This is our detailed review of the mid-2020 Asus ROG Zephyrus S15 GX502LXS gaming ultraportable, in the highest specced available configuration, with a 10th-gen 8-Core Intel processor, Nvidia RTX 2080 Super graphics, 32 GB of memory and SSD storage with RAID0.
It is listed at $2999 in the US at the time of this article (follow this link for updates), and should also make it to Europe and the rest of the world shortly.
Now, with the 2019 ROG Zephyrus S being one of the best performance-ultraportables of its generation, the 2020 update has big shoes to fill.
On the outside, not much has changed, as the GX502LXS builds on the same chassis and design lines of its predecessor, but now with a cleaner lid and finally, Thunderbolt 3.
The major novelties are on the inside, though, where the 2020 ROG gets a 300 Hz screen, a more capable 8Core Intel 10th gen processor, faster 3200 MHz DDR4 memory, and RTX 2080 Super graphics which can run at up to 105W on the most powerful performance profile. Furthermore, Asus now use liquid metal thermal compound instead of regular thermal paste, which should help keep the CPU/GPU temperatures in check.
We’ve spent the last few weeks with this 2020 ROG Zephyrus S15, and the review down below gathers all our thoughts and impressions, with its positives and quirks.
The specs sheet as reviewed
||Asus ROG Zephyrus S15 GX502LXS
||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, 300 HZ, matte, AU Optronics B156HAN12.0 panel
||Intel Comet Lake Core i7-10875H, 8C/16T
||Intel UHD and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 8GB (80-105W Max-Q, Overclocked, GeForce 445.87) – Optimus/GSync modes
||32 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (16 GB soldered, 1x DIMM)
||1 TB PCIe SSD (2x 512GB WD PC SN730 SDBPNTY-512G-1002, in RAID0)
||WiFi 6 (Intel AX201) 2×2 with Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
||1x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 2x USB-A 3.2 gen1, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, video&charging, HDMI 2.0b, LAN, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock
||76 Wh, 240 W power adapter, 65W USB-C charging possible
||360 mm or 14.17” (w) x 252 mm or 9.92” (d) x 18.9 mm or .74” (h)
||2.09 kg (4.6 lb), .78 kg (1.72 lbs) power brick and cables, US version
||per-key RGB backlit keyboard, 2x 2W bottom stereo speakers, no included webcam
Our unit is an early sample offered by Asus for this review, and it performed just as we would expect from the final retail models.
Retail configurations might get different amounts of memory and storage, but for the most part, you’ll get two different 2020 Zephyrus S15 GX502 versions:
- the Zephyrus S15 GX502LXS reviewed here, with the 300 Hz screen, Core i7-10875H processor and RTX 2080 Super graphics;
- the Zephyrus S15 GX502LWS variant, starting from a 6-Core i7-10750H processor and RTX 2070 Super (full-power, 115W) graphics.
Design and exterior
Very little has changed on the outside, and that was expected, because Asus try to get at least two years our of a chassis design, for financial reasons.
That means the Zephyrus S15 is still a compact and lightweight 15-inch notebook, at around 4.6 lbs in this top-tier configuration. It still also employs Asus’s AAS cooling system, which mechanically raises the bottom of the laptop from the desk and isolates the components from the exterior with an extra sheet of metal, allowing the bottom to feel somewhat cooler when playing games on the lap.
These aside, the S15 is still a mostly black laptop in this variant, with a matte magnesium interior and underbelly that do a decent job of hiding smudges, and a brushed aluminum lid-cover that you’ll have to rub clean more often. Nonetheless, even if the porous magnesium main-deck fends fingerprints better than other black materials, you’ll still have to deal with them after using the laptop for a few days, and the black keys and clickpad still show finger oil after only a few hours of use. Down below you can see how these look after a couple of days, I’ve purposely haven’t cleaned them before taking the pictures, so you can better understand what to expect.
Asus use to advertise Arctic White versions for some of their past Zephyrus models, but I’m not seeing one listed on the official Zephyrus S15 page, so Black might be the only available option here. At least for now.
Still, one thing has changed on this 2020 update, and I’m glad it did. There’s no longer a panel-lit logo on the lid, instead, that’s black now and blends in smoothly with the overall dark theme.
The RGB lights included within the AAS cooling design are still there, and there’s still no individual control over them. They are tied to the keyboard’s illumination, which means that the only way to switch them off is to completely deactivate the keyboard lighting. They also match the keyboard’s lighting theme and adjust in intensity alongside the keyboard, so dimming the keys also dims down these LEDs.
