unlikely to notice a huge difference in size or weight when it comes down to it. However, the technology trickles down lower range devices making them better and thinner and lighter in turn.

Like other Zephyrus models, the new S model is stunning with its all metal design. Like the other models in the range, it has a hatch that opens up when you lift the lid which exposes vents – it looks pretty cool and also gives the keyboard a few degrees of tilt.

The keyboard, as you can see, is at the front of the chassis. This is due to the placement and cooling of internal components like the GPU. It's still unusual and feels weird for a while (based on various laptops we've used with this arrangement.

It also means the trackpad is sat oddly to the side with a tall rather than wide shape. It's got physical buttons. This matters less for when you're gaming as you'll want to plug in a mouse anyway. It has a nifty features where it lights up, becoming a NUM pad and calculator.

SPECS AND PERFORMANCE
Often with high-end laptops there are various SKUs or models to choose from, each with a different set of specs. For example, the Razer Blade 15 has five different options with varying screen tech, graphics cards and storage capacities.

Well things are nice and simple here because in the UK at least, there's only one configuration available.

The Zephyrus S has the same Full HD 15.6in panel as found in the GX501. It's a brilliant screen with a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time – a combination you won't find elsewhere. It's IPS level and offers 100 percent of sRBG colour gamut, according to Asus.

Although it's the same display, the bezels are much smaller giving it a much more modern look and a more compact frame. This follows the general trend recently in the gaming laptop market.

You still get an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8750H with six cores and twelve threads, maxing out at 4.1GHz Turbo. There's 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD, which all matches the Razer Blade 15 which has a similar 144Hz screen and costs marginally less at £1,979.

At that price, narrowly ducking under the £2k mark, you'll get an Nvidia GTX 1060 with 6GB of memory whether you go with Asus or Razer. If you want a GTX 1070 then you'll need to go with the Blade 15 as the Zephyrus S with the higher spec GPU is only available in the US.

We're yet to run benchmarks but we've tested other laptops with this set of specs so you're likely to get excellent frame rates. The real test is whether the Zephyrus S can cool all those components while you're gaming.

If you're headset isn't to hand then the laptop has improved sound with front facing stereo speakers that are embedded in the hinge.

Rounding off the specs is 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, full-size HDMI 2.0 and two USB-C and one with the former conveniently positioned at the rear. There are also three USB Type-A ports – one of which is 3.1 Gen 2 - and a headphone jack.

Battery life is unlikely to be anything special as there's little space for a large cell. The Zephyrus S has a 52Wh battery compared to the Blade 15's 80Wh. We'll run our usual video loop test when we get a review sample to see how long it can last.

SPECS
  • 15.6in (1920 x 1080) 141ppi “IPS-level” LCD, 144Hz + 3ms
  • 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H (4.1GHz boost) 6 cores, 12 threads
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB RAM
  • 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 512GB NVMe SSD
  • 802.11b/g/n/ac 2x2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 1x USB-C 3.1 Gen2
  • 1x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
  • 1x USB-A 3.1
  • 2x USB-A 2.0
  • HDMI 2.0
  • Kensington Security Slot
  • Stereo speakers
  • HD webcam
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard with numberpad
  • Two-button trackpad
  • 52Wh lithium-ion battery, removable
  • 360mm x 268 x 14.95-15.75mm
  • 2.05kg

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