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Asus' new laptop is a solid MacBook alternative that's better in several ways

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 packs solid hardware, a long battery life, and an OLED display into a slim frame.
Written by Cesar Cadenas, Contributing Writer
Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • While technically a gaming laptop, the new Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 may actually do more for the professional user than the average gamer.
  • Its long battery life, feature-packed keyboard, and OLED display allow users to tackle the workday with ease and comfort.
  • However, the laptop comes stuffed with bloatware that takes up a lot of storage space, and its operating temperature can run high.

Let me ask you a question: when does a gaming laptop stop being a gaming laptop? I think the answer is when the hardware is the least impressive thing about the device. That's the case with the seemingly MacBook-inspired Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. After a couple of weeks of testing, I honestly forgot it came with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU. Every other aspect of the laptop was more enthralling. Its performance was the furthest thing from my mind.

Also: The best Windows laptop you can buy: Expert tested

I specifically mentioned the MacBook because the Zephyrus G14 really looks like one. Not only is it a shiny silver, but the display is reminiscent of what you'd find on a MacBook Pro. It's a 2K resolution (2,880 x 1,800 pixels) OLED screen surrounded by thick black bezels. The dark borders serve as a contrast, making colors on the screen seem more vibrant. Additionally, the keyboard is also reminiscent of one you'd find on an Apple laptop.

If you're a frequent reader, you know how much I appreciate comfortable keyboards. Well, I'm happy to say that the Zephyrus G14 definitely has one.

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Each key has a slight indentation that guides your fingers toward the center, and most also have a nice, springy feel. Putting the two together results in a typing experience that is quite easy on the hands. The M keys at the top don't have the same haptic feedback; they're mushier by comparison because Asus didn't expect them to get as much action. But on these four is where you'll find the laptop's audio controls, the stand out being the M4, which launches the Armoury Crate app that configures the RGB lights.

The Function keys need to be called out as well, as Asus made several interesting choices here. The F5 key, for example, causes the internal fans to go into turbo mode. As a side note, the placement of the fans themselves result in a design tradeoff. They're located at the bottom of the laptop instead of the rear or sides to ensure the laptop is thin -- and with this model measuring less than an inch thick, I would say Asus was successful. However, this design choice traps heat without a whole lot of ventilation, leading to a computer that can quickly get hot. If you buy this laptop, I would recommend you get a laptop cooling pad to keep temperatures low.

The F10 key is also interesting since it offers a quick way to completely disable the touchpad, which is useful for people who prefer using a standard mouse and keyboard combo.

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

With the OLED display and all the lights throughout the body, one would assume the battery doesn't last very long. Surprisingly, that is not the case. The Zephyrus G14 has one of the best batteries I have ever seen on a laptop. In my experience, the only other device that outperforms it is the Acer Chromebook Spin 714.

I performed my usual test of playing a nonstop YouTube livestream at 720p and 50% brightness. The Zephyrus G14 lasted 10 hours straight. Most laptops, from what I've seen, tap out at six hours. I was genuinely surprised at this longevity. Gaming laptops are known to be power-hungry, so I wasn't expecting much, but I was happily proven wrong.

Also: Can you use a gaming laptop at work? This clever feature by Dell made me a believer

The Zephyrus G14 is powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS processor alongside the GeForce RTX 4060 graphics card I mentioned earlier. I found the CPU to be more impressive when I ran both through benchmarking tests. On Cinebench R23, the Ryzen 9 earned a score of 16,107, putting it among the upper echelon of processors and well above the average Intel Core i9-9880H. The GPU didn't fare as well by comparison. The discrepancy between the two tells me the laptop is great at handling a variety of workloads from internet browsing to video editing, but may struggle with gaming.

The Zephyrus G14 has one other major downside, besides its heating issue. The laptop comes with a lot of bloatware. The SSD is packed with several forgettable apps. Granted, some are useful. Armoury Crate controls the RGB lights and GeForce Experience manages your library of games. The onboard assistant? Not so much. At least, I didn't find myself looking for it.

ZDNET's buying advice

Asus' ROG Zephyrus G14 is a fantastic laptop for most people. Geeks like myself will appreciate the customizable RGB lighting and the hardware that is good enough for most gaming sessions. Professionals will appreciate the stylish design as well as the long battery life.

If I had to pick one group that would like this laptop the most, it would be the professionals crew. The RTX 4060 GPU is at the low end of the series so its performance will disappoint gamers looking for raw power. Plus, the bloatware cuts too much into the SSD, limiting the amount of big files you can have at a time.

Also: Lenovo's latest ThinkPad has new features that will make professionals jump for joy

The Zephyrus G14 starts at $1,600. My review unit in particular costs $1,900, which is certainly not cheap. Additionally, there isn't much you can do to lower the price tag, as the customization options only add to the laptop. The bottom line: the Zephyrus G14 is worth the price, but if you want something cheaper, check out ZDNET's best budget gaming laptops for recommendations.

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