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

[irp posts=”15440″ name=”ASUS ZenFone AR review”]

 

Gaming

Will PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X games be more expensive?

Signs point to yes

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Image source: Sony

Throughout the entire console versus PC debate, console gamers always had one thing going for them: the considerably cheaper price of hardware. Whereas PC gamers pay through the nose for a modern gaming rig, PS4 and Xbox One gamers pay only a fraction of that price for a console. However, amidst the price of hardware, console games are much more expensive. Current AAA games usually sell for US$ 59.99 or thereabouts.

Now, with the release of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X imminent, everyone is waiting for the fate of their wallets. How much will the consoles retail for? How much will the games cost?

Currently, we already have an idea of how much the PlayStation 5 series will sell for, thanks to an accidental Amazon leak. If the leaks are true, the consoles won’t vary much from previous generations.

However, the price of PS5 games will likely bump up. As you might have heard, 2K Games finally announced the upcoming entry in the popular NBA 2K series, NBA 2K21. The new game will be the first one in the series to play on the next generation of consoles. As always, it comes in different packages, varying in in-game loot.

The standard edition (with Damian Lillard on the cover) will still retail for US$59.99 and will play on the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Stadia. However, the next-generation edition (with Zion Williamson) will retail for US$ 69.99 and will play exclusively on the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. Both Mamba Forever editions will cost US$ 99.99. For a more in-depth look at what the different packages include, check out our breakdown here.

Plagued as it is with microtransactions, the NBA 2K series can definitely obscure how much a game really costs. We wouldn’t put it past them to bump up a price for themselves. However, the regular edition historically hovers around the industry’s current standard. There is no reason to discredit NBA 2K21‘s price as a potential standard. That said, are we looking at the price of the next generation?

Right now, the most popular PS4 games are already pricey, often much more expensive than PC variants. With a potential price bump on the horizon, becoming a console gamer might be much more painful for a budget. Though the console itself is affordable, the price of each game makes next-generation gaming more difficult to follow after each big release.

SEE ALSO: Sony announces huge list of games for the PS5

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Gaming

Kobe is the cover of NBA 2K21 Mamba Forever Edition

For both current and next gen

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Give us a quick second as we wipe the tears off our faces. The third and final cover athlete for NBA 2K21 is Kobe Bryant. Instead of being called the Legend Edition, it will be aptly named Mamba Forever Edition.

The Mamba Forever Edition will be available in both current gen and next gen consoles. On the current gen cover, Kobe is shown wearing the No. 8 jersey displaying the peak of his athleticism. On the next gen cover, he’s seen wearing the No. 24 jersey in a scene during his final game where he scored 60 points.

2K says the covers are a celebration of the late athlete’s lifetime achievement and basketball excellence. He passed away in a tragic accident earlier in 2020 with his daughter Gigi Bryant and seven others.

Kobe was the cover athlete for NBA 2K10, the Legend Edition of NBA 2K17.

Damian Lillard and Zion Williamson were revealed as the covers for the current gen and next-gen standard editions respectively.

NBA 2K21 will feature MyTEAM Cross-Progression and a Shared VC Wallet within the same console family (PS4 to PS5, Xbox One to Xbox Series X).

MyTEAM Cross-Progression enables all MyTEAM Points, Tokens, cards and progress to be shared on both current and next-generation versions of NBA 2K21 in the same console family. Similarly, the Shared VC Wallet means any earned or purchased VC is accessible across both current and next-generation versions of NBA 2K21 in the same console family.

Pricing and availability

NBA 2K21 will be available on current-generation platforms on September 4, 2020 and is available for pre-order today. NBA 2K21 will be available for PhP 3,190 (US$59.99) on current-generation platforms.

It will also be available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X as a launch title this holiday. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X version of NBA 2K21 will be available for PhP 3,690 (US$ 69.99).

The NBA 2K21 Mamba Forever Edition will be available for PhP 5,390 (US$ 99.99) for both current and next-generation platforms.

It includes dual-access where purchasing Mamba Forever Edition on either current or next-generation platforms provides a copy of the standard edition game on the other generation at no additional cost, within the same console family.

A full breakdown of pre-order details is available at NBA 2K’s website.

NBA 2K will release additional announcements and news about NBA 2K21 including the soundtrack reveal, first looks at gameplay and features for both current and next-generation versions of NBA 2K21, 2K Day celebration and much more.

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Dating

Pokémon launched Pikachu-themed wedding rings, but there’s something nasty about them

How big is your love?

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As of late, The Pokémon Company has increased its reach to a lot of other industries outside of gaming, including lifestyle apps and wireless earbuds. Now, the ubiquitous brand has expanded to the most precious catch of them all: wedding rings.

Partnered with Japanese jewelry company Ginza Tanaka, The Pokémon Company has officially launched Pikachu-themed engagement rings and wedding bands. The list of products includes simple platinum and gold wedding bands that come in a PokéBall-style box. Couples can also get their rings engraved with their own personal customizations. (However, the company rightly suggests a variation of “I choose you, [insert name here].”)

Meanwhile, the engagement rings are a bit more ostentatious. One design is a simple silhouette of Pikachu’s face, but the face’s center holds a diamond. Another design has two Pikachu tails holding the diamond in place. Like the wedding bands, they can come in either gold or platinum.

Cute as they are, there’s something awfully weird about them, as The Verge points out. In particular, the ears of the Pikachu rings look particularly nasty. Call us skeptical, but we don’t think Pikachu had *those* for ears. And yes, while they are part of the marriage process, we don’t know if you’d want them wrapped around your finger forever.

However, if you’re not bothered by them and think they’re perfectly innocent and fluffy Pikachu ears, they retail for JPY 346,500 (approximately US$ 3,225). Meanwhile, the wedding bands range between JPY 115,550 (approximately US$ 1,076) to JPY 121,000 (approximately US$ 1,126). The collection also has a keepsake photo frame selling for JPY 13,200 (approximately US$ 123).

SEE ALSO: Pokémon Unite is the very first Pokémon MOBA game

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