There really is no such thing as the perfect laptop but gosh darn it, the new Asus Zephyrus S17 GX703 is as close as I’ve ever got. This successor to the Zephyrus s17 GX701 that I called the would be God roll way back in 2019. I thought that was a stunning machine with its skinny profile, performance but ultimately let down by it’s terribly placed keyboard/ touchpad. Asus tried an innovative approach to laptop cooling that ultimately ruined the usability of the laptop.
The new S17 corrects all the sins of its forefather with an even cooler solution(pun intended) that returns the keyboard to its rightful place while making it far more usable than before. Additional improvements over the GX701 include a brand new 4K 120Hz display, 11th Gen Intel i9 and of course NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 for a power combination that shreds everything I threw at it. But at the end of the day, is all that enough to justify its hefty $5,999 price tag?
Asus Zephyrus S17 GX703 Review
Let’s start with the design changes. Overall, the S17 GX703 is still a skinny machine at just 19.9mm thick. Even with a it’s big 17.3-inch display, it feels like a smaller laptop. Asus has trimmed as much fat making for an impressive 88% screen-to-body ratio. It blows my mind that even with this thinness, there’s still room for the top half of the keyboard deck to split into two revealing the S17’s defining characteristic.
Borrowing the design of it’s sibling, the Asus Zephyrus Duo but instead of having a second titling screen, it’s the keyboard that tilts. The 5° tilt makes for a delightfully comfortable typing experience that I desperately craved from its predecessor. The big payoff of course is that massive 12mm air intake that the S17 uses to suck in a ton of cool air. Most impressively, even with this tilting keyboard, the new S17 remains amazingly skinny at 19.9mm, just a hair over a millimeter thicker than the18.7mm S17 GX701’s.
And guess what else Asus did with the keyboard? They fit a damn good, low profile Optical mechanical keyboard with per key RGB lighting and a deep 1.9mm of travel. The keys feel so deliciously crisp and make that nice clicky sound that’s really satisfying. Even as I type this review on the S17, I’m amazed at how far laptop mechanical keyboards have come in the last two years.
I am also impressed at how rigid the keyboard deck is. For something so thin, it doesn’t wobble or flex – a great testament to Asus engineering and build quality. I like that it’s a generously spaced, full keyboard with a number pad and it doesn’t feel cramped like some other 17-inch laptops. I most certainly don’t miss Asus’s weird dual touch/numpad implementation from the GX701. This new touch pad, with the keyboard back in it’s rightful place, is a more traditional glass that’s well sized for your everyday scrolling, swiping and gestures. It’s smooth, responsive and most importantly, in the right position.
Adding to my delight with the new keyboard has to be the Multiwheel – a small tactile roller that you can use for adjusting volume and much more. I can’t lie, I’m a sucker for physical knobs and dials on my keyboards and Asus made a great one. Primarily, you’ll use this dial for adjusting volume and it’s so satisfying to spin thanks to it’s tactile resistance. A long press allows you to change the function of the Multiwheel to adjust other things like keyboard lighting, screen brightness or even switching tasks. A great little detail is how the LED light next to the Multiwheel changes brightness in relation to match your volume level. So nice. I want this Multiwheel on every laptop from now on.
Designed for productivity and enjoyment
The S17 has a number of other premium conveniences to justify it’s high asking price including a fingerprint reader in the power button which is fast and accurate. You also get a Noise-reducing web camera which is so good to see return to Asus gaming laptops in this Zoom era. The camera tries to remove noise from the image that results from low light and typical small sensors found in webcams.
Helping with your video calls is a 3D Mic array with AI Noise cancelling and presets for meetings or gaming. Rounding off that package is a six speaker system with dual force-cancelling woofers that produce some of the best audio output on a gaming laptop. The S17 also supports Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res Audio which sounds great with good clarity, staging and bass.
All this would be mute without a good display and again, Asus has packed one of the best displays on a gaming laptop bar OLED. The S17 has a beautiful 17-inch, 4K IPS panel with 120Hz refresh and 3ms response time. This is an IPS panel with a rated 100% DCI-P3 color gamut which is amazing for anyone who wants to do professional photo, video editing and content creation on the go. I loved how crisp, vibrant and beautiful everything looks on this panel. In fact, I noted how it made even the $4000 Asus ROG Swift PG35V Gaming monitor look appalling in comparison.
The panel also gets really bright with a peak brightness of 500 nits which enables it to support HDR – specifically, Dolby Vision HDR, making it the perfect mobile cinema. I enjoyed consuming content and playing HDR games on the S17. A dark game like Asobo Studios A Plague Tale looks absolutely gorgeous with so much detail in the shadows contrasting with the bright torch flames. Watching the pivotal scene in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker where Rey faces off against Palpatine in that dark Sith cave, everything looks stunning as the light sabers glowed brightly against the darkness of the cave.
