Back in 2020, ASUS took the gaming world by surprise when it introduced the ROG Zephyrus G14, a compact gaming laptop that had the looks and performance metrics to match, but more importantly, it was also a thin and light machine powered by AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series mobile CPU.
But as fascinating as the G14 was as my daily driver, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows with it and I did have some issues with them. This year around, I have the larger and more powerful successor, the Zephyrus G15, with me and just as before, there is actually a great deal to shout about with this portable gaming machine.
Take the Zephyrus G14 and then, increase its size by approximately one and a half times, and you’re pretty much looking at the G15; while its chassis is significantly larger, much of its exterior design in virtually a carbon copy of its predecessor, save for the odd design tweaks here and there. For a start, the G15 sports a much larger trackpad, thanks to the extra real estate on the base.
Keyboard still feels like its been “smushed” together.
Moving on, the speakers on the G15 also sport physically larger speakers, located on each side of the keyboard. On that note, ASUS has somewhat managed to retain the same keyboard size and layout as it had initially used with the G14, which is a little disappointing, especially since I wish they would use the extra space to reinstall some of the more crucial keys like the “Print Screen” function. Oh, and while the keyboard is backlit by LEDs, you can throw any notions about RGB colours out the windows; then, as now, there is only one LED colour and it is white.
Returning to the subject of its chassis, some of you will be happy to know that the G15 still retains the same magnesium alloy, along with the same anti-fingerprint coating, although the latter only works to a relative degree. I can still see smudges made by my own hands and for the most part, I often find myself wiping down the keyboard with isopropyl alcohol, just to be doubly sure that the display isn’t indirectly affected by any residue from my hands.
On a side note, the display’s Ergolift is back and the LED indicators have now been integrated into the G15’s new ventilation design at the spine, thus adding to the overall elegance.
Higher display resolution and even higher refresh rates.
As for the display, the G15 sports a 15.6-inch panel, but more importantly, it is not Full HD. Instead, we’re looking at a 1440p resolution display, along with a maximum refresh rate of 165Hz. It’s a significant bump up from the last generation and, frankly speaking, a far better choice than squeezing a 4k display into this form factor.
Around the back, you once again find the same dot Matrix design as the G14, the main difference here being that you’ll find no LEDs here. ASUS has seemingly removed them from the G15, which I believe is a logical, if not smart move; at best, the feature was clever and eye-catching, but at the end of the day, it is essentially a gimmick, with no actual benefit to its user. Like the G14 as well, the G15’s display lacks a webcam, which I find a little odd, given the extra screen real estate. That said, it is a small price to pay, in the grand scheme of things.
Beneath the hood, the G15 is powered by AMD’s latest Ryzen 5000 Mobile series CPU and NVIDIA’s Ampere-based GeForce RTX 30 series, and in the instance, the unit I have is rocking a Ryzen 9 5900HS, an RTX 3080 100W, and 32GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM. Additionally, ASUS also had the decency to install a 90WHr battery and rightly so, given the bigger display, higher resolution, and beefy hardware.
Lastly, another benefit to the larger 15.6-inch G15 is the additional USB-C port. Apart from that, almost every other port on the laptop is a carry over from the G14, the primary difference being that they’re more distributed on both sides this time, giving the laptop a more even and balanced layout.
The only other caveat to this entire system, though? Its asking price. To own the G15, the base model starts at RM6999 for an RTX 3060. The model I am currently reviewing cost RM11499.
I am probably just repeating myself at this stage, but the G15 is very much just a larger version of the G14. Everything from its chassis to its performance is an absolute treat. I appreciate how ASUS has made the integrated fingerprint scanner in the power button more intuitive and functional than before, as well as the aesthetic changes to the LED indicators that I mentioned before.
1440p resolution and high refresh rate gaming on a laptop is mindblowing.
On another note, having the extra screen real estate also means that ASUS is able to take more liberties and boy, did it ever. Once again, WQHD (2560 x 1440) on a laptop display isn’t new, as I said, that resolution is still a damn sight more welcoming than trying to cram 4K into a 15.6-inch panel and capping its refresh rate at 60Hz.
That isn’t to say the display is without flaws. While plugged into a power source, the panel’s backlight perks up, as expected. However, there is a noticeable glare that can be fairly intense. To put it in words, it’s less of a glare from disapproving in-laws and more along the lines of a glare given by a mildly jealous spouse.
