The new ASUS Zephyrus M is a thin and powerful gaming laptop, featuring Intel’s latest 8th gen i7-8750H CPU, Nvidia 1070 graphics, and a 144Hz screen with G-Sync, so let’s check it out and find out how it performs.
Let’s start with the specs of this unit. There’s an Intel i7-8750H CPU here which has 6 cores and can turbo up to 4.1GHz in single core workloads. In my unit there’s 32GB of DDR4 memory running at 2,666MHz in dual channel, the maximum the two slots support, but most of them sell with 16GB in either dual or single channel.
For storage there’s a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD and a 1TB 5,400RPM hard drive installed. For the graphics there’s an Nvidia 1070 which powers the 15.6 inch 1080p 144Hz AHVA panel, and we’ll see how this performs soon in the benchmarks.
For the network connectivity there’s support for 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth version 5.0. No ethernet port here unfortunately, so you’ll need to use a USB dongle if you need one. The interior of the laptop is a matte black aluminium while the lid features brushed metal.
Overall the laptop felt nice, no sharp edges and solid build quality. The dimensions of the laptop are 38.4cm in width, 26.2cm in depth, and 1.75 to 1.99cm in height depending if you’ve got the laptop open or closed.
When you open the lid of the laptop, the bottom rises up to allow air inside, and we’ll see how well this keeps the components cool later. The weight is listed as 2.45kg on the ASUS website and I found mine to weigh a little more than this.
With the 230 watt power brick and cable for charging, the total weight increases to 3.3kg, so it’s quite portable considering the specs. As mentioned the screen is a 15.6 inch 144Hz 1080p AHVA panel, and it has G-Sync available which you can optionally disable, along with a 3ms response time.
I found the viewing angles to be really good, images are still perfectly clear even on sharp angles. These AHVA panels are typically marketed as “IPS-Level” and I can see why, if you told me it was IPS I’d believe you.
The screen gets bright enough, at 100% brightness I measured it at 320 nits. I’ve also measured the current colour gamut using the Spyder 5 Pro, and my results returned 98% of sRGB, 68% of NTSC and 74% of AdobeRGB, so it’s pretty good for a gaming laptop, I’d happily use it for content creation too.
I’ve performed my usual backlight bleed test on the display, which involves having the laptop show a black screen in a dark room to help emphasize any bleeding. I then take a long exposure photo to display any bleed, so this is a worst case scenario test.
There’s some minor imperfections that the camera was able to pick up toward the bottom and top right corner, however to my eyes I wasn’t able to see anything, even in a dark room it looked good to me, but this will of course vary between laptops.
While moving the display there was some flex, although it wasn’t too bad given the metal construction, the hinges are out on the ends but they’re a little small. It can also be opened easily with one finger, demonstrating a fairly even weight distribution.
Above the display in the center is a 720p camera. The camera isn’t great, still quite blurry and grainy even with decent lighting. The microphone sounds alright, although it does seem to pick up a bit of its own fan noise.
The keyboard has RGB backlighting which can be controlled with the included ASUS Aura software in four different zones, no individual key backlighting here, and there are 7 different effects available.
The sides of the WASD keys are clear so you can see them easier with the lighting shining through. Overall the keyboard was pretty good to type with, there’s some good spacing between the keys with a 1.
7mm travel distance and the only issue I had was with the small arrow keys. The key presses felt a little clicky, here’s how they sound to try and give you an idea. There was some keyboard flex while pushing down fairly hard, but overall it felt quite solid.
There’s some air vents just above the keyboard as well as some extra keys, including the ROG button which is a shortcut to the ROG gaming center, and this lets you monitor and control various parts of the laptop such as fan speed.
The touchpad uses precision drivers and was really nice to use. It feels extremely smooth to the touch and the only issue I had was that it seemed to be a bit small, but even if it has to be smaller to fit below the keyboard I still prefer this compared to the awkward side positioning they had with the original Zephyrus GX501.
Moving onto the I/O on the left there’s the power input, HDMI 2.0 port, three USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A ports, the last one of which is powered, and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. On the right we’ve just got a fourth USB 3.
1 Gen2 Type-A port, a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port with 4 lanes of Thunderbolt 3 support, and Kensington lock. On the back there are a couple of air exhaust vents towards the corners and some subtle zephyrus branding in the center, while there’s nothing at all on the front except some ASUS branding toward the left corner.
Up on the lid there’s the ASUS ROG logo on the side and it lights up red while the laptop is powered on. Fingerprints show up easily on the brushed finish and were a little difficult to wipe away once dirt seeps into the grooves, they weren’t as obvious on the matte interior though and were easy to clear away there.
Underneath there’s some rubber feet which do a decent job of preventing the laptop from sliding around while in use, otherwise there’s no real need for exhaust vents here due to the custom cooling solution.
