I’ve got the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 in the house, the latest 2021 edition that replaces my five and a half year old Surface Book as my new workflow, and entertainment laptop. Outfitted with the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS, NVIDIA RTX 3060 60W GPU and a 14″ WQHD 120MHz refresh display, it’s packing plenty of performance in a travel-sized, compact chassis. Competitively priced for it’s power and best-in-class specs to deliver for the size, it’s no wonder the ASUS Zephyrus G14 has a lot of fanfare.. especially this year’s model that aimed to remedy some of last year’s shortcomings.
Unpacking an ASUS ROG laptop feels pretty exciting – a larger (than necessary) box to flip open reveals the G14 slightly raised as the box lid is pulled back, in same reference to the ergolift design of the screen. Presentation is neat, though for all that boxing, you get the barebone essentials to get powered up and running – a custom ASUS 180W slim power adaptor with changeable power outlet and…. that’s it. Shame to see a lack of any kind of sleeve or ROG accessories packed in, but hey, at least we get a printed short comic of the aniME display we’ll touch on further below. There’s a material protector between the keyboard deck and screen which you can reuse to keep the two from touching when closed, but nothing else other than that. A straight-forward unboxing, but love the reveal of the box.
hardware & ports
specs wise, this is near as good as you can get with the 2021 ASUS ROG Zephyrus 2021 -the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS 8-core CPU and Nvidia’s GTX 3060 60W GPU. These are pushing near the top of AMD’s Ryzen 9 5000 offerings in the mobile CPU range, while the GTX 3060 GPU is no slouch either. The chassis is compact for a gaming laptop, measuring 32.4cm, 22cm depth and 19.9cm thin. Most of the thickness is in the base, with the display thin but solid enough to not feel fragile or screen flex much. Weighing 1.7kg also makes the G14 not only travel-sized but easy to bring around too. It feels lighter than the number suggests as you can pick it up with ease using one hand.
The Zephyrus G14 chassis is built with magnesium alloy, a solid but light build all around, from the display lid to the keyboard deck. The removable rear panel is plastic held by 14 screws to access the only one other M.2 RAM slot (the 16GB RAM is soldered on). The SSD can also be upgraded. A generous amount of ports can be found either side of the G14, with 1 x HDMI, 2 x USB-A, 2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 with one offering Power Delivery to charge, 3.5mm headphone jack, kensington security lock and the barrel power port. They’re positioned located to the front which is a smart move to keep airflow away from your hands.
Windows 10 setup
it’s been a while since I’ve done a fresh setup of Windows 10, going back to my old Surface Book where things were still patchy. It’s come a long way since then, with Cortana natural language talking through the process, the mic-input alternative to accept the options and an ASUS ROG logo stinger everytime I boot up the machine. It’s less than 5 minutes before I’m brought in to the Windows UX, in which I proceed to let it install all the latest ASUS and Microsoft updates due to get it up to far with the software present.
The MYASUS app and Armoury crate are already preloaded on the Zephyrus G14, with features up and running to get settled in quickly. There was a little issue with the XBOX game to download games which took some advanced troubleshooting and meant the registry path of the XBOX mismatched when the gaming services service updated. That took a couple of hours, but other than that, Windows and the G14 were satisfactorily setup smoothly.
performance & display
there’s little argument to say the Zephyrus G14 (2021) is snappy and buttery smooth. The AMD Ryzen 9 comfortably powers through any tasks from the mildest to the harshest. In my early experience, programs open very quickly from launch, things like clicks, importing data, rendering, gaming on high to ultra settings in either FHD or native WQHD resolution are handled comfortably on the 14″ machine. The 120MHz refresh rate offers smooth transitions, animations and visually-pleasing browsing experience on the web.
In any working capacities, I’ve not experience any hiccups, slowdowns, bottlenecks, frame drops or jankiness in the OS or software. Everything opens, closes, works buttery smooth within my day to day use. I’ll explore further in testing environments like benchmarks and demanding games to see the limit but for now, performance is slick from this AMD Ryzen 9 CPU.
