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Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 GU603ZW (2022) review: A powerful gaming laptop with a little extra

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2,599
inc VAT

A powerful laptop with a strong lean towards gaming, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2022) is an impressive all-rounder

Pros 
Incredibly fast
Light for a gaming machine
Superb 165Hz 19:10 display
Cons 
Battery life is uninspiring
Fans are noisy at full speed
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The Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 is a gaming laptop with aspirations to be something more. It has all the hardware required to play the latest AAA games at high frame rates, but it's also just about portable enough to be the workstation notebook you can take anywhere.

We loved it when it made its Expert Reviews debut a year ago and it's back in 2022 to build on that success with updated hardware.

Buy now from Amazon


Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2022) review: What you need to know

Just like the first M16, the 2022 update is a high-power laptop with premium hardware everywhere you care to look. It comes with a 16.1in anti-glare IPS display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, 100% DCI-P3 colour reproduction and a refresh rate of 165Hz.

The big upgrade this year, though, is the move to Intel’s 12th Gen silicon. In the case of this laptop, it’s the top-end Intel Core i9-12900H CPU, which is a 2.5GHz 16-core beast that boosts to 5GHz. Intel has also introduced a hybrid architecture for the very first time; like smartphone chips, it splits its workload across performance efficiency cores.

There’s also a choice of either an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 3060, 3070 Ti or 3080 Ti GPU for graphics, backed up with 8GB or 16GB of DDR5 RAM and either a 1TB or 2TB PCI-E 4.0 SSD. It’s a beefcake of a laptop, essentially, and it’s capable of coping with anything you care to throw at it.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2022) review: Price and competition

We were sent the GU603ZW model for this review, which comes with the Core i9-12900H CPU, an RTX 3070 Ti GPU, 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. That configuration will set you back £2,599 and it was the only config available to preorder at the time of writing, though there are other configurations on the Asus website.

The base spec (GU603ZE), which presumably will be much cheaper, comes with the same Core i9-12900H CPU but has a lesser 3050 Ti GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.

The top-spec model (GU603ZX) swaps the RTX 3070 Ti GPU in our review unit for a 3080 Ti, and there are three other mid-range models available as well.

We haven't yet seen any 12th Gen Intel gaming laptops from other manufacturers so it's difficult to compare on the value front, but you can be sure there will soon be laptops from the likes of Acer, Alienware and so forth with equivalent specifications all vying for your cash.

To put the M16 into current context, however, our review model comes in £200 more expensive than the cheapest Apple MacBook Pro 16in, but has double the RAM, four times the storage and considerably more oomph in the graphics department for gaming. The MacBook is considerably sleeker, a lot quieter and its battery lasts a lot longer, however.

Compared with the M16 we reviewed last year (the GU603HR), which had a roughly equivalent spec but with an 11th Gen Core i9 and a regular RTX 3070 GPU, this year's model is more expensive by £300. That’s a disappointing hike, but I’d expect that price to come down in the near future.

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Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 GU603Z review: Design and key features

Physically, this year's M16 isn't all that different from the previous model. It’s a rather angular affair, all clad in black and constructed from plastic and aluminium. A series of small perforations decorate half the lid which, under some lighting conditions, shows a subtle rainbow effect.

Generally, it's a well-built machine, and the weight and size are very reasonable for a laptop with a screen this large – it's actually 100g lighter than the MacBook Pro 16in even though it's 31mm thicker, which is quite something for a laptop that leans strongly towards the gaming fraternity in its styling and specification.

The soft-touch finish that surrounds the keyboard and stretches out around the touchpad feels lovely under the palm, although it does pick up greasy marks rather too easily. And the keyboard itself has a light yet positive action and plenty of travel. There's no number pad to the right and the cursor keys are on the small side, but otherwise there's plenty of space for the rest of the layout to breathe. You shouldn’t find yourself making too many typos as a result.

As expected, there's full per-key RGB lighting here, customisable via Asus' Armoury Crate software, and the large touchpad below the keyboard is both responsive and accurate. The webcam, unfortunately, is not so impressive. It sits above the display, has a poor 720p resolution and generates rather soft images. That’s disappointing at this price but it does at least support Windows Hello's biometric login, which is super convenient.

