PC Software

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14—Ryzen 7nm mobile is here, and it’s awesome

 

  • In this shot, the G14 is running the challenging Superposition GPU benchmark—and its onboard GTX 2060 Max-Q is making light work of it.

    Jim Salter

  • This side view of the G14 demonstrates the unusually wide viewable angle on its display.

    Jim Salter

  • The Zephyrus G14 is maddeningly difficult to open. Short of grabbing a spudger, the best approach is to work your fingertips under the side corner, not the bottom center.

    Jim Salter

  • In this top-down view of the closed G14, we have a Victorinox pocketknife for scale.

    Jim Salter

  • On the right side of the G14, we have a USB-C jack, two USB-B jacks, and a Kensington lock slot.

    Jim Salter

  • On the left edge of the G14, we see a full-size HDMI port, a USB-C jack, a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack, and a DC power jack (currently in use).

    Jim Salter

  • Here we see the bottom of the G14, and the back edge—which has hinges and vents, but no device ports. The hinges are raised, to give airflow beneath the G14 when it’s open and running.

    Jim Salter

  • The keyboard backlighting is not per-key. You can’t read the characters on the keys well at night, and the whole effect is uneven and rather displeasing.

    Jim Salter

We’ve been excited about getting our hands on AMD’s 7nm laptop parts for a long time now—even before visiting AMD’s campus in Austin last month for a sneak preview. Originally, we were supposed to come home from AMD with a laptop in hand to test, but the novel coronavirus had its way with this as with many other products.

 

We did eventually get one of Asus’ Zephyrus G14 gaming laptops with a top-of-the-line Ryzen 9 4900HS, though—and after several days of testing, we’re ready to talk about it.

Overview Specs at a glance: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, as tested OS Windows 10 Home CPU 3.0GHz 8-core AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS (4.3GHz boost) RAM 16GB DDR4-3200 GPU AMD Radeon 8 core / Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 MaxQ SSD Intel 660p M.2 NVMe PCIe3.0 1TB Battery ASUStek 76000mWh Display 1080p, non-glare, 120Hz, adaptive sync Connectivity

  • two USB-A ports
  • two USB-C ports
  • 3.5mm phone/mic combo jack
  • DC power jack
  • full-size HDMI out
  • Kensington lock slot
  • no camera

Price as tested $1,449.99 at Best Buy and Asus

 

The Zephyrus G14 is a surprisingly small and sleek build for a full-on gaming laptop—and make no mistake about it, that’s precisely what this beast is. At first glance, the 18mm-thick Zephyrus looks more like an ultraportable design than a gaming laptop. (For reference, the Acer C720 11-inch Chromebooks were 19mm thick.)

Any similarity to a Chromebook goes away when you pick the Zephyrus up, though. At a little less than 4 pounds, it’s not exactly a battlestation of old—my old System76 Gazelle Pro came in at 5.5 pounds!—but it’s much heavier than you’d expect from such a sleek little laptop.

The G14’s fans spin up quickly and authoritatively the moment the system is put under even the slightest amount of load. For a typical laptop, this might be a little annoying—but we suspect it’s a design decision the gamers the G14 is aimed at will appreciate. Nobody’s going to lose any frames because this laptop thought keeping quiet was more important.

At full-on leafblower mode, the fans are loud enough to be heard a room away. We don’t have a good way to measure the volume directly, but notebookcheck.net reports it gets as high as 53.5dB. That’s louder than competing gaming laptops—but we should note that the fan noise is a very livable, clean “whoosh” with no rattles, coil whine, or bearing hum. All you hear is air.

The cooling system, however loud, definitely performed well. Even after hours of continuous heavy graphics and CPU load testing, performance did not drop—and the chassis and keyboard did not feel hot to the touch.

Our biggest complaint about the G14—aside from the lack of a camera—is the difficulty in opening it. There is no notch or gripping surface in the center bottom of the lid, and the hinges are very stiff. Stiff hinges mean good build quality and longer chassis life, but this really was a difficult laptop to open—the first time out of the box, we were tempted to go grab a spudger. Eventually, we discovered it can be opened one-handed from the side, rather than the center.

