This is our detailed review of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15, one of the most interesting performance and gaming ultraportable notebooks of the 2020 generation.
It’s available in a couple of different configurations, and ours gets a 6Core Intel i7 processor, Nvidia RTX 2070 Super graphics, and a 4k screen with 100% AdobeRGB coverage. There’s also a 240 Hz 3ms screen option though, the obvious choice for gamers, and we’ll talk about it in this article, as well as about the 8Core i7 CPU option that might also be available in some regions.
In just a few words, this laptop builds on the Zephyrus M GU502 from 2019, one of our favorite ultraportables at that time, thus has big shoes to fill. The 2020 update is not just a hardware update, although that’s is among the reasons you’ll want to consider this for a potential purchase, but it also offers new design lines, a new keyboard, and Thunderbolt 3.
We’ve spent the last few weeks with this 2020 ROG Zephyrus M15 as one of our daily drivers, and the review down below gathers all our thoughts and impressions, with the positives and its quirks.
The specs sheet as reviewed
||Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502LWS
||15.6 inch, 3840 x 2160 px resolution, IPS, 60 HZ, matte, AU Optronics B156ZAN03.1 panel
||Intel Comet Lake Core i7-10750H, 6C/12T
||Intel UHD and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 8GB (80-90W Max-Q, Overclocked, GeForce 445.87), with Optimus
||32 GB DDR4 2933 MHz (16 GB soldered, 1x DIMM) – up to 3200 MHz
||1 TB PCIe SSD (Intel 660p), extra M.2 slot, RAID support
||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 19.9 mm or .77” (h) – Prism models
18.9 mm or .73” (h) – Brushed Black version
||2.02 kg (4.45 lb), .78 kg (1.72 lbs) power brick and cables, US version
||single-zone RGB backlit keyboard on the Prism Black/Gray models, per-key RGB on the Brushed Black variant, 2x 2W bottom stereo speakers, no included webcam
Our unit is an early sample offered by Asus for the purpose of 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 four different 2020 Zephyrus M15 GU502 versions:
- the Zephyrus M15 GU502LWS, with RTX 2070 Super 90W graphics;
- the Zephyrus M15 GU502LW, with RTX 2070 90W graphics;
- the Zephyrus M15 GU502LV, with RTX 2060 90W graphics;
- the Zephyrus M15 GU502LV, with GTX 1660Ti 80W graphics.
These are also available in several different design options (Prism Black, Prism Gray, Standard Black), with either a 6Core i7-10750H or 8Core i7-10875H CPU, various RAM (there’s 2933 MHz DDR4 memory on this sample, but 3200 MHz is also supported) and storage configurations, as well as several screen variants (FHD 144 Hz, FHD 240 Hz 3ms 100% sRGB or 4K 60 Hz 100% AdobeRGB).
Design and exterior
Asus offers the Zephyrus M15 in three versions. The Brushed Black model gets a magnesium interior and a brushed aluminum lid cover, with a black ROG logo, the same design implemented on the 2019 Zephyrus M and 2020 Zephyrus S15. It also gets a per-key RGB backlit keyboard.
The Prism Black and Prism Gray versions, on the other hand, get the same magnesium interior, but with a different single-zone RGB keyboard and a redesigned exterior. The big ROG logo has been replaced with a much more subtle ROG plaque in the corner, just like on the Zephyrus G14, and most of the lid is filled up with these Prism dots which light-up in different colors based on how the light around shines upon them. The lid is made out of plastic on these Prism models, though, and overall these designs are 1 mm thicker than the standard Brushed Black versions.
As you figured out by now, our test unit is the Prism Black variant, but the Prism Gray model is what I’d primarily look at, as it will do a better job at hiding smudges and finger oil.
Design aside, the Zephyrus M15 is a compact and lightweight 15-inch notebook, at around 2 kilos (or 4.4 lbs) in this top-tier variant. It’s also sturdily built, with little flex in the main-deck or the screen, so a product that should age well.
Asus also made sure this is also comfortable and ergonomic in daily use. All the edges and corners are blunted and easy on the wrists, and grippy rubber feet on the bottom keep this well in place.
The bottom panel is made out of plastic on these M15s, and not from magnesium as on the Zephyrus S15, but I don’t see how this would bother you in any way. While down here, you should note that the back feet are taller to allow improved airflow underneath. The cooling system takes air from the bottom and through the keyboard and blows it out through the exhausts on the back and laterals, and we’ll talk about the thermal performance in a bit.
