Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 Review: For serious gaming at a serious price
The highlight of the device is likely the upgrade from 8th gen Intel chips to 10th gen Comet Lake chip. Let’s check out how the improved Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 performs in the real world here.
Published:Sun, September 27, 2020 8:07pm
By Rehan Hooda
Asus India recently updated its entire ROG gaming as well as VivoBook and ZenBook with 10th generation Intel chips. Its upgraded ROG line-up also comes with Nvidia RTX 2000 Super series cards with Max-Q design. As part of the upgrade announcement, the company launched the 2020 version of its ROG Zephyrus S GX701 review. This time, the device comes with two screen sizes including the Zephyrus S15 and S17 GX701. As denoted by the name, the S15 comes with a 15-inch screen and the S17 comes with a 17-inch screen. Looking at the specs, it looks like, the company has focused on improving the internals rather than the exterior.
We reviewed the 2019 version of the GX701 last year and concluded that it was a "super-luxury gaming machine". At the same time, it also offered the level of performance that one would need from a gaming laptop. The highlight of the device is likely the upgrade from 8th gen Intel chips to 10th gen Comet Lake chip. It also features the Nvidia RTX Super GPU with MaxQ design to power the games. Let's check out how the improved Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 performs in the real world here. Here is my review for the ROG Zephyrus S17.
Watch: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Review
Specifications, different variants, and pricing
First up, let's talk about the specifications for the Zephyrus S17 GX701 before diving into the review. The device will come with a 17.3-inch panel with FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) resolution. It also features up to 300Hz refresh rate with 3ms response time. Asus has added up to 10th generation Intel Core i7-10875H processor with up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080S Max-Q GPU. The laptop also features up to 32GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM in Dual Channel. One also gets two M.2 SSD slots on the laptop with RAID 0 support.
The Zephyrus S17 GX701 LXS comes with a familiar per-key RGB keyboard with ten function keys. We get a Type-C port with USB 3.2 Gen 1, DisplayPort 1.4, Thunderbolt 3, and Power Delivery 3.0 protocol support. Other ports include a second USB Type-C with USB 3.2 Gen 2 and DisplayPort 1.4 protocol support. We also get one USB Type-A port with USB 3.2 Gen 2 protocol, and two Type-A ports with USB 3.2 Gen 1 protocol and HDMI 2.0b port. Finally, the laptop also features a 3.5mm audio and microphone combo jack and one Kensington lock.
Other features include a 76Wh battery, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth v5.0, and two 2.5W speakers with "Smart AMP" tech and an array microphone. The entire package weighs about 2.6kg. The company will also add ROG Eye webcam in the box with the ability to record FHD video at 60fps. It is also worth noting that the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 will come with model number GX701LXS-HG040T in India. But, our review unit has the model number GX701LXS-HG032T. The company is selling three variants of the S17 including GX701LXS, GX701LWS, and GX701LV. Asus has priced its Zephyrus S17 series starting from Rs 1,79,990 and our top-of-the-line review unit costs a staggering Rs 2,82,990.
Design and build quality of the ROG Zephyrus S17
The company claims that the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 is "the most compact 17-inch gaming laptop ever". Looking at the design and the build quality, a little has changed when compared against the Zephyrus S GX701 (2019). We get a very familiar sleek and heavy package jam-packed with the latest technology. However, over the last year, multiple gaming laptops have surfaced online emulating the slim and comparatively sleek profile. To take on the cooling duties, the ROG Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) marks a return.
To recap, AAS opens a large intake at the bottom of the laptop when the user opens the top lid. This intake closes down when one closes the lid. In addition, the company has also teamed up with thermal paste maker "Thermal Grizzly" to apply Liquid Metal on the CPU out-of-the-factory. As per the claims, this reduces the CPU temperatures by "up to 10-degree Celsius". Similar to the previous version, Asus has used magnesium-alloy to craft the S17. This ensures that the laptop is heavy and built like a tank. The company has used copper finish on the edges and the back (not the bottom) side of the laptop for a premium finish.
