Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 review: A great looking gaming laptop with excessive power and high price
Asus makes some of the best gaming laptops in the word under its ROG lineup. The ROG laptops stand apart from others with their crazy RGB lighting and class-leading internal hardware at a reasonable price -- prices reasonable for a gaming laptop. Like every year, Asus revamps the lineup with the latest computing technologies and this year, they have gone ahead with the very best in computing technologies. The 2019 ROG lineup adopts the Nvidia RTX graphics cards and the latest Intel processors. Sadly, the prices have gone up as well.
Their flagship model for India -- the Zephyrus S, gets the best treatment. The Zephyrus lineup denotes the slimmest gaming laptops Asus makes. There's a standard 15-inch model with very good specifications but if you want the best bar none, then the 17-inch model, i.e. ROG Zephyrus S GX701 is the one to go for. It offers the best CPU, the best GPU, the best screen Asus has to offer, and the highest price, i.e. Rs 3,49,900. That's a lot of money for a laptop with fancy lighting but if gaming is as important as the air you breathe, this is an important device. As with all gaming laptops, there are good bits and bad bits. And, I have been flexing my fingers on it for a few days to see whether the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 delivers the zing it promises.
The bits that I loved
A subtle yet classy design
The Zephyrus has introduced a few years ago as one of the slimmest gaming laptops in the world. The design is still among the laptops and Asus has changed noticeably. It's still a very sleek and classy look metallic slab, with the entire chassis made of metal. The lid has a dual tone finish with a glowing RGB ROG logo that can be best described as a combination of striking yet subtle -- not many gaming laptops get that look. A copper accent runs along the edges while the vent between the hinge is entirely painted with copper colour, with the Zephyrus logo sitting in between -- this makes it undeniably cool.
The laptop is only 18.7mm thick and yet it offers most of the ports one would require for gaming. There's are two USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, one USB 3.1 Gen2 port, a 1 x USB3.1 Gen2 Type-C with Display Port 1.4 and Power Delivery, 1 x USB3.1 Gen1 Type-C, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The only port that's missing here is the Ethernet port -- something that gamers need while participating in a multiplayer session or eSports event.
Open the lid and you are greeted with an unusual layout that certainly draws attention. Where you would normally find a keyboard lies a massive air vent with a ROG RGB logo in the centre. The keyboard and the trackpad sit alongside the bottom of the keyboard deck. Asus claims the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 is as big as a 15-inch laptop with a 16-inch display and they have utilised the space smartly by giving it a trackpad that also acts as a Numpad. The keyboard is RGB backlit (if you haven't guessed it yet). There 's also a volume roller on the top -- I saw that last on a mechanical keyboard. The display has narrow bezels to the top and sides, except for the bottom where it's thick. And there's no webcam here.
The coolest bit here is what Asus calls the Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) Basically, it means that when you lift the lid, the bottom of the laptop opens up to enable more ventilation for cooling the internals. Asus has even stuffed in an RGB Aura light here as well.
Speaking of RGB lighting, Asus' AURA lighting system is at its best on the Zephyrus S. There's almost no light bleed from the keys while the logos glow with just the right amount of brightness. It's a joy to watch the cool animations in a completely dark room -- especially the Rainbow effect.
That said, even with all the striking RGB lighting and the awesomely cool active cooling vent system, the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 looks at home with normal expensive laptops. The overall design is exciting yet subtle.
A beautiful display
I have always maintained that Asus offers class-leading displays in laptops and with the ROG Zephyrus S GX701, nothing's changing at all. In fact, it only gets better this year. As I said, this is a 17-inch screen with narrow bezels. The panel itself is probably the best IPS LCD screen I have ever seen. It supports 100 per cent sRGB colour gamut, so colour accuracy is on point. The refresh rate stands at 144Hz with a response time of 3ms. It also supports GSYNC and Optimus. And, it also gets support for PANTONE colours, so if you are into photo and video editing, you won't require an additional monitor.
The display offers a great experience no matter what you do. When you are gaming, the 144Hz refresh rate and the 3ms response time makes for smooth gaming. When you are watching movies or flinging through photos, the vibrant colours and the fairly high contrasts make for a very good experience. And when you are just typing browsing the web, your eyes won't feel stressed after a while. The viewing angles are pretty wide and there hardly any colour shift noticeable.
All-in-all, it's a very good display -- no complaints here.
The ROG Zephyrus S GX701 has possibly a collection of the best computing hardware one can find this year for laptops. Underneath sits an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU that's unarguably one of most powerful processors in the laptop universe. For the GPU, Asus has moved on to brand new Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU. The MAX-Q isn't the ultimate iteration of the RTX 2080 but Asus preferred it over the standard model for gains in thermal and power efficiency. There's 8GB DDR4 2666MHz SDRAM. For storage, there's a M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 1TB SSD. And as always, there's Windows 10 to look after the errands.
