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

Trials of Mana now available on mobile

Mobile gamers might want to try this!

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Since its release in 1995, the Trials of Mana has come a long way. From the 16-bit era to the mobile gaming platform, this game is rich in history spanning 26 years. Now, the 3D remake of the JRPG classic Trials of Mana is now available on mobile.

The mobile version of the game includes many features, including new touch controls,  adjustable graphics settings and cloud save capabilities. Players can also receive two pieces of starting gear to help jumpstart their quest. The starting items are the Rabite Adornment and Silktail Adornment. 

Originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 3 in 1995, Trials of Mana is a remake of the third entry in the classic Mana series. The game features a selectable main cast  with upgradable classes and over 300 different abilities to learn as they discover a world of secrets and mysteries. The series’ action battle system will put players to the test as they encounter enemies. The game was received well by its release on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam platforms.

Price and Availability

Trials of Mana is available on iOS and Android devices via the App Store or Google Play Store. The game is priced at US$ 23.99. 

SEE ALSO: Trials of Mana review: A nice glow up

 

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Gaming

Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy is coming to Genshin Impact

Will be available for all players… eventually

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Aloy

Turns out the PlayStation and Genshin Impact collaboration goes beyond PlayStation 5 specific updates. Aloy from the PlayStation game Horizon Zero Dawn will be a playable character on Genshin Impact.

Aloy — a five-star character — will be playable for PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 players via in-game mail when Version 2.1 drops. The character can then be played on any platform thanks to the cross-save feature after being claimed from the PS5 or PS4.

Not a PlayStation player? Fret not. Aloy, will arrive to all players who have reached Adventure Rank 20 on Version 2.2. Her weapon, unfortunately, is a PlayStation exclusive.

Version 2.1 and Version 2.2 will also bring other updates that MiHoyo promised to release in detail shortly. Version 2.1 is coming on October 13, 2021 while version 2.2 will arrive on November 24, 2021. Could these also be clues on when the Horizon Zero Dawn sequel will release? We’ll have to wait and see.

Genshin Impact is a free-to-play open-world action RPG that brings players to the world of Teyvat. The player takes on the role of the mysterious “Traveler,” who sets off on a journey to discover the fate of their lost sibling.

Horizon Zero Dawn was a PlayStation exclusive game that launched in 2017. It received plenty of critical and commercial success. Its sequel — Horizon Forbidden West — is set to arrive in late 2021.

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Accessories

Steelseries unveils new Prime lineup of gaming peripherals

Get your head, and hands, in the game

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Steelseries Prime

Steelseries has a knack for creating some of the best peripherals in Esports. This time around, they’re looking to expand their growing library of Esports peripherals with some “pro” help. After collaborating with over 100 competitive professional players, the company unveils its new Steelseries Prime lineup of gaming peripherals.

Within the Prime lineup, Steelseries introduces three new gaming mice: the Steelseries Prime, Steelseries Prime+, and Steelseries Prime Wireless. For the company, these three gaming mice bring their own set of features and customization depending on the user’s style of play. Although, all three mice come with a TrueMove sensor that provides proper tracking performance fit for competition.

Along with these, Steelseries also introduces the Steelseries Arctis Prime gaming headset. Built on the heritage of the Arctis franchise, this headset provides great sound quality in a comfortable and lightweight package. Also, the Arctis Prime comes with new noise-isolating ear cushions to eliminate background noise during playback.

The Steelseries Prime lineup is currently available in Steelseries’ official stores on Shopee and Lazada and select authorized dealers. For the SRPs, the gaming mice are priced at SG$ 119 (Prime Gaming Mouse), SG$ 149 (Prime+ Gaming Mouse), and SG$ 299 (Prime Wireless Gaming Mouse). Meanwhile, the Steelseries Arctis Pro retails for SG$ 179.

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