ASUS Zephyrus G14 review: Ultraportable gaming done right
The Zephyrus G14’s keyboard did a great job of keeping up with my furious shooter spree, thanks to excellent feedback and satisfying key depth. I found it a bit more frustrating to use for productivity work, though. While I can type on it well enough, the keycaps always felt a bit too small for something with such a wide frame. I’d love to see ASUS expand the keyboard a bit more to allow for some breathing room. The touchpad, meanwhile, is practically flawless. It’s smooth and accurate, whereas I’m used to suffering through subpar touchpads on gaming laptops.
Outside of games, the Zephyrus G14 also proved itself to be a worthy workhorse. Our review unit, which came with 16GB of RAM and a speedy NVMe SSD, had no trouble juggling dozens of browser tabs while streaming and transcoding video in the background. It also flew through basic tasks, like launching apps and moving large files. It was as if the computer was anticipating everything I tried to do.
The G14 also converted a two-minute 4K clip in Handbrake to 1080p in just 38 seconds with the AMD encoder and in 35 seconds with the NVIDIA alternative. That’s seven seconds faster than the HP Envy 32 we reviewed, a powerful all in one PC with an Intel Core i7 desktop processor and RTX 2060 GPU.
If you’re editing media on the go, the Zephyrus G14 is a worthy alternative to a machine like Dell’s XPS 15. It even packs in a healthy amount of ports for plugging in all of your accessories: two USB 3.2 Type A; two USB-C connections, one of which supports DisplayPort; full-sized HDMI; and the usual combination headphone/mic jack. The only thing it’s missing is an SD card reader, but I suppose we’re all used to the dongle life these days.
As for battery life, the Zephyrus G14 is something of a miracle. In our benchmark, which involves looping an HD video, it lasted 12 hours and 45 minutes. That’s the most we’ve ever seen from a gaming machine, and it’s even impressive for a standard ultraportable. It’s also worth mentioning that the G14’s 180-watt power adapter is actually reasonably sized — it’s not an unwieldy brick like you’d find on some gaming laptops. If you’re in a pinch without the adapter, you can also charge it over USB-C when you’re not gaming.
While the G14 has pretty much everything we’d want in a gaming notebook, there’s no webcam. ASUS is positioning it as a machine for streamers who have external cameras, which makes a certain amount of sense. And the company has historically only shoved in middling webcams in their laptops anyway, like the ZenBook S13. Still, it would have been nice to have something built into the G14 for a quick Skype chat. But given everything else this laptop does right, this isn’t a huge compromise.
The best thing about the Zephyrus G14? It’s a great value, starting at $1,050 with a Ryzen 7 4800HS, GTX 1650 graphics, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. We’d recommend jumping up to $1,300 for a 120Hz 1080p screen, double the RAM and a faster GTX 1660 Ti Max Q. Our review unit clocked in at $1,450 — a worthwhile expense given the vastly more powerful RTX 2060 GPU. In comparison, you’d have to spend $1,800 for a similarly specced Razer Blade 15 with half the storage.
And don’t forget my biggest issue with the Blade Stealth: All that money got you a much slower GTX 1650 GPU and a 60Hz screen. It couldn’t even run Destiny 2 consistently at 60FPS. The Zephyrus G14 weighs just a half pound more and blows away the Stealth on every level.
ASUS’s first Zephyrus laptop was a bit of an impractical showpiece — it was very thin and packed in a GTX 1080, the fastest mobile GPU at the time, but it only lasted around two hours on battery and weighed nearly five pounds. The Zephyrus G14, with its fast performance, light weight and excellent battery life, shows that you can make a truly no-compromise ultraportable gaming laptop today. It’s so good, you won’t miss the webcam.
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