When you club-in some of the best components of the PC industry, blistering performance is granted. The ROG Zephyrus S GX701 absolutely flies through anything you throw at it. Trying to push it its edges, I played Codemasters F1 2018, PlayerUnknowns BattleGround (PUBG), Grand Theft Auto 5 and Just Cause 4. As expected, all of them ran at their best graphics configuration without a dip in frame rates. Formula 1 2018's demanding reflections and light rays worked as advertised, even in wet weather effects. Sadly, I couldn't test Battlefield 5 that supports ray tracing -- a feature that enhances reflections and refractions in games. It will be a while before games start adopting ray tracing widely and therefore, the RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU will have to wait to show its potential.
Asus has also thrown in a couple of its custom software tweaking to enhance the experience. Asus has ditched the ROG Centre app suite and is now offering the Armoury Crate. In essence, it's the same universal control centre reskinned for the new laptops. Through the Armoury Crate, you can keep a tab on the performance of the CPU, GPU, thermal performance, power consumption and more. The Armoury Crate also has its own app store from where you can download a couple of system utilities to tweak the laptop, even more, You can also customise the AURA RGB light effects as well as the audio effects.
Speaking of audio, the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 has possibly one of the best sounding speakers I have seen on a laptop. Unlike most laptops, the speakers are positioned beside the keyboard and trackpad. They sound like proper speakers with extremely high volume and clear mids as well as highs. Bass performance wasn't great but is certainly better than what other gaming laptops offer. For once, I didn't have to plug in external speakers for a pleasant audio experience.
The stuff that I didn't like
Not the most practical laptop
With a gaming laptop, it's given that you will have to give practicality to compensate for unparalleled performance. However, Asus was claiming that they have engineered the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 as one of the slimmest and lightest 17-inch gaming laptops. While I approve of the slimness, the lightweight part isn't exactly correct. At 2.7Kg, it's still a very heavy laptop. The metal chassis may grab eyeballs but it makes the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 extremely heavy. You can't just fling it around -- you will have to lift it.
Asus also mentions that this is a 17-inch laptop that as big as a 15-inch laptop. However, in the real world, it's bigger than most 15-inch laptops. The ROG Zephyrus S GX701 doesn't fit into backpacks easily. In fact, all the while I had it with me, it stayed in my house, sitting on the desk. Speaking of desk
Unimpressive battery life
In an age when laptops can offer more than 10-hours of stamina, the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 prefers to be the old-school guy. If you are playing games without being plugged-in, the battery will utmost last an hour. That's acceptable for a gaming laptop with an Nvidia RTX 2080 CPU and a bunch of custom cooling systems. However, even when you aren't gaming, the battery life barely goes beyond two hours -- even when you have enabled the Battery Saver mode of Windows 10. Therefore, if you are watching full HD or 4K movies unplugged, it is advisable to keep an eye on the battery by the time you reach the climax. Maybe Asus could do something with the software to disable the most power-intensive components when you don't need them.
The ROG Zephyrus S GX701 has easily one of the most advanced laptop cooling systems on paper. Asus has refined the system from the older Zephyrus models with more slimmer fan blades and a new provision to avoid debris jamming the vents. There's liquid cooling on the processor and the GPU to keep the thermals down. And with the opening vent underneath the laptop, there's more airflow inside the ROG Zephyrus S GX701.
While the cooling system is efficient in keeping the laptop under acceptable temperatures to prevent throttling, all of the efforts are spoiled by metallic chassis. Metal is good for conducting heat and throwing it out but on a laptop, it translates to a body that's uncomfortably warm. While playing demanding games, the laptop heats up to an extent and I often had to put it down on a table to continue. Therefore, you are restricted to use it on a desk or a plain surface that allows airflow underneath the laptop.
This is strictly a gaming laptop
Of course, gaming laptops are only meant to devastate virtual battlefields or wreak havoc on virtual racetracks, and not be machines meant for typing or doing basic office tasks. While most other gaming laptops still allow for some minor productivity, the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 doesn't allow that a bit. The awkward placement of the keyboard and the trackpad means that there's no place to rest your palms. The keyboard is great in itself with anti-ghosting chiclet keys and substantial key travel but the AURA RGB is quite bright even in its dimmest settings and you could easily be distracted by all the light show. If you turn off the lighting, good luck hunting for the desired key. And there's no webcam built in -- you have to go for a detachable webcam separately.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701: Is it worth it?
As I stated in the beginning, if gaming is as important to you as the air you breathe, then the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 makes a case for itself. It has got all the power you need to run the latest and most demanding games with absolute ease. The display is the best I have seen on a laptop while the audio performance eliminates the need for an external speaker or a headphone. Last but not least, the sleek design of the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 makes it extremely desirable to the breed of gamers. This is currently one of the few laptops in the world that will deliver the best gaming experience.
Should you pick it up then?
Only if all the benefits I listed above matter to you. At Rs 3,49,990, the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 pinches the wallet hard. For almost the same price, you can build a custom gaming desktop PC with even more compelling hardware. Also, since you can only use the full potential of the Nvidia RTX 2080 in just a single game, for now, it is advisable to go for the ROG laptops with Nvidia GTX cards at much cheaper prices that can play the current crop of games with similar performance.