[Review] The Whole Package: The ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA503QS)
ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA503QS)
That was the first word that came to mind upon laying eyes on the ROG Zephyrus G15. Last year, I reviewed its smaller sibling, the 14" Zephyrus G14, which was in a class of its own when it came to aesthetics.
This year's G15 packs the same level of design and portability into a 15" chassis, and adds even more powerful hardware into the mix. After spending some time with it, I can say that this is easily one of the most recommendable laptops on the market right now.
The Zephyrus G15 comes in 2 colours - Moonlight White and Eclipse Grey, which is what I have with me. While Moonlight White is certainly stunning, I do prefer the Eclipse Grey for a few reasons which I will talk about later.
First, let's talk about the aesthetics. The magnesium alloy lid is perforated with thousands of little holes - while the G15 doesn't have the iconic AniMe Matrix lighting feature of the G14, it does have a layer of "Prismatic Gleams" underneath that shimmers beneath certain lighting angles. Once again, the usual RGB ROG logo found on other models has been replaced by an engraved metal tab in the bottom left corner.
Opening it up, you'll see a sleek metal deck housing the keyboard, the Zephyrus family's signature additional row of function keys, the power button with a fingerprint sensor, as well as up-firing speakers.
ASUS' Ergolift design has been implemented, lifting the bottom of the laptop up to allow for a slightly more ergonomic typing position and better ventilation. For those who take the word 'laptop' very literally, beware as the Ergolift hinge may dig into your lap if you're not a fan of working on tables.
It can also open up to 180 degrees if you need it to.
The laptop measures just 1.99cm thick and weighs just 1.9kg, which is impressively compact for the amount of firepower it contains. Overall, it feels pretty solid - you can easily open the laptop up with one hand and not have it tip over, thanks to its good weight distribution and angled edges.
Speedy display and rich audio
Featuring a 1440p resolution with a 165Hz refresh rate and FreeSync, the 15.6" screen will hit the sweet spot for most gamers. Personally, I've always felt that 240Hz and 360Hz screens are overkill for all but the most hardcore gamers - most people would have difficulty discerning any gains above 144Hz anyway. And 1440p is a nice step up from 1080p, allowing for crisper graphics without over-taxing your hardware; usually 4K graphics are best reserved for larger displays and creative work.
The IPS-level screen is Pantone-validated with 100% DCI-P3 coverage, providing rich colour that brings your games to life. In terms of brightness, it serves up a modest 300 nits, which works best indoors.
One drawback is that the webcam has been omitted yet again, which is a major bummer if you need to make video calls often, or enjoy some casual streaming on the go. If the bezels are really too slim to accommodate one, I would have dearly loved for ROG to include even a cheap one in the box.
Speaking of bezels, while the black bezels perfectly complement the Eclipse Grey's colour scheme, it stands out a bit more on the Moonlight White variant, which inexplicably doesn't have white bezels to go with the rest of the design. I don't hate the Oreo look though, but do take note of it if you enjoy a perfectly uniform colour scheme.
In terms of audio, it is great for a laptop. The up-firing speakers definitely play a role in delivering clear and rich audio to the listener, and the bottom speakers deliver a decent amount of bass that bounces off hard surfaces well.
Same great typing experience
No webcam means no facial recognition, but luckily there is a fingerprint sensor incorporated into the power button, which sits apart from the main keyboard cluster.
There are volume keys, a mute button and a shortcut to Armoury Crate located in a separate cluster on top. The main keyboard cluster has a nice layout - no numpad here, but we do have an independent arrow key cluster. Though it isn't full-sized, I do prefer it this way as opposed to being nestled into the main cluster, which makes identification difficult.
Typing on it felt great. The travel distance of the chiclet keys are slightly deeper than most laptops, and although it doesn't feature mechanical switches like some of the newer (and bulkier) gaming laptops, the relative silence makes it more suitable for usage in all environments.
The backlight isn't super bright, but serves its purpose well - on this colour variant anyway. From what I've seen, the white backlighting on the Moonlight White variant is barely visible, and is best switched off.
As for the touchpad, we have a large glass surface area, which makes browsing an absolute joy. It's smooth, responsive, and has great palm rejection - no complaints here at all.
Generous selection of ports
Despite its small chassis, ROG has managed to pack a generous selection of ports on the G15. While they aren't in my preferred backward-facing configuration due to the Ergolift hinge, they've managed to keep nearly all of them on the left side, well away from your mouse hand.
Here, you'll find the charging port, a full-sized HDMI 2.0b port, an Ethernet port, one USB Gen 2 Type-A port, an audio combo jack, and two Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports with Power Delivery and Display Port. The latter can be used to charge the laptop via the bundled 100W charger, which is great if you're not intending to game on the go.
On the right side, you'll find a Kensington lock, a microSD card reader, as well as another USB Gen 2 Type-A port. Pretty much my only gripe would be the lack of a full-sized SD card reader instead of the microSD one included.
An extremely capable performer
The specs on this unit are beastly - a Ryzen 9 5900HS processor coupled with RTX 3080 graphics. It must be noted that the processor is the lower TDP HS variant (not the HX) and the RTX 3080 has a TGP of 80W (100W with Dynamic Boost), so while they are still very powerful, don't expect the performance to match their desktop counterparts.
Anyway, coupled with the gorgeous display, gaming on this was super enjoyable. It hit well over 60FPS on max settings at 1440p for older triple A titles such as Far Cry 5 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, while it was still extremely playable at over 50FPS on heavier titles. If you want to push the FPS higher, you can turn down the quality settings a little or switch to 1080p, though that would certainly be a waste of the beautiful display.
The surface does get a little bit hot over longer periods of gaming, but the hot-spots are kept away from where your hands would usually be. I'm slightly concerned about the top vents blowing out directly towards display; although the thick bottom bezel should soak up most of the heat, effects of long-term use remain unknown.
In terms of audio, it's perfectly fine in Performance and Silent mode, though it does crank up a little in Turbo mode, which is hardly a surprise for a gaming laptop working to keep its parts cool to maintain superior performance. In any case, it's still quieter than some other laptops out in the market with comparable specs, and it's nothing a pair of headphones or earbuds won't solve.
As for battery, the 90Wh battery performed admirably, clocking in at 8-9 hours of regular productivity use. Though it lasts less than 2 hours for gaming, that's pretty much expected for the amount of power it's outputting.
Another great perk is having both the full-sized 200W charger and an extra 100W USB-C charger included in the box, so you can easily bring around the smaller one if you're seeking more portability with lighter workloads. Not every laptop that supports USB-C charging does this, so it is highly appreciated here.
Buy or no buy?
The Zephyrus G15 isn't just one of the best-looking laptops in the market right now - it's also an amazing performer for its size. ROG has certainly done a great job of packing power into a sleek and portable form factor, and I hope this will slowly become the norm for performance gaming laptops in the future.
That said, while the performance is great across the board, you might be able to derive more value from the RTX 3070 configuration due to the 100W TGP limiting the 3080's full potential. In comparison, the RTX 3070 variant features the same processor, display, RAM, and storage specs as the RTX 3080 variant but costs a hefty RM3,000 less.
In any case, the pros far outweigh the cons, which are few and far between. If you can live without a webcam and full-sized SD card reader, I might wager that the ROG Zephyrus G15 is one of the best value laptops for gamers right now.
For more information, you may visit the official product page here.