It’s 2019 and almost every gaming brand now has an ultrathin gaming laptop in their arsenal – MSI has the Stealth series, Predator has the Triton Series, Razer has the blade, Aorus has the Aero and ROG has the Zephyrus.
We originally did a hands on comparison review of the Zephyrus S vs the MSI GS65 Stealth thin but was not yet able to run benchmarks and see how it fares in terms of performance. We wanted to answer the question – Are Ultrathin gaming laptops worth it? Or do they sacrifice too much performance just for the portability?
After a few weeks of full usage – we have the answer. Read on to find out our findings.
The Zephyrus S GX531 is a very slim device. In fact, it currently holds the title of the world’s thinnest gaming laptop. The GX501 used to have the title of being the world’s thinnest gaming laptop with a GTX1080, but the GX531 takes it further by being the world’s thinnest gaming laptop – regardless of GPU.
The chassis is only 14.9mm thin, and ASUS was able to achieve this by cutting the chassis from a single slab of magnesium alloy making the board really sturdy and lighter at the same time. We really love the design but it’s not perfect. It is very tough, though. There was no flex in any part of the laptop and felt very premium – the way it should be. We wish most manufacturers would pay attention to quality of the chassis the way ASUS did with the Zephyrus S GX531 did. It definitely trumps the build quality of it’s closest competitor – the MSI GS65 – which felt very cheap in terms of build. It was metal, but felt like brushed plastic.
The keyboard is of the forward layout time like the original Zephyrys GX501, which is okay for some – and disliked by just as much. The move is questionable because the 2nd Zephyrus release – the GM501 – already employed a middle keyboard layout so the switch back to a forward layout is confusing. We asked ASUS about this and they had a pretty good explanation.
ASUS explains that the since the chassis is very thin, they had to make sure that “cooling” was top notch. They had to move the keyboard forward so that they could use the upper half of the keyboard part for cold air to be drawn inside and cool the hot components. And that’s only the 1st part of the over-all cooling. Let’s talk more about the cooling a bit later on.
The keyboard is not all bad, however. It has a nice clicky feel but it does take some time to get used to. It is RGB backlit but not individually. It’s lit in 4 different zones and can be configured by the Armory Crate software where you can tweak the aura settings.
Another neat trick is that the trackpad converts into a number pad when you need it, but it felt more like a gimmick than something really useful. We barely used the function during the last few weeks but atleast ASUS made sure that no one would miss the numpad since this was a 15.6 incher.
Input and Ports
The Zephyrus S had a fair number of ports. Up at the back is a kensignton lock and an HDMI port. This design is handy since HDMI cables are usually bulky and tend to be obtrusive when you’re connected.
On the left side of the device, We have 2 USB 3.0 ports, a type C port and the power jack. On the righ side is 1 more USB C, and a type C port that also doubles as a display port so you can have a dual screen set up and still be able to use 144hz as with the display. Another nifty feature of the Zephyrus S is the ability to charge via Power Delivery enabled powerbanks – though maxed at 65W. This means that you still won’t be able to game while on a powerbank but it can save you in situations where important activities are necessary and you’re running out of juice.
The display of the ROG Zephyrus S GX531 is top-notch. It is one of world’s first gaming laptops to use an IPS with 144hz and 3MS response time so gamers will be pleased to know they can rely on this laptop not to stutter or tear in between matches. After all, any display lag can cause one an entire game.
Further, ASUS uses their Super Narrow Bezel technology here and, in return, was able to put a 15.6″ inch display in what is normally a 14.5″ footprint. It’s pretty impressive to say and to look at. It definitely doesn’t look like a 15″ incher when closed or open. This super narrow bezel design is not exclusive to ASUS though as most vendors now also have their own narrow border design on their gaming laptops.
Here’s a side by side comparison of the GX531 display with the MSI GS65.
Ahhh, the cooling. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. The ROG Zephyrus GX531 is packed with an Intel Core i7-8750H and up to a GTX1070 so it is only fitting that the best cooling solution was applied to this laptop. Here, ASUS uses their exclusive Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) to handle all the heat.
