The ASUS Zephyrus G15 is a thinner Ryzen based gaming laptop, but usually a smaller size results in higher temperatures and less performance, so let’s investigate in this review. The black metal lid has a brushed finish, while the matte black interior is plastic, though despite that flex was on the lower side and it felt quite sturdy, decent build quality and no sharp corners or edges. The G15 weighs just over 2kg or 4.5lb, then with the 180w power brick and cables we’re right on 2.6kg or 5.7lb. It’s on the thinner side as you’d expect from a Zephyrus laptop, just under 2cm thick and quite portable. My G15 has a 15.6” 1080p 240Hz screen with a FreeSync range of 48 to 240Hz. Unfortunately the G15 was released before Max-Q dynamic boost was available, so it does not have that feature, and Optimus cannot be disabled.
ASUS list the panel with a 3ms response time, and the software lets you enable overdrive mode which should improve response time. With overdrive disabled, I was getting a bit over 7ms for average grey-to-grey response time. I only saw a small improvement with overdrive enabled, the average response time was now 6.5ms, so not quite the 3ms specified, however there was also no overshoot or undershoot which is the trade off. I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 94% of sRGB, 67% of NTSC, 72% of AdobeRGB and 72% of DCI-P3, so decent results for a gaming panel.
Brightness was alright, above 300 nits at 100% brightness with a contrast ratio of 820:1. Backlight bleed was very minor in my unit and not enough to notice normally, but this will vary between panels. Like many other ASUS gaming laptops, there’s no camera here. Although there’s no camera, it does still have microphones.
Typing on the chiclet keyboard worked well, and unlike the issue I noted with the space bar on the Zephyrus M15, I’m happy to report that’s not a problem with the G15. There’s no numpad and the arrow keys are on the smaller side but the key presses felt nice.
Mine only has white backlighting with 3 levels of key brightness, and all keys and secondary functions are illuminated. The power button is separate from the keyboard up the top right, and there are also extra keys above the keyboard on the left to change volume, mute, or open the Armoury Crate software, which is the control panel for the machine. There appears to be some air vents up the back below the screen. The precision touchpad clicks down anywhere and works fine, no issues to report there. Fingerprints and dirt aren’t too obvious on the interior, they’re far more obvious on the lid, and also harder to clean due to the brushed finish.
On the left we’ve got the power input, gigabit ethernet facing the preferred way so you don’t have to lift the machine to take out the cable, HDMI 2.0b output, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port and 3.5mm audio combo jack. The right has two more USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, air exhaust vent, and Kensington lock up the back. The Type-C port does not have Thunderbolt but you can use it to charge the machine. The Type-C port also has displayport output and connects directly to the Nvidia GPU, so it should work for VR, however HDMI connects to the integrated Radeon graphics.
The back has a couple of air exhaust vents, while the front just has a small indent for getting your finger in to open the lid, and there were no problems opening it up with one finger, it felt well balanced sitting on my lap.
Underneath appears to have some air vents towards the back corners, but if we take a closer look we can see these are actually blocked off for some reason. ASUS have done this with other models like the TUF A15, so I can only assume the idea is to bring air in over other components first, but we’ll check out thermals soon.
The bottom panel was easy to remove, there are 15 phillips head screws to undo and the one down the front right stays in but raises up the corner to help you get in. Inside we’ve got the battery down the front, two M.2 storage slots above, WiFi 6 is to the left of the installed SSD, and there’s just one memory slot here. My G15 comes with 8gb of DDR4-3200 memory soldered to the board, though there’s also a 16gb on board option. If you want dual channel you’ll need to make sure there’s a stick installed in the single slot like I’ve got here.
The two speakers are on the left and right sides towards the front, I thought they sounded quite good for a laptop, easily above average with some bass, and the latencymon results were ok.
The G15 is powered by a 4-cell 76Wh battery. I’ve tested it with keyboard lighting off, background apps disabled and screen at 50% brightness. It lasted for just over 8 hours in the YouTube playback test, an excellent result, and a little better than the G14 with same sized battery a couple of spots below it, though both were a fair bit ahead of the Zephyrus M15, again with the same battery though that one is Intel based. The gaming test lasted for an hour and 46 minutes, it still had 9% charge left but the frame rate dipped to 6 FPS so I stopped it after this time.