As for the display, I’ll admit I prefer the pop, vibrancy and visual allure of a glossy display, where the image looks like it sits right on top of the screen. It’s been an adjustment to a matte anti-glare display which loses some of that vibrancy, whiteness and colour pop, but the better reflective protection is functionally better to work with. The 120MHz refresh is very nice, with buttery smooth animations, a stickiness to response with no blurring and minimal ghosting with fast moving images or scrolling so far. The 300 nits quoted brightness is usable enough, however I’m definitely working within the 60 – 100% brightness space to feel comfortably lit to my taste. It’s definitely a scale down from my 450 nit display of my Surface Book, but the added WQHD resolution (3440 x 1440) totals up to a satisfactory screen display. LED backlights are uniformly distributed and no light leaks which bodes well for this more resolution packed display vs the FHD 144 MHz alternative.
The wide trackpad, while lacking in vertical height – especially if you’re coming from a 15″ device – still has enough headroom to work with. The finger gestures are excellent and responsive to action thanks to the Microsoft precision drivers and glass trackpad. The trackpad is fluid, smooth and responsive as well as the keyboard, so I have no qualms with adapting to the Zephyrus G14’s hardware.
aniME led matrix
exclusive to the Zephyrus G14 – meaning it’s not found on the larger 15″ model – is the aniME LED matrix, allowing you to display and personalise the LED on the lid. These are managed through the armoury crate app and can be customised to loop different animations, either preset or custom with your image files, text and a range of effects. They can be overlayed on top of each other, with options to choose whether to activate in different power states. It’s a neat touch to the G14 that adds some uniqueness to the machine, considering that the keys are single colour backlit with very few effects (strobe, breathing, static). Currently, there’s no way to change these RGB colours, with a standard white backlight against the silver keboard deck that some may find difficult to discern, but having come from a Surface Book in a similar silver, is something I’m very much used to. I’ll detail aniME options another time but it’s definitely a highlight feature to have fun, play around with, or add some slick branding to your machine.
When it comes to thermals, noise and multimedia, the G14 has improved over last year, offering better temperature management especially on the higher end, reasonable fan noise appropriate throughout the range and some of the best speakers you’ll find not only on compact devices, but larger ones too.
Firstly with heat, there are plenty of ventilation areas for heat to dissipate – towards the hinge on either side of the G14, along the top of the keyboard deck that blows upwards of the screen and plenty more underneath towards the rear in full-width. These areas are noticeably hot to the touch in these areas, especially the sides of the keyboard deck and the top border. The blowing heat towards the screen may seem concerning, but the titled screen and raised keyboard deck relieves the potential heat at the display, thanks also to the bottom chin.
Fan noise is great throughout the ranges, with basic tasks like writing this article, browsing online or streaming video not hearing a whisper of a fan even when I put my ear right to the chassis. The fans are off and the temperatures not even mildly warm.
As soon as I push the hardware like 4K video editing, rendering, or starting up a game, then the performance cranks up, heat temperatures rise up to the late 70 degrees celsuis and fan noise blaring like a revved up sports car. All of these reasonable so for their respective intensity to keep the overall experience not uncommon to what you might expect. Noise is quieter, temperatures are consistently lower than previously, although you’ll want to avoid touching around the chassis when things are working hard for a long period. The individual keys of the keyboard deck however are workable and aren’t going to burn your fingers in this state.
With a 4 speak array setup – 2 x bottom-firing woofers and 2 x top-firing tweeters on the keyboard deck, flanked either side of the usual palm rest, these sound amazing and are a pleasure to use. I certainly have found myself perfectly happy editing, gaming and listening to sounds through the ASUS Zephyrus G14. The sound stage is immersive, details and crispiness are acoustically rich enough, with exciting bass levels and depth to hear the ranges.
