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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Desktop power in an ultraportable laptop
Great keyboard and trackpad
Keyboard font isn’t everyone’s style
The Asus Zephyrus G14 is a laptop with few compromises at an attractive price point. It’s by no means cheap, and the lack of a built-in webcam is disappointing, but considering its power and form factor it’s an absolute bargain.
The dream of a no-compromise laptop has been only that for decades. Power, portability, and an affordable price point are a trifecta that has not really existed until now. The Asus Zephyrus G14 is, at least on paper, an exceptional machine by any definition. I put this machine through its paces to find out whether or not this Windows laptop is too good to be true.
The Asus Zephyrus G14 is remarkably restrained as gaming products go, aside from the sci-fi keyboard font and a few conspicuous design elements. There’s no RGB or glowing red LEDs, though if you opt for the more expensive model the rear of the screen features a programmable LED dot display. It’s thin and light and incredibly portable given the power packed inside. Its 14-inch size is an excellent middle ground between portability and ease of use.
The Zephyrus G14 features a generous array of ports for a laptop of this form factor. You get two USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, and two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C ports, one of which has support for DisplayPort 1.4 with power delivery. There’s an HDMI 2.0b port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a Kensington lock. However, there’s no built-in SD card reader, which may be inconvenient for photographers looking to use this laptop as an editing rig.
The keyboard features the aforementioned sci-fi font, which I found to be occasionally confusing, but not overly annoying, and the geeky gamer in me secretly loves the style. The keyboard feels spacious, and the white backlit keys are quiet with excellent feedback for fast and accurate typing. I was able to write this review on the G14 without issue, and the trackpad was remarkably usable. I still prefer the keyboard and trackpad of my Dell XPS 15, but that’s a high bar to set, and the G14 is easily the second-best Windows laptop I’ve used for typing and navigation.
It’s thin and light and incredibly portable given the power packed inside it.
The keyboard also features a function bar with various shortcuts, as well as dedicated volume keys, a microphone mute button, and a button for opening up Asus Armoury Crate to access power management and other options. I found myself using this surprisingly often to fine-tune the computer for various tasks. I do wish that there was a dedicated mute button beside the F1 key, but aside from this I really dig the keyboard layout.
A great feature of the Zephyrus G14 is the inclusion of a fingerprint reader that’s built into the power button. I very much prefer a fingerprint reader for logging into a computer or other device, and combining it with the power button is a clever upgrade. On the downside, I didn’t find the fingerprint reader to be entirely reliable, and about 20% of the time I found myself having to use my PIN to log in.
It’s worth noting that the G14 lacks a built-in webcam, which may be a dealbreaker for some who need to use Zoom or streaming services like Twitch. However, there are advantages to this exclusion in terms of privacy. A lack of a webcam negates the security risk inherent in such devices.
Starting up the Zephyrus G14, I was greeted by the typical Windows 10 installation process which was as streamlined and straightforward as usual. I took extra time to fine-tune my privacy settings here, as Windows tends to be pretty invasive in terms of privacy by default. Next, it was necessary to run a number of updates to get everything running at 100%. Every component from the keyboard to the screen to the operating system needed an update, and this process took some time.
With the Zephyrus G14, you have the option of either a 1080p 120-hertz display or a 4K 60-hertz display. I tested the 1080p model, and it’s definitely the one I would recommend for most people. The 4K version will technically be superior for color accuracy and resolution, but on a 14-inch display 1080p looks crisp and clear, and I found that this panel renders colors with remarkable accuracy and clarity. It looks great, and the 120-hertz refresh rate is awesome. It’s primarily useful for games, but even if you’re browsing the web or editing photos, it has a noticeable positive impact on the experience of using the laptop.
It’s not the brightest display I’ve ever used, but it’s good enough to use in difficult outdoor conditions and has excellent viewing angles. The finish of the display is more matte than gloss, which helps minimize reflections. My only gripe would be the somewhat chunky bezels. I can’t help but wish that the 16:9 display was another inch taller to give more room for productivity. However, 16:9 is ideal for games and movies, so I don’t mind too much.
It’s hard to believe that such a thin laptop is capable of hiding a Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card paired with 16GB of RAM and an AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS processor. This thing is a little monster with both serious graphics and processing horsepower and lightning-fast response times thanks to its 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe solid state drive. It boots up in seconds and is remarkably fast at any given task.