As far as connectivity is concerned, there’s plenty to go around with a healthy selection of inputs and outputs scattered around the edges of the machine. There's a single USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 (10Mbits/sec) on the right accompanied by a microSD card slot, while on the left edge is the DC power input, a full-size HDMI 2.0b output, another USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, 2.5Gbits/sec Ethernet, a 3.5mm audio jack and two USB-C ports. One of the USB-C ports supports Thunderbolt 4; the other is a regular 3.2 Gen 2 port, albeit with support for USB power delivery and DisplayPort video. Rounding off the specification is support for the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard.

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Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2022) review: Display and audio

The aspect ratio of the M16's 16in display is a handy 16:10 and, coupled with the resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and refresh rate of 165Hz, this makes it a great all-rounder. It has enough sharpness and desktop real estate for work and creative tasks, and it’s ideal for running advanced creative applications such as Adobe Photoshop or Premiere with their abundance of options, menus and tool palettes. It’s also a highly competent gamer's display with that 165Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time, ensuring you can benefit from all the power delivered by the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU.

Technically, it's a fine display, too. In default mode, it's capable of producing 140% of the sRGB colour space, which works out to 99.3% of DCI-P3, and the factory calibration sees colour accuracy hit an average Delta E of 1.25 versus sRGB and 1.39 versus DCI-P3. This is a superb screen, whether you're intending to use it for Photoshop and other creative workflows, watching movies and TV or playing games. Whatever you do, it just looks great.

The audio system is slightly less impressive. Although it goes pretty loud without distorting, it lacks some richness and body; I'd have hoped for a little more from a big laptop like this.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2022) review: Performance and battery life

If the display is good, however, the performance levels conveyed on the Zephyrus M16 by the new Intel Core 19-12900H steal the limelight completely.

The new chip is an absolute beast. It has 14 cores, eight of which are dedicated to high performance tasks with the other six dedicated to lower-power tasks. It can process up to 20 threads concurrently (only the performance cores have Hyper Threading) and boost up to a maximum frequency of 5GHz.

Supported by 32GB of DDR5 RAM in the review machine, this CPU delivers the biggest jump in generation-to-generation performance that I can remember seeing in my many years of reviewing laptops.

With a huge score of 483 in the Expert Reviews media benchmarks, this laptop is a full 68% faster than last year's Core i9-10900H and it beats both the M1 Pro-equipped Apple MacBook Pro 16 and the M1 Max-equipped Apple MacBook Pro 14 I tested at the end of 2021. However, it does make quite a racket if you push it to its limits and have the fans running at full tilt.

Turn to the open-platform Geekbench 5 CPU benchmark and we see a similarly huge leap forwards. Although single-core performance is only 13% better than last year's M16, the multicore score is a massive 59% better. Once again, the Core i9-12900H-equipped Zephyrus M16 outperforms its MacBook rivals in these tests, although not by quite such a large extent.

Improvements in graphics capabilities are, understandably, less dramatic since the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti used here (120W with a 1,085W boost clock) is just a mild refresh of the RTX 3070 used in last year's M16. Nevertheless, performance is good. It lags behind the Acer Helios 500 we reviewed a few months ago but that's understandable since the Helios comes with an RTX 3080, which is a big notch up in terms of performance over the M16's 3070 Ti.

One area the M16 can't match the MacBooks, however, is in the performance of its SSD. It's not slow by any means, but the MacBook Pro 16in's SSD read speed is a significant 26% faster and write speed is 17% faster.

The big question is whether a laptop such as the M16 can compete with Apple's finest when it comes to battery life. That would seem to be Intel's aim in providing efficiency cores alongside performance cores. Alas, the M16 didn’t perform much better than its predecessor, lasting a mere 6hrs 50mins in our video rundown test – that’s enough for a fair stint of work at relatively low levels, but you’ll need to keep a charger of some kind handy if you want a full day out of it. Fortunately, it can be charged via USB so you don’t have to carry around the bulky 240W unit that comes supplied.

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Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2022) review: Verdict

The M16 can't match the Apple MacBook Pro as an all-round workstation, then. It runs pretty loud and battery life isn't nearly as good, but if you're looking for a powerful gaming machine that can also do a bit of work on the side, then the M16 does have quite a bit going for it.

It's the same weight as a MacBook Pro 16in, has a great keyboard and touchpad, there's plenty of connectivity and the 16:10 165Hz display is as good for work as it is for gaming.

With a much more generous allocation of RAM and storage for the money, and the possibility to add more via accessible SSD and RAM slots, the Asus Zephyrus ROG M16 is better value than it initially looks, too, although I expect that picture to change as other manufacturers begin to bring out laptops with 12th Gen Intel silicon inside.

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