In co-ordination with the forward keyboard lay-out where the top half of the keyboard is used to draw in cold air – the bottom half of the laptop opens up when the lid is open so that it can actively draw in even more air and dissipate heats through the fan. This tilts the laptop about 5-10degrees, as well for a more ergonomic typing experience.
It even has it’s own RGB lighting for aesthetics.
Here’s a comparison of the ROG Zephyrus GX531’s AAS system opened up versus traditional notebooks which don’t open up.
During testing and benchmarking, we did not experience any overheating problems, though ASUS has set a powerlimit throttle on the device. Performance didn’t drop on any games, no FPS was lost and we didn’t experience any sudden shutdowns due to heating.
Benchmarks and Performance
The ROG Zephyrus S GX531 that we were able to handle was fitted with a GTX1060. We asked for a GTX1070 version but ASUS says that it’s exclusive to Amazon.com in the US. It ran through games fairly well, though we had to settle for medium just to take advantage of the 144hz refresh rate, as is the case in gaming tournaments where in settings are toned down to LOW or MEDIUM so that refresh rates and fps can kick in.
For benchmarks, we only ran PC Mark10 and 3D Mark and we see the ROG Zephyrus performing very similar to most laptops that had an i7-8750H and a GTX1060, even if those others benefit from thicker chassis and better cooling.
Versus the MSI GS65, the ROG Zephyrus GX531 takes the cake in Gaming, Productivty and Essentials but fell slightly behind the GS65 in digital craetion and esentials.
In 3D mark, we ran the test twice for the ROG Zephyrus GX531 just so we can also test out the balanced and turbo mode. Here we see the MSI GS65 beating the GX531 in balanced modes but just can’t keep up with the ROG Zephyrus’ turbo mode.
All that said, the ROG GX531 Zephyrus is a serious contender in the realm of Ultrathin gaming laptops. Priced aggressively at only 129,995 for the i7-8750H, 16GB DDR4 2666Mhz, 512GB NVME SSD and GTX1060 – It’s definitely a must have for the gamer on the go. It’s not perfect, but it’s almost there.
It’s only competition in the Philippines is the MSI GS65 Stealth thin which carries the same specification but with only half the storage drive. Battery life is 2x better than the ROG Zephyrus S GX531 but it costs PHP134,995.
This means that you’ll have to pick between the Zephyrus S better performance and higher storage or decide if the extra P5000 is worth it losing half the storage just for the better battery life.
In the next iteration, we hope to see ASUS retain the top notch build quality, great performance, slim design, top rated screen but also improve the battery life and the lighting system to be a bit brighter. If they can do that, we wouldn’t ask for more!
|ROG Zephyrus S GX531|
|Suggested Retail Price||PHP129,995|
|Dimension||360 x 268 x 14.95mm|
|Material Construction||CNC Milled Aluminum Body|
|Processor||Intel® Core™ i7-8750H Processor 2.2 GHz|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel® HM370 Express Chipsets|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX1060|
|Graphics Memory||GDDR5 6GB|
|IGPU||Intel HD Graphics 630|
|Resolution||FHD 1920×1080 16:9|
|Response Time (G2G)||3ms|
|Total System Memory||DDR4 8GB (on board) + DDR4 2666 8GB|
|System Storage Installed||PCIE NVME 512G M.2 SSD(Hyper Drive)|
|M.2 SSD Support List||512GB PCIE|
|USB||1x Type A 3.1 (Gen.2)|
|1x Type C 3.1 (Gen.1)|
|1x Type C 3.1 (Gen.2)|
|2x Type A 2.0|
|Display output||1x HDMI 2.0|
|Keyboard Type||Illuminated Chiclet Keyboard 4-Zone RGB|
|Speakers||2 x 2W|
|Audio Tech||Smart Amp and SonicStudio|
|Cooling Technology||5 HeatPipes|
|Active AeroDynamic System|
|Anti-Dust Cooling Fans with 83 fan Blades|
|2X 12Volt Dual Fans|
|Operating System||Windows 10 (64bit)|
|Battery||50WHrs, 4S1P, 4-cell Li-ion|
|Comes with PowerDelivery Charging Support|