Beauty on the outside, Beast on the inside
ASUS showcased some incredible new ROG gaming laptops during their CES 2021 presentation. The specs look amazing, featuring the recently announced Nvidia RTX 30-series mobile GPUs, super-fast DDR4 memory and liquid-metal cooled next-gen AMD Ryzen 5000 Mobile series CPUs, including the brand new Ryzen 9 5900HX, which is the unlocked version of AMD’s blisteringly fast new mobile CPU..
Arc Flow fan design
Newly designed cooling technology has made its way into all of these new laptops, with liquid metal thermal compound, re-designed fan blades and carefully designed air tunnels. This new Arc Flow fan design promises faster, more efficient cooling, but also reduced turbulence and therefore volume, down from 45 to 40 decibels. Anyone who’s heard a powerful gaming laptop running at full chat will surely appreciate this!
Improved Battery Life
The new Ryzen processors will certainly do their part in helping extend battery life, but ASUS’s new 90 Wh batteries should power these gaming laptops far beyond what has historically been possible. Up to and over 13 hours of video playback is quoted, depending on the model of laptop, but we’ll have to wait for review units to reach us before we can comment on how gaming longevity is affected.
All of the 2021 laptops are fitted with Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound. Two-way active AI-driven noise cancelation will monitor both upstream and downstream noise, optimising the audio delivered to your ears for an optimal audio experience. This is one I’ll have to hear for myself, of course, as I’ve yet to use a laptop with anything above passable audio. Despite my audiophile-audio bias, I’ll come into this with open ears.
All of this power will be brought to your eyes by a selection of updated displays, with desirable features like Pantone validation, and a selection of resolution and refresh rates comprising a variety of FHD, QHD and UHD displays at high refresh rates, and a world’s first 1080p display running at a staggering 360 Hz. The available options are dependant on the model of laptop you choose, but there’s enough variety here for everyone from eSports pros to Ultra-graphics high-res aficionados.
Before we get into the specifics of the new laptops, I’d just like to give a nod to the stunning design language ASUS has adopted for their new-gen machines. Manufacturers have been fitting their gaming laptops with pretty basic cases for a while now, but as we saw with the Zephyrus G14 last year, it doesn’t have to be that way. The new ROG laptops are simply beautiful, with tasteful application of RGB, stylised laser-etched graphics on the lid, interchangeable vanity panels, and redesigned and functional undersides. Paired with a slimline chassis and massive screen-to-body ratios, the overall look is simply fantastic.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the first of ASUS ROG’s 2021 lineup of gaming hardware.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 G533 and Scar 17 G733
- Ryzen 9 5900HX
- RTX 3080
- Smaller footprint -7%
- 90Wh battery
- Type-C Charging at 100W
- Optical Mechanical Keyboard
- FHD 360 Hz display options
The ROG Strix Scar 17 is ASUS’s top of the line eSports-ready laptop, and as such, it is the perfect choice for receiving the world’s first 360 Hz FHD display.
Smaller than ever before, ASUS has still managed to cram ridiculous amounts of power into the new Scar. We haven’t had the chance to go hands-on with the new mobile GPUs yet, as obviously they aren’t out in the wild yet, but we’re expecting marked improvement over the 2080 mobile GPU and significantly better ray tracing capabilities. As the new Ryzen 5000 series push extreme performance but with a lower power draw than previous iterations, this frees up to 130 W of power to be dedicated to the GPU. In short, we’re expecting big things from this pairing.
Keeping all of this power available while you are away from a plug socket is a 90 Wh battery, which when paired with the power efficient Ryzen CPU should give considerably better battery life than what is commonly expected of a gaming laptop. This is almost 50% more battery power than what used to power the Strix family of devices, and is a long-overdue boost to battery longevity for gamers.
A unique design feature that I’ve instantly become besotted with is the translucent section of the keyboard deck: The diagonal slash across the keyboard reveals the inner workings of the laptop, and while it doesn’t really offer any advantage besides being aesthetically pleasing, it’s a nice touch.
As we alluded to earlier, the Scar features interchangeable Armor Caps, that can be switched out or even 3D printed yourself to give your laptop some unique design flair.
ASUS ROG Strix G
The Strix G family of devices comes in three different design styles; electro punk, classic black, and eclipse grey. I love the design work on ASUS’s monitors, and the electro punk design brings this to your laptop’s case, making this my clear favourite here.
All of the more attainable Strix G laptops come with an (up to) 300 Hz display
ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE GX551
- AAS Plus Cooling
- Ryzen 9 5900 HX
- RTX 3080
- 4K 120 Hz
- FHD 300Hz
- 100% Adobe RGB
The flagship of the Zephyrus range, the Zephyrus Duo SE is an updated version of last years critically acclaimed Duo. The new model keeps the innovative cooling solution, which raises the secondary screen and enables increased airflow into the laptop. Like the Scar, the Zephyrus Duo SE has an RTX 3080 drawing 130 W of power, and with the CPU also capable of drawing 90 W of power, the new Duo will squeeze every last drop of power from the Ryzen 9 5900HX.
With new hardware comes new display options. When speccing the Duo, you can choose from 120 Hz 4k with 100% Adobe RGB, or 300 Hz FHD for eSports gaming (4k, please!)
