Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 review

The ultra-thin, powerhouse gaming laptop is finally here

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Here’s how the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 29,816; Fire Strike: 13,892; Time Spy: 5,474
Cinebench CPU: 737 points; Graphics: 100 fps
GeekBench: 4,577 (single-core); 14,713 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 4,031 points
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 1 hours and 57 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 2 hours and 14 minutes
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (1080p, Ultra): 18 fps; (1080p, Low): 118 fps
GTA V (1080p, Ultra): 68 fps; (1080p, Low): 166 fps

You could be forgiven for thinking that such a slim gaming laptop couldn’t slug it out with the big hitters – but you’d be wrong, this plucky, 15-inch machine actually decimates the most powerful systems we’ve ever tested.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus wholly trounces the Razer Blade Pro in every test with scores hundreds of points ahead in both processor and graphics benchmarks. Conversely, though, the significantly larger and thicker MSI GT73VR Titan pulls ahead of the GX501 with higher 3DMark scores, but we also see in actual games it hits an average frame rate that’s a few ticks lower.

Although all the systems we’ve compared have an Nvidia GTX 1080 with 8GB of GDDR5X video memory, the Zephyrus’ Max-Q designed GPU is slightly different in that it’s runs at a lower wattage and clock speed. A traditional Nvidia GTX 1080 delivers 150W of graphics power with a base block speed of 1,556MHz, meanwhile, the Max-Q variant runs between 90-110W with clock speeds between 1,101MHz and 1,290MHz.

Going by specs alone, the Max-Q designed Zephyrus should theoretically perform worse than a traditional gaming laptop, but Asus has managed to tune its thinnest 15-inch gaming laptop run just as well, if not better.

What’s even more impressive is how much more quietly GX501 runs than most gaming laptops this potent. Instead of sounding like a jet, the Zephyrus only gets as loud as a light breeze, quieter than the AC vent or fan cooling your room in the summer. With less intensive tasks, like web browsing and streaming media, this 15-inch gaming laptop is also practically silent.

Loud and clear

With such a quietly running gaming laptop, you can fully appreciate the solid speakers Asus has incorporated into the Zephyrus. Two speakers sit on the sides of the keyboard, delivering loud and balanced sound great for listening to anything from music and movies to explosions in games.

The screen deserves plenty of notice, too. Although it’s only Full HD, you’ll be able to make full usage of all of the Zephyrus’ overwhelming power to run games at a doubly smooth frame rate of 120fps. Both in games and out, we love the vibrant colors and rich contrast the GX501’s display renders.

Battery life

The only thing that’s not impressive about the Asus ROG Zephyrus is its maximum battery life of 2 hours. Regardless of however few applications we ran at the same time, or turning off the keyboard backlight, we weren’t able to squeeze any more battery life out of the GX501. Best of luck with getting more than an hour while gaming, holding a video call or doing anything strenuous while the laptop is unplugged.

Just two hours of battery life is terribly short for any type of laptop, but honestly, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The laptop features two of the highest-end, most power-demanding mobile components you can fit into a 15-inch chassis. With everything pushed into the rear chamber, that means the only room for batteries at all is just beneath the keyboard and trackpad, only further limited by the thinness of the notebook.

We liked

The Asus ROG Zephyrus is a stunning engineering feat, unequivocally powerful, dramatically quieter and a gorgeous gaming laptop. Thanks to its innovative design, Asus has managed to make an ultra-thin machine that operates better than machines twice to even three times its size. Then, to back up its performance, the GX501 features an excellent screen and speakers.

It is, in a word, the ‘pinnacle’ of Asus' already impressive line of ROG gaming laptops and clearly the culmination of years of design and hardware innovation.

We disliked

As much as we love the Zephyrus, Asus also made a few unforgivable concessions, with a keyboard that practically requires you to carry around a wrist pad that is unusable on your lap. Then, the short battery life also means this extremely portable gaming laptop needs almost constant power connection.

Final verdict

The Asus ROG Zephyrus sets a gold standard for what a Max-Q designed gaming laptop should and could be. Our expectations of a 15-inch gaming notebook have been increased significantly by the beauty, performance and sound profile of the GX501.

Still, $2,699 or AU$3,659 (about £2,105) is surely a pretty significant chunk of cash to spend on a gaming laptop, but anybody who is demanding the sheer horsepower that this laptop offers should be prepared to drop this much money regardless. For this reason, the Asus ROG Zephyrus shouldn’t be expected to be your only computer for both work and gaming that can be used anywhere.

Naturally, the Zephyrus makes a lot of sense for those looking for a desktop replacement, since it’s just as capable while being dramatically lighter, smaller and thinner.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.