This is our detailed review of the 2019 Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531 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.
This actually builds on last year’s Zephyrus S GX531 models, with whom it shares its design lines and important characteristics, but with updated hardware and a slightly bigger battery. However, the new generation no longer offers one of the unique traits of the former models, the ability to either opt for Optimus or GSync modes and instead drops GSync support altogether.
On top of that, the GX531 remains the only device in its category with a down-shifted keyboard, which takes a toll on practicality and daily ergonomics, and should in return offer better cooling and performance with gaming and other demanding loads (spoiler: it does, by 5-15% of other similar implementations).
We’ll primarily focus on these aspects in the article below, as they can make or break this laptop for potential customers, but we’ll also go over all the other important factors in order to find out how the Zephyrus S 2019 compares to the other 15-inch premium gaming ultraportables of the moment, which we’ve also reviewed here on the site: the Acer Predator Triton 500, the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, the Gigabyte Aero 15X, and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced.
Update: Asus has replaced the GX531 series with more conventional and overall better Zephyrus S line, and here are our reviews of the 2019 and 2020 generations.
Specs as reviewed
|Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531GX|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, 144 Hz, 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 (Nvidia 419.77 drivers)|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (8GB soldered + 1x 8GB DIMM)|
|Storage||512 GB SSD (Intel 660p SSD PEKNW512G8) – 1x M.2 NVMe 80 mm slot|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC (Intel AC 9560), Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||1x USB-A 3.1, 2x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C gen 2 with DP and PowerDelivery, 1x USB-C gen 1, HDMI 2.0, mic/earphone, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||60 Wh, 230 W brick|
|Size||360 mm or 14.17” (w) x 268 mm or 10.55 (d) x 16.2 mm or .63” (h)|
|Weight||4.58 lbs (2.08 kg) + 1.72 lbs (.78 kg) power brick, EU model|
|Extras||4-zone RGB backlit keyboard, HD webcam, 2x 2W front-facing speakers|
Asus offers this laptop in a handful of other configurations, the important differentiating factor being the graphics chip inside, with an RTX 2060 GPU in the Zephyrus S GX531GV and RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics in the Zephyrus S GX531GW. They share all the other traits, so most of this article applies to any of these variants.
Design and build
As mentioned in the intro, the ROG Zephyrus S GX531 is the only 15-inch gaming ultraportable of the early-2019 generation with a down-shifted keyboard. That means that the keyboard is placed at the lower end of the main deck, where regular laptops normally get a palm-rest, and the touchpad is tucked next to it to the right.
Asus went with this approach in order to cede the space above to the cooling system, which draws air from both the top, sides and bottom and pushes it out through the back. In fact, there’s also a mechanical foot on the underbelly that slightly raises the laptop when you open up the screen, to further facilitate fresh-air being sucked in from the bottom. I find these to be both compromises Asus had to go with in order to make the Zephyrus S GX531 “the slimmest gaming laptop” with this kind of hardware, and personally, I just don’t think they’re worth it for the 1-2 mm of thickness gains, as all the other options in the niche are between 17.5 (GS65 Stealth) and 18.9 (Aero 15) mm in thickness, but don’t sacrifice on ergonomics.
Now, speaking of ergonomics, the Zephyrus S is perfectly fine as long as you keep it on a spacious desk. Typing on a down-shifted keyboard feels much like typing on a compact desktop keyboard, and having the trackpad on the right might feel unusual at first, but takes little time to get used to, as that’s where you’d normally have a mouse anyway.
However, using this on the lap or in cramped places is a completely different story, as the lack of arm-support is much more difficult to accept, and the fact that the screen only leans back to about 110 degrees comes as an extra limiting factor. And that’s in fact not all, as on top of these the GX531 still offers the smallest battery in its class, with a 60 Wh battery, while all the others offer at least an 80 Wh battery, so it’s going to last the least while on the go. It’s also a bit larger than all the other models, and you probably expected that from the hump at the back, behind the screen.