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15
- RTX 3080
- 3D Mic Array
- 6 Speaker Output
- 90Wh Battery
- 1440p 165Hz
The Zephyrus G15 has seen a significant redesign this year, and is now smaller and lighter than before. With the peak spec, the G15 can be kitted out with an RTX 3080.
If for some reason you are using a touchpad and not a mouse, the G15 now has a super smooth glass touchpad that is 20% bigger than its predecessor. This is surrounded by a soft-touch palm rest, coated with environmentally friendly paint (yay, conservation!)
A 3D mic array is now included on the G15,which ASUS say is ideal for capturing audio in a multi-directional conference room. I’m pretty sure this is just a tiny part of their consumer-base who have need for this feature (outside of lockdown Zoom quizzes with family), but I’m sure it could help sway your accountant if you’re trying to pass the G15 off as a necessary business expense.
Of more interest is the six-speaker output, featuring dual-woofers. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve yet to come across genuinely impressive laptop speakers, but I’m intrigued to find out what ASUS has managed to come up with.
The final touch, and a very welcome addition, is a 1440p 165 Hz display. While 4k UHD is a great bragging point, on a screen this size 1440p is more than good enough, and will enable you to reliably hit higher refresh rates than trying to run at 4k.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
- AniMe Matrix case display
- Ryzen 9 5900 HS
- RTX 3060
- 1440p 120 Hz
The AniMe matrix case display returns on the G14, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a feature that is wholly unnecessary, and for many people will very rarely be seen, but I can’t help but love the ostentatiousness of it.
Display options range up to 1440p at 120 Hz, which for me seems optimal, especially considering the G14 only has up to an RTX 3060 in it. I’ll admit, I am a little disappointed that the world’s most powerful 14” laptop of 2020 hasn’t stepped up its game a little more. I will reserve future complaining until I find out what performance is like and how it stacks up against the opposition.
I’m definitely not sold on Omni, though. The ‘virtual pet’ that is displayed on the AniMe display and main screen is cute, but as a 41 year old man, I guess I’m not in the right demographic for that kind of kitsch addition. Is it a Tamgotchi type thing? Do you interact with it? Hmm, as long as you can disable it and have the display pulse along with your music like the old Zephyrus G14 I’ll be happy.
ROG Flow X13 GV301
- Gorilla glass touchscreen
- 2-in-1 design
- 16:10 display
- 4k UHD or 120 Hz FHD
- 10 Hour Battery Life
Last year, the Zephyrus G14 showcased just how much performance could be squeezed into a 14” notebook. With the super-thin, super-light Flow X13, ASUS has gone one better (or should that be one lower?) with their 13” 2-in-1 powerhouse.
The Flow X13 is a touchscreen laptop that can be flipped 360° and used as a tablet, or used in tent mode with a controller or external MKB combo if you desire. In tablet mode, you can use the included stylus for art, graphic design, or any other purpose you can think of. You aren’t stupid, you know what a tablet can do – but this one has serious gaming credentials.
As a concession to its 2-in-1 functionality, ASUS has given the Flow X13 a 16:10 display. While I would argue that 16:10 displays have had their day, they still make a lot of sense on a device that is often used in portrait mode. The display is available in either UHD or 120 Hz FHD configurations. You may be tempted to plump for the faster refresh, especially considering the GPU, but we haven’t got to the accessory that revolutionises this notebook yet…
Within the laptop itself is a capable, if somewhat underwhelming, GTX 1650, and the very capable Ryzen 9 5980 HS, which actually makes the Flow X13 the most powerful device of its size. However, the Flow X13 has an optional accessory that elevates it to the next level.
The ROG XG Mobile external GPU
- Smallest eGPU ever
- RTX 3080
- Small form-factor
When ASUS say this is the smallest eGPU ever, they aren’t exaggerating. The XG Mobile is just 6% of the size of a typical external GPU enclosure. 6%! Not only small, but the XG Mobile is also light, weighing just 1Kg, which makes this ideal for not only keeping on your desk to use after a hard days work but also for putting into your bag for a bit of hardcore gaming during work (I can get away with this, as my work is gaming, your results may vary).
Despite cutting down the size, the eGPU still packs a potent punch, containing an RTX 3080 mobile GPU running at 150 W, which is actually higher than in the other premium laptops. Vapor chamber cooling (like that found in the Xbox) keeps the temperatures down considerably, enabling you to game harder for longer.
Very conveniently, you can power the Flow X13 from the eGPU, meaning you don’t need to cart around an extra power brick. If you are always going to be carting around an eGPU with your computer, it’s probably better to stump up the cash for a higher spec laptop with integrated RTX 3080. However, if you mainly do your gaming at home, you can leave the XG mobile plugged in at your desk, ready for some serious gaming with the connection of a single cable.
This really is the best of both worlds, giving you an ultra-portable and powerful productivity machine for on the go, as well as a hardcore gaming machine that supports multiple external displays. I can’t understate my excitement at trying this one out!
So, there we have it. ASUS’s new and frankly exceptional range of laptops for 2021. Did any of these catch your eye? Sound off in the comments below!