We also get a large air vent at the top of the keyboard to adequately cool the device. Other elements include the physical volume wheel for easy and quick adjustment. We have already mentioned the number of ports in the specifications section. S17 features a USB Type-C and Type-A port on the left side along with a power pin, HDMI port, and 3.5-mm audio and mic combo jack. The right side has two Type A and a Type C USB port along with the Kensington lock. Asus has also added Air vents on the right, left, and backside.
ROG Zephyrus S17 Performance
Unlike the recently reviewed ROG Zephyrus G14, the S17 does not bring any revolution in terms of performance. The 2019 version was the best that money can buy and the 2020 version serves as an evolutionary improvement. All these improvements make the S17 GX701LXS a better preposition to use than ever. Our review unit comes with Intel 10th generation Core i7-10875H CPU with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q. Let's check out the different facets of the performance here.
Similar to the last generation, the S17 tears through everything that we could throw at the laptop during our testing phase. We did not face any hiccups, slowdowns, or any kind of issues while web browsing, video consumption, and more. There are times that the fans kicked in during intensive web browsing sessions with more than 32-35 tabs. However, this is entirely normal for use. The eight-core processor with 16 threads is more than capable to handle other tasks such as image editing, video encoding, and 3D modeling. It can also handle other tasks such as code-compilations, complex graphic rendering, and more. Regardless of your use, you will be fine with the Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701.
Moving to the primary use of the device, gaming, we were not disappointed with the laptop. It offers impressive gaming performance across a wide variety of AAA gaming titles. We tested titles such as Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry New Dawn, Borderlands 3, and Crysis Remastered. The laptop handled all these games like a champion under the "performance" preset in the ROG Armoury Crate app out-of-the-box.
To recap, Asus offers "Silent", "Performance", "Turbo", "Windows", and "Manual" performance modes to offer us multiple options. One can also overclock their CPU and GPU inside the app for extra performance but we didn't go that route. Talking about the thermals, the fans did need to work overtime to keep the system cool while gaming. In the process, they became significantly loud prompting us to use a pair of earphones to drown out the noise. However, they maintained consistent performance under hours of a sustained load.
We could notice the hot air coming out of the air vents on the three sides. Looking at the temperatures, the CPU package size did hit 95 degrees Celsius at the peak. But, even after 2.5-3 hour-long gaming sessions just average temperature hovering around 80-85 degrees Celsius. As per HWInfo, the laptop did thermal throttle in some instances but that did not impact the performance. Finally, it is also worth noting that the laptop became quite toasty from the bottom side. This likely means that you will have to limit the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 to the table after the purchase.
Frames and benchmarks
The ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 scored 1,251 in the single-core test and 8,054 in the multi-core test on Geekbench 5 Pro. Both these numbers put S17 in its own class when it comes to gaming-focused machines. We got 5,502 in the PCMark 10 benchmark, 1,795 in the Cinebench R15 CPU test, and 124.96 fps in the OpenGL test, and 3,725 in Cinebench R20. In 3DMark, we get 8,184 in the Time Spy, 3,727 in Time Spy Extreme, and 39,242 in the Night Raid test.
Moving to games, We got an average of 60fps on Crysis Remastered in 1080p "Can it run Crysis" graphics settings. We also got an average of 129fps during Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus at Low quality. Shadow of the Tomb Raider at High graphics saw an average of 77fps in and Far Cry New Dawn reported 90fps at High quality. Finally, we also saw 110fps in Borderlands 3 at high quality.
Display and speakers
As per the claims above, the company noted that S17 is "the most compact 17-inch gaming laptop ever". The slim bezels around the display ensure that the 17-inch screen fits in a 15-inch laptop dimension. This display also features an FHD 81 percent screen-to-body ratio along with a 300Hz refresh rate and an IPS-level panel. Asus also claims that the display comes with 3ms response time along with Pantone color validation for accurate colors. Digging further, the S17 display supports 100 percent sRGB coverage with Nvidia G-Sync compatibility.
