/Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502

The Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (starts at $1,899.99; $2,199.99 as tested) sees the company’s slim gaming laptop maintain its sleek profile while returning to a more conventional design: The keyboard’s no longer perched on the front edge of the machine, and nobody banished the touchpad to the corner. This redesign gives it wider appeal to gamers and creative pros alike. Make no mistake, however, this rig is for gamers first. Asus bumped the 15.6-inch display’s refresh rate from 144Hz to 240Hz while ditching the Max-Q graphics card in favor of full-throttle Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics. Keeping thermals in check is a challenge for this high-powered slimline, but the laptop provides controls for regulating both its graphics and cooling fans. It impresses for its power, thin profile, and versatility, claiming an Editors’ Choice as our new favorite high-end mobile gaming rig.


A Keyboard Returns to Form

The biggest design change to this latest Zephyrus is a return to a traditional keyboard and touchpad layout. On previous iterations of the laptop, the keyboard occupied what’s usually the palm rest with a narrow touchpad squeezed into the bottom right corner. This allowed for extra ventilation forward of the keyboard, but it took considerable getting used to. The Zephyrus S GX502 requires no such learning curve. The only thing you may need to adjust to is the extra column of keys along the right side for Delete, Home, Page Up, Page Down, End, and Fn.

Meet the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502

The keyboard itself is roomy with snappy, responsive, and quiet keys. A row of media keys with volume and mute controls occupies the top. There’s also the ROG key from past models that opens the Armoury Crate app for customizing the laptop’s Aura Sync lighting, monitoring components, controlling the cooling fans, and more. To customize the per-key RGB keyboard backlighting, however, Armoury Crate kicks you over to the separate Aura Sync app, which you’ll need to install. I wish all the lighting customizations were located under one roof.

The touchpad glides smoothly and felt accurate and responsive. The keyboard deck has a soft-touch coating with an almost rubberized feeling to it. It repels fingerprints and smudges but is a bit of a dust magnet.

Z Keyboard, Z Touchpad

This Zephyrus isn’t quite as thin as the previous model but it’s also about an ounce lighter, and I think most gamers will gladly accept a few extra millimeters in thickness in exchange for not needing to learn new keyboard and touchpad habits. The system measures 0.74 by 14.2 by 9.9 inches and weighs 4.55 pounds. By contrast, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model (2019) measures 0.7 by 14 by 9.25 inches and weighs 4.6 pounds, while the Alienware m15 R2 is 0.8 by 14.2 by 10.9 inches and 4.75 pounds.

The laptop is both sleek and sturdy. Its magnesium-aluminum alloy chassis provides a tough, rigid feel without the heft and bulk of many other gaming rigs. Asus also refrained from giving the Zephyrus a garishly gamer-centric design—it’s all black, suitable for double duty as a work system for creative pros who might like to fire up a game or two when the day is done. (The system’s Nvidia Optimus graphics also aid its versatility; more on that in the next section.) The only color accents come by way of the keyboard backlighting.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 3

There are three tiny but bright status LEDs centered on the top edge of the keyboard deck. I found the blinking lights to be distracting and would like to see them located anywhere else but directly below the middle of the screen.

Asus may have moved the keyboard and touchpad on the Zephyrus S GX502, but the laptop maintains the company’s unique case design with a bottom ventilation flap that opens along the back edge and the rear half of each side as you lift the lid…

Bring in the Airflow

The CPU and GPU share two pipes and heatsinks, and each has an independent pipe linked to a dedicated heatsink. You can see the cooling system here, with the bottom off…

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 12

The flap props up the laptop by about an inch to allow more airflow in and out of the system to help cool the compact chassis. The venting system feels sturdy, and it opens and closes so smoothly that you won’t really notice until you trace the source of the glowing RGB lighting coming from the rear corners. (The LED lights are coming from inside the house!) A customizable LED sits just inside the ventilation opening on either side of the machine.


Hertz for Days

Last year’s Zephyrus S featured a speedy 144Hz/3ms panel, but Asus was not content to rest with that refresh rate. Last year’s display is offered on the lower-end config, but our test unit boasts a 15.6-inch panel that takes the refresh rate up to 240Hz while keeping the 3ms response time.

A 240Hz refresh rate is overkill for most gamers, and you’ll see that we didn’t approach frame rates near that figure on our benchmarks using demanding AAA games, although we did exceed 144 frames per second (fps) on one test. Esports gamers willing to dial back on the resolution and the quality settings might be able to eke out a few extra frames and put this panel to its highest and best use. Speed aside, the GX502 screen’s 1080p image looked crisp, with vivid colors and good contrast. And its matte coating means you can play games in a variety of settings without worrying about glare and reflections getting you killed.

High Refresh Rate, Mainstream Resolution

The display also supports Nvidia’s G-Sync anti-tearing technology, which the previous model did not. With G-Sync enabled, our gaming experience was happily tearing-free. And via the aforementioned Armoury Crate app, you can switch between G-Sync and Optimus modes. With the former, the GeForce RTX 2070 graphics chip is continually engaged and keeps the display’s refresh rate and the GPU’s output in sync. With Optimus, the system uses the power-hungry GeForce graphics only when needed and otherwise relies on the Intel processor’s integrated graphics to extend battery life. A system restart is required to toggle between G-Sync and Optimus modes, but having both modes at your disposal is a boon to users who might use their machine off the plug often for non-gaming tasks.

