ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!

ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!
18 min read
04 December 2020

The ASUS Zephyrus M15 gaming laptop  offers some of the best performance   from these specs that I’ve seen at a thinner size,   however there are some problems you need to  know about which I’ll cover in this review.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! The overall design is similar to previous  Zephyrus laptops. The M15 is available with   different finishes, prism gray which I’ve got  here, prism black, or brushed black, and the   prism finishes use a soft touch paint so it’s a  little textured feeling but still mostly smooth. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!The chassis is otherwise magnesium alloy and feels  fairly sturdy, there was some flex to the lid but   keyboard flex wasn’t too bad considering the  thinner design, and no sharp corners or edges.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! It weighs just under 2kg or 4.4lb,   and after adding the 230 watt power brick and  cables we’re looking at about 2.7kg or 6lb total. It’s on the thinner side for a gaming laptop  and quite portable for a 15 inch machine. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!My Zephyrus has a 15.6” 4K 60Hz screen,  but it’s also available with 1080p 240Hz   or 144Hz options which would be  a much better matchup for gaming,   though no G-Sync or option  of disabling optimus here.

ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!I’ve still tested the response time of the  4K panel, and it’s not actually too bad,   I’ve tested worse gaming laptops,ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! and I’d  expect or at least hope the 1080p options   would do better than this, the 240Hz one  is advertised with 3ms response time.

I’ve tested the screen with the  Spyder 5, and got 100% of sRGB,   93% of NTSC, 97% of AdobeRGB and 86% of DCI-P3,  so great results for creators with the 4K option. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!Brightness was also nice, I got around 391 nits  at 100% brightness with an 1180:1 contrast ratio. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!Backlight bleed wasn’t too bad in my  unit, just a little patchy but I never   noticed it when viewing darker content,  though 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  a microphone.

The M15 with prism finish like I’ve got  has a single zone RGB keyboard, however the   brushed black edition instead has per key RGB  lighting. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!Mine has 3 levels of key brightness,   or you can turn it off, and all keys  and secondary functions are illuminated.

Typing worked well, except for one issue,  and no it’s not the small arrow keys.   Like many other laptops from ASUS, the space bar  is larger on the left to help with thumb presses,   except pressing down right at the front didn’t  actually trigger key presses. I didn’t have any   issues with this when typing, only when gaming  when I needed to press space with my hand on WASD,   so you have to make sure you have your  thumb properly on the space bar instead,   but I’m not sure if this is  just an issue with my unit.  

 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. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!The precision touchpad is smooth and clicks  down anywhere, and I found it to work very well.

Fingerprints and dirt aren’t too obvious,  so the soft touch paint seems to be doing   its job, however due to the textured  finish it’s harder to clean fully.   ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!On the left we’ve got an air  exhaust vent, power input,   gigabit ethernet facing the preferred way so  you don’t have to lift the machine to unplug,   HDMI 2.0b output, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A, and  separate 3.5mm mic and headphone jacks. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!The right has a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port  with both Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort 1.4,   two USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, an air exhaust  vent on this side too followed by Kensington lock.

Both the Type-C and HDMI outputs  connect directly to the Nvidia graphics,   so should be good to go for VR, and you can also  charge the laptop over Type-C with a power bank. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!The back just has a couple of air exhaust vents,   while the front just has a small  indentation in the middle to get   your finger in for opening the lid. It was only  just possible to open the lid with one finger,   and the lid has this dot design which has a  subtle colour change effect on different angles. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!Underneath has air vents up the back,   and unlike the Scar 15 I recently looked  at, they’re above the air intake vents.   Never thought I’d be praising that. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!Getting  inside involves removing 15 Phillips head screws. Inside we’ve got the battery down the  bottom, two M.2 storage slots above that,   WiFi 6 is soldered to the board just above the  left SSD, and like other Zephyrus models we   just get one slot for memory. The M15 comes with  16gb of DDR4-3200 memory soldered to the board,   so if you want dual channel you’ll either  need to make sure the one you’re buying has   more than this or otherwise upgrade  it yourself for optimal performance. It’s also worth noting you can only get  3200 speeds with the 8 core i7-10875H CPU,   the 10750H model I’ve got is capped at 2933.