Looking further, the display features impressive brightness levels considering the refresh rate. Asus has also added a matte finish on the display to eliminate the glossy reflective surface. This means that it is ideal for use in challenging situations including directly against multiple light sources, and more. The company has also added decent top-firing speakers in the laptop with 7.1 surround sound and Hi-Res audio support. You can see notice the speaker grills on the left and right side of the keyboard. However, you need to use earphones or Bluetooth speakers for better quality and to effectively drown the fan-noise under load.
Keyboard, trackpad, and the number pad
The keyboard on the Zephyrus S17 is one of the most contentious parts of the laptop. There is no design change when compared to the previous version which means that it is jammed in the lower half of the inner side. In addition, we also get the mouse page on the right side along with an integrated number pad. I understand the reason for this design and how it serves the product in a comprehensive manner. However, it makes for bad user experience as there is no palm-rest area.
Things feel cramped and trying to work with a 17-inch laptop in the lap (for general use) becomes impossible. Another usability issue is the membrane keys that don't offer that much tactile feedback. In addition, sometimes even after pressing the key all the way down, the system did not register the key-stroke. This is likely because I did not press the button from the middle area on the top. However, I do feel that things could have been better in this aspect. One will obviously get used to the compact layout of the keyboard. However, missed keystrokes on occasion with slightly mushy keys did not bode well for such a premium device.
Asus also noted that the keyboard position ensures that the area does not heat-up during gaming sessions. The company has also added per-key RBG back-lighting in the keys along with Aura Sync. We also get a volume roller on the top left side of the keyboard on the laptop. One also gets a power button on the top left side on the keyboard. The trackpad with an embedded number pad is decent at best but you will need a dedicated wired or Bluetooth mouse to game properly on the laptop.
Software on ROG Zephyrus S17
The laptop comes with Windows 10 Home edition out-of-the-box. Beyond this, we also get a number of in-house Asus apps for additional functionality. These apps include Armoury Crate, AURA Creator, MyASUS, GameFirst VI, Sonic Studio 3, and a number of third-party apps. The third-party apps include McAfee Personal Security, Intel Graphics Command Center, Realtek Audio Console, Dolby Access, and Thunderbolt Control Center. We also get three months of Microsoft Game Pass access at a discounted rate of Rs 50 per month. The MyASUS app also comes with "Link to MyASUS" which allows you direct access to your smartphone screen, and notifications. We have already covered this feature and the Armoury Crate app in our Zephyrus G14 review a few months back.
Asus noted that it has added the Nvidia Optimus mode on the laptop for improved battery performance. This works to some extent but it isn't that impressive in real-world use. While gaming, we got about 1.5 hours of battery backup. Talking about intensive workdays, we got about 3 hours of battery backup on the laptop. This is in line with most gaming laptops in the market. Charging the laptop from 0 to 100 percent took about 1.5 hours. So, overall, you would want to be plugged in for the best gaming performance out there. It is also worth noting that the laptop comes with a 240W power brick. The fact that the power plug is massive is not surprising but the fact that it is a Type M plug (also known as power plug) is. This means that it won't work with any regular switchboard or extension in your house.
Verdict: Should you purchase the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701?
Asus has done a good job while upgrading the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX701 with the latest available hardware. The laptop does not throw any surprises which is a good thing because the previous version was also the best out there. While keeping the design identical and performance consistent, the company has just gone from strength to strength. Some of the good additions include liquid metal on the CPU and the latest hardware parts. Beyond this, we do hope that the company can slightly improve the keyboard experience even if they can't really fix the cooling-focused design.
Finally, let's talk about the price. The base model of the laptop starts at Rs 1,79,990 while our top-of-the-line review unit costs Rs 2,82,990. While Rs. 3 lakh is a lot on paper, you need to understand something about the S17. This amount of money is fine for someone who wants the best performance out there. The top-end model is aimed at someone who wants the best performance available without worrying about the money. Others can look at the base model with 144Hz refresh rate display, Intel Core i7 10750H processor, GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, and 16GB RAM. The laptop is available on sale at Asus partner stores, Amazon India, Flipkart, Reliance, Croma, and Vijay Sales.