In a world of gaming laptops, being thin and light is impossible. However, ASUS showed us that it is indeed possible, with the original ASUS ROG Zephyrus that was launched a little over a year ago. Fast forward a year, we reviewed the Zephyrus M, and now we have the Zephyrus S GX531.
What exactly has changed over the year, and is the new Zephyrus S GX531 actually worth your money? Learn all about it in this in-depth review here.
We’ll also be comparing the Zephyrus S GX531 to the Zephyrus M GM501, since it is the closest thing we have used before.
Looking at the box itself, we can find out an interesting fact – there is actually two more boxes within this cardboard box. Yeah, it’s not new – this packaging style was been used the Zephyrus M.
Inbox the box we can find two things – one trapezoid-shaped box for the power adapter, and another fancy, glossy-looking box for the laptop itself.
In side the humongous box is also where we can find the included laptop sleeve that is made specifically for the Zephyrus S GX531. More on this later.
You also get some documentation, a sticker pack, and a keyring with a carabiner. Interesting accessories from ASUS.
Connectivity & Ports
For such a thin and light laptop, it’s surprising how many ports ASUS managed to fit in this laptop. It’s thinner and smaller than the original Zephyrus, too.
The new Zephyrus S GX531 comes in at just 14.95mm at its thinnest and 15.75mm at its thickest. Yes, the variation in thickness is because the laptop lifts itself up from the back when it is opened.
Looking at the left side, we can find a large vent, the power jack, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, two USB 2.0 Type-A, and a 3.5mm combo jack. Those two USB 2.0 ports are obviously meant for keyboard and mouse – but because of its location, your external mouse will need to perform a reacharound.
At the right side of the Zephyrus S GX531, we can find a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C with DisplayPort 1.2 support, and another USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port. It’s a rather weird location for the high-speed Type-A port to be placed since external hard disks will have its cable get in the way.
This time around, ASUS has moved some of the ports to be back of the laptop. We can find the Kensington lock and also the HDMI 2.0 port here.
Of course, with this selection of port – even though is weirdly placed – I can connect up to a total of 2 more external displays. One through the USB-C that supports DisplayPort 2.0, and another though the HDMI port at the back. Though I still think that ASUS could have placed a Thunderbolt 3 port instead. That would open even more doors for better versatility.
Another thing we should talk about is the speakers on the Zephyrus S GX531. ASUS moved the speakers to be around the hinge area, and the speakers are actually pointing towards the user’s ears instead of the chest, ceiling, or the table like most other laptops. The speakers are loud, but anything louder than comfortable for my ears turned into distortion.
Compared to the Zephyrus M, the all new Zephyrus S GX531 now comes with ASUS’s NanoEdge bezels – which is a fancy name for their version of ultra-thin bezels around the screen. With the smaller bezel, ASUS can reduce the overall footprint.
Also, even with such a thin bezel, the webcam is located at the correct position – at the top of the screen.
It now comes with a 144Hz refresh rate with 3ms response time and apparently, even better color gamut. ASUS never touts that the ROG Zephyrus S GX531 comes with an IPS LCD display, but only listed it as “IPS-like” in the specs list.
Still, I find it to be accurate enough to do picture and video editing on Lightroom and Premiere Pro. Good job there, ASUS.
Trackpad & Keyboard
The original Zephyrus had the keyboard and trackpad moved downwards to allow for a more open and direct airflow for the CPU and GPU. The Zephyrus M did not use this design, but ASUS seems to have backtracked to the original design with the Zephyrus S GX531.
Let’s talk about the individual segments of this thin and light gaming laptop.
Compared to the original Zephyrus whereby the trackpad actually has a physical number pad on the flipside, ASUS has implemented something similar to what the new ZenBooks have – a button to toggle the capacitive touch-sensitive touchpad. I think they got the inspiration from the ZenBook Pro 15‘s ScreenPad which we love.
The trackpad on the Zephyrus S GX531 is actually quite okay though the shape and location makes it a little difficult to use at first. Takes a little time to adapt to its weirdness. In number pad mode however, the lack of any tactile feedback makes it weird as well. But then again, I love the convenience it offers. Literally no compromises at all.
