Gaming laptops in 2020 are good, really good. They come thick and thin, with ridiculously fast 300Hz displays and powerful ray-tracing graphics. But ultimately, they are pretty much all the same thing in different skins. And that’s why the Asus ROG Mothership GZ700 stands out(literally) from all of them.
Asus challenged itself to create something that defied common notions of what a gaming laptop should be and boy, did it succeed.
Asus jammed every high-performance component it could get its hands-on, into what is essentially an upside-down laptop. One that has desktop performance without the thermal limitations that traditional laptops suffer from. The result is a new form factor for gaming machines that is highly impractical (and absurdly expensive) as a mobile device but an ode to unlimited creative engineering.
I spent over two weeks with the Mothership and here’s my experience of this Frankenstein laptop/ tablet/ desktop RGB monster.
Asus ROG Mothership Review
The ROG Mothership GZ700GX is classed by Asus as a AAA gaming machine. To that end, it’s jam-packed with the best of the best specs money can buy. So what shall we find behind the veil of RB lighting and aggressive vents? Read it and weep with me:
|CPU||9th Generation Intel Core i9-9980HK (8-Core, 16MB Cache, up to 5.0Ghz w/Turbo Boost)|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GDDR6 (Boost Clock: 1880MHz, 200W)|
|Memory||64GB DDR4 2666MHz|
|Storage||3 x 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIE 3.0 x4 SSD in RAID 0|
|Display||17.3-inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160), IPS-level panel, 60Hz, 25ms, 100% Adobe RGB, G-SYNC|
|Keyboard||Detachable keyboard with touchpad stays wired or goes wireless|
|Audio||4x4W speakers with Smart AMP technologyArray Microphone|
|Comms||Intel Wi-Fi 6 with Gig+ performance (802.11ax)Bluetooth 5.0|
|Dimensions & Weight||410 (W) x 320 (D) x 29.9 (H) mm4.8 KG|
Not your traditional laptop
Calling the ROG Mothership a laptop would be a misnomer. While you technically can use it on your lap, it would be an exercise in dexterity and largely uncomfortable. The Mothership is more like a gargantuan Microsoft Surface Tablet. Unlike traditional clamshell laptops that have a display attached to a chassis which holds all the key components, the Mothership flips that script entirely.
The Mothership takes the display and crams all the main hardware behind it, gives it a kickstand and a detachable keyboard. The main unit is propped up by the kickstand much like a desktop picture frame. This stand keeps it upright and is counterbalanced by the keyboard. It’s very sturdy and I never worried about the unit tipping over. It also tilts the Mothership backwards a fair bit, almost 60-degree angle.
Asus says this unique standing design is what gives the Mothership its cooling edge. The taller profile allows for unobstructed air intakes that are usually blocked by human laps or a desk. This means much more efficient cooling of the system. And that means more powerful components to power this beast. The Mothership still gets fairly loud when running at full load and you can feel the hot air shooting out the sides and top if you place your hands near the chassis. But it doesn’t throttle or shut down after several hours of playing The Division 2 in 4K max settings.
Overall, it’s a striking design with lots of vents, copper and lighting. It looks like a custom, street racing car from the Fast and the Furious. Some might hate it but I love it. Asus has taken a very artistic approach in the RGB lighting that makes the Mothership look like a piece of modern art. Hidden underneath the kickstand is a disco light strip. The speaker grill on the front is also a sight to behold thanks to its unique pattern that really shines when backlit.
The display on the Mothership is a 17.3-inch 4K panel, it doesn’t take up the full-body as with many modern laptops but stops about 4/5ths the height of the chassis. This leaves a large chin down the bottom with a gold Asus logo(which strangely isn’t backlit).
The display is great.
Colours are accurate and viewing angles wide. Looking at it off centre doesn’t lead to any colour washing. This is critical since unlike traditional laptops, you really can’t adjust the tilt of the Motherships display.
The display is also Nvidia G-sync certified which is really welcome considering the number of pixels here and the low 60Hz refresh. In gaming, I never experienced any screen tearing or stuttering. While I don’t mind the low refresh(because even an RTX 2080 can struggle at 4K, ultra settings) I really do wish there had been HDR support. Otherwise, it’s a great display overall.
This hefty chin is put to good use though. It houses what’s essentially a soundbar whose four 4watt speakers blast you with surround sound. Asus laptops generally have good sound and the Mothership turns it up a notch. It’s powered by a premium ESS Sabre HiFi DAC with Hi-Res Audio certification and uses Asus’s Smart amplification to produce crisp, rich and boomy sound. However, I suspect more people will be rushing to plug in a pair of capable headphones to get the most out of this in-built DAC.
Above the display is a handy video camera and sensors which Asus uses for Windows Hello functionality. I love Windows Hello because it signs you into Windows by just scanning your face. It’s so good to just wake your machine and it recognises you. I found this particular implementation to be fast and accurate. I wasn’t too impressed with the video camera in my Zoom calls. I noticed a greenish colour tinge to the picture. It will work just fine for your work and social calls.
Looks like a beast, performs like one too
The Mothership packs some of the best hardware money can buy. The i9 processor paired with a whopping 64gb of memory and a triple raid SSD setup means this machine burns rubber. Nothing and I do mean nothing, slows or chokes this beast. Look at these performance numbers.
I ran my suite of synthetic benchmarks and compared with the powerful Alienware Aurora R9 desktop that has very similar specs. I was honest to God amazed at how close the Mothership performs to a bonafide desktop PC. Check out the results in the graph below.
