Aha, another gaming laptop that conveniently lets me do a three-in-one review. The new Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a more mature-looking replacement for the 2021 version, while also introducing two brand new components from AMD: the Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU and the Radeon RX 6800S graphics chip. Much like the key internals of the MSI Raider GE76, then, these components are up for first-time testing as much as the rest of the laptop is.
This model I’ve been playing with is the top-spec, £2000 version. Prices start at £1700 and that still comes with shiny new AMD parts, including the Ryzen 7 6800HS CPU and Radeon RX 6700S GPU. Mind you, even this souped-up model doesn’t actually have much else in common with the Raider GE76: it’s smaller, genuinely portable, and cares more about those qualities than breaking speed records. Indeed, that’s evident enough from the use of an S-series GPU – these are designed for thin and light laptops specifically, leaving M-series GPUs like the Radeon RX 6800M to please performance purists.
The ROG Zephyrus G14, however, isn’t averse to some gamer-y flashiness. You can’t fail to notice the dotty AniMe Matrix display on the lid: an array of 1,449 mini LEDs shining though 14,969 tiny drilled holes, to show off custom images, text, and animations set through the pre-installed ROG Armoury software. Asus has effectively upped the resolution of these images too, as last year’s model ‘only’ had 6,536 perforations on its own AniMe display.
Now, I’m no LED puritan who demands PCs be featureless black rectangles. But truthfully, these flashing animations on this thing are a bit… much? It’s definitely more eye-catching than the usual gaming laptop lighting fare of pulsing RGB, but attracting stares of bewilderment isn’t the same as attracting stares of envy. In the default ‘always on’ mode, shutting the lid without fully powering down will also leave the matrix display running, which proved far too distracting for me to leave it in anywhere I could see.
Another upgrade, the vapour chamber cooling system, is also only partially successful. It’s great at keeping fan noise down under light loads, but when running games it gets both loud (I measured sustained fan noise at 45db, louder than the hulking Raider GE76) and hot. The CPU and GPU maintain safe temperatures, sure enough, but certain parts of the keyboard can get uncomfortably toasty. The macro keys at the top and the right-hand half of the main letter keys especially – up to 50 degrees Celsius, according to my laser thermometer.
In fairness, it’s significantly harder to cool a full-blooded gaming laptop when it’s thin and compact. And to its credit, the the ROG Zephyrus G14 is both. Measuring 312mm across and just shy of 20mm deep when closed, it’s hardly more difficult to carry around than a mainstream ultrabook, and at 1.72kg it’s a touch lighter than the Razer Blade 14. Which, itself, is one of the very few gaming laptops that can rival it for portability.
Opening it up (read: getting the AniMe display out of eyeshot) reveals a design that’s both more mature and more practical than the 2021 version. The weirdly heptagonal shape of the space bar has been ditched, and the speaker grilles are thinner, sleeker and less intrusive. Conversely, the trackpad has got a lot more spacious, despite the tight dimensions, and it’s a beautifully smooth glass-topped number that feels as comfy and responsive as any trackpad I’ve ever used. The keays, meanwhile, aren’t the snappiest on the market but still have the crispness and speed you’d expect from a mechanical keyboard. It’s all backlit and customisable, too.
For a slimline gaming laptop, there’s also a decent selection of ports, including a choice of HDMI or DisplayPort-equipped USB-C for video output duties. The only catch is that both full-size USB 3.2 ports are on the right, so using a right-handed wired mouse will have the connector encroaching into the mouse’s own space. I personally didn’t find this an outright problem, but keep it in mind if you’re short on desk space.
Resolution options for the 14in, 120Hz IPS screen come as either 1920×1200 or, in this case, 2560×1600. The 16:10 aspect ratio (same as the Steam Deck, fun fact) is an unusual choice for a gaming laptop, but it works fine, and 1600p is widely supported in games. On a smaller screen like a 14-incher, it also looks fantastically sharp – almost like the best 4K gaming monitors. Kinda.
The panel is also a strong performer. I measured it covering 99.8% of the sRGB colour gamut, with a very respectable peak brightness of 358cd/m2. The black level could be lower, at 0.34cd/m2, but the 1051:1 contrast ratio helps avoid grey patches in dark scenes. As a final touch, there’s also a light matte finish to help avoid the worst of glare and reflections.
