Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 full review

A gaming laptop with ultrabook sensibilities - Asus' ROG Zephyrus G14 brings this intriguing cross-pollination to the table. Launching at CES 2020, the Taiwanese company has created the "world's most powerful 14in gaming notebook" - a claim that we're inclined to agree with.

Asus has married an impressively compact form with specs that you simply don't get considering the dimensions at play, and the team behind the G14 still found time to add some design flair and innovative thinking to augment the use cases a machine such as this might find itself in.

Design & Build

The G14 is a small but solidly-built machine, as gaming laptops go. Considering the power on offer, it's easily one of the most portable entries there is; made possible by a mix of meticulous thermal design on the inside and a strong magnesium-aluminium alloy deck on the outside.

The body measures in at 17.9mm thin, with the sides choc-full on the I/O front; including two USB-C and two USB-A ports, alongside a 3.5mm headphone jack and a full-sized HDMI port (so VR gaming is on the table). The lack of a card reader and no Thunderbolt 3 connection will come as frustrating omissions for some, too.

Having been able to peek under the hood, Asus demonstrated an excellent thermal design that involves a duo of its n-Blade fans and custom heatsink fins to eject dust out of dedicated exhaust ports on the G14's back. While this should help reduce the risk of dust build-up and thus heat build-up over long-term usage, the inherent benefits of the company's ErgoLift hinge design shouldn't be overlooked either.

As seen on Asus' original Zephyrus laptop, opening the lid raises the deck of the machine up and off whatever surface it's on, at an angle. While a more comfortable typing position is an additional benefit, the primary purpose of this is to improve airflow onto the G14's internals from underneath.

For all the love being paid to the thermals at work on the G14, it should be said that the fans sport a pretty aggressive curve, which brings them in at what sounds like full force when placing the machine under any heavy load, be it demanding creative work or gaming.

Despite the machine's overall size, the compact keyboard feels pleasingly generous, with plenty of space around each key and a satisfying 1.7mm of travel to work through. The sticking point is, in fact, the backlighting, which is wildly uneven and prone to light leak, meaning it's best left off, unless in the darkest of environments.

With no webcam in the G14's bezel, we expected to find it relegated to within the keyboard - MateBook-style - but instead, Asus chose not to include one altogether.

Beyond the cooling setup and keyboard, you're presented with a quad-speaker arrangement (two tweeters and two woofers) with Dolby Atmos' blessing, a Windows Hello-compliant fingerprint sensor-laden power button (which admittedly could be more reliable) and a choice of three different displays.

While the ROG-branding suggests that the G14 is a portable gaming rig first and foremost, the overall styling and hardware options highlight that this is a machine made for more than simply dominating in League.

Display & Audio

Those who do look at the G14 as their next gaming laptop should probably swing for the 120Hz Full HD IPS LCD (as we tested), while those who instead aim to spend more time wielding this machine's power to edit video or work on graphic design tasks will likely prefer the crisper 60Hz WQHD panel that's up for grabs (there's also a Full HD 60Hz option, but that's best left alone).

Look past the spec sheet of conventional parts and it's not hard to see what makes the G14 so instantly recognisable and memorable. Dubbed the 'AniMe Matrix', the top-tier versions of the G14 possess a CNC milled lid, covered in some 1215 mini LEDs.

These can be set to show text, visualisers and even animated GIFs that would no doubt serve as an eye-catching way to rep your favourite esports team (or silently trash-talk your opponents).

On every other SKU of the G14, however, the lid is simply covered in a number of tiny holes that, although not as exciting, still grant this machine a distinctive look.

Performance & Battery

The various screen setups and the matrix of LEDs already talked about are just two choices to make when configuring your G14. Behind the scenes, there's also room for a pretty significant set of performance tweaks, starting with the processor.

You can choose from a number of entries within AMD's 4000 series Ryzen chips, topping out at the 7nm AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS. Asus has managed to nab the tuned 35W variant that retains the same clock, 8 cores and 16 threads as the standard 45W version but benefits from smarter throttling and greater thermal efficiency.

The options list also allows for up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, up to a 1TB of M.2 NVMe SSD storage and then there's the graphics card to consider. Despite its size, the G14 can accommodate up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 (Max-Q), offering enough clout for high-performance gaming and video streaming simultaneously, if that's your bag.

The included 180W charger unlocks the power of the discrete GPU, although the G14 is USB-PD compatible up to 65W too, meaning you can still get work done and charge this machine up, even if you only take your phone charger with you.

Related: Best gaming laptops 2020

Asus quotes ten hours of use per charge, but in testing, our G14 swiftly passed that threshold - throwing in the towel at just over 11 and a half hours. As such, creatives and gamers alike should feel confident in using the G14 as they please while mobile, without concern.

Price & Availability

The G14 is available for pre-order in most of Asus' principal markets, including the UK and US. Depending on which SKU you opt for understandably affects price, with the most influential factors being CPU, graphics card and display.

Pricing starts at £1099/US$1099, but can be as high as £1799/US$1449.99 - depending on your configuration. Asus UK's cites a ship date of 30 June 2020.

If you're not a fan of the 14in screen size, take a look at powerful (fractionally larger) alternatives, such as the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED (2020) and the latest Razer Blade 15.

Verdict

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 shows that small can certainly mean mighty, with a balance of portability and power unlike anything else currently on the market, especially considering the price range it's on offer for.

The AniMe Matrix is sure to turn heads, as is the performance made possible by AMD's latest Ryzen chips and some serious graphical oomph, courtesy of Nvidia. The lengths that Asus has gone to, to ensure the G14 stays thermally viable also deserve a serious round of applause.

The G14 also made our 'Best of CES 2020' list. Check the feature out to see what else wowed us on the show floor.

Related: How we test laptops

Specs

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14: Specs

  • 14in 16:9 Full HD/60Hz, Full HD/120Hz or WQHD/60Hz IPS LCD
  • AniMe Matrix LEDs (special edition only)
  • Up to AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS
  • Pantone validated display
  • AMD Adaptive Sync
  • ‘ErgoLift’ design
  • Up to Nvidia RTX 2060
  • Up to 32GB DDR4-3200 RAM
  • Up to 1TB M. NVMe SSD
  • Moonlight White, Eclipse Grey
  • USB-PD charging support up to 65W
  • Up to 3A charging output
  • 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (one with DisplayPort 1.4 support)
  • 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
  • 1x HDMI 2.0b
  • 1x 3.5mm combo jack
  • WiFi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Windows Hello-compliant fingerprint sensor power key
  • Quad-speaker setup
  • Dolby Atmos audio
  • Windows 10 Home or Pro
  • 324 x 222 x 17.9 mm
  • 1.6kg or 1.7kg

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