Asus has refreshed its blockbuster, category-defining Zephyrus G14, a gaming laptop computer that was so profitable final 12 months that it was principally unimaginable to purchase within the months following its launch.
As was most likely sensible, the corporate has made only a few modifications to final 12 months’s product. The 2021 Zephyrus G14 has final 12 months’s chassis with new chips (AMD’s Ryzen 5000 cellular processors and Nvidia’s RTX 3000 cellular GPUs). There are additionally new show choices: final 12 months’s mannequin had a 1080p 120Hz panel or a 1440p 60Hz panel, whereas this 12 months’s gives the selection of a QHD 120Hz display or a 1080p 144Hz display, along with a 1080p 60Hz choice.
These updates put the G14 a bit nearer to the premium class than it was final 12 months, and the value displays that — the entry-level RTX configuration, which was $1,499 final 12 months, has been bumped as much as $1,549. That’s nonetheless respectable worth, however it’s now not the rarity that it was in final 12 months’s market. The competitors has gotten extra highly effective, and it’s not an excessive amount of dearer.
All 2021 Zephyrus G14 fashions have AMD’s Ryzen 5000 sequence processors. The highest choice is the eight-core Ryzen 9 5900HS. That is extra environment friendly than different chips within the Ryzen 9 sequence (such because the 5900HX, which powers the Razer Blade 14), however it nonetheless packs some critical energy. My take a look at unit paired this chip with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, in addition to 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and the QHD 120Hz show. QHD gaming laptops are a pattern that’s exploded this 12 months, partially as a result of Ryzen 5000 and RTX 3000 chips have lastly made QHD gaming an affordable chance.
This configuration is listed for $1,999.99 on Asus’ website (although it’s offered on the market as of this writing), and it’s just about the highest mannequin you should purchase. The other $1,999.99 model is one which Asus developed with DJ Alan Walker, which comes with fancy packaging that may perform as a DJ deck. It’s a bit specced down, although, together with simply an RTX 3050 Ti and 16GB of RAM. (We reviewed that gadget individually — it’s cool, however principally cool for Alan Walker followers.) Each of those fashions additionally embody the AniMe Matrix, a elaborate grid of LEDs on the G14’s lid that may type cool animated designs for those who’re so inclined.
These are the one two configurations at present listed on Asus’ web site. I’ve additionally been capable of finding a $1,549.99 model at Greatest Purchase that features the RTX 3060, 16GB of RAM, and the 144Hz 1080p show (which is probably going higher worth than my take a look at unit), in addition to a $1,149.99 model with a 60Hz show, a Ryzen 7 5800HS, and a GeForce GTX 1650. Excalibur PC additionally has an RTX 3060 / QHD / 16GB / 1TB mannequin for $1,799.99. None of those embody the AniMe Matrix.
The largest factor to remove from all that is that the G14 has a ceiling — the RTX 3060 and the Ryzen 9 5900HS are the perfect you may get. Final 12 months, that mixture would’ve made it essentially the most highly effective 14-inch gaming laptop computer on this planet. However there’s a cause that’s not the case anymore, and it’s referred to as the Razer Blade 14.
The Zephyrus averaged 191fps on CS:GO at native decision and 263fps in 1080p. Mud particles, fires, clouds, and different intense results have been no drawback. It averaged 33fps on Pink Useless Redemption 2 with all sliders maxed at 1440p, 40fps on the Extremely preset, and 51fps on the Extremely preset in 1080p. (DLSS wasn’t tremendous efficient on this recreation, oddly — I solely noticed 42fps on the Extremely preset at 1440p with the function set to “quality.”)
The place the RTX 3060 actually struggled was ray tracing in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The G14 averaged 28fps on the best preset with the function set to Extremely (DLSS was useful right here, bumping that common as much as 42fps). It did a lot better with ray tracing off, averaging 57fps at native decision and 83fps in 1080p.
Proper off the bat, these outcomes are a large step up from final 12 months’s G14; this mannequin’s beating it on all three titles in 1080p. Nonetheless, it nonetheless can’t fairly run all of those video games at playable body charges in QHD except you bump some settings down (although it could definitely take full benefit of its 120Hz show with esports fodder like CS:GO).
The extra demanding titles are the place the efficiency hole between the RTX 3060 and the RTX 3070 actually turns into obvious. The Zephyrus G15 with the identical processor and a 3070 crushed the G14 on each Pink Useless (averaging 58fps) and Tomb Raider (61fps with ray tracing on, 81fps with ray tracing off) in 1440p. That mannequin is definitely $150 cheaper than my G14 unit — it doesn’t embody the AniMe Matrix and solely has 16GB of RAM. The G15 additionally comes with an RTX 3060 (with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage), for an excellent cheaper $1,499.99.
The Razer Blade 14 I examined had an RTX 3070 in addition to a Ryzen 9 5900HX, in a chassis that’s truly a little bit bit smaller than the G14’s. It additionally gave the Zephyrus a run for its cash on each Pink Useless and Tomb Raider (averaging 58fps and 51fps in QHD, respectively). An RTX 3070 Blade 14 is dearer than this G14 mannequin ($2,199.99 as of this writing) and solely has 16GB of RAM, however nonetheless gives lots for that value — you get not solely the additional energy, but additionally a 165Hz QHD display, an RGB keyboard, and a webcam. The G14 doesn’t actually have a nice price argument towards the Blade 14 if you wish to follow the RTX 3060, as a result of you may also purchase the latter with an RTX 3060 and a 144Hz show for $1,799.99 ($200 lower than my take a look at mannequin).
