I’ve been using several variants of the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 for more than a month now, and after publishing
our review of the higher-specced variant with the i9 processor and RTX 3080 graphics, we’re going to discuss the more affordable and overall better value Zephyrus S17 GX703HM configuration in this article.
This ships with an i7-11800H processor, an RTX 3060 Laptop GPU at up to 130W of power, and 16 GB of memory, for $2199 MSRP in the US and around 2000 EUR over here in Europe (but most likely more in the Western European countries).
Aside from the internal specs, this GX703HM variant is identical to the GX703HS model tested before, so I’ll refer you to that article for more details on the build, ergonomics, inputs, and screen options.
Our unit is still the QHD display variant with Advanced Optimus, but even if two weeks have gone by since our previous review, Asus have yet still to address the stuttering I encounter while playing games on the Advanced Optimus mode. So for now, Advanced Optimus is still bugged and unusable here, but regular Optimus and the dGPU mode selectable from the BIOS work just right.
Specs as reviewed– ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703HM
2021 ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703HM
Display 17.3-inch, 16:9, non-touch, matte,
QHD 2560 x 1440 px IPS, 165 Hz 3ms with 100% DCI-P3 and sRGB, with Advanced Optimus/GSync
Processor Intel Tiger Lake, Core i7-11800H (8C/16T)
Video Intel + Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop 6GB (115W, up to 130W with Dyn Boost) on GX703HM model
Memory16 GB DDR4 3200 (8 GB onboard, 1x DIMM, up to 24 GB)
Storage single SSD (3x M.2 PCIe gen4 slots)
Connectivity WiFi 6 (Mediatek) 2×2 with Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
Ports 3x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-C gen2, HDMI 2.0b, SD card reader, LAN, headphone&mic
Battery 90Wh, 280 W power adapter + USB-C charging up to 100W
Size 394 mm or 15.51” (w) x 264 mm or 10.39″ (d) x 19.9 mm or .78” (h)
Weight 2.75 kg (6.06 lbs), .9 kg (1.98 lbs) power brick and cables, EU version
Extras per-key RGB backlit keyboard with optical-mechanical switches, 6x speakers, HD webcam, finger-sensor in the power button
Design, inputs, and screen options
As mentioned earlier, I already covered these aspects in-depth in our previews article,
so check it out for more details.
In just a few words, though, this S17 is my favorite Zephyrus design to date, with the lifting keyboard tray that separates the components from the user and allows the laptop’s surface to feel much cooler with running games and other demanding loads.
The ergonomics are also mostly right, and the IO includes almost everything you’ll need, aside from HDMI 2.1. Not a fan of all the ports being squeezed on the front-left hinge, as on many of the other 2021 Zephyrus models.
For inputs, Asus went with a clickly optomechanical RGB keyboard here, which takes some time to adapt to, but should do well for most of you. They also include an excellent clickpad and a finger-sensor for biometrics.
Finally, the screens are all 17.3-inchers 16:9 format, with panel options for either QHD 165Hz with 100% DCI-P3 colors or UHD 120 Hz with 100% AdobeRGB colors, higher brightness, and improved uniformity. The QHD makes the most sense on this laptop and is the only option that you can get on the 3060/3070 configurations, as the 4K panel is exclusive to the 3080 models.
Nonetheless, the QHD panel is what I’d recommend anyway, but make sure to double-check for any potential issues such as light-bleeding or uniformity imbalances, as we’ve seen a fair degree of both on our test models.
Hardware and performance
With that out of the way, let’s turn to this review unit, which is a base-specced configuration of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703, code name GX703HM, built on an Intel Core i7-11800H 8C/16T processor, 16 GB of DDR4-3200 memory in dual channel, 1 TB of fast SSD storage, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 3060 Laptop dGPU with 6 GB of VRAM, and the Iris Xe integrated within the Intel processor.
As mentioned already, we’ve also reviewed the
top-specced RTX 3080 configuration over here.
