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The Asus ROG Zephyrus is the Thinnest Gaming Laptop on the Market [Hands-On]

Using the Nvidia Max-Q design, Asus packed a ton of power into a really slim frame.

While Computex has expanded in scope dramatically in recent years, it’s still the place to be for gamers. We usually get news about the latest and greatest CPUs and GPUs at the annual trade show in Taipei, but this year saw an uptick in gaming laptops and desktops. That’s largely thanks to an AMD resurgence and Nvidia’s Max-Q design, a new specification that enables much thinner and lighter high-performance gaming laptops. We saw Acer take advantage of that with their Triton 700, but it was Asus that managed to produce the slimmest gaming laptop — the ROG Zephyrus.

Released under Asus’ Republic of Gamers brand, the Zephyrus has the hardware bona fides to qualify as a premium gaming laptop — it runs on a 7th generation Intel Core i7 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU (a cheaper 1070 option is planned), and up to 24 GB of RAM, with up to a 1 TB PCIe NVMe SSD for storage. That’s all powered by a 50 Whr battery, which would usually be decent, but considering the hardware — well, let’s just say the Zephyrus will probably be plugged in more often than not.

The Zephyrus has a 15.6″ 1080p 120 Hz display with a 5 ms response time. Despite the fact that the hardware should be able to handle 4K gaming, that won’t be an option. Granted, the difference between 1080p and 4K is a little less noticeable on a 15.6″ display than on a larger monitor paired with a tower PC, but a 1080p display means this machine will never maximize the value of all that processing power. The display includes Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, which hitches frame rate to processing, but the problem it’s solving is unlikely to be as pronounced on a 1080p display.

All of that is packed into a 16.9 mm thick, 4.85 pound frame, making it just a tad thinner than the Acer Triton 700. That’s still thick enough for USB Type-A and HDMI ports, though, and there’s also a fast Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port for data transfer. No ethernet port, but there’s 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, so connectivity shouldn’t be a problem as long as the Wi-Fi network being used is good.

The keyboard, like with the Triton 700, is shifted up as close as possible to the user, so perhaps that’s something required by Max-Q design. That leaves a lot of empty space above the keyboard, making for a bit of an awkward look. Like with any proper gaming machine, there’s RGB backlighting with multiple zones that can be individually customized — the WASD keys can be highlighted in a different color, for example. You can expect 30-key rollover, which means up to 30 key presses can be registered at once. The touchpad has been moved over to the right-hand side, replacing the numerical keypad. But, the touchpad can become a touch numerical keypad, with LED tracing that can be toggled on and off.

I got a chance to play around with the Zephyrus at the Asus booth, and while the performance is not to be doubted — expect a stable 60 fps on virtually any game in 1080p, even on high or ultra settings — it gets about as hot as you’d imagine. Asus didn’t sleep on ventilation, either — besides the expected back vents, the display actually props the keyboard up a bit when opened, creating large holes on the sides for air flow. That’s great, but it still runs super hot — I was using the back of my hand to feel this thing’s temperature. It’s good that this laptop is still made of plastic.

The large bezels and that empty space make for a laptop that could probably look a bit nicer — it’s easy to imagine that when next year’s Max-Q laptops hit, we’ll be looking back at these and shaking our heads. But, here in the present, the thinness and lightness make the Zephyrus a very attractive option for gamers on the go.

You can bet it’ll be expensive. Asus plans to release Zephyrus at the end of June for $2,700, with that cheaper 1070 model costing $2,300. As with the similarly priced Acer Triton 700, that’s probably too expensive. The price makes sense for the hardware inside, but in the end, you’re asking gamers to spend nearly $3,000 on 1080p gaming. The guys making pro gamer bucks might grab one for practice sessions on the road, but for everyone else, this price range probably needs to supply 4K gaming at a minimum.

Check out more of our Computex 2017 coverage right here!

Disclosure: Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), an organizer of COMPUTEX, covered our travel expenses to attend COMPUTEX 2017. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.