It’s incredible to think that gaming notebooks have come so close to matching desktop level performance, especially in the last five years or so. ASUS’ ROG brand has blazed the trail, alongside other notable entrants in the industry, such as Alienware and Aftershock.
Sure, it’s due to technological advances in squeezing out every ounce of performance from mobile chipsets but it’s still something notable.
That’s why when ASUS asked us if we were keen to review the ROG Zephyrus GX531GX, we couldn’t reply ‘Yes!’ fast enough.
What is the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX?
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX is ROG’s top of the line product from their “thin and light” category of notebooks. This is also ASUS’ second attempt at building a unique laptop that features some interesting design and mechanics that better help dissipate the heat of the high-end hardware that is contained inside.
Once again, this laptop faces tough competition from the likes of MSI with their GS series laptops and Gigabyte with their Aero line-up of laptops. Will the innovative mechanics and design help bring it over the rest of the pack? Let’s find out.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
The package that we received for our test unit is HUGE. I believe this is the biggest laptop packaging I have ever seen from any laptop manufacturer. It practically dwarfs the packaging we had on the Alienware m15 by a fair margin, only losing out height-wise when the package is placed standing up.
Luckily, the package itself is also a carrying case as it comes with its own carrying strap; and boy you’re going to need it. As you can imagine, the package is indeed quite heavy.
Opening it reveals the reason for its large dimension. ASUS has packed several additional boxes full of goodies that you will receive when you buy their highest-end offerings; something I wish that the other manufacturer would follow suit.
If someone is buying your highest offerings, bundling anything along with your product is certainly going to generate good PR for your company!
As we have the retail packaging in hand, we can safely say that all prospective buyers (at least in Singapore) will get the following:
- Cerberus Gaming Headset
- ROG Strix Mouse
- Laptop sleeve
ROG stickers and Keychain are also supposed to be included, but our package did not come with it.
Special mention has to be made for the high-quality Laptop sleeve though. It is quite difficult to find good third-party sleeves that fits exactly for your particular laptop; not to mention the material it is made of is water-resistant which would help in cases where your bag is caught in rainy weather… your 4.5k laptop is definitely safe*!
*no guarantee on our part, though
Our test unit comes with a sleek black design and a metal chassis with copper accents around the edges of the laptop.
It feels nice and solid and could probably take a beating when it comes to surface-level damage (it is not recommended to purposefully damage your 4.5k laptop so don’t do anything insane).
It has a slightly forward-mounted design much like the old chunky Alienware laptops and featured on Dell’s G series as well; that is to say the lid does not cover the entirety of the laptop but merely around 90% of it.
Our logo comes in a nice metallic silver finish that is less prominent than the red finish present in ASUS’ brochure.
What is unique about this is that the laptop is that the keys are positioned on the bottom half of the laptop to allow the top deck to be used for ventilation and cooling. The top deck has also been perforated with ventilation holes so that the fans underneath have better airflow. This, however, results in a higher perceived noise for the user as the noise is now semi-directed to them from the top of the keyboard deck.
Additionally, a back plate is installed on the bottom of the device that will unhinge to allow for better airflow when the lid is opened. We will talk about these in detail in the appropriate section of this review.
I would just like to point out here that turning on the laptop here gives you a small surprise; the POST screen gives you a small swoosh sound when it is booting. Very cool! I didn’t know you could play sounds like that.
The lid comes with a smooth brushed finish on one side of the laptop that has the logo while a regular smooth finish is used on the other half. An interesting design choice to say the least as most laptops I’ve had just uses a standard uniform design. It looks cool though.
I’m not sure why ASUS has gone with a plastic lid for this laptop, an all metallic finish will certainly be more durable and prevent accidental finger scratches from being able to potentially damage the lid of the laptop. Perhaps in an effort to save on the weight?
You are able to open the lid with one hand and it won’t cause the chassis to move from the table; indicating a very even weight distribution. The panel is unfortunately slightly flimsy as I do hear plastic creaking noises when opening the laptop or trying to slightly twist the edges of the display; although that comes as no surprise as the lid is fairly thin.
The hinge is solid but it takes a more-than-expected amount of force to open the lid. This should be a given as the additional mechanical force is used to push the back plate of the device upwards to allow for more airflow when the laptop is in use.
The weight of our test unit is listed at 2.10Kg and the adapter comes in fairly beefy at ~280g but overall it is certainly very portable.
One thing I would recommend all manufacturers to provide is perhaps a lighter, more portable charging adapter (even as an add-on or additional accessory) that will charge only when under moderate workloads; that way if one is sure that they would not be gaming on the go, they can opt to take a lighter charger instead.
