(Pocket-lint) - We're always impressed by compact notebooks that still manage to pack decent specs that result in satisfying gaming experiences without much compromise. Asus, under its Republic of Gamers (ROG) label, has such a laptop on offer in the Zephyrus G14.
The company claims this is the world's most powerful 14-inch gaming laptop. It's also designed to be trendy and edgy - you know, the kind of thing that's appealing to young gamers on the go.
As such, it not only comes with snazzy styling, but some models also sport AniMe Matrix LED lights on the lid. These can be customised to display whatever you want, including animated gifs, waveforms based on your tunes, and more.
But is the Zephyrus G14 more style than substance? We've been playing with it for a couple of weeks to find out.
- Screen options:
- 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080), 120Hz refresh
- 14-inch WQHD (2560 x 1440), 60Hz
- 1,000 customisable AniMe Matrix LED lights on lid
- 100% sRGB, Pantone Validated, AMD FreeSync
- Moonlight White/Eclipse Grey design options
The Zephyrus G14 is available in either Eclipse Grey or Moonlight White, the latter as you can see in our pictures with its white lid and silver keyboard design, housing a small but surprisingly easy-on-the-eye 14-inch screen.
That screen is either a 120Hz 1080p or 60Hz WQHD IPS display, depending on which model you choose. And thanks to Asus' game visuals modes, you can switch between various different display scenes including FPS, RTS/RPG, sRGB, Racing, Cinema, and Scenery. Those modes make the IPS panel even morecustomisable.
The Zephyrus G14 has a subtly backlit keyboard that shines pleasantly with a white hue when you want it, but it doesn't go as far as being fully RGB capable like the Scar III.
The AniMe Matrix LED panel on the lid is unfortunately only available on certain models of the G14. We didn't get our hands on one of those, but would suggest checking before you buy if you're especially keen on those LEDs. When we saw them at CES 2020 we were impressed - it's a nifty option to make your laptop stand out from the crowd with some personality.
Beyond the striking outer design (and the potential AniMe Matrix LEDs) the Zephyrus G14 manages to deliver in other areas too. It boasts a pretty decent sized keyboard considering the compact form-foctor, as well as easy access buttons for things like the ROG Armoury and fan speed.
We're also keen on the simple touches like a snipping tool that's built into those buttons. The G14 has a fingerprint sensor on the power button that uses Windows Hello for easy login, along with simple buttons to adjust things like screen and keyboard brightness with just a couple of presses.
The Zephyrus G14 boasts a CNC-milled body that's designed with a special coating to resist fingerprints. It also has a neat ErgoLift hinge that tilts the device as you open the laptop. The tilt changes depending on how far you tilt the screen back and works to elevate the keyboard for a comfortable typing experience.
Of course, being a gaming laptop first and foremost, the G14 is crafted to keep cool under pressure. It has rear and side exhaust vents that are designed to blow air out of the machine in the most comfortable way while keeping the device as cool as possible. Asus says it has a self-cleaning cooling system with anti-dust tunnels, which should mean continued performance during its lifespan.
Thermal performance-wise there are various modes: Silent, Performance, Turbo and Manual. Silent keeps noise under 35dB, Performance is under 40dB, Turbo gives the best performance - but max noise. During testing this machine didn't seem as loud as many competitors - which is certainly a bonus.
That said, it's not the coolest laptop. We found that after a good gaming session, the keyboard was quite warm to touch in some areas. The important keys - WASD - were fine, but others were noticeably hot. If you find it's getting hot you can quickly switch to turbo mode to cool things down a bit.
Whatever you throw at it the G14 performs well, resulting in a brilliant bit of kit in almost every area. Asus claims the G14 can manage 10 hours per charge, which we found true enough - it comfortably got through a working day without nagging. That's a refreshing change from other gaming laptops we've tested that can only manage a couple of hours at best. Of course, you still need to be plugged in for the best performance experience - go hard on the gaming and you'll get nothing like that kind of longevity.
Power & Performance
- AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS/R9-4900HS processor
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q/GTX 1660Ti or GTX 1650Ti
- Up to 32GB 3200MHz SDRAM
- Up to 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIE 3.0
- 76whr battery with 10-hour life
- 3DMark benchmarks - Timespy, Timespy Extreme, Port Royal, Firestrike Ultra, DLSS
Despite its size, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is no slouch when it comes to gaming. With the RTX 2060 Max-Q version, we were able to get a decent bit of performance out of it. The RTX GPU options mean you can take advantage of Nvidia's Ray Tracing technology in various games, including Minecraft with RTX.
The combination of AMD Ryzen CPU, decent RAM, a fast NVMe drive, and an ace Nvidia graphics processor means you can game well on most modern titles. A 1080p screen isn't terribly taxing of course, but it's nice to see games like Far Cry New Dawn running at around 80fps when on the higher graphics settings.
We ran the G14 through its paces, playing a number of our favourite games - and were surprised with how it performed given its size. On most gaming laptops of this size, we're usually left wanting and finding ourselves nursing aching eyes after a short while, but somehow the G14 doesn't disappoint. We're fairly sure the game visual options had a fair bit to do with this, alongside a delightful IPS panel design that sports AMD FreeSync tech.
If you do find you want to connect an external screen you can do. The G14 is designed to be portable and flexible. Working as both a compact laptop you can game on, but also one you can take to work as well.
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A
- HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort (via USB-C adapter)
- Intel Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0
- USB-C power delivery
There are some frustrations though. The one area in particular is connectivity. Firstly, there's no Ethernet connection here, so don't expect to be able to plug in for a solid wired network connection.
The second minor annoyance comes in the port setup. There are two standard USB Type-A connections on this device and they're both on the right. So if you plug in a mouse and a headset, you've suddenly filled up most of the usable ports and also blocked some of your gaming area. With wired mice, for example, we found we had to give the laptop a good amount of room in order to effectively use the mouse without getting caught up in the wires. The problem could be lessened by a wireless gaming mouse, but it's still a gripe.
The third frustration is the graphics output. This laptop has HDMI and DisplayPort, but the latter is only available with an additionally purchased USB-C adapter. We wanted to test the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite on this laptop, but had to wait for a USB-C to DisplayPort converter to arrive first. Most other gaming laptops we've tried used Mini DisplayPort connections instead. However, with the adapter finally in place we could use this laptop for VR gaming - which goes to show it power credentials.
Another oddity comes in the fact that this laptop doesn't have a built-in webcam. If you want a camera for calls or streaming then you'll have to buy your own.
Frustrations aside, there are some highlights to the G14's setup. The outputs mean you can attach it to two external screens, it also has two USB-C connections, one of which allows you to power the machine via that connection rather than the traditional DC brick. This is great if you're out and about and happen to be running low on juice but don't have the standard charger with you.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 isn't as flashy as some other gaming laptops - well, unless you opt for the AniMe Matrix version - but it's a great all-rounder.
Sure, the G14 isn't without its connectivity niggles, but nonetheless it's a great machine for a palatable starting price compared to most other gaming laptops.
It's the G14 is a great-looking machine that sports enough power to please, both when playing games and for general day-to-day use. Fantastic battery life, impressive speakers and an easy-on-the-eye screen round off a nifty little laptop.
This article was originally published 6 January 2020 and has been updated to reflect its full review status
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