This article is about the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 GX gaming ultraportable, in the top-specked configuration with a Core i7 processor, Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics and 1 TB of SSD storage.
Quite a few 17-inch thin-and-light gaming notebooks built on RTX platforms were announced early into 2019, and the Zephyrus GX701 from Asus is one of the first to hit the shelves. It builds on the 15-inch Zephyrus S GX531 launched in 2018, keeping some of its traits and design lines, and adding a few extras on top, like a bigger battery, front-facing speakers and a 17-inch screen with slim bezels, 144 Hz refres-rate and G-Sync, as well as the updated hardware.
Unlike other GSync laptops though, this also offers an Optimus mode that you can opt for if you’re looking for longer battery life with daily use, which will definitely appeal to those looking for an all-round laptop for both work and fun. However, its particularities make the GX701 primarily a desk-notebook and not that much the laptop you can comfortably use on the lap or in other on-the-go situations, and we’ll explain why throughout this article.
We’ve spent the last few days with the Zephyrus S GX701 GX and gathered all our impressions below, with the strong-points and the quirks you’d better be aware of before spending the $3000+ Asus asks for the high-end configurations.
Update: Due to the the fact that the original article is based on a pre-production version of the GX701 GX, we’re not going to indepthly cover the performance of this laptop, but we’re working on an update based on a retail model and we’ll add the final findings as soon as possible.
Specs as reviewed
|Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701GX|
|Screen||17.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, 144 Hz, G-Sync, Pantone Validated, non-touch, matte|
|Processor||Intel Coffee Lake-H Core i7-8750H CPU|
|Video||Intel HD 630 + Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q 8 GB|
|Memory||24 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (8GB soldered + 1x DIMM)|
|Storage||1 TB SSD ( Samsung PM981 MZVLB1T0HALR) – 2x M.2 NVMe 80 mm slots|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC (Intel AC 9560), Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-C gen 2 with DP and PowerDelivery, 1x USB-C gen 1, HDMI 2.0, mic/earphone, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||76 Wh, 230 W brick|
|Size||399 mm or 15.7” (w) x 272 mm or 10.7 (d) x 18.7 mm or .73” (h)|
|Weight||5.82 lbs (2.64 kg) + 1.63 lbs (740 g) power brick, US model|
|Extras||per-key RGB backlit keyboard, FHD external webcam, stereo front-facing speakers|
Asus offers this laptop in a handful of other configurations, the differentiating factor being the graphics chip inside, with an RTX 2060 GPU in the Zephyrus S GX701GV and RTX 2070 (could be full-voltage, could be Max-Q, we’re not sure yet) graphics in the Zephyrus S GX701GW. They share all the other traits, so most of this article applies to any of these variants.
Design and build
The ROG Zephyrus S GX701 is one of the smallest 17-inch gaming laptops on the market, and also one of the lighter models, at around 5.9 lbs. There are actually lighter options out there, but the GX701 is light enough for a device that does not compromise on the build quality or the choice in materials.
In fact, the GX701 is pretty much a slightly larger version of the 15-inch Zephyrus GX531, just large enough to accommodate a 17-inch screen with tiny side and top bezels, but still a fairly chunky chin, which I actually don’t mind as it pushes the screen upwards in a more ergonomic position in front of my eyes.
It also inherits some of the unique traits of the Zephyrus S line, like the fact that the keyboard and touchpad are placed lower onto the inner frame, where you’ll normally find the arm-rest with regular notebooks, in order to leave room for the cooling system above, as well as the mechanical raising mechanism that pushes the chassis up in order to allow better air intake on the bottom. The screen also only leans back to about 110 degrees, and all these make the GX701 a compelling desk-laptop, but also one that you’ll struggle with in other situations. I find this rather contradicting on a device that’s supposed to be portable, as this is compact and light nonetheless, but still needs to stay on a spacious desk to be actually useful.
