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Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review: A beast held back by its small form factor

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Written by Karanveer Singh Arora
| New Delhi |

Published: August 7, 2020 6:24:14 pm





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ROG Zephyrus lineup was the best that Asus had to offer to users when it came to gaming. Staying true to that and looking to expand to new markets, the company has finally launched its Zephyrus G14 in India, which is aimed at creators and portable gamers. Starting at Rs 98,990 for the AniMe Matrix variant and at Rs 80,990 for the variant sans the AniMe Matrix on the back. The variant we have for review is priced at Rs 1,61,990 with high-end specs.

Asus believes creators these days have started looking at gaming machines to edit videos and perform other tasks, due to the sheer performance gaming machines can deliver. With the Zephyrus G14, it has focused on such creators while at the same time not forgetting the gamers.

The key features of the device include a portable design, blistering fast performance and the promise of portable gaming. The device looks quite promising in terms of specifications and its portable design, but is it a laptop for a creator or a gamer? Let’s find out here.

Asus Zephyrus G14 review: Design and Build

In the early years, when gaming laptops were a new breed, they were meant to be for gaming on a budget not for gaming on the go. However, many gaming laptops, including the Zephyrus G14, have become the go-to gaming laptops if you want to travel (whenever you can, after the COVID-19 situation is under control).

One of the major achievements with the Zephyrus G14 for Asus is that it has been able to cram an AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS and an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q into a 14-inch chassis with a weight of just 1.7 kg. Apart from the high powered CPU and the discrete GPU, Asus has also managed to fit in 16GB of RAM along with a 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD.

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The G14 is the smallest Zephyrus laptop Asus has ever manufactured with a 14-inch display and it is also one of the select few in this size to be powered by an H-series processor with a discrete GPU. There are other variants with lower specs if you want.

Having such a portable laptop, with a crammed in chassis makes you worry if the laptop will be able to handle your intense gaming sessions. But I have to say that with this, Asus has managed to sacrifice only a few small things here and there thanks to its ingenious design.

One thing that I feel might be a design flaw is its ErgoLift hinge. Due to the hinge propping up the laptop to have a better typing position, it throws hot air on to the display from the vents. This might be okay while typing articles, however, while playing games for hours, you might notice this issue a lot.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, most of us are working from home. This is a good option if you have that kind of money lying around, but keep in mind that for Zoom calls you will be required to purchase a third-party webcam as it does not come with one.

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While missing the webcam, the laptop does come with a fingerprint sensor integrated inside of the power button. With the help of Windows Hello, the fingerprint sensor works pretty ingeniously and is quite fast and accurate. I found myself unlocking the laptop with this more than entering the password, which has been my go-to since I got my Mac back in 2018.

One of the major design plus point that a lot of you will not be able to experience if you go in for the most affordable model, is the AniMe Matrix front plate. It does not shout that you are a gamer and looks quite subtle, but at the same time looks too damn cool.

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Using the AniMe Matrix was one of my major kicks on this laptop, apart from the gaming. I used to keep on changing the back patterns to show Mario running to my battery percentage and more. Initially, it was too fun but after a point, you tend to forget about the feature and focus on your work.

Even though the inner kid wants to recommend getting the AniMe Matrix front plate, thinking logically it is not that useful. But if you have money to splurge this is a feature you will definitely appreciate.

The front plate also consists of a metal branding badge to subtly showcase that the laptop is a ROG. This looks quite pleasing to the eyes and does not shout ‘I am a gamer look at me’, though most gamers do want to live the RGB life.

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The laptop features two bottom firing and two top firing speakers, with hole cut outs in the magnesium alloy frame. On the right edge is a USB Type-C port along with two USB Type-A ports and a large vent. On the left edge, the another vent, the power adapter port, an HDMI-out port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB Type-C port. The bottom panel looks just like a normal productivity laptop.

Overall, the build of the laptop feels pretty solid and, thanks to it being 1.7 kg, very portable also. The laptop feels quite premium in hand and does not disappoint much. However, while tying fast and hard, the screen does seem to wobble a bit, which seems a bit disorienting at times when you are engrossed in work.

Asus Zephyrus G14 review: Display and Audio

The variant I had for review came with a 14-inch WQHD IPS panel with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels and a refresh rate of 60Hz. Asus is offering other models of the device, which do not feature a WQHD display and come with a higher refresh rate.

Honestly, I would have preferred getting a full HD resolution panel with a display refresh rate of around 144Hz, mind you with no ghosting issues as that then spoils the gaming experience. Playing games on this made me change my mind a bit, as everything was much better looking and pleasing. I started ignoring the fact that I do not have a high refresh rate and started exploring the games more, rather than trying to finish the campaign or just trying to take the win in competitive matches.

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The display is very pleasing, which is where the content creators will also be very happy apart from the processing power. The display comes with 100 per cent sRGB colour gamut support, Pantone validation and support for AMD FreeSync technology, making it one of the best on a laptop you can use to edit videos or photos.

