I haven’t been as excited for a laptop like I am for the new Asus Zephyrus G14 since the Razer Blade 15 Advanced came out a few years ago. Since its announcement at CES2020, I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. Sure, there were many other impressive laptops announced as well; wild dual-screen laptops and others with absurdly fast 300Hz displays but I’m not feeling that; you know?
The G14 is exciting because it’s an incredibly well built little laptop that kicks all sorts of performance ass thanks to a holy combination of AMD’s new Ryzen 4000 APUs, fast memory and NVIDIA RTX graphics. AMD has been killing it on desktop and it doesn’t look to be slowing down on mobile.
But wait, it gets better. Asus has crafted a gorgeous metal body and packed in a battery that can legitimately get you through most of a work day. It’s almost perfect.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Review
The G14 is a mighty midget of a machine that is sure to dethrone the Razer Blade Stealth 13 as the choice for gaming ultrabooks. Let’s see what’s inside before we get into it.
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 4GB GDDR6|
|Memory||16GB DDR4 3200Mhz SDRAM|
|SSD||1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 Intel SDD|
|Display||14-inch Non-glare Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS-level panel, up to 120Hz, 100% sRGB, Pantone Validated, adaptive sync|
|I/O Ports||1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C with DisplayPort™ 1.4 and Power Delivery|
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
1 x HDMI 2.0b
1 x 3.5mm headphone and mic combo-jack
|Power||180W power adaptor|
Support Type-C PD 3.0 up to 65W
|Dimensions||Width: 32.4cmDepth: 22.2cmHeight: 1.79 (Regular); 1.99cm (AniMe Matrix™)|
Design and build
Once you open the box, you’ll be amazed at how small and light the G14 is. But don’t mistake that for flimsy or insubstantial — in fact, it feels anything but. The 1.6kg body is made of a magnesium-aluminium alloy that feels really nice to the touch and is great at repelling greasy fingerprints. The body is extremely rigid – there’s no flexing or bending at all, just like an Apple Macbook.
Our G14 came in the white variant which is a breath of fresh air in the endless sea of black/red gaming laptops. In fact, the G14 is extremely understated, eschewing the rainbow RGB for a more subtle white backlighting. If not for the ROG badge and elaborate perforated lid, nobody would know this is a gaming laptop.
Speaking of that lid, Asus uses a precision CNC milling process to make 6,536 tiny dots in the lid that form a mesmerizing triangular dot matrix. Top of the line models get mini-LED behind those dots to create the AniMe Matrix that displays custom graphics and animations. Sadly, my review unit wasn’t equipped with this but even without the lighting, the dots are gorgeous and give the G14 an added air of sophistication and style.
Asus continues to cross pollinate their best laptop features across its products and this time, they’ve borrowed the ErgoLift hinge from the Zenbook line. This unique design uses the bottom of the lid to lift the back of the laptop upwards to improve the air flow underneath the laptop. While this improves thermal performance, the more tangible benefit is the improved keyboard ergonomics thanks to the gentle upward tilt.
Round the sides, the G14 has two uncharacteristically tame air vents and two more on the back to expel the hot air. Asus has refined their cooling solution for more efficient cooling and less noise. Most of the time, the G14 is impressively quiet. I am really impressed with the machining and overall quality of construction of the G14.
Performance and gaming
Now, because my peers in North America get everything first, I was already aware of the incredible performance of the G14. But I still needed to run my own homegrown tests and oh man does this little thing deliver. Asus says the G14 is the fastest 14-inch gaming laptop and I believe them. And we can all thank the folks at AMD for working with Asus to bring us this new, 7nm process Ryzen 4000 mobile series APU.
Our unit comes with the top of the range Ryzen 9 4900HS — an 8-core, 16 thread beast that runs at a base clock of 3.0Ghz but can go all the way up to 4.3Ghz across all cores. There’s also a 6-core version in the Ryzen 7 4800HS which can save you a little money without a huge performance hit. Either choice is exceptional and makes the G14 punch way above its weight. Just look at these benchmark numbers contrasted with the bigger, beefier and double-the-price Alienware m17 R2 that packs a Core i9-9880HK; one of Intel’s finest mobile processors.
