Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX701) review

Refinement of a modern classic

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A lot of credit has to be given to ASUS for pushing gaming laptop designs forward. Back in 2017, the original ROG Zephyrus paved the way for a new category of high-powered laptops that didn’t weigh a ton.

Since then, we’ve seen different variations of the Zephyrus that either upped the power or modified the original look. That evolution eventually led to the Zephyrus S (GX701) I’m currently reviewing.

With the some of the latest components and refinements based on previous generations, this Zephyrus already seems like a winner in my book. The question is: Does it have enough oomph to compete against the laptop brands that have caught up?

It all starts with the design

Once again, it’s the overall makeup that makes the Zephyrus S stand out. Every design cue was placed not just to make the magnesium-alloy body look sleek, but to improve airflow and cut as many grams as possible.

For one, ASUS managed to cram a 17.3-inch screen within a body normally reserved for 15-inch laptops. On top of that, its height tops out at 18.7mm and weighs about 2.7kg. That’s larger than what we’re used to from the Zephyrus line, but this beats every other high-end machine with equal specs.

Back as well is the Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) which lifts the bottom panel for more air intake. It sounds similar to ASUS’ ErgoLift on its ZenBooks, but the implementation here is more performance-centric, and unfortunately, not comfortable on a lap.

However, AAS is still the key to better cooling while staying slim. It’s complemented by two 12V fans and five sets of heatpipes to get as much heat away from the high-powered components. The only tradeoff is the awkwardly placed keyboard and trackpad; the former sits really low with no palm rest while the latter takes getting used to in its rightmost spot.

What I loved was the placement of the volume roller to the upper-left of the keyboard. It makes adjusting the two 2.5W speakers so easy. Pressing the roller mutes them. Less vital, but greatly appreciated, is how far the power button is from everything — safe from accidental touches.

To the side, we’re treated to two USB-C ports (one of which is capable of DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery for charging), three USB-A, one HDMI 2.0, and a 3.5mm audio port. There’s no mention of Thunderbolt 3 which is a bummer at this price range.

The features we actually want

ASUS definitely went for the no-compromise approach when creating the Zephyrus S. On top of all the features mentioned above, the specs are a collection of the must-haves and great-to-haves in both gaming and content creation.

The screen in particular, while only 1080p in resolution, owns a refresh rate of 144Hz with a 3ms response time and NVIDIA’s G-Sync tech for smoother visuals. Even more interesting: the panel has a Pantone color certification for 100 percent sRGB coverage — ideal for creators who value color accuracy.

On the software side, Armoury Crate is a pleasantly comprehensive piece of software that allows you to monitor CPU and GPU frequencies, temperatures and voltages, and how much work the fans are putting in.

In addition, the program lets you change settings such as the RGB lighting of the keyboard and bundled mouse. But what makes the software so intuitive is that it can be accessed anytime by pressing the ROG button above the trackpad and monitored through a smartphone. I’ve always loathed non-stock Windows apps, but Armoury Crate is definitely an exception.

One more cool feature is the ability to charge the Zephyrus S using any PD-certified adapter or powerbank. Chances are you’ll always have its lightweight power supply on you, but for the few instances you don’t, this is a lifesaver considering how below-average the battery life is.

The one feature that’s missing is a built-in webcam. ASUS decided to leave it out in favor of slimmer bezels around the display. This might be a downer to some; at the same time, this opens the opportunity for folks to use an external webcam which would be far superior to the low-end cameras most laptops these days come with.

Performance you’d expect

It goes without saying that raw performance is what the Zephyrus S excels at most. From the Core i7-8750H and GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q to the 24GB of RAM and 1TB M.2 PCIe storage, there’s no shortage of power in this machine.

Since the panel is of the 144Hz kind, you really feel these specs push the laptop to what it’s truly capable of. I’ve used gaming notebooks with a 4K display stuck at 60Hz, and I never felt that their high-end components were maximized to their full potential.

Personally, I find the 1080p resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync support to be the best-possible combination. After all, I honestly can’t tell the difference going any higher in pixel count on a 17.3-inch monitor. This is the sweet spot, and the Zeph nails it.

Here are a few benchmark numbers:

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: 95fps (1080p, Highest preset)

Unigine Superposition: 4858 (1080p Extreme)

Cinebench R15: 112.19fps (OpenGL), 1176cb (CPU)

Truth be told, the results only speak for a small portion of the big picture. Having an 8th-gen Core i7 chip and RTX 2080 (even if it’s a slightly slower Max-Q variant) should instantly signal that AAA game are no problem for this setup.

