Promising ultra-portable gaming notebook

Last year, Razer set a new bar for ultra-portable gaming laptops by putting a gaming-grade Nvidia graphics chip in the svelte Blade Stealth 13, which is around 15mm thick and weighs just 1.42kg.

But the Stealth will soon face competition from the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.

Announced in January at the CES trade show, this 14-inch laptop may not be as light (1.6kg), but its Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics chip is more capable than the Stealth’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650.

The G14 is also one of the first notebooks to come with AMD’s latest Ryzen 9 processor. This brand-new R9 4900HS chip comes with eight cores – like Intel’s flagship Core i9-9980HK processor.

Last week, I had the chance to preview the G14, which will debut in the United States next month, but launch only in June in Singapore. Asus has yet to reveal the pricing.

In addition to its AMD processor and Nvidia graphics, the set that Asus sent me had 16GB of system memory, a 1TB solid-state drive and Wi-Fi 6 and supported USB-C (Gen 2 with up to 10Gbps transfer speed).

To assess the G14’s general computing prowess, I ran the PCMark 10 benchmark, which involves common tasks such as Web browsing, video conferencing, spreadsheets and more. The laptop was set to the recommended Performance profile.

The G14 produced a score of 5,888 compared with the 5,486 score of the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, which uses the Intel Core i9-9980HK processor and the Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics chip.

Like most mobile processors, the AMD chip in the G14 also comes with built-in graphics, though by default, the laptop uses the dedicated Nvidia graphics chip.

To find out how this AMD integrated graphics fare, I disabled the Nvidia chip and ran the 3DMark Time Spy gaming benchmark.

The AMD Radeon graphics chip scored 1,411 in the Time Spy test, compared with the 948 score produced by the entry-level Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics chip that I had previously tested on another notebook.

Based on these results, the G14’s new AMD chip seems like it would give Intel’s top mobile chip a run for its money.

But this clash of competing chips is probably of interest only to PC enthusiasts. The G14’s gamer audience is likely to be most attracted to its unique lid – half of which is covered by tiny perforations – 6,536 holes to be exact.

These holes let light from 1,215 internal mini LEDs pass through, allowing users to create their own custom dot-matrix-like image and animation with the included software.

Asus says the LEDs can even show status notifications such as messages or battery life.

But I was unable to try this feature because my set was the version with only the perforations and not the mini LEDs, which apparently add another 100g to the weight.

The G14 borrows the ErgoLift feature from Asus’ ultrabooks. When the lid is open, it pushes against the desk and elevates the bottom of the notebook. This improves the air flow to the bottom vents while the slight incline makes typing on the keyboard a tad more comfortable.

The laptop also has a fingerprint sensor integrated in the power button, which allows users to automatically sign into their Windows account when turning on the computer.

Two types of displays are available for the G14 – a 1,440p version with a 60Hz refresh rate and a 1,080p version with a 120Hz refresh rate. I believe most gamers would pick the latter as the higher refresh rate will make games appear smoother.

The G14 was certainly fast enough for games like Doom (2016), where it managed around 112 frames per second at 1,080p resolution at Ultra setting.

With its relatively compact design and mid-tier gaming prowess, the G14 looks like a promising contender in the ultra-portable gaming notebook category.

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