As far as using it every day, the S15 is a well made and practical notebook. The interior has this slightly rougher feel to it, kind of like very fine sandpaper, and that might take some time to get used to. The main-deck is sturdy and barely budges when pressed, and the screen is fairly well made as well, with little warping and flex even when abused. Asus also smartly blunted all the corners and edges, so there’s nothing that feels wrong when grabbing or using this device.
The display is held in place by two lateral hinges, and they allow to easily grab it up and adjust the angle with a single hand, but also keep it sturdily in place, without any wobbling when typing. My only complaint is on the still limited angle, as the screen can only go back to about 145 degrees and not back flat, which I prefer on a portable device.
And while we’re nitpicking, I do have to mention the status LEDs and the power button, both always lit and placed annoyingly beneath the screen, so you’ll notice them when watching a movie in a dark room. I’ve complained about these before, but Asus could not do anything about them without a chassis redesign, which is most likely happening with the next generation.
They did make one major addition to the IO, finally including Thunderbolt 3 support on the Zephyrus lineup. Most of the ports are lined on the left edge, with the USBs on the right, and there’s pretty much everything you’ll want here, except for a card-reader.
Finally, I do have to add that biometrics are still missing, and I’d expect the 2021 option to finally get a finger-sensor within the power button, much like the one on Zephyrus G14.
There’s also no webcam, a common trait of the entire Zephyrus lineup. I don’t mind that much, but I know some of you might and it’s one of those features that you won’t care about until you’ll eventually need it. My old ThinkPad X220 didn’t have a camera either, I cheaped out on paying $50 extra for it, and over the years, I ended up wishing I would have got it. With the Zephyrus notebooks, Asus offers a better FHD external webcam accessory, but you’ll have to buy it on the side in most regions. This should be included by default IMO.
Keyboard and trackpad
This is right now my third favorite Zephyrus keyboard, with the one on the G14 at the top of my list, and the updated one of the Zephyrus M15 coming second.
It’s still the kind of shallow implementation with short travel distance that you can expect from the portable performance notebook these days, so this feels closer to an ultrabook than to a desktop keyboard, which means some of you might need some time to get used to it. I for one, coming from the XPS 13, felt right at home with this keyboard, liking it more and more the longer I used it.
However, the keys take a bit more force to depress that I’d want to, which means that you need to press them vigorously and all the way down for proper actuation, and that’s the reason this is bumped down to 3rd place. This sort of stiffer feedback made activating the left Shift with my pinkie a bit difficult, and also caused some unregistered strokes here and there. On the other hand, this keyboard is a quick and quiet typer, and the softly coated keys feel nice to the touch.
The layout is pretty standard for the class, without a NumPad section, but with well sized and spaced main keys, a slightly taller bottom row, and two sets of functions keys at the right and the top-left part. There’s very little to complain about here, perhaps except for the rather squashed arrow keys.
Asus use a quirky font for the keyboard, which I find OK. The keys are also RGB lit, with per-key control, bright LEDs, three brightness setting to choose from, and little to no light creeping from under the keycaps.
However, the F1-F12 writing on the top row of keys are still not backlit, and I just don’t understand why Asus did not address this issue that plagued the previous Zephyrus S generation, especially since they did so for the updated Zephyrus M15. As it is, finding the right F key is a guessing game. Perhaps that’s a reminiscence of the past on this unit and they’ll address it on the retail models? Please let me know if you get one of these.
The illumination is controlled in Asus’s Aura subsection of Armoury Crate, which allows opting for a few different effects. The software is still not as granular and detailed as the ones on the Razer or Lenovo laptops and could use a functional overhaul. I’d appreciate at least the option to individually control the AAS LEDs, which are now tied to the keyboard’s lighting, as already mentioned earlier.
I’ll also add that swiping your fingers over the clickpad immediately activates the illumination, just as it should, and Asus also implemented a useful CapsLock indicator within the CapsLock key.
The clickpad is averagely sized and centered on the chassis, and not beneath the Space key. It’s a smooth glass surface with Precision drivers, and handles everyday use and gestures just fine. I haven’t noticed any issues during my time with the laptop.
The surface feels a bit sturdier than on the 2019 Zephyrus S and no longer rattles when tapped a little firmer, and the physicals buttons are clicky, yet still a bit clunky.
Finally, I’ll just remind you that there are still no biometrics on this 2020 Zephyrus S15 GX502.
The 2020 Zephyrus update gets the 300Hz IPS matte AU Optronics panel that’s pretty much the go-to in this class right now, being offered by all the other OEMs. From the looks of it, this is the only option available on all configurations.
