ROG Zephyrus GX501 Preview
I haven’t quite done the review for the GX800 yet, but in this invite-only release event, I see that Asus just ate *that* for breakfast. Oy vey!
For the price of S$4,898, you can now get what is perhaps the thinnest gaming laptop to mount… an actual GTX1080. With a 7700HQ (not that silly neutered “U” version you see on other laptops), this rig - the sort of thing you’d usually see in larger, heavier units - manages to fit into a package the size of a business laptop.
Specifications (According to Release Document)
- RRP: $4,898
- CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- Display: 15.6”m, 1920x1080 (FHD), Anti-glare, 120hz with G-Sync
- GPU: Nvidia GTX 1080 Max-Q
- Chipset: Intel HM175
- Memory: 24GB DDR4 @2400mhz (8GB soldered, 16GB in slot)
- Storage: M.2 PCIe x4 SSD, 512GB
- Wireless: 8021.11AC wifi and Bluetooth
- Ports: 1x USB 3.1 Type C with Thunderbolt 3
- 4x USB 3.1 Ports
- 1x HDMI 2.0 Port
- 1x 3.5mm headphone and mic
- Keyboard: Asus Aura RGB Backlit, scissor switch, 30 key rollover
- Battery: 4-cell (50wh)
- Size: 379mm (L), 262mm (W), 169mm (H)
- Weigtht: 2.2kg
Look and Feel
At 2.2kg, the ROG Zephyrus also pretty much weighs the same as any old business-targeted laptop. Mind you, this is considered light for something of its capabilities.
The power brick was not on display. I expect its weight to add around half a kilo at the most - the total would still weigh less than the GL502VS I reviewed earlier.
You don’t actually need that large a bag to carry the laptop and its power brick around, in total occupies less space than the GL502VS due to how thin it is.
This by no means implies the unit will crack under heavy-handed keyboard smashing. Using the same reinforced, plastic bottom and aluminium top construction that most Asus laptops use these days, one can lift the unit by its base or screen with one hand, and there would be no flex.
The GX501 uses the by now standard Asus ROG “heat out the back” design. To further cool the system down, there’s a built-in mechanism that raises the laptop a little bit off its base, lifting the laptop lightly as the screen opens - redirecting head away from not just the keyboard, but also the base itself.
This mechanism also means the screen doesn’t have a *spring effect” when you open it quickly and simply let go.
I don’t use a laptop on a lap (posture y’see), but with the way it dissipate heat away from gamers in general - this IS a laptop, as opposed to the crotch-burning experiences of yesteryear’s desktop replacements, and it would work pretty well on a bed with no padding.
Just, as usual, make sure to not block the rear of the laptop at all.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard’s an NKRO scissor switch. Much like their cheaper GL502VS offering, it is decent to type on, just needs “seasoning”. The only thing that I’m annoyed about is for the tendency of the keyboard input to override any input in the trackpad.
Not that you should be playing Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds with a bloody trackpad (I never did like that input method).
At least Asus saw it fit to put the trackpad on the right, away from the WASD keys so you don’t accidentally sweep against it whilst in a hectic session of first person shooting.
There’s an acrylic display with all the internals in full view, and apparently the parts are changed from the top. Not that it’s a bad thing, except that the screws to open the case are still on the bottom.
There are a couple of… interesting design decisions made with the internals here.
First, the battery is built in and is not user replaceable. At this point, the number given in the battery is 50 watt-hours. The mechanism to charge this battery, unique to this set labelled ROG, does NOT use the “oversized USB” connector with locking mechanism, but instead uses a standard power brick large laptop round connector with no locking mechanism whatsoever.
Second, for internal storage, there's only ONE drive slot and it's meant for a single M2 SSD, running at PCIe X4 bandwidth (This demo unit had a 512GB). There are no additional slots for any sort of expansion plans for internal storage. If you want more, you’d have to sacrifice your Wifi/Bluetooth combo card.
Third is the RAM configuration. Business laptop design is also used for memory: one part soldered RAM, and one other slot for “upgrades”. The retail units will apparently get 8GB DDR4 onboard and 16GB in the slot, for a total of 24GB of RAM.
Good thing board architecture these days allow a capacity mismatch configuration to still have dual channel (up to 8GB in this case), and the presence of a dedicated GPU with 8GB of VRAM itself, players would need to be running plenty in the background to feel any performance hit.
Every single USB slot on this machine is USB 3.1. There’s 4 of these - 2 on the left, 2 on the right and 1 additional Type C on the right. Get an AirBar and a gaming mouse for better control.
The Type-C port has Thunderbolt capability integrated, so it’s not just for charging your cellphone, oh no. With the right connector an additional display can be run through it, G-sync capability and all.
The 3.5mm audio jack is located on the left, along with the HDMI 2.0 port.
Speaking of the HDMI port on the left and the Thunderbolt-capable port on the right, notice something? Yes, the external display ports are on different sides, where most laptop implementations put all the display extensions on one side only. There’ll be no chance whatsoever of the wiring of your separate monitors vying for real estate - as long as the GX501 is in the center of the setup. Its as if Asus wants you to use a multimonitor setup.
The power brick connector is also on the left. I like that they use a standard laptop round portal here - while it’s not locked in like the oversized USB port connectors are, the standard ones are more flexible and easier to position away from heat sources.
There is no SD card reader or other external storage, unfortunately, but you do have enough USB ports for external media drives as and when needed.
I can’t hear the sound quality over the background noise of Millenia Walk, so I haven’t “tested” sound quality. The hardware is unfortunately not defined in the documentation either, so I’m gonna have to go with “Probably a Realtek with a software equalizer of sorts” until I have further information.
Graphics and Display
The display capability is a thing to behold and very fitting for something packing a GTX 1080, complete with 8GB of dedicated VRAM.
The default panel is a Full HD, 1920x1080, 15.6inch - that has a refresh rate of 120hz and also has G-Sync built in. If you need higher than Full HD resolutions, just configure Digital Super Resolution. I think you… pretty much don’t need another monitor at this point.
But if you do, there’s always the Thunderbolt and HDMI. The hardware’s capable of driving all 3 at 120hz, up to 1440p, at the same time (tho caveat, HDMI is still not G-Sync compatible).
The HDMI in particular is 2.0 spec, and I'm told its max refresh rate exceeds 60 fps; it is also apparently VR capable (i.e directly connects to the GPU without a bridge chip, meaning there is no chance of a conflict with Oculus's latest implementation). This is not in the spec sheet and there is no VR setup on display, so I can’t really confirm or deny it.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
The ROG Zephyrus GX501 is desktop power in the smallest form factor yet.
It’s a business laptop with the power of a desktop replacement, perfect for someone whose “business” happens to be gaming. If you can afford it, you have pretty much maxed out the Kaby Lake era in something that’s as easy to carry around as one of Lenovo’s Ideapads or Asus’s S units.
Could use more RAM in dual channel and another M2 slot, but you can’t beat the form factor.
For reference, the closest rival to this unit is the Aftershock Prime 15” (Sager OEM), which is lighter by about 300 grams, cheaper by half, actually allowing you more RAM and storage customizability - but if specced as close to this new offering as possible, only mounts a GTX 1060.
The GX501 comes with a 1-year Accidental Damage Prevention plan against things such as water spills and cracked screens.
Purchase one before December 10th, you’ll be entitled to receive an exclusively designed, limited edition ROG-Masters edition G-Shock watch from Casio - while stocks last. There's only 500 pieces to go around!