The keyboard is once again thin, just like the laptop itself. It offers good tactile feedback and an overall satisfying typing experience – but the constant bottoming out of keys each time I type is a little tiring. Maybe ASUS already know about this and that’s why they have two USB 2.0 ports. 🤔
Speaking of the performance, the all new Zephyrus S GX531 that we have for review here comes with this list of specs:
- 15.6-inch 144Hz 3ms IPS-like LCD panel
- Intel Core i7-8750H (6C/12T)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB VRAM
- 16GB DDR4 RAM
- 8GB soldered + 8GB SO-DIMM
- 512GB Samsung M.2 NVMe PCIe Gen. 3 x4 SSD
- 53Wh battery
I already fell in love with the specs when I saw what it has. I’m not particularly someone who seek out for high-performance laptops for AAA game titles, but to work. Particularly, to work with Adobe Creative Cloud suite of software since I am the team’s photographer and video editor as well.
I like the fact that it comes with 6 cores and 12 threads, together with GTX 1060 that has a total of 6GB VRAM. Those extra VRAM is obviously important for games with high-resolution textures like Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and also for rendering the videos, surprisingly. Whenever I click “render” on Premiere Pro, I love to look at task manager and see how the graphs move – and yes, VRAM is important.
While it is indeed a GTX 1060 GPU, it can run Overwatch at its highest settings with AA turned on at above 60FPS. However, to utilize the 144Hz panel, I had to drop the graphical settings to somewhere around medium.
Also, you can technically get a few extra FPS by setting the power plan to Turbo – which makes the fan spin extra quickly and produce a lot of noise. Advisable only if you’re wearing headphones or earphones with great noise isolation.
As for the 512GB SSD, you’ll get the best speed an M.2 SSD can offer.
Take a look at some of our usual benchmarks to get a better idea of how the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX531 performs.
The cooling capability of the new Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) comes with two 12V fans with 83 blades each, and a total of 4 heatpipes that go across the CPU and GPU. Also, remember that the vents are even more open now.
The Intel Core i7-8750H, according to Intel themselves, has the base clock of 2.2GHz and boosts up to 4.1GHz. When we did our test, this is what we obtained.
When only the CPU is synthetically stressed, it can stabilize at 3.3GHz. When we synthetically stress both CPU and GPU using AIDA64, we got 80°C for the CPU and GPU was around 82°C. The CPU clock speed sits comfortably at 2.2GHz, its base clock speed.
As for games, the GTX 1060 is a card that I am personally familiar with. Keep in mind that the GTX 1060 in the Zephyrus S GX531. And it is surprisingly adequate as well. For titles like Overwatch, you can actually set it to silent profile and play it at >60FPS all the time. However, if you want to play at the 144Hz refresh rate then you’ll have to drop to High graphical settings instead.
Maintenance & Upgradability
Unlike the Zephyrus M, the Zephyrus S GX531 is awfully difficult to open. Though, I don’t see a point to open. Only one SO-DIMM slot is available, which is already occupied by a 8GB stick of RAM. The other thing that is accessible is the M.2 SSD. ASUS already included one of the fastest 512GB SSD in the market, so I don’t see a reason to upgrade that as well.
When it comes to maintenance however, is an issue. It’s difficult to open and definitely not easy to get to the fans for cleaning. Though, ASUS’s new AAS cooling solution does have the “anti-dust” feature.
As for the battery, the Zephyrus S GX531 comes with a 53Wh battery which doesn’t seem to be small at all – but for some reason, even with NVIDIA’s Optimus technology where the system switches to the power-saving internal GPU, doesn’t last long. I used the Zephyrus S GX531 to type this review while having a few more tabs and music playing and it only lasted for about 2.5 hours.
Yeah, 2.5 hours of battery on this laptop. Though I have to clarify that I am using the display on 144Hz refresh rate on battery as well. That might have been the cause of the drastic battery drain.
Wrapping up the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX531 review
In my opinion, the Zephyrus S GX531 is great for those who travel a lot but always have access to a power plug. Playing AAA games on the Zephyrus S GX531 is surprisingly decent, though you’ll have to sacrifice some graphical details to achieve higher frame rates.
The other perfect use case of the Zephyrus S GX531 is obviously for video editors. With its 6C/12T processor and GTX 1060, video editing is a breeze – and the 512GB NVMe SSD is a big boon as well. However, the trade-off here is that I have to bring an external hard disk with me wherever I have a video project going on.
Overall, I like the Zephyrus S GX531 as a portable powerful machine that I can plug it in and start gaming – but not to be used as an actual laptop for work where there is no power supply.
By the way, the included laptop sleeve for the Zephyrus S GX531 is not really that useful since there is not way to fit in the laptop itself plus the power adapter.