This is an excellent panel for gaming, with fast refresh and response times (with Overdrive activated). Just as on the previous generation, this version also offers either GSync or Optimus modes, and GSync further enhances the gaming experience by reducing input lag and tearing. Switching between the two modes is an option in Armoury Crate and requires a restart, and is not the 2020 Nvidia Advanced Optimus seamless technology.
Inverse-ghosting/overshoot has been reported on the previous Zephyrus S15 models when activating GSync. As far as I know, that was an issue with the 144 Hz panel used before and some of the Nvidia drivers, and I’m not seeing any sort of ghosting with this updated 300 Hz panel. However, you might want to further look into this matter.
I’ll also add that as long as you’re using the laptop on the Hybrid mode, the system automatically lowers the screen’s refresh rate to 60 Hz when unplugging it from the wall, and resets it back to 300 Hz when plugging it back in, to save up battery life.
Furthermore, this panel is also a great option for daily use, with good contrast and viewing angles, good colors (it comes precalibrated with a Pantone certification), and fair brightness, at a little above 300-nits. This might not suffice for very bright environments, but will do just fine indoors.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUOBC8C (B156HAN12.0);
- Coverage: 99.1% sRGB, 73.3% AdobeRGB, 75.9% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.17;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 302 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1207:1;
- White point: 6600 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.25 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
- Response: TBD (expect ~7 ms GTG).
Light bleeding around the edges is often an issue with this panel, and there’s some of it on our model as well, although not as bad as on the Triton 500 implementation we’ve reviewed earlier. Nonetheless, panel-quality variation is, unfortunately, a random problem with modern laptops, so make sure to buy yours from a reputable store and just ask for a replacement if the bleeding is unacceptable.
Otherwise, with 72% AdobeRGB coverage, this panel should also be fine for occasional colorwork, but professionals will want to go with a higher-tier panel instead. Looks like Asus don’t offer one for the Zephyrus S15 series, but they do offer a 4K 100% AdobeRGB option for the 2020 Zephyrus M15, as well as for their StudioBook Pro lineup.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced version of the Asus ROG Zephyrus S15 GX502, in the GX502LXS configuration with an Intel Core i7-10875H processor, 32 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, 1 TB of storage (2x 512 GB SSDs in RAID0) and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 2080 Super dGPU and the Intel UHD within the Intel platform, which takes over with lighter use, as long as you’re using the laptop on the Optimus mode.
As mentioned above, there’s a software toggle to activate or deactivate the GPU, in the Armory Crate app. GSync is available as an extra option on the Discrete mode, and the laptop performs slightly better in GPU tasks and games in this mode, but efficiency takes a major hit. Switching between the two modes still requires a restart, and it’s not the seamless change offered with the more recent Nvidia Advanced Optimus technology, only rumored for the Lenovo Legion 7i at the time of this post.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit is an early-production model with the software available as of mid-May 2020 (BIOS 301, Armoury Crate 2.7.8, GeForce Game Ready 445.87 drivers). Based on our findings and experience with these platforms, very little can change with future software updates, so our results are mostly what you’ll get with the retail models as well.
Spec-wise, the 2020 Zephyrus S15 gets an 8Core Intel Comet Lake i7-10875H processor, which outperforms the 6-Core i7-9750H by a fair margin in demanding loads, but still requires a lot of power at full load, as still a 14++++ nm bin.
As for the GPU, what we have here is the top-tier Nvidia 2080 Super in a Max-Q implementation, with variable TDP limits between the several performance modes, starting at 60W on the Silent profile, and up to 105W in certain titles on the Turbo profile. The thermal module can cope with this sort of power, as it was previously designed to cool a 115W RTX 2070 in the 2019 Zephyrus S generation. Asus also apply liquid metal compound on the CPU from the factory on their entire 2020 ROG lineup. They claim that helps lower temperatures in combined loads, and we’ll get in-depth on that matter further down.
The updated Intel platform also supports 3200 MHz DDR4 memory, which makes a significant difference in certain loads. Our configuration gets 32 GB of RAM in dual-channel. 16 GB of RAM are still soldered on the laptop’s motherboard, so there’s a single DIMM available inside for upgrades. That means that while in theory, you can put up to 48 GB of RAM on this notebook, only 32 GB will work in dual-channel and that is the configuration I’d recommend.
