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ASUS Zephyrus S (GX502GW) Gaming Laptop Review

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ASUS Zephyrus S (GX502GW) Gaming Laptop Review

The ASUS Zephyrus S GX502 is an extremely powerful gaming laptop while remaining on the thinner and lighter side, so let’s check it out in this detailed review and see what it’s got for us. Starting with the specs I’ve got the highest spec config available, so Intel i7-9750H CPU, Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics, and that’s the full 2070, no Max-Q here, 32gb of memory in dual channel, a 15.

6” 1080p 144Hz screen with G-Sync, and a 1TB RAID 0 array. For network connectivity it’s got gigabit ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5. There are different configurations available though, including with RTX 2060 graphics, you can find examples and updated prices linked in the description.

The GX502 is available in both glacier blue, this sort or white light blue we saw at Computex, or brushed black, which is what I’ve got here. The black metal lid has a brushed finish. The interior is matte black with an almost rubberised feeling texture with a subtle sparkle, almost glitter look, I’m not exactly sure what it is, it’s mostly smooth but a little textured feeling.

Overall the build quality of the magnesium-alloy chassis felt great and there were no sharp corners or edges anywhere. ASUS list the weight of the laptop at 2kg, and mine was around this. With the 230 watt power brick and cables for charging included the total weight rises to 2.

8kg. The dimensions of the GX502 are 36cm in width, 25.2cm in depth, and under 1.9cm in height with the lid closed, so definitely on the smaller side for a 15 inch machine with these powerful specs inside.

The height will raise when you open the lid, as this raises the back up to improve air flow, but we’ll look at thermals later. These smaller dimensions allow the screen to have thin bezels with a 81% screen to body ratio, I measured them at 9mm.

The 15.6” 1080p 144Hz IPS-Level screen has a 3ms response time and G-Sync. We’ve got the option to manually swap between using Optimus or the Nvidia GPU only, it just needs a reboot. It’s also available with a 240Hz option, so expect different results with that panel.

I’ve measured the colour gamut using the Spyder 5 Pro and got 97% of sRGB, 66% of NTSC, and 72% of AdobeRGB. At 100% brightness I measured the panel at 289 nits in the center and with an 750:1 contrast ratio, so alright results for a gaming laptop.

The ASUS Armoury Crate software, which is their control panel, allows you to enable or disable panel overdrive, which is required for the 3ms response time, and although I couldn’t personally see the difference it was clearer when playing back in slow motion.

Backlight bleed was fine, however this will vary between laptop and panel. There was some screen flex as the lid is on the thinner side, but the metal build and hinges being out towards the corners aided with stability.

It was easy to open up with one finger, demonstrating an even weight distribution, and it felt fine sitting on my lap with the bonus of not having to worry about my legs blocking air ventilation. The GX502 doesn’t actually have a camera built in, and unlike the more expensive GX701 there wasn’t one included in the box.

Although there’s no camera it does still have a microphone, and here’s what that sounds like. The keyboard has per key RGB backlighting, the F keys don’t get fully lit up, and while the rest of the keys do have secondary functions illuminated, they were a little dimmer compared to the main key function.

Typing went alright, sometimes I felt like I had to push a little harder than I’m used to though, here’s how typing sounds to give you an idea of what to expect. I didn’t like the smaller arrow keys, but these can also be used with the function key to adjust keyboard brightness between three levels or cycle through effects.

If you want to customize individual keys you need to install the Aura Creator software from the Microsoft store. The software is reviewed pretty poorly on the store, and when initially opening it failed to detect the keyboard.

ASUS left a comment saying to fix it you need to download and install ROGLiveService from the product support page, so not sure why they couldn’t just either include this with the machine or with the Aura Creator download.

Even after manually installing this I still couldn’t get it to work. You can still swap between basic effects in Armoury Crate, but individual key customization needs more work to get going than it should.

Just above the keyboard we’ve got extra buttons to change volume, mute microphone, and a shortcut to open the Armoury Crate software. There was a bit of keyboard flex while pushing down hard, but honestly not as much as you’d expect considering the back of the machine is propped up, no issues at all during normal use.