The GX701 also builds on the same design lines of the GX531. Metal is used for the entire outer case, with some qood quality plastic around the display, and the build is mostly sturdy and premium, with little flex in the screen and interior. I would also add that this laptop looks beautiful, although I would have liked the option to switch off that big ROG logo on the hood. That’s not possible though, as it’s lit by the screen’s panel, but you can control and switch off the RGB logo at the top of the keyboard. The power-button and the status LEDs placed just beneath the screen are always lit, and can be distracting when watching a movie in a dark room.
This 17-inch Zephyrus does get a few unique traits of its own though, my favorite being the front-facing speakers that are flanking the keyboard and touchpad. Asus pretty much took the keyboard/touchpad of the GX531 and filled in the extra space with speakers, and they sound much nicer and clearer than those on the 15-inch model. They also implemented a neat mechanical volume-wheel that allows to easily adjust the volume and mute the speakers, my only complaint is that each scroll step equates in a 2% volume increase/decrease, so a lot of scrolling is needed if you want to adjust from a low to high volume or the other way around.
You’ll also notice that there’s no camera at the top or at the bottom, and that’s because Asus ditched it entirely and replaced it with a supposedly better external USB camera (included in the pack in most regions).
I can see how you might occasionally need a webcam and not have it around or how you can loose it over time, but for the most part I can accept this compromise for a better quality webcam. What you get is only alright though, better than with other Asus laptops, but not necessarily better than with some of the other internal cameras available out there. I don’t have a GX531 around, but I am curious of a side-by-side comparison with its integrated camera.
All in all I had a great time with the ROG Zephyrus GX701 in daily use. It’s sturdy enough so you don’t have to worry about it breaking when throwing it in your backpack, although you might want to get some sort or sleeve, as the metallic surfaces can scratch easily. The grippy feet allow it to sit sturdily on a desk and you can lift-up the screen with a single hand, easily grabbing it from the knob on the front lip.
As for the IO, you’ll find it lined on the edges, with most ports and the DC-In jack conveniently placed on the left side. In fact, this is pretty much a computer for right-handed users, due to the touchpad’s placement.
I’ll also add that there’s no card-reader and no Thunderbolt 3 on the Zephyrus GX701, but only two USB-C slots, one of them with support for DisplayPort and Power Delivery. There’s no LAN either, so you’ll have to rely exclusively on Wireless, or perhaps use an USB to LAN adapter when needed.
At the end of the day though this is not a computer for everyone. Yes, it’s well made and light and portable for a 17-incher, but at the same time the design, the keyboard/touchpad placement, the screen-angle, the mechanical raiser or even the lack of an included webcam make it much more usable as a desk computer, thus the thin-and-light aspect will only come in handy when actually having to carry it around.
Of course, you might argue that you’ll mostly keep such a laptop on a desk anyway, working or playing games, hooked up to an external mouse, but how about when you’re not? I for one see this kind of devices as jack of all trades, good for both work and fun, and the GX701’s design might not have what it takes to cover all needs.
Keyboard and trackpad
Much like the other Zephyrus S models before and other thin-and-lights with powerful hardware, the GX701 gets the keyboard placed where you’ll normally find the palm-rest on most laptops. That’s unusual, and makes using this device on the lap or leaned on the thighs fairly uncomfortable, but it’s actually practical while it sits on a desk, where the experience resembles that of typing on a regular desktop keyboard.
This keyboard gets a standard layout, with a deck of well-sized and spaced keys, but smaller arrows which can be a little difficult to find with daily use. There’s no NumPad, as this keyboard is identical to the one on the GX531, and feels the same as well. The touchpad can be switched into a NumPad with the click of a button, disabling the cursor, but don’t expect this to feel like a regular physical NumPad, as hitting the virtual keys lacks any sort of feedback.