As for the storage, our unit gets two WD PC SN730 middling quality drives in Raid0, and I’d expect something similar on the retail models, as Asus tends to not include top-grade drives in their Zephyrus models. Nonetheless, these are still plenty fast for gaming and daily use in this Raid0 implementation, just know that you can replace them with a faster storage array if you think that would benefit your workloads.
I’ll also add that while the left SSD slot is placed right next to one of the thermal heatpipes, Asus throws thermal pads on top to help with cooling. This left SSD does run fairly hot with games, at 55-65 degrees, as the bottom design doesn’t include any vents around the storage area. In comparison, the Zephyrus M15 gets a similar internal design, but with a more open plastic bottom, and that allows the drives to run cooler by 10-15 degrees in similar loads.
Getting to the components is a bit tricky here. The laptop opens from the bottom, but you’ll have to remove the AAS foot first, which is held in place by four tiny screws. Then you’ll have to take care of the other screws that keep the bottom panel in place, to get inside. All these screws are visible, but Asus uses several different sizes, so make sure to carefully note where each comes from, so you can put them back in their right place.
Inside you’ll find the single RAM slot, the two SSD slots, the battery, the speakers, and the complex thermal module.
Specs aside, Asus offers four power profiles for the GX502:
- Silent – prioritizes lower fan-noise and reduces CPU/GPU speeds and power – GPU is limited to 60W;
- Performance – balanced profile with stock CPU/GPU settings – GPU limited to 80W;
- Turbo – High-Performance profile with increased CPU power allocation and overclocked GPU (90-105W, +100 MHz Core/+130 MHz Memory).
- Manual – Same as Turbo, but allows to manually create fan curves for the CPU and GPU based on temperature thresholds, as well as further overclock the GPU.
Turbo/Manual are only available with the laptop plugged-in and are meant for gaming and other demanding loads. Performance is a jack-of-all-trades and what I’d recommend for daily multitasking, while Silent is great for video and light-use on battery.
Further GPU overclocking is possible on Manual, but don’t expect much, as the chip is already considerably overclocked on the Turbo mode. In fact, the Turbo mode does a great job of squeezing excellent performance out of this configuration and based on my experience with this sample, there’s very little extra you can get with the Manual profile, so I wouldn’t even bother.
This Zephyrus S15 is not just a performance laptop, it can also handle everyday multitasking, browsing, and video, while running quietly and coolly, especially on the Silent profile. Here’s what to expect with Youtube, Netflix, Typing (on Silent ), and Browsing (on Performance ), and make sure you’re using the notebook on the Hybrid graphics mode while unplugged, otherwise, the battery is going to run out quickly.
You’re not going to buy an 8Core processor and top-tier GPU for Netflix, so demanding loads is where this platform shines.
On to those, we’ll start by testing the CPU’s performance in taxing loads, and we do that by running Cinebench R15 for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
The i7 processor stabilizes at 70+W on Turbo, which translates in frequencies of 3.6+ GHz and temperatures of 73+ C, as well as scores of 1600+ points. It runs at higher power and clocks for the first loops, though, and then the system power limits it at 70W.
Undervolting is disabled by default with the retail BIOS, due to plundervolt, but we were able to undervolt this on a pre-release BIOS 200, and were able to get scores of ~1700 points from a -80 mV undervolt. There is also a Voltage control option in the Advanced BIOS settings, which allows BIOS level undervolting at up to -80mV, but doesn’t allow XTU or Throttlestop support in Windows. On the retail BIOS 301, this sort of -80mV undervolt translated in sustained 3.8+ GHz and scores of around 1700 points, within a 70W power envelope and with quieter fans.
Dropping over to the Performance mode returns similar scores, at the same 70W power limit, but with quieter fans and slightly higher temperatures. Silent, on the other hand, limits the processor at 35+ W.
Finally, on battery, the power is limited to 45W, in the Performance mode (Turbo is disabled in this case). Details below.
In theory, the i7-10875H can sustain up to 4.3 GHz Turbo clocks in all-core loads, and up to 5.1 GHz in single-core loads (with Thermal velocity). In reality, our unit does up to 3.8+ GHz sustained on Turbo at 70W of power, and 4.7 GHz in single-core loads.
That’s still a lot higher than the 45W design TDP, and I’d reckon it would need to run at sustained 100+W to get closer to its maximum potential, which is impossible in a compact frame. We’re also reviewing the i7-10875H in the beefier Asus ROG Scar and Gigabyte Aorus 17G, so look for our reviews of those larger chassis.
