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(Pocket-lint) - It didn't seem that long ago that if you wanted a powerful gaming laptop with a big screen you had to put up with having a monstrously huge machine. Asus is trying to change that with one of its latest ROG laptops: the Zephyrus M16. 

The M16 is attempting to bring you the big screen and all the big specs, but without leaving you feeling like you're carrying a small house with you in your backpack. Is it the ultimate gaming machine?

Our quick take

In the past you used to have to choose between having a great gaming laptop or a great laptop for work. With the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 you get one that's just as accomplished a gaming machine as it is a work laptop. 

Granted, there are elements that make it not ideal for work all the time, the battery life being chief among those. But this is a gaming machine after all, so its four-and-a-bit hours per charge maximum is no surprise. Besides, it's more for those who want a great gaming machine first, but don't want an impractical laptop for daily working as well. 

It's hard to not get too carried away with excitement though. Overall the M16 is a stunningly good gaming laptop, and will eat up most games for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus it looks hot and has a brilliant display. What's not to like? 

Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 review: A gaming gladiator

Asus ROG Zephyrus M16

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Compact for a big-screened laptop
  • Fantastic slim-bezel display
  • Speedy and responsive performance
  • All the ports you could need
  • Practical and attractive design
Against
  • Battery will last 4.5 hours tops when away from plug
  • In lower power modes intensive games really struggle to run
  • Fans get really loud under load

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Design

  • Ports: 2x USB-A (3.2), 1x USB-C (3.2), 1x Thunderbolt 4, Ethernet, 3.5mm, microSD, HDMI 2.0b
  • Dimensions: 355 x 243 x 199mm / Weight: 1.90kg
  • 180-degree hinge design

There's a lot to like about the way Asus built the 2021 Zephyrus M16. The ROG team has realised that the name of the game is subtlety. You can make it look like a gamer laptop, but don't push it so far that it puts off creatives. Because, after all, this machine is capable of both high-powered gaming and creativity.

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That means you still get a splash of colour within the design, but it's not in-your-face about it. For instance, the front cover looks like a subtle matte black surface half covered in tiny machined holes. Then you shine light at it and you see a flash of rainbow colour coming through from the underside. It's eye-catching yet simultaneously subtle.

Then the hinge that holds that cover/display rotates underneath the body of the laptop so that it lifts it up at an angle as you open it up, giving more room for airflow beneath. What's more, the screen can keep going until it's lying completely flat (if you want it to), thanks to a 180-degree hinge mechanism.

Once opened up, the screen is surrounded by super skinny bezels and - because it's a 16:10 aspect ratio display - that includes the bottom bezel too. There's no massive 'chin' on this thing.

What's really nice, though, is the texture of the laptop's body. Rather than being a cold, hard and shiny metal, the matte black finish has more of a soft, warm and grippy feel. It's a nice soft-touch finish, so it's a pleasure to rest your wrists on it as you get your game on.

Pocket-lint Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 review photo 4

This beast of a laptop also has pretty much all the ports you could wish for. Up the left, there's the power port, full-size HDMI 2.0b, Ethernet, USB-A, two Type-C ports, and a 3.5mm input/output for headphones and mics. Up the right side you'll find a microSD card slot and another USB-A, so you can ensure your plug-in mouse (unless you're using a wireless one) is on the correct side for your use.

It's worth noting, one of those Type-C ports is USB 3.2, and the other is Thunderbolt 4. Both support DisplayPort for hooking up to monitors and power delivery for charging it via USB-C. You can use either to recharge, if needed, but you'll get faster-charging using the (admittedly very bulky) power brick into the proprietary charging port, which leaves both those USB-C ports available for your use.

Undoubtedly the most impressive thing about this laptop's design, however, is the size of it. It's a 16-inch laptop but crammed into the form of a 15-inch one. So you get the bigger screen, without having to add any bulk. Yes it's still chunky compared to the MacBook Pro and similar of this world, but for a 16-inch gaming machine, the Asus is surprisingly portable and compact.  

Pocket-lint Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 review photo 8

The keyboard design is similarly well thought-out. It's not too cramped, with well-spaced keys, pleasing travel, and tactile response. It's a great keyboard to type on and one that's easy use day-in and day-out. It didn't take long to get accustomed to touch-typing on it. Plus, it's not annoyingly loud either. So you can feel the definite click, but don't really hear it all that much. No more than any other slim-keyed notebook. 

There are four dedicated buttons above the keyboard, making it easy to adjust volume, enabling/disabling the mic, and launching Asus' own customisation software, Armoury Crate. The keys are also backlit using RGB LEDs, with any number of colour changing effects to choose from to suit your mood. 

Display and media

  • 16-inch display, 2560 x 1600 resolution (WQXGA)
  • Anti-glare, 100% DCI-P3, Pantone validated
  • Up to 165Hz refresh rate, 3ms response 
  • Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos

While there's no doubt this is a fantastic gaming machine, which we'll get into later, the M16 has enough about it in terms of hardware to make it great for just about everything. That includes media consumption. 

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