Performance up the wazoo
In order to put performance in perspective, we need to talk about specs first. I got the top spec Zephyrus S17 GX703 for review, which will cost you a cool $5,999. For that privilege, you get an 11th Gen Intel i9-11900H 8-core CPU, a 140W Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 mated to a 17.3-inch 4K 120Hz display. System RAM is 32Gb and you get a massive three terabytes of NVMe SSD’s in RAID 0 configuration for massive speed.
I’ll also be comparing the S17 to the Alienware x17 R1 that I recently reviewed as they are similar in specs and relative size. Right off the bat though, I noticed that the S17 was slower in all my benchmarks than the x17. In Cinebench R23 and Geekbench, the s17 scored 10477 and 7933 versus the Alienwares 13499 and 9321. I noted a similar trend in 3DMark, PCMark and UniEngine. Clearly, Alienware’s smart 12-volt phase regulation allows that machine to sustain much higher clock speeds for longer at the cost of higher temperatures. Asus must be holding back the S17 to maintain performance and cooler temperatures.
Things got interesting in games though where this time, it was the S17 that outperformed the x17 in many of the same games – albeit by just a few frames. Admittedly, I wasn’t able to get any game to match the native 4K120 but I’d say playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider at ultra settings and ray-tracing at 46fps on a laptop isn’t a bad result at all. The reality of course being that at 4K, you really don’t need to use ultra settings. above Medium to high settings with RTX on and DLSS will net you a 60fps experience that still looks gorgeous thanks to the sharper overall image.
Lastly, all this grunt in a skinny laptop definitely translates into copious amounts of heat but here again, the S17 impresses. After sustained loads of benchmarking as well as 4K gaming, the s17 maintained a surprisingly cool 78C on the GPU and 72C on the CPU. The Alienware was easily hotter by 10C under the same conditions.
It’s clear that the new AAS Plus cooling solution that combines that massive 12mm intake provided by the articulating keyboard with redesigned fans and liquid metal thermal compound are achieving the desired effect. And while you certainly don’t want to be gaming on your laps, you won’t get even a hint of warmth from the keyboard deck and you don’t have to worry about thermal throttling or burnout.
Battery is acceptable, ports are excellent
When it comes to battery life, I got an average of 4hours out of the 90Wh battery. Once again, compared to the Alienware which only managed about 1.5hrs, this is a much more reasonable result. It’s worth noting that any laptop with such a bright 17-inch 4K 120Hz display and an i9 processor is going to weigh heavily on battery life. I suspect that the S17 with an i7 and QHD panel will last longer per charge.
Asus has given us a few cool power tricks to get the most out of the battery including charging via USB Type-C though only when using the machine for lighter tasks. If you always leave the laptop on power like I did, there’s a battery saving mode that stops charging when the battery is 60% full. Lastly, there’s also fast charging which will give you 50% battery with just 30min of charge which should be handy for road warriors. But honestly, I think most people will set the S17 on a laptop stand and build a desk setup around it anyway.
Which is really easy to do thanks to the great selection of ports. On the right side, there are two USB Gen 3.2 ports and a full size SD Card UHS II reader which isn’t the fastest thing in the world but will certainly be appreciated by photographers and videographers. On the left side you get a Type-C with DisplayPort and a ThunderBolt 4 that supports Power Delivery for charging.
You also have an additional USB Gen 3.2, a Gigabit Ethernet for wired connections, DC power port and lastly HDMI 2.0b which is strange given that the RTX cards all support HDMI 2.1. This sucks considering how rad it would be to connect the S17 to a capable 4K TV like the amazing LG C1 65 OLED for big screen gaming.
In case you hadn’t picked up on it by now, I really love the new Asus Zephyrus s17 GX703. It’s a stunning improvement over the GX701 in every way and an exciting gaming laptop in a sea of fairly homogeneous devices. Even though it is not as performant as the similarly priced Alienware x17, the S17 is overall a more compelling machine. It runs cooler, has much better battery life, display and speakers. The new keyboard is truly useful from both an ergonomic and thermal perspective and just a joy to use.
The asking price is certainly high though and if I were buying one, I’d opt for a cheaper i7 with 16GB and 1TB storage to shave off several hundreds of dollars but we’d still be talking about a $4000 laptop at best. What I can say is that if you have a wallet deep enough, this is without a doubt one of the most impressive gaming laptops I’ve ever used and I highly recommend it.
And when Asus comes knocking for their review unit, I’ll be like Gollum and say “You cant’s haves its. Its my precioussss“