One last factor to notice on gaming — this factor will get sizzling. Whereas I didn’t see proof of throttling essentially, the 5900HS was persistently within the excessive 80s (Celsius) or low 90s throughout gameplay. (On the larger G15, for context, the identical chip ran by means of all the identical titles with out leaping above 80.)
The G14’s case additionally received very, very popular throughout gameplay. The keyboard was uncomfortable to the touch, and the underside was blistering. If I held my hand proper above the keys, I may really feel the warmth. This wasn’t too removed from the expertise I had with final 12 months’s G14, however the Blade 14 did a greater job with much more highly effective elements. Whereas it had some bother conserving its chip cool, the warmth didn’t switch to the skin of its chassis in my testing.
The followers have been additionally loud throughout gameplay, although you may swap to a “Silent” profile in Asus’ Armoury Crate software program. I used this whereas doing common workplace work with the G14, and it did reside as much as its identify whereas conserving the keyboard cool (although the underside of the chassis was nonetheless toasty more often than not).
So what does the 2021 G14 have going for it? Just about every little thing else. The show is crisp and vivid, maxing out at 300 nits and overlaying 100% of the sRGB gamut, 87 p.c of AdobeRGB, and 99 p.c of P3. The audio system — together with two downward-firing woofers and two tweeters, ship clear audio with resonant bass and forceful percussion. The G14 comes preloaded with Dolby Entry, together with audio presets for video games, music, motion pictures, and voice. (The Music profile makes vocals clearer, whereas the Music and Sport presets give the backing tracks extra oomf.) The microphones had no bother choosing up my voice on work calls, even with some background noise.
The chassis is skinny, mild, and durable, and the ErgoLift hinge, an Asus staple that folds beneath the deck and lifts the keyboard barely off the bottom, isn’t as sharp in your lap as it’s on another Asus laptops. And the G14’s keyboard and touchpad are a few of my favorites — not simply amongst gaming laptops however amongst all laptops in the marketplace. The keys are backlit, quiet, and comfy, with loads of journey and a satisfying click on — I particularly admire the devoted quantity keys on the prime of the deck. The trackpad is sort of clean, with one of many best clicks you’ll discover on a laptop computer. I didn’t see any palm rejection points and will usually scroll with out hitting plastic.
Lastly, battery life is an space the place the G14 solidly beats the Blade 14. That’s to be anticipated, given the previous’s extra environment friendly processor. Utilizing the G14 as my day by day driver with an workplace workload, I averaged 9 hours and 38 minutes. (This was with Battery Saver on, the display round 200 nits, and the GPU disabled.) That’s longer than I noticed from final 12 months’s G14 in addition to this 12 months’s G15, and it makes this mannequin one of many longest-lasting gaming laptops I’ve ever examined. The Blade averaged simply six hours and 12 minutes from the identical workload.
Battery gaming was additionally a good expertise. I received an hour and two minutes of Pink Useless Redemption 2 gameplay on the Extremely preset; the sport was playable for 57 minutes of that point and dropped to stuttery body charges after that (with round 10 p.c remaining). The 180-watt charger is decently quick, although not exceptionally so. It took 50 minutes to juice the G14 as much as 60 p.c throughout mild Chrome use.
There are solely two actual points with the chassis. First, the fingerprint sensor on my unit was finicky and failed to acknowledge me a couple of third of the time. I’ve requested Asus whether or not this is a matter they’ve encountered earlier than. The second is that there’s no webcam. One of many advantages of a skinny and light-weight gadget just like the G14 is that it’s alleged to make for an important multipurpose driver, which is a considerably taller order when it could’t do video calls. Sure, you may plug in an exterior digital camera, however that’s a complete further factor, and it’s particularly annoying for those who’re carrying the G14 round lots. Asus actually ought to simply stick a webcam on this factor, even a awful one, particularly since its rivals have them.
On the finish of the day, the G14 remains to be wonderful. It’s a superb performer in a superb chassis, with a keyboard, touchpad, speaker system, and battery life span which can be absolute standouts. (Significantly — I apologize to no matter keyboard I’ve to evaluate after this one, as a result of it’s most likely going to look unhealthy compared.) And the brand new chips have delivered a marked enchancment over final 12 months’s G14.
Sadly, whereas this laptop computer hasn’t modified that a lot, its competitors has. The G14 is now not essentially the most highly effective 14-inch gaming laptop computer you should purchase — and whereas its battery life particularly should make it an important purchase for some customers, it’s now not the apparent selection for everybody. The Blade 14 gives considerably extra highly effective chips in a chassis that’s thinner and nearly as mild.
And whereas the Blade 14 is dearer, there are additionally various methods to get an RTX 3070 for a cheaper price than the G14 is asking right here. In case you’re prepared to go for one thing barely greater and miss out on the flamboyant lights, the Zephyrus G15 will give this actual chassis design (with the identical distinctive keyboard, touchpad, audio, and battery life) with a lot better gaming outcomes for much less cash. In case you nonetheless need fancy lights, you may also get a 5900HX and an RTX 3070 (together with a 144Hz show) within the RGB-packed ROG Strix G15 at a cheaper price than my take a look at unit.
Once more, the G14 remains to be wonderful. However there’s extra wonderful stuff on this class now than there was final 12 months. The G14 has moved out of “slam-dunk” territory and into “good option for people who want a specific combination of things” territory. Which is, to be honest, the place nearly all gaming laptops reside.