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ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX531GW review: Speedy GeForce RTX graphics

By Koh Wanzi - 8 Mar 2019
Launch SRP: S$3698

Introduction

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX531GW

Same laptop, new GPU

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX531GW is in many ways the same laptop as the Zephyrus S I reviewed recently. Things like the chassis design, cooling system, and connectivity options remain unchanged, but the key difference is that the new model now packs an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU. In addition to some additional graphics horsepower, the Zephyrus S will now be able to take advantage of new NVIDIA technologies like ray-tracing acceleration and DLSS.

For a more detailed look at the laptop’s design, you can check out the previous review on the Zephyrus S.

Here’s an overview of the new specifications:

  • 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel IPS 144Hz display
  • Intel Core i7-8750H
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q
  • 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD
  • 60Wh battery
  • 360 x 268 x 15.35-16.15mm
  • 2.1kg

It retails for S$3,698, which isn’t exactly cheap. However, it’s actually slightly more affordable than the ROG Zephyrus M GM501’s S$3,898 price tag, and still offers a slimmer, lighter chassis and more graphics horsepower.

 

So what’s new?

The new Zephyrus S is slightly thicker than before and features a larger battery.

Nothing much, actually. The biggest upgrade is the new GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics card, which is approximately 20 per cent quicker than the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q. That’s a modest improvement, but you also get things like ray-tracing acceleration and the ability to take advantage of NVIDIA’s DLSS technology in games like Metro Exodus.

The other change is the battery, and the new model now comes outfitted with a slightly larger 60Wh battery, compared to the 50Wh battery from before. However, as you’ll see in the results page, battery has actually improved significantly, beyond what a 20 per cent increase in capacity looks like it could deliver. Overall, it looks like there’s been further power optimizations, and the notebook is now a lot more power efficient. It looks like ASUS has had to make the notebook a hair thicker to accommodate the larger battery though, but it's not something you'd notice, considering that it now measures 16.15mm at its thickest point compared to 15.75mm previously. 

Finally, ASUS has outfitted the Zephyrus S with a new drive. The notebook is equipped with an Intel SSD 660p 512GB SSD, an NVMe M.2 drive that uses Intel’s 64-layer QLC NAND. QLC crams four bits into each cell, so the increase in density means higher capacity drives that cost less. However, QLC NAND generally has longer access times and lower endurance than their MLC or TLC counterparts, which only store two and three bits per cell respectively. That said, Intel has attempted to mitigate the performance issues with some firmware tweaks and something called Intelligent Dynamic SLC-caching, which uses a pool of fast SLC flash to improve write speeds.

The Intel SSD 660p drive in the Zephyrus S is rated for 100TBW, which means you can write 100TB to it over its lifetime. That’s a little on the low side, and I can see it being a cause for concern for some folks. Nevertheless, if you’re just using the laptop for regular stuff like gaming and productivity applications, you shouldn’t run into any problems.

 

What else is special about it?

The bottom panel cracks open to improve airflow when the lid is raised.

I’ve already reviewed the Pascal version of this notebook in detail, so I won’t be rehashing all that. But to sum up, the Zephyrus S was built to be a portable powerhouse that doesn’t sacrifice too much in terms of performance and cooling.

It measures just 16.15mm at its thickest point and weighs 2.1kg, which makes it pretty sprightly for the gaming performance it offers.

The cooling system is its biggest innovation, and the laptop base opens by 5mm to create an additional intake vent for air to enter the laptop. Compared to the original Zephyrus, more heatsinks have been added as well and there’s an extra vent on the right for more efficient heat dissipation. In addition, the anti-dust tunnels from ASUS’ TUF Gaming FX504 also make an appearance here to prevent dust build-up and degradations in cooling performance. These work by leveraging centrifugal force to drive dust out of the dust tunnels, so the heatsinks remain cleaner over time.

Elsewhere, the keyboard has been pushed to the edge of the laptop, while the trackpad sits to its right. The plastic trackpad is a little narrow, but it’s also a Windows Precision Touchpad, so it feels super precise and accurate. It’s good enough for basic navigation, and its unconventional positioning is surprisingly easy to get used to. The keyboard also feels cooler since it’s located away from the main heat-generating components, and you also don’t have to worry about warm palm rests.

The keyboard and trackpad are actually pretty easy to get used to.

The I/O ports are distributed between the sides and back, and you’ll find one USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C, one USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-A, one USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C, and two USB 2.0 ports at the sides. Round the back, there’s one HDMI 2.0 output and a Kensington lock slot. The USB-C port on the right supports Power Delivery as well, so you can use a compatible power bank or Type-C power adapter to charge the notebook if you don’t have the regular adapter.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S

 

Is it noisy?

Unfortunately, very much so. That’s one of the biggest weaknesses of the notebook and the fans can ramp up to a high-pitched drone that is pretty annoying. Nevertheless, you can configure the fan speeds manually in ASUS’ Armoury Crate utility. Alternatively, hitting Fn + F5 lets you toggle between Turbo, Balanced, and Silent modes.

9.0
  • Design 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 8
  • Mobility 8.5
The Good
Slim, light design and great build quality
Innovative cooling solution works pretty well
Excellent gaming performance
Decent battery life
The Bad
No per-key RGB customizations
Fans are very noisy
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