This Ryzen 4000 Series Notebook Is AMAZING – Zephyrus G14 Review
The day that we have all been waiting for is finally here, what I have in front of me is the ASUS Zephyrus ROG G14 and it features AMD’s brand new Ryzen Mobile 4000 series. That’s right, Zen 2 has finally made its way into the notebook space.
Now we are already aware of its outstanding performance on the desktop platform, but how does that translate into notebooks? Most importantly, how does it tackle important factors like battery life? The G14 is something a bit different for AMD notebooks since it’s being marketed as a premium slim yet super powerful laptop that’s supposed to represent the best Ryzen has to offer right now.
ASUS is targeting the G14 towards the premium gaming market, and that’s actually a pretty big deal because in the past AMD notebooks were relatively affordable and offered acceptable performance, they did sacrifice in some key areas like the overall build quality. Thankfully, the G14 is taking a complete no compromise approach and that’s amazing because in the past – at least for a really long time – Intel completely dominated the high-end notebook space. The big question is after all the hype does the Ryzen Mobile 4000 series have what it takes to compete within the mobile market.
Let’s quickly talk about how AMD was able to translate their Ryzen Mobile 4000 into the notebook space. I covered a lot of the details back at CES, in fact if you are interested in learning a little bit more you can check out that video right over here. I’m going to be focusing on the H-series since that’s what’s being used on the G14. For those of you wondering, the H-series processors are really the higher performance parts from AMD, and those are targeted towards the gamers and creators. Whereas the U-series is aimed more towards the thin-and-light devices that are coming onto the market later.
At the moment, AMD will be launching 8-core and 6-core variants and all of them have SMT enabled creating 16 and 12 threads CPUs. There has been a lot of questions and confusion about the differences between H and HS names, so let’s put that to the rest. The HS series is a designed specification used by AMD to create notebooks with a thickness of 20 millimeters or less, more than 10 hours of battery life, and a discrete graphics card. To achieve that, CPUs like the Ryzen 9 4900HS in the Zephyrus G14 are simply lower TDP versions of H-series standard processors. However, unlike the other HS-series, the 4900HS also makes due with lower boosts and base locks.
Another thing I want to mention is that AMD made some pretty odd decisions on the connectivity front. We all know that the Zen 2 desktop processors feature support for PCIe Gen4 on both the graphics and the storage side of things, but these notebooks don’t support that. In fact, these new notebook processors are back to PCIe Gen3, and that’s kind of unfortunate because AMD is only allocating 8 graphics lanes for the discrete graphics card. This shouldn’t really cause any bottlenecks, but it would have been cool to at least see support for Gen4 NVMe drives on these new notebooks, but that’s not the case. Supposedly AMD did this to boost overall efficiency, which I guess is good news if you really want longer battery life.
Okay, so you might remember the G14 back at CES as the notebook with the fancy AniMe Matrix LED display on the lid. Unfortunately, the model that I have over here doesn’t have that feature since ASUS is planning to launch that Matrix model a little bit later in the year. In fact, it’s the specs packed inside that got me really excited. It has the new Ryzen 9 4900HS, an 8-core CPU with 16 threads, 16GB of RAM running in a dual-channel mode at DDR4-3200, a 1TB NVMe SSD, a 14-inch 1080P 120Hz display, and an RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU. All for less than $1,500 USD. At least that’s where things stand right now, but that could change given the current situation that’s going around these days. The base G14 starts at about $1,000 USD for the Ryzen 7 4800HS processor with a GTX 1650, and it goes all the way up to $2,000 USD. That high-end version has essentially the same specs as the model that I have over here, but it adds that Matrix LED display with a QHD panel at 60Hz.
With all the specs out of the way, let’s get into the exterior impressions. I really like what ASUS has done here. You can pick up this notebook with either a dark gray or a white top cover, and it’s refreshing to see something different from ROG instead of the traditional red and black theme that they are known for. Build quality is really good, the entire chassis is constructed out of magnesium alloy topped off with a coating that resist fingerprints. It really works, and I love this feature, it’s very thoughtful addition by ASUS.
I also like the fact that you can open the notebook with just one hand, plus the keyboard tilts at an angle to optimize typing and it also helps with airflow. For those of you wondering about these CNC holes on the lid, don’t worry about liquids getting in and damaging the components because there’s a secondary backing to prevent that from happening. I really like this design, and weirdly enough it does provide a bit of extra grip when you are holding this notebook, so it’s really nice. I should mention that the colour scheme isn’t consistent throughout the notebook, the lid is pure white but the keyboard and the trackpad area are a silver finish. It overall looks like a Razor Blade Mercury White model just without the white keyboard.
Putting the G14 next to a previous generation Ryzen notebook like the Zephyrus GA502DU – yes, I still remember that off the top of my head – you can see that ASUS kept the overall design look, but they have modernized it a lot which is something that I love about the G14. I’m really impressed with the size of this laptop. It’s smaller than my Razer Blade 15 so it can easily throw this into a smaller backpack. I Also don’t have to worry about the weight because it weighs less than 4 pounds and the included power adapter is also fairly lightweight too. In fact, this notebook is only about 17.9 millimeters thick, which definitely fits the HS specification, and like I said I’m really still shocked at how much ASUS and AMD were able to cram inside such a small chassis. It is really, really impressive.
