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Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review: First look at this two-faced gaming laptop

Turn the back of your laptop screen into an LED billboard

It says something about Asus’s design ambitions that it wasn’t enough to simply create a stupidly fast gaming laptop based on the latest AMD processors. It decided to add a second display on the reverse of the case too.

Here, a picture is worth a thousand words, because I’m struggling to describe what Asus has done to the lid. Essentially, it has cut a diagonal across the back: two-thirds of the lid is typical magnesium-aluminium alloy fare, but the remaining third is full of mini LEDs. Asus says there are 1,215, but I didn’t count.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14: features and release date

  • AniMe Matrix mono LED display
  • 120Hz 14in IPS screen with 1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440 resolution
  • AMD Ryzen 4000 Series mobile processors
  • Up to GeForce RTX 2060 graphics
  • Up to 32GB DDR4-3200 RAM
  • 512GB/1TB NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11AX) wireless and Bluetooth 5.0
  • 2 x USB Type-C Gen 2, 2 x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x combo mic/audio
  • 324 x 222 x 19.9mm (WDH) (17.9mm height with no AniMe Matrix)
  • Weight: 1.7kg (1.6kg with no AniMe Matrix)
  • Price: not yet confirmed
  • Release date: March 2020

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14: AniMe Matrix display

I should say that the display – dubbed AniMe Matrix by Asus, because why opt for a simple name? – is optional. According to Asus’s own figures, it also adds 100g to the weight and 2mm to the height. No doubt it will add a few pounds to the price too.

Nevertheless, it’s a tempting proposition because it’s so customisable. I tried it with the Expert Reviews logo (see the result below) but this didn’t work particularly well. The logo of our sister magazine, PC Pro, came out rather better. In short, you’ll need to play around with your graphics for maximum effect.

It helps that these aren’t simple on/off LEDs. They may not be able to display colours other than white, but they do project light in 256 different shades.

And if you just want to use text – I’m picturing a flirtatious/insulting message to the commuter opposite you – then it’s easy to type in your words and let the software do the talking.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14: Gaming skills

When the ROG Zephyrus G14 appears in March, it will be one of our first chances to see AMD’s Ryzen 4000 Series mobile processors in action. At its CES keynote, where CEO Dr Lisa Su announced these new chips, AMD made some bold promises about performance.

In particular, one slide proclaimed that the top-end Ryzen 4800U beat Intel’s Core i7-1065G7 by 4% in single-threaded tasks and whipped it by 90% in multithreaded applications. According to AMD, it’s also a very precise 39% faster in the gaming department.

I genuinely hope it lives up to these claims, and judging by the number of vents in the ROG Zephyrus G14 this will be an excellent vehicle for it. Even highly efficient mobile processors need lots of cooling.

The compact chassis means there’s no room for a mobile GeForce RTX 2080 graphics chip, but Asus has overclocked Nvidia’s RTX 2060. With what gains? We’ll only know when the ROG Zephyrus drops into our lab for testing.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14: What else?

You have two choices of resolution for the 14in screen. The first is Full HD, but if you prefer 1440p gaming then that option is available too. Both screens’ most notable feature is a 120Hz refresh rate, which is a sensible choice when you consider the graphical acceleration available.

I’m not convinced that Asus has got the keyboard perfectly right on the Zephyrus. While some of its design is geared for gaming – note the fancy spacebar and N key rollover in particular – the keys don’t have the sharp, mechanical feel you might hope for.

Fortunately, it’s littered with ports for you to add your own accessories. The right-hand side features a USB Type-C port and two old-style USB ports, while the left offers a proprietary power input, HDMI 2.0b connector, USB-C port and a combo mic/headphone jack.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14: Early verdict

Kudos to Asus. In a world of dull, lookalike gaming laptops it has come up with something special. To find out just how special we’ll have to wait until its release in March, although we suspect there will be a longer wait for the version with an AniMe Matrix screen.

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