Before we proceed, note that our sample was sent over by Asus and is a retail unit, the kind available in stores over here. We’ve tested it with the software available as of mid-July 2021 (BIOS 308, Armoury Crate 184.108.40.206, GeForce 471.11 drivers). The software is still young, so some aspects might change with future tweaks.
Spec-wise, the 2021 ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 is built on the latest Intel Core H and Nvidia RTX 3000 hardware available as of mid-2021.
On this GX703HM configuration, we’re looking at a Core i7-11800H processor, the mainstream offering of this 11th gen tiger lake generation. It’s still an 8C/16T, but with slightly lower clocks than the i9 available in the higher-specced variants. It still gets a default TDP of 45W, but as you’ll see down below, Asus sets much higher PL1 and PL2 levels on their Turbo profile, allowing for pretty much the best performance this processor can deliver in a peak implementation.
Improved IPC, faster memory support, onboard Thunderbolt 4, and PCIe gen4 storage support are also some of the side benefits of the 11th gen Intel hardware that this ROG Zephyrus S17 benefits from.
For the GPU, the S17 series is built on higher-power variants of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060/3070/3080 graphics chips, overclocked out of the box with ROG Boost on the Turbo profile. The RTX 3060 that we have here runs at up to 130W with Dynamic Boost 2.0 in supported titles.
Asus also implements Advanced Optimus on all the S17 configurations paired with the QHD screen. This allows the system to automatically switch between the iGPU and dGPU based on the activity you’re running and also directly connects each of the GPUs to the internal screen through a MUX switch. In comparison, all the other ROG laptops of this generation and the 4K variants of the S17 implement standard Optimus and route the signal through the iGPU, which negatively impacts the performance in some cases, as documented in our reviews.
The Zephyrus S17 also comes with 8 or 16 GB of RAM soldered on the motherboard and one accessible RAM DIMM. The 3060 and 3070 configurations are only available with 8 GB onboard and an 8 GB DIMM, for a total of 16 GB DDR4-3200 in dual-channel. You can upgrade up to 40 GB of RAM on this laptop, but lose on the advantage of dual-channel, which is noticeable in some games.
For storage, we got one fast PCIe x4 gen4 Samsung drive on our unit. The device offers three M.2 80 mm SSD slots, supporting various RAID configurations (the configuration illustrated below came with 3 installed SSDs).
Getting inside to the components requires you to pop out the back panel, hold in place by a couple of Torx screws. Everything is packed up tightly, making good use of the limited space. For what it is worth, the design allows you to easily disconnect the status LEDs if you want to.
Specs aside, Asus offers four power profiles for the ROG Zephrys S17 GX703:
Silent – quite fan-noise and limited CPU/GPU speeds and power;
Performance – balanced profile with stock CPU/GPU settings, averagely noise fans – GPU runs at around 115W and stock clocks;
Turbo – High-Performance profile with increased CPU power allocation, faster-spinning fans, and overclocked GPU (up to 130W, +100 MHz Core/+150 MHz Memory).
Manual – gives the ability to custom tweak the CPU power and GPU power/clocks, plus create manual fan profiles based on temperature limits.
Turbo/Manual are only available with the laptop plugged in and are meant for gaming and other demanding loads. Performance is, in theory, a jack-of-all-trades, while Silent is excellent for daily light use and low noise work. You can also power the laptop through USB-C, in which case you can use this on the Performance mode without depleting the battery, but with a performance toll in demanding combined loads.
Since Advanced Optimus is still bugged and leads to noticeable stuttering in games and even daily use, I’d say you can only viably use this laptop on regular Optimus if you care about battery life while unplugged, or on the dGPU mode (preferably select it from the BIOS) if you want to maximize the performance and plan to keep this plugged in most of the time. For what is worth, regular Optimus should still be fine for demanding loads and gaming on this 3060 + QHD configuration, though, as the performance losses of having the signal routed through the iGPU are smaller on this sort of a configuration, as you’ll see in a bit.
Nonetheless, for the reminding of your performance tests we’ve mostly kept the laptop on the dGPU mode.
Performance tests and benchmarks – i7+ RTX 3060 model
On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 test 15+ times in a loop, with 1-2 seconds delay between each run.
