Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 - Review

I always love new hardware, no matter what it is, there is something about opening up a box, finding something new inside and just seeing how it works, how all the parts come together, but it is rare for a product to wow me like this one did.

ASUS are not the first laptop maker to get a slice of the powerful gaming laptop market and nor will they be the last, but very few have managed to achieve such a design. The biggest draw for the laptop is that it hosts a brand new Nvidia 2080 graphics card, making it one of the more powerful gaming devices around and all that is tucked in a slim form factor. The first time I opened it up, I was wowed by just how slim the machine was, there was very little that did not impress, the screen is large and impressive, but the biggest shock came from the keyboard placement.


The moment you look at it, you will see that the keyboard is in another place, what has happened is that the keyboard has been brought forward and while I am sure some of it was a style choice, the main reason is that it allowed for better heat control on the laptop. As the keyboard has been brought forward, the trackpad has been shifted to the right, falling into place next to the keyboard, the impact of this is that you can easily type and use the mouse, without having to retrain yourself to that of standard machines, you just move your hand to the right, just like you would on a desktop machine. The trackpad also holds a little secret, if you press a key, it becomes a number pad and I don’t mean that it just works as one, but the actual pad displays the numbers on it, as the entire thing is a screen as well. Typing on the keyboard, or gaming is really comfortable, as the keys are responsive and while the keyboard’s width is a little shorter than normal, thanks to the addition of the trackpad next to it, it does not feel cramped, however with that being said there is an issue. 

The placement as I said before, was done so, in order for better heat management of the laptop, more on that in a bit, but the placement of the keyboard ends up with a slight problem because of that, the laptop fails to be useful when on your lap. Placing the machine down on a desk or table and there are no issues, you can just push the laptop back a little, but when it is on your lap, the problem is front and centre, literally and there is nothing you can do. Each time I had the machine on my lap, I was left feeling like a T-Rex, with my hands pushing out from my front, right at the wrists, much like the predator and while gaming is still possible, if you use a controller, basic computer use is much harder to achieve. Whilst typing or basic web browsing is hard, gaming is impossible, and while many people might never think about gaming on the go with it, as a laptop, it is something it needs to do without issue.


If you place the machine on a desk to use it, then the placement is not a concern, but more importantly, you can see just how innovative it is in one aspect and that is air flow and heat management. The laptop has a lot happening inside, so the team needed to establish a way for the heat to escape and still retain the think form factor that they were after and they did that in an unexpected way, the laptop lifts up. When you open the screen, the bottom panel of the laptop case pushes out from the main unit, adding a space of about 1 centimetre, which allows for the heat to be pushed out. It is a really well thought out piece of engineering as not only does it allow for great heat management, but it also gives the laptop a little lift, making it easier to use, like how standalone keyboards can be raised up.

Of course, the extra gap is for heat to be pushed out and that will come when you start gaming, which is something I tried quite a bit as I wanted to see how it would all work out. Throwing an older game, like DOOM 2016 at it, the laptop proved more than able to run the game at ultra-everything and played, without a single hiccup, which was nice, but more than that, I never heard the fans kick in. Anytime I played a graphic intensive game, on PC or console, the fans will kick in, to help keep the machine cool, but with a game that is not even three full years old, the machine did not even bat an eye. It did create some heat, which you could feel when placing a hand underneath it, it was quite easy to overlook. Taking a more recent release, like Anthem did cause the fans to kick into a higher gear twice, but both times were when I was attempting to make it do so, placing objects near the intake ports, slowing down the amount of air they were able to take in.  


Visuals are important when gaming, but it means little if the screens is not able to not only keep up, but provide a crisp image, something that the GX701 was able to do and it looked nice at other times as well. Just looking at the desktop, showed how well the machine was able to showcase the colours it was able to display, but playing a series of movies, also showed that. Something that was heavy on action like the recent Fast and Furious, had no issues, there was no ghosting of images or such, throwing up Spider-Man Into the Spider-verse, also had no issues, the colours were vibrant and did not suffer from any of the artefact displacement that some screens have when viewing animated movies.

On the sound front, the laptop was quite able to pump out decent audio, be it the DOOM game soundtrack or a random playlist from Spotify, it was more than able to play at a loud volume, without sounding distorted or tinny. There are limits though, when the fans kicked in, the sound was quite hard to hear, unless I cranked it to max, which is something I personally try to avoid doing and while the machine does have an easily accessible scroll wheel, it was a little odd in operation.


The rest of the machine is related to the power brick, which is large and given the amount of power the machine needs, in order to run everything it offers, that is not surprising, just made things awkward to carry. The machine also supports the Aura system that Asus have been using for a few years now, just powering up the laptop, gives you a nice wave effect and while I don’t have any Asus headphones or Mice, the laptop can sync up with them, giving you a larger impact of colour.

Asus have done something I thought was previously impossible, they have added a massive amount of power into a tiny form factor and not given it some form of bizarre shape. The downside though is that the keyboard has been moved into a location that makes it almost impossible to use as per the unit’s name, on the lap. When placed on a desk, the machine shines, but you would be better off to get a dedicated gaming desktop if you plan to leave the laptop there.


Review unit provided by ASUS