The keyboard, as previously mentioned, is uniquely placed at the bottom of the laptop. It seems to be a compromise that ASUS has gone for in this particular series of laptops in order to have more effective cooling.
The price paid however, is that the laptop is definitely awkward to use on your lap or on a very small table (like a foldable table on a plane, perhaps) which I found to be pretty paradoxical for a laptop.
However, there is a case to be made that the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX isn’t just a laptop; with its power, it’s practically a desktop replacement. In that light, you’re actually getting a powerful machine that you can take on the go with you. Who can say that about their desktop?
The low key travel keyboard is palatable to type on but is nothing special; the actuation force is about what you would expect it to be but the keys just does not quite travel down far enough for it to be tactile and satisfying.
ASUS is definitely able to improve on the keyboard as even compared to the physical left and right click buttons on their own trackpad, (which feels slightly raised compared to the keys on the keyboard) it feels so much better comparatively that I’m beginning to wonder if there was some sort of unknown engineering limitation to not have that kind of key travel on all of the keys of the keyboard.
Anecdotal evidence suggest that this should be an easy to use keyboard. It scored well compared to my regular typing speed on a 5 game average of typeracer. Do keep in mind you really need some table space to rest your hands in order to type properly though.
I also experienced some minor “hover hand” syndrome with my hands gravitating towards resting near the centre of the device like a more traditional laptop keyboard making it less intuitive to resume typing but you’ll get used to it in a day or so.
The trackpad surface is smooth to the touch and feels like a nice surface to glide your fingers on. Trackpad accuracy is good and I’ve had no problems using it. Finger print resistance is quite weak however, as even moderately pushing down on the trackpad will cause the oils from your fingerprint to show.
ASUS has chosen to go with physical left and right click buttons for this laptop, a more traditional approach compared to the uniform approach to trackpad design.
As mentioned previously, this does them no disservice as the physical buttons feel even more tactile than every other key on the keyboard making it the most satisfying thing to use.
It’s a shame that due to the compromise in the position of the trackpad, it would be awkward to use with both hands if you’re like me, who prefers two-handed navigation on a more traditional trackpad design. Not to worry though, single tap gestures work just fine and you can very well do without touching the left and right click buttons.
Wi-Fi, Connectivity & Storage
ASUS has once again chosen the Intel AC 9560 as their network card of choice in their machine. We did our usual steam download test where we place the laptop about 5 metres away from the router using a 5Ghz network.
As seen from the graph, the chipset did particularly well and is definitely on par with the Killer Wi-Fi that was in the Alienware m15 only losing out in the peak download speeds but was actually slightly faster on average.
I am beginning to think that our results on the ASUS ZenBook Pro with the same wireless card is some sort of an anomaly in the results as we clearly see a much better showing here.
For the connectivity, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX comes in at the middle of the pack. You’ll get the following ports on your machine:
- 1x USB Type-C Gen 2
- 1x USB Type-C Gen 1
- 1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A
- 2x USB 2.0
- 1x HDMI 2.0
- 1x 3.5mm Audio Combo Jack
- 1x Kensington Lock
Yes, I will indeed still harp on the fact that it lacks any kind of SD card functionality, it would be really nice for a laptop of this class to have it. Strangely enough, ASUS has still opted to go for legacy USB 2.0 ports even on a high-end device; no doubt that while some peripherals such as a mouse won’t need that kind of access speeds, it would still be nice for ASUS to go with an all USB 3.0 setup.
Perhaps this has something to do with the PCH not being able to support such speeds all at once, but that is just speculation on my part.
On the storage front, our test unit came with a 512Gb SSD made by Intel (Model: 660p) which is surprising as this is the highest spec’d unit. Due to ASUS opting to use the cheaper QLC technology drive in an effort to save costs, we do not see any kind of amazing performance to storage capacity ratio with regards to the read/write speeds compared to drives such as the WD SN750 or Samsung 970 EVO Plus.
It is recommended to get a higher capacity drive if available as you would soon run out of space on a paltry 512Gb device. That could only be enough for a handful of large steam games on a gaming-oriented device such as this.
The lack of a secondary NvMe slot is indeed disappointing for this class of laptops, given that both the Alienware m15 and Gigabyte Aero models are able to squeeze one in. I hope ASUS considers making the laptop a little bigger to accommodate for one additional SSD slot in their future revisions.
Pricing, Specs and Comparison
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX compares especially favourably to the likes of the competition. Since everyone had a price hike when it comes to the MSRP of the RTX laptops, 4.5k is comparatively little compared to what the competition is charging so it isn’t that bad price-wise.
