Asus ROG Zephyrus (GU603HR): Have slim and light gaming laptops finally arrived?
The new Intel 11th Gen CPUs, and Nvidia GeForceRTX GPUs, deliver more power in smaller bodies. However there is still one downside.
India is a big market for gaming laptops, particularly since high-end components of desktop computers are becoming more difficult to find. Gaming laptops are preferred by many people because they offer a compact and versatile machine that can be used for both work and entertainment.
However, there has been limited hardware power and immersion. New hardware allows for much better performance in small, lightweight laptops. The latest CPUs and GPUs are able to deliver this resolution without compromising quality. We now see a new category of gaming laptops with 16-inch 1440p displays.
Asus used the Intel 11th Generation mobile H-series processors and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series mobile GPUs for the ROG Zephyrus, which was both announced. Prices start at Rs. This laptop is priced at Rs. 1,44,990 in India.
The best thing about this laptop is its slimness and lightness despite its high-end specs and large screen. It will be interesting to see if its design makes it difficult to use, or if super-bulky gaming laptops of today are a thing of the past.
Asus ROG Zephyrus (GU603HR) Design
The M16 model was launched by the company to replace the Zephyrus M15 (GU502). The Zephyrus M16 actually measures a little smaller than its predecessor.
It is actually a few millimetres shorter in width and depth. The Zephyrus M16’s thickness remains at 19.9mm. Its weight, however, is unchanged at 1.9kg.
This laptop is very smooth, even by gaming laptop standards. If you are a student, professional or a student, this laptop will not have any problems commuting in a backpack.
The new M16 is inspired by the Zephyrus G-series and features a large number of perforated holes on its matte black lid.
It looks different from the outside, as it cuts diagonally across the lid. This is not a micro-LED array. You’ll notice a shimmering rainbow effect as you approach the laptop.
This is due to the “prismatic” layer underneath them. This light effect will be visible at certain angles. It seems to move when you tilt the lid or move around your head.
This is a striking effect, but it can quickly become dusty. The lid is also susceptible to finger smudges.
The new 16-inch screen is visible when the lid is lifted up. It has a 16 to 10 aspect ratio. Asus has almost eliminated the chin.
However, there is enough space at the top to place a webcam in the ideal spot. The sides are just 4.6mm thick and the screen-to-body ratio of 94 percent is remarkable.
The hinge allows for the display to be rotated 180 degrees. The lid raises the lower half of the laptop, which, like many Asus laptops helps with airflow and typing comfort.
The downside is that the lid bends and flexes quite a bit and can show visible warping when you apply a little pressure to the screen.
Asus has removed the large, illuminated ROG logo from the previous model and replaced it with a more subtle patch in the outer lid. There is no branding on the inside.
The lower half of your body will have an island-style keyboard, with RGB backlighting. There are speaker grilles on both sides and plenty of space. Asus has removed the column of dedicated paging buttons to the right.
This means that the trackpad and keyboard are now centrally located and the arrow keys have more space to breathe. There are no Insert and PrintScrn buttons, which is strange. It is very difficult to take screenshots.
However, you can still use Win+Shift+S to call up the Windows Snipping Tool or the Fn+F6 combo to save to the clipboard or the Xbox game bar for saving a file. But it becomes a multistep process.
The integrated fingerprint sensor is located on the power button, but Asus doesn’t point it out. It can be set up via the Windows Settings app, but it is easy to forget that this feature exists. You will also find dedicated volume and microphone mute buttons.
The LEDs for power, charging and SSD activity are located on the upper edge. They can be seen when the lid is closed. They are also very bright and reflect off of the screen. Distracting is the activity LED that keeps blinking.
The trackpad is particularly large. It can be clicked physically and the texture is great. It extends to the bottom of the deck, so there’s no place to rest your wrists. The deck is soft-touch covered to the sides of this trackpad.
To allow for venting further back, all ports are located towards the front of your laptop. The left side has the DC power inlet and HDMI 2.0b output.
There are also Type-A and Type -C USB 3.2 (Gen 2) ports, a Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port and a 3.5mm sound socket.
You’ll also find a Type-A USB 3.2 (Gen 1) port, a microSD slot and a Kensington lock. DisplayPort 1.4 video output is possible. The Type-C and Type-A ports can also be used to charge the laptop up to 100W.
Specifications for Asus ROG Zephyrus (GU603HR).
Intel’s 10nm Tiger Lake architecture has evolved from ultra-slim laptops and gaming to enthusiast-class halo products. This segment has more cores and better TDP ratings, which translate into faster clock speeds under load. The CPUs in this category have weaker integrated GPUs.
However, this is not a problem as there is a discrete GPU that does most of the heavy lifting. The 45W max TDP rating has one thing in common. Actual performance depends on the thermal design of each laptop OEM. This spec is not a guarantee of performance.
