[Review] Redefining Gamer Aesthetics: The ROG Zephyrus G14
After so much hype following the announcement of the ROG Zephyrus G14 in Malaysia, I've finally gotten the opportunity to take it for a whirl - and without a doubt, it is one of the slickest machines I've laid eyes (and hands) on.
With the Zephyrus G14, ROG is saying a firm goodbye to the black and red colourways and sharp angles of old, and ushering in a new era of understated edginess. Designed to appeal to Gen-Z's need for individuality, the G14 introduced the AniMe Matrix lid, which allows users to showcase their personality via an intricate network of 1,215 LED perforations.
A good-looking machine indeed
Apart from the G14's showstopping LEDs, ROG has also made the bold decision to remove the large ROG logo and replace it with a sleek engraved metal tab on the bottom corner instead.
The G14 comes in 2 colours - the traditional black found on most gaming machines, and the gorgeous white and silver variant we received. This colour pairing is undeniably gorgeous. As soon as you lift the white lid, you'll be greeted by a fully silver keyboard with simple white back-lighting - no RGB to be found here, and yet it still works perfectly.
The hexagonal power button houses a fingerprint sensor that works with Windows Hello, while a row of media keys sits apart from the rest of the keyboard. ASUS' signature Ergolift hinge also makes an appearance, creating a more elegant silhouette while providing more room for ventilation and heat dissipation.
Build-wise, it is very solid, with minimal flex in the screen and keyboard. For something measuring under 2cm thick and weighing only 1.7kg, it feels reassuringly well-built.
Sweet display and impressive audio
As expected, the G14 boasts nice slim bezels but also lacks a webcam, which seems to be a norm in most ROG laptops nowadays. The screen comes in 2 flavours: an ultra-sharp WQHD 60Hz display and a speedier 120Hz FHD variant.
We received the former, which was perfect for content creation. Both variants are Pantone validated for colour accuracy and cover 100% of the sRGB colour gamut for accurate colour reproduction.
Overall, the display is vibrant and crisp with no noticeable backlight bleeding, which is great. The only thing I'd wish for is a higher maximum brightness for better visibility in bright daylight for working outdoors - but then again, this would make the battery tank super quickly what with its WQHD resolution and all, so it's a compromise I'm happy to make.
The speakers are truly impressive for its size, partly thanks to its 2 additional up-facing tweeters which help carry the mids and highs directly towards the listener. Accompanying the tweeters are 2 down-firing speakers on the bottom which bounce music off surfaces well, creating a rich audio experience. The maximum volume is also nothing to scoff at, and would fare well in up to medium-sized rooms.
Touch to enter
Although the lack of a webcam means no facial recognition, there is a fingerprint sensor incorporated into the power button, allowing you to wake and unlock the laptop with a single touch - no holding required.
The keyboard is nicely laid out, with inverted T arrow keys and a wider space bar. Typing on it was very pleasurable - the keys are springy and responsive, and have a decent travel distance. However, the backlighting is rather dim and unevenly lit, even at the maximum level.
Separate media keys allow you to control volume, toggle microphone mute, and launch Armoury Crate.
The touchpad is large and well-placed to avoid contact with your palms, and there was no issue with palm rejection. Thanks to the extremely smooth surface, your fingers will glide smoothly with little to no resistance, and it also does not pick up fingerprints easily which is a relief.
A generous selection of ports
Despite its relatively compact design, the G14 managed to fit a nice selection of parts along both sides, including:
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C with DisplayPort™ 1.4 and Power Delivery
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
1 x HDMI 2.0b
1 x 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack
1 x Kensington lock
An SD card reader would have been welcome, especially on the WQHD variant which is targeted towards content creators, but otherwise the rest of the ports are sufficient.
In what seems to be an amalgamation of the words 'animate' and 'me', the AniMe Matrix is an unprecedented feature in mainstream laptops. With 256 levels of brightness control, you can import and customise your very own gifs via Armoury Crate to showcase your personality (or taste in memes) to anyone lucky enough to be sitting in your immediate vicinity.
Apart from gifs and pictures, you can also type text messages, use it as a music visualiser, and display notifications and system info like battery level.
Customising it in Armoury Crate was intuitive enough, but due to the nature of the LEDs, not every picture or font worked perfectly. After much experimentation, I figured out that high-contrast pictures with bold outlines work the best, while only certain fonts will be able to spell things out clearly.
But when it does work, oh boy, it is fun to play around with. My best advice would be to keep experimenting until you find something that works well.
However, the novelty quickly wore off, as most of the time you won't be the one enjoying your unique creation. Still, it is nice to have something that's uniquely yours.
Underneath the hood of the G14 lies an impressive amount of horsepower for its size. Our model is running on an AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS, RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage.
We ran a couple of synthetic and real-world benchmarks, with the results as follows:
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Far Cry 5
Although the SSD isn't the fastest one around with only up to 1.5k and 1.7k read and write speeds respectively, it still loaded up games and files quickly enough that I wasn't bothered at all.
We also tested the G14 in The Witcher 3 and Monster Hunter World on high settings and FHD resolution. yielding the following results: The Witcher 4
Avg: 104 fps
Min: 95 fps
Max: 111 fps
Monster Hunter World
Avg: 62 fps
Min: 56 fps
Max: 72 fps
Overall, it performed well in all the games we tested, although the laptop did heat up quite a bit. A quick surface temperature check revealed the following results:
WASD area: 41°C
Palm area: 34.5°C
While the palm area remained cool, the WASD area did get a little toasty, albeit still bearable. The fans did crank up quite a lot, so it's best if you had a pair of headphones handy to block out the noise.
Battery-wise, it also did pretty well, lasting up to 2 hours and 41 mins under heavy load at QWHD resolution and with AniMe Matrix on, and well over 5 hours at FHD. Casual use netted even longer battery life. My advice would be to crank down the resolution when working away from the socket if you want to squeeze out additional battery life, or simply bring along a power bank with PD support if you can't be bothered to lug the charger around. Either way, the 76Wh battery performed extremely admirably with all things considered.
Overall, the Zephyrus G14 is an amazing machine with an extremely fun gimmick. In terms of performance, it also packs a punch - albeit with raised temperatures and fan volumes, though that is to be expected in something this size.
Aesthetics-wise, it is simply the best laptop I have seen in years. From the overall colour scheme down to the little design choices, everything screams quality; it manages to retain the distinctively edgy gamer-ish aesthetic without being tacky or overbearing.
Its diminutive form factor, great battery life, and support for Power Delivery are also huge pluses, allowing you to bring it anywhere with ease of mind.
Considering the amount of power packed into such a small and gorgeous package, it's a steal at RM7,699.
However, if you're looking for something more affordable, you can also pick up other models of the G14, including one with GTX1650 graphics, as well as variants without the AniMe Matrix. These start from just RM4,499, so do check them out here if you're looking for a new laptop that won't let you down.
The final verdict? BUY.