Just look at how the G14 outperforms the Alienware in both Cinebench and Geekbench; besting it by over 1000 points. This is phenomenal performance for something that costs over $1000 less than the Alienware. Streamers and video editors will appreciate the multithreading power that the Ryzen 9 4900HS offers. Now when it comes to 3DMark11, the Alienware pulls ahead thanks to its much more powerful RTX GeForce 2080 Max-Q but overall, I’d say you get far more bang for buck with the G14 than the Alienware!
I tested my usual suite of games to see how the Ryzen/ RTX combo would fair and the results are very good. Keep in mind that the G14 is using a RTX 2060 Max-Q which is the lower powered variant. That said, 1080p game results are pretty damn good. Every game run well above 60FPS at the highest settings. And it was only when I run Shadow of the Tomb Raider with RTX on that I saw the G14 drop below 60FPS but even then, it was smoother than a console experience. NVIDIA’s continued improvements to DLSS 2.0 helps the G14 get even better performance in RTX titles like Metro Exodus which performed way better than I expected.
Now, this is still a laptop so all that power is going to generate a ton of heat. I noticed that the G14 got rather toasty around the top right area of the keyboard deck after several hours of intense benchmarking. The fans also spin up but I can’t say they were louder than most. For most of the time, the G14 maintains a very quiet composure unlike the Gigabyte AERO 15 which periodically spins up the fans even under light load.
Display and Keyboard
This is the first 14-inch laptop I’ve used and while noticeably smaller than a 15-inch, this particular display is pretty good. It has a 120Hz refresh which is a delight in gaming. There was never a hint of screen tearing or stutters at all. The display is adaptive sync so that helps keep it ticking along in tune with the RTX 2060.
There’s a QHD 1440p variant which I’d be curious to see how well it performs but since the display has adaptive sync, games would probably run great. The display is also Pantone Certified so you can be sure you are getting professional color accuracy. If you are a designer like me or another creative, this is a must have on any laptop. It’s no OLED but you will not be disappointed by the color vibrancy and brightness.
When I’m not designing stuff, I’m writing stuff so a good keyboard can make or break a laptop for me. Thankfully, Asus has put a good one on the G14. It starts with the physical design with keys that are wide and well spaced. I’m so happy Asus didn’t try to squeeze a number pad here as that kinda sucks in small laptops. Instead you get a spacious keyboard that’s comfortable and easy to type on. The keys have a respectable travel and don’t have that shallow, touch typing feel. At the top are the now standard Asus function keys for the Armoury Crate management tool and media controls.
The keys match the mercury metallic tone of the chassis and have a simple white backlighting. It’s not your typical RGB affair here. It works rather well with the overall aesthetic of the G14 and I didn’t miss having a rainbow at my fingertips. But it does create a problem for legibility of the keys in the dark. The contrast is poor and the light doesn’t shine that brightly through the lettering. I suspect the darker color G14 fairs better but overall, writer-me is well pleased with the G14’s keyboard.
Hello, who’s there?
The G14 comes with Windows Hello functionality using a rather unique fingerprint reader which is embedded in the large, hexagonal power button. Fingerprint readers aren’t a new thing but Asus aren’t content with just doing the commonplace. The G14’s reader does something quite clever. When you press the power button to turn on the machine, it temporarily stores your fingerprint. After Windows boots up, the reader hands over the cached fingerprint to Windows Hello which then logs you into the right account.
It’s a truly brilliant trick that saves you that extra touch to scan your print but that’s only when it actually works. My unit failed to log me in nine out of ten times. That’s just terrible inconsistency. Even when I set up alternate finger prints, I only managed to improve that to about three times out of ten. I always ended up just using my PIN which is really disappointing but hopefully, future iterations will be much better.
When it comes to connectivity, the G14 covers the basics. You’ve got your essential USB-C and USB-A ports sufficient for all your basic devices. For video, there is HDMI 2.0 for fast 4K output. I’m not confident that the RTX 2060 can drive any games at a reasonable framerate at 4K but it will handle Adobe suite in 4k just fine.