The two speakers are on the left and right sides  towards the front, I thought they sounded quite   good for a laptop, definitely above average with  some bass and still clear enough at max volume,   granted with a little palm rest vibration,  but the latencymon results were ok. 

The M15 is powered by a 76Wh battery.  I’ve tested it with RGB lighting off,   background apps disabled and screen at  50% brightness. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!It lasted for over 6   hours in the YouTube playback test, a  reasonable result, though not as long   as the Zephyrus G14 with same sized battery,  presumably due to that one being Ryzen based.

Although the M15 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. ASUS are using liquid metal on the CPU here, as is  the case with many of their Intel 10th gen lineup. By default there’s no undervolt, and  undervolting is locked through software,   however you can undervolt through  the BIOS, but it’s capped at -0.08v.   Still though, better than some others  where it’s not possible at all.

The 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.

ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!The idle temperatures were good 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. I wasn’t seeing CPU thermal  throttling in any of these tests,   however the GPU was hitting thermal  throttling at 86 degrees at times,   or was otherwise not too far off it -  at least in performance and turbo modes.   Silent mode was cooler as power limits are  capped to prevent the fans running loud, but   when we look at the clock speeds we can see it’s  lower than the others, well in most cases anyway.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! In the stress test the speeds aren’t actually  too different, though in the gaming test the   speeds are notably lower compared to the higher  modes. Best case the 10750H was able to hit 4GHZ   over all 6 cores, so not quite reaching full  all core turbo speed which is pretty normal,   not too far off it anyway, and don’t forget this  is a thinner machine so less space for cooling.

ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!The 1660 Ti was running at its  80 watt limit in most cases,   the exception being turbo mode while  gaming prior to using a cooling pad,   as this is where the 86 degree Celsius thermal  throttle cap was being reached. I noticed some   strange behaviour with the CPU in turbo mode,  HWInfo reported PL1 as 60 watts for some reason   when I did my gaming test, but then in the other  turbo mode tests it was back to a 45 watt limit,   the same cap observed in turbo mode with  the stress tests too, so I’m not sure why it   decided to boost up to 60 watts in that one game  test, but it wasn’t anything custom that I did.

Here’s how game frame rates differed with these  different modes in use, ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!

turbo and manual mode were   the same as expected as we get the same overclocks  at stock, then lower results with the lower modes. 

Here’s how CPU only performance looks in Cinebench  with the GPU now idle,ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!so not too much of a   difference in turbo mode, even with the undervolt  in use. This is a great score for a 10750H,   and when compared against others it’s the best  single and multicore result out of the 6 core i7   machines I’ve tested.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! The single core result  is better than the 6 core Ryzen options too,   and in some cases multicore is better  depending on the specific laptop.

When idling the keyboard was around the low 30  degree Celsius point which is pretty normal. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!  With the stress tests going in silent mode  it’s high 40s in the middle and warm to the   touch but not hot. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!It’s a bit warmer in  performance mode, especially up the back,   granted you shouldn’t need to be touching  there.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! In turbo mode it’s a bit warmer still,   getting to the mid 50s in the center, though  it still didn’t feel hot to me, and the WASD   area was still cool as air moves through the  keyboard.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!

The fans were still audible when idling. It was on  the quieter side when under load in silent mode,   performance mode was fairly average when compared   with most other gaming laptops I’ve  tested, then turbo mode was louder.

Now let’s check out how well the Zephyrus  M15 performs in games and see how it compares   with other laptops. I’ve run these at 1080p  despite having a 4K screen in my test unit.

I’ve tested Battlefield 5 in  campaign mode at ultra settings,   and the M15 is highlighted in red. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!The results  here are looking good, the highest average FPS   I’ve ever had from a GTX 1660 Ti laptop,  though the 1% lows were behind many of the   alternatives with the same GPU just below it  on the graph, but a decent result regardless.