Now, moving on to the next chart below, you’ll notice that the 35W i7-10875H processor (on Silent) performs nearly the same as the 6Core i7-9750H on the previous Zephyrus S on a 65W power envelope, and that’s impressing. At the same time, on Turbo, the 2020 model scores 20-25% higher in this Cinebench loop test compared to the previous undervolted version. Undervolting at -80 mV in BIOS pushes the difference to 25-30%.
Still, the fact that the Ryzen 7 and 9 processors in the more compact Zephyrus G14 end up beating the i7-10875 at pretty much half the power consumption (35W vs 70W) shows the current state of AMD’s Zen2 platform and how much Intel need to catch up with their next-gen hardware.
Bottom point, the bump to an 8Core i7-10875H allows the updated 2020 Zephyrus S15 to outmatch the 2019 model in multi-threaded loads and tests, but with the same high power requirements. The gains in single-core performance and games are minimal, though. From what I’m seeing, Thermal Velocity did not kick in on this sample and in fact on any of the i7-10875H models I’ve tested in the Cinebench test. Now sure what’s that about, but if fixed, it should allow some slight 5-10% increase in single-core performance on the retail models.
Next, we’ve further verified our findings with the longer Cinebench R20 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95. With Prime, the CPU kicks in hard at around 100W for about 30-40 seconds, and then drops and stabilizes at 70W.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook, on the Turbo profile.
3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it without a problem. Luxmark 3.1 fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time. The GPU constantly runs above 100W in this test, and the CPU kicks in hard at first, but then stabilizes at around 35W. On battery, both the CPU and the GPU drop to lower power settings (30W – CPU, 20W – GPU).
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on the stock Turbo profile in Armoury Crate.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20704 (Graphics – 23637, Physics – 22966);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5479;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9130 (Graphics – 8957, CPU – 10256);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: Read: 45189 MB/s, 34355 MB/s, Read: 46533 MB/s, Latency: 75.6 ns;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5542;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 17003;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 40.30 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 7327 (CPU mark: 19465, 3D Graphics Mark: 13510, Disk Mark: 25665);
- PCMark 10: 6924 (Essentials – 10001, Productivity – 8919, Digital Content Creation – 10141);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5735, Multi-core: 32247;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1267, Multi-core: 8284;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1838 cb, CPU Single Core 199 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3854 cb, CPU Single Core 471 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 247.14 fps, Pass 2 – 106.72 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 36.62 s.
We also ran some tests on the Silent profile, if you’re interested in running demanding loads at low noise levels (<40 dB).
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 16484 (Graphics – 19325, Physics – 17487);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7571 (Graphics – 7501, CPU – 7997);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 13806;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 33.27 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 5741 (CPU mark: 15971, 3D Graphics Mark: 11703, Disk Mark: 18297);
- PCMark 10: 5547 (Essentials – 8293, Productivity – 6900, Digital Content Creation – 8096);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 972, Multi-core: 6884;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1451 cb, CPU Single Core 153 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2815 cb, CPU Single Core 370 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 49.22 s.
We’re looking at a roughly 20-30% decrease in both CPU and GPU performance, but significantly lower noise: up to 39 dB at head level, versus up to 49 dB on Turbo.
Finally, we reran some of the tests on the -80mV Undervolted Turbo profile. We haven’t encountered any crashes or stability issues on this profile.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20824 (Graphics – 24133, Physics – 22499);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9321 (Graphics – 9180, CPU – 10215);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1261, Multi-core: 8271;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1863 cb, CPU Single Core 198 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 4026 cb, CPU Single Core 469 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 35.16 s.
Undervolting causes the CPU to run slightly cooler, which allows more headroom for the GPU, thus the small increases in GPU scores above.
As far as the GPU goes, it is already overclocked on the Turbo profile (+1oo MHz Core, +130 MHz Memory). I tried pushing it to +130 MHz Core/+150 MHz Memory, but only got minor gains and just gave up. As mentioned earlier, the Turbo profile does an excellent job of squeezing the maximum performance on this implementation, and pursuing further overclocking won’t help much.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, on the Turbo and Silent profiles:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 4m 50s (Silent), 3m 38s (Turbo), 3m 25s (Turbo UV);
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 1m 5s (CUDA), 33s (Optix);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 15m 46s (Silent), 11m 54s (Turbo), 11m 8s (Turbo UV);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 3m 9s (CUDA), 1m 49s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: CPU Not properly Supported;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 173.74 (Turbo), 156.27 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 141.08 (Turbo), 118.15 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 164.8 (Turbo), 153.12 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 18.86 (Turbo), 13.67 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 191.49 (Turbo), 207.47 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 57.3 (Turbo), 44.97 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 96.71 (Turbo), 94.2 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 21.91 (Turbo), 19.27 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 84.34 (Turbo), 75.16 (Silent).