That aside, this keyboard is rather on the shallow side, with little key travel (1.4 mm) and soft actuation, so this resembles the keyboards you’ll find on many modern ultrabooks. As a result, some of you might consider it a tad mushy, but I actually found this to be a great typer, very fast and fairly accurate once I got used to the feedback. This is also quiet, so it checks many of the boxes I want in a compelling keyboard.
Asus also implements n-key rollover and per-key backlightning, with some bright LEDs and various control options accessible in the Armoury Crate app, as part of the Aura sub-section. The F1-F12 marking on the function keys doesn’t light up though. You can sync the keyboard’s lightning with Asus’s peripherals and the RGB ROG logo at the top of the keyboard, in case you’re all into RGB.
The illumination can also be activated by swiping your fingers over the touchpad, without having to press a key, but the doesn’t feel as seamless as with regular laptops due to the touchpad’s positioning. On most laptops it seems that the keys light up by simply putting your hands over them, even if in reality that’s done by swiping the hands over the touchpad on their way to the keys, and that’s not the case when the touchpad sits at the right.
Speaking of that, I was expecting to hate the unusual touchpad placement, crammed to the right, but I actually got used to it, as the experience resembles that from a desktop computer, where the right hands sits on the mouse. However, that’s only while keeping the device on a desk, much like with the keyboard.
Of course, there’s no way around the fact that this touchpad is small and narrow and sometimes you’ll feel like there’s not enough room to move the cursor around or perform gestures. The cursor is also rather slow out-of-the-box, but you can boost its sensitivity from the settings, as this gets Precision drivers. Its surface is also a bit sticky and doesn’t allow the fingers to glide as easily as with glass implementations, but even so, this is not bad. I also like the physical buttons at the bottom, which are clicky and quiet, but again small and perhaps a little difficult to find in the dark.
I’ll also add that the GX701 lacks any sort of biometric login options, with no finger-sensor or IR cameras, so you’ll have to rely on typing your password each time you want to log in.
Asus puts one of the better 17-inch 144 Hz panels on the market on the Zephyrus GX701, the AU Optronics B173HAN04.0 that they also use on the ROG Scar II GL704 series.
This is an IPS panel with mid-level brightness, contrast and color accuracy, as well as fast-response times, no PWM and G-Sync support. Details below, taken with a Spyder4. Keep in mind that other sites will report higher brightness/contrast levels, and that’s mostly because our tool measures brightness and contrast by switching between a white and black image, while other methods measure black and white points after having them on on the screen for a longer period.
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO409D (B173HAN04.0);
- Coverage: 96% sRGB, 70% NTSC, 74% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 279 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 930:1
- White point: 7100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.30 cd/m2.
- PWM: No;
- Response time: 3ms advertised, 10.5 ms GtG.
This panel is fairly well calibrated out-of-the-box (also Pantone Validated, according to Asus), but you can further correct the White Point and slight Gray-level imbalances with this calibrated profile.
As a side note, we noticed two issues with the panel on this particular sample: some light bleeding around the corners, actually visible on dark backgrounds when watching a movie, as well as some color-uniformity problems in the lower half, which we were not however able to spot with the naked eye. Such quality control issues are random with modern panels, and there’s no way to prevent them; all you can do is buy from a place that allows returns in case you end up drawing a short stick.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is the higher-end configuration of the ROG Zephyrus S GX701GX, with the Core i7-8750H processor, 24 GB of RAM, the RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics chip and a 1 TB NVMe SSD.
Before we proceed to talk about its behavior and performance you should know that our review unit is an early pre-production model with early drivers from Nvidia (Version 417.71) and software development, thus some of the aspects covered in this section might improve/change with later-on updates and tweaks.
The GX701 has a few hardware particularities. It only supports up to 24 GB of RAM, with 8 GB soldered on the motherboard and an extra memory DIMM, but the memory still works in dual-channel. It also gets two NVMe drives, and according to the specs only one of them is hooked to a PCIe 4x connection, and the other is a slower PCIe 2x. Out test unit came with a fast 1 TB Samsung PM981 drive in the PCIe 4x slot.