The i7-11800H processor stabilizes at 90+W of sustained power on the Turbo setting, which translates in frequencies of 4.2 GHz, which is the maximum all-core Turbo that the processor is capable of. These are paired with sustained temperatures in the low 90s C, scores of around 2150 points, and the fans spinning at about 46-47 dB at head level. Excellent results!
Asus allows to undervolt the CPU in BIOS. Our system ran stably at -80 mV, in which case, the CPU still runs at its maximum 4.2 GHz all-core Turbo, but with lower power draw (around 80W) and lower temperatures (in the low 80s).
Switching over to the Performance profile leads to erratic performance and slightly quieter fans, which stabilize at around 41-42 dB at head level. In this case, the CPU constantly fluctuates in power and frequencies, which results in scores of around 1850 points. This behavior is different than what we recorded on other Asus laptops on the Performance profile and different on what we got on the i9 version of this same Zephryus S17, so it might be tweaked with future software updates.
On Silent, the processor quickly stabilizes at~35W with barely audible fans (<35 dB) and temperatures in the high-60s C. It returns scores of around ~1450 points, roughly 70% of what the system scores on Turbo.
Finally, the CPU runs at ~45 W on battery, on the Performance profile, with fans still spinning at under 45 dB, and in this case similar scores as on the Silent profile, despite the higher CPU power.
You’ll find more details about all these profiles and scenarios in the logs down below.
To put these findings in perspective, here’s how this 11th gen i7-11800H processor fares in comparison to other 8C/16T options available in various other laptops.
The 11900H in the Zephyrus S17 ends up scoring almost 5% higher in this test once undervolted, thanks to its ability to run at higher clocks. With stock settings and no undervolting, the differences are only with 2-3%. At the same time, thanks to the generous power allocation, the i7-11800H ends up outmatching the i9 in the thinner
Zephyrus M16 model. BTW, here’s how the Zephyrus S17 fares against the compact M16 series.
The i7 is also very competitive against the Ryzen processors of the 2021 generation, especially once undervolted, and even comes close to some of the Ryzen 9 implementations. Overall, this i7 is in the top 95% of all CPUs in this multi-threaded benchmark.
We then went ahead and further verified our findings with the more taxing Cinebench R23 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95 on the Turbo profile.
We also ran this newer 3DMark CPU profile test on our sample, and you should take the findings as they are. Compared to the i9 in the same S17, we’re looking at 3-5% lower performance in both single and multi-threaded loads.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation over time, and this unit passed it fine, suggesting consistent performance as the heat builds up.
These stress tests suggest solid engineering quality on this Zephyrus S17, with excellent sustained performance in CPU and CPU+GPU loads. The internal temperatures look good as well in these loads, and undervolting the CPU slightly impacts those in a positive manner.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the stock Turbo profile in Armoury Crate and FHD resolution and with the dGPU mode selected in the BIOS.
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20235 (Graphics – 22576, Physics – 24912, Combined – 9828);
3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5242;
3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9019 (Graphics – 8937, CPU – 9515);
Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5424;
Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 16109;
Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 45.21 average fps;
PassMark 10: Rating: 7588 (CPU mark: 23218, 3D Graphics Mark: 16941, Disk Mark: 29020);
PCMark 10: 7177 (Essentials – 10760, Productivity – 8894, Digital Content Creation – 10481);
GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1623, Multi-core: 9641;
CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 2193 cb, CPU Single Core 228 cb;
CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 5387 cb, CPU Single Core 578 cb;
CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 13902 cb, CPU Single Core 1498 cb;
x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 28.77 s.
And here are some QHD-resolution 3DMark scores on the dGPU mode:
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20247 (Graphics – 22501, Physics – 25099, Combined – 9919);
3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5213;
3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8997 (Graphics – 8901, CPU – 9590).
Most of the other test results are fairly consistent between the different modes and resolutions.