All these for better performance and cooling, but we’ll get to that…
The build quality is where Asus pretty much nailed it with the Zephyrus S line. Metal is used for the entire outer shell, with some plastic around the screen, and there’s little flex in both the lid and the main deck. Even the raising part on the bottom seems metallic and sturdily made, and the mechanism is mechanical and simple enough that I wouldn’t worry about its long term reliability.
On the other hand, it’s up to you whether you’ll like the design or not. It’s fairly clean, but Asus opted for dark surfaces with different textures for both the lid and the inside, gold accents around the interior, as well as a red panel-lit ROG logo on the lid (which cannot be switched off), RGB lights integrated behind the mechanical foot (which cannot be switched off either), a red backlit power-button and bright status LEDs, both inconveniently placed just under the screen, which all get in the way when trying to watch a movie at night.
I don’t like the knob on the front lip either, that’s supposed to offer better grip when lifting up the screen. It’s small and thin and you’ll pretty much have to use the finger-nail to grab it, but on the other hand, the screen can be easily adjusted with a single hand and the hinges seem sturdy and perfectly capable at keeping the display as set up.
On a more positive note, the speakers are also tucked beneath the screen and fire upwards, and the camera is placed at the top, flanked by microphones, but without an extra set of IR sensors like on the Blade 15.
This Zephyrus also offers a decent set of ports, with several USB-A and USB-C slots, and HDMI for video output. However, there’s no card reader, no Lan, and no Thunderbolt 3 support, although one of the USB-C slots does support video output and power-delivery, which means you can use a USB-C charger to fill up the battery, just like on the bigger Zephyrus S GX701. Two of the USB-A slots only support the USB 2.0 standard though, and it’s actually not that easy to tell which is the fast one (the one on the right edge), as it doesn’t get a blue plastic insert as on most other laptops.
Bottom point, I’ll put it bluntly: you should only consider the Zephyrus GX531 if you plan to keep it on a desk and plugged in all the time, in which case its design particularities are no longer limiting, and in fact will actually favor performance and the gaming experience to some extent, offering extra space for the cooling and keeping your hands away from those hot components and case parts. Of course, the whole point behind the title of “the slimmest gaming laptop” no longer makes much sense in something that sits on a desk, but hey…
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on this machine is a little…different. Instead of being in the usual spot, it’s been shifted downwards to the bottom of the main-deck, replacing the palm-rest that most other laptops offer over here. That’s unusual, and makes using this device on the lap or leaned on the thighs uncomfortable, but it’s actually practical while it sits on a desk, where the experience resembles that of typing on a compact desktop keyboard.
This keyboard gets a standard layout, with a deck of well-sized and spaced keys, but small arrows that can be a little difficult to find with daily use. There’s no physical NumPad, but the touchpad at the right can mimic a NumPad with the click of a button. Don’t expect this to feel like a regular physical NumPad though, as hitting the virtual keys lacks any sort of feedback. Activating the NumPad also disables the touchpad functions.
As far as typing goes, this is a short stroke (1.2 mm) and shallow keyboard, so it takes a while to get used to. I’m normally accustomed to shallow keyboards, but I struggled with this one. It proved to be fast and quiet, but also unforgiving and inaccurate, with the keys being both very easy to depress and at the same time some of them, like the left Shift, requiring a firm hit in the middle in order to actuate properly.
Asus also implements n-key rollover and 4-zone RGB backlighting across the entire layout, including the F1-F12 marking on the top row of keys, but the LEDs are a bit dim even on the brightest setting.
You get to control the backlighting from the Armoury Crate app, as part of the Aura sub-section, and you can sync the keyboard’s lighting with Asus’s peripherals. You can also control the RGB LEDs behind the mechanical bottom foot; there’s no way to switch them off, but you can dim them by opting for a dark color. The illumination can also be activated by swiping your fingers over the touchpad, without having to press a key.
Speaking of that, I was expecting to hate the unusual touchpad placement, crammed to the right, but I actually got used to it fast, as the experience resembles that from a desktop computer, where the right hand 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 GX531 lacks any sort of biometric login options, with no finger-sensor or IR cameras.