We’re going to further analyze these findings in a future article, but in the meantime, you should check the images below and our reviews of the Predator Triton 500 (RTX 2080 Super 90W), Zephyrus M15 (RTX 2070 Super 90W), and StudioBook Pro 15 (RTX Quadro 5000 80W) to see how this implementation compares to other matching configurations in this sort of loads.
Now, as far as gaming goes on this laptop, we ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the default Turbo/Performance/Silent modes, on FHD (on the laptop’s display) and QHD (on external monitor) resolutions. Here’s what we got:
|Core i7-10875H + RTX 2080 Super 90+W
||FHD Turbo UV
||QHD Turbo, external
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)
||117 fps (83 fps – 1% low)
||112 fps (81 fps – 1% low)
||74 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||96 fps (71 fps – 1% low)
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON, DLSS OFF)
||68 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||59 fps (47 fps – 1% low)
||39 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||52 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
||115 fps (92 fps – 1% low)
||121 fps (98 fps – 1% low)
||101 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
||78 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||87 fps (62dw fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)
||158 fps (109 fps – 1% low)
||163 fps (98 fps – 1% low)
||140 fps (101 fps – 1% low)
||120 fps (84 fps – 1% low)
||100 fps (77 fps – 1% low)
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)
||85 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
||88 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
||75 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (35 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)
||136 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
||135 fps (72 fps – 1% low)
||96 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||94 fps (54 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (45 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
||102 fps (72 fps – 1% low)
||108 fps (75 fps – 1% low)
||90 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
||59 fps (44 fps – 1% low)
||69 fps (55 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Ultra Preset)
||156 fps (121 fps – 1% low)
||167 fps (128 fps – 1% low)
||144 fps (109 fps – 1% low)
||126 fps (90 fps – 1% low)
||112 fps (95 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)
||78-128 min-max fps
(108 fps avg, 51 fps – 1% low)
|84-166 min-max fps
(112 fps avg, 51 fps – 1% low)
|64-109 min-max fps
(87 fps avg, 64 fps – 1% low)
|46-76 min-max fps
(64 fps avg, 43 fps – 1% low)
|77 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Witcher 3 on the stock Turbo profile.
Both the CPU and GPU run fairly hot on Turbo. The CPU peaks at temperatures in the high-80s in Far Cry 5 and low-80s in Witcher 3 and Red Dead 2, and the GPU averages low-80s to high-70s in all titles, while the fans ramp up to 50-51 dB at head level (50 dB in Armoury Crate). These temperatures are not unexpected given the laptop’s compact and slim chassis, and the CPU actually runs a bit cooler than on other similar ultraportables.
Slightly raising the laptop from the desk doesn’t make any difference here, and that’s mostly because the bottom is already raised by the AAS system, and air also comes in through the keyboard. Ramping up the fans to max on the manual profile doesn’t make any difference either, the Turbo profile already ramps them up to 6600-6700 rpm, which seem to be their maximum settings.
Gaming on an external monitor doesn’t impact these findings in any major way either.
However, gaming with the lid closed is definitely not recommended with this laptop, as all the intakes are obstructed in this case, and the internals quickly reach throttling temperatures.
Gaming on the Turbo undervolted profile lowers the CPU temperatures by a few degrees and allows the GPU to run at slightly higher clocks and lower temperatures, which results in marginally improved framerates of within 3-5%.
Gaming on the Performance profile tames down the fans to about 44-45 dB at head level (44 dB in Armoury Crate) but limits the CPU and GPU. This results in a roughly 10% drop in performance in most titles, but also further raises the average CPU and GPU temperatures. Thus, while this is a fairly well-balanced profile and something you can use when you need to keep the fans noise within reasonable limits, I’d still recommend playing your games on Turbo, at lower temperatures.
Gaming on Silent further quiets down the fans to about 36-37 dB at head-level (35 dB in Armory Crate), but also further limits the performance of the CPU (to 15-18W) and GPU (to 50-60W). Most titles can still run well on this Silent profile and at reasonable temperatures, however, the thermal profile is a little too aggressive on Silent with this latest BIOS profile, and that impacts the performance in the more demanding titles.
While the CPU is normally limited at 735 MHz and 50-60 W of power on this Silent mode, the system throttles it to 300 MHz as soon as it reaches 78 degrees. Then, once the chip cools down and gets under 70 degrees, which normally happens in 2-3 minutes, the GPU bumps back to 735 MHz, and the cycle keeps repeating itself. This is mostly visible in the Farcry 5 log below, but also in the other titles.
