ASUS Zephyrus G15 (2021) review: all the gaming laptop you need


ASUS absolutely blew us away with last year’s Zephyrus G14. It was thin, light, and one of the most powerful laptops we’ve ever seen, thanks to AMD’s Ryzen 4000 processor. But, given the sheer madness of 2020, I’ve never had the chance to experience its bigger brother, the G15. It basically took most of what I liked from the G14 and put it in a more traditional 15-inch laptop. Sounds like a sure-fire winner, right? Now, after testing the 2021 edition of the Zephyrus G15, it’s clearer than ever that ASUS has practically mastered the art of manufacturing gaming laptops.

Gallery: ASUS Zephyrus G15 | 9 photos

This was not always the case for ASUS. Its original Zephyrus laptop was one of the first thin and light machines to feature NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 GPU, but it was terribly expensive and had terrible battery life. Over the years, ASUS has refined its designs to make them much more practical. The Zephyrus G14 was particularly impressive as it only weighed 3.5 pounds, but it managed to fit into an RTX 2060 GPU, an incredibly powerful AMD processor, and decent battery performance.

Benefits

  • Powerful Ryzen 5000 processor
  • Fast 1440p display
  • Robust and relatively light construction
  • Solid battery life
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Tons of connectivity

Understandably, the G15 isn’t quite as light, but at 4.2 pounds it’s still a bit easier to carry than the 4.5-pound Razer Blade and most other 15-inch laptops. It’s also just as impressive as the design of the G14, with a sturdy magnesium-aluminum housing and a unique dot matrix pattern on the lid. ASUS filled these tiny holes with a unique prism material in our review unit, but on some models they will have tiny LEDs to display pixelated graphics.

Under the hood, the G15 includes AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HS, NVIDIA’s RTX 30 series GPUs, and an optional 1440p (Quad HD) display running at 165Hz with G-SYNC / FreeSync support. It’s one of the first gaming laptops to feature AMD’s new hardware, and that alone makes it a compelling buy. We’re still waiting for Intel to release its more robust 11th-gen H-series chips. So if you want something a little more future proof, a Ryzen 5000 laptop just makes more sense.

ASUS Zephyrus G15

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Our review unit included NVIDIA’s RTX 3080 Max-Q and this 1440p display, which seemed like a perfect pairing. As I wrote in our MSI GS66 Stealth review, this resolution is a nice upgrade from 1080p displays, without being as demanding as a 4K display. While mowing the bad guys in Destiny 2, or by going through several laps of Overwatch, the G15 looked silky smooth. And when I could breathe, it was easy to see how the thin edges and other details looked a bit clearer than on a 1080p display.

While the Zephyrus G15 is powerful enough to deliver over 100 fps at 1440p with graphics enabled on both games, what mattered most to me was how the screen followed all the action. And my boy, he delivered. I felt like I had an added advantage during frantic combat, as the screen was able to easily follow my shaking mouse movements, and it was also useful when I needed to slow down and line up a marksman fire. ‘elite. Having a high refresh rate, and a screen that can automatically sync with your current frame rate, is the gaming equivalent of hearing a symphony in perfect harmony.

The G15 doesn’t have the fastest 1440p display on the market – MSI’s GS66 can hit 240Hz – but the faster options also cost a lot more. And unless you’re an aspiring esports player, you’ll probably have a hard time even seeing the difference beyond 120Hz.

ASUS Zephyrus G15

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Just like with NVIDIA’s RTX 2080 mobile GPUs, don’t expect desktop-level performance with its 30-series laptop hardware. Even the RTX 3080 in our review unit struggled to perform. Cyberpunk 2077 with maximized ray tracing settings and 1440p graphics. It climbed between 40-45 FPS which is playable but not exactly what I’d like to see on such an expensive machine. Even NVIDIA’s DLSS technology, which increases frame rates by rendering games at a slightly lower resolution, hasn’t helped much. I decided to play Cyberpunk with medium ray tracing and DLSS settings to get a smoother 55-63 FPS.

PCMark 10

3DMark (TimeSpy Extreme)

Geekbench 5

ATTO (main reads / writes)

ASUS Zephyrus G15 (AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Max-Q)

6 881

4,530

1 426/7 267

3.3 Gb / s / 2.85 Gb / s

MSI GS66 Stealth (2021, Intel i7-10870H, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Max-Q)

5 369

4,538

1 247/6 505

3.1 GB / s / 2.9 GB / s

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XB (Intel i7-10875H, NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q)

5 155

3 495

1 137/5 681

2.93 GB / s / 2.59 GB / s

ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 (Intel i9-10980HK, NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super Max-Q)

5 616

3,680

1 365/8 055

3 Gb / s / 3.24 Gb / s

ASUS Zephyrus G14 (AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS, NVIDIA RTX 2060 Max-Q)

5,436

2,725

1,189/7705

1.7 Gb / s / 1.67 Gb / s

When it comes to benchmarks, the Zephyrus G15 outperformed MSI’s GS66 in Geekbench’s multi-core score 5, but otherwise the two laptops were pretty much neck-and-neck. Their 3DMark TimeSpy Extreme numbers, for example, were virtually identical. This could indicate how well Intel caught up with AMD’s performance last year, as MSI’s laptop was powered by an older 10th gen processor. Under load, ASUS fans are definitely noticeable, but not as annoying as the whiny blowers of the GS66. The G15 also lasted an impressive eight hours and 50 minutes on our battery test, well below the G14’s benchmark of nearly 13 hours, but 25 minutes better than the GS66.



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