Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 Review: Admirably Portable Gaming
This gaming laptop balances performance, portability and practicality.
The Asus Zephyrus G15 gaming laptop trades straight-line performance
for a well-built, thin-and-light chassis, though its lack of a webcam is a downer.
|Thin-and-light metal chassis||RTX 3060 struggles for 1440p gaming|
|Quality keyboard and touchpad||No webcam|
|Good speakers||Display could be brighter|
|Reasonably quiet fans|
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is the opposite of a huge, hulking gaming laptop. Subdued looks and a thin, lightweight design help make it one of the most portable 15.6-inch gaming laptops, and it has all-day battery life to match. It’s the textbook definition of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Of course, there’s no free lunch. Though the $1,499.99 model ($1,249 on sale as of this writing) we tested has a formidable AMD Ryzen 9 processor and GeForce RTX 3060 graphics, it still fell short of the admittedly bulkier competition in straight-line performance. The trade-off can nonetheless be worthwhile, especially if you’re after a more mature laptop that doesn’t sacrifice practicality.
Design of the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
You won’t find any flashy design cues or external RGB light strips on the Zephyrus G15. Though it’s part of Asus’ Republic of Gamers (ROG) line, this 15.6-incher shifts some of its focus from performance to portability and premium materials.
The eclipse gray chassis has a metal lid and palm rest surround; only the bottom panel is plastic. The metal is thick and part of the laptop’s structure. None of the chassis’ surfaces flexed despite my best efforts. This is one strong, well-made laptop. The similarly-priced MSI Sword 15 is all plastic.
Design-wise, though, the Zephyrus isn’t much to look at. Its rounded corners and monotone color don’t move the excitement slider very far. The only time this laptop catches the eye is when its lid is in sunlight or intense lighting. A prismatic film catches light and shines through 8,279 tiny holes for a rainbow-like effect. This looks fabulous in person; photos don’t capture the full effect.
The display hinge is also notable. It not only lets the lid tilt back 180 degrees, but also lifts the back of the chassis for improved airflow and so the keyboard slopes towards you. Asus calls it an ErgoLift hinge, and that seems accurate.
At 13.98 x 9.57 x 0.78 inches and 4.19 pounds, the Zephyrus G15 is noticeably trimmer and lighter than the Alienware m15 R7 (14.02 x 10.73 x 0.94 inches, 5.53 pounds), the MSI Sword 15 (14.13 x 10.20 x 0.98 inches, 4.96 pounds), and especially the Asus ROG Strix G15 (13.94 x 10.2 x 1.07 inches / 6.61 pounds). The Razer Blade 15 (2022) has slightly less depth but is a touch heavier. (It’s 13.98 x 9.25 x 0.67 inches and 4.4 pounds.) All told, the Zephyrus is one impressively portable 15.6-inch gaming laptop.
The Zephyrus G15’s port selection starts on the left, with HDMI 2.0b, Gigabit Ethernet, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, a pair of USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports, and a 3.5 mm audio combo jack. The USB-C ports both support DisplayPort and 100-watt power delivery, so they could be used to charge the Zephyrus in case you forget the included barrel-style adapter. (That said, they can’t supply this laptop’s power needs for gaming.)
I don’t like how these ports are bunched against the front corner, close to the palm rest. Leftie mouse users might have some problems with plugged-in peripherals jutting into your external-mouse space.
The remaining connectivity is on the right edge, where you’ll find another USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, a MicroSD card reader, and a Kensington lock slot. There are no USB 4 or Thunderbolt 4 ports, though they aren’t typically found on gaming notebooks south of $1,500. (Especially AMD models.)
There are no ports on the front, and nothing on the rear, either, though you can see the formidable-looking cooling vents. These direct air at the display hinge, which then travels up the lid.
