ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 (2019) review: Full, in-depth, Australian review

ASUS GX701
  • ASUS GX701
  • ASUS GX701
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Great display
  • Solid specs
  • Thin design

Cons

  • Not enough ports
  • Unconventional trackpad
  • Mediocre battery life

Bottom Line

If you can handle the larger size, limited ports, unconventional trackpad and iffy battery life found here, you can play pretty much anything on the ROG Zephyrus GX701.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

As gaming laptops often go through many iterations, it’s hard to dismiss just how far ASUS’ ROG Zephyrus line has come in a handful of years since its debut.

The original Zephyrus was the de facto poster child for the era of thinner, lighter, Max-Q gaming laptops we’re living in now. The second-gen Zephyrus M took those design strengths and made it a little more affordable.

The Zephyrus GX531 incorporated Nvidia’s new RTX graphics cards. Now, the new Zephyrus S GX701 takes the formula of its predecessors and applies it to those who prefer their gaming laptops to have a larger screen.

There are a few other details to note, of course. But that’s the biggest draw-card here.

In essence, the Zephyrus S GX701 is pushing itself as the thin, light gaming laptop with a bigger screen than the competition. And if all you’re looking for here is that 17-inch display, there’s plenty to like about it.

The Specs

The specs for our ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 review sample were as follows:

Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H

Graphics:  NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design

RAM:  24GB

Storage: 1TB SSD 

Display:17.3-inch Full HD (1920x1080) IPS-level panel, 144Hz, 3ms, 100% sRGB, Optimus, G-SYNC, Pantone Validated

Ports: Kensington Lock + HDMI + 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack + 2x USB3.1 (type-A) + 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) + 1 x USB3.1 Gen 2 Type C with DisplayPort 1.4

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11ac) + Bluetooth 5           

Keyboard: Aura Sync, per-key RGB

Weight: 2.7 kg

Dimensions: 39.9 cm x 27.2 cm x 1.87 cm

Battery: 50Wh battery

Audio: 2x 2.5W speaker with Smart AMP technology

Webcam: N/A

What Did We Like About The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701?

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701 doesn’t really shy away from its inspirations.

For the most part, the experience you’re getting here feels more-or-less identical to the 15.6-inch ROG Zephyrus S. It just looks a little more impressive due to the larger screen.

Assuming that display is the draw for you, there’s plenty of details to dig into. It’s got a 144Hz refresh rate, 100% sRGB, 3ms response time and a Pantone Validated palette. On paper and in practice, the ROG Zephyrus GX701 has a screen that’s incredibly nice to behold and relentlessly easy to rely on.

Credit: ASUS

Beneath that screen sits a slightly different keyboard layout than you might be used to. Rather than sticking the trackpad in the center of the keyboard, ASUS have pushed it towards the right-most edge of the GX701. This can sometimes be a little awkward to use, but it’s not awful.

If you’re using the Zephyrus S GX701 on your lap, I actually found it noticeably easier to rely on than a traditional trackpad. If you’re using it on a desk, well, you can always plug in a mouse instead.

On some levels, it does feel like ASUS are trying to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel here. But if you’re looking for something that immediately sets this model apart from other gaming laptops, the trackpad will do that.

In addition, after also reviewing the Aorus 15, I was also pleasantly surprised at how quiet the ROG Zephyrus S GX701 is. It’s not completely silent, but it is a fair amount quieter than most gaming laptops are.

Of course, aesthetics flourishes aside, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is predictably excellent when it came to its core use-case: gaming.

Compared to the Gigabyte Aorus 15, the real-world gaming results I got out of the Zephyrus S GX701 were a little inconsistent. It fared slightly better than the Aorus 15 when it came to Kingdom Come: Deliverance, but slightly worse when it came to Total War: Warhammer 2.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Even if it falls short of being able to be called “The Best”, you’re not going to be unhappy with what you’re getting here - though it does come at markedly higher price than anything I compared it to.

How did the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701 Perform in Benchmarks?

As with gaming itself, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701 performed more or less as I had expected it would, and as its spec-sheet suggests.

Compared against the half-dozen or so gaming laptops we’ve reviewed in recent months, it led the pack - across the board. Outside the beefy desktop-grade performance of the MSI Trident X, it’s probably a front-runner for the best performance I’ve seen in a PC this year.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

That being said, the ROG Zephyrus GX701 did stumble somewhat when it came to VR. It’s definitely VR-ready, but it definitely lagged behind here. It lost out to both Gigabyte’s Aorus 15 and HP’s Omen 15 - one of which is more surprising than the other.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Finally, when it came to ray-tracing, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701 managed to earn our top spot for portable RTX performance. As the graph below shows, it’s still short of what a desktop like the MSI Trident X can offer - but it’s also well ahead of the other options.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The PC Mark benchmark also saw the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701 fare more modestly. It still sat towards the higher end of the crowd, but it didn’t manage to steal away first place like I'd expected it would.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In terms of battery life, the ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 delivered some pretty disappointing results. When subjected to our usual Battery Eater testing tool, which gauges the minimum battery life of a given notebook PC, the ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 took 1 hours and 11 minutes to run down from one-hundred to zero. In context, this isn’t great - but neither is it particularly worse than what most comparable gaming laptops offer.

What We Didn’t Like About The ASUS Zephyrus S GX701

There are a few design drawbacks here. For one, the ASUS Zephyrus S GX701’s unique trackpad won’t be for everyone. It asks you to leave your comfort zone, and - if you’re spending this much on a laptop - I can see that being too much of an ask for some.

It’s also a little light on ports. For the smaller 15.6-inch versions of the Zephyrus out there, the amount of USB ports involved feel like a natural trade-off for the thinnest and lightness of the unit. For this larger 17-inch model, it feels like it should offer more than it actually does.

Credit: ASUS

And while the ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 is incredibly thin and light for a 17-inch gaming laptop, the chunkiness of that screen can make it a bit of a hassle to transport. It’s not easy to shove this thing in a backpack. The design of the ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 makes it easy to fold it up and carry it with you - but that’s not really something you’ll want to do too often.

Finally, the battery life of the ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 also wasn’t what I hoped it would be - it feels like the RTX era has set back what little gains had been made in recent years when it came to gaming battery life. Even if we’re comparing the ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 to other gaming laptops, this falls below the mark. And if we’re comparing it to other work-machines, then it’s below the bar by a wide margin. Obviously, your individual mileage is going to vary here - but I came away disappointed.

The Bottom Line

The ASUS Zephyrus S GX701 isn’t a super complex laptop to wrap your mind around - even if it is an incredibly powerful one. It’s less a reinvention of what ASUS have done before, and more of an extension. All the same, the familiar heights it reaches are inevitably saddled with expensive caveats.

If you can handle the larger size, limited ports, unconventional trackpad and iffy battery life found here, you can play pretty much anything on the ROG Zephyrus GX701.

Credit: ASUS

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Read more on these topics: asus, rog, ROG Zephyrus, Zephyrus S GX701
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