Skinny gaming laptops are all the rage. And doing its part to banish the bulk is Taiwanese PC firm Asus.
Its latest ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) is touted by Asus as the "thinnest gaming laptop" in the market. It comes in at less than 16mm thick, compared with the 18mm thick Zephyrus from last year.
To further convey an impression of being slim and compact, Asus has shrunk the screen bezels around the new model's 15-inch display. As a result, it has a near-bezel-less appearance like many modern laptops and smartphones.
Impressively, the Zephyrus S weighs 2.1kg compared with 2.2kg for last year's model. This is handy for gaming laptops of this size as even the most portable models hover around 1.8kg.
What made the original Zephyrus stand out from the competition was its unique cooling mechanism. The laptop base opens by 5mm at the back where an air-intake system sucks in air to cool the innards.
This cooling system is retained in the Zephyrus S and seems to have been tweaked. The hinges appear more sturdy and the opening for the intake looks less exposed.
It probably also has an easier job because the new model has a mid-range (and more affordable) Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip that should run cooler than the high-end GTX 1080 (Max-Q) chip on last year's Zephyrus.
Like the previous model, the keyboard has been shifted to the front edge of the laptop to accommodate the cooling system while the touchpad is shunted to the right. The benefit of this design is that the keyboard remains relatively cool since it is further from the internal components that run hot.
Like most gaming laptops, the keys are backlit. The keyboard is split into four customisable backlight zones with a separate colour for each. These backlight settings are found in the new Armoury Crate app, which lets you monitor the temperatures and clock speeds of key components such as the graphics chip and processor.
The Zephyrus S comes with a newer six-core Intel Core i7 chip, compared with the quad-core version on the previous model.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8750H (2.2GHz)
GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-P 6GB GDDR5
SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, audio jack
BATTERY: 50 watt-hour
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
BATTERY LIFE: 2/5
It also has a 144Hz display compared with 120Hz on the original Zephyrus. The high refresh rate helps to make gameplay feel smoother in mainstream games where high frame rates are feasible, such as Overwatch and Fortnite.
But unlike the original Zephyrus, the new model lacks support for Nvidia's G-Sync technology, which would have been useful to maintain smooth gameplay even at lower frame rates. More importantly, the Zephyrus S is not as fast as its predecessor, though this is expected, given the graphics chip downgrade.
In the shooter game Doom (2016), it manages 89 frames per second (fps), down from 133fps in last year's model.
It is the same story in Crysis 3, where it produces 64fps, compared with 104fps of the previous version.
Note that while running games, the fan gets rather loud. To be fair, I did not find it annoying because the noise does not vary randomly and is not high-pitched. The constant droning actually sounds like white noise after a while.
In a video-loop battery test, the Zephyrus S lasted 3hr 10min, which is typical for a gaming laptop.
Verdict: Asus brings its slim gaming laptop to the mainstream audience with the more affordable Zephyrus S.