Do take note that the Aero 15Y is definitely higher spec’d so it would not be a totally apples to apples comparison; we’ll get back to you shortly on local pricing if there is something more comparable using the same CPU/GPU.
|ASUS Zephyrus S GX531GX||Alienware m15||Gigabyte Aero 15Y|
|GPU||RTX 2080 Max-Q||RTX 2080 Max-Q||RTX 2080 Max-Q|
|Storage||NvMe 512Gb SSD||NvMe 512Gb SSD + 1Tb SSHD||NvMe 2Tb SSD|
|Display||144Hz IPS 1080p||144Hz IPS 1080p||4k UHD|
|Wireless||Intel AC 9560||Killer 1550||Killer 1550|
|Warranty||2 Year International||2 Years||1 Year|
Performance & Synthetic Benchmarks
The cooling of this device is surprisingly adequate, given the size. Of course, the fans do get aggressively loud when benchmarking or gaming but this is true for all laptops in this category.
In our CPU-only benchmark of Cinebench R20, the cooling of this device didn’t even break a sweat in maintaining an all-core speed of ~3.1Ghz throughout the test with temperatures staying relatively cool hovering around the 82-degree Celsius mark.
However, in a more realistic scenario when both the GPU and CPU are tested, the CPU reached average core temps of 95 degrees Celsius in our TimeSpy benchmark. This suggests that the cooling is just ever so slightly enough to keep the device from the precipitous of overheating.
With this in mind, I would suggest advanced users to undervolt the CPU a little and cut the core speed of the GPU by about 200Mhz to keep it at a more manageable 90-degree Celsius even for benchmarks.
Gaming Benchmarks – RTX on Mobile
Gaming performance on ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX, is as expected, astounding.
Expect to run games at their maximum quality pre-set on every single title in the market if you aren’t keen on hitting the maximum refresh rate of this 144Hz monitor.
As per usual, we would like to tweak the settings such that any game that we were running are at least at the minimum playable framerate of 30fps (although this would definitely not apply to this machine).
In our legacy GTA V testing, the game ran about as well as you’d expect. On average it was spitting out 88 fps averages in our testing and it only ever dropped below 60 fps during the waterfall scene of the benchmark when we applied a heavy 8x MSAA on it. During gameplay, the game ran without a hitch and I never encountered a drop in framerates that was as severe as the benchmark would indicate.
It, of course, also blasted away all the competition when it comes to the FF14 benchmark scoring a total of 13706 points using the Maximum pre-set. You are definitely not going to be constrained by FPS limits on your typical MMO given that most of the benchmark ran in the high 90 fps range.
In more modern titles, the GTX 2080 Max-Q is more than enough match for the games we have tested in our suite. Shadow of the tomb raider ran at an average of 88 fps and only dropped frames when loading in a new environment, suggesting a more storage-related bottleneck than the CPU or GPU themselves.
Metro Exodus proved to be an exception however, as it struggled to keep up under the extreme preset we have tested when RTX is enabled at ultra quality. The game did stay at an average of slightly over 30 fps so we suppose it is technically playable. Of course, disabling RTX along with dropping down to the Ultra quality preset is getting us the targeted smooth framerate of 62 fps on average.
Users who want to try RTX in this title on this laptop could get away with it by dropping to Ultra presets with Ray-Tracing set to high; if you don’t mind dipping below 60fps in most scenes.
Display & Sound
Once again, ASUS has chosen to get a 144Hz IPS 1080p display from AUOptronics (Model: AUO82ED, part: B156HAN08.2 ) that performs similarly as the one that we found on our recently reviewed Alienware m15. That is to say, its of excellent quality. Once again, I do not see any kind of discoloration on extreme viewing angles and no colors look too over-saturated and out of place.
Viewing 4k content on YouTube looks great and I don’t really have anything to complain about here. The brightness compares similarly to the Alienware m15 but anecdotal evidence suggests that this display is a tad less bright. Users should have a comfortable experience at 30% brightness.
Overall, a good panel even if I still am unable to test the metrics of this display.
While neither of these panels have G-sync support, I think the high refresh rate more than makes up for it; not to mention that this opens up the possibility of using the integrated graphics in order to save on power consumption.
The sound from the speakers is interesting to say the least. I applaud ASUS for using the front hinge of the device as the place where the speakers and grills are located for a potentially more natural sounding acoustic. You don’t often see designs like these from mainstream manufacturers and is only often found in more niche manufacturers such as Clevo and TongFang.
The volume is ample at about 40% and does get quite loud at 100%. If your intention is to fill the room with music, this will definitely deliver. Surprisingly, there is also no distortion in the music even at 100% but it does amplify the weakness of these speakers when played at that volume which I’ll address later.
The sound quality however, has room for improvement particularly in the mid-tones. Listening to Viva La Vida from Coldplay on a lossless source, right away I can feel like something is not quite right with the acoustics.
