Hands On: Taking the new ASUS ROG Zephyrus M for a test-drive

Last year’s ASUS ROG Zephyrus was one of the coolest gaming laptop we’ve seen in a long time. In fact, it even closed out the year as our pick for best gaming laptop in the PC World Editors’ Choice Awards.

Now, ASUS is bringing the Zephyrus brand back online. This time, however, the new Zephyrus M comes equipped with Intel’s new 8th-gen Core i7-8750H processor versus the 7th-gen i7 7700HQ and i5 7300HQ processors.

We got access to an early production sample. Here’s are our first impressions.

What is the ASUS ROG Zephyrus M?

As mentioned above, the Zephyrus M is essentially a refresh of last year’s Zephyrus gaming laptop. With its predecessor breaking new ground for what slimmed-down “Max-Q” gaming laptops could look like, it’s almost inevitable that the Zephyrus M comes across a little more iterative.

What’s more, the Zephyrus is no longer alone in its ground-breaking thinness. MSI and other brands are now also launching their own gaming machine that are, if not coming close to matching, certainly coming within the same ballpark as the original Zephyrus for thinness.

That said, the reality that the overall design blueprint here is being somewhat recycled doesn’t necessarily hurt the appeal of the Zephyrus M that much. After a relatively-brief amount of time with it, there’s still a lot to get excited about here - even if a lot of the qualities that underpin that excitement are shared by the original Zephyrus and its newer counterpart.

The most-obvious example of this can be seen in the thermal manage side of the equation. Both Zephyrus machines utilize ASUS' Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) for thermal management, with the new Zephyrus M boasting a pair of 12-volt anti-dust fans. As with the first-gen model, opening the lid of the Zephyrus M raises the keyboard up on a slight angle, creating 20% more space for air circulation, increases airflow by up to 32%, and reduces internal temperatures by up to 20%.

This time around, ASUS’ AAS hardware setup is also being compliment by some new software features. The ROG Zephyrus M features exclusive software that allows users to switch GPU profiles according to the task at hand. For example, there's a dedicated NVIDIA G-SYNC mode. Alternatively, you can activate the NVIDIA Optimus power-saving mode, which disables the Zephyrus M’s G-SYNC functionality and configures the PC to choose between using the Zephyrus' discrete GTX 1070 graphics card and the integrated graphics based on the application.

Jumping between modes is as simple as pressing the dedicated ROG button above the keyboard and making your choice. While our early impressions of this feature are pretty positive - but we’ll have to spend a bit more time with it before we can say if it's worth the admittedly-minimal hassle.

What’s exciting or special about it?

ASUS claim that the Zephyrus M is “the world’s slimmest gaming laptop powered by an 8th Generation Intel Core CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics”. However, beyond those category-leading titles, there are a few other neat improvements that’ll potentially make it a better buy than the original Zephyrus.

For one, it has a slick IPS-level display with a superfast 144Hz refresh rate and ultra-responsive 3ms. This represents another major advantage that the new model has over its predecessor. The original Zephyrus was only available with either a 60Hz and 120Hz panel. At a faster speed of 144Hz, the Zephyrus M promises to deliver smoother and more responsive gaming experiences.

Does the ASUS ROG Zephyrus M fully live up to that potential? It’s a little early to say. We’re planning to spend a little more time with the device and report back with a full review next week.

When will it be available?

ASUS ROG Zephyrus M will be available in Australia from mid-April 2018.

The ROG Zephryus M will be available from the ASUS Shop, Microsoft store, Harvey Norman, and select channel partners starting from $3,799 AUD.

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Fergus Halliday
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