In my GFXBench tests it was able to achieve a 120fps average framerate in the Aztec Ruins DirectX 12 High Tier 1440p test. This performance was reflected in the variety of demanding video games I played on the Zephyrus G14. World of Tanks and Dota 2 were easily able to deliver well over 120fps at max settings, as was Star Wars: Squadrons. Doom: Eternal also ran smoothly at ultra-nightmare graphics settings. This is a laptop capable of handling pretty much anything you can throw at it.
It’s also worth mentioning here how the G14 handles all the heat that its amped-up components produce. It’s cooled through a combination of a complex dual fan system and clever body design. The back of the laptop is perforated with large vent grilles, as are the side and rear of the keyboard. The hinge mechanism of the screen levers up the device so that there is an air gap beneath it, allowing the cooling system to function as efficiently as possible. This also has the added benefit of raising the keyboard to a comfortable angle for typing.
Of course, it gets kind of loud when you crank everything to the max, but it’s the sound of a large quantity of air being shoved out of the way quickly and isn’t an unpleasant noise.
The 120-hertz refresh rate is primarily useful for games, but even if you’re browsing the web or editing photos, it has a noticeable positive impact on the experience of using the laptop.
In my PCMark 10 Work 2.0 test the Zephyrus G14 achieved an impressive score of 5292. In practice, the G14 is as awesome a tool for productivity and creative work as it is for gaming. The fast processor, SSD, and large quantity of RAM make everything from web browsing to editing spreadsheets feel snappy and responsive. Its powerful GPU makes it a competent tool for photographers, videographers, and other creative types on the go.
Built-in speakers rarely stand out for their stellar performance, but those in the Zephyrus G14 surprised me with their high-quality output. My go-to audio track for testing speakers is 2Cellos Thunderstruck, and the G14 did a remarkable job of reproducing accurate highs and mids with this track. Bass performance was merely OK - acceptable, but not particularly great. Overall, whether playing games, watching movies, or listening to music, the G14 is quite capable of standing on its own without extra speakers or headphones. Part of this audio excellence is thanks to the integration of Dolby Atmos technology, which also benefits audio performance when listening through connected devices in addition to the built-in speakers.
The Zephyrus G14 features Wi-Fi 6 technology capable of keeping up with even the fastest Wi-Fi network. I never experienced issues with connectivity or network speed while using it, and Bluetooth 5.0 support is a welcome feature.
Surprisingly for such a powerful laptop, the G14 is power efficient in addition to being powerful. Asus advertises up to 10.7 hours of battery life on a single charge, and this claim seems reasonably accurate so long as you aren’t doing any power-intensive tasks like gaming. With moderate usage, the G14 got me through a day of work without recharging. It also supports USB Type-C charging, which means it can be charged from a compatible USB battery bank, and conversely, the G14 can be used to quickly charge cell phones or other compatible devices.
The Zephyrus G14 runs Windows 10, and though it packs in a few pieces of Asus software, they aren’t overly intrusive and annoying. Asus Armoury Crate has a physical button dedicated to it on the keyboard and is actually quite useful with its monitoring and fine-tuning capabilities, and My Asus offers helpful troubleshooting and maintenance features. AMD Radeon Settings Lite was a little redundant, but also potentially useful. Dolby Access also comes preinstalled and provides various options for audio customization. In the end, while this included software might technically be bloatware, it's useful and inoffensive.
Given its performance and portability, the Zephyrus G14 delivers remarkable value despite a somewhat premium $1500 price tag. That’s certainly a lot of money, but not so much for a gaming laptop with so few significant compromises. At this price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bargain.
For a little bit more money the Razer Blade 15 offers a higher-end experience. It features a 9th generation core i7 processor, though the base model packs a less powerful Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti graphics card. It also features a 4K, 60-hertz, 15-inch display, and an RGB backlit keyboard. It’s certainly an attractive alternative, though I’d give the edge to the Asus, it being slightly cheaper, more portable, and sporting a more powerful GPU with a higher refresh rate display.
A value-packed gaming laptop that’s as portable as it is powerful.
The Asus Zephyrus G14 is nothing less than the fulfillment of the dream of a laptop that doesn’t come with serious compromises or a ludicrous price tag. It’s not cheap, but this machine is worth every penny. It’s a portable powerhouse for gamers and creators, ideal both for work and for play.
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