Moving onto the keyboard and trackpad, you still get the same layout as any other Zephyrus notebook, with the ROG fonts on the key caps and dedicated volume adjust keys. There is also a quick access key to ROG Armoury, which is a software that lets you switch between three different performance modes. I really wish there was an additional mute key, since that would have been more consistent instead of relying on a function key for that command. I like the separation with the arrow keys, it makes it easier to navigate through spreadsheets.
The power button also acts as a fingerprint reader. I appreciate the subtle implementation there. The keys themselves are excellent with good tactile feedback and adequate amount of travel distance. It reminds me of the Zenbook 15 that I looked at not too long ago.
The backlighting on the other hand though is the worst that I have come across on a notebook. It’s just almost impossible to read the keys at night, because it seems like ASUS went with microLEDs instead of the center-mounted LEDs underneath the key caps. I didn’t really tell that great, so you are actually better off disabling it completely Now ASUS did confirm with us that they are going to address this issue with the mass production units.
The trackpad on the other hand is phenomenal. It features a glass surface, it feels very similar to my Razer Blade 15, and it features Windows Position drivers. Now typically with every other notebook I would switch right away into the webcam quality test, but there isn’t one on the G14. It’s just not there. I guess I can’t complain about that because a lot of people seem to not care about having a webcam on their notebooks, so I’m just going to skip that part.
The speakers on the G14 are front facing, so you get two tweeters at the top and a couple of woofers at the bottom. This results in one of the best sounding notebooks that I have ever come across. I’m serious, the trebles are well defined, and the sub underneath really adds a great depth to any genre that you are listening to. The G14 outperforms my Razer Blade 15 by a long shot without losing clarity at max volume.
Moving on to the I/O, it’s really good for a 14-inch notebook. On the left-hand side there’s power-in, HDMI 2.0b, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 passthrough and power delivery. And just to clarify on that power delivery, this notebook can only accept 65W over that Type-C port, and also do keep in mind that it does limit the performance of the laptop. If you really want to take advantage of the RTX graphics and the Ryzen processor’s full potential you definitely have to use the 180W included adapter. Unfortunately, ASUS does not include the Type-C power adapter, you only get the standard one. Switching to the right side, there is a Kensington lock, and a couple of USB Type-A ports, but sadly those are Gen1 5Gbps instead of Gen2 10Gbps. It’s really weird to see ASUS cut corners, especially in the spec department, cause this is AMD’s latest offering on the notebook front and not getting up-to-date connectivity is frustrating since most of the Intel notebooks in the market support it.
Now I do have something that I also want to bring up and that is the location of the USB ports. You might notice this mouse sitting to the right of the notebook, if I plug it I’m definitely going to end up bumping into that mouse cable every once in a while. It’s so close and I’m sure it’s going to end up being a problem. I really don’t know if I can blame this on the design of this laptop because ASUS definitely had to make room for you ventilation and the heatsink to breathe. It’s really just a design limitation, but I thought that was something worth bringing up. I should mention that there are no Thunderbolt 3 ports on this laptop, but that’s expected given that Intel still hasn’t licensed that to AMD yet.
Moving on to the display, it’s 14-inch 1080P IPS-like, but not necessarily true IPS. However, it does come factory calibrated and Pantone certified, meaning that they claim to cover up to a 100% of the sRGB colour range. From our testing, this notebook only covers 95% sRGB and 75% DCI-P3, which isn’t too far from the Blade 15. You can definitely get away with photo and video editing on this notebook. The viewing angles are excellent as well, but unfortunately the screen doesn’t get that bright, so viewing content outdoors is definitely going to be a challenge. I didn’t notice any backlight bleed on my sample, which is good. Overall, for the price, I really can’t complain about this display because it’s running at 120Hz and gaming on it was absolutely amazing. It gave me a fast, fluid response with the discrete graphics card. Basically, you can’t go wrong with this screen.
When it comes to upgradability, there are a couple of things that can be tweaked on the G14. When you look at the memory you only have access to a single memory slot, which is already populated because this laptop comes with 16GB of RAM but 8GB of it is already soldered on the motherboard. That means that you can only expand this notebook up to 24GB. There is a single M.2 slot that’s already populated with the Intel 660P SSD, which unfortunately doesn’t have the greatest read or write performance or even endurance due to its QLC NAND.
The battery life on the G14 surpassed my expectations. You see when you take a 76Wh battery and combine it with AMD’s Zen 2 power efficient processor, you get a laptop that can last you all day. As you can see with our light load test, which consists of refreshing Chrome on a loop, our sample lasted for about 9 hours and 30 minutes. That is Ultrabook-level battery life coming from a gaming laptop with an RTX 2060. It really goes to show how well AMD has improved its power state selection with these new processors. Now under heavy load it only lasts for about 95 minutes, which is right on-par with the other gaming laptops that we have tested.