The display is held in place by two lateral hinges, and they allow to easily pick it up and adjust the angle with a single hand while ensuring it doesn’t wobble when typing. I still wish the screen could go back past 145 degrees, but that’s not possible with this design.
And while I’m nitpicking, I do have to mention that the status LEDs and the power button are still both backlit and placed beneath the screen, so you’ll notice them when watching a movie in a dark room. I was hoping Asus would implement the updated power button with an integrated finger-sensor that they put on the G14, but they did not on this generation.
The speakers haven’t changed either. They fire through the belly and get fairly loud, but are the standard kind of middling-quality speakers you’ll get with gaming laptops these days, so don’t expect much. Audio over the headphone jack is excellent, though.
When it comes to the IO, Asus finally included Thunderbolt 3 support on the Zephyrus lineup, with video, data, and charging. This adds up to the USB-A, HDMI, and Lan connectors, and most of the ports are lined on the left edge, with the USBs on the right. That means the only things missing here are a card-reader, as well as any sort of biometrics.
There’s also no webcam, a common trait of the entire Zephyrus lineup, and while Asus offers a good quality FHD external webcam accessory, that’s not included with the standard bundle and you’ll have to buy it on the side.
Keyboard and trackpad
Asus puts good keyboards on their Zephyrus notebooks, and this one on the M15 is my second favorite after the one implemented on the G14.
However, keep in mind that Asus offers two different keyboard designs on the M15s. The Brushed Black variant, the one with the aluminum exterior, gets the per-key RGB keyboard also implemented on the Zephyrus S15.
The newer Prism Black/Gray versions, on the other hand, get a different design with single-zone RGB control only. I’ve added a picture comparing the keyboard on our Prism Black model to the S15 keyboard.
As far as I can tell, the Prism M15 keyboard gets different rubber domes and a different lighting implementation, and that’s why the light tends to creep out from beneath the keycaps and shine onto the screen’s chin, which can be annoying when using the laptop at night. However, the illumination is slightly more visible with this approach and the F1-F12 functions keys are also completely backlit, so you’ll no longer have to guess the right key when looking for a specific function at night.
As far as using this every day, I felt that this implementation is a better match for my typing style than the keyboard on the S15 and G15 models. It’s still a shallow low-stroke implementation, but the feedback is somewhat softer and the keys don’t require as much force to actuate as on the S15, which favorably impacted my accuracy and typing speed.
Feedback aside, the layout is standard for a 15-inch Zephyrus, with full-size keys, a slightly taller bottom row of function keys, squashed arrows, and the extra set of function keys in the right column and the top-left corner.
The clickpad is identical to the one of the S15 and very similar to what Asus puts on their entire 15-inch Zephyrus and Studiobook lineup. It’s averagely sized and centered on the chassis, not beneath the Space key. It’s also a smooth glass surface with Precision drivers, and handles everyday use and gestures just fine.
The implementation is also solid, and the surface doesn’t rattle or feel cheap when tapped a little firmer. The physicals buttons are smooth and clicky, yet still a bit clunky.
Finally, I’ll just remind you that there are still no biometrics on this 2020 Zephyrus M15 GU502.
The 2020 Zephyrus M15 update is available with three screen options:
- FHD 144Hz;
- FHD 240Hz 3ms 100% sRGB coverage, Pantone calibrated;
- 4K UHD 60Hz 100% AdobeRGB coverage, Pantone calibrated.
Our review unit gets the latter, the high-resolution panel with 100% AdobeRGB color coverage, an option targeted at creators and professionals, and the same that Asus puts on their StudioBook W500 mobile workstation.
This is bright enough for most conditions, at above 400-nits, doesn’t suffer from bad light bleeding or uniformity issues, and is well suited for color-accurate work. Asus throws in a Pantone calibration out of the box, but that’s pretty much standard these days on higher-tier laptops, and you should still want to further calibrate this yourselves.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO31EB (B156ZAN03.1);
- Coverage: 99.8% sRGB, 99.3% AdobeRGB, 87.4% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.31;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 413 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1036:1;
- White point: 6900 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.39 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
- Response: ~-ms GtG.
Calibration slightly lowers the maximum measured brightness by about 10%, but addresses the slightly skewed Gamma and White point.
