Well ASUS have done it. They’ve done what everyone’s been asking for and made high end Ryzen gaming laptops. Not only that, but there’s also some nice improvements to the cooling, let’s take a look and see what they’ve got in 2021.
Strix Scar 15/17
Let’s start with the ASUS Strix Scar 15 and 17. Traditionally an Intel only model in the past, the Scar series is now available with up to AMD’s 8 core 16 thread Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics. Screen options have also seen an update,with both 1080p 360Hz or 1440p 165Hz, both with adaptive sync. It now uses an optical mechanical keyboard with 1.9mm of travel distance and an 85% larger touchpad than last gen, so some nice changes that I look forward to testing out.
ASUS have also added liquid metal to their AMD gaming laptop lineup. Last year only Intel models got the liquid metal treatment, and this was because the AMD mobile processors have more conductive components next to the die. ASUS says this makes developing an automatic process to apply the liquid metal challenging, but they’ve got it done so now their AMD gaming laptops get this benefit.
The last gen scar 15 didn’t offer Type-C charging, but these new Ryzen based Scar laptops do, and this is an area where ASUS have really expanded, all of their new gaming laptops can now be charged with 1USB Type-C up to 100 watts. Sure, it’s not enough to get full performance playing games, but 100 watts is more than most others and it let’s you have the option of using a smaller power brick when you don’t need full performance.
The Scar also now has a larger 90Wh battery, or 36% more capacity over the 66Wh battery in the last gen Scar. ASUS are saying that the Scar can run the AMD processor at 80 watts sustained in a CPU only workload, or at 54 watts when the GPU is active too, so while gaming for instance, so we should be in for some nice performance. It’s also got some user customization, you can change out this back plate with different options.
Despite all of these changes, the Scar gaming laptop is actually a little smaller than the last gen model in terms of width and depth, though it is slightly thicker instead.
Zephyrus Duo 15 SE
Next up is the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, their top end dual screen gaming laptop. Like the Scar, last gen this was Intel only model, and now it goes up to Nvidia RTX 3080 with AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, which does mean that CPU overclocking should be possible. The main screen can either be 4K 120Hz, or up to 1080p 300Hz with adaptive sync. I’m not going to go into too much depth on the dual screen setup as I’ve already reviewed the Duo 15. The new version also has a Micro SD card slot on the side, a nice little bonus for creators that last year's model didn’t have.
TUF Dash F15
Next is the TUF Dash F15. This one’s a bit different because it’s using Intel’s new 11th gen H35 Tiger Lake processors. These quad core chips are meant to be for thinner ultraportable gaming laptops, and the Dash F15 is under 2cm thick. Despite quad core processors, it’s probably going to do alright in games.
The last time I compared 4 cores against 6 cores in games, the 6 core laptop didn’t do that much better on average, but it does of course depend on the specific game and settings in use.
Now the Intel H35 processors have a 35W TDP, and ASUS have said that this will be the limit when both the CPU and GPU are active at the same time. For a CPU only workload we’re looking at 64 watts of sustained performance.
Visually it seems to have a similar design aesthetic to the Zephyrus series with a clean finish. It’s available with up to Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics, up to 240Hz 1080p screen with adaptive sync, 76Wh battery, WiFi 6, two M.2 storage slots and 16 gig of DDR4-3200 memory is soldered to the board, but there is space on the motherboard to install a stick for dual channel operation. While we’re looking at internals as provided by ASUS, here are some shots of the cooling solution as provided by ASUS. I/O on the left includes the power input, gigabit ethernet, HDMI 2.0b output, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port with USB 4.0 support, DisplayPort 1.4a output, and you can also use this port to charge the laptop with 100 watts, followed by a 3.5mm audio combo jack. The right has less I/O to keep cables out of the way of your mouse hand, just two more USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports here and a Kensington lock. Available in either moonlight white or eclipse gray, the TUF Dash F15 is an interesting laptop that I look forward to testing.
TUF A15 Refresh - Improved cooling!
Continuing with the TUF series, the A15 and A17 have also got some nice updates. They’re available with up to Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics and AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor. The 90Wh battery is the default now, and the single USB 2.0 Type-A port from last gen on the right has been updated to 3.2 Gen 1. It now comes with WiFi 6 instead of 5, and there’s now a 240Hz screen option, which I’d expect to have much better response time than the options last generation.