And now the moment that you have all been waiting. The performance of this new processor is just fast. Like really, really fast. In fact, these numbers would make Intel cry, so if anyone from Intel is reading this you better have a box of Kleenex handy cause it’s about to get real. Jumping right into our standard Synthetic tests, starting with Cinebench R15 and R20, the 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 9 4900HS is a good 50% faster than Intel’s 6-core/12-thread Core i7-9750H. What’s even more fascinating is how well it outperforms the Core i9-9980HK 8-core/16-thread processor that’s on the Aero 15 OLED model that I tested last year. Something I should mention is that the Aero 15 OLED was returned to Gigabyte, so you will only see it in these synthetic tests. Single core performance is very impressive as the clock speeds boost up to 4.3GHz and that’s just as good as Intel’s offerings.
Switching to more real-world tests, this Blender result says it all folks. I mean it took half the time to complete the render compared to my Blade 15. This is desktop Core i9-9900K level performance. Those extra cores do come in handy for video transcoding as well, as you can see with our Handbrake test the 4900HS is just way too fast for Intel to keep up with. Moving onto DaVinci Resolve, it’s really interesting to see how those 4 extra threads manage to close the gap between it and my Blade 15 featuring an RTX 2080 Max-Q. Keep in mind that the G14 features and RTX 2060 Max-Q and Resolve loves GPUs. However, if you are an Adobe Premiere user I would stay away from this laptop because it doesn’t feature QuickSync support, which is an Intel exclusive feature and Adobe embraces that for accelerated rendering. When it comes the WinRAR test, a lot of this has to do with the SSD speed along with the single-threaded performance. That Y740 from Lenovo has one of the fastest SSDs we have seen on a notebook and it also has really high clock speeds so it easily defeats everything else here.
Switching to gaming, and as you can see with these 3DMark benchmarks the G14 does pretty well given its RTX 2060 Max-Q. However, it is a different matter when you are actually playing some titles. First of all, there is a known issue with Tomb Raider, and NVIDIA and ASUS are both working on it. We did get a confirmation of that. In other games it’s pretty evident that ASUS is limiting clock speeds to remain within their thermal specs. It’s important to remember that this is a slim-and-light notebook, but there is also a way around these limits by using the Turbo Mode. More on that later.
Taking a look at temperatures, the CPU did shoot up to 96°C under a full multi-core workload, but after a few minutes to clock speeds did throttle down to 3.3GHz maintaining 71°C. The RTX 2060 Max-Q ran pretty cool too. I think the max peak temperature that I saw was around 70°C, which is pretty respectable for a 14-inch gaming laptop. Even with the relatively low component temperatures, the surface temperatures were pretty high, especially at the center of the keyboard and directly on your lap. Now for those of you wondering, ASUS has implemented three performance modes on this notebook. There is Silent, Performance, and Turbo. I ran all of my tests in Performance mode, because to me it looked like the optimal setting. Now when you take a look at the performance difference between all three modes, Silent really limits the CPU performance, and the benefit of it is that you get a relatively quieter system. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for gaming as it applies a significant power limit on the RTX 2060 Max-Q.
While the G14 performs very well, there is a catch. There’s always a catch when you see numbers that are just so great. The G14 unfortunately is not a silent or quiet gaming laptop, because the fans ramp up significantly when you put it through a gaming load or anything that has to do with rendering or any sort of multi-core workload.
I guess this brings us to the conclusions, and I am still shocked at the performance of this Zephyrus G14 monster. The fact that it completely destroyed my Razer Blade 15 in all the tests – Blender, Cinebench, even Resolve in some cases when you set it to Turbo – it just outperforms that laptop with an RTX 2080 Max-Q, that’s just crazy. Most importantly, this is a gaming laptop with a battery life of a thin-and-light. How amazing is that? AMD has certainly caught up with the best that Intel has to offer, this is huge news and added competition is great.
Now are you making any compromises with this notebook? Definitely. The lack of a webcam can be considered as one, the backlighting isn’t necessarily the greatest, and I am not really a fan of the I/O placement. I really wished if there was a USB Type-A port on the left side, because having just two Type-A ports on the right side is definitely a bit frustrating. However, overall, for the price it really is amazing.
Right now we are seeing a slim view of what these new Ryzen processors can offer, and I hope to see a lot of other Ryzen laptops perform to the level of the G14. I should also mention that this is the HS-series processor and not the fully spec’d out H processor. It has a lower power state, so just imagine how well that fully spec’d out H-series processor can perform and what it’s going to be compared to Intel’s upcoming 10th gen series. It’s going to be an interesting battle to witness. That’s all I have to say about the ASUS Zephyrus ROG G14. I hope I was able to cover everything that you needed to know about AMD’s new Ryzen Mobile CPUs. If you are looking for a fairly small compact gaming laptop would this be on the top of your list? I would certainly consider it because of the performance, but I want to know your thoughts.
ASUS Zephyrus G14 – Coming Soon!
Razer Huntsman TE – https://geni.us/RAZERTE