The power behind that screen, of course, is drawn from these freshly launched internals. First up is the Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU: all eight cores and 16 threads of it. Although there are a few other CPUs above it in the Ryzen 6000 mobile hierarchy, it’s still a mighty powerful processor, breezing through Cinebench R20 benchmarks with 611 in the single-core test and 5004 in the multicore test. For comparison, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 G533Q – which had a Ryzen 5900HX – scored 570 and 4935 respectively. Not bad for a lower-wattage chip that, like the Radeon RX 6800S, is designed with the limits of lightweight laptops in mind.
That said, if you’re willing to pay big money for the best, you might want to go with Intel’s performance CPUs. The Raider GE76 and its Intel Core i9-12900HK, for one, scored an even better 665 in the single core test and 5690 in the multicore test.
As for the Radeon RX 6800S, I’m not convinced this 8GB GPU is aiming to directly compete with any particular Nvidia model, though it does reflect the green team’s Max-Q GPUs: less powerful but more efficient alternatives to the mainline chips. With the ROG Zephyrus G14, it has the slightly tricky job of achieving high frame rates on an even more demanding resolution than 1440p, though in most games that’s doable – even if it means dropping some settings.
Watch Dogs Legion, for instance, averaged a smooth 64fps on its High preset at native 1600p. And Assassin’s Creed Valhalla wasn’t far behind even on its Ultra High setting, producing 56fps. With its Highest settings and SMAAT x2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider also managed 68fps.
Some of our other benchmark games weren’t as forthcoming. The Battle benchmark in Total War: Three Kingdoms could only pump out 37fps on Ultra quality, and needed a drop to High before it could reach a smoother 52fps. Likewise, Metro Exodus averaged 48fps on its Ultra preset – not bad, though High was a better fit with 57fps. Final Fantasy XV, meanwhile, hung around 46-58fps on its Highest preset, but adding in TurfEffects and HairWorks dropped this down to 36-47fps.
On the subject of extra graphics features, the Radeon RX 6800S does support ray tracing, and can achieve technically playable frame rates with it – though the cost is steep. With Ultra-quality ray tracing on top of Ultra-quality graphics, Metro Exodus just scraped by on a 30fps average, while enabling Ultra ray traced shadows on Shadow of the Tomb Raider cut performance from 68fps to 36fps.
To get a better idea of how the Radeon RX 6800S stacks up against Nvidia’s mobile GPUs, I re-ran these benchmarks at 1920×1080 and compared them to RTX-equipped laptops like the Asus TUF Dash F15 and Lenovo Legion 7i. Generally speaking, I’d put it somewhere between the RTX 3070 and the RTX 3060: it can match the former in a few games, but isn’t as effective at handling the performance hit from ray tracing. And considering the Ryzen 9 6900HS’s power, I doubt it’s being held back by CPU bottlenecking. If anything, the ROG Zephyrus G14 is getting a boost from having a matching AMD CPU and GPU, as this enables the Smart Access Memory feature to more effectively feed the CPU data from the graphics card’s VRAM.
Either way, you can’t say the ROG Zephysus G14 performs badly, but there are cheaper RTX 3070 laptops available. In better news, the 1TB SSD on my test model is an exceptional fit for gaming: using AS SSD, I recorded its random read speed at 76MB/s, which is on par with the £4000-plus Raider GE76. There are drives with higher sequential read and write speeds, for which the ROG Zephyrus G14 posted speeds of 3147MB/s and 3003MB/s, but it’s random speeds that most affect game loading times. And application loading times in general. Random writes are nice and quick too, at 230MB/s.
Sadly, for all its high scores and impressive design, the ROG Zephyus G14’s battery life is a huge problem for portability. It’s genuinely terrible, with Shadow of the Tomb Raider draining the laptop from full to flat in just 51 minutes. Granted, that was on maximum screen brightness, but a lower luminance wouldn’t extend this result to the three or four hours that more resilient gaming laptops can manage.
What’s especially troubling is that this situation is what efficiency-optimised components like the Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU and Radeon RX 6800S are supposed to avoid; if you’re not getting better longevity, why not just stick with something more powerful? It undermines the sleek, compact design as well, as there’s not as much point in choosing a laptop with a more portable chassis if it barely lasts when away from the mains.
Perhaps you’re not so much looking for a go-anywhere gaming device as you are for something you can easily whip out at home, without the usual desk-hogging of a desktop setup. If that sounds like you, the ROG Zephyrus G14 could suit: the screen is great, it’s powerful enough even if it doesn’t amaze, and despite the hot spots, it’s mostly pleasant to use. And, if you’re counting pennies, the rival Razer Blade 14 costs £100 more, even with a lower-resolution screen and a weaker RTX 3060 GPU. Anyone wanting their laptop to act like a laptop, though? Beware that battery life.