The precision touchpad worked very well, it’s smooth to the touch and has the usual gestures. I’m not sure why I liked using it so much, it just felt accurate and easy to use. Fingerprints were sort of hidden on the interior, ASUS list it as a soft touch paint that repels fingerprints with a subtle sparkle, and I found it wasn’t perfectly smooth, however it was still easy to clean and it did kind of hide dirt.

On the left from the back there’s a an air exhaust vent, power input, gigabit ethernet, HDMI 2.0b output, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port, and 3.5mm mic and headphone jacks. On the right from the front there’s a USB 3.

2 Gen2 Type-C port with DisplayPort 1.4 support, no Thunderbolt in this machine though, two USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, air exhaust vent, and Kensington lock. On the back are air exhaust vents towards the corners, and then nothing at all on the front.

Underneath it’s all flat, there are no air intake vents here due to the hinge mechanism that pushes the back up when the lid is opened. There’s also some RGB lighting underneath here which is controlled with the keyboard.

On the brushed metal lid the ROG logo lights up red while the laptop is powered on, and I wasn’t able to customize this. The back of the lid is cut out down the bottom which lets you see the status LEDs with the lid closed, and this is also meant to help air get into the vents above the keyboard.

The two speakers are found towards the front left and right corners, and they sounded pretty good for a laptop, above average and they got loud enough while playing music, though a bit muffled at higher volumes, and the latencymon results didn’t look ideal.

Speaking of sounds, it plays this one by default on boot. Fortunately you can disable this either through the Armoury Crate software or the BIOS. To get inside we first need to take out 8 phillips head screws from the base.

Next there are 4 more screws in the metal plate that gets pushed down when the lid is opened. Under here we can see the two fans that pull in air, and then there are 5 more screws under the panel to remove.

The screw down the front right doesn’t fully come out of the bottom panel either. Once inside we’ve got the battery down the bottom, WiFi card soldered to the board, two M.2 slots under the silver heat shields and single memory slot.

As we can see there’s just the one SODIMM memory slot on the motherboard, this is because the GX502 comes with 16gb soldered to the motherboard, so if you see it for sale with 16gb that means it’s running in single channel and will be slower.

Mine has a 16gb stick installed for 32gb total, however others claim you can install a 32gb stick for up to 48gb memory. Powering the laptop is a 76 watt hour battery. I’ve tested it with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled, and all keyboard lighting off.

As we have the option of disabling Nvidia Optimus and only using the Nvidia graphics, I’ve tested watching YouTube with both configurations, and with Optimus enabled battery life lasts twice as long.

While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings and Nvidia’s battery boost set to 30 FPS the battery lasted for an hour and 6 minutes, however with 6% charge left the frame rate dipped and it was no longer playable after an hour.

It’s also possible to charge the laptop over the Type-C port too, and this means you can charge off of a USB battery if it can provide enough power. ASUS separately sell a 65 watt Type-C adapter, however I found my Pixel 3 charger was enough to prevent the battery draining while watching YouTube videos.

Interestingly, when you take the power out and swap to battery the screen will flash black for a second, and this is because it’s swapping from a 144Hz refresh rate to 60Hz. You can manually swap back, but this should help improve battery life and considering even if you are playing games on battery it’s unlikely you’ll get high enough FPS to need the higher refresh rate anyway.

The 230 watt power brick that ASUS includes with the GX502 appears to be adequate for these specs, I wasn’t seeing any drain during my testing. It’s also worth noting you can’t use turbo mode on battery power, more on that soon.

Let’s move onto the thermal testing. Just to recap, the Zephyrus design is known for raising the back of the machine up when you open the lid to assist with air flow. As a result, the bottom of the machine is completely flat with no air intakes, so I haven’t bothered testing with my usual cooling pad.

Underneath the metal flap that gets pushed down are the two fans, and air seems to be brought in from this gap, and also in through the keyboard and just above it through these holes. Air is then exhausted from the vents on the back left and right corners, as well as on the back of the machine.

Inside we’ve got a few heatpipes, with a couple shared between the processor and graphics. The ASUS Armory Crate software allows you to change between three different modes, silent, performance and turbo, and I’ve tested all three out here.

