Notebooks & Laptops

ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501V Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

Price/Where To Buy

US: $2699 – ASUS ROG Zephyrus on Amazon
PH: Php179,999 (GTX 1080) – ROG Concept Store North EDSA/Megamall, ROG Strongholds

In our visit at the NVIDIA press event during COMPUTEX, one of the key reveals to members of the media was a slew of actual pre-production units that feature NVIDIA’s Max-Q Design. Out of the four units we checked out, there was a stand-out product and that is what we’re going to look at today with our in-depth review of the ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus. It was obvious it was designed from the ground-up to be the flagbearer of the Max-Q revolution with its competitors sporting already released bodies and did not showcase the full extent of what the Max-Q Design concept is.

At a maximum thickness of 17.9mm when opened, the ASUS ROG GX501V is not only the thinnest gaming notebook on the planet right now but is also the lightest at 2.2Kg. If that’s not stunning enough, be informed that this is a Core i7 7700HQ-touting unit with a GTX 1080. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, read on to find out more about the ROG Zephyrus!

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

Specifications

Screen Size 15.6 inches
Max Screen Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
Processor 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
RAM 24GB
Hard Drive 1TB or 512GB NVMe SSD
GPU GTX1080 with Max-Q or GTX 1070 with Max-Q
Chipset Brand NVIDIA
WiFi Connection 802.11 A/C
Number of USB 3.0 Ports 4

The specs don’t say too much about the machine as its similar to most desktop replacements out there and when you start factoring in that weight and thickness, things are looking a bit more stellar for the Zephyrus. In this review we’ll gauge the performance of the Zephyrus with some of the big boys of the market including the top 3 gaming notebook models right now in a weight-to-performance analysis.

ASUS ROG GX501 Prices and Availability Details

Unboxing

Closer Look

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)
ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

The underside of the ROG Zephyrus doesn’t much and the typical exhaust grills aren’t present aside from some side vents. There’s an ROG logo print for branding purposes just in case you forget who made this. I kid of course.

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

The ROG Zephyrus features a very sleek design and is very subdued with only the orange trims breaking up the all-black brushed metal aesthetics of the case. The body itself is a mix of aluminum and magnesium giving it a significantly premium feel whilst still being light but with enough substiantial heft to its 2.2kg weight.

The hinges on the ROG Zephyrus are positioned on the far edges and has enough friction resistance for a snug and secure feel without being too tight.

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

Once open, the ROG Zephyrus lights up at its base, revealing the AAS cooling which raise the back edge of the notebook slightly for maximum air intake. Two red LEDs light up the base as well for some accent lighting.

ASUS has shifted the keyboard to the lower edge of the ROG Zephyrus to make room for a cooling vent directly on top of the components. The panel is perforated and serves as a top-intake for the cooling system with the bottom feeding most of the air as well and dumping it at the sides. Going back to the keyboard, it is RGB Aura-equipped meaning you can fully customize the lighting aside from the default key lighting presets for MOBAs and FPS.

Going over the I/O options we have a bunch USB3.0 ports, 2 on the left and 2 on the right, as well as a USB3.1 Gen2  Type-C port which is Thunderbolt3-compatible. There’s also a unified audio port for your headset.

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

Here’s a closer look at the elevation the ROG Zephyrus gets when the screen is opened. The bottom panel slides open on a double-hinge armature which has plenty of support to prop-up the notebook itself when in use. We tried applying some pressure on the ROG Zephyrus just to see how much it can withstand and its sturdy enough to endure some pressure but we don’t recommend pushing down or weighing something on top of the laptop.

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

Together with the keyboard positioning, the touchpad has also received a modern upgrade with the number pad intuitively doubling as the touch pad on the ROG Zephyrus. It takes a while to get used to the positioning and the number pad isn’t as responsive as one may wish from top-end gear but it does well enough to serve as a viable replacement rather then get a dedicated USB number pad to lug around.

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

The screen is vibrant and exquisite and the fluid 120hz refresh screen is a welcome sight on a gaming notebook where its quite a late addition to the market given that desktop monitors have already reached 240hz at this point in time.