I’ll also mention that this UHD panel takes a toll on the laptop’s battery life, and is not the ideal option for gaming. For that, choose the 240Hz 3ms screen instead (the same from the top-tier Zephryus G15 and 2019 Zephyrus M and S models), which will also shave off a few hundreds of the dollars of your bill that you’re paying extra for the UHD option.
Here’s what to expect, based on our review of the Zephyrus G15:
- Panel HardwareID: Sharp SHP14F4 (LQ156M1JW16);
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 70.5% AdobeRGB, 72.6% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.23;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 347 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1199:1;
- White point: 7200 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.29 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
- Response: ~6s GtG.
Lower-tier Zephyrus M15 models might only ship with a 144 Hz panel, and Asus doesn’t mention many details about it. From what I can tell, that’s probably the same 144 Hz 62% sRGB panel included on the base configurations of the G15, and if that ends up to be true, I’d stay away from it: colors look washed out, and although the refresh is 144 Hz, the panel is fairly slow and you’ll experience ghosting in fast-paced games.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced configuration of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502, in the GU502LWS configuration with an Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 32 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, 512 GB of storage, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 2070 Super dGPU and the Intel UHD within the Intel platform.
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 M15 gets 10th gen Intel Comet Lake Core H processors, with either a 6Core (i7-10750H) or an 8Core (i7-10875H) option. This unit gets the i7-10750H, but if you’re interested in how the i7-10875H performs in pretty much the same chassis and thermal design, read of review of the Zephyrus S15.
The i7-10750H is still a 6-Core processor, just like the i7-9750H in the previous Zephyrus M generation, but can run at higher Turbo speeds when allowed. That’s only possible at high-power levels, a common flaw of this entire 14++++ nm Comet Lake platform, and we’ll get to that in a bit.
The 10th gen Intel platform also supports up to 3200 MHz DDR4 memory. 16 GB of RAM are soldered on the motherboard, and our unit also gets a 16 GB 3200 MHz DIMM from Micron, but the memory only works at 2933 MHz, and not at 3200 MHz as on the Zephyrus S15. The tools that I tried don’t offer a clear answer on why this happens, but I think he soldered memory only runs at 2933 MHz on this implementation. I’m still looking into it.
As far as storage goes, our unit gets a 1 TB Intel 660p SSD, which is a middling performance PCIe x4 drive, the kind Asus puts on most of their Zephyrus configurations. It’s plenty fast for daily use, gaming, and most demanding applications, just know that you can replace it with a faster storage array if you think that would benefit your workloads. There are two M.2 PCIe x4 SSD slots inside, with RAID 0/1 support.
I’ll also add that while the left SSD slot is placed right next to one of the thermal heatpipes, Asus throws a thermal pad on top to help with cooling and it runs at 45-50 degrees with games, so doesn’t get as hot as on the TUF A15 or Zephyrus G14 designs. On top of that, you can also move the SSD in the right slot if you’re only using a single drive.
Finally, for the GPU, this configuration gets the Nvidia 2070 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 identical to the one in charge for the RTX 2080 Super in the 2020 Zephyrus S15, and was previously designed to cool a 115W RTX 2070 in the 2019 Zephyrus S generation. On top of that, Asus also apply liquid metal thermal compound (on the CPU) from the factory on their entire 2020 ROG lineup.
Getting to the components is easy peasy. The laptop opens from the bottom, and the D-panel is held in place by a handful of Philips screws. Heads-up, Asus uses several different screw 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 WiFi module, battery, the speakers, and the complex thermal module.
Specs aside, Asus offers four power profiles for the M15 GU502:
- 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/+120 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 and casual gaming, 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.
This Zephyrus M15 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.
You’ll want to run more than just a browser and Netflix on this sort of laptop though, so let’s see how this performs in demanding loads. We start by testing the CPU’s performance in taxing 100% loads, and we do that by running Cinebench R15 for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
The i7-10750H processor stabilizes at 63+W on Turbo, which translates in frequencies of 3.8+ GHz and temperatures of 78+ C, as well as scores of 1200+ points. It runs at higher power (up to 95 W) 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. However, undervolting down to -80 mV is possible in BIOS, in the Advanced >> Voltage control section. Undervolted at -80mV, the CPU runs at 65+W and 4.0+ GHz in this laptop, with temperatures of 76+ C and scores of 1250+ points.
