Curse near perfect, with a few notable flaws

Asus ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) detailed review

The Asus ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) is a 15 “gaming laptop, which Asus claims is the thinnest 15-inch gaming machine at the moment. It sits less than an inch thick and measures 2.1 kilograms, which is what you think of Not really too much. It packs the signature “Aero Active” hinge, where the bottom part opens by a few millimeters when opening the laptop, all to help air flow better. How the GX531 packs an Nvidia RTX 2070 with the Max-Q design, This machine will definitely need extra cooling. Our laptop has been in our lab for a few days and after putting it through a bunch of tests, we finally know whether to recommend the laptop. Short answer, it’s not easy. For long answer, read on.

Specification


















ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) Specification
Processor Intel Core i7-8750H 2.2 GHz
Platform 300-series
RAM FSB 2666 MHz
RAM capacity 16 GB
Screen size 15.6-inches
Screen resolution 1920×1080
Refresh rate 144Hz
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q
SSD 512GB NVMe
Ethernet None
WiFi Intel 802.11ac (2×2) Gigabit Wi-Fi
Battery 4210 mAh 66 Whr @ 15.4v
AC adapter 230W
Weight 2.1 kg

Construction and design

Asus ROG Zephyrus S All kinds of chic and smooth. With the lid closed, it measures less than an inch thick, which is quite an achievement for a gaming machine. The primary reason I bought this laptop for personal use was. When it shuts down, it feels like an indomitable tank.

Once the lid is opened, another lid rises from the bottom to the top, creating an opening just a few millimeters wide for the fans to draw more air. The hinges of both the display and the metal plate that lift from the bottom are extremely stiff and well constructed. These will not be the part that left you at the bottom, but will be the metal plate itself. Holding the laptop open reveals how thin the plate is and so “spongy”. It will be very easy to use for prolonged use to cause some curvature in this plate. Similarly, the display panel itself is very “flexible”, displaying prominent doubling when removed from only one end. After using the metal on the lid, it was very frustrating to find the display panel so weak.

The display lid is extremely flexible

The firmness of the GX531 comes from its base, which is blended from a single piece of aluminum and is incredibly tough and leaves no room for complaint. The all-black paint work with the copper trim is also quite eye-catching, with all the RGB lighting on the keyboard and the bottom of the air vent.

At first glance, the Asus ROG Zephyrus looks absolutely beautiful. It’s smooth, all black and awesome. But once it opened, and began to witness all the weak points. The bottom panel is incredibly thin and we think it will be easy to damage. The display also shows extreme “flexibility”, which we don’t like very much. After all, we believe that horses of this power, if purchased, will need to be handled with a little care.

Display

The display panel of the Asus Zephyrus S (GX531) boasts a number of features. The full HD panel has a refresh rate of 144Hz and a 3ms response time. Additionally, the display is Pantone Certified, which means its color should be calibrated outside the box. We used our spider chlorimeter specifically designed for LCD displays and found Asus’ claim to be “calibrated out of the box” valid.

Pantone verifies FH IPS display with 144Hz refresh rate

With a maximum brightness of 340 lux, the display is bright enough to play even outside. The matte coating certainly helps suppress reflection and we’re glad the Asus GX531 has a display of this caliber. Extremely narrow bezels make it more enjoyable to play.

The GX531’s display is certainly impressive. If one thing is missing, we’ll say it’s Nvidia G-Sync, but to be honest, after a few hours of gaming on this machine, we haven’t really missed the feature.

Keyboard, trackpad and I / O

The Asus ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) features a regular keyboard with 1.2mm key travel. Unlike the slightly curved keys, we found on the company’s Scar II (Review) laptop, the ones on the GX531 are completely flat. Oh, and you may have noticed that the keyboard is placed on the front edge of the body frame, a design choice for which the Zephyrus line is rather famous. It takes a lot to get used to this placement, and some will say, you never get used to it.

Asus Zephyrus S Continues ‘Unique’ Ergonomics for Keyboard and Trackpad

Typing these is a decent experience, as these keys offer a somewhat sharper shallow trip. The keyboard island doesn’t offer any flex, which is definitely a good thing, as it only lends itself to our previous conclusions about build quality. Key unfortunately does not offer per-key RGB settings, but instead offers 4-zone RGB controls.

