Is it the best thin & light in town?
ASUS certainly rocked the thin & light scene when they released the ROG Zephyrus about two years ago. It featured a unique and innovative cooling system, top-of-the-line gaming specs, and a rather peculiar keyboard layout. Fast forward to 2019, we now have a bunch of Zephyrus models including more affordable options and ones with a standard keyboard layout.
This year, however, ROG returns to the roots of the Zephyrus line and released a model with that same peculiar keyboard layout. Then slapped it with the best internals the market has to offer. Is it worthy of holding the Zephyrus crown? Let’s find out in our Zephyrus S GX531 review.
You can also view our unboxing video of the Zephy S here.
Design and Build Quality
ASUS pulled out all the stops for the Zephyrus S GX531, encasing it in a full metal chassis with intricate linings and the traditional two-tone lid design. It definitely feels premium to the touch and it doesn’t look overly aggressive. We do have a glowing lid logo and ROG lighting on the bottom sides though, once the Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) kicks in. So, it might still grab a little attention in public places. The biggest change in build quality, however, is the scissor-door hinge design.
Instead of having full side or middle hinges, the Zephyrus S GX531 has two thick side ones that are slightly positioned inward. These two hinges are sturdy and rock solid, even more so as it has a supporting bar. Sadly, that bar does get in the way of the display’s swing. So, the Zephy S only opens at a limited angle. Sorry folks, you won’t be able to lay this one flat on the surface. Either way, the Zephyrus S GX531 is built like a rock as it has little to no keyboard and screen flex.
Display and Audio
The star of the Zephy S GX531 is its upgraded display. We’re treated with a 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS-Level, 240Hz, 3ms panel. Granted it’s not 4k, however, it’s just the right resolution for the device’s CPU and GPU combo. You’ll be hitting 240 frames per second more often than not in Full HD rather than in 4k. Meaning, that 240Hz refresh rate won’t be wasted or unattainable.
3ms is also a pretty respectable response time, which is more than enough to aid in action-packed games such as MOBAs and FPS. Quality-wise, it’s a pretty color-accurate display with good brightness and reproduction. To top it all off, the display is Pantone certified, so you can definitely achieve a 100% sRGB Gamut. Not to mention, slim all around bezels, which provides more screen real-estate.
Audio is a bit on the “meh”-side, it’s not overly impressive nor is it subpar. We have a few tools at our disposal such as the ASUS Sonic Studio III, Nahimic, and Smart Amp. This aids in mixing things up to achieve acceptable audio quality on speaker and much more when paired with a headset. If you wish to enjoy having the best gaming experience though, we suggest plugging in your favorite audio gear. The speakers can go pretty loud, enough to fill a small room, but that’s all it can boast in this department.
Keyboard and Trackpad
As we mentioned earlier, ROG once again equipped this Zephyrus with a forwarded keyboard layout. Meaning, we have the entire keyboard at the front of the chassis rather than in the middle. That’s because they want to, once again, prioritize cooling on the components. It will take some time to get used to the change in position and the slight shift to the left. During our first few days, we had instances of pressing the wrong keys.
The slight left shift was done to accommodate the trackpad, which is once again situated on the right of the keyboard. Despite its quirky positioning, it’s a joy to type on the Zephy S’ keyboard. It’s got amazing feedback and fast key travel, allowing for quick key registers. A big plus if you’re playing fast-paced games. As a bonus, we have 4 RGB lighting areas, so you can go crazy with the customizations.
Apart from the forward shifted keyboard, we’re also seeing the return of the transforming trackpad. Yep, it also doubles as a Numpad with a push of a button. The pad itself is smooth and easy to glide on, however, you do get a pretty small surface area. Since it’s crammed alongside the keyboard, so there’s little wiggle room. It’ll also take some time to get used to since the positioning is way off the center.
We had moments when we glided our fingers on the middle of the keyboard. You know, because that area’s where trackpads are normally placed. Apart from the small surface area, we also have qualms with the left and right click buttons. While we appreciate that they are big and separated, they feel mushy and key travel is long.
Connectivity and I/O
The Zephyrus S GX531 has connectivity pretty much covered. It’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 and a 2×2 Wave2 WiFi receiver. So, unless you are at an area with a low WiFi signal, you’ll be enjoying good connections. As for I/O, at the back, we got the HDMI 2.0 port and Kensington lock. Over at the right side are the USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A and USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C ports. Then over at the left side are the USB 2.0 Type-A, USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C, 3.5mm audio ports, and the DC-in.
That USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C also happens to support PD or Power Delivery. Meaning, you can charge the Zephyrus S GX531 with power banks that support the feature. Sadly, we lost some important ports such as the RJ45 Ethernet and an SD card slot. This is in exchange for a thinner and lighter frame.
Like all standard laptops nowadays, the Zephyrus S comes with Windows 10 pre-installed. We do get some bloatware installed such as McAfee and your usual ASUS programs. To spice things up on the gaming-side though, ROG equipped the Zephyrus S GX531 with some game-centric software. First up, we got the Armoury Crate, your central program for managing your laptop’s performance and profile. The Armoury Crate offers quick performance profile changes which include Windows, Silent, Balanced, Performance, Turbo, and Manual.
It also has a dashboard that monitors temperatures, fan speed, fan noise, and memory usage. This is also where you’ll find the RPG lighting customization for your Keyboard as well as create different gaming profiles. It’s a nifty assistive feature that’s got smartphone support to boot. Although, the smartphone app is still a bit wonky since it constantly disconnects. Either way, this is your central hub for all your system monitoring needs.
Then we have Game First V, ROG’s network optimizer program. We actually didn’t get to play with the settings too much though since our place is typically crowded, so WiFi bandwidth is stretched a little too thin. Either way, you’ve got tons of options to tinker with depending on what you’re doing. There are tools for streaming, gaming, downloading, and whatnot. While most of this will be useless if you’re internet connection itself is wonky, just like with ours, it’s still a nice extra feature to have.
Right then onto the juicy parts of the review — Performance. To test out the Zephyrus S GX531, we subjected it to a slew of benchmarks. This includes Cinebench R20, CrystalDiskMark, the Unigine set of benchmarks, and 3D Mark. We also did manual gaming tests but more on those later. Check out the benchmark results below.
Cinebench R20 and CrystalDiskMark
|Cinebench R20||- 2,432 points|
|CrystalDiskMark||- 3,320mb/s Sequential Read
- 2,234mb/s Sequential Write
The Zephy S’ i7-9750H with 6 cores and 12 threads scored quite well in Cinebench’s R20 benchmark. It eased past the 7th generation i7-7700K unlocked desktop CPU in the rankings. As for the performance of the Samsung 1TB SSD, we got amazing sequential read and write speeds of 3,320mb/s and 2,234mb/s, respectively.
The Zephyrus S GX531 performed admirably in the Unigine benchmarks. It hit over 100fps in both Heaven and Valley, reaching as high as 218 in the former. Superposition is a little heavier than the two on testing. The Zephy S, sadly, didn’t reach 60fps and only maxed out at around 48. Still, it earned quite high final marks on all tests with scores. Unigine scores at around 2k and up are generally considered good, if not, great results. Same goes with Valley scores that are around 4k.
Superposition at 5k though, is on the average. To give you a better idea, the more extreme builds rocking i9s and 2080 Ti cards typically have a score of around 13k. We also checked VR compatibility with Superposition and the Zephy S GX531 got a score of 10,000, which is the maximum. So, the laptop is more than ready to handle VR tasks.
The 3D Mark scores of the Zephyrus S GX531 aren’t too shabby either. It got quite high scores on Time Spy and Fire Strike and quite respectable numbers on their Extreme counterparts. The Sky Diver results were even more impressive, reaching a good solid 36k, which is on the higher-end spectrum for the laptop market. Since the Zephyrus S is rockin’ an RTX card, we also subjected it to the Ray Tracing and DLSS (Deep Learning Super-Sampling) tests of 3D Mark.
After all, RTX cards were marketed to have these features. Suffice to say, it received quite the low scores on these tests but still proved it can at least perform them at the base level. It’s not reflected in the graph above but during the DLSS test the Zephyrus S got these scores:
- DLSS off — 20.57 fps
- DLSS on — 29.97 fps
Synthetic Benchmarks aside, we also tested the Zephyrus S GX531 in games. To get proper metrics, we played each title for about 15-30 minutes. Except for Total War: Three Kingdoms, which has its own benchmarking tool. Although, we also cross-checked the results with FRAPS. Either way, the Zephy S can more than hit above 60fps in all of the games we tested. This is with everything maxed out but with V-Sync off. Meaning, you’ll more than enjoy the added benefit of its high refresh rate display, though to hit 240 we suggest you lower some of the settings.