Dropping over to the Performance profile limits the CPU at 53W on this implementation, but with quieter fans and slightly lower temperatures. Silent, on the other hand, limits the processor at 45+ 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 i7-10750H 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 3.8+ GHz on Turbo at 63+W of power, and 4.7 GHz on single-core loads.
Based on our experience with this i7 processor, undervolting, if possible, would allow pushing the frequencies to 4.1+ GHz in sustained loads, thus close to the platform’s potential. As it is, the sustained Cinebench results are just about average, and lower than many i7-9750H implementations, which allowed undervolting. For comparison, the 2019 Zephyrus M offers sustained 4.0+ GHz at 62W and 1250+ points with a minor -50 mV undervolt.
Asus also offers an 8Core i7-10875H CPU option for the Zephyrus M15 lineup and based on our experience in the Zpehryus S15 implementation, that’s going to provide roughly 20-25% higher scores in this Cinebench multi-core loop test.
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 85W for about 30 seconds, and then drops and stabilizes at 63W.
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 at around 90W in this test, and the CPU kicks in hard at first but then stabilizes at 45W. On battery, both the CPU and the GPU cycle between high and throttled frequencies, so don’t expect much in terms of performance while unplugged.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on the stock Turbo profile in Armoury Crate.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 17893 (Graphics – 21001, Physics – 17863);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 4964;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8032 (Graphics – 8227, CPU – 7082);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: Read: 41487 MB/s, 39361 MB/s, Read: 46533 MB/s, Latency: 63 ns;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5317;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 16474;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 35.54 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 5478 (CPU mark: 16272, 3D Graphics Mark: -, Disk Mark: 12437);
- PCMark 10: 5276 (Essentials – 9289, Productivity – 8555, Digital Content Creation – 5016);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5483, Multi-core: 25425;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1225, Multi-core: 6449;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1390 cb, CPU Single Core 192 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3100 cb, CPU Single Core 459 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 231.48 fps, Pass 2 – 83.68 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 44.64 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: 14881 (Graphics – 18212, Physics – 14789);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 4198;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 6614 (Graphics – 6992, CPU – 5065);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 14115;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 28.68 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 3909 (CPU mark: 13009, 3D Graphics Mark: -, Disk Mark: 13392);
- PCMark 10: 3924 (Essentials – 7322, Productivity – 6310, Digital Content Creation – 3549);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 972, Multi-core: 5239;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1136 cb, CPU Single Core 151 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2580 cb, CPU Single Core 364 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 53.86 s.
We’re looking at a roughly 15-20% decrease in CPU and GPU performance compared to the Turbo profile, but significantly reduced noise levels as well: up to 39 dB at head level, versus up to 51 dB on Turbo.
Finally, we reran some of the tests on the -80mV Undervolted Turbo profile.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 17998 (Graphics – 21156, Physics – 17890);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8077 (Graphics – 8317, CPU – 6994);
- PCMark 10: 5263 (Essentials – 9263, Productivity – 8518, Digital Content Creation – 5014);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1189, Multi-core: 6183;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1384 cb, CPU Single Core 189 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3156 cb, CPU Single Core 460 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 42.64 s.
As far as the GPU goes, it is already overclocked on the Turbo profile (+1oo MHz Core, +130 MHz Memory), and pushing it to +130 MHz Core/+150 MHz Memory on the Manual profile returns minor to no gains.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, on the Turbo and Silent profiles:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 5m 48s (Silent), 4m 32s (Turbo);
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 1m 2s (CUDA), 32s (Optix);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 17m 45s (Silent), 14m 40s (Turbo);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 3m 8s (CUDA), 1m 52s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: CPU Not properly Supported;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 167.52 (Turbo), 156.27 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 133.96 (Turbo), 118.15 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 161.88 (Turbo), 153.12 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 19.65 (Turbo), 13.67 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 195.7 (Turbo), 207.47 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 54.86 (Turbo), 44.97 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 93.21 (Turbo), 94.2 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 19.79 (Turbo), 19.27 (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 83.49 (Turbo), 75.16 (Silent).
