Recently, we managed to get our hands on an Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 laptop. We had to do it like everyone else, find one and buy it at retail. That is remarkable, because this laptop combines AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HS processor with an Nvidia RTX 3070 Mobile GPU, a combination that makes this device sold out very quickly.
Make no mistake, the RTX 3070 in this year’s AMD-powered Zephyrus is a definite step forward. If you wanted an RTX 3000 series GPU in a laptop last year, you had to settle for an Intel CPU.
|Specifications at a glance: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503, as tested|
|operating system||Windows 10 Home|
|Processor||3.0GHz 8-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS (4.5GHz boost)|
|GPU||AMD Radeon 8 core / Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 MaxQ|
|SSD||SK Hynix M.2 NVMe PCIe3.0 1TB|
|Battery||ASUStek 90 Wh|
|Display||1440p WQHD, glare-free, 165 Hz, adaptive sync|
|Price as tested||$1,800 at Best Buy|
This year’s Ryzen-powered Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is almost everything we could want in a gaming laptop. Beastly CPU? To check. Beastly GPU? To check. Full-size wired LAN port? To check. Loud speakers? Absolute. 1440p high refresh display? Yes. Even the storage on this laptop — a model of SK Hynix NVMe SSD we’d never seen before — is blazing fast.
Unfortunately, this year’s Zephyrus G15 shares the same Achilles heel as last year’s Ryzen-powered G14: there’s no webcam.
This puzzling omission almost feels like someone lost a bet at Asus. Not only do game streamers often want a camera view, we are one year old and turning into a global pandemic with an almost universal need for daily teleconferencing. So why Asus… Why†
Other than that, this is a great general purpose laptop and game-specific beast. Even the fans behaved much better than in last year’s G14, and this setup remained almost inaudible during all but the Time Spy testing.
Internal parts and upgrades
Getting into the Zephyrus G15 is relatively easy. There are no individual compartment panels; the whole back plate comes off after removing 10 exposed screws and three hidden screws. (The screws in the center of the panel are the “hidden” screws, hidden under sticky rubber caps for some reason.)
Note that the bottom right screw is a solid design – although you can force it, it shouldn’t come all the way out of the back plate. The idea is that after you have completely removed the first 12 screws, you can use the unscrewed but still inserted thirteenth as leverage to release the panel at that angle. We still recommend a spudger and some patience if you want to remove the panel without damage, whether you use the retaining screw or not.
Once you’re in the G15, everything is easy to find and work with – there’s nothing like this crazy “remove the keyboard to access Wi-Fi”. You’ll find the single DIMM slot (initially filled with an 8GiB Samsung DIMM on our system) just left of center. The C: drive, an SK Hynix 1TB M.2 NVMe drive, is located just above and to the left of the DIMM slot. A second, unpopulated M.2 NVMe slot is to the right of the first M.2, and the Intel AX201 Wi-Fi is plugged in just below it.
The only slightly sour note here is that some DIMM slot – 8GiB from the base of the laptop 16GiB is soldered to the board. This limits how far you can upgrade the RAM. The manual says it only goes to 24GiB, but we got it to 40GiB with no problem using a 32GiB HyperX DIMM. Still, you’re effectively stuck in single-channel mode for 24GiB of that, as it’s not possible to upgrade both banks equally.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, the Ryzen 9 5900HS in the Zephyrus G15 wipes out every competitor in multi-threaded testing, including the unusually Intel-friendly Geekbench 5.
In Cinebench R20 — generally our favorite one-size-fits-all CPU test — the 5900HS improves only slightly over last year’s 4900HS (found in the ROG Zephyrus G14 2020), but they both deliver about double that. the performance of their closest competitors.
Passmark gives a huge boost to the 5900HS that didn’t show up in Cinebench R20. Finally, the 5900HS takes a modest but noticeable win over Tiger Like i7-1185G7, our previous Geekbench 5 champion in the laptop space.
Performance—single threaded CPU
Single-threaded performance tests are more of a mixed bag. The battle here is entirely between the Ryzen 9 5900HS in the ROG G15 and the Tiger Lake i7-1185G7 running at full 28W TDP.
In Cinebench R20, the Tiger Lake i7 and the Ryzen 9 5900HS are neck and neck, with a very close win to Tiger Lake. Passmark shows us the same situation, but with Ryzen 9 narrowly victorious. Geekbench 5 gives the Tiger Lake i7 a more notable win.
As usual, we caution readers not to get too excited about single-threaded numbers – the margins here are much narrower than with multi-threaded testing, and the tests themselves model a rather unusual workflow.
It’s much more common to bottleneck a single thread in a multi-threaded workload than to have a truly single-threaded workload stand alone. These numbers also don’t demonstrate “per thread performance in a multi-threaded workload”; they test where only threaded performance with all other cores idle or near idle.
We weren’t sure what to expect from the SK Hynix NVMe SSD in the G15 – that’s not a name you often see in the consumer SSD space, and the particular model seems to be new to the Zephyrus G15 as well.
CrystalDiskMark tests certainly put us at ease; the SK Hynix drive not only outperformed the Kingston Design-in drive from the Minisforum U850, but also the WD Black 2TB and WD SN730 512GB (not pictured) from this spring’s gaming-focused Ars system guide.
This is a seriously fast SSD, adding greatly to the overall impression the ROG G15 laptop gives a new user. It’s not just a scary focused fps monster; the feels also extremely fast in general use cases.