Basically these modes adjust maximum fan speed, CPU power limits, and control GPU overclocking, as defined here. You can also easily swap between these three modes by holding the function key and pressing F5, the key with the fan icon.

All testing was also performed with Optimus disabled, so we’re only using the Nvidia graphics. Thermal testing was completed in an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, so expect different results in different environments.

At idle both the CPU and GPU were on the cooler side, no issues there. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU workloads, and are meant to represent worst case scenarios as I ran them for extended periods of time.

The gaming results towards the upper half of the graph were tested by playing Watch Dogs 2, as I find it to use a good combination of processor and graphics. The stress test results shown on the lower half of the graph are from running the Aida64 CPU stress test with only the stress CPU option checked, and the Heaven GPU benchmark at max settings at the same time to fully load the system.

I’ve only tested silent mode with the stress tests, and the temperatures are the lowest out of all results as this is restricting the power limits harshly, which we’ll see soon. With performance mode enabled things start to heat up, and then with turbo mode we see the increased fan speed reduce the GPU temperatures, though there was never any GPU thermal throttling taking place.

There was, however, intermittent CPU thermal throttling happening. The CPU temperature actually rises slightly in turbo mode and was now constantly thermal throttling at 95 degrees, and this was despite the increase to fan speed as power limits are increased.

Undervolting the CPU made no change in terms of thermals, however I was only able to apply a small undervolt. This is something I’ve noticed with other Zephyrus machines that I’ve tested, they all can’t be undervolted much and I’m not sure why, maybe ASUS are able to buy binned Intel chips that already use less power for their thinner machines, I don’t know.

These are the average clock speeds for the same tests just shown. Check out that super low GPU clock speed in silent mode while under stress test. This is why I didn’t bother testing silent mode in gaming, the game just wasn’t playable in this mode for me, but we’ll see some FPS benchmarks later.

When we step up from performance mode to turbo mode we’re seeing a boost to GPU clock speeds, as turbo mode overclocks the graphics. The CPU clock speed also rises as this raises the CPU power limit too, although as we just saw the next limit was thermal throttling.

The small CPU undervolt did help reduce the throttling and improved the clock speed, however this is still below the full 4GHz all core turbo boost speed of the i7-9750H by around 500MHz. These are the average TDP values reported by hardware info during these same tests.

This explains why the silent profile was useless for gaming, look how hard it’s capping the GPU power. This is just an average though, while playing it dipped below this making games extremely stuttery.

In all other modes it was able to hit its 115 watt limit without issue, as shown by the green bars. In performance mode the CPU power limit raises from a 28 watt PL1 in silent mode to 30 watts, which was the limitation in both stress test and while gaming, as shown by our average of 30 watts during the testing.

Although turbo mode boosts PL1 to 45 watts we’re not actually able to hit above 35 watts due to thermal limits being reached in these workloads. These are the average CPU clock speeds while under a CPU only workload, so with no GPU load contributing to the thermals we’re seeing better results, with the full 4GHz turbo boost speed being hit at stock simply with turbo mode enabled.

It might seem counterintuitive, but as we get higher performance the temperatures actually go down, and this is because the fan speed increases as we step up from silent through to turbo mode. Looking at the power limits, I noticed that while under a CPU only workload PL1 was being set to 70 watts in turbo mode, which explains why prior to undervolting it’s higher than the 45 watt limit I mentioned previously while under combined CPU and GPU stress test.

These are the power limits for the cpu while under combined cpu and gpu stress test, and when under cpu only load. We can see that with the GPU idle the CPU is given a higher power limit, meaning CPU only workloads will perform much better.

To demonstrate how this translates into performance I’ve got some Cinebench CPU benchmarks. While under turbo mode the results were actually pretty decent for a 9750H, above average in any case thanks to those higher CPU only power limits on offer.

As for the external temperatures where you’ll actually be putting your hands, at idle it was around the normal 30 degrees Celsius. While gaming or under stress test with performance mode it was getting quite warm, mid 50s in the center and low 60s right up the back, some of the keys right up the back were quite hot to the touch.