Finally, we also ran some Workstation related loads on this Core i7 + RTX 3060 configuration, on the Turbo profile, with stock voltage settings:
Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 3m 1s (Turbo);
Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 44s (CUDA), 21s (Optix);
Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 8m 18s (Turbo);
Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 2m 9s (CUDA), 1m 15s (Optix);
Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: -;
SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 186.89 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 118.81 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 196.1 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 21.29 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 281.35 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 59.89 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 109.78 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 16.45 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 103.52 (Turbo).
And the SPECviewperf 2020 test:
SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 86.97 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 2020 – Catia: 53.75 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 2020 – Creo: 89.47 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 2020 – Energy: 21.35 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 2020 – Maya: 325.49 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 2020 – Medical: 27.94 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 2020 – SNX: 16.37 (Turbo);
SPECviewerf 2020 – SW: 194.36 (Turbo).
All in all, these are solid results are among the better you can get on a mid-range RTX 3060 configuration these days.
For comparison, the i7-11800H in this implementation once more scores within 5% of the i9 tested before in this same chassis, and is very competitive against the Ryzen 7 models out there as well. The temperatures are also within reasonable limits, and don’t forget that these results are on the stock Turbo profile.
Undevolting the CPU will not yield an increase in performance here, since the i7 already runs at its best on the stock Turbo profile, but it would positively impact the temperatures to a small degree. For stability reasons, I’d recommend a -50 mV undervolt, which is also what we’ve used for the gaming tests on this S17 GX703HM down below.
Now, the RTX 3060 130W graphics chip is a mid-level GPU so you need to properly adjust your expectations here. While it performs 10-15% faster than the more power-contained variants available in thinner laptops (such as the
Zephyrus G15 or Blade 15, for instance), it’s still no match for a mid-power RTX 3070 or any of the RTX 3080 configurations out there.
For comparison, an RTX 3070 100W (like in the Zephyrus M16 and many other premium ultraportables) ends up ~10% faster in the rasterization tests and ~15% faster in RT tests. As for higher-power RTX 3070 models (like up to 140W in the
Legion 5 Pro or up to 130W in the mid-sized ROG laptops), those outscore this 3060 model by 15-20% in rasterization tests and 20+% in RTX. Given there’s also an RTX 3070 140W available for the Zephyrus S17, that’s roughly what you should expect if you’re going for that configuration instead.
As for the 3080 Zephyrus S17, that scores 35% in rasterization GPU tests and 40+% higher in RT.
So while in general, you should expect incremental performance gains when jumping from the 3060, 3070, and especially 3080 configurations of a certain laptop, these gaps widen in the chassis that allow higher power allocations. That’s why, while this S17 GX703HM is a solid mid-range performer, jumping up to the 3070 configurations is an upgrade you should consider if you’re looking to maximize the GPU performance per buck in this laptop. From there, the 3080 is $500 extra and most likely not worth it for most, but it does benefit from being the only configuration available with 32 GB of dual-channel memory, and that alone might eventually push you towards it.
Gaming performance – i7+ RTX 3060 model
With these out of the way, let’s look at some games.
We ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the stock Turbo, Performance, and Silent profiles, on FHD and QHD resolution on the internal screen, and at QHD on an external display.
We also ran tests with Advanced Optimus active, with it switched off and the dGPU manually selected in the BIOS, and on the regular Optimus mode. Furthermore, GSync is disabled from the Nvidia Control Panel for all these tests, and Whisper Mode is enabled in GeForce Experience on the Silent mode.
Just to ensure everything is clear about it, Advanced Optimus directly connects the laptop’s internal screen to the Nvidia GPU, while regular Optimus routes the signal through the iGPU, with a toll in framerates.
The same would happen if you connect an external monitor through HDMI or the Thunderbolt 4 ports of the laptop, as both are hooked through the iGPU. For uncompromised performance, you need to connect the monitor through the first USB-C on the right edge, the one right next to the audio jack, as that’s the only one connected to the Nvidia GPU.
Finally, keep in mind that we’ve kept a -50 mV CPU undervolt for all these tests, which proved perfectly stable and did not cause any crashes or freezes.