Gaming on the G15 is an effortless affair, naturally, and the RTX 3080 in this machine mostly makes quick work of any title thrown at it. Mind you, this is despite it being the 100W variant of NVIDIA’s relatively confusing SKU for the laptop GPU and 8GB of GDDR6 graphics memory, instead of the full 16GB.
The RTX 3080 really does give that much more “Oomph” to Zephyrus G15.
The only time the RTX 3080 8GB ever gets moderately beaten into submission is when I run the video game, Watch Dogs Legion. For comparison, the desktop RTX 3080 has no problems maxing out the game’s graphical presets. With the G15’s GPU, I have to dial down some of the details and even then, it still struggles to compose itself at the 30 fps range.
As you can expect, the trade-off to having a beefier CPU and GPU inside the G15 is a higher heat generation, and you would be right, albeit by a small margin. Elaborating further. while running at full capacity, the Ryzen 9 5900HS can hit a maximum temperature of 95°C, while the RTX 3080 caps itself at 75°C and, despite its 100W TDP, never seems to draw more than 80W of power while running at maximum capacity.
At those temperatures, you can definitely feel the heat generation on the top half of the base, but to my surprise, that emanation stops there and never travels any further down; that’s a good thing, as it means that my wrists and palms are kept safe from the heat and in turn, saving them from what can otherwise be an uncomfortable gaming or typing experience.
Speaking of typing, the G15’s keyboard uses the same key switches with N-key rollover, which make for a very comfortable typing experience. On paper, the key travel distance is 1.7mm to actuation, which is decent and frankly, I don’t feel any fatigue in my fingers after long hours of typing.
The legs on the battery are unbelievably long.
And then there’s the battery endurance of the G15. Thanks to the large 90WHr battery and the power efficiency of the CPU and GPU, I’m pulling between 9.5 and 11 hours of continuous usage from the laptop on average, before it begins prompting me to plug it back into the wall. Granted, it’s nowhere near the hours that ASUS boasts on the product’s landing page, but it is pretty damn close. Plus, I am getting more than eight hours of continuous use from a Ryzen-powered laptop.
When I reviewed the Zephyrus G14, I struggled to find a similarly priced competitor to it, because there frankly wasn’t one. A year later, the landscape has clearly changed and this time, ASUS’ competitors at least have laptops with similar specifications to offer.
MSI GS66 Stealth 2021
MSI’s GE76 is the follow-up to the brand’s successful GE66 that we reviewed last year. This time around, the laptop’s received a bump up in the GPU department with NVIDIA’s new GeForce RTX 30 series, with the top-of-the-line housing the 16GB variant of the RTX 3080. It also has a 15.6-inch display that comes in two panels: a 4K60Hz and a Full HD panel with 300Hz refresh rate.
As for the CPU, the GS66 is still powered by an Intel 10th generation Core i9-10980HK CPU, but the laptop also comes with up to 64GB DDR4-3200MHz RAM and 2TB NVMe 3.0 SSD storage, depending on your preference. Oh, and it’s got a slightly larger 99.9Whr battery.
The starting price of the GS66 Stealth is also significantly steeper than the G15 at RM10999.
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
Lenovo’s latest Legion 5 lineup comprises of two models, with the Pro variant being the closest match to ASUS’ ROG Zephyrus G15. Specs-wise, its premium variant sports an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, 32GB DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB NVMe SSD for storage. For the GPU, we’re looking at an RTX 3070 8GB, while the display is 15.6-inch Full HD panel with a 165Hz refresh rate panel with a maximum brightness level of 300 nits.
Price-wise, this version of the Legion 5 Pro will cost RM7919.
While the ROG Zephyrus G15 doesn’t quite fall into the thin and light category, it’s a gaming laptop that still checks off all the right boxes. Like its predecessor, it retains the same lightweight chassis, a new and improved AMD Ryzen 5000 Mobile series CPU and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series GPU, but more importantly. It still retains that astounding battery endurance that would give Intel something to sweat about.
My only gripe about this specific model, though, is its steep asking price. And yes, that also includes its base price of RM6999.
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 is as every bit as enjoyable and powerful as it looks.
But for whatever it is worth, I can confidently assure you that this is a laptop that is worth every damn sen ASUS is asking for it. In conclusion, I summarise this entire review using the vernacular of this current generation: This laptop absolutely slaps.