Since the dawn of time, humanity has longed for one thing in its billion-year evolutionary arms race: The ability to play video games while on the go. Gaming laptops have been all the rage for the last couple of years, albeit with a steep price tag and a form factor that makes carrying them around an open invitation for your vertebrae to realign itself into grotesque new shapes.
The power is there, but the end result is usually a hefty slab of technology that you cart around. Is power and portability achievable? Absolutely! That’s the idea behind the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, which uses a more subtle design to create a proper high-end gaming experience in an ultra-portable slab of desktop computing.
For starters, it looks great. Simple, sleek, and a far cry from the years when gaming laptops were apparently chucked into a vat of toxic Monster Energy chemicals and came out the other side looking like a spectator at an EFC event boet. But don’t let those plain looks fool you, as the G14 does have a slight touch of peacocking present: An LED screen that you can program to flash messages and images.
If the fancy strikes you, you can load up the software, type “choke on a bag of nuts Geoff” and there you go: The whole world will be able to gaze upon your verbally abusive friendship with a professional Steve Aoki impersonator. Why is this even there, what point does it have, and is it stpudily silly to play with? I don’t know, I don’t care, and yes it is.
The rest of the laptop isn’t a slouch either, as it packs an absurd amount of tech into its frame. Here’s a breakdown on what R40,000 (give or take) gets you:
- CPU – AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS @ 3.0GHz
- GPU – Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6
- RAM – 16GB DDR4 (up to 32GB)
- Storage – 1TB NVMe SSD
- Display – 14-inch IPS (2560 x 1440) @ 60Hz
- Ports – 2 x USB3.2 (Type-A), 1 x USB3.2 (Type-C), 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x 3.5mm audio
The other neat trick that the G14 has up its sleeve, is that it packs a slight hinge in its 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution screen when open it. Asus says that this is designed to give gamers a better cooling solution and a raised keyboard because we’re all about those slight angles. I can certainly see the thinking behind this idea, and while it does make the notebook slightly uncomfortable to use on your legs, it works a subtle treat on a desktop. Plus I don’t have to look at the enormous bottom bezel too much.
So how does it handle games then, the primary point of this notebook? As well as you’d expect a GeForce RTX 2060 and 16GB DDR4 RAM to do! With these tests, I normally throw my Xbox Game Pass games at the system, using the likes of Gears Tactics, Hellblade: Senua’s Story, and Forza Horizon 4 to see how the device performs.
The G14 absolutely nailed the graphical challenge, with the most minor of caveats along the way. You’re not going to use this for 4K gaming, but for a full HD experience with only a few toggles of the ultra settings to medium and avoiding ray tracing where you could? It’s a superb device, one that can blast your retinas with vibrant colours, sharp lines that aren’t infested with ye olde jaggies, and a crystal clear picture that allows you to count each ember in the air.
On the audio side of the equation, you’ve got a collection of 2.5-watt speakers and a pair of 0.7-watt sound-throwers which offer a surprisingly loud export of tunes and game sounds. My usual work day involves having several sounds in the background, such as a collection of 90s and 2000s alternative rock, and being able to listen to the likes of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box with pitch perfect clarity made for one happy work-from-home nerd.
That sound is turned up to 11 through Dolby Atmos technology, allowing you to choose from several presets (or fine-tuned to your own tastes) for gaming and entertainment. It’s punchy, never sounds tinny and it reminds me of the golden days when Sony was the benchmark for amazing notebook sound quality, albeit now with a passing of the torch.
But can it play Hades?
Yes, extremely well. I may have played too much Hades on this.
And other Non-Hades games?
One of my other gaming experiments with laptops in this class range, is to also load less demanding but artistically rich games onto a device. Think Streets of Rage 4, Hotline Miami, and a host of other indie titles. While the G14 can naturally host those games at their very finest without even breaking a sweat, it’s interesting to see how they move when a person plays them. And watching that action unfold with a hint of blurriness? Another point in the win column for the G14.
Quality will always be great, but I’d happily pay for a machine whose greatest strength is consistent delivery when under pressure to perform. A word of warning though: If you’re looking to show off the portable nature of the G14, prepare to smell bacon because this machine does have a tendency to get hot when pushed to its limits. On a desk, that’s no problem, but I’m not ready to begin summer with a sunburn just yet.
To get to its ultra-portable state, the G14 also had to shed some weight. For starters, there’s no internal webcam, you won’t find a disc-drive on it because that’s so 2015, and there’s no ethernet port either. There is Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) and Bluetooth 5.0 though, so a stable and speedy connection is possible depending on your own internet hardware.
Typing is also a bit on the cramped side, as the keyboard features no edge to edge layout. The touchpad on the other hand, something which I abhor on most laptops, is bloody brilliant and I was happily swiping my way around my desktop thanks to its smooth finish that didn’t erase my fingerprints every time I wanted to change tasks. Multitouch gestures and two-fingered maneuvers were a breeze to pull off, and with a 4.1 x 2.4-inch area to play around in, spacious as well.
Even better, the battery life proved more than adequate for general tomfoolery. While it’s to be expected that high-intensity gaming would drain the battery in a handful of hours, general use was an absolute revelation. True story: I spent a weekend without power due to literal sabotage of my local lines (someone shot them broken, I kid thee not), and with no regular household juice to make use of, I had to make a plan.
I’d fortunately charged the G14 before the calamity occurred, and I went pretty much the whole day on that single top-up. Web browsing and watching a few videos gave me several hours of distractions, before the G14 eventually warned me that it was going low on power. With that experience in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this being a reliable workhorse that can be carted around without needing to pack the power brick in as well.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 may bill itself as a gaming laptop, but it transcends that label by being simply that damn good in several other fields. It can currently handle the most demanding of games thrown at it, its battery life delivers a surprise left hook to your expectations, and it delivers a knockout punch with its good looks, amazing performance, and compact form factor.
Last Updated: October 14, 2020