I’d reckon this is a bug that can be fixed with future BIOS updates, as I didn’t encounter it on the pre-release BIOS 200 while testing this same laptop. Instead, in that case, the GPU ran constantly at 60W, but with slightly faster spinning fans, at around 38-39 dB, which I believe are the ideal settings for this Silent profile. With the BIOS 301 version, the fans spin slower, and that leads to a frustrating variation in framerates in certain titles on our sample.
Finally, running modern games on battery (on Performance) is not possible here, though, as the GPU is limited to 300 Mhz and lower power, which results in stuttering even on lower graphics settings. We experienced the same behavior on both BIOS 200 and 301 versions.
Overall, this ROG Zephyrus S15 is a solid performer in its class.
Compared to the top-tier 2019 Zephyrs S GX502, this performs roughly 20-25% better in CPU intensive loads and about 10% better in games, thanks to the updated hardware. It also runs slightly cooler and quieter across the board, and I’d reckon that liquid metal pasting does help with that. At the same time, though, the 2020 Zephyrus S15 is a significantly more expensive product now, which is something you should consider in your buying decision.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The thermal design has only mildly changed from the previous generation, with the addition of a few extra secondary thermal plates on top of some of the VRMs and over the Northbridge.
However, Asus do apply liquid-metal thermal compound on the CPU from the factory, which helps better transfer out the heat from the components, and that’s paired with a slightly lower-power GPU. The RTX 2080 in the 2020 model goes up to 105W on the higher-power profile, while the RTX 2070 on the 2019 version runs at 115W.
Even with these tweaks, the components still run fairly hot. On Turbo, the CPU peaks at temperatures in the high-80s in Far Cry 5 and low-80s in Witcher 3 and Red Dead 2, and the GPU averages low-80s to high-70s in most demanding titles, while the fans ramp up to 50-51 dB at head level. Gaming on the Performance profile tames down the fans to about 44-45 dB at head level (44 dB in Armoury Crate), but slightly limits the CPU and GPU performance, and also raises the average CPU and GPU temperatures by a few degrees. Finally, gaming on Silent further quiets down the fans to about 36-37 dB at head-level (35 dB in Armory Crate), but also further limits the performance.
As far as external temperatures go, the interior reaches temperatures in the mid-50s in the hottest parts around the heatpipes, but the lower half and the WASD/arrow keys stay within high-30s, low-40s, so the heat won’t be an issue with longer gaming sessions. The bottom stays fairly cool for this sort of a laptop, but that’s only an illusion, as the hottest part is hidden behind that magnesium flap.
Both fans remain active all the time, even with light use, but they spin quietly on Silent/Performance and are pretty much inaudible even in a silent room. You will hear them if you keep the laptop on Turbo while plugged-in.
Here’s a round-up of our fan-noise measurements:
- Turbo – 50-51 dB with games (50 dB Armoury Crate), 48-49 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Performance – 44-45 dB with games (44 dB Armoury Crate), 44-45 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Silent – 36-38 dB with games (35 dB Armoury Crate), 35-37 dB with Cinebench loop test, 25-30 dB with Daily use.
And here’s what we measured in terms of chassis temperatures.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Silent Profile, fans at 27-33 dB (23-29 dB in Armoury Crate)
*Gaming – Turbo– playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Turbo Profile, fans at 48-49 dB (48 dB in Armoury Crate)
*Gaming – Silent– playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Silent Profile, fans at 38-39 dB (38 dB in Armoury Crate)
We’re using a CAT S61 smartphone with a FLIR module for our thermal readings.
For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 through an Intel AX201 chip on this unit, as well as Gigabit Lan. Our S15 performed well both near the router and at 30+ feet away with obstacles in between, without drops or other issues.
As far as the speakers go, there’s a set of them firing through cuts on the lateral sides of the underbelly, and they’re average best. We measured maximum volumes of around 83-85 dB at head-level, so they get fairly loud and don’t distort at high volumes. However, the middling sound quality and the expected lack of lows will steer you towards using some proper headphones, which will also help cover-up the fan noise while playing games on Turbo.
As for the camera, there’s isn’t any on this laptop, but there’s a pair of microphones at the bottom of the screen. An external FHD webcam seems to be bundled in some regions but is not included everywhere.