With all these out of the way, here’s what we got:
Intel Core i7-11800H +
RTX 3060 Laptop 115+W
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF) 142 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
106 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
96 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
107 fps (63 fps – 1% low)
102 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF) 59 fps (47 fps – 1% low)
38 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
38 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
39 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
38 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
(DX 11, Best Looking Preset) –
116 fps (84 fps – 1% low)
Far Cry 5
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA) 122 fps (94 fps – 1% low)
93 fps (19 fps – 1% low)
87 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
95 fps (83 fps – 1% low)
93 fps (79 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF) 61 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
61 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
59 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
61 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
55 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor 174 fps (119 fps – 1% low)
124 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
122 fps (91 fps – 1% low)
123 fps (93 fps – 1% low)
121 fps (86 fps – 1% low)
Red Dead Redemption 2
(DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA) 96 fps (64 fps – 1% low)
69 fps (21 fps – 1% low)
66 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
71 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
68 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA) 108 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
76 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
68 fps (45 fps – 1% low)
78 fps (53 fps – 1% low)
63 fps (45 fps – 1% low)
(Vulkan, Ultra Preset) 174 fps (133 fps – 1% low)
127 fps (102 fps – 1% low)
121 fps (98 fps – 1% low)
127 fps (103 fps – 1% low)
125 fps (98 fps – 1% low)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4) 112 fps (87 fps – 1% low)
82 fps (23 fps – 1% low)
79 fps (63 fps – 1% low)
83 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
79 fps (64 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
Those above are rasterization-only tests, and here are some results for RTX titles.
RTX 3060 Laptop 115+W
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX ON, DLSS OFF) 95 fps (71 fps – 1% low)
66 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
61 fps (47 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset + RTX, DLSS Auto) 54 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
34 fps (26 fps – 1% low)
38 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA, RTX Ultra) 66 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
41 fps (21 fps – 1% low)
40 fps (23 fps – 1% low)
There are a lot of numbers here, so let’s get into some context. We’ll also talk about some comparisons further down.
Vs the Zephyrus S17 RTX 3080
The RTX 3080 trumps the 3060 in this S17 chassis in benchmarks, and it does so in games as well, especially at the QHD resolution. We’re looking at 30+% higher framerates in demanding titles such as SOTTR, Red Dead 2, or Cyberpunk 2, and a bit less in the older games tested here. The differences are also significant in RT games, at more than 50% higher framerates on the 3080.
However, the differences are smaller at FHD resolution, but I don’t see why you’d want to run games at FHD on any of these S17 configurations that ship with a QHD display.
Advanced and Regular Optimus performance
As I mentioned already, Advanced Optimus still causes stuttering with games and occasional stuttering and image-freezes while using the laptop on desktop, on the iGPU. The stuttering is noticeable during gameplay, and is also recorded by the poor 1% lows we got in our tests. Until Asus release a fix for this, I’d say the Advanced Optimus should not be considered on the S17.
Regular Optimus, on the other hand, works perfectly fine. And since this laptop is a 3060 + QHD configuration, the effects of playing games on this Optimus mode, which pushes the video from the dGPU to the iGPU and then onto the display, is smaller than on higher-tier GPU models or on FHD resolution. As you can tell from the results above, we’re looking <5% difference in framerates in most titles, with ~10% in titles such as Battlefield V and SOTTR. I can live with that, and if you can’t, switching over to the dGPU mode in BIOS does the trick for you.
Gaming on Turbo, Performance, and Silent on dGPU mode
The reminding of the article covers the gaming experience on the dGPU mode, which links the internal screen to the Nvidia dGPU and addresses the stuttering issue noticed on Advanced Optimus.
There are two ways to set the laptop on the Nvidia GPU. The one that I’d recommend is from the BIOS, as that proved to be the most reliable on these units that I’ve tested. The other is to leave the GPU selection on Dynamic in the BIOS, and instead switch the dGPU mode from the Nvidia Control Panel. However, in this case, I had to restart the computer several times after selecting the dGPU mode to get rid of the stuttering, as a single restart do it. Switching then back to Advanced Optimus would reintroduce the stuttering, with or without restarting the laptop.