The two 3.5 watt speakers are found towards the front corners. They sound pretty good, there’s actually some bass but they don’t sound too clear at higher volumes. Oh and when you turn the laptop on it makes this loud noise.
I wasn’t able to find a way of turning it off, but hopefully you can, I wouldn’t want to turn that on in a quiet room. The laptop can be opened up easily with a phillips head screwdriver. First the rear panel comes off, this is what gets bent and pushed up from the two feet in the back corners when you open the lid, ensuring both fans are able to get plenty of air in.
After removing the main panel we’re presented with easy access to the single 2.5” drive bay, single M.2 slot, two memory slots, and WiFi card. Powering the laptop is a 55 Watt hour battery, and it’s important to note that G-Sync can be enabled or disabled through software.
With G-Sync on you’ll be forced to use the Nvidia graphics all the time, no swapping over to the Intel integrated graphics. Most G-Sync laptops don’t give you the option to turn it off though, so although you have to reboot to enable or disable G-Sync I still think this is a good option to have.
While just watching YouTube we can see that we’re getting around 30 minutes of extra time with G-Sync off, but while gaming the results are very close together as it shouldn’t really make any difference there given the Nvidia graphics will be in use in either scenario, and we’re using Nvidia battery boost to cap us to 30 FPS.
Overall the battery life wasn’t that great for non gaming tasks even with G-Sync disabled, getting around half the length of other similarly sized laptops like the GS65 or Aero 15x which have much larger batteries.
Thermal testing was completed with an ambient room temperature of 18 degrees celcius, it’s getting cold here as winter has just started, so expect warmer temperatures in a warmer environment. Also remember that the CPU and GPU share heatpipes, so a change in temperature of one component will affect the other.
At idle both the CPU and GPU were quite cool at around 39 degrees celsius. While playing PUBG at high settings we can see that the temperatures actually rose a bit when undervolting the CPU by -0.090v in green compared to stock settings in dark blue, we’ll see the clock speeds in the next graph but there was a small increase in performance which may explain the temperature increase, usually it would lower though.
When we max the fans out in yellow the temperatures drop back a fair bit, and you’ll hear how these sound soon. Adding on a 200Mhz overclock to the 1070 in orange the temperatures rise up a little, but still doing quite well and we can see the CPU is affected by this change due to the shared heatpipes.
The full load stress tests were run using Aida64 and the Heaven benchmark at the same time, and again like the gaming result once we apply undervolting or higher fan speed the CPU starts performing better which seems to increase the temperature, thermal or power limit throttling wasn’t detected in any of these tests.
Overall the temperatures seem pretty good, as we’ve got air vents above the keyboard and a large opening underneath towards the back for air to come in. These are the average clock speeds while running the same tests for the temperatures just shown, we can see that undervolting and maxing out the fans improves the CPU clock speed quite a bit, while overclocking the GPU gives us a nice boost there.
Honestly I’m not too sure why the clock speeds and temperatures at stock were lower than with undervolting and faster fan, as no power limit or thermal throttling was detected, the performance does still improve so I’m thinking the temperatures rise as more work gets done at higher clock speeds.
These are the clock speeds I got while just running CPU only stress tests without any GPU load. Undervolting makes no difference and we’re seeing full multicore speeds being reached, undervolting only seems to make a difference with a combined CPU and GPU workload as shown earlier.
As for the external temperatures where you’ll actually be putting your hands, at idle the body of the laptop is sitting in the low 30s, so it’s quite cool. While gaming this increases to the mid 40s in the center, and interestingly there’s a cool spot right on the WASD keys which will be appreciated while gaming for longer periods of time, even in the center though it was only a little warm to the touch, and I saw a very similar result while running the stress tests.
With the fan increased there was just a slight drop in temperatures. As for the fan noise produced by the laptop, I’ll let you have a listen to some of these tests. At idle the fan was only just audible, and while gaming with the default balanced fan profile it wasn’t too loud either, around the same level as the stress tests.
Running the fans with the overboost mode to max them out increases the overall system noise quite a bit though. I’ll also note that there was no noticeable coil whine while testing in my unit. Finally let’s take a look at some benchmarks, we’ll first cover some real world gaming benchmarks followed by tests with various benchmarking tools.
All tests were run at 1080p with the latest Nvidia drivers and Windows updates to date installed, and V-Sync and G-Sync were disabled. Starting out with Fortnite medium settings or below average above what the 144Hz display can output, although the 1% lows were a fair bit below the averages here, either way it ran well even at epic settings.
It’s important to keep in mind that this game is hard to benchmark as frame rates will vary based on what’s going on in game and what other players are doing. Overwatch was tested playing with the bots, and again we’re getting really nice results with the averages at max settings above the refresh rate of the display, and although the 1% lows are quite a bit behind they’re still quite high so it ran smoothly for me.
