Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Review: So thin, so powerful

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How thin can a high-end gaming laptop get? Looking at the ROG Zephyrus of ASUS, we have a pretty solid answer.

The Zephyrus (GX501) is based on NVIDIA’s recently introduced Max-Q design, which cuts down the size of graphics chips in favor of thinner notebooks without compromising too much power. But wait — haven’t manufacturers been doing this for a while already?


Yes and no. While brands have been striving for that oh-so-slim gaming laptop for ages, it’s only now with NVIDIA’s help that it’s possible to fit a top-of-the-line GeForce GTX 1080 GPU into a frame that’s less than 18mm thick.

In this case, the 15.6-inch Zephyrus has that GTX 1080 within an approximately 17mm, 2.25kg chassis. Here’s how it fares.

It definitely looks and feels like a regular laptop

This is one of the few gaming laptops I’d actually allow on top of my lap. My only qualm is in the way the cooling system was built.

ASUS uses this technology called the Active Aerodynamic System, which lifts the rear end of the body when you open the lid for greater air distribution.

While I can attest to the efficiency of the cooling system — not once did it burn my legs or howl like a large washing machine — the design means the bottom plate is somewhat flimsy unless it’s placed on a flat surface.

But that’s fine, since the Zephyrus isn’t designed for traveling writers without a stable workplace; gamers who want to settle down in a LAN party or hotel room will appreciate this form factor.

The hands-on experience may be weird at first

Just look at it: By shoving all the internal components to the upper half, the keyboard had to be pushed to the bottom with the touchpad awkwardly placed to the right.

The abrupt cutoff of the keyboard’s bottom edge, shallowness of the keys themselves, and vertical trackpad have a really steep learning curve. One week of everyday use wasn’t enough to master this setup, and that may be a bad thing.

You must do several practice runs on Overwatch or your preferred MOBA before jumping into competitive play. ASUS bundles a rubber palm rest (as pictured above) to help ease you into the compromised part of the design, but it’s purely for table-top use since it doesn’t attach to the unit itself.

There’s some trackpad magic

By pressing the button pointed at above, you can transform the trackpad into a fully functional numpad.

If you use the bundled optical mouse — which I found to be quite delightful to use, by the way — you’re better off just ignoring the trackpad altogether in favor of this traditional keyboard-numpad-mouse-palm rest setup.

Actually, this should be the only setup you should consider, especially if you take gaming seriously. Just be sure to take the palm rest and mouse with you, and never leave them behind by accident, which happened to me a couple of times.

Comes with performance that matches a much bulkier PC

I feel like it’s justified to spend half of this review on the design alone, since this is what the Max-Q philosophy stands for, but this wouldn’t be a gaming article without talking about performance.

There’s no getting around it; the Zephyrus ticks every box for a gaming laptop. The variant we reviewed has the following: An Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, 24GB of memory, 1TB SSD storage, and of course, a full-fledged GTX 1080 — none of that “mobile version” terminology attached to it.

It’s a given this machine can run through the latest games. Titles like Rise of the Tomb Raider and the latest DOOM can be maxed out on the laptop’s native 1080p resolution with frame rates consistently exceeding 60fps.

To be specific, I got an average of 98.14fps and 58.2fps on the benchmark tests of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided respectively on Ultra settings and DirectX 12. The maximum temperatures reached during these stress tests were 71 degrees Celsius for the CPU and 70 degrees for the GPU.

More importantly, the Zephyrus we tested has NVIDIA’s G-Sync enabled on the LED-backlit panel to prevent unwanted tearing and stuttering during fast-paced games.

Coupled with the 120Hz refresh rate, this is a godsend for games like CS:GO and Overwatch. Not once did I feel like the Zephyrus held me back during intense gaming with lots of action going on.

Here are closer looks at the finer details

The ROG button opens up ASUS’ own command center for tweaking performance settings and the keyboard’s colors

Yes, the left shift key is narrow, really narrow. Every other key is well sized, especially the space bar.

The stereo speakers face upwards and are loud, but not deep in bass. Headphones during gaming are a must.

Two full-sized USB 3.0 ports and a Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C port are found on the right side.

The left side contains two more USB 3.0 ports, a 3.5mm audio port, HDMI, and power port.

Those who are into first-person shooters may choose to highlight the WASD keys like this.

What else is there to know?