Even though we’re seeing silicon manufacturers pushing out newer, faster chipsets than ever before, rest assured the configuration we have here will run through games for years to come. We’ve reached a point wherein the next generation of games will stop being so demanding on hardware and instead focus on optimizing for current-gen processors.

On the downside, the battery life is lackluster as usual. When not plugged in to a wall socket, I’m lucky to get 2.5 hours out of this thing with a balanced workload consisting of web browsing and Photoshop usage. It’s expected out of any gaming laptop at this point and should be anticipated by any potential buyer.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Even though gaming laptops are becoming increasingly common and more affordable in some cases, beasts like the Zephyrus S deserve the distinction of pushing the category to new heights. The model I reviewed here retails for PhP 199,995 or around US$ 3,835. It’s a heavy price to pay, but you’re getting top-notch hardware in return.

While this is certainly too much for mainstream users, creators and hardcore gamers will see the value in its top-notch components and attention to detail. ASUS has taken the Zephyrus line to yet another level, which is a major achievement considering how great the series had been to begin with.


The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is available in ROG Megamall and ROG Concept Stores in the Philippines.

Gaming

Tales of ARISE releases on Sept 9

Collector Edition also announced

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Tales of ARISE

The long-running Tales series (25 years now!) has a new title coming! Tales of ARISE will be released in Southeast Asia on September 9, 2021.

Here’s the release date trailer to get you hyped.

What is Tales of ARISE?

The game will follow the story of Rena — the star that has been ruling the Dahna planet with an iron fist for the past 300 years. Renans have been depleting Dahna of its natural resources, enslaving most of the planet’s population in order to do so.

This tale follows the fight to free Dahnans of their fate and will be experienced through the eyes of Alphen, an iron-masked Dahnan fighting to free his people, and Shionne, a girl from Rena, who’s on the run from her countrymen. They will be joined through their journey by characters like Rinwell and Law that will help them in their fight for freedom.

Southeast Asia Game Editions

Tales of ARISE

All pre-orders and Day-1 retail package version will receive a new costume for Alphen and Shionne, as well as outfits accessories and new cooking recipes and ingredients.

  • Tales of Arise retail package version is only available for the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 in Southeast Asia.
  • The package version includes pre-order digital bonus only for the first production. The number of initial production is limited and will end as soon as it runs out.

Digital Platforms

On Digital platforms, a Deluxe and an Ultimate edition will be available. The Deluxe edition will have the following items:

  • Premium Item Pack, containing gold, cooking items and Boosts
  • Premium Costume Pack, including 8 full costumes and 6 accessories
  • Premium Travel Pack, allowing for better cooking and crafting abilities as well as discounts in shops

The Ultimate Edition will have all the content from the Deluxe Edition as well as new costumes for the characters including special costumes in collaboration with other BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment games.

Tales of ARISE

A physical Collector Edition will be available and include the same content as the Ultimate Edition, along with an exclusive figurine, a Steelbook, an Artbook and the game’s Soundtrack. This edition can be purchased at participating retailers in Southeast Asia.

A special Hootle Edition will be available exclusively and in limited quantities on the BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Asia store at a later date. This edition will include, in addition to the base game, a metal case, an Artbook, the Soundtrack, a 15 cm Hootle plush along with 4 accessories, Hootle DLC for the game as well as stickers and 3 art prints.

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Gaming

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review

Playable Anime

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NieR Replicant

An earnest protagonist, a “tsundere” who’s also kind of there for fan service, an almost fourth-wall breaking character, and a world dealing with an underlying crisis; NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139 (which we’ll refer to as NieR Replicant henceforth) has all the elements of a wonderful anime. Except, it’s a game — one that goes out of its way to offer multiple types of play.

After getting through a single playthrough of NieR Replicant, I found that most of the things I said I liked in my first impressions (music, gameplay, combat, dialogue) were the ones that will endear me to the game even further.

Everything for your sister

As the protagonist, you play the role of a brother who will do just about anything and everything for your sister. The game starts off with you looking for a way to cure the mysterious illness that’s befallen your sister.

This is the main driving force of the main character. All his actions in the main storyline are all in the service of doing what’s best for his sister.

A memorable cast

Along the way you meet the rest of the main cast. This includes a magical, talking, floating book named Grimoir Weiss who serves as both a helpful ally and a backseat protagonist who never fails to point out the obvious in every situation in a way that almost feels like it’s being directed at the player.