From the information that I’ve been provided, it sounds like there will be both a Ryzen 4000 and Ryzen 5000 version of the A15 and A17, though both will have the newer Nvidia RTX 3000 graphics. I would assume the 4000 one would be cheaper, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Now these sound like some nice updates, but there’s more. There was a concern around thermals last generation, however improvements have been made here too. if we look at the heatsink for the updated model we can see that there are now three shared heatpipes between the CPU and GPU instead of two, in addition to this top pipe continuing over to the heatsink on the right. There’s also more air ventilation holes on the bottom too. The picture isn’t the best, but we can clearly see additional holes above the intake fans on both the left and right. So it really sounds like there are some nice improvements to the A15, keep an eye out for when I compare it against last year's model.
Zephyrus G14 Refresh
Now let’s move over to the Zephyrus G14, which has also been refreshed. Again it’s now available with Zen 3, up to the 8 core 16 thread Ryzen 9 5900HS with Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics. The cooling also seems to have a small upgrade, the old solution has two heatpipes running directly between the CPU and GPU, while the newer system appears to have three in this same position.
The screen has also been updated. Last year the 14” screen was either 1080p 144Hz or 1440p 60Hz, and this year both get a bump. Now we get 1080p 144Hz or 1440p 120Hz, and this is important because response time was an area where the G14 had issues last generation, so hopefully these new panel options improve in that area.
Zephyrus G15 - New design
The larger Zephyrus G15 has also been updated significantly. It looks much more like a larger version of the G14 now with a very similar design aesthetic, whereas last generation it was a fair bit different, and this change makes it both smaller and lighter compared to last generation while the touchpad size actually increases by 20%. The new G15, once again, has been updated with up to AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS and Nvidia RTX 3080, however like the A15, the specs indicate that there are also Ryzen 4000 configurations with new graphics, so there’s a choice between Zen 2 and 3. The G15 also receives a screen update, and is available with up to a 1440p 165Hz panel with 3ms response time, or 1080p 300Hz panel, both with adaptive sync. The screen also goes the full 180 degrees back now to help with sharing.
Like the TUF A15, it looks like we’ve got some nice upgrades to the cooling solution too, just check out the differences in heatpipes between the old G15 design and this photo of the new one. The new one has far more pipes, as well as exhausts on both sides while the old one only exhausted from one side.
The battery size of both the G15 has also increased up to 90Wh from 76, so around 18% extra capacity. Again like the other AMD laptops tested, both the G14 and G15 support Type-C charging up to 100 watts. Last gen it was 65 watts.
Also like the other ASUS Ryzen gaming laptops, liquid metal is now standard here. Another small change is the use of a holographic film behind the cutouts on the lid. Depending on the light angle the lid will have a slight colour effect instead of just nothing like with the last gen G14 non lit version.
As for completely brand new gaming laptops, ASUS also have the ROG Flow X13. A smaller 13” gaming laptop with up to AMD’s top end Ryzen 9 5980HS processor in the limited edition supernova edition. What makes this one most interesting is ASUS have provided a direct PCIe connection to attach Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics in a very portable eGPU setup. As there’s so much ro cover with this model, I’ve actually dedicated a whole review to it if you want all the juicy details.
Why ASUS were the best at CES 2021 for gaming laptops
Overall, I think ASUS have done very well here, and are doing exactly what people are asking for, which is high end Ryzen gaming laptops. Pretty much everything I’ve just covered uses the new Ryzen 5000 processors, with the exception of the TUF Dash F15. Serious, think about it. Even the top end dual screen Duo 15 is now Ryzen based with RTX 3080 graphics.
Other companies like MSI and Razer for instance are sticking to Intel 10th gen and just refreshing the graphics, and maybe upgrading the screens. Cooling in ASUS laptops should also have some nice improvements this generation. Not only are ASUS now able to automate liquid metal application for AMD laptops, as we saw, the TUF A15, Zephyrus G14 and Zephyrus G15 all have fairly significant upgrades to the cooling. The A15 in particular now has more air ventilation underneath, and as the new G15 design copies the G14, the back of the laptop lifts up when you’re using it, allowing for more air to flow in underneath.
Another weak area in some models last generation like the A15 and G14 were screen response time, but it seems like there are more panel options available now, so hopefully those have better response times. Anyway while this all sounds, I still need to get these in for testing to actually say for sure what the differences are.