With the exception of the somewhat uncomfortable keyboard-trackpad combo and flimsy bottom plate, the Zephyrus seems like it’s about to reach the finish line without any deal-breakers. But wait — I found something!

No matter how many optimization tricks I tried or useless software I uninstalled, I couldn’t for the life of me get this thing to last more than two hours on a single charge.

It turns out that cramming so much high-powered hardware in such a slim profile leads to atrocious battery life. I was never confident enough to unplug the Zephyrus from a wall socket to work or game on the move for more than an hour.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

That’s a tough question. As innovative and well-rounded as the Zephyrus is, its target market is as slim as the laptop itself.

With a starting price of $2,700, it’s way more expensive than building an equally capable desktop PC rig of your own, but it isn’t crazy pricey like some of the behemoths we’ve covered recently.

Our particular model was provided by ASUS Philippines, and it costs slightly more at PhP 179,995 (roughly US$ 3,550) since it has the best-possible configuration.

I often found myself taking a break in between work and gaming sessions to reflect on how far we’ve come since the impractical “mobile” PCs of the past. Those massive machines still exist, but they’re no longer the standard by which all gaming laptops must follow.

At the same time, there are drawbacks to slimming down a computing monster: The chassis loses its sturdy build, the keyboard and trackpad are relegated to awkward spots, and most of all, battery life takes a dive.

I’d say those are weaknesses you can ignore; keep the Zephyrus on a desk, insert the bundled mouse and wrist rest, and stay plugged in. Have to move to a new location? You can easily slide everything into a medium-sized backpack and bring them with you.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ZenFone AR review

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Gaming

Epic Games just destroyed Fortnite with a literal black hole

There’s an in-game reason, though (maybe)

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Are you currently wondering if (and why) Fortnite is down? If you’re trying to play the world’s biggest battle royale game, you’ll drop in on a strange sight — a black hole. To answer your first question, the game is currently down. However, Fortnite’s curious status is not because of server maintenance or a glitch. Instead, Epic Games has purposely shut its most profitable game down for the day.

Hours ago, Fortnite ended its tenth competitive season. Like most online multiplayer games today, Fortnite creates months-long periods — called Seasons — wherein gamers can rank up and subsequently gain prizes at the end of the period. However, unlike most games, Fortnite holds in-game events that significantly change the gameplay experience. For example, one of the earliest in-game events was a meteor that destroyed part of Fortnite’s map.


That said, Fortnite’s tenth season ended in a literal black hole that sucked up the entire map. Currently, the game will not start in the same lobby or map. Instead, the game only drops gamers into a front-seat view of the black hole. Fortnite is down. (Epic Games has also shut down the game’s official channels.)

For what it’s worth, the game is still churning out “some” content for viewers. Throughout its existence, the black hole has been broadcasting strange numbers for people patient enough to watch. The first set of numbers — 11, 146, 15, 62 — led viewers to a beach full of crabs when put into Google Maps. It’s a direct reference to crab raves, a meme popularized by the game’s popular Twitch streamers. Since then, the black hole released more numbers — 87, 14, 106, 2, 150. Currently, the new set doesn’t mean anything.

Further, gamers can also input the infamous Konami Code — Up, Up, Down, Down, B/O, A/X, Start/Enter — to access a Galaga minigame featuring a pizza and enemy burgers.

For now, Fortnite fans are stuck with this until Epic Games releases a more definitive conclusion. Most likely, the black hole will usher in a new era for the popular game. This might include an entirely new map or new gameplay elements.

Regardless, Fornite’s black hole is a huge gamble on Epic Games’ part. The developer has purposely shut down its biggest revenue stream for an event. It’s currently unheard of for an industry that values maximum efficiency.

SEE ALSO: Sony finally opens cross-play for Fortnite for the PS4

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Enterprise

Blizzard in deep trouble for supporting China

Update: Blizzard eases sanctions against Blitzchung

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Image source: Overwatch

The American corporate world is in a state of crisis caused by the tension between China and America. In the middle of this heightened Sino-American corporate war, Hong Kong lies in the middle, eagerly awaiting its democratic victory against Chinese authoritarianism. Because of the immensity of the geopolitical issue, individuals have inevitably expressed their opinions on the matter through public avenues.

Recently, individual opinions are getting in the way of corporate profits, especially for the companies that these individuals represent. From slaps on the wrist to outlandish punitive measures, American companies are putting a clamp on anti-China sentiments. The US is discovering where their favorite companies’ loyalties really lie — with the American people or with the Chinese government.


