The Zephyrus M16 is an ultra-portable and stylish workhorse
- Manufacturer: ASUS ROG
- Model: Zephyrus M16 (2022)
- Part number: GU603ZW-K8015W
- Price when reviewed: £2,599
- Supplied by: ASUS
ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16 Review
The Zephyrus M16 was only released at the back-end of 2021, so rather than a full revamp, this 2022 edition focuses on improved internals. When I reviewed the RTX 3070/i9-11900H version a couple of months ago I was full of praise for ASUS’s ultra-portable M16. The only real negative I found was that the RTX 3070 was power-limited to just 80W (100W Dynamic Boost), even though temperatures seemed to be handled well enough to eke out a bit more power. This meant that games that favoured the excellent CPU fared extremely well, but as soon as the GPU came into play, performance wasn’t as impressive as it could be.
I’m happy to say that the Zephyrus M16 for 2022 (GU603ZW-K8015W) not only sees a bump in power to 100W (120W Dynamic Boost), but it has also been upgraded to an RTX 3070 Ti, as well as having the new 12th-Gen Intel i9-12900H and DDR5-4800 memory. Additionally, all of ASUS’s 2022 range have a MUX (multiplexer) switch, which bypasses the internal GPU and connects directly to the RTX 3070 Ti, which improves frame rates and responsiveness in games. Despite costing the same (£2,599 at the time of writing), this upgraded M16 comfortably surpasses its predecessor.
As an outright gaming system, the Zephyrus M16 falls slightly behind the less expensive esports-focused Strix Scar 15 we recently reviewed, which uses the same CPU and GPU, albeit at a higher TDP. Although the Zephyrus M16 can’t quite keep up with the Scar 15 in gaming, it’s far better suited for content creators or those who use their laptops for work, too. The bigger 16:10 display is far brighter and offers more usable space, you get twice the amount of RAM, and the styling is far more office-friendly.
Design and build
I still love the styling of the Zephyrus M16 – this is a luxurious looking bit of hardware. The slimline chassis is fully wrapped in a soft-touch coating that feels great and is very resistant to smudging. When it’s closed up, there’s a discreet vanity plate in the lower corner, and the micro-dimpled lid is underlaid with a prismatic film that looks gorgeous when it catches the light just right.
Opening up the lid reveals the glorious display with its 94% screen-to-body ratio. The ergolift hinge conceals much of the lower bezel, so when you’re looking at the display it just looks like it’s all screen. I really like the concept of the ergolift hinge, and I love that it allows you to open up the lid a full 180°. The only downside is that there isn’t room for any IO ports at the rear, and because of the cooling fans this puts all of the ports on either side and towards the front of the laptop.
You can’t argue with performance, though. Although surface temperatures are still bordering on too warm at the rear and underside of the M16, the components remain well managed, with the CPU never exceeding 90℃ and the GPU staying under 74℃. During testing, I used Turbo mode within ROG Armoury Crate (the included laptop control software), which has a higher CPU overclock and a more aggressive fan curve. However, I also ran some comparative tests whilst in Performance mode (previously named Balanced), and the benchmark results were within a few fps while gaming, but fan noise was significantly lower and temperatures remained almost identical, which is useful if you don’t want to disturb other around you.
Finally, and I’m running out of new ways to say this, the build quality is exceptional. If you’ve used a ROG laptop before then you know what I mean, but for anyone not schooled on ASUS ROG’s lineup, these are premium quality computers; Panels fit super tight, and there is no unwanted flex or creaking joints. ROG laptops may be more at the aspirational end of the pricing scale, but the look and feel are next level.
Internals and upgrades
To access the inside of the Zephyrus M16 you’ll need to remove 13 small screws, including three concealed by rubber caps across the centre. The lower-right pop screw will, as the name suggests, pop open the case, and it’s possible to safely open the M16 up without the use of a pry tool.
Upgrades are limited to storage and memory. You can expand the storage via an additional M.2 2280 slot, and you can upgrade the RAM; of the 32GB included, 16GB is soldered to the PCB, so only the single SODIMM stick can be swapped out, giving a maximum capacity of 48GB.
The layout inside is identical to the previous M16 variants, with the exception that they have repositioned one of the soft foam dividers that channel the airflow to improve cooling.
Keyboard and trackpad
The ROG Zephyrus M16 has a tenkeyless layout, with a small bank of hotkeys across the top-left above the F keys for quick access to Armoury Crate, volume and mic mute keys. These hotkeys can now be reassigned to perform a variety of functions, which is very useful. I swapped the mic mute for a system volume mute, for example, and you can even program macros for them.
The translucent keys are clearly lit by the single-zone RGB backlight, yet they are still easy to read in low-light conditions with the backlight off. They use the fantastic ROG font, which is crisp and sharp, allowing you to clearly see the key designations and quickly identify the numerous FN key shortcuts. These intuitive shortcuts are very useful, allowing quick access to frequently used adjustments such as display and keyboard backlight adjustment, performance mode switching, snipping tools and much more.
Typing and gaming on the keyboard is a pleasurable experience. The actuation is perfectly weighted, allowing for confident typing and gaming, and although it’s subjectively not quite as good as ASUS’s hybrid-mechanical switches, it’s still up there as one of my favourite laptop keyboards. Compared to some higher-pitched clicky keys, the M16 has a deep and resonant sound that shouldn’t disturb others around you or be picked up by your microphone in-game.
Situated centrally under the keyboard, the huge trackpad makes the most of the space on offer, offering an expansive and responsive surface. It’s well out of the way of the WASD zone, so unwanted palm-presses are unlikely, although I had no problems even when using the M16 for productivity, and I have a tendency to rest the base of my thumb right where the trackpad sits. The under-surface LMB and RMB (mouse) buttons are also well implemented, allowing for consistent and reliable double-clicks and drag-and-drop operations.
Connectivity and I/O ports
There’s a very good selection of ports on the M16, which can be expanded further with the use of a USB type-A or type-C hub. The HDMI port is still 2.0b rather than 2.1, but other than that, there’s enough to suit most users, and as a nod to the content creators this laptop is ideal for, you also get a micro-SD slot.
To the left is the power connector, 1x HDMI 2.0b, 1x RJ-45 Ethernet, 1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (DP alt mode/power delivery), 1x USB-C Thunderbolt 4 (DP alt mode/power delivery), 1x 3.5mm combi- jack.
To the right is a single USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, the micro SD card slot, and a Kensington lock connector towards the rear.