Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review: Work hard, play harder

By: |
August 12, 2020 5:34 PM

The ROG Zephyrus G14 is hands down the best 14-inch laptop in the market today that can do double duty, work and play, equally well.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 The ROG Zephyrus G14 starts at Rs 80,990. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The ROG Zephyrus G14 isn’t about Asus. Asus makes a lot of laptops, good laptops, great laptops, weird laptops too. It’s like clockwork. And a lot many of those laptops are an instant recommendation, again, like clockwork. The ROG Zephyrus G14 for what it’s worth, is no different. Whether it’s good, great, or just plain weird, and whether or not you should buy it, is something I will tell you in the course of this review. But as I said, it’s not about Asus.

The ROG Zephyrus G14 is all about AMD instead — its perseverance and almost fairytale comeback.

AMD makes a lot of processors. You see them power desktops, servers and gaming consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox. AMD is quite dominant in these categories. The story on the laptop side of things is different though. Intel has been consistently dominant on this side for years now, while AMD has been barely surviving. Year-on-year, the song has remained largely the same. Until recently when AMD took the wraps off its third-generation Ryzen processors for laptops, or more precisely the Ryzen 4000 series.

It’s still early days for AMD’s new Ryzen 4000 series processors and Intel has already announced its first 10th Gen Comet Lake H-series processors to counter them, but if laptops like the ROG Zephyrus G14 are any indication, AMD has nothing to worry about — and Intel should be very nervous.

The main takeaways are two. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is one of the most portable 14-inch laptops around and yet, it’s mighty powerful. But a laptop is much more than that, and that’s where Asus comes in.

Design and build quality

I’ll go out on a limb and say, Asus has made all the right choices while designing the Zephyrus G14. Everything about it feels just right. For years now, laptops have looked one way or the other. Gaming laptops look like gaming laptops. Portables look like portables. Maybe it has got something to do with the way Asus is positioning it, but the Zephyrus G14 doesn’t really look like it wants to fit into any one group. It can be whatever you want it to be. To be clear, Zephyrus is Asus’ productivity-focused series, but hey, that’s just marketing mumbo jumbo. This thing can work hard and it can play harder, product categories be damned.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Asus has made all the right choices while designing the Zephyrus G14. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Let’s start with the dimensions. The Zephyrus G14 weighs a little over 1.5kg. And it measures just 17.9mm in thickness.

Asus has been able to make it so by using Magnesium alloy on both the main chassis and lid, something that also brings a dash of premium to its laptop. It’s available in white and grey colorways. The keyboard frame has a fingerprint-resistant coating on top that also feels nice and soft to the touch. Underneath, there are honeycomb reinforcements for rigidity.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 It’s available in white and grey colorways. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The lid is particularly interesting. It is dual tone with one half having distinct pores (Asus calls it dot matrix) that can also light up in some models. In the models that do light up (like the one I have for review), Asus is using mini LEDs that you can custom style with up to 256 levels of brightness control. You can choose to go with animations or text (there are pre-defined options but you’re also free to build your own through an app) and you can choose to have them always on or during specific tasks like playing music or while charging. It’s a parlor trick. Some may use it; others will just forget about it. But it’s cool, I have to say.

All in all, the Zephyrus G14 is an attractive machine and one that’s also built rock solid.

Display

Asus is carrying the same versatility and thought to the Zephyrus G14’s display. The laptop comes in two versions. There’s one that’s squarely targeted towards content creators with WQHD resolution (2560×1440) and 60Hz refresh rate. The other one that’s made for gamers comes in with Full-HD resolution (1920×1080) and 120Hz refresh rate. Both versions use an IPS panel with 100% sRGB and AMD FreeSync support. That’s the versatility bit.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 There’s no webcam. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

As for thought, again, Asus has made all the right choices with the laptop’s display as well, save some minor discrepancies. I like the bezel layout. I like that Asus hasn’t given in to the temptation of making an all-screen laptop throwing all caution to the wind. The bottom bezel or chin is sizeable for a reason I will explain to you in the performance part of the review. Why this thing has no webcam is beyond my understanding though. Also, a touchscreen option would have been nice.

Asus laptops in the past have left me wanting for more in aspects like brightness. I am happy to report that that’s not the case with the Zephyrus G14. The panel gets plenty bright and, the best part, it’s all matte.

Performance and battery life

Taking cues from Intel, AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series processors also come in two versions. For the context of this review, I will be referring specifically to the Ryzen H-Series (there’s also a Ryzen U-Series out there catering to an entirely different set of laptops). Based on AMD’s 7nm Zen 2 “desktop” architecture, the Ryzen H-Series processors are designed for performance-driven thin and light laptops targeting serious gamers and content creators.

