At first glance, the most noticeable difference on the new Zephyrus is the display, not the G-sync and all the tech features. Rather it's the thin bezel that stands out as a major improvement for the 17.3" 144Hz panel. For reasons unknown, the designers left early for lunch and let the intern create the bottom half of the screen, resulting in a massive chin bezel that doesn't really fit with the rest of the overall design. It's a shame since the 6.9mm frame around the display looks great, and presents the 3ms, 100% sRGB screen correctly. Fast displays and full sRGB colour range seems to have become the de facto standard, and that is a great evolution.
A new thing is a Pantone validation for the display, a standard best known from the printing industry, but therefore also a standard that has already had some certifications in the hardware space due to overlap. It might sound boring, but we find it reassuring that some brands actually care about correct colours and a display that follows industry standards. The marketing somehow mentions "Content Creators" as potential customers, which makes sense, but then an RTX 2080 seems like overkill for a 1080p.
To keep the bezel thin, a small but easily mountable webcam shooting 1080p in 60 FPS comes along with the laptop - great thinking. We're not going to use it at any point and we didn't use it during the test, but if people do need it, this is a fantastic solution.
Asus makes a fuss about cramming a 17" display down into a 15" chassis, and might be closer to the truth than one would expect. Both when it comes to bags and sleeves, it fits, and that is most likely due to the very slim nature of it: 1.87cm thickness, and no wider than needed. The chassis is for once not made in aluminium, but a magnesium alloy to enhance strength. Most likely also a lot more toxic to produce, but points for trying something different.
There are sperate battery modes, the battery-saving one is called "Optimus", and while it does provide slightly more battery life, we still think Asus missed a great opportunity for an all-in-one power and overclock setting. Speaking of which, the battery life of RTX-equipped laptops is inherently appealing, and while the three hours you get with this laptop aren't exactly impressive, it's still close to double that of most competitors (most likely it does little other than shut down the RTX card completely but that is pure guesswork on our behalf). Still, we do love one-click solutions.
Charging is not only limited to the power from your outlet, this one actually charges via the USB-C, but a charger that is a lot more powerful than the ones we had available would go a long way - we pulled the plug at 89% battery, and that 11 % took two hours to charge. Ain't nobody got time for that. In all fairness, however, that is not how you are supposed to charge a hardcore gaming laptop.
The specs are, as expected, an i7 8750H, an RTX 2080 Max-Q, combined with 24 GB Ram (press review sample) and 1 TB M.2 NVMe hard drive. There are three USB 3.1, USB-c 3.1, HDMI 2.0 and a USB 3.1 Type-C with Thunderbolt and the price tag reads £3,200.
Cooling is an office favourite, behind the fancy "Active Aerodynamic System" lies a simple but brilliant invention whereby the bottom opens when flipping the screen. The entire underside of the chassis opens up, increasing air intake a lot. The aerodynamic part we don't really get, but the efficiency is there, without a doubt, perhaps turning fans to 12v instead of the usual 5v also helped. And yes, they have used the entire top part as one big heat pipe.
Five large heat pipes disperse the heat from GPU, CPU and system, but Asus claiming a maximum temperature of 80 degrees is a tad rich. We measured 88 degrees and a single case of thermal throttling, while the GPU never surpassed 63 degrees. Both kept at 43/46 degrees at regular use. The fins in the cooling channel are made with copper and just 0.1mm thick and angled away from the use - which is a lot smarter than most other designs.
Even the internal fans are made with polymer composite material, with no less than 83 wins per fans, which is claimed to increase airflow with 15%. We have no way to verify that, but the fact is that silent mode is brilliant, only reducing FPS by 5 in most games, and is not dead silent when gaming, but noise levels are greatly reduced compared with normal. If you care about the heat, you are able to put everything at max but that will cost you 47 dB in noise levels. However, the sound generated by the fans is generally of a lower pitch than usual, and therefore also less annoying, it doesn't shriek like a banshee with a bad hangover. We personally went with the silent mode most of the time, the FPS trade-off is fair, and heat levels are still acceptable.
The control software is called Armoury Crate and is the nicest home-build control software we have seen in a long time. All options and features are easily available and the user interface is nicely structured - extra points for that.
The keyboard is, of course, individual RGB light and chiclet type. The mouse pad is close to the edge, but due to the low height, that is not really a problem, and yes, it has a "switch to Numpad" button as well.
There is also a volume wheel, lots of fake surround options and effects. Not something we personally care for - it's fun - but not something we would use on an everyday basis. There are some pretty meat microphone options including reduction of noise, and that is pretty handy.
There is also a wifi booster available, but seeing as there is extremely powerful wifi at home as well as in the office, we didn't manage to test it properly.
Total War: Warhammer 2 - FPS
3D Benchmark - Synthetic:
Firestrike Ultra: 4911
Firestrike Extreme: 9195
Time Spy Extreme: 3664
Time Spy: 8128
Port Royal: 4663
Assassins Creed Odyssey - FPS
+60 FPS Ultra on a laptop - that is actually impressive.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War - FPS
Far Cry 5 - FPS
The Division - FPS
It's the most powerful laptop we have tested this year with "normal" specs and a single GPU, but not surprisingly it's very expensive. Weight and size are kept at a minimum, and the cooling still manages to be at its top, while noise levels are the lowest we have measured for a long time. Unless you engage Turbo mode - then your ears will get blown off.
Performance is fantastic, and we wouldn't mind giving it a 10, but that we'd need a real IPS panel, not the AHVA as the colours are too subtle for our tastes, and we would really like a chin bezel to match the top and side, combined with core temperatures under 80 degrees. But a grand 9 is still something to be proud of.