So if you plan to run games on this laptop and keep it mostly unplugged, I’d go with the dGPU mode in the BIOS.
Ok, let’s go through the performance logs that show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Red Dead 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and Battlefield V on the various profiles.
For some reason, this i7 + 3060 variant of the Zephyrus S17 ran hotter than the i9+3080 model tested before, despite the fact that the components run at slightly lower power here, the fans ramped up to the same noise levels and we used the same drivers and BIOS versions in both cases. As far as I can tell, the reason is the CPU runs at higher power during gameplay on this configuration, with a 5-15W difference between the various titles.
As a result, on the Turbo profile, we’re looking at CPU temperatures of between 75-85 C and GPU temperatures of 80-85 C across the tested games at QHD resolution. Those are ~5 degrees C higher than on the i9 + 3080 version previously tested, but still within OK limits, just a bit too high on the GPU side for my liking.
Furthermore, lifting the laptop from the desk to increase the airflow underneath has a noticeable impact on the CPU/GPU temperatures in this case, allowing them to drop by around 5 degrees. There was less of an impact on the 3080 configuration, but that’s because that already ran cooler, to begin with.
The Performance profile cuts the fan noise to 41-42 dB, limits the CPU’s power and the GPU power in the 110-120W range on our RTX 3060 sample, as well as cuts off the overclocking applied on Turbo.
The CPU temperatures remain constant in this mode, in the high-70s to mid-80s, but the GPU runs even a little warmer, nearing the 87 C thermal throttling limit in Cyberpunk or FarCry 5. That’s up to 10 degrees C hotter than on the RTX 3080.
As a result, I don’t feel as confident about recommending the Performance mode on this S17 configuration as I was before, given the much higher GPU temperatures in this case. Once more, the CPU runs at higher power on the Performance mode on this configuration, which leads to the increase in CPU heat that’s ultimately transferred over to the GPU, with the shared thermal design that we have here.
The fans spin even quieter on the Silent mode (capped at ~60 fps with Whisper Mode on), but the GPU is greatly limited on this profile, affecting the performance. Some older titles are perhaps alright on Silent, but the more recent games are not.
There are limited ways to further tweak the performance and fans behavior on this laptop, but I wouldn’t bother with anything aside from setting a -50 mV undervolt in the BIOS. XTU or Throttlestop don’t seem to work on this laptop if you were planning for further CPU tweaks.
The Manual mode in Armoury Crate allows to set different CPU power limits and further overclock the GPU and create custom fan profiles for each of them. I’ll leave you to play around there; all I tested is the impact of switching the fans all the way to max. They ramp up to about 48-49 dB at head-level and have no impact over the performance in the default Turbo profile, but they do translate in 2-5 degrees lower temperatures, especially on the GPU side. So this might be worth pursuing.
Performance on an external monitor
Our test games ran smoothly on the external monitor, without any choppiness or stuttering, on any of the tested modes (regular Optimus, Advanced Optimus, and dGPU in BIOS). Just make sure you’re using the USB-C port (the one right next to the audio jack) to connect your external monitor, as the HDMI and Thunderbolt USB-C are routed through the iGPU instead.
Everything looks fine in terms of performance and temperatures while playing games on the external monitor, with the laptop opened and sitting on a desk. The GPU still runs a little warm, but tops at about 82-83 degrees C, so a bit lower than when playing games on the internal screen.
This Zephyrus S17 won’t do for vertical use with the lid closed, if you were planning for it. Due to how the system is designed to draw the fresh air in mostly from underneath the keyboard, a hard power limit is imposed as soon as you close the lid, as you can tell from the logs below.
All in all, this base-level configuration of the Zephyrus S17 is a solid performer, baked up by versatile power profiles that allow playing with the performance, fan noise, and thermals.
