RTX 40 Series is here and it's looking to shake up the status quo.
Following their recent announcements, many at CES 2023, the latest batch of hardware is starting to do the rounds and even actually release. To this end, ASUS is already eyeing 2023 variants of its gaming laptop line up, devices that come with the latest batch of hardware, including RTX 40 Series GPUs and 13th Gen Intel CPUs. To this end, I've been testing out one of the most anticipated 2023 models, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16, and let me just quash any doubts right off the bat by saying this is a very, very impressive laptop.
But, here's the thing, what makes this laptop so great isn't just the more powerful hardware that gives everything a little more oomph (although it is very impressive and I'll touch on why in a moment). No, it's actually the display, which is arguably the best I've ever seen on a laptop. This QHD Mini-LED display clocks in at 1100 peak nits brightness, all while having a 100% DCI-P3 coverage over 1024 dimming zones, and HDR 1000 certification using ASUS' Nebular HDR Engine, which essentially means in effect that this is a very, very, very vibrant and clear display. And the really impressive part is that this display also works up to 240 frames-per-second, with a response time of a blisteringly quick 3ms.
Now in the past, I would usually point out here that these kinds of specifications often counteract one another, as hardware either prioritised striking visuals over frame rate and performance, or vice-versa. But, here's where that aforementioned "impressive" new hardware comes into the equation, as the GeForce RTX 4090, the 13th Gen Intel i9-13900H CPU, and the 16GB of DDR5 RAM all come together to create a system that successfully achieves high frame rates while running games at their most demanding graphical settings.
Before I do start running through some numbers, let's just set a few records straight. As the Zephyrus M16 is QHD, games are run at 1440p here and not native 4K. Likewise, I have used the new and shiny DLSS 3 rendering technique in the hope of getting a performance jump where it is available, and from what I have seen, it does add a bit of extra performance without needing to overclock or overstress the system any further.
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Ultra quality frame rates without DLSS 3:
Destiny 2: 120 fps average
Marvel's Spider-Man: 130 fps average without Ray-Tracing / 75 fps average with Ray-Tracing
Deathloop: 110 fps average
Days Gone: 95 fps average
Apex Legends: 105 fps average
God of War: 85 fps average
As a point of comparison, Apex Legends on the lowest possible quality would frequently cap at the 240 fps limit of the display. Likewise, as a second comparison, my personal desktop PC (which uses an RTX 3090, an 11th Gen i9-11900KF, and 64GB of DDR4 RAM), usually averages out at around 120 fps when playing Destiny 2 on High graphics settings, and not the Ultra I was testing the Zephyrus M16 with. Essentially, after all those years of saying that laptops can't compete with desktops in a performance sense, the RTX 40 Series is looking to change that narrative. Instantly.
And, for those wondering how successful DLSS 3 is, here's what the frame rates averaged when using the technique.
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Deathloop: 135 fps average
Marvel's Spider-Man: 83 fps average
As you can see, this laptop means business. It is very powerful and capable, more so than I personally have ever seen in a gaming laptop, and on top of this it has a display that is second to none. So, what are the cons? There are a few to note, but none are so overwhelmingly drastic that it seriously affected my opinion of this system. But regardless, they are worth being aware of.
Running all of the latest hardware at its limits is costly in a plethora of ways. On one hand, there's the battery life, which just haemorrhages away, to the point that it feels almost impossible to use this laptop without keeping a charging cable handy. This isn't just when playing games either, as the bulky hardware does seem to take its toll at all times and will suck the life out of this device, even when under low-stress.
Assuming you are gaming a lot however, and are plugged into the mains and don't have to worry about battery life, it's worth being aware that the Zephyrus M16 isn't a particularly quiet machine. I have heard louder laptops, but it is by far not a device you would describe as reserved or subtle. But fans are a common enemy of audibly sensitive gamers, so you're probably used to this. What you likely aren't familiar with is a laptop system that gets so hot it genuinely becomes uncomfortable to use, because that is the point the Zephyrus M16 can get to. ASUS has packed this laptop with a bunch of cooling solutions aimed to tackle this, including using a liquid metal thermal compound, a triple-threat combination of fans for maximised airflow, all on top of a full-width heatsink, but this doesn't seem to deal with the problem that well, and it makes me wonder what the Zephyrus M16 would be like with one of these features missing.
You might think that with all of these cooling solutions and the latest batch of hardware that the Zephyrus M16 is a rather large laptop, but that wouldn't be true. Sure, it isn't particularly small, but it does have tight dimensions and doesn't have a chassis design that is so overtly 'gamery' it sticks out like a sore thumb. No, in fact, this laptop is sleek and tidy, and uses a moving AniMe animation matrix (which can be customised using the pre-installed Armory Crate software) on its cover to create one of the most unique light shows I have ever seen - and this is coming from someone who usually keeps RGB to a minimum. All this technology does mean that the Zephyrus M16 is quite weighty however, clocking in at around 2.4kg.
But even though it does have some kinks, I can safely say that this is one of the best gaming laptops I have ever tested. The display is remarkably clear and bright, the internal hardware so powerful that I can genuinely see the argument for choosing a laptop over a desktop, and it all just looks so sleek and tidy and classy that it's hard not to gawk. The best way I could describe how the Zephyrus M16 feels in use is like a gaming laptop equivalent of a Ferrari: yes it's not an ideal device for travelling or taking on your commute to work (leave that job to Notebooks - or for the sake of this analogy, a Volkswagen), but if you want to play the latest games at their best (or again, for analogies sake, go 0-60 in 2.5 seconds), then the ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16 is the one to choose. Without a doubt.