Internally, the Zephyrus’ MediaTek MT7921 wireless card supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, not the newer Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 standards, though it should offer plenty of bandwidth. Overall, this laptop has versatile, practical connectivity.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 Specifications
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS (8 cores, 16 threads, 3.0GHz base, 4.6GHz boost, 35-watt TDP)|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, 6GB GDDR6, 1,425MHz boost clock, 95-watt maximum graphics power|
|Storage||512GB PCIe Gen 3 SSD|
|Display||15.6-inch, IPS, 2560 x 1440, 165Hz|
|Networking||MediaTek Wi-Fi 6 MT7921, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Ports||2x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 2, 2x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 (supporting DisplayPort and power delivery), HDMI 2.0b, Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5 mm headphone/microphone, MicroSD card reader|
|Power Adapter||200-watt (barrel connector)|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||13.98 x 9.57 x 0.78 inches (355.1 x 243.1 x 19.81 mm)|
|Weight||4.19 pounds (1.9 kg)|
|Price (as configured)||$1,249|
Gaming and Graphics on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
Our Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503QM-BS94Q review model has an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics, and 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM. The RTX 3060 has 6GB of dedicated GDDR6 memory, a maximum graphics power rating of 95 watts and a 1,425MHz boost clock.
Playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II on the Zephyrus G15, the game recommended a mix of Normal and High settings at a 2560 x 1440 resolution with Nvidia DLSS enabled. I saw frame rates between 80 and 100 frames per second, with occasional dips into the 50 to 60 fps range in heavy smoke or dust. Overall, though, the game played very smoothly. I didn’t experience any performance problems that affected my gameplay.
I had a similar experience playing Star Wars Squadrons. This game isn’t challenging to run; I observed frame rates between 120 and 130 fps at 2560 x 1440 with Ultra settings. The Zephyrus maintained above 100 fps even during intense head-on passes with lots of explosions and while maneuvering through debris fields. It was smooth sailing.
In the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark at the game’s Highest detail preset, the Zephyrus G15 averaged 68 fps, almost matching the 69 fps produced by the Alienware m15 R7 and finishing ahead of the MSI Sword 15’s 60 fps. (Both of those laptops also use a GeForce RTX 3060.) But the Zephyrus was no match for the ROG Strix G15, which finished with 88 fps. We also ran this test at the Zephyrus’ native 2560 x 1440 screen resolution, where it naturally took a performance hit, achieving 44 fps. Getting higher fps at native screen resolution will require lowering the detail settings.
In the popular Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, the Zephyrus G15’s 82 fps average was the lowest. The Sword 15 was next best at 90 fps and the ROG Strix G15 was untouchable at 98 fps. The Zephyrus again took a performance hit at native resolution, averaging 52 fps.
Moving onto Far Cry: New Dawn at Ultra settings, the Zephyrus G15 turned the tables and beat the ROG Strix G15, with 83 fps versus 81 fps, though the 90 fps MSI Sword outdid them both. We didn’t run this test on the Alienware. The Zephyrus G15 didn’t see as severe of a performance drop at native resolution, managing a very playable 71 fps.
Last is Borderlands 3 at its “badass” settings. The Zephyrus G15 struggled to be competitive here, averaging 64 fps, which was behind the MSI’s 69 fps and even further behind the leading ROG Strix G15 (79 fps). The 44 fps the Zephyrus achieved at its native screen resolution isn’t ideal, so this is another game where the settings would need to be lowered for the best performance.
Overall, the Zephyrus G15 trailed the field in gaming performance, especially next to the ROG Strix G15. The differences weren’t massive in most cases, but they were enough to make you contemplate whether the Zephyrus’ thinner and lighter design is worth the performance trade-off. Another takeaway is that running games at the Zephyrus’ native 2560 x 1440 resolution may require lowering the visual-quality settings for smooth playability in some (but not all) games. That resolution is on the high side even for the desktop GeForce RTX 3060, let alone the laptop version, at least if you insist on maximum visual quality.
The game benchmarks we just ran only last for a few minutes, so for longer-term testing, we loop the Metro Exodus game benchmark 15 times on RTX settings at 1920 x 1080. The Zephyrus G15’s average frame rates in each loop were consistent, ranging from 52.51 fps to 52.75 fps. The Ryzen 9 5900HS CPU ran at an average temperature of 72.42 degrees Celsius and its processor cores averaged 3.38GHz. The GeForce RTX 3060 averaged 72.69 degrees Celsius and its average boost clock was 1,545MHz.