The Zephyrus G14 packs up to a Ryzen 9 4900HS processor. It is the first of its kind laptop in the market today. The Ryzen 9 4900HS is an 8 core, 16 thread processor with a base clock speed of 3.0GHz and boost speeds of up to 4.3GHz. The real kicker however is that the chip consumes just 35W of TDP. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is also available with relatively lower-end Ryzen 7 4800HS and Ryzen 5 4600HS processors starting at Rs 80,990.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 The Zephyrus G14 packs up to a Ryzen 9 4900HS processor. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Ryzen 9 4900HS-powered ROG Zephyrus G14 that I have for review has a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU, 16GB of DDR4 3200MHz SDRAM, and 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIE 3.0 SSD. This is the top-of-the-line model and is priced in India at Rs 1,61,990.

I won’t beat around the bush. The Zephyrus G14 is a beast of a machine. And it’s so compact, its all-round performance literally blows your mind. This is especially true for multithreaded performance (that should give content creators some serious power to work with), though single-core performance is also not very far behind. In fact, this may be the first time in a long time we’re looking at some sort of balance. For comparisons we’re using Intel’s Core i9 silicon (think, i9-9880H). The Zephyrus G14 as a result breezes through everything you can throw at it, though at the same time I can’t help but point out that the RTX 2060 Max-Q could be a bottleneck for more demanding gamers. The Zephyrus G14 is an excellent machine that can play all your new high-end games at medium to high settings with respectable frame rates but there’s still some room for improvement. It isn’t a deal breaker though.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 The Zephyrus G14 is a beast of a machine. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

All that power and compact styling means the Zephyrus G14 has a tendency to get toasty at peak loads, and the fans can get really loud in such scenarios, but that’s the story of all such laptops. The Ryzen 9 4900HS-powered ROG Zephyrus G14 is just a little better at handling all that excess heat. Some of it has to do with the processor’s core architecture. While the laptop does get hot, it hasn’t reached alarming levels to trigger throttling in my experience yet, but this is based on two weeks of usage. Long term impact is something I am not sure about though I am hopeful it should hold up well. Second has to do with the way Asus has designed the laptop. The Zephyrus G14 has Asus’ hallmark ErgoLift hinge mechanism that tilts the keyboard at an angle. The laptop has vents on either side for air intake while the exhaust is located right underneath the display. Propping it at an angle helps both the cases. The sizeable chin meanwhile ensures the screen stays at an arm’s length from all this action.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 The Zephyrus G14 has Asus’ hallmark ErgoLift hinge mechanism. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The 76whr battery inside the Zephyrus G14 is rated to deliver over 10 hours of battery life. Battery life is good if not class leading. I have been averaging anywhere between 4-8 hours on it depending on usage. The laptop supports fast charging through USB Type-C as well as the bundled 180W barrel charger.

A few quick pointers:

  • For a laptop that’s trying to please both content creators and gamers, keyboard selection could have swung either way. Luckily, the laptop has a good keyboard with nice and tactile keys (1.7mm travel). They are absolutely a pleasure to type on (and also game on). There are also dedicated hot keys for volume up and down, plus the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader that supports instant boot and sign in capabilities (though this is mostly a hit or miss). If I was to nitpick, the backliting on the individual keys could have been more prominent. The trackpad could have been slightly bigger as well.
  • Connectivity options include 1 USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery, 1 USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 USB3.2 Gen1 Type-A, 1 HDMI 2.0b, 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack and Kensington Lock.
  • The laptop supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
  • The Zephyrus G14 has two bottom firing speakers and two upward firing tweeters. Sound quality is good though tinny.

Should you buy the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14?

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 The ROG Zephyrus G14 is almost perfect. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The ROG Zephyrus G14 is one of those rare laptops where I had to literally observe things on a microscopic level to bring some sort of balance to this review. Remember, a perfect laptop does not exist and for the sake of innovation, it’s alright that it doesn’t. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is almost perfect though and that’s a big win for consumers. It’s an engineering marvel that truly showcases the power of AMD.

Everything about it, be it design, display, performance, ports, or battery life, feels well put out with careful attention to detail. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is hands down the best 14-inch laptop in the market today that can do double duty, work and play, equally well.

Pros:

  • Thin and light chassis
  • Oodles of power
  • Good thermals
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • No webcam
  • Keyboard backliting needs work
  • No touchscreen option

Also Read Asus ROG Phone 3 review: Solid contender for best Android phone of 2020

 

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