The latest ROG Zephyrus S GX502 from Asus is here, with many improvements over its predecessors. For $2,199, the new Zephyrus S has the same sleek design, now with a glossy 15.6-inch, 240Hz panel; a clickable keyboard in a more comfortable position; a reliable pair of speakers and good battery life. However, the laptop stumbles with its dim display and slightly underperforming 9th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU. The GX502 is not the best gaming laptop, but overall it is a robust gaming machine thanks to its many reliable features. This is our Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Review.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Review – Design
The exterior of the Zephyrus S hasn’t changed much, because it has a black, brushed aluminum hood with a ROG logo with RGB lighting on the right side. On the hinge is a streamlined recess, with LED-lit indicators and an engraved Republic of Gamers logo.
There is a significant change on the inside; Asus has switched from a forward keyboard layout to a normal one, with the touchpad just below the keyboard (normalcy is so beautiful). Not only that, but the whole frame is made of magnesium alloy instead of aluminum. Most of the deck is matte black, and above the keyboard is a micro-dotted panel. Just like the previous Zephyrus laptops, the bottom opens when the lid is lifted, to allow extra airflow.
The Zephyrus S has quite a few ports but does not have a Mini DisplayPort, which means you will need an adapter if you are going to use a VR headset. On the left, there is the power connector, an RJ45 Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.0B port, a USB 3.1 port, a microphone jack, and a headphone jack. On the right side, there is room for a Kensington lock, two USB 3.1 ports, and a USB Type-C DisplayPort 1.4.
Keyboard and TouchPad
You have no idea how happy I am that the keyboard of the Zephyrus S is finally in a traditional position. Not only that, but the keys don’t feel superficial or cheap: Each key is satisfactorily clicky and is supported by its RGB illumination. You can configure the RGB lighting in the Aura Sync tab of the Armoury Crate app, which offers preset effects such as Rainbow or Breathing. The keys are not too deep, but a little weight is still required to register the click.
If you want to adjust the lighting yourself, you will need to download a separate app called Aura Creator from Microsoft Store. However, adjusting your brightness via that app turned out to be too complicated, as it functioned more like video editing software than anything else. The 4.1 x 2.8-inch touchpad isn’t as smooth as I’d like, but it had quite a few clicks and registered Windows 10 gestures, such as scrolling with two fingers and tabbing with three fingers, thanks to the precision drivers.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Review – Display
While the Zephyrus S’ 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution panel has a 240Hz refresh rate with a response time of 3 milliseconds and Nvidia G-Sync, the screen itself is relatively weak. It doesn’t pop as much as your average gaming laptops. In the Morbius trailer, the fog around the titular character glowed a comic-book style purple color, but it wasn’t very vivid. When Morbius was locked in a glass prison, it was hard to see the corners of the dimly lit room. The display was sharp enough to pick up the sharp ends of Jared Leto’s beard.
Baranor’s green breastplate and cloak mixed with copper accents caught my eye as I wandered around and cut through Middle-earth fools: Shadow of War. The rock formations in the caves I attacked were not as detailed as I would have liked, because it was a bit too dark. However, I immediately noticed the advantage of the 240Hz refresh rate when I cranked up the graphics and gave the battle a whirlwind. My sword cuts, hammer swings, and bow attacks were so smooth that I felt like I was Celebrimbor’s spirit in Baranor’s body.
According to our colorimeter, the Zephyrus S’s screen managed to cover only 109% of the sRGB color gamut, which is well below the average of 148% of the premium gaming laptop. The Razer Blade 15 (149%), Aero 15 Classic (117%), and Legion Y740 (112%) all had better scores.
With 249 nits, the Zephyrus S is one of the weakest gaming laptops in the world, below the average of 318 nits. He managed to beat the 246 nits of the Aero 15 Classic, but that doesn’t say much. The Razer Blade 15 (262 nits) and the Legion Y740 (267 nits) were below average. To be clear, if you’re paying more than $2,000 for a gaming laptop, we expect screens with at least 300 nits of brightness and 130% sRGB, and those numbers don’t even beat the category averages.
The bottom speakers of the Zephyrus S were surprisingly good, and loud enough to fill my living room with sound. I listened to Maroon 5’s “Memories,” and the opening guitar was as hypnotic as I remembered; the song ended with the melodic voice of Adam Levine, followed by the beautiful backing vocals.
In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, I severed Horza the Watcher’s arm twice, in separate positions, which sounded like two sharp, clean slices. The thick thud of Celebrimbor’s hammer hitting the skull of an orc was oh, so satisfying. When the orcs talked me into it, their voices were disgustingly clear. However, the fans on the Zephyrus S were a bit overwhelming and didn’t mix well with the sound.
Asus includes the Sonic Studio III audio app, which gives you presets for Music, Film, Gaming, and Communication. I thought music worked best for both music and gaming, while the Gaming preset sounded hollow while playing Shadow of War. Within each preset, there are adjustable settings for Smart Volume, Voice Clarity, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, Reverb, and Upmix/Surround. You can also apply different presets to specific apps, so you don’t have to adjust your audio, whether it’s switching music, gaming, or movies.