Productivity Performance on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
The Zephyrus G15 we reviewed has an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor, 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, and a 512GB PCI Express Gen 3 SSD. The storage drive is on the small side, but it can be upgraded, as can the RAM. (See the Upgradeability section later in this review.)
Our first benchmark is Geekbench 5, a CPU-oriented productivity test. The Zephyrus G15 kept pace in the single-core test with the other two AMD machines, the Alienware (using a newer Ryzen 7 6800H) and the ROG Strix G15 (Ryzen 9 5900HX), but fell behind the Alienware in multi-core. All three lagged well behind the Intel i7-12650H-powered MSI in both tests.
Our file transfer test saw the Zephyrus G15 copying 25GB of files at 990.57 MBps, not far behind the MSI’s 1,080.53 MBps, and well ahead of the Alienware (529.78 MBps) and the ROG Strix G15 (340.68 MBps).
Our last test is Handbrake transcoding, in which we convert a 4K video to 1080p. The Zephyrus G15 completed in 7 minutes and 11 seconds. It beat the MSI by a few seconds but didn’t come close to challenging the Alienware (5 minutes and 35 seconds).
Display on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
Our Zephyrus G15 review model has a 15.6-inch IPS display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution. Star Wars: Andor showed off the display’s wide color coverage, though I felt the brightness could have used a boost to make things pop. Using the Vivid display profile in the included ROG Armoury Crate app improved the contrast and made explosions more intense, though it didn’t fully compensate for the lack of brightness.
But gaming is what this screen is really intended for. Its anti-glare surface, 165 Hz refresh rate, and AMD FreeSync Premium variable refresh rate support created a smooth and lag-free experience in the games I tried. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, the screen’s strong contrast helped dark scenes, such as tunnels, seem immersive, but I could still pick out detail in the shadows. I didn’t see any frame tearing. I also played Star Wars: Squadrons, which looked vivid and super smooth. Unlike movie-watching, I didn’t feel the screen needed a brightness boost for gaming. In fact, not having searingly bright explosions might have helped keep my eye fatigue to a minimum for extended gaming sessions.
The Zephyrus G15’s screen has the widest color coverage in this group, covering 74.8% of the DCI-P3 gamut and 105.6% of sRGB. The next-best Alienware covers 71.1% of DCI-P3 and 100% of sRGB. Screen brightness is where the Zephyrus is slightly off pace; its 261 nits is only better than the MSI’s 247 nits. The Alienware’s 289-nit screen is the brightest.
Keyboard and Touchpad on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
Typing on the Zephyrus G15 is a real treat. The keys have a light but fast keystroke, with ample travel for communicative feedback. Keypress noise is subdued and shouldn’t attract attention. I averaged 100 words per minute in the 10FastFingers typing test, with 98% accuracy, and that’s as well as I can do on any keyboard.
Dedicated Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys unfortunately aren’t on the Zephyrus; they’re secondary functions within the arrow keys and require the Fn key to activate. The arrow keys aren’t separated out as they would be on a desktop keyboard, but at least they’re all half-size for consistency; some laptops confusingly mix half-height up and down arrows with full-size left and right arrows.
The Zephyrus gets bonus points for including dedicated volume and microphone buttons in their own row above the keyboard. There’s also a button to launch the ROG Armoury Crate app, which among other things lets you change the keyboard backlighting. (More on that app later.) On the opposite side of the chassis, the power button doubles as a biometric fingerprint reader.
The keyboard backlighting is only single-zone RGB, meaning all the keys must be the same color; higher-end gaming laptops include zoned lighting or per-key control. The backlighting nonetheless looks good and is bright enough to be visible in a well-lit room. Lighting patterns are supported, including breathing and color cycle. You can toggle the backlighting brightness with the keyboard shortcuts Fn + F2 and F3.