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 i7-10750H + RTX 2070 Super 90+W
||FHD Turbo UV
||QHD Turbo, external
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)
||113 fps (74 fps – 1% low)
||98 fps (74 fps – 1% low)
||87 fps (59 fps – 1% low)
||73 fps (55 fps – 1% low)
||42 fps (35 fps – 1% low)
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON, DLSS OFF)
||101 fps (70 fps – 1% low)
||93 fps (64 fps – 1% low)
||82 fps (59 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (53 fps – 1% low)
||34 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
||105 fps (81 fps – 1% low)
||107 fps (82 fps – 1% low)
||99 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
||83 fps (60 fps – 1% low)
||81 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||42 fps (37 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)
||134 fps (92 fps – 1% low)
||131 fps (95 fps – 1% low)
||131 fps (93 fps – 1% low)
||91 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
||102 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
||55 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)
||84 fps (67 fps – 1% low)
||85 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
||76 fps (60 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||64 fps (49 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (29 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)
||68 fps (43 fps – 1% low)
||66 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
||92 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
||42 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
||86 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||85 fps (75 fps – 1% low)
||78 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||68 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Ultra Preset)
||145 fps (109 fps – 1% low)
||141 fps (107 fps – 1% low)
||134 fps (101 fps – 1% low)
||97 fps (60 fps – 1% low)
||113 fps (89 fps – 1% low)
||62 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)
||84-115 min-max fps
(98 fps avg, 71 fps – 1% low)
|78-116 min-max fps
(99 fps avg, 68 fps – 1% low)
|70-101 min-max fps
(92 fps avg, 67 fps – 1% low)
|65-96 min-max fps
(78 fps avg, 55 fps – 1% low)
|56-85 min-max fps
(73 fps avg, 53 fps – 1% low)
|37-50 min-max fps
(43 fps avg, 36 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 high-70s in Witcher 3 and Red Dead 2, and the GPU averages low-80s in all titles, while the fans ramp up to 51-52 dB at head level (51 dB in Armoury Crate).
Slightly raising the laptop from the desk makes a small difference here, shaving 2-4 degrees off both the CPU and GPU, and the same thing happens when hooking up an external monitor and deactivating the internal screen. You can also comfortably game on this laptop with the lid closed, while hooked to that external monitor and external peripherals, and the thermal design makes it a good fit for a vertical stand.
Gaming on the Turbo undervolted profile doesn’t help much here. The CPU runs at slightly higher frequencies, and that suffocates the GPU, which as a result runs slightly slower, and that causes a slight drop in performance in most titles once the heat builds up.
Gaming on the Performance profile tames down the fans to about 46-47 dB at head level (46 dB in Armoury Crate), while limiting the GPU at 80W. This allows the CPU to run at higher clocks than on Turbo, but still translates in a 5-10% drop in framerates across the board, with roughly the same thermal readings.
Gaming on Silent further quiets down the fans to about 38-39 dB at head-level (38 dB in Armory Crate), but also further limits the performance of the CPU (to 15-18W) and GPU (to 50-60W). Most titles still run well on this Silent profile and at reasonable temperatures. We haven’t encountered any of the thermal throttling experienced on the Zephyrus S15 on this mode.
Finally, running modern games on battery (on Performance) was possible on this sample, unlike on the Zephyrus S15 review unit. The GPU is limited at around 30W and clock speeds of around 1000 MHz, so you’ll most likely have to limit the graphics details for 60+ framerates, but it doesn’t’ throttle to 300 MHz as on other implementations.
All in all, this ROG Zephyrus S15 is a solid performer in its class.
It trails the 8Core Intel or AMD ultraportables in demanding loads, but Asus allows the RTX 2070 Super on this laptop to run at up to 105W in certain titles, and that puts this configuration within 10% of the top-tier RTX 2080 Super implementations in the Zephyrus S15 and Predator Triton 15 in most games, with some titles benefiting more from the RTX 2080, such as Shadow of Tomb Raider.
Thus, if you’re work won’t benefit from an 8Core processor and you’re looking for a versatile 15-inch ultraportable laptop that can easily tackle AAA titles, this is one of the options to consider. And keep in mind an 8Core i7-10875H variant might also be available in your region, but at a higher price.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The thermal design on this M15 configuration is identical to the one implemented on the Zephyrus S15, with two fans, multiple heatpipes and thermal plates, including some on top of the VRMs and the Northbridge.
Asus also apply liquid-metal thermal compound on the CPU from the factory, which helps better transfer out the heat from the components.