Asus puts one of the better 15-inch 144 Hz panels on the market on the Zephyrus GX531, the AU Optronics B156HAN08.2 that’s also available in the ROG GL504 series or the Acer Triton 500.
This is a pretty good panel for daily use and an exceptionally good option for gaming, due to the short response times and high refresh rate, even if GSync is not supported in this implementation (the panel is capable of GSync, but Asus opted against it here).
On the other hand, the color accuracy, contrast, and peak-brightness are only average on this implementation, which means that blacks aren’t as deep as with other screens and so you should mostly keep this laptop indoors, as you will struggle with it in bright environments. Asus advertises this screen as Pantone Validated, but the panel still only covers 76% of the AdobeRGB gamut, which is perfectly fine for daily use, but might not be sufficient for professionals who might require higher accuracy for their work.
Asus bakes in several screen profiles with this Zephyrus (accessible by hitting Fn + V), and we used the Default profile for our measurements.
Here’s what to expect, according to our Sypder4 sensor:
- Panel Hardware ID: AU Optronics AUO82ED (B156HAN08.2);
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 76% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 261 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 620:1;
- White point: 8000 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.42 cd/m2;
- PWM: No;
- Response time: 3 ms advertised, ~7 ms GtG.
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 for a longer period on the screen.
It’s also worth noting that we’ve seen brighter implementations of this panel on both the ROG GL504 and the Acer Triton 500, so there’s a chance you’ll end up with a slightly brighter one as well, but don’t expect much of a difference, as this is advertised at 300 nits. The other explanation might be in the screen coating Asus puts on the GX531, which seems more reflective (and also less grainy) than with other matte implementations.
The panel came well-calibrated out-of-the-box, but we were able to further correct the White Point and Gamma in this calibrated profile.
We also didn’t notice significant amounts of light-bleeding or uniformity issues with our sample, yet these are random with modern computers and we advise you to look for them on your units, just to make sure you didn’t draw a short stick.
Hardware and performance
Our test unit is a mid-specced configuration of the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531, with a Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of DDR4 2666 MHz RAM, Nvidia RTX 2080 8 GB Max-Q graphics and a 512 GB M.2 NVMe SSD.
There are a few things to note about the hardware in this laptop. First of all, this comes with 8 GB of RAM soldered onto the motherboard and a spare DIMM that can take an up to 16 GB memory stick, but the memory works in dual-channel with both 16 (8 soldered + 8 GB stick) or 24 GBs (8 soldered + 16 GB stick). That aside, there’s a single M.2 storage slot, and Asus ships the laptop with either PCIe x2 or x4 SSDs. Both are fast, but I would have expected PCIe x4 storage across the board at this level. Our configuration came with a middling Intel 660p SSD, which is not as snappy as the Samsung PM981 or even the Intel 760p others in this class put inside their laptops, but I expect the type of SSD to vary between regions.
It’s also rather difficult to access the components inside this laptop, in case you want to add RAM or replace the storage, as explained in the video below.
As for the CPU and GPU, the i7-8750H has been around for a while, but the RTX GPU is brand new and the significant update of the 2019 Zephyrus S line.
Our test model gets the 80 W variant of the RTX 2080 Max-Q chip, with a clock speed of 735 MHz and the ability to Turbo up to 1800-1900 MHz. However, the final retail versions of the GX531GX actually come with the 90W version of the RTX chip, with a Clock Speed of 990 MHz and similar Turbo capabilities. Still, our implementation was able to consistently run at 88-90W in real-life use, that’s why I believe it actually performed much like the implementation you’ll be able to buy in stores. On top of that, the GPU is automatically overclocked with +100 Core Clock / +150 Memory Clock out of the box on the Turbo power profile available in the included Armoury Crate app, which positively impacts performance and brings it closer to the 90 W model.