Most gamers are about achieving higher FPS and to reach that they require a higher refresh rate. Until and unless you play competitive matches regularly and a single additional frame can make you win, this is the laptop to go for. As exploring the city in GTA 5 or the ruins in Tomb Raider or drifting through NFS Heat this just makes everything look more realistic and appealing.

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Coming to the sound, with the two bottom firing and the two top firing speakers, Asus has managed to increase the volume, still, it is no match for entertainment or productivity laptops. The speakers are decent, which will get you through a few YouTube videos and songs, but are not as loud to watch a movie with a friend. Gamers and content creators, mostly always have their favourite pair of headphones with them, so it is not a huge problem. And gaming laptops almost never have good speakers, so I did not expect much out of this.

Asus Zephyrus G14 review: Keyboard and trackpad

Hands down, this is one of the best keyboards I have used after my MacBook Air 2017. The typing experience on this, which was what I used this laptop mostly for, was as close to a MacBook I could get.

The keyboard had the right amount of spacing and key travel to not make my fingers feel fatigued after a long day of typing. While gaming, the keyboard was also at its peak, as it does not have much flex to it, which would make the keys feel mushy. Instead, the keyboard is perfect for a button masher game, with each and every key being just a fingers length away.

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One design flaw I feel is using low powered white LEDs inside of silver keys. The keys are not as lit up as I would want them to be in many situations. The company could have used higher-powered LEDs or black keys to make them stand out when lit.

Asus trackpads have been one of the best Windows PCs have had to offer and the G14 does not disappoint. The trackpad with the Windows Precision drivers make it very smooth and seamless to use. Though it is a bit small according to my preference, it still manages to get the job done and has a very satisfying click wherever you click on the surface.

Asus Zephyrus G14 review: Performance

A laptop claiming to be both a gaming and a creator laptop, cannot mess up on performance. And this is the area where the ROG Zephyrus G14 fell short.

The system was able to run most heavy games including Watch Dogs 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, CS:GO, GTA V, Forza Horizon 4 and more. And was able to maintain the game performance also with no lags or stutters (of course with the power adapter plugged in). Without the power adapter, just like any other gaming laptop, the device starts showing stutters and you can see a lot of frame drops.

Major issue is not running the games, that part the laptop has figured out, it is allowing you to play the games. Cramming in a Ryzen 9 4900HS and an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q into a 14-inch chassis is where the laptop takes a beating.

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Running a game like Watch Dogs 2 for even 15 minutes, the laptop gets extremely hot and after playing a game for 30 minutes, its up to your luck if you can even test it.

I was not able to render a video on it, so I cannot claim as to how it would have performed while doing that, but playing games for me was impossible on this without hurting my fingers.

The laptop while typing and doing my daily office work was a darling, with smooth keys and great performance. As a typing machine I fell in love with this. But, as a gaming machine I was scared of it.

Usually the top half of the keyboard used to get hot while gaming, which hints that the fans cannot cool the CPU and the GPU properly. You can make the fans run at a custom speed, however, for that you will have to overvolt the laptop to do just that, without burning out the fans. And even if you do so, the top half of the keyboard would get managed, but the bottom half would then start heating up like crazy.

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The heating issue was prevalent in the Ryzen 3000 series chipsets also, but seemed to be better with the 4000 series. However, that too needs some space to cool down.

Due to the excessive heating, the processor you would think would throttle. However, I did not see the CPU temperature exceed 98-degrees. And CPUs start throttling after 99-degrees. So I would suggest that you get an external keyboard and mouse to play games and to edit your videos.

Overall, the performance has got me a bit flustered as the device is able to beat most other gaming laptops in terms of numbers and actual performance. However, the heating issue is what is making me sway away from this laptop.

Asus Zephyrus G14 review: Battery

Apart from its stellar performance, without the heating issues, battery is another area that the Zephyrus G14 manages to stand out.

Using the laptop for basic tasks like writing articles, listening to music, browsing the internet, it was able to last me for around six to seven hours at a stretch. That is too impressive for a gaming laptop to be honest. Note, this was while the laptop was running in the Silent mode, with the GPU turned off and processor running at the minimum spec.

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While gaming in Performance mode the laptop gave me around three hours of usage, which is quite decent for a gaming laptop.

One of the best things about this laptop was that it supports 65W PD charging. Due to which I was not always trying to plug in my charger, and instead used a PD charger to get the juice. This will come in quite handy when we are once more free to travel and these COVID-19 days are behind us.

Charging the laptop back from 0 to 100 with the bundled 180W charger took around one and a half hours. On the 65W PD charging, the laptop took over three hours to charge.

Asus Zephyrus G14 review: Verdict

The Zephyrus G14 is a beast of a laptop held back by its portable form factor. The laptop has superb performance, a good keyboard, a smooth touchpad and battery life to put other gaming laptops to shame. But the overheating issue is holding me back from recommending it to everyone.

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If you are looking for a daily driver laptop that gets work done then this is the laptop for you. Even if you want to game to edit videos, its processing power is up there with the best. However, if you want to game with the onboard keyboard this is not the laptop you should be looking at.

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