The components run averagely hot. On Turbo, the CPU peaks at temperatures in the high-80s in Far Cry 5 and high-70s in Witcher 3 and Red Dead 2, and the GPU averages low-80s in most demanding titles, while the fans ramp up to 51-52 dB at head level. Undervolting has a minor impact on these internal temperatures.
Gaming on the Performance profile tames down the fans to about 46-47 dB at head level (46 dB in Armoury Crate), and slightly limits the GPU performance, while the temperatures show little variations. Finally, gaming on Silent further quiets down the fans to about 38-39 dB at head-level (38 dB in Armory Crate), but also further limits the performance.
As far as the external temperatures go, the interior hits low-50s in the hottest parts around the heatpipes, but the lower half and the WASD/arrow keys stay within comfortable high-30s. The bottom hits temperatures of 60+ degrees in a small area around the heatpipes, but again, most of the panel stays much cooler even when running games.
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 – 51-52 dB with games (51 dB Armoury Crate), 51-52 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Performance – 46-47 dB with games (46 dB Armoury Crate), 46-47 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Silent – 38-39 dB with games (38 dB Armoury Crate), 38-39 dB with Cinebench loop test, 25-33 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 25-33 dB (23-29 dB in Armoury Crate)
*Gaming – Turbo– playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Turbo Profile, fans at 51-52 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 M15 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 about average. 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. Audio over headphones is excellent, though, as far as our ears can tell.
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 is bundled in some regions, but not included by default in most.
There’s a 76Wh battery inside this ROG Zephyrus M15, which is among the smallest in the niche. Paired with the 4K screen on this model, don’t expect much in terms of battery life here, even if the system implements Optimus.
Here’s what we got on our unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120-nits (50%):
- 22 W (~4+ of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14.0 W (~5 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13.5 W (~6- h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 32 W (~2h 30 min of use) – browsing in Edge, Performance Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 60 W (~1+76h of use) – Gaming – Witcher 3, Performance Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.
Asus pairs the laptop with a fairly compact 240W power-brick, which still weighs .78 kilos with the included cables in the 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. You’d have to buy that on the side in most regions, and keep in mind that 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 M15 is available in stores at the time of this article.
The GU502LW configuration is listed in Europe at 2499 EUR MSRP, with the 4K screen, i7-10750H processor, RTX 2070 90W graphics (2019 non-Super variant, as far as I can tell), 16 GB of RAM (8+8) and 1 TB of storage. The same, but with a 240 Hz 3ms screen, is however listed at BestBuy in the US at a little under $1600.
The 1660Ti base-model with the washed-out 144 Hz 3ms screen is also listed at $1299 at the time of this update, which is good value for what this is, even with that lower color coverage panel.
No word on the 2070 Super version reviewed here, but we’ll update once we know more. In the meantime, follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region at the time you’re reading this article.
All in all, this 2020 Asus Zephyrus M15 refines on the 2019 M series with updated and more powerful hardware, new screen options, Thunderbolt 3 support, a redesigned exterior, and a slightly revamped keyboard.
Performance-wise, I wouldn’t expect much to have changed when comparing the 2019 and 2020 GTX 1660Ti or RTX 2060 configurations, but the 2020 model is also available in a powerful RTX 2070 Super 90W version, which to me makes more sense in this sort of a chassis than the full-power 115W RTX 2070 implementation in the Zephyrus S15. You do benefit from the small, but potentially important generation updates: the redesigned exterior, Thunderbolt 3 support and the new keyboard on the Prism models.
On top of that, creators are also offered the option for a color-accurate 4K panel now, which was not available before and is not available for the S15. We’ll compare this Zephyrus M15 to the S15, G15, and G14 Zephyrus models in a separate article.
On the other hand, there are still some features missing here, such as biometrics or front-speakers, and the M15 still comes among the last in its segment at battery life, more so in this 4K version.
Finally, you should also consider pricing in your decision, and I can’t conclude on that for now, as the laptop is not yet widely available in stores. If competitive ($2299 or preferably less for the RTX 2070 Super version with 240 Hz screen), this could end up an excellent choice in its class, despite the fierce competition out there, such as the Acer Predator Triton 500, MSI GS66 Stealth or Razer Blade 15. We’re going to have a proper roundup comparison of all these performance ultraportables once we get to test them all, so look forward to our updates.
With that in mind we’ll wrap this up here, but I’d love to hear what you think about the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502LWS, so get in touch down below with your feedback or if you have any questions about it.
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