ASUS Zephyrus ROG S17 gaming laptop review: High-end Gaming on the Move

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    As the company with the  well known Republic of Gamers (ROG) branding, you’re getting what’s advertised on the box with the new ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 laptop. Sporting the latest Intel 11th Gen H-Series processors and Nvidia’s RTX graphics, there’s few games currently released that this laptop isn’t ready for – and it’s now on-sale in Australia.

    I’ve been reviewing laptops over the past few years, though they’ve mostly been business focused so getting into a gaming laptop was a new arena, that said I have a decent Steam library and an Xbox GamePass subscription and I was ready.

    Spec wise, the ROG Zephyrus S17 is a beast. ASUS offers the laptop with a choice of either an Intel Core i7 or Core i9 H-series processor with 16GB of DDR4 RAM (which can be updated to a max of 48GB) with 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 RAID0 SSD of storage. 

    The big spec for the Zephyrus S17, at least for gamers, is the inclusion of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. 

    ASUS has kindly let me play with this laptop – and I really did play – for a few weeks, and here’s how it went.

    Hardware and Design

    The design of the Zephyrus S17 is about sharp angles, RGB colours and very functional design. The lid is diagonally bisected with a line that features the ROG logo and name embossed into the aluminum-magnesium lid with a textured dot pattern.

    On the other side of that lid is the 165Hz 3ms 17.3” QHD (2560 x 1440) resolution IPS display. The LCD is PANTONE Validated, which means the colour accuracy is very good, and it also supports G-Sync. There’s also settings to tweak for the colour temperature if you so desire.

    The screen has a matte finish, though it’s not perfect and there’s still some glare but it’s functional in a brightly lit room and you can really blast the brightness if you need to overcome some ambient lighting.

    The display has slim bezels either side with a fairly decent one below to accommodate the hinge and a slightly thicker one above containing the webcam. 

    The webcam is fairly rudimentary and  notably doesn’t have a privacy shutter. It’s a 0.9MP sensor which captures 720p images, which considering the amount of streamers who could live stream using the laptop it’s surprising it hasn’t been upgraded. The microphone too tends to pick up a lot of ambient noise, so I’d love to see some of their audio tech from their mainstream laptops come to the ROG range.

    Opening up the laptop, the mechanical keyboard tilts to greet you sliding into an extremely comfortable position for typing, or, more particularly for this laptops core audience, gaming, for long periods at a stretch. The keyboard tilt also allows for increased airflow to the internal components for a cooler, longer gaming session.

    The keyboard, which is backlit with RGB lights that can be controlled with a huge variety of effects, is full sized with a numeric keypad included on the end. The keyboard is slightly off centre to accommodate that, so it takes a little to really adjust to the layout, but you’ll like it once you do. The keyboard is missing a few keys like ‘PrintScreen’ but there’s ways around that.

    Along the top of the keyboard you’ll find a ‘Multi-roller’ on the left hand side. The Multi-roller can control a variety of functions which you can set within the Armoury Crate software, or by long pressing the wheel which brings up a menu of the available functions. It’s super easy to hit and control, and is a real eye opener for usability. 

    There’s also a fingerprint enabled power button on the right which is Windows Hello! Compatible – and it’s super fast and accurate.

    The trackpad below the keyboard is massive, but works really well. It’s fast and accurate – but let’s face it, unless you’re short on space you’re probably going to be plugging in a mouse. 

    It’s easy to plug in a mouse, or any accessory thanks to the full range of ports on the laptop. You get three USB 3.2 ports – one on the left, and two on the right – and dual USB-C ports on the left, though only one is Thunderbolt 4 compatible. You also get a full-sized HDMI port, ethernet port and an audio jack for plugging in a headset.

    The audio jack is there if you want some personal audio, but if you’re willing to let things fly, you can make use of the on-board speakers. There are six speakers on-board with ‘dual force-cancelling woofers, dual Smart Amps, and Dolby Atmos – and frankly it sounds amazing when watching videos or playing games. There’s also the Dolby Access software if you want to showcase the audio with a bunch of highlight clips so you can.

    All I can say on performance is that there is no lag. The power of the Core i9, DDR4 RAM and the RTX graphics card meant I saw no hiccups, or bumps in performance. It’s just smooth sailing.

    The base of the laptop has vents in addition to the cooling intake beneath the keyboard deck. The laptop remains mostly cool while using it as a laptop, but when you throw some gaming at it, it can get a little warm and noisy with the fans kicking in – though you can offset this a little in the Armoury Crate software which can balance performance, noise and power use to your preference.