You can also control how loudly and aggressively the cooling fans spin—which you’ll want to do, because they can get seriously loud at full-go. The Asus will automatically regulate the fans depending on what you’re doing, but you can also manually switch between Silent, Windows, and Performance fan modes using Armoury Crate or the F5 key.

There’s also a Turbo mode available when the laptop is running on AC power, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re gaming while wearing a noise-canceling headset. The laptop’s stereo speakers are no match for the fans in Turbo mode, but I was impressed by how quietly the system ran in Silent mode. While never actually silent, the Zephyrus was muted enough for me to enjoy YouTube videos without needing to reach for headphones or plug in a Bluetooth speaker.

One item you won’t find on the system is a webcam. The display and lid are so thin and screen bezels are so narrow, not only on the sides but above the display, that there’s simply no room.

There is, however, plenty of room for a variety of ports, including the return of the Ethernet port that was omitted from last year’s slightly thinner model. On the left side, you’ll find an HDMI port, separate mic and headset jacks, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port, the Ethernet jack, and the power connector.

The Zephyrus

On the right are two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port with DisplayPort and power delivery support. You might ask for another USB-C port, but having at least one Type-A port on either side is useful for both left- and right-handed gamers looking to plug in a mouse without wrapping the cord around the back of the laptop.

...and the Ones on the Right


Slim Profile, Strong Performance

Asus sells two versions of the Zephyrus S GX502. Both are based on the 2.6GHz (4.5GHz turbo) Intel Core i7-9750H—a 9th Generation, six-core CPU—and come with 16GB of onboard memory, with an open SO-DIMM slot for expansion to 32GB. The $1,899.99 base model features the 144Hz display, GeForce RTX 2060 graphics, a 512GB PCI Express solid-state drive, and Windows 10 Home. Our $2,199.99 tester stepped up to the 240Hz G-Sync screen, GeForce RTX 2070 graphics, a 1TB PCIe SSD, and Windows 10 Pro.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 13

For the performance benchmarks, I compared the Zephyrus S GX502 to other Core i7-9750H and GeForce RTX-based gaming laptops. The 15.6-inch Asus ROG Strix Scar III features the GeForce RTX 2060, and the 17.3-inch Acer Predator Helios 700 features the RTX 2070. The other two systems are 15.6-inch slimlines with Max-Q GPUs that throttle back the power for cooling’s sake: The Alienware m15 R2 has the Max-Q GeForce RTX 2070, and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model has the Max-Q GeForce RTX 2080.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (Configuration Charts)

Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests

PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, Web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.

PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the boot drive. This also yields a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (PCMark)

The Zephyrus S GX502 did fairly well on PCMark 10, finishing fourth overall but closely bunched with all but the hulking Acer Predator Helios 700, which topped the 6,000-point mark. (Any score over 4,000 indicates a system that’s overkill for everyday tasks.) Since all five laptops feature PCI Express solid-state drives, their PCMark 8 Storage scores are practically indistinguishable from one another.

Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (Cinebench)

It was statistically a tie, but the Zephyrus took top honors in Cinebench, edging the Predator by a single point. The first four machines here, though, were really all part of the photo finish.

Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (Handbrake)

We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (Photoshop)

The five laptops all finished within a minute of each other in our Handbrake test and within three seconds of one another in our Photoshop exercise. Each would make a powerful photo or video editing machine.

Graphics Tests

3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (3DMark)

The Zephyrus S GX502 showed a clear advantage over the two Max-Q systems in the mid-grade Sky Diver test but lost that edge in the more demanding Fire Strike test. The big Acer was the clear winner here.

Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (Superposition)

We were surprised to see that the GX502 finished behind both Max-Q laptops in the Superposition benchmark, but it still produced excellent frame rates, including 165fps in the less challenging 720p subtest. Such a frame rate would look extra-smooth on the 240Hz G-Sync display.

Real-World Gaming Tests

The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world gaming at various settings. We run these at both the moderate and maximum graphics quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) at native resolution to judge performance for a given system. The results are provided in frames per second. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (Far Cry 5)

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (ROTR)

Despite turning Optimus mode off and using the Zephyrus’ dedicated graphics with the fan mode set to Turbo, the system trailed the pack in both gaming tests. Its frame rates are certainly playable, but they disappointed because they were lower than those of the two Max-Q laptops as well as the RTX 2060-based Asus ROG Strix Scar III.

Battery Rundown Test

After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in Airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the same Tears of Steel movie we use in our Handbrake trial—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (Battery Rundown)

The ability to toggle between discrete and integrated graphics is a boon for battery life. It feels like getting two laptops in one—a noisy, power-hungry gaming rig, as well as a quieter machine for work and entertainment pursuits outside of 3D games. With Optimus graphics, the Zephyrus ran for nearly seven hours in our unplugged test, the best of this bunch. (For the curious, I ran the test again in G-Sync mode, and the system’s stamina dropped to 2 hours and 48 minutes.)


The Real Slim Speedy

Like other high-end gaming laptops, the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 carries a premium price, but its cost is more easily justified than other high-priced models because of features like Optimus graphics and the 240Hz G-Sync display. And even though some of its 3D gaming results were a little slower than expected, the Zephyrus S GX502 still provided a highly enjoyable gaming experience. Just make sure you have a good headset to drown out the intense fan noise at times.

Thankfully, the Zephyrus operates at a much more reasonable sound level in Optimus mode—with solid battery runtime to boot—which turns the system into an overqualified laptop for creative pros or for just kicking back and watching Netflix. Add the solid build quality and a keyboard no longer oddly placed along the front edge of the system, and you get an easy Editors’ Choice pick.

Original Source