Blizzard: too cool for Hong Kong

Among these controversial companies, Blizzard Entertainment is fueling a significant portion of the dispute. Last weekend, the company held a Hearthstone tournament in Taiwan. The winner, Blitzchung (real name: Chung Ng Wai), expressed pro-HK opinions during his victory speech: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age.”

Days later, Blizzard Entertainment issued steep punishments against Blitzchung: stripping him of his prize money and banning him from competitive play for a year. The company has also fired the two broadcasters involved in the interview. Blizzard has deleted the official interview from their accounts.

“I don’t regret saying that stuff. And even now, I don’t regret it at all.” In defense of his actions, Blitzchung has expressed the necessity of his opinions. “I shouldn’t be scared. I hope my act can inspire other gamers like me, to continue to support the movement in Hong Kong,” he told AFP.

According to Blizzard, Blitzchung’s voiced opinion “offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [Blizzard’s] images,” warranting the fine and the ban. Curiously, the company did not say if the ban results from any Chinese intervention.

#BoycottBlizzard

Since then, Blizzard’s actions have sparked global outrage, accusing the company of political favoritism rather than supporting its customers or representatives. Many individual personalities have boycotted the company’s products including the highly popular MMORPG World of Warcraft and the competitive shooter Overwatch.

Some Overwatch players have even started using the game’s Chinese character, Mei, as a pro-HK icon. In the game, Mei — and the other characters — are largely apolitical regarding real-world politics. The game is set in a futuristic world with anthropomorphic gorillas and conscious robots. In creating a pro-HK icon, players hope to cause a larger boycott of Blizzard’s products.

Notably, Blizzard’s employees have also expressed dismay over their company’s actions. After the incident, several employees have walked out of their offices in protest. Also, an employee has supposedly taped over Blizzard’s forward-thing motto displayed on the company’s campus: “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters.”

The global outrage has already earned the attention of American lawmakers. Floridian Senator Marco Rubio has tweeted his support against Blizzard. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally,” he said.

Another senator, Ron Wyden from Oregon, has expressed the same sentiments. “Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck,” he said.

Meanwhile, rivaling game companies have shown support for Blitzchung. Gods Unchained, a card game similar to Hearthstone, has promised to pay the tournament winner the full winnings stripped by Blizzard. Fortnite’s Epic Games has proclaimed that it will never penalize players for expressing their right to free speech.

Companies for China

Besides Blizzard, the NBA is also embroiled in a similar controversy. China has recently blacklisted the Houston Rockets because of a tweet from general manager Daryl Morey. Apple is also in trouble for supporting a pro-HK app and censoring the Taiwanese flag.

Slowly, the world is unraveling the curtain draping over the biggest companies today. Underneath, people are discovering a cruel truth: the persistence of money versus integral values.

Update [10/11/19]: At the end of the day on Friday (US time), Blizzard issued a statement in response to the recent controversies. In the lengthy post, the company has decided to ease up on the penalties issued to both Blitzchung and the shoutcasters. For one, Blitzchung will finally receive his full winnings. Further, Blizzard has reduced the bans to only six months.

Explaining their side, Blizzard has reiterated that the decision was made without Chinese intervention. According to the statement, Blizzard acted to ensure the tournament’s status as an inclusive environment for all gamers.

SEE ALSO: Blizzard is taking their other titles to your mobile

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Gaming

PlayStation 5 will launch on Holiday 2020

Featuring a new controller

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The next generation console PlayStation 5 will launch on Holiday 2020.

Sony PlayStation published a statement today announcing the time of the launch. Another major announcement is that it will come with a new controller – one that has haptic technology and adaptive triggers.


The haptic feedback will replace the “rumble” tech found in earlier versions of the the DualShock controller. PlayStation says haptic should provide a broader range of feedback. This means a different feeling when you crash a race car to the wall, tackle on the football field, or even ” sense for a variety of textures when running through fields of grass or plodding through mud.”

There’s also the new adaptive triggers which Sony says they incorporated into the L2 and R2 trigger buttons. The new tech will allow developers to “program the resistance of the triggers.” This means having a tactile sensation depending on the action you’re executing.

Game creators have already been given and early version of the new controller so they can incorporate it in upcoming titles.

SEE MORE: PlayStation 5: Everything we know so far

 

 

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