As you can imagine, gaming on the Mothership is fantastic. The Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080(which is the big boy, desktop variant) handles every game in my test suite with aplomb achieving a lowest score of 43fps at 4K ultra settings. That is seriously impressive for a mobile device.
I spent most of the last two weeks playing The Division 2 non-stop with ultra settings on an 32-inch, 1440p ultrawide monitor hooked up to the Mothership. It’s been such a glorious experience with no slowdowns, hiccups or overheating. The Mothership achieves Asus goal of a slim, high-performance gaming machine without breaking a sweat.
When I reviewed the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX701, I hated the forward-mounted keyboard with side-mounted touchpad. I said it was uncomfortable to use at best and practically impossible on your lap. The Mothership has a similar keyboard design but with one huge difference. It can detach from the main chassis and fold into in half to become a standalone wireless keyboard and mouse. And that, makes a world of difference to its ergonomics.
A unique magnetic latch holds the keyboard to the display and a gentle tug lifts it off. It then folds in half to become a compact desktop keyboard that you can use on your laps or on a desk. The keyboard uses a 2.4Ghz fast wireless connection and I found it plenty fast with no delay in my keypresses resulting in any action on screen.
There’s a little switch on the top right to toggle the wireless connection on and off. Above the switch is an indicator light that shows whether your connected or warns you for low battery. It bothered me that this light is constantly blinking like somethings wrong. There’s also a USB-C port so you can connect the keyboard in wired mode. This also charges the keyboard with each charge lasting me about 3-4 hours. If you turn off the RGB lighting, it will last a bit longer.
Putting aside its convertible antics, the Mothership’s keyboard is very impressive to type on. The 0.3mm curved caps make the keys really easy to feel and thus type more accurately. They also have a generous 2.5mm of travel which is almost a millimetre more than the Alienware m17 R2’s keyboard, which I absolutely loved.
Typing on the Mothership is such a joy. Keys are responsive and have a satisfying bounce back. Response in gaming is excellent with N-Key rollover so all your keypresses are registered. One nice touch is that the space bar is wider on the left half which makes it so easy to hit with your thumb when gaming.
And of course, the keyboard is fully backlit with per-key RGB lighting and the excellent AuraSync which allows you to sync your lighting across the Mothership. You can choose from a wealth of profiles or create your own and save them to the keyboard. I also love that you can quickly use the Fn+Arrow keys to cycle through presets on the fly or change the lighting volume.
Asus continues the theme of dual-purpose, convertible design with the touchpad. It’s a normal, albeit really skinny, glass touchpad that changes at a touch of button into a glowing red number pad. I didn’t like the implementation in other Asus laptops but I’ve actually come to appreciate it here. A chunky physical button sits above it allowing you to toggle the numpad which is infinitely better than the finicky implementation on the Strix Scar III.
The touchpad also has two physical left and right-click buttons, something I think is pretty arcane in 2020. A glass panel that fully depresses is much better in my opinion. However, the biggest deal-breaker with this touchpad for most will be its physical size. It’s really just too small and even it’s convenient location can’t make up for that. The reality is you will never use this touchpad for much more than it’s numpad and basic Windows navigation. It’s best to have an external mouse.
I imagine that when Asus designed this concept machine, they realised that its form factor was never going to be for road warriors who game on the bus to work. So they jammed every conceivable connection port to this beast so that you can make it a fully complete desktop experience.
First off, there are enough ports to connect up to three external monitors for a quad monitor setup. Two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, one with DisplayPort 1.4 and another with ThunderBolt 3 and HDMI 2.0 port. I used a dual monitor setup and the RTX 2080 had no problem driving a 1440p and 4K display. Glorious.
Additionally, there are plenty more ports to connect external keyboards(though you really don’t need another), mouse and other peripherals. Audiophiles will love the sound from the Mothership. Its HiDac boosts the sound coming out of your headphones. I rarely found myself using anything more than 25% volume which was plenty loud and boomy.
The Mothership is truly a desktop replacement and I enjoyed having it as a hub on my desk.
Batteries are bad for a laptop but great for a desktop
It’s inevitable that a machine as powerful as the Mothership is going to have atrocious battery life. This isn’t a surprise to me and I wasn’t expecting much. I managed 1.5 – 2 hours running on battery. This was with very light use browsing the web, doing emails and watching YouTube on the main screen with everything else on an external display.
Fundamentally, the Mothership is a power-hungry beast and even has two AC adapters to run at full throttle. So, yeah. Again, it’s important to not judge the Mothership as a laptop or mobile device. It’s really a park-in-one-spot type of machine with enough battery if you need to temporarily move it without losing your work.
Verdict, should you buy?
I think the bigger question is, can you even afford it?
The base configuration of the Mothership starts at a mind-boggling $10,000 which is absurdly expensive and totally impractical for even the most affluent gamer. Cost aside, the problem with the Mothership is that it’s neither a laptop nor a desktop which makes it really hard to sell. And that’s not to mention you could get a PC with the same performance for less than half the price.
So who exactly is this designed for, besides nerdy billionaires? The Mothership is like a concept supercar but for gaming. It takes the best computer hardware and crams it into a form factor that’s not really practical but certainly excites the senses. The ROG Mothership is a dream that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reviewing but can’t recommend.
Asus has created something exceptional that will likely never be a normal thing unless they can shrink it down to an iPad Pro size and price. I asked an Asus rep if a Mothership 2 was in the works and was told “…Maybe” with a knowing smile. And I can’t wait to see what they do next.
The Asus ROG Mothership Z700 was loaned to PowerUp! Gaming by Asus Australia for the purpose of this review.
Product Name: Asus ROG Mothership GZ700
Product Description: AAA Gaming laptop
Offer price: $10,000