Although the G15 can be charged over Type-C, don’t expect full performance for tasks like gaming, just consider it good for on the go use like school or office work.
Let’s check out thermals next. The ASUS Armoury Crate software lets us pick between different performance modes, which from lowest to highest are silent, performance, turbo, then manual is kind of like turbo mode but you have more control, it lets you adjust fan speed and change the GPU overclocks. In the upcoming thermal tests, I found the fans in turbo mode were at the same speed as manual anyway, so I didn’t test them separately.
The idle temperatures were a little warm with a 21 degree Celsius ambient room, stress tests were done with the Aida64 CPU stress test with stress CPU only checked and the Heaven GPU benchmark run at the same time, while gaming was tested playing Watch Dogs 2. Yeah I know Legion is out, but I want comparable data to past videos. The GPU was thermal throttling any time it was at 86 degrees Celsius, so in both performance and turbo modes with the stress tests running, and while gaming in performance mode, though turbo mode was still not far off. A slightly warmer room would be enough to push it over the edge.
The CPU was also thermal throttling in some cases too, though interestingly the cooling pad was actually making fair improvements here. Usually this isn’t the case with laptops that have blocked intakes above the fans.
These are the clockspeeds for the same tests just shown. The GPU speeds in silent mode were a fair bit lower, so don’t expect a great gaming experience with this option. The CPU was able to run at 4GHz over all 8 cores best case with the cooling pad in the game test. I don’t think this is too bad given the HS processor has a 35 watt power limit, which was only being reached in turbo mode.
Performance mode seems to limit this to 30 watts. The 2060 max-q was only hitting its 65 watt limit with the stress tests going with a cooling pad in use due to the GPU thermal throttling that was otherwise happening, so this is why ASUS aren’t using the full 80 watt variant or higher, there wouldn’t be too much point if you can’t keep it cool.
Here’s how game frame rates differed with these different modes in use in an actual game, turbo and manual mode were the same as expected as we get the same overclocks by default, then lower results with the lower modes due to power limitations, as these allow the fans to run quieter.
Here’s how CPU only performance looks in Cinebench with the GPU now idle, so it’s able to do better when the 2060 max-q isn’t contributing heat into the system. The 4900HS stacks up fairly well when compared to others, doing better than the G14 with the same processor a couple of spots below. The single core result is one of the best I’ve seen from a Ryzen processor.
When idling the keyboard was around the low 40 degree Celsius point, so warmer than the usual 30s I see with most others. With the stress tests running in the same silent mode it’s mid 50s in the center and quite uncomfortable. In the higher performance mode there are now hotspots of 60 degrees, so again fairly hot in the middle. Turbo mode is quite similar, but the WASD keys are at least cool, so while playing a game it feels fine, but I wouldn’t want to keep my hand on the middle keys for too long.
The fans were still audible when idling. It’s still on the quieter side with the stress tests going in silent mode, performance mode was then similar to most gaming laptops I test, then turbo mode was a little louder and the same as using manual mode to set the fans to max speed.
Now let’s check out how well the Zephyrus G15 performs in games and see how it compares with other laptops.
I’ve tested Battlefield 5 in campaign mode at ultra settings, and the G15 is highlighted in red. It’s not doing as well as I thought, coming in around 6 FPS behind the smaller G14 with the same CPU and GPU. It’s being beaten by any non Max-Q 1660 Ti because those run with a higher 80 watt power limit, so it doesn’t matter much that we’ve got RTX 2060 graphics here as the power limit is more important in games, at least outside of ray tracing, granted I wouldn’t have high hopes in ray tracing from a 1st gen 65 watt option anyway.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. The G15 moved up one level here as this game depends more on the processor, and the 4900HS can offer some nice performance, but that said it’s still a little behind the G14 with same key specs, and also beaten by those higher wattage 1660 Ti laptops above it.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also tested with the games benchmark tool with the highest setting preset. The G15 is still able to pass 60 FPS, but now it’s 10 FPS below the G14 which was hitting a 16% higher average frame rate. This is likely down to thermal throttling noted earlier, as the G14 does run cooler despite being smaller. I’ve also tested the G15 in 20 games at all setting levels, check the card in the top right or link in the description if you want more gaming benchmarks.
