Review: The Asus ROG G15, a gaming laptop with Ryzen 9 5900HS and RTX 3070


Recently, we managed to get our hands on an Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 laptop. We had to do it just like anybody else does, by finding one and buying it retail. That’s notable because this laptop combines AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HS processor with an Nvidia RTX 3070 Mobile GPU, a combination that means this device sells out extremely quickly.

Make no mistake, the RTX 3070 in this year’s AMD-powered Zephyrus is a distinct step up. Last year, if you wanted an RTX 3000 series GPU in a laptop, you had to settle for an Intel CPU to go with it.

Overview

Specs at a glance: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503, as tested
OS Windows 10 Home
CPU 3.0GHz 8-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS (4.5GHz boost)
RAM 16GiB DDR4-3200
GPU AMD Radeon 8 core / Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 MaxQ
SSD SK Hynix M.2 NVMe PCIe3.0 1TB
Battery ASUStek 90Wh
Display 1440p WQHD, non-glare, 165Hz, adaptive sync
Connectivity
  • two USB-A ports
  • two USB-C ports
  • 3.5mm phone/mic combo jack
  • DC power jack
  • full-size HDMI out
  • RJ-45 wired Ethernet
  • micro SD reader
  • Kensington lock slot
  • no camera
Price as tested $1,800 at Best Buy

This year’s Ryzen-powered Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is almost everything we’d want in a gaming laptop. Beastly CPU? Check. Beastly GPU? Check. Full-size wired LAN port? Check. Loud speakers? Absolutely. 1440p display with high refresh? Yes. Even the storage on this laptop—a model of SK Hynix NVMe SSD we’d never seen before—is blistering 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 feels almost like somebody at Asus lost a bet. Not only do game streamers frequently want a cam view, we’re a year and change into a global pandemic with near-universal need for daily teleconferencing. So, why Asus… why?

Aside from that, this is a great general-purpose laptop as well as a gaming-specific beast. Even its fans were much better behaved than last year’s G14, and this setup remained near-inaudible throughout everything but Time Spy testing.

Internals and upgrades

Getting into the Zephyrus G15 is relatively easy. There are no individual compartment panels; the entire back plate lifts off after removing 10 visible screws and three hidden ones. (The screws in the center of the panel are the “hidden” ones, concealed under sticky rubber caps for some reason.)

Note that the lower right screw is a captive design—although you can force it to, it’s not supposed to actually come out of the back plate entirely. The idea is that after removing the first 12 screws entirely, you can use the unscrewed-but-still-inserted thirteenth as leverage to pop the panel loose in that corner. We’d still recommend a spudger and some patience if you want to remove the panel without damage, whether or not you use the captive screw to begin.

Once you’re into the G15, everything’s easy to find and work with—there’s none of this silly “remove the keyboard to access the Wi-Fi” business. You’ll find the single DIMM slot (initially populated with an 8GiB Samsung DIMM, on our system) just left of center. The C: drive, an SK Hynix 1TB M.2 NVMe drive, is just above and to the left of the DIMM slot. A second, unpopulated M.2 NVMe slot is off to the right of the first M.2, and the Intel AX201 Wi-Fi is socketed just below that.

The only somewhat sour note here is that single DIMM slot—8GiB of the laptop’s base 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 without problems using a 32GiB HyperX DIMM. Still, you’re effectively stuck in single-channel mode for 24GiB of that, since it’s not possible to upgrade both banks evenly.

Performance—multi-threaded CPU

The Ryzen 9 5900HS in the Zephyrus G15—to absolutely no one’s surprise—wipes the floor with 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 only improves on last year’s 4900HS (found in the 2020 ROG Zephyrus G14) slightly, but they both deliver roughly double the performance of their closest competitors.

Passmark shows an enormous boost to the 5900HS which didn’t show up in Cinebench R20. Finally, the 5900HS gets a modest but noticeable victory over Tiger Like i7-1185G7, our previous Geekbench 5 champion in the laptop space.

Performance—single threaded CPU

Single threaded performance testing is more of a mixed bag. The fight here is entirely between the Ryzen 9 5900HS in the ROG G15 and the Tiger Lake i7-1185G7 running flat-out at 28W TDP.

In Cinebench R20, the Tiger Lake i7 and the Ryzen 9 5900HS are neck and neck, with a very narrow victory going to Tiger Lake. Passmark shows us the same situation, but with Ryzen 9 the just-barely-victor. Geekbench 5 grants the Tiger Lake i7 a more noticeable victory.

As usual, we caution readers not to get too excited about single-threaded numbers—the margins here are much narrower than in multi-threaded testing, and the tests themselves model a pretty uncommon workflow.

It’s much more common to bottleneck on a single thread in a multi-threaded workload than to have a truly single-threaded workload running standalone. Also, these numbers do not demonstrate “per thread performance in a multi-threaded workload;” they test true single threaded performance with all other cores idle or very near-idle.

Performance—storage

Enlarge / The SK Hynix SSD in the G15 flexes serious storage muscle in CrystalDiskMark testing, nearly doubling competing drives’ performance in large writes.

Jim Salter

We weren’t sure what to expect from the SK Hynix NVMe SSD in the G15—that’s not a name you see often in the consumer SSD space, and the specific model seems to be new to the Zephyrus G15 as well.

CrystalDiskMark testing definitely put our minds at ease; the SK Hynix drive outperformed not only 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, which contributes strongly to the overall impression the ROG G15 laptop gives a new user. It’s not just a narrowly-focused FPS monster, it feels extremely fast in general use cases as well.



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