These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra  settings in the built in benchmark.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! The M15 moves   up a couple of positions now. This test depends  more on CPU power, and as we saw in Cinebench   this is an area where the M15 does well.  It’s not quite doing as well as the 9th gen   Helios 300 just above it, probably due to the  default undervolt out of the box that applies,   but we could always undervolt  the M15 to close the gap.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also tested with  the games benchmark tool with the highest setting   preset.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! The M15 is doing great here, same average  FPS as the higher 90 watt RTX 2060 in the TUF A15,   even better than the 110 watt 2060 in the  RP-15, though it can’t quite catch the 115   watt 2060 in the MSI GL65 one spot above it.  Still though, an excellent result from a GTX   1660 Ti based machine, and my new best  1660 Ti result recorded in this game. I’ve also tested the M15 in 20  games at all setting levels,   check the card in the top right or link in  the description if you want more benchmarks.

Now for the benchmarking tools.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export  one of my laptop review videos at 4K.   Lower times are better here, and the  M15 with these specs was doing well,   best 1660 Ti laptop result here and even  beating higher wattage 2060 systems. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!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 M15 isn’t doing as well  now with Ryzen based 1660 Ti systems ahead. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!It’s a different story in Adobe Photoshop,  this is an excellent result for this level   of hardware, which I suspect is down  to this being a CPU focussed test.   As we saw in Cinebench earlier, we’re  seeing great single core performance   and the best multicore score  I’ve measured so far with an i7.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! DaVinci Resolve is more GPU heavy, and  like the Premiere result the 80 watt 1660   Ti isn’t quite as good as others that are  paired up with Ryzen, but still though,   the score was identical to the GL65  below it with higher wattage 2060. ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records!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.ASUS Zephyrus M15 Review - This 1660 Ti Breaks Records! Read speeds look ok,   but write speeds were half as much.  When copying my game library over for   testing I actually noticed that after  a few minutes it would dip down from   maxing out the gigabit connection to about  half the speed as the disk gets loaded up.

Finally let’s discuss price. It’s available for $1150 USD on sale,   granted this is with single channel memory, as  mentioned you’d definitely want dual channel   for best performance so budget an extra $50 or  so for another memory stick, it’ll be worth it. Here in Australia we’re  looking at significantly more.

Let’s conclude by summarising both the good and   the bad sides of the M15 to help  you decide if it’s worth buying. The build quality is pretty nice feeling.  The magnesium alloy chassis wasn’t too   flexible for a thinner machine, which  is in part what you’re paying for,   the Zephyrus branding and design, as you  can get the same CPU plus GPU spec for a   bit less money elsewhere, it just  depends what your priorities are. The smaller size makes it more portable, and  despite this, as we saw it’s the best performing   GTX 1660 Ti gaming laptop in games that I’ve  tested so far.

The processor performance was   also great for an i7, beating some Ryzen 5 4600H  machines in both single and multi core score. It’s great that ASUS gives us the option  to undervolt a bit through BIOS rather   than just locking it like others.  It doesn’t run particularly cool,   but given the thinner size and good performance  I can forgive that, that may be the liquid metal   helping out. I believe that’s only applied to  the processor though, and in my tests I did see   some thermal throttling on the GPU, but again  as seen the performance in games was still good.

The 4K panel option is great for creators  with good brightness, colour gamut and   contrast ratio. Expect better response time  with the 144Hz or 240Hz gaming panels though. Battery life was decent, and the  addition of Thunderbolt 3 is welcome,   if I remember correctly I had  a few comments on previous gen   Zephyrus reviews with some saying  that was a reason they didn’t buy. Things I didn’t like include the space bar  issue, though not sure if that’s just my unit.  

No camera in human malware times might be rough  for some, though you can use an external one.   One memory slot is a deal breaker for  some, but I don’t think it’s too bad,   I’d have more of an issue if it was 8 gig  soldered to the board rather than 16gb,   this way you can still install a 16gb stick  for 32gb, or a 32gb stick for 48gb, which   is likely plenty for most for future upgrades.  I don’t like that this allows ASUS to sell the   machine in a single channel configuration  and still advertise it as 16gb though,   but I suppose they aren’t alone in doing that. 

The only other thing that was annoying was the   slow SSD write speeds after copying lots of data,  but even that might vary if they sell this machine   with different drives in different regions, either  way you could always swap that if it’s a problem.

All things considered, the Zephyrus  GU502, aka M15, is a decent gaming laptop,   less problems when compared to the Scar 15 I  recently tested anyway, I definitely prefer this   one myself at least, but let me know your  thoughts on the M15 down in the comments.

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