There’s an enjoyable amount of surround sound, with the included Dolby Atmos settings an enriching result. Sound comes through best when laid on a surface as the bass reverberates inside the chassis with a subtle pump of the bass against my palms. Richer sounds like voices or instruments are clean out of the box. Let’s just say you won’t be reaching for an external speaker anytime soon because the speakers on these are incredible. That applies to movies, music, podcasts and games. That’s not to say external speakers won’t be an upgrade, but more the speaker son these are more than great enough to use.
while things have largely been smooth, there are a few details that raised one or two eyebrows of mine which caught my attention, some more glaring and others more prerequisite to what the G14 offers… or doesn’t.
Of course, one of the glaring omissions is the lack of any kind of webcam. It’s something I knew beforehand and felt it was something I could deal with and for the most part, it hasn’t been an issue. I do tend to default to my phone if I need to video call, more of a workaround that some others may not find so forgiving. An alternate to this is the shared cam function in the Link to My ASUS app, which allows you to use the camera of your phone as a webcam via bluetooth. It works decently and the quality is great, although noticeable latency issues and pixelation with the slightest of movement may not be up to scratch for professional settings. An external webcam is recommended if you conference call a lot.
during my initial setup, installation and day-to-day use with the ASUS Zephyrus G14, while it was very largely positive and mindblowing in certain instances, there are a few things that have cropped up which raise a few eyebrows. They’re fairly minute, but worth disclosing for a more fairer setup picture. First up is the Bluetooth – sometimes after a fresh boot-up, bluetooth is not functioning and disappears from the system tray and notification centre. In the settings menu, it simply doesn’t show bluetooth as activate to pair or connect new devices. This is more of a windows issue but the first time I’ve experienced this on a windows machine. Thankfully, the inbuilt troubleshooter resolves this and is back after running and restarting as usual.
A more noticeable function is the fingerprint reader – it readers quick when it works, but isn’t as consistent as I would like. More glaringly, the fingerprint reader simply doesn’t read when it should – by laying my finger on the power button. It doesn’t detect my finger at all, needing to use my PIN and type instead. This happens more often than it should, as it should detect my finger through the power button anytime it needs to login. I’ll track this for now, but in many cases, it works to wake-up from sleep mode and log me straight in, or do so in near instant response time.
while the fan profile F5 button is convenient, it takes time to switch between profiles. While I hope to quick toggle to the appropriate fan mode for my current task before it kicks in, sadly it already kicks in per selection. This means 5 seconds or so of waiting before I can select the next profile. Quick it is not. It’s far quicker to press the dedicated armoury crate button just above it and click on the profile I want, which makes the fan button kind of redundant.
this may need more time, but while the screen is Pantone validated to be colour accurate for editing workflows, the screen looks to be conflicted software wise. Throwing up editing software kind of jolts the colour of the screen and I believe it’s due to the game visual modes in Armoury Crate overriding it. I’ll dig into this further as I look to find how to resolve this but for now, it’s not as out-of-the-convenient for the average consumer. But this is fixable and more of a software tweak than the actual quality of the display.
so far so zephyrus
I’ll be documenting more hands-on time with the ASUS Zephyrus G14 once I’ve pushed it further in my day-to-day, but early on, the G14 is an incredible machine – premium built, excellent speakers, quality hardware and aesthetic, mixed in with some of the most powerful computing performance you can get away with in a 14″. Besides the recently announced Razer Blade 14, a direct competition to the G14, So far, the G14 is an all-round beast to be reckoned with in the compact gaming laptop category.
At $1499 / £1599 for the AMD Ryzen 9 GTX 3060 configuration, there are very few in this space to choose from. The 14″ package is very compelling for more mobile individuals wanting good power to travel with, while the G15 which is only slightly more for similar specs (albeit more wattage) has a difficult case with more competition in that space. For now, the G14 looks king of the hill – but we’ll see what Razer’s Blade 14, the first to feature AMD Ryzen processors will look like.
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