India’s Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 is available with either a Core i9-11900H (GU603HR), or Core i7-11800H (both have eight cores and HyperThreading). T
urbo Boost Max 3.0 support is the core advantage of the Core i9, which can be read about in our desktop Rocket Lake’ 11th Gen Core i9-11900K Review. PCIe 4.0 is now available for faster connections to SSDs, and the GPU.
Asus’ Zephyrus M16 comes with a Nvidia GeForce RTX3050 Ti, RTX3060 or RTX3070 mobile GPU. Due to thermal constraints, mobile GPUs can deliver different levels of performance on different laptops.
Nvidia now requires that laptop manufacturers disclose more detailed information. On the Asus product listing page, you can see the clock speeds and power consumption targets for each variant.
Core i9-11900H is the top-end variant I have to review. It runs at 2.5GHz with a maximum boost speeds of 4.9GHz and the GeForce RTX3070 with a 1390MHz boost rate, 80-100W temperature envelope and 8GB dedicated GDDR6 RAM. My unit includes a 2TB Samsung NVMe SSD, 32GB DDR4-RAM and 16GB soldered memory.
The rest are removable modules. The price for this configuration is Rs. This configuration is priced at Rs. 2,29,990 in India. This laptop can be removed from the bottom to add up to 48GB RAM. There’s also an empty M.2 slot to install another NVMe SSD.
The unusual 16:10 resolution on the 16-inch screen is great for productivity. It also helps to increase secreen size and reduces the laptop’s overall weight. The WQXGA 2560×1600 resolution (IPS-level) panel has a 165Hz refresh speed and 3ms response times.
Asus claims 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut coverage, Pantone validation, and there is no indication of peak brightness. The panel is matte and not reflective. Surprisingly there is no 4K option as before.
This laptop is slim and has a 90W battery. The box contains a large, 240W charger. The package includes a 720p webcam and microphone array.
It also contains a speaker setup that includes two 2W tweeters, two 2W woofers, and a speaker set with two 2W tweeters. You can also get Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), and Bluetooth 5.2.
Asus has already stated that a Windows 11 rollout plan will be in place for late 2021. Preinstalled, Asus’ Armoury Crate as well as MyAsus utilities must be updated. The first lets you adjust the RGB keyboard lighting, adjust the microphone properties and screen colour temperature.
The latter lets you download a manual, shows battery health options and allows you to file transfer your smartphone files and screen share options (if you have the MyAsus mobile application).
It seems redundant to have two different apps, especially when both show “deals” or promotions. A pop-up ad was also displayed for the extended warranty of Asus. McAfee LiveSafe comes preinstalled. It occasionally displays messages asking for registration or to enable certain features.
Asus ROG Zephyrus (GU603HR), performance
The only problem with this laptop was that it came with a 16A power plug. Most people don’t have 16A outlets in their homes.
After installing all the available patches and updates, my unit was ready to go. The Zephyrus M16 is versatile in everyday and professional use.
It is easy to multitask with the high-resolution 16:10 screen. If you need more real estate, you can set the default 150% Windows scaling to 125%.
Asus has created a single-touch feature that stores your fingerprint every time you press the power button. This means you won’t have to touch it again when Windows 10 opens up the login screen.
The sensor did not work as well as those on smartphones, which I found frustrating. Sometimes it required a second or longer touch.
It is springy and firm without being too noisy. It is quite comfortable, and the key travel is excellent. It is extremely frustrating that there is no PrintScrn button. The keyboard has one RGB backlight zone.
There are several options for lighting patterns, colours and intensities, as well as synchronization with compatible hardware. It’s easy to use multi-finger gestures and the trackpad placement is excellent.
The screen was a bit dull for me. You’ll need to turn the brightness up if there’s a lot of sun around. The screen doesn’t show colours as brightly as some consumer laptops.
This is probably a good thing for those who are colour sensitive. Even with 4K content, the video viewing experience is excellent. Although the speakers produce a very crisp, open sound, it isn’t particularly loud and the bass is a bit lacking.
The reliable PCMark 10 scored 6,950 and 8,792 respectively in its extended and standard benchmarks. Cinebench R20 scored 606 points and 5,407 in their single- and multiple-core tests, respectively.
POVRay’s render test was completed in one minute, 1 second. The newer VRay brenchmark had CPU and GPU render scores respectively of 15,592 & 429.
CrystalDiskMark measured SSD speeds of 7100.1MBps, 5262.1MBPs sequential readings and writings, and 2365.8MBps & 2148.8MBps random readings and writings respectively.
Real-world scenarios were that the Zephyrus M16 took just 1 minute, 43 seconds, to compress a folder of 3.24GB files and 35 seconds to convert a 1.3GB AVI to H.265.