However, I was surprised to find the components inside this configuration running hotter than on the top-specced i9+3080 model reviewed a few weeks ago. For some reason, Asus push more power into the CPU on this model, and that negatively impacts the internal temperatures. I can’t tell for sure if there’s also an associated positive impact on the performance, but even if there is, I’d expect it to be small and ultimately I’d prefer dropping a few frames for a cooler implementation that will last me a longer time. If possible, I’d tweak this to work more like the 3080 S17 that we tested before.
Oh, and Advanced Optimus is still buggy here, so hopefully, Asus can figure that out as well in a future software update.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
There’s a complex thermal module on the Zephyrus S17, similar to what Asus put on their other 2021 ROG models. That means it implements two high-capacity fans with their latest fan-blade design, four radiators, and many heatpipes. More of them, but thinner than on the 2021 ROG Scar 17.
There are also high-quality VRMs on this series, as well as liquid metal on the CPU. Regular thermal paste is still used for the GPU.
The airflow design is different on the S17 compared to most other laptops. Fresh air is primarily sucked in from the top of the laptop, from underneath the keyboard deck. Some extra air also comes in through the back, but that’s only partially opened over the fans. The exhausts are placed on the laterals and the back edge, blowing the hot air away from the user.
As explained in the previous section, this cooling module does an excellent job at taming the components in this Zephyrus S17, both in daily and in demanding loads and games.
The fans run averagely loud on Turbo at 46-47 dB and quieter on Performance, at 41-42 dB. Both are reasonable levels, especially when both of these modes are usable on the laptop. The GPU does run hotter than I’d like in both cases on the unit tested here, though, which was not the case on the i9 + 3080 model previously reviewed.
For what it is worth, you also get the ability to manually adjust the fans in the Manual mode, and they can go up to 48-49 dB at head-level at max, with some impact over the internal and exterior temperatures.
The fans rest idly with basic use on the Silent profile, which turns them off as long as the CPU and GPU do not go over 50 degrees C. They kick on with average use and multitasking but are mostly inaudible in a normal room. However, due to this rather passive implementation, the S17 does run a bit warm at the chassis level with daily use. I don’t mind it, and in fact, I prefer this approach that keeps the fans quiet.
I also haven’t noticed almost any coil whine or electronic noises on this sample, unlike on the previous sample. Nonetheless, this might vary between units, so make sure to carefully listen for anything wrong with your unit. On the 3080 sample, the noise was most noticeable when launching a game, in the few seconds until the fans ramped up and caught up with the load.
Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Silent profile, fans at 0 dB (up to 33 dB with daily multitasking)
The exterior temperatures remain excellent with demanding loads and games, as you can tell from the images below, on a couple of different power and fan profiles.
The keyboard deck doesn’t go past high-30s C in any mode, and the hottest interior part that you’ll come in contact with is the area just above the clickpad, which hits temperatures in the low-40s. Of course, the part under the keyboard deck, which is in contact with the components, does heat up above 50 degrees C.
As for the underbelly, that hits temperatures in the very high 40s in the hottest region, under the components.
*Gaming – Silent – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Silent profile, fans at 36-38 dB
*Gaming – Performance – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 41-42 dB
*Gaming – Turbo, on a desk – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 46-47 dB
For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 through a MediaTek chip on this unit, as well as Gigabit Lan. Our sample performed well on WiFi both near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between, although I would have perhaps expected a higher-quality wi-fi chip at this price point.
The audio system includes 6 speakers, two woofers un the bottom, and four tweeters under the screen, just behind the keyboard tray. Both the quality and volumes are excellent here, for laptop speakers, with even some bass. Much like on the Zephyrus G15 and M16 models, this is one of the better audio systems you can find on any laptop these days.
There’s also finally a camera at the top of the display on this Zephyrus S17, with HD resolution and meh image quality. I was under the impression Asus would put an FHD camera on this series, but they didn’t; this is just the same kind of camera that most other gaming laptops offer these days.
There’s also an array of mics that do a fair job capturing your voice and can be set in a couple of different modes through the software, but it isn’t very good at isolating external noise, fan noise, or the keyboard’s chatter.
There’s a 90Wh battery inside all the 2021 ROG models, including the Zephyrus S17 here.