All our tests were performed on this following two profiles:
- Standard profile: CPU – Turbo mode in Armory Crate, GPU – +100 MHz Core Clock, +150 MHz Memory Clock (by default on the Turbo profile), fans on Auto;
- Tweaked profile: CPU – Manual mode in Armory Crate, GPU – +120 MHz Core Clock, +200 MHz Memory Clock (max settings in Manual Mode), fans manually set to 90-110%.
Other manufacturers allow further GPU tweaking with their included software, while in this case we were only allowed to go up to +120/+200 MHz in Armoury Crate. We didn’t encounter any stability issues, that’s why I’d expect we could further tweak the GPU with either MSI AfterBurner or Asus’s GPU TWeak. However, we chose not to, in order to keep temperatures at bay.
I must add that overall I still find Asus’s control app a little limited, as I would have liked better OC control and the ability to create custom fan profiles, which most of the competitors offer. I also think that a centralized app that would group the Armoury Crate, Game First, Splendid and Sonic Studio independent apps under the same umbrella would be more intuitive for the average consumer to use.
With these out of the way, you should know that this laptop handles everyday tasks smoothly and quietly, although not perfectly quiet, as the fans are active even with basic use.
However, you’re not getting a ROG Zephyrus for browsing and movies, so let’s talk about its performance in demanding chores and games.
For starters, we’re going to test the CPU’s performance in demanding loads, and we do that by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop on the Standard profile explained above, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run. Most implementations of the i7-8750H CPU return high-scores for the first Cinebench runs and then settle a little lower as the CPU heats-up and can no longer maintain its maximum Turbo speeds for more than a few seconds.
This one performed as expected and settled for speeds of 3.2 – 3.3 GHz, a TDP of 60 W, temperatures of around 80 degrees Celsius and scores of around 1100 points.
That’s a little better in terms of performance than the other ultraportables in the niche, due to the high 60 W TDP limit Asus set for this laptop, higher than the standard limit of 45W. Despite that, the CPU runs fairly cool in this test, at around 80 degrees Celsius, while others rise to 85-90 degrees in the same situation.
Still, 3.3 GHz at a TDP of 60 W is rather low for the i7-8750H, which means there’s room for further tweaking. We do that by undervolting the CPU, with either Intel XTU or Throttlestop (explained here). Our sample ended up being stable at -180 mV in real use, but not in some benchmarks, so we eventually ran the Cinebench loop test at -150 mV. In this case, the CPU settled for scores of around 1180-1200 points, which translate in Turbo Boost speeds of 3.7-3.9 GHz, a TDP of 60 W and similar temperatures of 80-82 degrees Celsius. Details below.
In other words, undervolting allowed us to come within 1-3% of the CPU’s maximum performance potential in 100% all-core loads, while keeping temperatures at bay. The Acer Predator Triton is the only other 15-inch ultraportable in this niche that came close to this kind of performance, while the Razer Blade, MSI GS65 and Gigabyte Aero 15 settled for 3-10% lower frequencies and also 5-10 degrees higher temperatures.
The CPU’s performance while unplugged was however limited on our Zephyrus S, as the Turbo power profile is automatically disabled on battery, and on Balanced the CPU caps down to only 1.9 GHz and scores of around 600 points in our Cinebench loop test.
Next, we’ve included a set of benchmarks, for those of you interested in numbers. We ran them on the Standard profile first, but keep in mind that it already overclocks the GPU, which explains the high scores in 3DMark and Uniengine.
- 3DMark 11: 21514 (Graphics – 29841, Physics – 11826);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 18175 (Graphics – 21748, Physics – 16583);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7716 (Graphics – 8275, CPU – 5582);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 4579;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5268;
- PCMark 08: 4208;
- PCMark 10: 5645;
- PassMark: Rating: 6006, CPU mark: 14111, 3D Graphics Mark: 13613;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 4024, Multi-core: 22638;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 5024, Multi-core: 21820;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 103.98 fps, CPU 1162 cb, CPU Single Core 171 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 209.66 fps, Pass 2 – 74.24 fps.