Audio is provided via a 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo-jack. But the G14 being an ROG laptop also comes with some pretty decent speakers. 2x 2.5w speakers powered by Asus SmartAmp technology sound great. They are loud, clear and warm. You won’t get thumping base out of these but you can rely on them to belt out some tunes when you forget your headsets.
For connectivity, the G14 thankfully has Intel Wi-Fi 6 which I was worried would be missing thanks to the AMD chipset. I did notice much better transfer speeds with the G14 than some of my other devices that are still on Wi-Fi 4. One thing that’s missing is an Ethernet port. This might be a disappointment for gamers who want the lowest latency experience. I haven’t used an Ethernet cable in more years than I can remember so it won’t really be an issue for most people.
Great battery and USB-C charging
Yes! At long last, a gaming laptop that can reach its lofty claims of all day battery. I was able to get an average of 6 hours of mixed usage – that’s web browsing, 1080/60FPS YouTube videos, Spotify streaming, Discord, WhatsApp and Email syncing. I’ve reviewed a number of gaming laptops in my time and none has come anywhere within a Parsec of reaching these levels of longevity.
Now, using a combination of Windows battery saving modes, turning off the keyboard lighting and reducing brightness, I suspect you can reach 7.5 hours which is pretty much the whole workday or an entire flight. I wasn’t foolhardy enough to try to game on this battery though. I prefer full performance but if you dare to tread there, the G14 should last you about two hours thanks to NVIDIA’s battery optimizations.
And here’s the kicker. The G14 finally has USB-C charging. Thank God! The G14 has one USB Type C port with Power Delivery up to 65W. What this allows you to do is charge the G14 with any compatible USB-C charger – be it a smartphone or airport terminal. I can’t tell you how handy it is to have a single charger for my laptop, tablet, phone and wireless headsets.
USB-C is pretty much the defacto standard now and for the longest time, it seemed like the Apple Macbooks were the only ones that had this feature. However, unlike the Macbooks, this is more of a trickle charge that you use for low powered activities like web browsing or document management. If you want to game, stick to the 180W power brick for that.
Can it Zoom call?
Uhm…(crickets chirping). Oh Asus. Of course no one could have predicted the seismic global changes brought on by COVID19 and what would have been alright under any other circumstance now becomes a critical fail. The G14 doesn’t have a webcam. Even a year ago, unless you were a streamer or a fancy remote worker, you probably never needed a webcam to make video calls.
But after COVID19, video calls are a lifeline for so many and the lack of one on the G14 is a great shame to what is otherwise a perfect laptop in almost every respect. Sure, you can buy one of the clip-on ones but a webcam has long been as standard as a keyboard on laptops. This will be a big turn off for thousands of potential buyers and I hope Asus revises the design for the next model to include it.
I started by confessing that the Asus Zephyrus G14 is my most anticipated laptop of the year and it lived up to every expectation of mine and then some. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best gaming laptop Asus has ever made and one of the best laptops in the market right now. The G14 is perfect in almost every way. The only deal breaker would be the lack of a webcam but that’s only because of the prevailing lockdown conditions we are all forced to deal with right now. To some of you, this will matter a lot — it does to me because I absolutely need a webcam for work. But if you can overlook that(or buy an external camera), I can not think of a better value gaming laptop than the Zephyrus G14.
The base model of the Asus Zephyrus G14 starts at $2,199 which gives you a Ryzen 7 4800HS and a GeForce 1660ti with a 512GB SSD in an extremely well built metal chassis that looks unforgettable. Our review unit with the Ryzen 9 4900HS and RTX 2060 will cost about $700 more but even then, wow. The Alienware m17 r2 that I used in my comparison test costs at least $4,000 while the Razer Blade Stealth 13 which is the closest competitor in form factor starts at $3,750.
What Asus has created here as a total package is truly something to sing praises about and I’m glad that the G14 exists. It’s the perfect trifecta of price, performance and style and all the bigger, pricier gaming laptops should be ashamed of themselves. It’s a hell yeah from me.
The Asus Zephyrus G14 was loaned to PowerUp! by Asus Australia for the purpose of this review.