The Zephyrus’ oversized glass touchpad has an intuitive anti-glare surface and short but precise tactile clicking action. I didn’t have any accuracy issues. I also didn’t accidentally engage the touchpad during my game testing even though my palm brushed it a few times. External mouse users can disable the touchpad with Fn + F10.
Audio on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
The Zephyrus G15 has six speakers instead of the usual two, four straddling the keyboard and two firing downward under the palm rest. Tuned with Dolby Atmos, this setup offers full sound, with impressive detail, though it’s light on bass. The included Dolby Access app lets you tune equalizer settings or choose from presets. As I found using this app on other laptops, the Balanced preset seems to work best for small speakers, slightly boosting the bass without sacrificing detail.
I started my listening with Richard Marx’s “Should’ve Known Better”, an airy rock hit with heavy guitar and piercing drums. The Zephyrus G15’s speakers mostly did the song justice, emphasizing the guitar’s detail and the tops of the drum hits, though the song sounded a little flat overall.
I also listened to Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” for something bass heavy. It revealed the Zephyrus G15 can produce bass, though it’s not deep and falls short of satisfying. Overall, music listening isn’t unenjoyable with this laptop, but any music-oriented Bluetooth speaker would do better.
Gaming, however, is a different story; I never once reached for my headphones while playing the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II campaign. The speakers’ surprisingly good soundstage let me know precisely where sounds were coming from, which was a tremendous help in stealth missions where I had to remain concealed until enemies passed. It also gave a sense of realism in firefights; bullets sounded like they were whizzing by.
Explosions were the one minor weak point due to lack of bass but turning up the volume somewhat compensated for that. For some reason, the speakers seemed much louder playing games than they did music; 60 to 70 percent volume was plenty. Any louder than that, and I felt compelled to turn it down. For laptop audio, it’s hard to complain about the Zephyrus G15’s setup.
Upgradeability of the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
The Zephyrus G15’s part-replacement potential includes its RAM, SSD, battery, and wireless card. All are all accessible by removing the base of the chassis, which is secured by 13 Philips head screws.
You’ll need to keep track of where the screws came from since they’re not uniform length; installing a longer screw in a hole for a shorter screw could damage the laptop. The four screws along the front edge and the three in the center are shorter than the others. Oddly, the center screws are covered by rubber stoppers, which require a pin or sharp object to dislodge.
I didn’t need a plastic trim tool to pry off the bottom panel after removing the screws; the front edge had enough of a gap that I was able to use my fingers to coax the rest of it free, then work my way around the edges. The rear edge was last.
The Zephyrus has only one DDR4-3200 SODIMM slot; 8GB of the RAM is soldered and not upgradeable. That limits the memory ceiling to 40GB if you install a 32GB module. There are, however, two M.2 2280 PCIe Gen 3 storage drive slots. A screw is included for the second slot even though our unit only has one drive installed.
Battery Life on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
We don’t emphasize battery life for gaming laptops, but it is slightly more important for the Zephyrus G15 since portability is its calling card. It didn’t disappoint, lasting 9 hours and 27 minutes in our battery test, which includes web browsing, light graphics work and video streaming on Wi-Fi with the display set to 150 nits of brightness. That’s more than enough time to venture away from home without the power adapter. Only the ROG Strix G15 did better, at 10 hours and 14 minutes. The MSI Sword 15 wasn’t remotely competitive, at 3 hours and 55 minutes.
Heat on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
Metal gaming laptops tend to get toasty while gaming, but the Zephyrus G15 remained cool enough to touch on most of its topside. We took the thermal images below while running the Metro Exodus stress test. The keyboard reached 107 degrees Fahrenheit (41.67 degrees Celsius) between the G and H keys, and we saw the touchpad center hit 84.9 degrees Fahrenheit (29.39 degrees Celsius). The hottest point, 125 degrees Fahrenheit (51.67 degrees Celsius), was actually the bottom of the display bezel where the heat exhaust is pointed. The rest of the surfaces weren’t nearly that hot.
Meanwhile, the maximum temperature on the bottom of the laptop was 125 degrees Fahrenheit (51.67 degrees Celsius). The cool purple areas reveal the locations of the twin cooling fans.