We also ran some of them on the Tweaked profile, with the -150 mV undervolted CPU and further overclocked GPU.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 18316 (Graphics – 22106, Physics – 16457);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8121 (Graphics – 8448, CPU – 6664);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal (RTX) Graphics: 4659;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5379;
- GeekBench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 5014, Multi-core: 22493;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 99.57 fps, CPU 1231 cb, CPU Single Core 171 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 210.45 fps, Pass 2 – 77.08 fps.
Overall the Tweaked profile leads to improved CPU performance in the more demanding tests that would normally cause the CPU to clock down on the default profile, as well as minor gains in GPU tests, but not due to the minuscule Clock Speed increase of only +20 MHz, but due to the drop in CPU temperatures that allows the GPU to run at slightly higher clocks, as the two share an interlinked cooling implementation.
Down below we’ve added the monitoring log from 3Dmark: Firestrike and it shows that the CPU/GPU run much cooler on the Tweaked profile. The differences are smaller in real-life use, where the Auto fan profile catches up and allows proper cooling, but we still recorded a slight improvement in performance and temperatures with the Tweaked profile while playing demanding games, as you’ll see below.
Next, we get to talk about the gaming experience. We ran a couple of games representative for DX11, DX12 and Vulkan architectures, both on the Standard and the Tweaked profiles. Here’s what we got:
|FHD Standard||FHD Tweaked|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)||100-120 fps||105-125 fps|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON, DLSS OFF)||68-78 fps||72-84 fps|
|Doom (Vulkan, Ultra Preset, TSSAA)||130-140 fps||132-142 fps|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)||103 fps||104 fps|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)||189 fps||191 fps|
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)||94 fps||100 fps|
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)||88 fps||90 fps|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)||90-118 fps||95-125 fps|
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3, Doom – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the in-game benchmarking tools.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds in Shadow of Mordor, Farcry 5 and Witcher 3, with the fans on Auto (around 54-55 dB at head-level) and the CPU/GPU on Standard profile.
And here’s how undervolting the CPU impacts the performance/temperatures in Witcher 3, with the fans still on Auto (no drop in noise levels).
Lastly, this picture shows what happens on the Tweaked profile, with the fans on Manual, undervolted CPU and overclocked GPU.
If you don’t want to dig through the logs, this is what we got in Witcher 3:
- Standard profile (default CPU settings, +100 MHz Clock GPU / +150 MHz Memory GPU), fans on Auto (54-55 dB): CPU: ~3.75 GHz, 89 C; GPU: ~1.45 GHz, 75 C;
- Standard profile (-150 mV undervolted CPU, +100 MHz Clock GPU / +150 MHz Memory GPU), fans on Auto (54-55 dB): CPU: ~3.9 GHz, 85 C; GPU: ~1.52 GHz, 73 C;
- Tweaked profile (-150 mV undervolted CPU, +120 MHz Clock GPU / +200 MHz Memory GPU), fans on Manual 90%+ (54-55 dB): CPU: ~3.9 GHz, 85 C; GPU: ~1.55 GHz, 74 C.
Overall, tweaking this laptop allows a minor (within 10% in the more demanding titles, but usually smaller) improvement in gaming performance, but also slightly lower CPU temperatures and higher GPU average Core Clock speeds at the same temperature levels of around 75 C.
It’s interesting that on the Zephyrus the Auto fan profile does a good job at ramping up to their maximum speeds, which pretty much supersedes the need for creating a custom fan profile, so I would recommend sticking with Auto all the time, even if you opt to further overclock the GPU on your unit.
As far as performance goes, the Zephyrus S GX531 outmatches the competition in benchmark results and in games, while also keeping the components at 5-10 degrees Celsius cooler. Our test unit got a reportedly 80W version of the RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, but was able to keep it running and higher Clocks than on other implementations and actually an average TDP of around 90 Wh, just like the Razer Blade 15, which also gets the 90W variant of the Nvidia GPU. The performance gains are within 5-15% in both benchmarks and real-life gaming, but that’s something we’ll further dig into in a future article where we’ll compare all the RTX 2080 Max-Q products we’ve reviewed so far. Stay tuned for it.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The GX531 gets a fairly complex cooling design, and Asus emphasize on the use of high-cfm 12V fans with Anti-Dust channel, high-quality heatpipes, and dense heatsinks.