With turbo mode enabled and the fans now faster it was a bit cooler now, still quite hot right up the back, though you probably won’t be touching there that often, and the left and right sides were noticeably cooler as this is where air is pulled in.

As for the fan noise produced by the laptop, I’ll let you have a listen to some of these tests. At idle in silent mode the fan was still audible. With the stress tests running with silent mode we can see the machine is still fairly quiet, however as we saw earlier this mode wasn’t too useful for gaming.

Performance mode was significantly louder comparatively and a little above the average, while turbo mode takes it louder still. Overall the ASUS GX502 gaming laptop runs hot. This honestly wasn’t that unexpected, it’s on the thinner side and they’ve crammed a max-p RTX 2070 GPU inside rather than the usual max-q we usually see in this sort of form factor.

Despite this though, as we’ll see in the gaming benchmarks it’s still offering very impressive performance. Unfortunately there wasn’t much that could be done to improve performance, as there aren’t any air intake vents underneath the machine it wasn’t possible to use a cooling pad, and I was only able to add a fairly small undervolt compared to what most other machines will accept.

This is something that I’ve experienced with all Zephyrus laptops that I’ve tested. Next let’s take a look at some gaming benchmarks, I’ve tested these with turbo mode enabled and optimus disabled for best performance, and we’ll test with some different performance modes later.

Battlefield 5 was tested in campaign mode, and I’ve got the results with RTX on shown by the green bars, and RTX off shown by the purple bars. These are some of the highest RTX on results I’ve gotten from this game, and was actually usable even at higher settings, however for a game like this generally the higher FPS with RTX off will be preferable, and I was able to average above 100 FPS even at ultra.

Apex Legends was tested with either all settings at maximum, or all settings on the lowest possible values, as it doesn’t have predefined setting presets. A recent Nvidia driver update boosted performance of this game, and even at max settings it was running extremely well, with over 100 FPS for the 1% low maxed out.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with the built in benchmark, and again these are some of the best results I’ve ever seen from a gaming laptop of this size, but we’ll see how other laptops compare in this game soon.

Far Cry New Dawn was also tested with the built in benchmark, and the results were quite good here, though realistically not too different compared to many other machines, just a few FPS here and there ahead, likely due to that RTX 2070, namely at ultra settings.

Fortnite was tested with the replay feature, and as a less demanding game even at epic settings the average frame rate was near the refresh rate of the display, with still over 100 FPS being hit for the 1% low, absolutely no issues at all running this game well.

CS:GO was tested using the Ulletical FPS benchmark, and this game is one I’ve found to really benefit from the option of disabling Optimus. Combined with the good specs and even max settings isn’t far behind 300 FPS.

Rainbow Six Siege was tested with the built in benchmark. There’s not really much to say, again very good results were being seen even with a 100% render scale in this test. PUBG was tested using the replay feature, and I was seeing excellent results for this game.

Even high settings was averaging above 150 FPS, and the ultra results are noticeably above the usual 100 or so I typically see from other lower specced machines. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was tested with the built in benchmark and seems to be a CPU heavy test, and as a result lower settings weren’t too different from most other machines, however the superior GPU power is putting it ahead of most others at higher settings.

The Division 2 was also tested with the built in benchmark, and just for comparison more midrange options like the Acer Nitro 5 with 1660 Ti get lower results for their average FPS at ultra settings than what the 1% low here is, so again excellent performance in this test.

Dota 2 was tested playing in the middle lane, and while the results are higher than most other laptops I’ve tested, I doubt most people would be able to notice a difference between 150 and 190 FPS anyway, but in any case great results again here.

Watch Dogs 2 is a resource heavy game, however even at ultra settings it’s still well above 60 FPS, plenty for a game that I can play just fine with a stable 30 FPS. The Witcher 3 was playing well even with ultra settings and was only just a little behind a 100 FPS average, which I honestly think is plenty for this game, though you could get much higher if you really want at lower settings.

If you’re after more gaming benchmarks check the card in the top right corner where I’ve tested 20 games in total. Let’s also take a look at how this config of the ASUS Zephyrus S GX502 compares with other laptops, use these results as a rough guide only as they were tested at different times with different drivers.