Another useful app is MyAsus, which can check for system updates and provides access to Asus Support. I like that you can set battery charge percentage; if you don’t use the laptop on battery often, you can set it to stop at 60% or 80% to maximize long-term battery health. Additionally, the app lets you prioritize which apps get network priority, such as gaming and multimedia. (I didn’t have a way to test that.)
It may seem bizarre that this laptop has both AMD Radeon and Nvidia GeForce software, but it has AMD integrated graphics and an Nvidia dedicated graphics card. For audio, the Dolby Access app I mentioned earlier has useful equalizer presets for improving sound quality. Last, there’s minor unwanted software you’ll want to get rid of, mainly McAfee Personal Security. The usual Windows apps like Skype, Spotify and Disney+ are also present.
Asus backs the Zephyrus G15 with a one-year warranty.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 Configurations
The Zephyrus G15 reviewed here is model GA503QM-BS94Q, which was on sale directly from Asus USA for $1,249 at this writing, but tends to run for about $1,499.99 when not on sale. This is the entry-level Zephyrus G15, with a 15.6-inch, 2560 x 1440, 165 Hz screen, an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB PCIe Gen 3 SSD, and Windows 10 Home.
Higher-priced Zephyrus G15 laptops differ in graphics, storage, and memory. For $1,899, model GA503QS-BS96Q upgrades to a GeForce RTX 3080 and a 1TB SSD but changes nothing else. The RTX 3080 is only an 8GB version and has a maximum graphics power of just 100 watts. There’s also model GA503QS-XS98Q, which wasn’t available from Asus directly; I found it for a little north of $2,000 from other vendors. It has a white chassis instead of a gray one, Windows 10 Pro, and 16GB of onboard memory instead of 8GB in the other models, which boosts its memory ceiling to 48GB. (That is, if you add a 32GB SODIMM.) By far, the base model we’re testing offers the most bang for the buck.
If you have much deeper pockets, Asus has a refreshed Zephyrus G15 model GA503RS-PH94(opens in new tab) for $2,299. It’s unchanged on the outside, but inside it has the new Ryzen 9 6900HS processor, an RTX 3080 with a higher 120-watt maximum graphics power rating, DDR5 memory, and PCIe Gen 4 storage. Its screen also has a higher 240 Hz refresh rate, Nvidia Optimus and a MUX switch.
Few laptops do portable gaming as well as the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15. This 15.6-incher is about as trim and light as they come yet still packs the hardware you’ll need for gaming. And when you’re on the road, its impressive battery life, excellent input devices, and practical port selection will help you remain productive.
What this laptop doesn’t do is attract attention, and that’s part of its appeal. There’s no RGB lighting outside of its keyboard (which is only one lighting zone), and the lid’s intricate metal design is only appreciable in direct lighting. This is essentially a gaming laptop on the down low.
Gaming performance is where this laptop makes a slight compromise. Though its GeForce RTX 3060 has plenty of horsepower for 1920 x 1080 gaming, the laptop’s native screen resolution is 2560 x 1440, and that’s far more demanding. Our benchmarks suggested reducing the visual quality in more demanding games, such as Borderlands 3, will be required to get around 60 fps. In that sense, we almost wish this laptop had a 1920 x 1080 screen, but 2560 x 1440 gives you lots of extra screen real estate for productivity.
Other positives for this laptop include its competent cooling system, speakers (for gaming, anyway), and useful included apps. It stumbles by not including a webcam, which is hard to forgive, but you can overcome that by getting an external cam.
Then there’s price. At this writing, the Zephyrus G15 we tested is just $1,249. Arguably its closest competitor is the Razer Blade 15, which runs several hundred more on sale. You can get more performance for your dollar with the number one pick from our favorite gaming laptops under $1,500, the ROG Strix G15, but it’s far bulkier and flashier than the Zephyrus, so you’ll need to decide where your priorities lie.
All considered, the Zephyrus is admirably well-rounded. It does a great job packing gaming performance into a well-built chassis that offers the features you need for work or play.