3DMark’s Time Spy Extreme and Time Spy Extreme tests scored 9,096 and 4,527, respectively. DX12 Port Royal scored 5,509. DirectX Ray Tracing scored 5,509.
The DLSS test scene ran at 25.12fps when DLSS was off, and 58.93fps when it is on. Unigine’s Superposition graphics benchmark scored 5,906 using its 1080p Extreme preset.
Many games run at Zephyrus M16 resolution of 2560×1600. This means that comparisons to laptops with standard 2560×1440 panels are necessary. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is compatible with RTX ray tracing as well as DLSS. It’s a great game to get started with.
With ray tracing disabled and the Highest quality preset set at 2560×1600, we averaged 71fps. This dropped to 45 fps when ray traced shadows were set to ‘High’ quality.
I disabled DLSS to compensate and the average score was 54fps. You will need to decide which quality tradeoffs are acceptable.
Metro Exodus has a consistent and repeatable built-in benchmark that uses an RTX preset. It includes the Ultra quality preset and High ray tracing effect quality. The average frame rate at 1920×1080 was 53.44 percent.
The average frame rate was 62.3 fps using the same settings but with ray tracing disabled and DLSS disabled. This means that although the penalty for using ray tracing may not be too severe, some people might consider disabling it.
Next, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey achieved an average of 52 frames per second at 2560×1600 and Ultra High graphics. Far Cry 5 achieved 96fps on 1920×1200, and 82fps on 2560×1600 using the Ultra quality preset for both resolutions.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War was also able to achieve 97 frames per second at 1920×1200, and 72 at 2560×1600 at Ultra quality. These games demonstrate that the Zephyrus will be quite good for older titles that don’t require DLSS or ray tracing effects.
For a time, I also tried my hand at manual playthroughs. Control is a well-known RTX-enabled title. Ray tracing effects and overall quality preset were set to high. DLSS renders by default at 1707×1067.
You can upscale it to 2560×1600, which is approximately a 1.5X scale. These settings allowed me to achieve an average speed of 45-55fps. Disabling ray tracing and leaving DLSS on immediately led to a jump of 70-80fps.
Doom Eternal was just updated to include ray tracing support and DLSS. The game runs smoothly even on low-end hardware. Ultra Nightmare performance was 80-100 fps with ray tracing enabled. This depends on how intense the battles were.
With ray tracing enabled, this dropped to between 30-50fps. Strangely, DLSS caused performance to drop well below 30fps, causing severe stutter. This could be an isolated issue or a bug in the newly released RTX functionality.
The Zephyrus 16 can get very hot under stress, and sometimes even while idle, certain parts of your body heat up.
The wrist rest, upper row, fingerprint sensor and middle-right of keyboard can get quite toasty. Hot air can build up on the top edge of the laptop’s lower part, which is where the hinge opens.
This heat can cause the laptop to become unbearably hot for longer than a second. Asus claims it uses a liquid metal thermal interface to connect the cooler with the CPU and GPU chips. It has also redesigned its fans to make them more efficient.
You will still hear the fans when you are doing heavy work. While you can use an external mouse in most cases, it can be uncomfortable. The room in which this review was done was not air-conditioned. Your experience may vary.
You wouldn’t expect a gaming laptop to provide all-day productivity. With normal everyday tasks such as video streaming, heavy web pages and multiple tabs open, the Zephyrus M16 lasted only 5-6 hours. The battery-eating Pro test lasted just 1 hour and 42 minutes. This is about average.
Asus has worked hard to provide high-end gaming performance in a small and lightweight package. The company has achieved some success. Just a few years back, you would have to carry a suitcase if you desired this level of performance.
The Zephyrus M16 brings that weight down to just 2kg. Today’s most challenging games can be run at extremely low settings and at resolutions greater than 1080p on large immersive displays.
Although the specifications are impressive, the price is very high. The variety of ports and the possibility to upgrade are what I love about the SSD and RAM modules. 16:10 displays are a rare treat these days and Asus has selected a great panel for this segment.
However, there are still some issues. The Zephyrus M16’s biggest problem is its excessive heat and disconcertingly loud sound. People will need a 16A power outlet. There are also some niggles such as the poorly placed status LEDs or popups from preinstalled software.
An external keyboard and mouse can be used to alleviate the discomfort and lack of certain keys. You still have a portable gaming or multi-purpose computer.
This might be a good option if you are willing to accept some compromises, and you like the idea that a small and lightweight gaming laptop is possible.
I hope that Asus and other companies will continue to use these CPUs and GPUs in laptops with less fashion-conscious designs and more powerful cooling systems for people who are not concerned about their looks.
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