There’s a 76Wh battery inside this ROG Zephyrus S15, which is the smallest in the niche, so it comes to no surprise that this won’t’ run for very long on a charge, even on the Hybrid mode which enables Optimus.
Here’s what we got on our unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120-nits (60%):
- 18 W (~4+ of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11.8 W (~6+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11.5 W (~6+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 22 W (~3h 30 min of use) – browsing in Edge, Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 70 W (~1h of use) – Gaming – Witcher 3, Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.
Running on 60 Hz makes a big difference, especially on lower-power loads such as watching videos. You’re pretty much losing a whole hour of runtime if the screen doesn’t switch of 300 Hz, but that shouldn’t be a concern, as the system automatically switches over to 60 Hz when disconnecting the laptop from the wall, and back to 300 Hz once you plug it back in.
- 13.8 W (~5+ h of use) – 300 Hz, 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14 W (~5+ h of use) – 300 Hz, Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
Of course, using the laptop unplugged on the Discrete mode, with only the Nvidia GPU, it’s going to trash the battery life. Don’t expect more than 2 hours of use in this case, and about 3 hours of video.
Asus pairs the laptop with a fairly compact 240W power-brick, which still weighs .78 kilos with the included cables in this US version.
A full-size brick is required to power the components in this notebook, but USB-C charging is also supported through the USB-C port on the left side, at up to 65W. A matching Asus USB-C charger is bundled in some regions, but in most, you’ll just have to buy it (or something similar) on the side. Only the Performance power profile is available while on USB-C PowerDelivery, with limited CPU/GPU power, but enough for daily multitasking.
Price and availability
The 2020 Zephyrus S15 is available worldwide at the time of this post, with the top-tier GX502LXS configuration reviewed here listed at $2999 in the US, and around 3300 EUR in Germany.
The RTX 2070 Super configuration starts at $2399, with the same 8Core i7 processor, 1 TB SSD and 300 Hz panel, but 16 GB of RAM (in dual-channel, with 8 GB soldered).
Just remember that part of the RAM is soldered on this laptop, so you’ll have to make sure there’s dual-channel RAM on your unit, or upgrade the memory yourselves.
In the meantime, follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region at the time you’re reading this article.
Long story short, the 2020 Asus Zephyrus S15 GX502 refines on what was already a solid performance ultraportable, the 2019 Zephyrus S GX502.
In comparison, this performs roughly 20-25% better in CPU intensive loads and about 10% better in games, thanks to the updated hardware. It also runs slightly cooler and quieter across the board, and I’d reckon that liquid metal pasting does help with that. Even so, though, the CPU, GPU, and parts of the outer chassis still consistently reach high temperatures, and with the fans ramping up to 50 dB on Turbo, you’ll still need good headphones to cover them up.
For what is worth, the implemented power modes provide a balanced and quiet profile as well, with the expected hit in performance and decrease in fan noise, and I’d expect the issue we encountered on Silent while playing games to be addressed on the retail models.
Aside from the bump in specs, the 2020 Zephyrus S15 also gets a slightly cleaner design, Thunderbolt 3 support, and a 300 Hz screen with dual GSync/Optimus operation modes, as well as one of the better keyboards in the class.
At the same time, though, the 2020 Zephyrus S15 is a significantly more expensive product now, which is something you should consider in your buying decision. Last year’s GX502 started at $2399 MSRP for the RTX 2070 model (and now sells for less with discounts), while this time the top-tier configuration starts at $2999. Sure, you’re getting all these extras with the price bump, and the S15 is overall priced alongside the competition, such as the Acer Predator Triton 500, MSI GS66 Stealth, the Gigabyte Aero 15 or the Razer Blade 15 Advanced.
We’re going to have a proper roundup comparison of all these performance ultraportables once we get to test them all, as so far we’ve only reviewed the updated Predator Triton 500, which has two advantages on its side: runs cooler with games and is also available in a more affordable 6Core i7-10750H variant.
All in all, if you’re looking for top-tier specs and performance in a 15-inch chassis, the Zephyrus S15 should be on your list. These come with a steep price though, so those of you looking to also get the best bang for your buck in this form-factor should also consider the lower-tier RTX 2070 configurations or the now discounted 2019 Zephyrus S 15 GX502. I’d look into some reviews of that 2070 SUper 115W configuration, though, I’m pretty sure it will run hotter and louder than this 2080 model, and I think a 2070 Super Max-Q would would made more sense in this chassis.
With that in mind we’ll wrap this up here, but I’d love to hear what you think about the Asus ROG Zephyrus S15 GX502LXS, so get in touch down below with your feedback or if you have any questions about it.
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