    Performance

    The hardware list for the Zephyrus S17 reads like a computer nerd’s dream. From the 11th gen H-Series Core i9 Intel processor to the RTX 3080 GPU, and even the fast DDR4 RAM. There’s even a RAID 0 setup for storage which gives you up to 2.7TB of available space. There’s no fault tolerance under RAID 0, but that’s a lot of space, and it’s very, very fast. 

    General laptop use like web surfing, or working online in documents or even powering up Adobe Premiere was smooth, with no performance issues. 

    Gaming

    Of course the big question for the Zephyrus S17 is about gaming. I recently decided to build a PC, and with that installed a desktop RTX 3080 so I have a decent comparison point. 

    The laptop version of the RTX 3080 loses some of the CUDA, RT and Tensor cores of the desktop model, but in practice the experience is remarkably similar. There’s differences, but it’s super impressive for a laptop platform to offer this sort of quality gaming performance.

    The benchmarks look great as well with a solid 10,611 on 3D Mark which scales it well against the competition.

    Of course it’s all about actually playying some games, so I fired up The Ascent (highly recommended) as well as A Plague Tale (Rats!!), No Man’s Sky with it’s DLSS update and Control as well as some older classics like Tomb Raider. No Man’s Sky both sat around the 60FPS setting using ‘Ultra’, while The Ascent managed to sit around 46-48fps and A Plague Tale sat solidly around 52-55fps with Ultra graphics on.

    Simply put, when it comes to gaming this Laptop does not miss a beat.

    Battery and Power

    The ASUS Zephyrus S17 includes a 90Wh battery with a 280W power supply included which uses a barrel style power adapter to charge the laptop. You CAN also charge the laptop using the Thunderbolt 4 port, which can take up to a 100W charge, but is slower than the barrel charger.

    In terms of usage, if you’re buying the Zephyrus S17 for use as just a laptop, I easily got around the 6-7 hour mark especially after turning on the iGPU option in Armoury Crate. This option disables the features of the RTX 3080 GPU and uses the Intel UHD graphics onboard, which saves you a bit of power at the cost of performance.

    If you’re looking to do high-end gaming though, you’ll want to use all that RTX power, but remember the power use is pretty extreme.

    I was able to go flat out on The Ascent on GamePass (it comes with 30-days free access) for just over an hour with screen brightness at 50% before battery warnings about imminent shutdown began appearing. 

    Charging the laptop using the 280W power supply uses fast charging which pushes it to 50% in just 30 minutes. It completely charges in not much longer and if that means carrying the extra power brick, I’m ok with that.

    Software

    The laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Home and the hardware is Windows 11 ready. Microsoft has already said the update will be free, so when that launches later this year you’ll be ready to go.

    The stock build of Windows includes a fair number of additional apps including the usual MS Office Trial, McAfee suite including Live Safe, Vaults and more. There’s also many utilities for things like Dolby Atmos/Vision and more. Suffice to say, if you like a clean interface there are some apps you can certainly uninstall if you like a cleaner system.

    One indispensable app is the Armoury Crate software. I was first introduced to it on the ROG Phone 5, but it really comes to the fore on the laptop.

    Armoury Crate is the custom ASUS software for controlling your gaming experience. Whether it’s customising the RGB lighting on your keyboard, or selecting the best gaming profile. The software is actually surprisingly powerful – though hamstrung by a design flaw that refuses to let you use any features while the app is updating, even if those updates are unrelated.

    It’s a surprisingly powerful tool, for tweaking settings and even incorporates Aura Connect which lets you export lighting profiles for other RGB enabled ASUS gear you have like keyboards, mice, even ASUS GPUs for your desktop. 

    Should you buy this laptop?

    The answer comes down to whether you want a mobile laptop gaming system, and if the answer is yes, then you should buy the ASUS Zephyrus S17

    The Zephyrus S17 will launch next month in Australia, but it hasn’t been priced as yet. We can compare the previous gen which ranged from $4,599 to $4999 depending on spec, so expect similar pricing when it does arrive in market. This price definitely puts the Zephyrus S17 in the higher end of the gaming PC market, but it plays essentially any game you can throw at it.

    As a laptop for work or consuming content, it’s like using a sledgehammer to drive in a nail and other options on the market will offer better battery life, though of course they won’t be able to play games at the same level and it’s here that the Zephyrus S17 absolutley shines.

    Basically, it boils down to this. If you’re serious about your gaming, the ASUS Zephyrus S17 is the system to get. 

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