Anytime a new wave of components hits the market, computer makers (and gamers) start counting down the days until they can put those parts in actual systems. So to coincide with the launch of new processors from Intel, new graphics cards from Nvidia, and new availability of some AMD chips, Asus practically revamped almost every gaming laptop it makes.
First up is Asus’ line of 15-inch ROG Zephyrus laptops, which for 2019 are getting split into three different tiers: S, M, and G. Following in the footsteps of the 17-inch Zephyrus S GX701, the Zephyrus S GX502 represents that best tech Asus can cram in a 15-inch gaming laptop including a new 9th-gen Intel Core i7-9750H CPU, up to an Nvidia RTX 2070 GPU, and a new super-fast 240Hz display with an impressive 3ms repose time, factory Pantone calibration, and G-Sync support.
Unlike the 17-inch Zephyrus, the 15-inch model has a more traditional layout where the touchpad sits in front of the keyboard instead of off to the right.
Despite their differing components, all three versions of the 15-inch Zephryus have the same basic chassis.
Next, we come to the 15-inch Zephyrus M GU502, which Asus is positioning as a more affordable, mainstream option featuring the same Intel 9750H CPU and 240hz/144hz displays, but topping out with an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU or a new GTX 1660 TI graphics card instead.
Meanwhile, the Zephyrus G GA502 stands as the cheapest member of the family and comes with an AMD Ryzen 7 3750H CPU instead of an Intel chip, a GTX 1660 Ti GPU, and a 120Hz panel instead of the 144 or 240hz screens found its more expensive siblings. You also get 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, which looks like a damn good value considering the GA502 will cost £1,200 when it goes on sale.
It’s partially hidden away, but Asus’ active cooling case features a small kickstand wedge that props up the laptop to deliver better airflow whenever you open its display.
All three 15-inch Zephyrus systems have a chassis based on the 17-inch ROG Zephyrus S GX701 and include the requisite gaming features like per key RGB keyboard lighting and Asus’ nifty intelligent cooling controls. That last feature lets owners assign specific programs or games to one of the laptop’s three power modes (turbo, balanced, and silent) to better manage the constant fight between power and fan noise. And just like the 17-inch model, the 15-inch Zephyrus laptops feature a case that incorporates active cooling that elevates the system to deliver better airflow anytime you open up the screen.
Moving on to Asus’ esports-focused Strix line, we have the Strix Scar III and Strix Hero III. While the names might make it seem otherwise, these two Strix systems are practically the same aside from their exterior styling, with the Scar III getting a grey gunmetal treatment and a carbon fibre deck, while the Hero III comes with a midnight black paint job and some “cyber text” decoration.
Asus’ edge-lit RGB Aura lighting on the new Strix Scar III and Hero III is like ground effects for your laptop.
Some of the Strix’s ports are in back because the right side of the system is reserved for the Keystone.
Here’s what the carbon fibre deck on the Scar III looks like.
The keystone comes in red or orange depending on if you choose the Hero or Scar.
To help them deliver their highest possible performance, the Scar III and Hero III can be configured with even beefier CPUs up to an Intel Core i9-9880H CPU, up to an Nvidia RTX 2070 GPU, and will come in both 15 and 17-inch versions. 15-inch models can be equipped with up to a 240Hz display, while the 17-inch variants top out at 144hz.
But what might be more interesting than the Scar III and Hero III’s new guts is the wraparound RGB light bar that makes the whole system glow like an alien invader, as well as Asus’ new ROG Keystone. Inspired by Asus’ Face-off concept laptop created in collaboration with BMW’s Designworks studio, the Keystone is a physical NFC fob meant to store things like game profiles, lighting settings, performance modes, and more.
Even though I like the way the Keystone looks, I have to admit it’s not much more than an NFC version of a USB stick.
The Keystone even has a hidden partition called the Shadow Drive that lets you store and encrypt important files. However, as wonderfully cyberpunky as the Keystone is, in the end, it doesn’t do anything you can’t already accomplish with a regular USB thumb drive and a little custom coding, though it does look cool as hell.
Additionally, on both the new Zephyrus and Scar III/Hero III systems, Asus has made the bold choice to not equip either line with built-in webcams. This is a move Asus has dabbled with before, but axing webcams entirely on these new systems makes a strong (though potentially quite accurate) statement on what the company thinks gamers want.
Thankfully, Asus won’t leave customers without some way to make video calls or throw up a face cam while streaming, as these systems will come bundled with a separate external webcam in the box, with Asus claiming these dedicated webcams will offer better image quality than most built-in webcams. And if you don’t need a 240Hz display or just want to save some money, there are also budget versions of Strix Scar III and Hero III in the ROG Strix G line which start as low as £1,000.
Finally, while they aren’t officially part of the ROG family, Asus also updated its budget-friendly TUF laptop line with new 15 and 17-inch models featuring Ryzen 5 and 7 CPUs, up to Nvidia 1660 Ti GPUs, and reinforced military-spec 810G-tested bodies. Sadly, Asus hasn’t released official pricing for its TUF laptops yet either, but if they come in below the £1,000 price tag for the Strix G line, we could be looking at a good option for people seeking out a super inexpensive gaming machine.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to the Mothership if only the Zephyrus and Strix lines got new chips.
Whew, that’s a lot of new laptops, and if that wasn’t enough, Intel’s new 9th-gen chips components will also find their way into Asus’ 17-inch Zephyrus S laptop, the 17-inch ROG 703, and the ROG Mothership Asus announced earlier this year at CES.
However, as the number one gaming laptop brand in the U.S., it seems Asus wants to make sure customers have a lot of choices, and with three (or four depending on how you’re counting) lines of refreshed notebooks in both 15-inch and 17-inch sizes, Asus has certainly delivered. I just wish parsing out which model is which wasn’t so damn complicated.
All images: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)