Accessing the components is a pesky chore on this laptop, as you have to remove the mechanical foot at the bottom first and then take care of a handful of Torx and Philips screws to be able to completely separate the inner deck from the main-frame. We were not allowed to open our review unit, but this clip does a good job at showing how to get inside the Zephyrus GX531.
This laptop is also one of the few to implement both Optimus and G-Sync. They don’t work at the same time, but you can switch between the two modes with a single click (and a restart each time) in the Armoury Crate app. During our tests we opted for the Discrete GPU profile, but we disabled GSync from the Nvidia panel, as it would otherwise interfere with the results. We also used the Turbo performance mode in the Armoury Crate app for all our test, unless otherwise mentioned.
As for the elephants in the room, the Zephyrus GX701GX integrates the Intel six-core i7-8750H processor and the brand-new Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics chip, in a Max-Q implementation with 8 GB of GDDR6 vRAM, 735 MHz default clock speed and the ability to Turbo at much higher speeds. We’ll talk about both the CPU/GPU performance down below.
Update: Because our initial article was based on a pre-production version of the Zephyrus GX701. we’re working on updating our benchmarks and gaming tests on a retail model, and we’ll get back with the final details as soon as possible.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The GX701 shares most of its cooling design with the smaller GX531, with similar 12V fans and slightly longer heatpipes that should help better spread-out heat. As a side note, 12v fans are actually more-reliable than the older 5V fans used in the past, that’s why many OEMs have switched to them in high-performance laptops that require high cfms.
Only one of the fans is active with daily use, but it never shuts completely off, so this laptop never runs quiet. Still, fan-noise is barely audible with daily use at head-level in a normal environment, and you’ll only hear it a quiet room. We also noticed some electronic noise coming from the right side of the ROG logo, but fairly faint and inaudible at head-level.
On our pre-production sample, the fans ramp up with gaming to up to 51-52 dB in the Turbo mode and up to 55-56 dB when manually set at 90+% rpm in the Manual mode, which means you’ll need headsets to cover them up. Fan noise is nonetheless a given in such thin-and-light devices if you’re looking for excellent performance, and much preferred to the alternative of throttling the components in order to keep them quiet. You can however manually tweak the fan’s behavior if you’re looking for a different noise/heat ratio, but expect to have to push them up nonetheless in the recent titles.
*Daily Use – Netflix clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load Turbo Mode, Fans on Auto (~51-52 dB) – playing FarCry 5 for approximately 30+ minutes on ultra FHD settings
*Load Overclocked Mode, Fans on 90%+ (~55-56 dB) – playing FarCry 5 for approximately 30+ minutes on ultra FHD settings
For connectivity there’s Wireless AC and Bluetooth on this laptop, through the popular Intel AC 9560 wi-fi module. It works well and maintains solid signal strength and performance once stepping further away from the router, but for some reason this implementation did not perform as fast as others with my router.
The speakers are one of this laptop’s strong selling points. They’re not as capable as the much larger speakers in the MSI GE73 for instance, but they’re still pretty good, with up to 78 dB volumes and punchy sound quality, even at the lower end. We did notice some distortions coming from the left speakers on our sample, especially accentuated with the Bass Boost option ticked in the Sonic Audio app, but I’d reckon that’s due to its pre-release status. Nonetheless, check for any issues and distortions on your unit once you get it.
As for the webcam, I already mentioned that Asus did not include one at the top of the screen and offers an external one that can be hooked up via USB-C. It’s 1080p and nicer than the other webcams Asus usually puts on their laptops, but the image quality is still rather mediocre, as you can see below. I personally don’t care about webcams so it’s not an issue for me, just don’t expect much from it.
Asus squeezed a 76 Wh battery inside the Zephyrus GX701, a much welcomed step-up from the 50 Wh battery inside the smaller GX531.