This implementation does a good job at keeping the CPU and GPU at bay, despite the laptop’s thin profile, and most other 15-inch gaming ultraportables reach higher CPU/GPU temperatures with games. As mentioned above, we’ll further discuss that in another article, yet in the meantime, you can go through our reviews to dig out the details yourselves.
The Zephyrus, however, reaches high case temperatures in the high 50s with long gaming sessions, with the plate above the keyboard getting hotter than the bottom, and it also runs noisy, with fans ramping up to 7000 rpm and 54-55 dB at head-level. Thus, despite its design, our sample doesn’t’ run quieter than the competition and actually reaches higher case temperatures than others.
With daily use, both fans are still active, albeit at quiet levels of around 37-38 dB in a 34 dB environment. I also didn’t notice any coil whine or electronic noise on our sample, however, that’s not a guarantee you won’t get any with yours.
I’ll add that our unit came with a stock paste-job and we didn’t repaste it, which will help improve thermals on this kind of a laptop. Repasting could void the warranty in some regions, but there’s always the option to buy your laptop from a third party seller that can do the repasting (or even apply LM, if that’s your thing) themselves without breaking the warranty.
*Daily Use – Netflix clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load Standard (fans ~54-55 dB) – playing FarCry 5 for approximately 30+ minutes on ultra FHD settings
*Load Tweaked (fans ~54-55 dB) – playing FarCry 5 for approximately 30+ minutes on ultra FHD settings
Our sample actually reached higher case temperatures with the Manual 90%+ fan profile, that’s why we’d once more suggest sticking with the Auto profile that does a pretty good job on this laptop.
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 other implementations were able to reach higher transfer speeds with our setup.
The audio is ensured by a pair of decent speakers that fire through the narrow cuts beneath the screen, flanking those annoying status LEDs. They’re fairly loud, at up to 80-81 dB at head level, but the sound is tinny, severely lacking on the lower end, with bass only being distinguishable from around 120 Hz.
As for the webcam, it’s a standard HD cam, rather grainy and washed out even in good light, but at least is placed where it should be, above the screen. I doubt you’ll want to use this often though, if at all.
The 2019 ROG Zephyrus GX531 models get a 60 Wh battery, a slight bump from the 52 Wh battery inside the 2018 models. There’s also Optimus, but the high-refresh rate screen and powerful hardware do take their fair toll, so you’ll only get average battery life in most scenarios.
Here’s what we got in our test, with the screen set at 30% brightness, roughly 120 nits:
- 19 W (~3 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Power Profile, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 17.4 W (~3 h 25 min of use) – 1080p Youtube fullscreen in Edge, Silent Power Profile, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16 W (~3 h 40 min of use) – 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Edge, Silent Power Profile, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 46 W (~1 h 15 min of use) – browsing in Edge, Balancer Power Profile, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
We did run into some issues while browsing, as some video players woke up the Nvidia GPU and as a result spiked up power consumption. That can be tweaked in the Nvidia Control Panel, manually setting the browser of your choice to only use the Integrated GPU, but even so, you’re not going to get more than 2-3 hours of real-life use with this laptop. At the end of the day, there’s no way around the fact that it still packs the smallest battery in its niche, with all the other options offering at least a 80 Wh battery.
Asus pairs this configuration with a 230 Wh power brick. It’s adequately sized for the hardware inside, averagely sized and weighs around 1.72 lbs (.8 kg) for the European version, including cables. A full battery charge takes a little under 2 hours.
The 2019 Zephyrus S GX531s 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. A 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 a USB-C power bank and add up to a few hours of runtime when there’s no outlet around.
Price and availability
The ROG Zephyrus S GX531 series is available in most regions of the world as of March 2019.
