Asus Zephyrus M15 Review — Forgotten brother

I’ve been looking forward to the Asus Zephyrus M15 since it was announced way back at the start of 2020. Compared to its siblings like the dual screen Zephyrus Duo 15 or award-winning gaming prodigy, the Zephyrus G14, the M15 seems downright dull. But I’ve always been a fan of understated gaming laptops that eschew the all the usual tropes and that’s what the M15 is.   

Starting at $2,900, the M15 is considerably cheaper than a Razer Blade 15 but you wouldn’t know by looking at it. It’s a handsome machine featuring a similar dot matrix pattern on the lid as the stunning Zephyrus G14. In order to keep the price down, Asus made some interesting choices of components. 

Here in Australia, the M15 comes in only one model that has an NVIDIA Geforce 1660Ti mated to a 4K 60Hz panel, an Intel Core i7-10750H with 16Gb of RAM and a fast but small 512GB M.2 NVMe drive. The result is middle of the road gaming performance but decent battery life. So why should you choose this over the excellent and similarly priced Zephyrus G14?

Asus Zephyrus M15 review

As I’ve already alluded to, the M15 is a handsome machine that looks like someone put the G14 in a sandwich press to make it thinner and a little bit wider. While it’s not the skinniest laptop out there, it was much thinner and lighter than I expected a mid-range laptop to be — only 19mm thick and 2Kg. 

It’s made of light magnesium-alloys that look and feel great in the hand and even though it isn’t a unibody design, there’s no flex. The M15 has a unique honeycomb structure to reinforce the frame while being cheaper and lighter. The signature Asus Ergolift hinge design slightly raises the back of the laptop when the lid is open which improves airflow.  

Add on the mesmerizing prismatic dot matrix on the lid and the M15 stands out from the crowd. The pattern shimmers with a rainbow cascade as light bounces off it depending on the angle you are looking at it. There’s also a more traditional Brushed Black model if you aren’t into all that. 

On the inner deck is a soft touch skin around the palm rest that provides extra grip and repels unsightly smudges from sweaty palms. There’s a standard size keyboard with no number keys and the touchpad is decently sized and feels smooth to touch. 

The sides of the M15 are very clean with none of the aggressive exhaust vents you normally find on gaming laptops. This leaves room for plenty of ports on either side. I’d have loved to see more ports on the back but instead we only have some more exhaust vents.

Overall, the M15 is a very handsome thin and light laptop, perhaps one of the best that I’ve yet encountered. It won’t look out of place in the office or at a LAN party(if we ever have those again) 

Keyboard and I/O

The keyboard on the M15 is much the same as the one on the G14. The keys are nice and chunky with decent travel that makes for a good typing experience. The black keys fair much better than the G14’s white keys at showing off the RGB backlighting. Sadly, our model, the Prismatic Grey only has single zone for some weird reason; as if the dot matrix patterning somehow doesn’t allow for per-key backlighting? I don’t get it. 

The touchpad is smooth and precise with full gesture support and can be clicked as one big button if you so desire. I always set it to just tap-to-click anyways but for gaming, you will need an external mouse. And thanks to plenty of USB ports, that won’t be a problem. 

A nice inclusion in the ports is a Thunderbolt 3 with USB Type-C that can handle blistering fast data transfer as well as graphics support for DisplayPort 1.4. So you can connect a high refresh monitor and have your CoD:Warzone fun unimpeded. The same port also supports Power Delivery which means the M15 can be charged via USB-C.

This is truly handy when you just need a quick top up while you are away from your main charger. You can’t really game with this sort of charging as the power draw is too high but it’s nice when you find yourself in a pinch. Not that you should worry though. The battery life on the M15 is pretty good. 

Of course, your mileage will vary depending on your software and whatever you are doing. But in my testing, the M15 should easily get you 4.5-6 hours of light use like web browsing, watching Youtube or streaming Spotify. The 4K display is probably the biggest power draw but with some tweaks to the brightness levels and Windows power saving, the M15 should go the distance. 

Display

Speaking of the display, I’ve already mentioned that it’s a 4K panel with 60Hz refresh rate. Colors are good with 100% Adobe and 132% sRGB which makes it great for creative work like graphic design, photo and video editing. In my other work as a designer, I was more than happy with this panel.  Text is pin-sharp and watching 4K content is a delight. It gets bright enough and its pixel sharp making apps and 4K video shine. 

What’s not so great is gaming because of the panels slow 60Hz refresh.  While I’m not a pro player, I do notice how choppy a 60Hz panel is compared to like a 144Hz one. It also doesn’t help that Asus went with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660TI which is just too underpowered for 4K gaming. But if you do turn game resolution down to 1080p, you’ll get 60FPS in AAA titles. 

Performance

In terms of performance, the M15 is a mid-ranger through and through. You won’t be crushing benchmarks as you can see from our synthetic tests but it will handle your everyday tasks. The i7-10750H performs well without burning up and draining your battery life. I recorded maximum CPU temperatures of just 85C under load which is over 10-degrees cooler than more powerful gaming laptops. 

One odd thing I noticed was a frequent ‘hiccupping’ or micro-freezes. The M15 would freeze for a second, halting your mouse movement or scrolling. I never figured out why this happens but it happened far too frequently on my unit to the point of irritation.

However, this never happened when playing games. The M15 run smoothly whether I was playing CoD: Warzone or speeding around in Forza Horizon 4. The M15 will run most AAA games at 1080p 60FPS or more at Ultra settings but it’s clearly better suited for medium to high settings. You might even be able to manage 4K 30FPS at low settings. 

Given that the M15 is at least four times the price of next gen Xbox or PlayStation 5, I would have liked to see similar performance of 4K 60FPS or 1080p 120 FPS. The M15 would do better with a 1080p 144Hz display which would yield better results in games.   

Verdict

The Zephyrus M15 is a great, mid-range laptop. At a price of $2,900 it’s pretty hard to beat in terms of value. Few laptops are as handsome and pack as much quality into a slim package for that price. In fact, the only option better would be it’s own sibling — the Zephyrus G14. 

That little machine is a beast and has better overall performance in productivity and gaming thanks to it’s AMD Ryzen 4800H and RTX 2060 combination. However, you’d have to give up the 4K display for a smaller 14-inch screen which may be a problem if you do a lot of professional creative design work on the go. In that case, the Zephyrus M15 is the better buy. 


Asus Australia provided the Zephyrus M15 to PowerUp! for the purpose of this review.

Asus Zephyrus M15
LIKE
Handsome design
Good battery life
Beautiful 4K display
DISLIKE
Middling performance
Bested by the Zephyrus G14
8.3
Midrange performance in a good looking device

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Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

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