The initial string instrumental of the song did not give a good impression; but I think I have an idea as to why. Due to the small size of the grills, I suspect that the placement produces more echo from within the laptop than intend making mid-tones in particularly sound echo-y and muddy. This eliminates much of the sharpness that you would come to expect from the mid-tones.
Moving from the start of the vocals to the chorus, the vocals did indeed give a better performance as the echo is not as pronounced. The base, played predominantly by drums and string instruments, gave a good performance that blended well with the melody of other instruments; even if the base is not a focus of this song (I later confirmed the base to be pretty good and punchy with another song, kind of like something that you would expect from a subwoofer). The high-tones coming from the use of strings and church bell, coupled with the piano sounds pretty good as well.
During the chorus, having a high volume on these speakers will over emphasize on the “c” and “k” pronunciations from the lead singer which made the song particularly unpleasant to hear, at least for me. When the chorus comes together near the end, once again the mid-tone weakness rears itself as the instruments overpower the vocals instead of blending harmoniously with it.
Overall, the mid-tones are a very large weakness of these speakers that it doesn’t quite make up for in the other tonal ranges. I hope that ASUS’ engineers can remedy this in their future revisions.
The battery life of ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX leaves much to be desired, at least compared to the likes of the Gigabyte Aero series where the capacity is much larger.
In our YouTube loop test where we try to simulate a moderate load @ 50% volume and brightness, we achieved an average performance of 2H 20Mins during our test. Expect the battery to last about 3 Hours maximum doing productivity work, though.
The battery also takes an average amount of time to charge, taking about 1H 20 Mins to charge to full from 0% if you are leaving the laptop idle. Then again, there is the question of whether anybody in their right mind would be gaming on the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX WITHOUT a power outlet nearby?
Here I will have a brief review of the mouse and headphone that came bundled with the laptop. In short, they are basically what you could come to expect for something that has a total bundle value of approximately $100 SGD. They’re serviceable.
For the mouse, there really isn’t much to say about this. It works. Plugging in to the laptop will yield a nice surprise; the front of the ROG logo is actually an RGB light that pulses with a multitude of different colors, nice.
I didn’t have any qualms about the accuracy of the mouse and the mouse travel works perfectly fine without going into windows settings. It features your bog-standard 2 click buttons and has a dedicated middle mouse button that acts as a DPI toggle for your mouse; there is a small light indicator to tell you which mode you’re on, pretty basic stuff here.
Moving on we have the headset. The build quality is okay and it features an all-plastic/rubber exterior. None of that fancy carbon nanotubes material you would find on high quality headphones; then again, we didn’t expect it to be super high quality anyway.
The cups feature your typical faux-leather cushions that are decently soft but expect them to get flaky through wear. It features some red accents around the cups that is typical of their ROG design branding in an otherwise all-black presentation.
You are able to stretch the cups pretty far away from each other but the banding provided is quite shallow; only able to extend the depth of the headphone to about 2.5cm further apart.
I put this to the test by connecting it to my daily driver, the FiiO X3 Mk II, through a variety of songs from different genres. These seem to be high impedance headphones so don’t expect particularly loud volumes if you are using this plugged into a phone. It doesn’t feature much noise cancellation at all by itself so you’re still going to hear the typing of a mechanical keyboard for example.
The sound signature is what you are going to expect from headphones aimed at a gaming audience; it features predominantly very heavy bass that sounds alright but the driver doesn’t deliver any punch at all. Listening to mid-tone vocals, it’s actually not that bad! So long as you aren’t listening to something bass heavy as that would definitely drown out the singer’s voice. The highs from instruments such as cymbals are quite weak and not as pronounced; the highs from the vocals do a little better, being clear but not as sharp as expected.
I wouldn’t say that the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX is for everyone. It does indeed have some shortfalls and compromises it makes that would be a turn off for some consumers.
However, this is a very niche and targeted product. It’s not meant to appeal to every gamer out there; just the hardcore who want the very best. The only thing you’ll need to ask yourself is if you’re able to live with one internal storage slot on the device?
If you do, then the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX531GX comes highly recommended as the cooling on this device may be the one that comes close to the solution that Razer uses on their Razer Blade series of laptops. That is to say, excellent.
Good laptop with some minor caveats, would recommend if you do not mind the shortfalls. If you’re looking for a desktop replacement, this is probably one machine that you NEED to strongly consider.
|The good||The bad|
|+ Good wifi connectivity||– Lack of SD card slot|
|+ Comparatively reasonable pricing||– Awkward keyboard & trackpad placement|
|++ Great cooling for the size |
(it’s so good I gave it another plus sign)
|– Needs more storage.|
|+ Good display||– Only 1x NvMe slot|