ROG Zephryus G14 review: Powerful Payoff
Should I buy the ROG Zephyrus G14 (2020)?
ASUS have made an ROG gaming laptop that eschews most of the conventions.
It doesn’t run on Intel hardware. It doesn’t offer customisable RGB lighting. Running headfirst against the odds, the G14 tries and succeeds where other Ryzen-powered gaming laptops have struggled. It might not steal away customers from those who buy into the glitz of the latest Razer hardware or the hype behind Intel’s latest i9 processors but it stands on its own two legs in a way that previous efforts haven't.
We’re not just living in a world where laptops powered by AMD’s Ryzen architecture exist anymore. Now, we’re living in one where those same laptops are able to combine great performance, alternative design sensibilities and a killer price-tag.
ROG Zephyrus G14 (2020) full review
In Australia, you can buy the ROG Zephyrus G14 at starting price of AU$2199. You can find it through the following:
Design - Look, Feel and Features
Even if the performance is the real kingmaker here, I have to admit, I’ve rarely felt as divided on the looks of a gaming laptop as I do with the ROG Zephyrus G14.
Again, the performance and specs involved are solid. However, at the end of the day, the feel-factor and looks of the laptop is a constant that buying *this* specific laptop means locking yourself into. I don’t really love the way this laptop looks and no amount of overclocking if gonna fix that.
The feel and form-factor here are relatively slim but this thing is still hefty enough that the G14 sometimes felt closer to an echo of the chunky and clunky notebooks I grew up with than it did to modern ultraslims like the latest Razer Blade.
Worse still, the design here feels as plain as it does plastic. At seemingly every turn, ASUS have given function the edge over form. The keyboard feels fully featured but it’s kinda boring to look at. The keys have plenty of travel but there’s no way to change the color of the lighting on the thing.
I never thought I’d be the person calling for more RGB lighting on a gaming laptop but, given that it’s basically the standard for the G14’s competition, it’s borderline-provocative to see it omitted here. If you’re someone who can do without the unnecessary flair, the lack of an RGB keyboard might not be a huge drawback. If you’re the kind of person who wants a gaming laptop that can play double-duty in professional settings, it’s more of a boon than a curse.
Nevertheless, it does expose the weird sense of identity that the G14 has cultivated around itself.
The ROG Zephyrus G14 is an ROG gaming laptop that eschews almost all of the conventions that the brand usually plays right into. It doesn’t even have a built-in webcam. Compared to the rest of the gaming sub-brand’s roster of portable powerhouses, it stands out like something of a sore thumb.
At times, the sum total here feels like it has more in common with ASUS’ mainstream laptops than ROG’s usual stable of high-performance hardware. It’s a gaming laptop that doesn’t really look like a gaming laptop.
There are two big callouts here. The first is the screen on the G14. Kitted out to the nines, the top-spec G14 offers up either a WQHD resolution or a 120Hz refresh rate. You either get a faster screen or a prettier one.
This is rounded out by thin bezels and 100% sRGB color accuracy. As far as screens on any modern laptop - gaming or no - go, there’s a lot to like here and I have little in the way of complaints about it after using the G14 as my main PC for a couple of weeks.
The Zephyrus G14 has a tremendously nice display that ticks all the boxes. Then, on the other side of the fold, you’ve got the G14’s unique Mini-LED array.
Branded as the “AniMe Matrix, this inclusion is made up of around 1200 mini-LED nodes that can be customised to display words, images, animations or icons. It’s a new frontier through which you can make the G14 your own. As long as you’re willing to put in the work.
I didn’t spend as much time messing with it as I expected to but, given the absence of a traditional RGB keyboard, it serves to make up some of the difference.
For the record, the ROG Zephyrus G14 features a total of eight ports:
2x USB Type-C
2x USB Type-A
1x Noble Lock
1x headphone jack
I guess the place I’ve ended up on the G14 is that, while I do commend ASUS for attempting to do something different, the execution left me cold. Still, I’m hopeful to see a follow-up that corrects the notes that don’t land.
Performance - Specs, Benchmarks and Battery Life
Processor: AMD R7-R4800HSD
Operating System: Windows 10
RAM: Up to 24GB
Storage: M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 512GB + M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 1TB
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
MicroSD slot: No
Display: Up to 14-inch Non-glare WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS-level panel, 60Hz, 100% sRGB, Pantone Validated, adaptive sync
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
Front-Facing Camera: N/A
Dimensions: 32.4 x 22.2 x 1.99 cm
If you’re looking for the part of this review where the G14 wipes the floor with the competition on benchmarks. You can let go of that notion now. It doesn’t. It swung for the fences but mostly kept pace with most of the competition.
Here’s why that matters. If we’re going by launch RRP, stuff like last year’s Strix Scar 3 and Zephyrus S sit above the brand-new Zephyrus G14 by about $800 to $1000, depending on your spec configuration of choice. They also run on, what was at the time, Intel’s best and brightest silicon for gaming laptops.
Right out the gate, the Zephyrus G14 is keeping up with more expensive laptops at a cheaper price-tag. Over time, that difference will inevitably depreciate but, it’s the kind of feat that gives you a lot of confidence that AMD’s mobile chipsets might finally be ready for the big leagues.
Zephyrus G14 (2020) benchmark scores:
PC Mark 2.0 - 5287
3DMark Timespy - 5814
3D Mark Firestrike Ultra - 3486
3D Mark Firestrike - 13919
Total War: Warhammer 2 - Battle (Ultra) - 46.1FPS
Total War: Warhammer 2 - Campaign (Ultra) - 50FPS
Total War: Warhammer 2 - Skaven (Ultra) - 43.3FPS
Monster Hunter: World (Ultra) - 76FPS
Doom Eternal (Ultra) - 85FPS
Kingdom Come: Deliverance (Ultra) - 82.5FPS
In terms of everyday usage, the G14 was as blisteringly responsive as the spec-sheet suggests. I’d juggle dozens of apps with ease and high-fidelity gaming was a breeze.
When I started to crank the graphical settings for games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance to Ultra, the fan was definitely audible but it didn’t sound particularly oppressive. There was still a noticeable heat build-up in the keyboard but, regardless, the Zephyrus G14 kept delivering the goods.
When it came to battery life, the chunky power cell inside the G14 delivered the goods.
Subjected to our usual Battery Eater testing tool, which gauges the minimum battery life of a given notebook PC, the new Zephyrus G14 lasted for 2 hours and 40 minutes. For a gaming laptop, even one that doesn’t look like most gaming laptops, that’s a pretty commendable result.
The Bottom Line
ASUS’ latest attempt to reinvent the wheel when it comes to gaming laptops doesn’t quite soar when it comes to aesthetics but everything else is a treat. The performance is exceptional enough to offset any friction generated by the drastic departure from the style and vibe of past Zephryus hardware.
With the G14, it’s clear that ASUS are playing a fresh new tune to the gaming notebook world. Now they just need to learn to play it well.
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