So, it’s safe to say that at around Medium to High presets in games, you’ll probably hit that sweet 240 fps. These are amazing numbers for a mobile device and despite having a Max-Q card, you’ll enjoy Triple AAA gaming for years to come. However, do note that this is in 1080p, moving to higher resolutions such as 2k and 4k will lower performance. You will be able to play at those resolutions but at lower settings.
That forwarded keyboard does have its merits and it shows during our temperature testing. Since the entire top part of the chassis is dedicated to providing more airflow, with assistance from the Active Aerodynamic System (AAS), internal and external temps remained at acceptable levels. Now, you may be wondering why temperatures were lower during the stress tests rather than in actual gaming. Well, that’s because during the stress tests we only achieved a maximum frequency of 2.7GHz for the CPU and 1.4GHz for the GPU.
This means, the laptop lowered performance in order to keep temperatures from going sky high. After all, CPU and GPU usage during the tests were both at 90-100%. You’ll be happy to know though, that the laptop doesn’t suffer from intense thermal throttling. While we did not reach the 4.5GHz turbo of the CPU during stress tests, we didn’t go lower than the 2.6GHz base clock. So, while the laptop did lower performance, we’re still at acceptable levels.
It’s a little more lenient during gaming though, and kept the frequencies of both the GPU and CPU close to their maximum. 89° during gaming is still quite high though, internally. So, we recommend you keep it at air-conditioned rooms or point a fan at it to prevent overheating. Although, it’s nice to know that we have a pretty high threshold before performance is lowered during heavy gaming sessions.
External temperatures are quite okay, though we don’t recommend putting the laptop on your lap after extended gaming. The heat can very well make your legs sweat. The keyboard area though remains cool to the touch, thanks to its positioning.
Acoustics and Battery life
Acoustics, on the other hand, is loud. Unless you put on some headphones or earphones, you will hear those fans roar. At 7,000rpm the fans emit at most 47dB, which can’t be easily drowned by the laptop’s speakers. As for battery life, it lasts about an hour and 9 minutes when gaming on the performance profile and about 3 hours and 7 mins during our PC Mark test. Not too shabby but not impressive either, especially game time on battery. Although, we don’t recommend that you game unplugged anyway, since performance is way slower.
The Zephyrus S GX531 is definitely up there as one of the best thin & lights and is fit to hold the Zephy crown. It’s got a rock-solid build, elegant design, impressive performance, and most of all controlled thermals. On the downside though, you do get a weird keyboard and trackpad layout as well as some missing essential ports and roaring fans.
Plus, at Php 199,995 (~$3,825), the Zephyrus S GX531 is not for the faint of heart. There are certainly other more affordable alternatives out there that can give you better performance per dollar. However, if you got Php 200k (~$3,825) to spare and want elegance and power in a thin and light frame, then the Zephyrus S GX531’s got you covered.
Reasons to Get
- Relatively thin & light
- Elegant design
- Impressive performance
- Impressive cooling and thermals
- High refresh rate and fast response time display
Reasons not to Get
- Expensive price tag
- Weird keyboard and trackpad layout
- Missing ports (RJ45 and SD Card slot)
- Loud fans
- Unimpressive speakers
|Specifications||ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX531|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-9750H 2.60GHz Hexa-core (4.50GHz Max Turbo Frequency)|
|Display||- 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) 144hz, 3ms IPS-Level
- 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) 240hz, 3ms IPS-Level
|GPU||- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 2070 Max-Q
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
|Storage||- 512GB SSD
- 1TB SSD
|RAM||- 8GB (on board) + 1 x SO-DIMM (Max up to 24GB)|
|Connectivity||- 802.11ac 2x2 Wave2
- Bluetooth 5.0
|I/O||2x USB 2.0
1x HDMI 2.0
1x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C
1x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C
1x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A
1x 3.5mm audio port
1x Kensington lock
|Audio||- 2x 2W speakers
- Array Mic
|Battery||4-Cell, 60 Whr|
|Dimensions and weight||- 360 x 268 x 15.35 - 16.15mm
Php 199,995 (~$3,825)