With Optimus as an option, I was expecting some good battery life, around 5-6 hours of video and 3-4 hours of daily use. Somehow though the power management was skewed on our sample and we only got around 2 hours of daily use and 3-4 hours of video, but the logs clearly show that something’s off and perhaps the dGPU does not properly deactivate with lower-consumption, as HWinfo reports power drains of around 16-17 W while watching movies, but with periodical spikes to 33-38 W, as you can see below.
I cannot explain this behavior, as it replicates even when the dGPU is manually disabled in Device Manager. I do find it concerning though, especially because similar power-spikes have been reported on the Pascal versions of the Zephyrus GX531, but hopefully Asus manages to address this on the retail units. We’ll update this section if we get to test a final version of the GX701, but in the meantime look into other reviews for more details on battery life.
As a side note, the Zephyrus GX701 charges via a barrel-plug like all performance laptops, hooked up to the included 230W charger, which is adequately sized for the system’s requirements. However, it can also charge via USB-C, which supports up to 65W of power, so it will only charge the laptop with daily lower-load tasks. An USB-C charger is not included, in case you were planning to leave the big one at home and take a smaller alternative when traveling, but you could buy one or you could also hook up an USB-C power bank and add up to a few hours of runtime when there’s no outlet around.
Price and availability
The Asus ROG Zephyrus is shipping from the end of January 2019, with prices starting at around $3300 in the US and 3000+ EUR over here across the pond for the RTX 2080 configurations.
Lower end models with RTX 2060 (Zephyrus S GX701GV) and RTX 2070 (Zephyrus S GX701GW) graphics are also expected in stores, starting at around $2200.
Follow this link for updated prices and configurations at the time you’re reading the article.
If you’re looking for a compact and well made 17-inch laptop that you plan to mostly use on a desk, hooked up to a mouse, but benefit from its smaller size and lighter weight when carrying it around, the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 could be the one for you.
It’s well made, it types well, it gets a good-quality screen, punchy speakers and offers solid performance once tweaked, although we’re still waiting on the retail model before we can draw final conclusion on the performance, thermals and acoustics. The performance was somewhat sacrificed on our pre-release model in order to keep temperatures at bay, which makes this one of the few thin gaming laptops that won’t cause you sweaty hands, due to the keyboard’s positioning and thermal profile.
What primarily bothers me about the GX701 is the lack of practicality when not having it on a desk, due to the keyboard’s/touchpad’s positioning, the screen’s reduced incline angle and that rather flimsy mechanical raiser on the bottom. I’m also concerned about battery life. In theory this gets an Optimus mode and should offer fairly good battery life with daily use, even if there’s only a mid-sized 76 Wh battery inside, but it did not on our sample and it did not on last year’s GX531 models either, which suffered from some inexplicable power-spikes, so that’s something to definitely look for in later reviews, and something we’ll also further dig into once we get to test the retail version. On top of these, some of you might also not like the huge backlit ROG logo on the hood that can’t be switched off, or the lack of Thunderbolt 3 or LAN.
All in all though this is a great piece of tech. It’s expensive, yes, but so are the other thin-and-light 17-inchers with similar specs, so the form-factor remains the GX701’s important antagonizing factor, making this impractical while not on a spacious desk, but as the same time more comfortable than other devices while on a desk and hooked up to an external mouse.
In the end we’re not going to give the GX701 a final rate based on this sample, but we’ll update as soon as we get to retest the retail variant.
In the meantime potential users should also check out the direct competitors, just to get a greater picture of the available options, especially at the MSI GS75 Stealth Thin and the Alienware m17, but also the slightly larger and more affordable Lenovo Legion Y740 and Asus ROG GL704 lines, each with their own share of strong points and quirks. You can also find our entire coverage of RTX powered laptops via this link.
That wraps up our review of the Asus ROG GX701 GX. We’re looking for your feedback and opinions in the comments section below, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or anything to add.