The keyboard backlight was also disappointing. It’s a pale white, with one or two LEDs beneath the keyboard servicing the whole thing. The overall effect is distinctly uneven, and actually reading the keys in the dark isn’t at all easy.

CPU performance

  • In case you weren’t sure what class the Ryzen 9 4900HS lives in, here it is kicking sand in high-end desktop CPUs’ faces.

    Jim Salter

  • Cinebench R20 doesn’t favor the 4900HS quite as heavily as Passmark did. The i9-9900K wins here, but the i7-9700K still falls behind, and the only other laptop CPU in the race languishes at a little better than half the 4900HS’ performance.

    Jim Salter

  • There’s not an awful lot to choose from when it comes to strictly single-threaded CPU performance. The 4900HS slides in at about 7-percent slower than the high-end desktop CPUs.

    Jim Salter

  • The 4900HS does better in single-threaded Cinebench R20 than it did in single-threaded Passmark, coming in just shy of the i9-9900K.

    Jim Salter

 

There’s not much to say about the Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU in the Zephyrus G14 beyond “wow.” Getting the full set of benchmark utilities loaded on a new laptop can be annoying—especially PCMark, which comes as a 3.27GiB zip file.

The Zephyrus G14’s Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU was more than up to the challenge of a few measly GiB of zip file, however—it unzipped PCMark in under 30 seconds, at a whopping 140MiB/sec. The bottleneck here was almost certainly the Intel 660p SSD—the 660p is a QLC (Quad-Level Cell) drive, which means its write speed tends to dip down to 100MiB/sec pretty quickly.

The Ryzen 9 4900HS did as well actually running the benchmarks. In multi-threaded benchmarks, it runs neck and neck with Intel’s high-end desktop gaming CPU, the i9-9900K. The 4900HS runs away laughing from the more affordable i7-9700K—not to mention its actual competition, the i7-9750H laptop CPU.

The race is considerably closer when it comes to single-threaded benchmarks. Single-threaded, the 4900HS comes in second or third to the Intel desktop gaming CPUs—though it consistently beats the Intel laptop CPU. The margins here are considerably smaller, though, and there’s probably not much to choose from when it comes to truly single-threaded workloads.

GPU performance

  • The GeForce RTX 2060 is a solid card, but it’s not in the same league as the 4900HS CPU. This Superposition score is similar to what you’d get with a desktop GTX 1060 from 2016.

    Jim Salter

  • 2D Graphics Mark tends to push heavily on the CPU as well as the graphics card—which explains why our Zephyrus G14 is handily outperforming the RTX 2060 Mobile in the Passmark baselines.

    Jim Salter

  • We’re likely seeing the effect of a much beefier CPU again in the 3D Graphics Mark score, with a 10-percent-ish bump over the RTX 2060 Mobile baseline score.

    Jim Salter

 

The graphics performance of the Zephyrus G14 is very good, but it’s not world-class—which makes sense in a $1,500 gaming laptop, and it only seems noteworthy because the Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU is such a showstopper. If we use the Unigine Superposition benchmark to compare its RTX 2060 Mobile to desktop parts, we end up with a rough equivalence to a four-year-old GTX 1060.

It’s worth stressing, here, that this does not in any way make the G14 a bad performer. Its consistent 50+ fps when running the Superposition benchmark are significantly better than my own Ryzen 7 3700X workstation with Radeon RX 590 GPU can manage, and the experience is artifact-free, even in slow pans that give the user plenty of time to notice flashing on leading edges and similar glitches.

The RTX 2060 Mobile also compares roughly with four-year-old desktop parts on Passmark’s less-demanding 3D Graphics Mark tests. More interestingly, our Zephyrus G14 noticeably outperformed Passmark’s baseline scores for the RTX 2060 Mobile in both 3D Graphics Mark and 2D Graphics Mark. This is most likely due to CPU performance influence on the tests.

We’ll mention the Zephyrus G14’s fans again here, because GPU benchmarking is what really kicks them into high gear. We thought that they were moving a lot of air during the CPU benchmarks—but we clearly just didn’t have a good frame of reference.

We were impressed at how clean the Zephyrus G14’s fan sound is, with no whine, rattle, or buzz. But we certainly can’t call it quiet—it’s moving so much air through a very tiny space, and the whoosh is easily audible from a room away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *