The world of notebooks is a lawless wasteland especially if you don’t know what to look for. Though the market offers an endless variety of configurations tailored to your needs, how do you know if you’re paying the best price for a new daily driver? For example, is US$ 999 a good price for a notebook with an Intel Core i9 processor?
Last month, Infinix launched the Zero Book Ultra, a new notebook that isn’t shy about packing some power beneath its lithe frame. As you’ve probably gathered, the laptop sports quite an eyebrow-raising chipset and an attractive price tag. Let’s find out if an impressive spec sheet translates well to a final product.
A familiar but welcome design
At first glance, the Zero Book Ultra’s head will turn heads but not for the reasons a new laptop might have. There’s no beating around the bush for this one. It looks like a MacBook Pro, down to the two speakers at each end of the keyboard.
Separating it from Apple’s fare, the notebook’s back panel has an illuminated Zero logo and a subtle crisscross design spread throughout. Also, right where Apple puts the “MacBook Pro” text, the Zero Book Ultra has an Infinix logo right below the screen.
For heft, the notebook doesn’t have a lot of weight to it. I carried it in my backpack for a day, and it wasn’t a pain at all. It was also pleasant sitting on my lap.
A screen that Apple can be jealous of
The Zero Book Ultra’s similarities with a MacBook go beyond the chassis. As it puts out a barrage of movies, the notebook’s screen reminds me of Apple’s Retina displays. Armed with a 15.6-inch FHD IPS display, it can reproduce colors accurately, brightly, and in dazzling fashion, especially with up to 400nits of brightness. Naturally, it’s a step behind Apple; however, for what you’re paying for, it is a remarkable beast.
As an entertainment console, the Zero Book Ultra is a joy to watch movies with. Coupled with how light the entire device is, it’s so easy to whip it out during a flight or in bed to watch a few episodes or a film before landing or going to bed. Also, with a 178-degree viewing angle and capable speakers, it was a treat for watching with others.
Except for time when the sun is directly behind me, the notebook’s display worked well on sunny days. The brightness compensated enough for the shiny screen’s reflections.
Power built for the everyday user
For a lithe laptop, the Zero Book Ultra is deceptively powerful. Armed with an Intel Core i9-12900 and 32GB of RAM, the notebook packs a wallop. It’s not the top of the line, but it’s impressive, nonetheless. It can easily handle everyday use, including a session which simultaneously runs a word processor, Photoshop, and a movie in the background. Except for the switch to battery saver mode, the system barely hiccupped. It also comes with 1TB of SSD storage, a big plus for power users.
However, amid how impressive the processor is, the notebook might not be the best at unlocking the processor’s potential. Instead of a Radeon or a GeForce, it has Intel’s integrated Iris Xe GPU. Naturally, an integrated chip isn’t the best thing to pair with a powerful processor. At the very least, the Iris Xe in in Intel’s upper tier of integrated graphics.
Though you might not be able to play the new Call of Duty at a competitive pace, the combination is enough to play less demanding titles. Games which don’t need as much GPU power, such as Super Animal Royale and Hollow Knight, run well on the laptop without any performance boosters.
If you’re in it for some light gaming, attaching an external keyboard and mouse might help a lot. Though the notebook has a chiclet keyboard inspired by Apple, it isn’t as tactile as I would have hoped. With a 75 percent keyboard, it does take some getting used to, if you’re not familiar with the layout. Plus, while it’s responsive most of the time, the trackpad does skip every now and then, especially during battery saver.
If you want more out of the machine, the notebook comes with an Overboost mode, toggled with an external switch. While it’s on, it ramps up performance to 54W. The Zero Book Ultra played Overwatch 2 on high settings without problem. Unfortunately, enabling the feature puts a lot of strain on the battery. Even when plugged, Overboost mode sucked out more battery than the charger could provide. On the bright side, the ICE STORM 2.0 cooling system saved the laptop from heating up to unbearable levels.
A variable battery
Though the laptop performed well under a variety of circumstances, the battery remained a constant problem. With a 70Wh battery, the Zero Book Ultra leans more towards the lighter side of the spectrum. Under regular use, it can eke out six hours of battery life on a full charge. Battery saver only partially helped, squeezing out an extra hour before shutting down.
However, things shake up once more intensive tasks are started. For example, a light gaming session lasting half an hour sapped 20 percent of the battery. (For reference, this was tested with Super Animal Royale, a 2D battle royale with light requirements.) Meanwhile, a 2-hour Overwatch 2 Overboosted session grabbed the same amount of battery even when plugged.
For charging, the notebook uses a USB-C cable instead of the traditional adapters. The package also comes with a 100W power adapter. Though the port offers convenience, it takes around 2 hours to fully charge the machine.
Is the Zero Book Ultra your GadgetMatch?
Looks can be deceiving. While the notebook’s MacBook-inspired design can hint at an Apple copycat, the Zero Book Ultra offers more than just a wannabee. It offers exactly what it promises on paper: a powerful slate of hardware capable of almost everything, even some decent gaming. Though the battery prevents it from becoming a perfect device, it’s still more than worthy of its price tag.
The ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023) is my top choice
If I HAD TO switch to Windows
Where do I even begin? ASUS ROG’s Zephyrus G14 has been one of my personal favorite gaming laptops ever since it first came out. And a few years later, it just keeps on getting better.
If I absolutely had to switch to a Windows laptop, the ROG Zephyrus G14 is easily my top choice. It’s an all-eggs-in-one-basket machine that can keep up with you in play, work, and everything else in between.
In a nutshell, here are the top specs and features you’re getting, taken straight from ASUS ROG’s product page:
- Up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 Laptop GPU with 125W max TGP, NVIDIA Advanced Optimus, and DLSS 3.
- ROG Nebula HDR. Up to 16:10 Mini LED QHD 165Hz Display, Pantone® Validation, 100% DCI-P3, & Dolby Vision.
- ROG Intelligent Cooling. A custom vapor chamber and liquid metal support 0dB Ambient Cooling.
- Fast charging up to 50% in 30 minutes, 100W USB Type-C charging, and Wi-Fi 6E support.
- Windows 11 Home. Up to an AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS CPU.
- AniMe Matrix, 14,969 CNC milled holes, 1,449 LEDs, and custom animations.
Signature Zephyrus G look
Looks-wise, the ROG Zephyrus G14 hasn’t changed much. That’s great because you don’t touch perfection. The Moonlight White variant that we reviewed looks as immaculate as ever. If you’re not feeling it, it also comes in Eclipse Gray.
The Zephyrus name looks bad-ass on the back side.
The left side is home to the power adapter port, HDMI port, a UBS-C port, and the 3.5mm audio jack.
Meanwhile, the ride has the microUSB slot, another UBS-C port, and a pair of USB-A ports.
The ErgoLift Hinge, which has largely been an afterthought, is present and is still as sleek as ever.
And you can personalize it with the AniMe Matrix feature which we didn’t really bother with during our time with the laptop.
Beyond console-level graphics for gaming
Perhaps the biggest draw of the ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023), in combination with its looks, is the beyond console-level gaming visuals.
We ran Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart PC on this thing and the visual fidelity nearly looks better than the one on the PS5. Let’s face it, graphics is definitely one of the things a lot of gamers consider when choosing what to play.
We tried many other titles just to see how they would look on the laptop and everything looked absolutely divine. Starfield was immersive, Lies of P looked fantastic, and even NBA 2K22 looked amazing.
In terms of the overall gaming experience, it’s also console-level and even beyond depending on what you’re playing. Going back to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart PC, this game was made specifically for the PS5. And one of its flexes is the loading speed going from one rift to another. While the PS5 still feels faster, the ROG Zephyrus G14 wasn’t too far behind.
In other games that weren’t specifically optimized for console, the difference in performance is negligible. Third party titles like Lies of P, NBA 2K22, and even the recently released Like A Dragon: The Man Who Erased His Name played absolutely amazing.
Take note, this is without much tweaking done on our part. One of the advantages of PC gaming is how you can have specific configurations for whatever game you’re playing. But as primarily a busy console player, tweaking settings isn’t exactly something I personally enjoy. Despite that, I absolutely enjoyed playing using my GameSir T4 Cyclone Pro controller seamlessly paired with the quick launch capabilities and steady high performance of the ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023).
Most of my gameplay sessions were with the laptop hooked up via HDMI to my LG C2 TV. When I took it out and gamed outside of my place, that’s where the laptop showed its one weak link. The speakers just aren’t loud enough for what I’m used to with laptops (I daily drive a MacBook Pro 13” M1). It’s best used with headphones or a speaker whether connected via bluetooth or the 3.5mm audio jack.
Workhorse even for your multimedia needs
I wasn’t able to push the ROG Zephyrus G14 to the limit work-wise. I mostly did the usual stuff here like answering emails, writing parts of this review among other articles, and just casual social media browsing.
Thankfully, my colleague MJ served as photographer in one of the races he usually participates in. He used the laptop to process the hundreds of photos he took (some of which you can view here).
All of the post-processing of the photos he took, he did on the ROG Zephyrus G14. The laptop handled all of it with ease. If I’m not mistaken, I believe he used the Adobe Suite in touching up the images.
So, if you work as a creative and a AAA gamer outside of it, this laptop is built to handle your needs.
Everything else in between
Naturally, you can do more than just play and work on this machine. The display is so damn good I used it a lot to get my steady dose of K-Pop content. Everything from TWICE Ready To Be Tour fancams, MISAMO showcase videos, and LE SSERAFIM Perfect Night videos. If you’re a K-Pop enjoyer, the bursts of color is something you will definitely enjoy.
I also had fun catching up on a handful of shows using this laptop. Naturally, I did so using my Sony Headphones to get better audio.
Clearly, I enjoyed my time with the ROG Zephyrus G14. And while this will get a glowing recommendation from me, the laptop isn’t exactly perfect.
I’ve already mentioned the audio as a clear weak link. The laptop is best enjoyed with headphones on or paired with nice external speakers.
Another gripe I have with it, and this is true for most gaming laptops, is the HUGE power brick. It really does feel like a BRICK and adds to the already hefty weight you have to take on. The laptop is light for what you’re getting but it is by no means an easy carry.
But these are good things still. That means this laptop line still has room to grow. For instance, its first iteration didn’t even have its own webcam. But this 2023 version is now equipped with one. I’m fairly confident that over the years, we will see improvements in these areas ℅ ASUS ROG.
Is the ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023) your GadgetMatch?
I have already said this at the start of the article, but it bears repeating. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is an all-eggs-in-one-basket machine that can keep up with you in play, work, and everything else in between.
What I mean by that is if you absolutely had to invest in a single machine to handle your work, gaming, and general entertainment needs, this is a great value pick-up. I say that considering that some of its top-specced variants retail for PhP 122,000 (around US$ 2,195). That’s fantastic value considering some of the truly top-of-the-line laptops now cost north of PhP 200,000 (around US$ 3,600).
That’s a significant difference price-wise while still offering a more than competitive gaming graphics and performance, ease-of-use for work things, and considerably good entertainment presentation.
If I, a long-time Mac user, absolutely HAD TO switch to Windows, this is the laptop that I will go for.
More info and where to buy links here: https://ph.rog.gg/ZephyrusG14xGadgetMatch
New AMD chips are smaller but pack just as much power
Introducing the Ryzen 5 7545U
Chipsets are getting smaller and smaller. Now, the new architecture is more than just a flex. Making things smaller also allows companies to pack in more components into a single device. AMD is doing just that. Called the new Phoenix 2, AMD’s new chipsets are built to accomplish what more powerful processors can, but for much less space.
Like other chipsets, the new ones under the Phoenix 2 will use the regular Zen 4 CPU cores but mixed with new Zen 4c cores. The new cores will do much of what the current lineup already does. They are, however, smaller. Devices with the new chipset can save space, allowing them to have more features or have lither form factors.
More specifically, the Phoenix 2 chipsets will have two high-performance Zen 4 cores and four efficiency Zen 4c cores. AMD already has a chipset out: the Ryzen 5 7545U.
It’s not the only new kid on the block, though. Besides the full package, AMD is also releasing a lighter version of the Phoenix 2. The also-new Ryzen 3 7440U will have one Zen 4 core and three Zen 4c cores.
Technically, the new architecture isn’t new. AMD’s contemporaries have also released chipsets with similar architectures. However, AMD’s new entries should give the thin laptop market more options going forward.
M3 chip-powered MacBook Pros now official
Comes in Space Black
Apple keeps updating its MacBooks where it matters. Today, Apple just introduced MacBook Pros powered by the M3 family of chips — M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max.
The M3 family
The M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max are the first chips for a personal computer built using the industry-leading 3-nanometer technology. It comes with a faster, more efficient next-generation GPU.
It features a breakthrough technology called Dynamic Caching where the GPU allocates the use of local memory in hardware in real time. This means only the exact amount of memory needed is used for each task. This dramatically increases GPU utilization and performance for the most demanding pro apps and games.
The GPU also brings new rendering features. This includes hardware-accelerated mesh shading for greater capability and efficiency with geometry processing, enabling more visually complex scenes. And hardware-accelerated ray tracing comes to the Mac for the first time. This enables games to render more accurate shadows and reflections to create more realistic environments.
14-inch MacBook Pro with M3
From students and business owners to aspiring musicians and video editors, the MacBook Pro with M3 is the ideal laptop. The 14‑inch MacBook Pro with M3 is up to 60 percent faster than the 13‑inch MacBook Pro with M1.
Its advanced thermal system lets it unleash the full potential of M3 for sustained performance. Price starts at US$ 1,599/ SG$ 2,299.
With MacBook Pro with M3:
- Render performance in Final Cut Pro is up to 7.4x faster than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Core i7. And it’s up to 60 percent faster than the 13‑inch MacBook Pro with M1.2.
- Code compilation in Xcode is up to 3.7x faster than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Core i7. And up to 40 percent faster than the 13‑inch MacBook Pro with M1.2.
- Spreadsheet performance in Microsoft Excel is up to 3.5x faster than the 13‑inch MacBook Pro with Core i7. And up to 40 percent faster than the 13‑inch MacBook Pro with M1.2.
14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Pro
For users with more demanding workflows like coders, creatives, and researchers. The MacBook Pro with M3 Pro provides even greater performance, supports more unified memory, and is now up to 40 percent faster than the 16‑inch model with M1 Pro.
MacBook Pro with M3 Pro:
- Filter and function performance in Adobe Photoshop is up to 3x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro. And up to 40 percent faster than the 16‑inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro.
- Basecalling for DNA sequencing in Oxford Nanopore MinKNOW is up to 20x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro. and up to 36 percent faster than the 16‑inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro.
- Text-based editing in Adobe Premiere Pro is up to 1.7x faster than the 16-inch Intel-based MacBook Pro. And up to 30 percent faster than the 16‑inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro.
14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max
The MacBook Pro with M3 Max provides performance and capabilities for those with extreme workflows like machine learning programmers, 3D artists, and video editors. It is up to 2.5x faster than the 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max. And up to 11x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro model. It also supports up to 128GB of unified memory, enabling creators to easily work on large and complex projects spanning multiple pro apps and plugins. They can also compose huge film scores where entire orchestral libraries are instantly available from memory.
MacBook Pro with M3 Max:
- Simulation of dynamical systems in MathWorks MATLAB is up to 5.5x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro. And up to 2x faster than the 16‑inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max.
- Render performance in Maxon Redshift is up to 5.3x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro. And up to 2.5x faster than the 16‑inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max.
- Noise reduction in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio is up to 2.7x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro. And up to 65 percent faster than the 16‑inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max.
Now in Space Black
MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max are available in space black. M3 Pro and M3 Max models are also available in silver, and the 14‑inch MacBook Pro with M3 is available in silver and space grey.
macOS Sonoma brings a rich set of features to the Mac for work and play. Watch our video.
Price and availability
Customers can order the new MacBook Pro starting Wednesday, November 1, on apple.com/store and in the Apple Store app in 27 countries and regions, including the U.S.
It will begin arriving to customers, and will be in Apple Store locations and Apple Authorized Resellers, starting Tuesday, November 7.
- The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 starts at US$ 1,599/ SG$ 2,299 and US$ 1,499/ SG$2,159 for education.
- 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Pro starts at US$ 1,999/ SG$ 2,899 and US$ 1,849/ SG$ 2,679 for education.
- The 16‑inch MacBook Pro starts at US$ 2,499/ SG$ 3,599 and US$ 2,299/ SG$ 3,309 for education.
Additional technical specifications, configure-to-order options, and accessories are available at apple.com/mac.
With Apple Trade In, customers can trade in their current computer and get credit toward a new Mac. Customers can visit apple.com/shop/trade-in to see what their device is worth.
SEE ALSO: 24-inch iMac gets the M3 chip treatment
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