The trackpad is placed on the right side of the keyboard in portrait orientation. This is another Zephyrus signature design choice. I think this placement actually makes the trackpad useful for gaming or using the Lasso tool in Photoshop. Unique and plush left and right click keys add to its usability. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good placement for the trackpad, making it very usable, but it’s not sensitive enough for fps gaming. In addition, the trackpad doubles as a number-pad when a key is pressed. Once assigned, red numbers appear on the trackpad, turning it into a number-pad. It is usable, but in the absence of any response, it can be a bit annoying to use occasionally. I found myself checking my number entry twice after using the trackpad due to lack of response.

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with the GX531 is its I / O selection. You get a Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 port with display port and power delivery. It is mounted on the right side of the machine with a USB3.1 Gen2 Type A port. On the left, you’ll find a Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1 port with 2 USB 2.0 ports. With only 3 Type A ports, there is absolutely no business for two of them being USB2.0, especially considering how Asus is marketing it to creative professionals as well. For a laptop that costs as much as the GX531, USB 2.0 ports are simply unacceptable.

USB 2.0 in 2019? In such an expensive machine?

Performance

Finally, good things onto. An Intel Core i7-8750H packed in this 16mm thin machine is paired with an Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q. It has a 512GB NVMe drive that uses x4 PCIe LAN which is the only upgrade of this laptop. The board supports a maximum of 16GB of RAM, which is pre-installed on the machines, so there is no point in opening it. Sadly, for those who get this machine, there is no prospect of increasing performance in the future.

Now in terms of price and specifications, the closest competitor to the GX531 that we have reviewed is the Alienware m15. So for all performance metrics, this is our comparison.

The Alienware m15 comes in ahead of most synthetic benchmarks

While gaming, we set the machine to turbo mode with Armory Crate software. We continued our normal choices and clicked the numbers below

What was very frustrating was the problem of frame-drops every few minutes of playing the game. We’ll go from 70+ fps in Shadow of the Tomb Rider to just 11fps for a few seconds, and then back up to 70+ fps. We’ve noticed this behavior in all of our games and have come to the conclusion that some kind of throttling is going on. In the chart below you can see the frame rate of some games.

Gaming on 1080p Asus Zephyrus S, Ultra Graphics

Gaming on 1080p Asus Zephyrus S, high graphics

Given the powerful components of the GX531, we expected the machine to be a hiccup-free performer. Sadly, for some reason, it gets stuck in every game it plays. We contacted Asus to check if there were any issues with the review unit we received and will update this review with new information.

Another interesting aspect of benchmarking the GX531 was its internal drive. The laptop comes with an Intel 512GB NVMe drive using x4 PCIe lanes, but read / write performance was down. Reading speed reached 1709MB per second and writing speed reached about 984MB per second.

Thermal

Perhaps the most confusing part of reviewing the Asus Zephyrus S (GX531) was its thermal efficiency and how it relates to CPU-GPU throughput. Under full load, the heat radiating from the side was only 56 degrees. When idle, the system only holds the clock at a temperature of 32 degrees. Notably, the system is not very loud when idle or even in a moderate load, but set it to turbo mode where the dual 12V fans rotate at full speed and we have clocked about 70 decibels loud. Either way, the system is not getting hot enough to heat which can cause throttling.

Lifts the bottom when opening the laptop, so that more air can be drawn in

The bottom of the laptop also gets uncomfortably hot, which means you should definitely not keep this machine in your lap for extended use.

The last row

Asus Zephyrus S (GX531) manages to get some things very accurately. It packs a very powerful set of components in a slim chassis, ideal for those who want to carry their gaming or editing machines around. The Pantone Verified 144Hz display is great out of the box. The keyboard will take a lot of time to get used to, but the trackpad is definitely a strong point. What’s definitely disappointing is the two USB 2.0 ports (which should have been USB 3.0) and the Flex on the display panel. The metal plate included in the Arrow Active cooler could have been better. If you receive Zephyrus S, you will not receive any complaints regarding performance, but we recommend some care to operate this machine.

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