Graphics and Gaming
Under the hood of the Zephyrus S is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB VRAM. The graphics card averages 78 frames per second as I dodged and cut my way through a small army of orcs in Shadow of War on Ultra, 1080p settings. However, the performance could be better. On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Very High, 1080p) the Zephyrus S scored 50 fps, which was not only below the 65 fps premium gaming laptop average; also the averages that the RTX 2070 GPUs built up in the Razer Blade 15 (60 fps), Aero 15 Classic (55 fps) and Legion Y740 (66 fps).
The Zephyrus S had an average of 69 fps on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), far behind the category average (108 fps). Although the Razer Blade 15 (96 fps), the Aero 15 Classic (98 fps), and the Legion Y740 (96 fps) didn’t reach the average either, they were all significantly closer to it. On the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Zephyrus S was a bit more competitive, with 75 fps, which equaled the Aero 15 Classic and beat the Legion Y740 (67 fps).
However, it just missed the Razer Blade 15 (76 fps) and lagged behind the average of the premium gaming laptop (79 fps). As mentioned earlier, the Zephyrus S beat 78 fps on the Shadow of War benchmark. However, it stumbled against the Razer Blade 15 (91 fps), the Aero 15 Classic (85 fps), and Legion Y740 (87 fps), not to mention the category average (97 fps).
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Review – Performance
The Zephyrus S’ Intel Core i7-9750H processor with 16GB of RAM was able to juggle 40 Google Chrome tabs and five 1080p YouTube videos while Middle-earth: Shadow of War ran in the background. However, similar to graphics performance, CPU performance may be better. In the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test, the Zephyrus S scored 19,504, falling short of the premium gaming laptop average (24,687). With the same CPU, the Razer Blade 15 hit 22.379, while the last generation CPU (Core i7-8750H) in the Aero 15 Classic and Legion Y740 got respectively 23.516 and 21.629.
Asus’ 1TB SSD copied 4.97 GB of data in 7 seconds, which translates to a transfer rate of 727 megabytes per second, equivalent to the 512 GB SSD of the Aero 15 Classic and in fact on top of the premium gaming laptop average (793 MBps). The Razer Blade 15’s 512 GB SSD and Legion Y740’s 256 GB SSD managed 636 MBps and 566 MBps, respectively.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Review – Battery Life
What the Zephyrus S sacrifices in performance, it gains in battery life. After surfing the web continuously over Wi-Fi with 150 nits of brightness, the Zephyrus S’s battery lasted 5 hours and 47 minutes, overturning the average 3:30 premium gaming laptop. However, the Razer Blade 15 and Aero 15 Classic performed better in most areas, and their batteries lasted 5:02 and 6:58, respectively. Meanwhile, the battery of the Legion Y740 crumbled at 2:16.
Thanks to Asus’ Active Aerodynamic System, a method for lifting the bottom for more airflow, the Zephyrus S has a controllable cooling solution. I played Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot for 15 minutes, and the underside hit 108 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly above our comfort threshold of 95 degrees. The center of the keyboard and touchpad measures 115 and 83 degrees, respectively. However, the hottest the machine got was 132 degrees on the microdot panel above the keyboard.
There’s no reason why your hand should be above that, so it’s perfectly fine. What’s more, even when I touched it, it only felt warm, not burning hot. Generally, it was comfortable to use in my lap. In the regular heat test, where a 1080p video was streamed for 15 minutes, the bottom reached 88 degrees, while the keyboard hit 91 degrees, and the touchpad recorded a low 77 degrees. Again, the hottest spot above the keyboard was 94 degrees.
Price and Configuration Options
I tested the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502GW, which costs $2,199 and comes with an Intel Core i7-9750H processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU with 8GB VRAM, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 240Hz, 1080p display. The base model is the Zephyrus S GX502GV, which works for $1,899 and is equipped with the same CPU and RAM, but descends to an RTX 2060 with 6GB VRAM, a 512GB SSD and a 144Hz, 1080p display.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 Review – Conclusion
The Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 has many great features and has been improved in many ways, especially the keyboard, battery life, and speakers. It also features a new 240Hz panel in the same sleek design. However, its dim screen and middling performance make it a hard sell at $2,199. If you’re already spending more than $2,000, you might as well bring out the Gigabyte Aero 15 Classic, which is currently on sale for $2,299. This laptop has similar specifications (minus its 512GB SSD) but offers stronger overall performance, longer battery life, and a lighter chassis.
However, if you’re not focused on hardcore performance, then the Zephyrus S is an overall reliable gaming laptop to buy.
The ROG Zephyrus S GX502 from Asus has a 240Hz panel, a clickable keyboard, and a good battery life, but the performance could be better.
- Sleek design
- Smooth 240-Hz panel
- Clicky keyboard
- Good battery life
- Solid speakers
- The display should be brighter, more colorful
- Performance and graphics could be better