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Asus ROG Zephyrus Max-Q Gaming Laptop Review

Price Analysis & Conclusion

We envision laptop manufacturers approaching Max-Q in two different ways: designing thin-and-light gaming notebooks like Asus did with its ROG Zephyrus, or creating traditionally-sized gaming laptops without as many performance and power limitations.

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The Zephyrus performed well during our synthetic tests for the most part. 3DMark scores weren’t as high as those for the Eurocom Tornado F5, which has an Intel Core i7-7700K, but the Zephyrus’s GTX 1080 picked up the slack, besting the GTX 1070-based Alienware 15. The Asus laptop’s greatest downfall is in the Cinebench’s OpenGL test, where it suffered at the hands of the Alienware system. However, the Zephyrus outscored the Alienware in the CompuBench test, where it even secured a win over the formidable MSI GT73VR Titan SLI 4K. Storage speeds were fairly average, although the Asus 512GB Samsung SM951 exhibited an impressive 128K sequential read speed.

The GTX 1080 with Max-Q design proved its worth during our gaming tests, which helped the Zephyrus deliver performance within reach of the Tornado F5, at least in GPU-bound games. Nvidia's guidance suggests a Max-Q 1080 GPU will perform between 72 - 83% of a non-Max-Q GTX 1080 GPU. For us, the Zephyrus performance was about 83% what the Tornado F5 offered at FHD and around 86% at UHD (once again, we'll remind you that the Eurocom also has the desktop-class Core i7-7700K CPU, which plays a role as well). For a laptop of this size, we found the results to be impressive. Remember, too, that a typical GTX 1080 will have a 150W TDP, whereas the Max-Q versions will be 90-110W.

Thin-and-light laptops traditionally have outstanding battery life, while powerful systems consume lots of power. The Zephyrus performs well, is definitely svelte, and while it gets more battery life than the Tornado F5, it fell a bit short of our expectations, lasting barely over 70 minutes during our battery rundown test. But this is primarily because the slim Zephyrus doesn’t have space for a large battery, like the Eurocom system does.

On the thermal side of the equation, the Zephyrus performed warmer than the competition, maxing out at 79° C during our stress tests. This by no means dangerous territory, but it is hotter than the other laptops we're comparing here (9°C more than the Eurocom). Luckily, the thermal solution is separated on the top half while the keyboard and touchpad are on the bottom half, so while the Zephyrus components can get quite toasty, you are less likely to feel it.

Finally, the Zephyrus display is accurate all around, with low Delta E errors on greyscale and color, and decent RGB balance, as well as solid contrast ratios.

And there you have it. The Asus ROG Zephyrus is the first Max-Q-based laptop to arrive in our lab, and so far we’re impressed. Appearance-wise, it’s everything we could ask for in a modern gaming laptop. It’s sleek. It’s sexy. It’s understated. If you were to whip this out at your local coffee shop, fellow gamers will take notice, and your average passerby will see it as a sleek ultrabook, unaware of just how much power it’s packing. You can carry the Zephyrus shamelessly in public, and it’s slim size and light weight won’t impede you from doing so.

Nvidia suggests that laptops equipped with Max-Q GPU designs shouldn’t cost more. Be prepared to drop $2,700 for the GTX 1080-based Zephyrus. No matter how you spin it, that’s quite a bit to ask for a gaming laptop, but compared to the competition it isn’t outrageous. The Eurocom Tornado F5 is priced a bit higher at $3,100 due to its i7-7700K, and the MSI Titan SLI is priced even higher still at $3,600.

We found an Acer Predator 17 with an i7-7700HQ and a GTX 1080 for $2,000 on Microcenter, although it only has 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. On Newegg, we found an Alienware 17 and an MSI GT73VR Titan Pro equipped with i7-7820HKs and GTX 1080s for $2,800 and $2,900, respectively. We also found a Sager NP9172 with an i7-7700K and a GTX 1080 for $2,780. Unfortunately, laptop manufacturers tend to pair the GTX 1080 with higher end, overclockable CPUs; these easily drive the prices up to $3,000 and more, so we’re glad to find that the Zephyrus cost is kept relatively low because of its mobile Core i7 CPU, and it fits snugly into this price range.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus is a good first step in the thin, light, and powerful direction, and we look forward to seeing how other vendors implement Max-Q designs.

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