You’ll also build a certain level of kinship with people in your town as well as key characters in every main area of the game. This includes the two other members of your party: Kaine and Emil — both of which also have interesting backstories which I will not spoil here. Just know that all these relationships and it resonates with you, the player, will determine much of what you’ll feel about the game’s story.

NieR Replicant

“Fan Service” Kaine

Dealing with loss

One thing that you will constantly encounter in the game is the feeling of dealing with loss. It already feels heavy on its own, but if I may step back a bit. Having to deal with loss in real life recently and feeling the collective grief of people in my circle also having to deal with the same just amplifies the general feeling of hopelessness and emptiness of experiencing loss.

This feeling, however prevalent in the game, is perfectly balanced by the injection of humor from Grimoir Weiss and the happy memories you have with the ones you’ve lost. Memories also play a part in key points of the story.

Multi-faceted gameplay 

Shifting the tone a little bit, the overall gameplay of NieR Replicant will keep you on your toes.

It’s not just a mindless hack and slash game. There are sections where it’ll turn into a 2D platformer with some sprinkles of puzzle solving.

The level designs are fantastic. One thing that stood out to me is how the Square Enix and Toylogic very intentionally frames certain levels. Since this is, after all, a sort of remake of game that was first released in 2010, it is free from the burden of giving the player full camera control. This results in beautifully framed scenes as you play.

There’s one particular area that reminds me of the camera work on the original Resident Evil games on the PlayStation One.

Later on in the game, you’ll enter a deeper portion of that area and it will give you an entire section of the game that looks and plays like Diablo II. 

These areas are all perfectly placed in different sections of the game that certainly adds to the overall pacing. It can feel draggy, especially when you’re doing side quests, but having levels and areas like this make it all better. Oh and yeah, take some time to do side quests, it’ll help with getting gold (the game’s currency), some useful items, and immerse you further in the game’s world.

Here’s a quick look at the combat in the early part of the game.

The music is just… *chef’s kiss

I’ve already talked about this at length in my first impressions. But even then, it would be a disservice to not mention it here again. The music in this game is just my cup of tea.

It’s the kind of music that really transports you into the game world. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being whisked away to a different reality, the music in this game is what you would imagine to be playing.

It perfectly evokes the proper mood in every area of the game. The main village gives off this “going on an epic adventure” vibe, the area filled with robots sound robotic, and the aforementioned Resident Evil-like area fills you with horror. You can even say it almost foreshadows the fate of some levels and locations. That’s how good the music in this game is.

You can listen to the 2010 versions of the music here. Bear in mind that most of these were re-done/re-recorded for NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139.

Should you play NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… ?

Anyone who’s into narrative-driven games should give NieR Replicant a whirl. That’s also especially true if you’re an anime fan. It will feel familiar because of certain tropes, some fan service, and a time skip.

It’s a fantastic entry point into the whole NieR franchise. It will get you curious about the NieR world at large and will certainly make you want to explore or replay the 2017 hit game NieR:Automata. But of course, not before you give NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… all the playthroughs it deserves.

NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is available April 23 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.

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Sony says it won’t shut down PS3, Vita stores

It admits shut-down was the wrong decision

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Sony PS3
Photo by Nikita Kostrykin on Unsplash

At the end of March, Sony had announced that it’d be shutting down PS3, Vita, and PSP game stores. This meant that users wouldn’t be able to purchase new games and media content through those consoles. It has decided to backtrack on its decision now.

For the foreseeable future, Sony PlayStation will continue to support the purchase of classic games on PS3 and PS Vita. The PSP will still retire on July 2, 2021.

“It’s clear we made the wrong decision here,” Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan wrote on the PlayStation Blog. He sighted commerce support challenges as a leading cause behind the decision to shutter the store. Sony also intended to focus on new-gen products like the PlayStation 4 and 5.

Though the decision received widespread criticism, and the community was fuming. Many games use PlayStation Now to play PlayStation 3 or Vita compatible titles on the newer consoles. Closing down the online store would’ve dealt a huge blow to existing users.

“We see now that many of you are incredibly passionate about being able to continue purchasing classic games on PS3 and PS Vita for the foreseeable future, so I’m glad we were able to find a solution to continue operations,” Ryan added.

Before the company’s reversal, VGC reported that more than 2,000 digital-only games were at risk of being lost forever. The PSP won’t be getting a life extension, and online services will be closing down as planned.

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