As usual CS:GO was averaging well above what the refresh rate of the display could output, the 1% lows drop quite a bit due to the smokes in this benchmark test. PUBG was tested using the replay feature, and as the king of unoptimization we’re seeing pretty big differences between the 1% lows and averages, and of course take the results with a grain of salt, as like Fortnite it will depend on what’s going on in the game, so the results can vary quite a lot.
In any case the game played pretty well at all setting levels. I’ve tested Farcry 5 with the built in benchmark, we’re not really able to fully utilize the 144Hz panel here but the results are still quite high, and the 1% lows aren’t too far behind the averages in this test which is always good.
Assassin’s Creed Origins was also tested with the built in benchmark and the results were similar, in that the 1% lows also weren’t too far behind the averages, but again the average frame rates aren’t too high, still plenty to play well though.
Dota 2 was tested using a fairly intensive replay, so this should be a worst case scenario, realistically you’ll probably get better results than this while actually playing, and even in this intensive test the averages are quite high.
Rainbow Six Siege was tested with the built in benchmark and the averages are above the refresh rate of the display even at ultra settings, and although the 1% lows are a bit behind they’re still quite high so the dips weren’t too bad or noticeable.
Testing Battlefield 1 in the first mission we were able to push out more frames than the refresh rate of the panel at medium or lower settings, and even during intense fights it still felt really smooth to me.
The witcher 3 doesn’t really need a high frame rate to play, even with ultra settings to me it played well with no issues. Interestingly the 1% lows don’t really change much when we drop down in settings but the averages shoot up.
Rise of the tomb raider was tested with the built in benchmark, and we’re able to average above the refresh rate of the display at the lower setting levels. Ghost recon is a resource intensive game, and was again tested with the built in benchmark.
Basically no laptop I’ve ever tested plays this one well at ultra settings, but it runs well with about any other setting level. Watchdogs 2 is another resource intensive game, but is another that I personally think doesn’t need a high frame rate to play.
To me even ultra settings felt fine, no issues playing maxed out. DOOM was tested using vulkan, and even with high settings we’re averaging exactly 144 FPS, it felt extremely smooth to me while playing.
I’ve got a couple more games covered in the dedicated gaming benchmark video if you’re interested. Now onto the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike, Timespy, and VRMark from 3DMark, just pause the video if you want a detailed look at these results.
I think the Nvidia 1070 graphics is a great option for the 144Hz panel, we’re actually able to get pretty high frame rates in many games to make use of it. The option of having G-Sync which you can disable was nice to have too, and gives you some really smooth gameplay.
As for overclocking, the 8750H CPU can’t be overclocked, but I was able to increase the GPU core clock of the 1070. We can see here that while running the Heaven benchmark on average we’re sitting around 200MHz above stock speeds.
With both CPU undervolting and GPU overclocking applied we get a boost in games, as shown earlier there’s a 500MHz difference on the CPU in PUBG with undervolting, and I suspect that’s why the difference at lower settings is larger as lower settings are less GPU dependant, whereas we’re seeing more of the GPU overclock at the higher settings.
I’ve just quickly got some CPU benchmarks here, and we can see that it’s a decent step up from the 7th generation as we’ve got two extra cores with slightly faster single threaded clock speeds, the undervolt isn’t really making any difference here, as shown in the CPU only stress tests earlier there was no throttling.
In Crystal Disk Mark the 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD was performing quite well, over 3GB/s in sequential reads and around 1.6GB/s in sequential writes. The 1TB 5,400RPM hard drive on the other hand was quite slow, getting around half the speed I expected.
It’s an SSHD and looking up other benchmarks show it getting over 100MB/s but that wasn’t my experience after multiple rounds of testing. As for the price the Zephyrus M with 16gb of memory comes in at around $3,500 AUD here in Australia at the time of recording, or about $2,250 USD in the US, but this will differ based on the configuration.
This is the GM501GS version, but you could instead get the GM501GM version which comes with Nvidia 1060 graphics rather than 1070 to save some money. So what did you guys think of the Zephyrus M gaming laptop from ASUS? Overall it’s a really nice and powerful laptop in quite a thin body, I don’t think I’ve tested any laptops this thin with full Nvidia 1070 graphics inside yet, they’ve all been Max-Q.
The custom cooling design allows it to stay quite cool despite the high end specs, but as usual thin and light with high end specs comes at an increased price. The only issues I had were with the battery life and touchpad being a little small, but otherwise for gaming while plugged into the power as we’ve seen it runs really well.
Let me know what you guys thought down in the comments, and leave a like to let me know if you found the review useful. Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to subscribe for future tech videos like this one.