Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 review

Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503 review

Asus has launched its new ROG Zephyrus G15 which is an unholy alliance between AMD and Nvidia: the former provides the CPU, the latter provides the GPU. So, how does it work and does it work?

KEY SPECS OF THE Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503

15.6-inch, matte, 165Hz, 2560 x 1440, non-touchscreen LCD; 3.1-4.5GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS CPU; 32GB RAM; 1TB NVMe HDD; Nvidia RTX 3080; 90Wh battery; 1.9KG. SKU: GA503QR-HQ017T. Full specs here.

Design and Handling

Our SKU of the ROG GA503 has a, “Moonlight White” livery which means its all white but for a black bezel surrounding the screen.

The Zephyrus G15's black and white livery
The Zephyrus G15’s black and white livery makes a pleasant change.

The Zephyrus G15’s lid is adorned with a spotted, diagonal design element which is a not-unpleasant change from the usual logos. It will fit in well at a LAN and in a stuffy corporate office.

Rainbow sparkles on the G15’s lid.

While the body might feel a little plasticy, it’s very solid and robust although the lid does flex a bit if you twist it. That said, the build quality is otherwise very solid.

Interestingly, despite there being a dual microphone array there’s no webcam. We’re not convinced that’s acceptable in this day and age. The power button doubles as a fingerprint reader and is Windows Hello compatible.

The scrabble tile keyboard is full-sized, quiet and comfortable and accurate to type on (and game with) for extended periods. There are half-height arrow keys and no number pad but our main gripe is having white keys with white backlighting. When the lights are glowing during the day, they all just look white. In the dark, depending on which lgihting effect you choose (the Aura software allows you to choose between the usual pulsing, strobing and static effects) the keyboard looks like an unevenly lit mess.

Though comfortable and accurate to use, the white-LED-lit letters are hard to see within the white keys.

The large trackpad is accurate, comfortable and the integrated buttons work as you’d wish.

The Zephyrus G15’s 15.6-inch, IPS screen is very impressive. It gets bright, has a fast 165Hz refresh rate (and a 3ms response time) for smooth gaming performance with no reflections (and minimal glare). Colours are both vibrant and accurate: the screen both supports 100 per cent of the demanding DCI-P3 colour gamut and is Pantone validated. Multimedia and gaming content looks excellent on it. While it’s not an HDR screen, the contrast is excellent with detail being well rendered in both highlights and shadows. Frankly, it’s one of the best screens we’ve seen on any laptop.

Performance

We were very interested to see how the AMD-cum-Nvidia combo worked out and were pleasantly surprised. The octa-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor operates between 3.1GHz and 4.5GHz (with 16MB cache) and is flanked by 32GB DDR4-3200 RAM and a 1TB NVMe drive. In PCMark 10 it scored 7112 which blitzes every Intel Core-i7 and Core-i9 that we’ve tested before. The previous highest scores came were 6496 from both the Razer Blade 15 Base edition and MSI GE66 Raider.

In the processor-intensive Cinebench R15 test it scored 2146 while in the newer R23 it scored 12,709. These scores smash all Intel rivals with the latter being a full, one-third faster than the Intel Core-i9 performance of the Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR YC. This means that the AMD Ryzen 9 processor trounces Intel’s rival for the first time since Core launched back in 2005. We also ran the new 3DMark CPU Profile score and it managed 6549 in the Max Threads test. We suspect this is good but won’t know more until we have more results.

Asus Armory Crate software enables easy overclocking and silent running.

In terms of 3D performance, the Zephyrus G15 eschews the integrated AMD graphics for the top-end Nvidia RTX 3080. In 3DMark Time Spy it managed 10,297 (average 60fps) which is, once again, the highest score we’ve seen on this site. In FireStrike Extreme it scored 12,580 (average 58fps) which is, again, massively ahead of the competition. In the Port Royal ray-tracing test it managed 6596 (average 30.5fps) which is, yet again, the highest we’ve ever seen.

All-in-all, it’s the fastest laptop we’ve ever seen, by miles. But how does this performance impact upon price, value and battery life?

Portability and battery life

At 1.9KG this Zephyrus is one of the lighter 15.6-inch models on the market. While the screen can flex a bit when twisted, there’s no doubting that it’s a solid machine and should easily withstand hauling around between LANs, home and the office.

The power brick isn’t small but it’s thin.

But what of battery life and the four-cell 90W battery? Well, it managed to run PCMark10’s Modern Office 3 test for 8hrs 50mins which is, once again, leagues ahead of the competition. The highest (non-ultraportable) score we’ve seen before was 7hr 19mins from Gigabyte’s Aorus 17G.

Connectivity of the Asus Zephyrus G15

On the left is an HDMI 2.0b port, Gigabit Ethernet, USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port and two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports which support DisplayPort, power delivery and G-Sync. There’s also a 3.5mm audio jack.
On the right, there’s another USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port and a microSD card port. Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Meanwhile, inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Other features

We were very impressed with the cooling technology of the Zephyrus G15. Although it could make a consistent, audible swoosh when at maximum load, it was rare to hear it get annoyingly loud. Turning on silent mode made it go silent straight away. Cooling is enhanced by the five-degree incline at the rear that opening the laptop up facilitates. In early Zephyrus generations this would simply make a flimsy plastic flap open up. But here it feels more organic in that simply opening the screen creates more ventilation.

Asus has apparently fitted in no-less-than six speakers and it shows. The two, 2-Watt tweeters and four 2-Watt woofers combine to generate some of the most impressive well-rounded audio we’ve heard from a laptop this size. While they might not get overly loud, the overall fidelity is well-rounded with decent bass and exceptional treble response. They’re very impressive.

It’s also worth mentioning that this laptop also has its own Reddit community at /r/zephyrusg15 which is worth checking out if you want to see what the foibles of long-term ownership might be.

Should you buy the Asus Zephyrus G15?

While we haven’t found a similarly-specified Moonlight White version of this Zephyrus in Australia, the Eclipse Grey version of the same spec can be had at $3899. This is not cheap but it’s from the most expensive high performance laptop we’ve reviewed. The fact that it’s the best performing laptop for gamers, designers and those who demand the best portability means it’s the best laptop we’ve tested so far. The fact that it’s the first AMD-based computer we’ve seen trounce Intel since Core first appeared in 2005 makes us even more impressed. Even despite the white-on-white keyboard quirks and the lack of webcam, it’s fair to say this is the best performing laptop ever.

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