Here’s what we got on our review unit in terms of battery life, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness) and on the Regular Optimus mode.
21 W (~4-5 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
20 W (~4+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
18 W (~5 h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
24 W (~3-5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
100 W (~50 min of use) – Gaming – Cyberpunk 2077, Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.
I haven’t tested on Regular Optimus, which proved to be more efficient with light use on our 3080 sample.
Either way, these are not amazing runtimes by any means, especially when compared to the AMD laptops out there. I’d still take them with a grain of salt for now, though, as Asus might perhaps improve on these power draws with future software updates.
Oh, and if you plan to keep the laptop on the dGPU mode while unplugged, don’t expect more than 2-3 hours of daily use or video streaming.
This RTX 3060 ROG Zephyrus S17 configuration comes with the same 280W power brick that’s included with the 3070 and 3080 models. The battery fills up in about 2 hours, with fast charging for the first half an hour. USB-C charging is supported as well, up to 100W. The USB-C charger is not included the 3060/3070 configurations.
Price and availability – Zephyrus S17
The 2021 Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 is available in stores and shipping in some regions at the time of this article.
The configuration tested here, with the i7 processor + RTX 3060 GPU + QHD screen + 16 GB RAM + 1 TB SSD is listed at $2199 MSRP in the US and around 2000 EUR here in Romania, but I’d expect it to go for several hundred EUR more in Germany/France and other Western regions.
This is pricey for a 3060 laptop, and you’re paying extra for the form-factor and premium build and features, as well as for the QHD screen. Nonetheless, the same kind of money can get you an RTX 3070 version of the Zephyrus M16, which is smaller and more powerful in GPU-loads and games. We’ll have a follow-up article comparing the two in the next few days.
The RTX 3070 version of the S17 is listed at $2799 MSRP for an i9 processor, but the same screen, SSD, and amount of RAM. This delivers ~25% extra performance in GPU loads and games, so is the better-balanced configuration available in this chassis.
The RTX 3080 model is listed at $3199, or more if you want the 4K screen. That’s also an i9, but this time around with 32 GB of memory in dual-channel, an option only available for these expensive 3080 configurations. Bummer!
Of course, the availability of the Zephyrus S17 GX703 series differs between regions, so make sure to
follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region at the time you’re reading the article.
Final thoughts – Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 review
This Zephyrus S17 is one of the better laptop designs out there and a premium product with a price to match.
Even if this RTX 3060 configuration is significantly more affordable than the other S17 options, it’s still a steep entry for an RTX 3060 notebook, paired with a 30-40% loss in GPU performance compared to the top-specced RTX 3080 model. Nonetheless, this is an excellent implementation of this kind of hardware, and it can tackle any demand that you might throw at it, from daily use to workloads and games.
It’s up to you to decide if a 3060 notebook is worth the kind of money Asus charges for this one. All I can say is that this matches the direct competition in the premium niche, such as the
Razer Blade 17 or the MSI GS76 Stealth, or the Alienware X17, and if you’re looking for better bang for your buck, this is not the segment you should shop in any way.
Still, what bothers me are the potential QC issues with the screen’s uniformity and coil whine I noticed during my time with several Zephyrus S17 samples, the fact that Advanced Optimus is still not working properly, and especially the RAM limitation on the 3060 and 3070 models, which still ship with 8 GB of soldered RAM in 2021.
Furthermore, I was expecting this lower-specced i7 + 3060 configurations to run cooler and even quieter than the i9 + 3080, but instead, it ran hotter internally and at similar noise levels, something I can’t properly understand and explain.
Hopefully, Asus manage to address their QC and release a BIOS to tackle with the extra heat and Advanced Optimus in the weeks to come, which would make this base-level ROG Zephyrus S17 a better-balanced product, despite its still premium price tag. At that point, this would be worth considering in its class, but for now, I’d rather give this a few more months to mature before jumping on it.
This wraps up our review of the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703HM series, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it in the comments section down below.
Our content is reader-supported. If you buy through some of the links on our site, we may earn a commission.