We sat down with G46 designer, Tony, from the ASUS Design Team to throw him some questions on ROG's new 14" addition to its gaming notebooks.
Did you adapt the G55 to make G46, or did you chuck everything out and start again to make a new 14” design?
Tony: Well this is the first 14” design we've ever done before so we classed it as a new generation, however it’s still inspired from the F22 stealth fighter in its angular design, speed and minimalism. But, it cannot only be an aggressive form all for show; it still has to fit into your life whether you’re working, out-and-about or gaming. You need to feel good to open it on the train, in Starbucks or at a LAN.
Compared to the G55 and G75, the G46 is actually thinner at the back in the middle. How and why did you design it this way?
Tony: The G46 has two thermal modules in the back to cool the GPU and CPU separately, but between them this area is now empty from anything significant, which means we focused on making it structural and thinned it out. We moved the battery to the front and spread out its mass across the chassis. Now you can carry it by holding the G46 between the two thermal outlets at the back, so the weight of is at the bottom and balanced on your hand, which makes it much easier to carry.
The G46 is only an inch diagonal smaller but it’s nearly 2.5KG lighter, and it still contains a quad core Intel Core i7 CPU and Nvidia GTX 660M graphics card. How did you manage to get it so thin and light yet still packing heavy-hitting hardware?
Tony: Firstly we removed the optical drive as it was clear to us from the start as it takes up a lot of space and weight. These days many ultra-portables do without ODDs, and more games are often downloaded from services like Steam or Origin, so rarely is one required. If an optical drive is needed there are plenty of USB ODDs on the market, so instead of always carrying it around and never using it, you just bring an external one when you need it and it can be used between multiple PCs or notebooks. It’s actually a cost saving for a consumer to use 1 external ODD device between several family and friends
Other than that, not having a detachable battery means we can reduce the mass of plastic and electronics, and also being able to spread out its mass gives us more freedom in design.
What’s the future of 15” to 14” G series?
Tony: 14 inch will be the future as the trend continues towards more ultra-portable designs across the notebook industry, and also there is a bigger gap between the fully featured traditional 17"ers and the new 14", so it makes the buying decision easier.
If I get to design the G47/48, I would maybe like to try some sports-car styling or materials perhaps. You will see!
Thinner, sleeker..., leathery?
Tony: Ha! Possibly. It depends on the hardware too. The limitation is the thermal requirement and to a lesser extent the possible electrical design.
Possibly eh? How about a Lamborghini/G series mix?
Tony: No comment yet haha.
If you’re not yet in the early stages of designing the G47, what are you doing now?
Tony: I’m currently designing the next generation 17” G series. There’s still a way to go on that one.
Any sneaky info?
Tony: No comment again sorry! Marketing will kill me if I comment haha.
Why is 14” the future then?
Tony: Our research team tells us that many Asian markets prefer lighter, portable 14” notebooks, whereas Western markets predominantly still prefer the 17”, so this is why we now have two distinct designs. It’s not exclusive to each region because the US was the first to stock the G46; it’s just a trend.
It's true that we've had a lot of global inquiries about the G46! However some users who already own one have voiced a need for mSATA access in addition to the memory DIMMs.
Tony: This time the electrical design couldn't accommodate mSATA access for users, as the mSATA connector is on the PCB top under the keyboard. Hopefully next time it can be underneath next to the DIMMs. mSATA designs are changing with NGFF for example, so anything is possible going forward.
All G46 ship with Windows 8, so was there any accommodation in design to the new OS?
Tony: One thing we see in Windows 8 is the addition of touchscreens to use the modern UI. But gamer's don’t need a touchscreen at all – it’s all keyboard and mouse, or sometimes a specific USB controller for driving or flying games – so we deliberately left it out of the design.
The G46 rear exhaust vents are very attractive: they look sharper and stronger compared to the G55.
Tony: I previously designed the G74, G75 and now G46, so these vents have evolved in each iteration. They have to still provide the same space for air exhaust as even G75's for example, but the smaller space means they became a bit more angular and sharper.
The balance is that about 70% needs to be open to allow enough unrestricted airflow, while not allowing foreign objects and fingers inside.
Moving inside, the keyboard in the G55 and G75 series are all aluminum but on the G46 the entire panel from wrist-rest to keyboard to LCD is one sheet of alu!
Tony: As you may have seen on the N and Zenbook series, these started the trend for large aluminum panels for every major face. This is now the design language and fashion across ASUS Design Team. We want to keep a consistent identity across ASUS products and have brand recognition because we take pride in all our designs.
The triangular power button is very angular though, not like the concentric circles of Zenbook or circular dots of N series.
Tony: Because ROG always has to be sharper than its cousins to fit in with the F-22 stealth theme; we tried to make things more triangular or at least angular in the G46. Triangles bring us a unique feeling in a world of squared laptops and squared buttons, but avoids the softness of the circular effects on the N or Zenbook for example.
The ROG logo just used to be embossed in the LCD cover, but now it’s illuminated: why the change?
Tony: It’s just for looks: it doesn't take any more battery life. I just thought it was really cool haha!
When you’re in a dark room playing games you still want to show off that your notebook is ROG!
Did we answer all your questions on the G46, or are you tempted to go and buy one? Let us know your thoughts in the forum.