ASUS ROG GX501V Zephyrus Gaming Notebook Review (GTX 1080 with Max-Q)

Included in the package is an ROG Strix Impact gaming mice and a soft wrist-rest.

Performance Testing

So in these tests we’ll be taking a look at a synthetic benchmark performance of the ROG Zephyrus against some of the system’s we’ve recently had in the labs. Do take note that these are for reference only and not direct comparatives. In these tests we’ll be including the dual GPU, overclockable flagships such as the Acer Predator 21x, the MSI GT83VR Titan 7RF and the liquid-cooled ASUS ROG GX800. These models feature different processors and higher capacity/frequency memories which may influence benchmarks so do take note.

Gaming Test Setup

For this test we’ll focus on the gaming performance both our processors. Do note that we have specially selected benchmark runs for CPU testing vs. GPU testing so these vary from our GPU benchmark results. To see more details about the benchmark sequences, please see our game benchmark method guide.

Frame rates and frame times of a 60-second game play were recorded using FRAPS v3.5.99. The test results are the average of 3 benchmark runs. Since this is a GPU review, we benchmarked the area of the games that put heavy load on the GPU.

All our test runs are repeatable, click the links below for area and details. Read our benchmarking methodology.

  • Crysis 3 – Post Human
  • Grand Theft Auto V – Palomino Highlands
  • The Witcher 3 – Woesong Bridge
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider – Valley Farmstead
  • DOTA2 – Kiev Major Finals OG vs Virtus.Pro Game 5 (54:05 – 55:05)

See our Youtube playlist for benchmark sequences.

The games and corresponding image quality settings used are shown in their respective tabs.

Note: Some proprietary technologies of NVIDIA like PCSSHBAO+, and HairWorks work on AMD GPU’s BUT to maintain uniformity amongst GPUs, these have been turned OFF.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as we pick-up from the last game. Featuring upgraded graphics, DX12 support and new image quality improvements, this game challenges new hardware with its graphical offering.

DirectX11
Anti-aliasing: FXAA
Very High settings
Ambient Occlusion: On
Pure Hair: On
Vignette Blur: Off
Motion Blur: Off
Bloom: On
Tessellation: On
Screen Space Reflections: On
Lens Flares: On
Film Grain: Off

The Witcher 3

CD Projekt Red’s latest installment in the Witcher saga features one of the most graphically intense offering the company has to date. As Geralt of Rivia, slay monsters, beasts and men as you unravel the mysteries of your past. Vast worlds and lush sceneries make this game a visual feast and promises to make any system crawl at its highest settings.

Frame Rate: Unlimited
Nvidia HairWorks: Off
Ultra Settings
Motion Blur: Off
Blur: Off
Anti-aliasing: On
Bloom: On
Sharpening: High
Ambient Occlusion: SSAO
Depth of Field: On
Chromatic Aberration: Off
Vignetting: On
Light Shafts: On

DOTA2

The most popular game on Steam and the biggest competition in eSports; DOTA 2 is powered by the Source 2 engine. The game is fairly light on low to medium settings but maxed out with heavy action on screen especially during clashes can really stress most systems especially with Reborn update. This is a game where frame times matter as responsiveness is very important in high-stakes competition.

DirectX9 (default)
Best-Looking slider setting (Ultra)
FPS_MAX 240
Vsync OFF

We’ve streamlined the results for this benchmark to include only one of the SLI systems to demonstrate how CPU-bound DOTA2 is when it comes to intense scenes.

Grand Theft Auto V

The fifth and most successful installment to date in the highly controversial Grand Theft Auto series brings a graphical overhaul to the PC version of GTA V which many have lauded as a superior approach in porting a console game to PC. Featuring large areas and detailing, GTA V is a highly challenging application in terms of scene complexity.

