The world’s thinnest gaming laptop also has the best graphics card

by Haadi Bakar
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Gaming laptops are generally big and heavy, a necessary compromise as manufacturers need to put in those fans, vents and heatsinks to cool the system during heavy gaming sessions.

But Asus is changing the game this year with the ROG Zephyrus GX501. This 15-inch gaming laptop rocks a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor combined with Nvidia’s top-of-the-line GPU, the GeForce GTX 1080, yet the whole machine roughly weighs the same as an ultrabook instead of a typical gaming laptop.

At only 2.24 kilogrammes and just 1.79 cm in thickness, the Zephyrus is slimmer than the ultra-compact Dell XPS 15. Most gaming laptops sporting the GTX 10-series graphics cards usually don’t come in such a petite size, but thanks to Nvidia’s Max-Q design, the graphic card maker is able to cram a high-end gaming GPU inside a slim laptop like the Zephyrus and still deliver desktop-class performance.

The Zephyrus fulfills the dreams of those who long for PC gaming on-the-go without being bogged down by bulky laptops.

On top of all that are 24GB of 2400MHz DDR4 RAM and a super-fast 1 terabyte Samsung SM961 M.2 NVMe SSD, which makes the Zephyrus a blazing fast computer.

The Zephyrus also has a screen fit for gaming; a full-HD 1080p 15.6-inch panel with G-sync and a refresh rate of 120Hz.

The all-black exterior with copper trim also gives the Zephyrus a futuristic aesthetic. From afar and lid closed, anyone could mistake the Zephyrus for a premium ultrabook until they notice Asus’s big ROG (Republic of Gamers) logo on its brushed aluminum top surface.

It’s no short of ports either: the Zephyrus offers one USB-C with Thunderbolt, four USB 3.0s, HDMi 2.0 and a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. There’s no gigabit LAN however.

You might be wondering, for such a thin and lightweight design, how does this laptop handle cooling?

Turns out Asus came up with an ingenious solution: when the screen goes up, the Zephyrus’ bottom panel drops down like a ramp to allow airflow. This panel goes back up when the laptop’s lid closes, bringing back the slim form factor so you can easily slip the laptop into a backpack.

There’s just one big tradeoff to this design, and that is battery life. There’s just little room for the Zephyrus to store a large battery.

Most gaming laptops tend to consume a lot of power than a regular laptop computer. The 50Wh battery inside the Zephyrus will take a huge hit from a heavy gaming session, averaging at slightly over two hours on average.

It’s what you should come to expect when getting a gaming laptop that tries to be a Macbook Air at the same time.

The Zephyrus isn’t like your typical ultrabook which can push past 9 hours of endurance. Those laptops use energy-efficient processors and SSD drives. Of course, they’re not designed for gaming.

Another issue I have is with the keyboard’s placement: they’re too close to the front edge of the chassis, while the touchpad, which doubles as a numpad when toggled, is placed to the right of the keyboard. Asus said this relocation is necessary for better cooling.

For some, this could make for an uncomfortable typing and even gaming experience, since the keyboard pretty much occupies the entire area where the palm rest should be.

It’s also a pretty expensive gaming laptop, with the maxed out spec retailing for US$2,699. Even the lower-end Zephyrus Asus is releasing later this month, which has half the storage and RAM and an Nvidia GTX 1070, costs US$2,299.

At least Asus is actually trying something new. By fitting a high-end GPU and an innovative cooling system in a thin and lightweight chassis, the Zephyrus finally fulfills the dreams of those who long for PC gaming on-the-go without being bogged down by bulky laptops.

Of course, there are still issues that need ironing out before these thin and lightweight gaming laptops can really take off, particularly in the battery department which I think is a huge challenge for manufacturers to tackle on a machine in this class.

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