Now for the benchmarking tools. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one of my laptop review videos at 4K. Lower times are better here, and in general the Ryzen options don’t do quite as well as Intel machines as Intel offers a boost with quicksync. The G15 was just 21 seconds slower than the G14 with the same specs. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark, and this tests for more things like live playback rather than just export times. Higher scores are better now, and the G14 with the same specs had basically the same score, and both were doing well here. Adobe Photoshop is a bit different, still fairly good results compared to others just not super impressive, and a bit behind the G14 this time. DaVinci Resolve is more GPU heavy, and again very close score with the G14. This is a GPU heavy test and those are the only two machines I’ve had with 65 watt 2060 Max-Q, so that makes sense, though that said both were ahead of that 115 watt 2060 in the Max-15 just below. I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads.
I’ve used Crystal disk mark to test the 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD. The speeds are alright, nothing impressive but not too bad.
Finally let’s discuss price. The 1660 Ti Max-Q model with 4800HS is $1250 USD, though the M15 with 2070 Max-Q is the same price on sale, and fact is that’s going to perform better in games, not to mention the M15 doesn’t have blocked air intakes like the G15. The G15 with specs I’ve tested here is about $1400, so $150 extra for the slight spec bump which doesn’t seem too worthwhile when you can get that 2070 M15. Plus the G14 is actually on sale for less than all of these, and as we saw earlier it does better in most games compared to the G15.
Let’s conclude by summarising both the good and the bad sides of the G15 to help you decide if it’s worth buying. Like other Zephyrus branded laptops from ASUS, the G15 is on the smaller and thinner side making it quite portable. Less space means less room for cooling though, and even with the lower wattage Max-Q graphics and HS Ryzen processor there was still thermal throttling present. This probably isn’t helped by the air vents above the intake fans being blocked. I find it strange that the Intel based M15 with similar design doesn’t have these blocked too, though I suppose that one can be specced higher, but still. Hardware Unboxed has shown that overall having ventilation holes underneath is a positive with the TUF, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a similar story here, but without cutting the panel up I have no way of knowing for sure. I don’t think they’ve just done this to try and make Ryzen look worse, people are quick to forget that there are Intel TUF models too with the same design.
I found it interesting that despite being a little larger than the smaller G14, with the same main specs the G14 was often outperforming the G15, particularly in games. The G14 is often more expensive though, but with the sale on at the moment the G15 ends up being more. Outside of games though in CPU only workloads the G15 was doing a little better. 1 memory slot might be a little limiting for upgrades, especially if you have the 8gb soldered to the board option that I’ve got here. With the 16gb soldered to the board option though it would be less of an issue, install a 16 gig stick for 32 gig in dual channel, or if you need capacity you could install a 32 gig stick for 48 gig total, probably plenty for most people despite the single slot.
On the positive side though, the battery life is excellent, one of the best results from a gaming laptop I’ve had seemingly due to Ryzen, as the Intel M15 with same sized battery wasn’t lasting as long. Type-C charge is also a nice bonus feature. The screen is good and better than the one in the G14, but at the same time 240Hz is probably a bit overkill for lower wattage max-q 1660 ti or 2060 graphics unless you’re mainly playing esports titles, which I guess to be fair is the main reason you’d want 240Hz anyway.
Overall for the price though, the Zephyrus G15 doesn’t seem that great to me. When it launched it was one of the first Ryzen 4000 options available, if you wanted the benefits of Ryzen it was one of the few choices, but now closer to the end of 2020 there are just so many other options available.
Personally I’d pay less money for the Legion 5 with a faster screen and better performance. It’s a bit thicker, so I suppose it depends how much you want the slimmer form factor which is typically what the Zephyrus lineup is known for. Anyway let me know what you thought about the ASUS Zephyrus G15 gaming laptop down in the commentse.