FXAA Off
MSAA 4x
TXAA Off
Very High settings
Anisotropic Filtering: 16x
Motion Blur disabled
Advanced Graphics enabled

Crysis 3

The most visually intense game to have ever been made during its time. Prophet is back to take on the Ceph and Cell after a long sleep and the world isn’t what it was when before he got frozen. CryEngine 3 is behind this beautiful beast that will put a lot of systems to their knees. The opening level shows off the exquisite particle and water rendering of the engine capable of still giving modern GPUs a workout to this day.

Texture Resolution: Very High
Anti-aliasing: SMAA 2Tx
System Spec: Very High
Anisotropic Filtering: 16x
Motion Blur: Disabled

Temperature and Battery Life

We really don’t put too much stock on individual component temperatures as they will vary depending on usage and we do not benchmark using extreme loads anymore as they’re not reflective of real world applications. To stress the CPU and GPU, we use a looped 3DMark Fire Strike Test to simulate a typical modern gaming scenario. We recorded the peak CPU and GPU temps.

Using our thermal camera, we can see the chassis temperature under load of the ROG Zephyrus. We can see  the heat is focused mostly in the center of the upper chassis around the vents and spews out the sides. A bit obscured in the shot but the we can see the left vent exhausts more heat than the left under our specific load which could be of the heat distribution favoring the GPU side. As you’ll see below, the temps do get quite toasty but and chassis temps can get a bit warm but if you watched the performance videos above, we can see that the GPU still performs to spec with the GPU boost still ticking even when hitting typically alarming temps.

Surprisingly, CPU temps also do not drop below 3.4Ghz under load despite the GPU rising to 90*C+ territories. This could purely be a die reading offset but will seriously concern many users.

We’ll just dash on the battery life of the ROG Zephyrus as we mostly associate gaming with plugged-in systems. Despite that, we did try our stress test on battery-only and we did get around 40 minutes of game time, Dota2 proved a bit more relaxed with 50 minutes. Normal usage is abysmal though with only 2 1/2 hours at most of battery life when browsing and doing productivity tasks. Given the small chassis, its easy to imagine we’re going with a relatively small battery.

Conclusion

At Php179,000 or $3,000, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501 sits in a position wherein form comes first than functionality and not in a vain kind of way. Portability has slowly been eroded by high-end gaming notebooks in favor of performance and as they are touted as desktop replacements, they’ve more than become what they intended to replace becoming cumbersome and bulky as years go by. Ultimately its a case-to-case basis and many people are more than willing to compromise portability for performance but for the others that do value portability, that’s where the ASUS ROG Zephyrus comes in.

There’s plenty of trade-offs made in order to achieve the portability that the ASUS ROG Zephyrus has relative to how much in can deliver and whilst there are argument that cheaper GTX 1070 variants can rival it in terms of pure performance, that’s where personal preference really comes into play.

Ultimately, we prefer to look at the ASUS ROG Zephyrus as a solution. It delivers gaming performance enough to satisfy highly-discerning gamers whilst still being extraordinarily portable all the while brandishing the Republic of Gamers elite status with its premium build quality.

If you’re the kind of person that snuff at the cost and go “I could buy something cheaper with similar performance” you’re definitely not the target market of the ROG Zephyrus. Its hard to put a value on how important portability is to some people and if you’re a high-profile individual who has a fast-paced, mobile lifestyle but also happens to be a gamer who want utmost performance anytime then the ASUS ROG Zephyrus is your top choice.

The pinnacle of portability and performance, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501V is an engineering marvel that’s 50% lighter than comparable products but still deliver the same performance.

Price/Where To Buy

US: $2699 – ASUS ROG Zephyrus on Amazon
PH: Php179,999 (GTX 1080) – ROG Concept Store North EDSA/Megamall, ROG Strongholds

ASUS backs the ROG Zephyrus with a 2-year global warranty. We give it our prestigious triple-crown award: B2G Gold Award, B2G Performance Award and my B2G Editor Award!

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BossMac Suba

Owner and lead reviewer for Back2Gaming. More than 10-year of corporate IT experience as well as consumer IT journalism. His extensive skill set and experience in communicating complicated technical details into easily understandable bits. He's been with you since dial-up and the ISA slot. His favorite animal is the scapegoat.

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