In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the GX502 highlighted in red near similarly specced machines. The results were extremely impressive, not only was this one of the best performing machines in terms of average FPS I’ve ever tested, but the 1% low was miles ahead of the competition in this test.

These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. Again the results are very impressive, putting it in at third place in terms of average FPS and 1% low results, though the gap between the GX502 and first place was extremely narrow, there’s no practical difference between the average frame rates.

These are the results from Shadow of the Tomb raider with the built in benchmark at highest settings. In this test the GX502 was scoring the highest average frame rate out of the machines tested, an extremely impressive result for a machine of just 1.

9cm thick. Overall the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502GW gaming laptop is performing extremely well. It’s the thinnest machine I’ve ever tested with a full blown RTX 2070 inside, there’s no Max-Q here, and this is despite the thermal throttling identified earlier, that really doesn’t seem to be an issue as we’re still getting excellent performance.

As we saw earlier we’ve got the option of using silent, performance and turbo mode, as well as undervolting, so let’s see how these changes actually affect game performance. Battlefield 5 was tested in Campaign mode at ultra settings.

With silent mode enabled down the bottom we can see that poor performance I mentioned earlier, while the average FPS was still above 60, the dips were terrible making it barely playable. We then see slightly improved performance as we step up through the other options.

Far Cry 5 was tested with the built in benchmark at ultra settings. In this test the silent profile didn’t seem to make as big of a difference, otherwise again the frame rates improve as we raise up the settings.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with the built in benchmark at highest settings. The additional CPU undervolt made no difference to average FPS in this test, and like the other games performance mode wasn’t too far behind, while silent mode was further back – still above 60 FPS for the averages, but as we’ve seen averages aren’t the full story.

Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike, Timespy, Port Royal and VRMark from 3DMark, just pause the video if you want a detailed look at these results.

I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the storage, and the 1TB RAID 0 array made up of two NVMe M.2 SSDs was performing alright, though not that impressive considering we could get these speeds with some single drives outside of RAID.

I did find it interesting that there are two M.2 slots in this smaller 15” machine, considering the larger 17” GX701 only managed to fit one. For updated pricing check the links in the description, as prices will change over time.

At the time of recording in the US it’s going for $2400 USD, while the RTX 2060 version is $500 less. Here in Australia the 2070 model starts at $3400 AUD, however that’s with single channel memory.

With all of that in mind let’s conclude by covering the good and bad aspects of the ASUS Zephyrus S GX502 gaming laptop. Overall this laptop is providing extremely impressive gaming performance considering its size and weight.

As a result it does run on the hotter side even with the fan at full speed which does get quite loud, which is to be expected, however as we’ve seen it does run very well. As to whether or not this would be a problem long term, it’s very difficult to say.

There wasn’t much that can be done to improve thermals, undervolting usually doesn’t go too well with Zephyrus laptops, at least based on the ones I’ve tested, and the flat base means no cooling pad.

Repasting could be worth a shot, but that’s not something I can test here. I’m not a fan of the soldered memory to the motherboard, but at least it’s 16gb I suppose, they have done 8gb in the past, you can still do 32gb in dual channel which should be plenty for most people, and two M.

2 slots was also nice to have. The screen looked pretty good and it was nice to have G-Sync with the option of swapping between Optimus enabled or disabled, user choice is always the best option in my opinion.

Battery life was on the lower side considering the size of the battery, however you do at least have the option of Type-C charging which was a nice bonus, though unfortunately there’s no Thunderbolt here, something I’d expect at this price point.

Speaking of things ASUS didn’t include, there’s no built in camera so you’ll have to use an external camera if you need one. Otherwise I wasn’t a fan of the smaller arrow keys, and the user experience to try and get the software working for individual key backlighting was far more involved than it should be to make it work.

In the end though, purely in terms of raw gaming performance, the GX502 is offering impressive results ahead of most other machines that I’ve tested. Let me know what you thought about the ASUS Zephyrus S gaming laptop down in the comments, and if you’re new to the channel consider getting subscribed for future laptop reviews and tech videos like this one.

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