The Zephyrus S GX531GX configuration include the Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, the RTX 2080 Max-Q 8GB graphics chip (90W TDP – 990 MHz Base Clock) and a 512 GB NVMe SSD, as well as the 144HZ matte screen, for an MSRP of $2999 in the US, but you can already find this at $2799 online at the time of this article (details in here). In Europe, the same configuration goes for 2999 EUR, but with a 1 TB SSD.
The lower end Zephyrus S GX531GW (RTX 2070 Max-Q – 90W TDP – 1080 MHz Base Clock) model sells for $1999 (down from the initial MSRP of $2199) in the US and 2399 EUR in Europe, while the RTX 2060 models are not yet available in stores, but I’d eventually expect them at around $1800-$1900 in the US and 2100 EUR over here.
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices at the time you’re reading the article.
I already mentioned it throughout this article, but the Zephyrus S GX531 is a niche product within an already tiny niche, and that’s because Asus chose to sacrifice on its practicality and portability in order to favor cooling and performance.
Update: In the meantime, Asus has replaced the GX531 series with more conventional and overall better Zephyrus S line, and here are our reviews of the 2019 and 2020 generations.
As a result, this laptop performs better than the other RTX 2080 Max-Q 15-inch ultraportables on the market and keeps the components at slightly lower temperatures. The differences are small though, of a few degrees in temperatures and of 5-15% in real life games. On top of that, this laptop is also a bit more comfortable to use with long gaming sessions, as the down-shifted keyboard area stays cooler than with other laptops that get the hardware beneath the keys.
However, plenty has been sacrificed in the process: the GX531 works well on a spacious desk, with a mouse hooked up, but is awkward to use otherwise, due to the lack of arm support and the limited screen angle, which only leans back to about 110 degrees. This also lasts less than the competition when unplugged, because it implements a smaller battery. An then there’s the keyboard experience, which is shallower than other implementations, rather dim and lacks advanced RGB control. Lastly, this only gets a single stick of RAM inside, a single M.2 storage slot, getting to the components is rather complicated and there’s no Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.
On top of all these comes the 144Hz IPS screen, similar to what everyone else is offering in this niche, that big ROG logo on the lid that cannot be switched off, the loud fans and the high case temperatures while running games and other demanding loads.
There’s also the pricing factor. In the US, at the MSRP of $2999, this would sit on par with the Razer Blade 15, which is the second-best performing laptop in the niche and the best-balanced product overall, so the obvious choice for an all-around computer. At $2799 it is cheaper than the Blade, on par with the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, and still more expensive than the $2499 Acer Predator Triton 500. Each has their pros and cons, and it would be up to you to choose between the Zephyrus’s performance, the GS65’s portability, and the Triton’s overall value for the buck.
That RTX 2070 Zephyrus GX531GW at $1999, on the other hand, offers a lot better value than the RTX 2080 model and is the one I’d personally look into, if I were to choose one of these.
Outside of the US, most of the alternatives, aside from the Predator, are more expensive, and the Blade might not be even available, which makes the ROG more competitive.
In the end, my gripes with this product are beyond shifted down the keyboard, which already narrows its functionality and target, but in the other quirks that come on top: the small battery, the limited screen angle, the shallow keyboard, the limited IO, the tinny speakers, many of whom spur from the decision of making this the “slimmest gaming laptop”. This, but with a better keyboard and sound, a screen that would lean back flat, a larger battery, GSync/Optimus switching, Thunderbolt 3 and a card-reader would have been a much better product, even with its inherent design limitations.
That means you’ll have to decide if the performance and temperatures gains you’ll get with the Zephyrus GX531 over the other 15-inch gaming ultraportables are actually worth its quirks, which are many and quite significant. I for one favor well-balanced and versatile products, and no matter how you look at it, the truth is that the GX531 is the least versatile option in this class. That’s why I’ve only rated it at 4 / 5, and that might even be too high for what this is in today’s market. Regardless, if performance trumps everything else for you, perhaps this would better fit your needs than any of the others. Perhaps…
Anyway, that wraps up our review of the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX531GX, but I’m curious about your opinions and feedback in the comments section down below, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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