The new 9th Gen Intel Core mobile processors and latest NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics can handle everything from hardcore gaming to serious content creation, but it’s hard to find that kind of high-end horsepower in a portable and professional package without paying a premium. Flashy gaming laptops have the requisite power without the subtlety, making them stick out in more subdued environments like client meetings and coworking spaces. And while ultra-slim gaming systems from the ROG Zephyrus S series ooze luxury and sleek style, their first-class designs can be beyond the reach of everyday gamers looking for a refined jack of all trades.
The Republic of Gamers Spring 2019 Collection bridges the gap with the brand new ROG Zephyrus M GU502. Blending style, portability, performance, and value in a neatly wrapped package, it’s equal parts gaming laptop and work machine. The slim-bezel display is available with a 240Hz refresh rate that’s fit for esports champions, plus Pantone validation that guarantees color accuracy for creators. NVIDIA Optimus tech dynamically switches between integrated and discrete graphics to balance speed and battery life, while Intelligent Cooling combines hardware and software to optimize performance and acoustics.
A lightweight laptop is paramount when taking work on the road. At 1.9kg, the Zephyrus M is about 45% lighter than the average 15” laptop, which makes it easy to tote all over town. It slims down to 18.9mm, and super-narrow bezels around the display keep the footprint as compact as possible, so it slips easily into backpacks and bags with plenty of room to spare for all your other essentials.
Life on the move means plenty of bumps and knocks, so we focus on finding the best materials and manufacturing to maximize durability. The chassis uses pieces made from a magnesium alloy that’s lighter and stronger than aluminum. A combination of die casting and machining molds molten metal into the palm rests, which are reinforced by a honeycomb of hexagonal cells that increases strength and rigidity with minimal material. This hidden structure helps make the laptop feel more solid than its slim profile suggests.
The streamlined styling follows clean lines complemented by a stealthy black suit. Hairline textures slash across the lid, reflecting a distinctive Zephyrus design that combines perfectly with the understated exterior. A soft-touch coating on the palm rest adds comfort and is highly resistant to fingerprints and smudges, helping the laptop look its best from early-morning coffee to late-night LAN.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
Given the Zephyrus M’s slim shape and sleek style, you’d be forgiven for doubting its gaming credentials. But there’s no need to worry, because the body houses discrete graphics up to the GeForce RTX 2060, and effective cooling allows us to clock it up to 1435MHz at 90W in Turbo mode with ROG Boost. The GPU pushes pixels fast enough for fluid frame rates with detailed graphics across a wide range of genres. It’s based on the new Turing architecture, which combines upgraded CUDA cores for programmable shading with new RT cores for ray tracing and Tensor cores for AI acceleration. Together, they enable real-time reflections, shadows, and lighting effects that are more realistic than ever before. The powerful GPU can also be harnessed to speed up other tasks, like 3D modeling, video rendering, and other forms of content creation.
Beautifully rendered visuals are only as good as the screen that displays them, so the panel on the Zephyrus M is calibrated at the factory to guarantee the Pantone-validated color accuracy required for serious creative work. The IPS-level display covers the full sRGB color space over wide viewing angles that simplify sharing the screen with coworkers and friends. When it’s time to play, high-refresh options up to 240Hz let you fully experience insanely fast frame rates and silky smooth gameplay in your favorite titles, while a 3ms grey-to-grey response time keeps the picture crisp and devoid of unsightly motion blur.
The 15.6” panel is neatly framed in slim bezels that are only 6.2mm wide on either side, and the narrow border works in tandem with the smooth visuals for a more immersive experience overall. When you’re ready to settle in at home or the office, the HDMI 2.0b output and DisplayPort (via USB Type-C) let you easily connect external 4K displays.
Putting the pedal to the metal
Not everything in life is fun and games. When you have to hunker down and get to work, the Zephyrus M’s powerful components keep things running as efficiently as possible, so you spend more time working and less time waiting. The GU502 features up to an Intel Core i7-9750H processor with six cores and 12 threads capable of clocking as high as 4GHz when fully loaded, making for a super snappy system with absurd amounts of power.
Not long ago, this level of computing prowess was restricted to portable workstations, but now it happily sits inside an ultra-slim system ready to take on hardcore gaming, heavy-duty workloads, and anything else you care to throw at it. With so many parallel threads at your disposal, you needn’t wonder whether you can game and simultaneously broadcast a high-quality stream, or if that video rendering in the background will interfere with the document you’re writing.
Resource-intensive applications and multitasking require copious amounts of RAM, so the Zephyrus M comes with up to 32GB of DDR4-2666 memory. Its ability to run dual NVMe SSDs in RAID 0 is the final trick in the performance playbook. One SSD is plenty fast on its own, and combining two drives storage performance even higher. Suddenly, 4K raw video files don’t look so hard to handle.
One cool customer
A lot of laptops have high-caliber hardware, but keeping it running at top speeds is another matter entirely. We made sure the Zephyrus M fires on all cylinders with an Intelligent Cooling philosophy that keep clock speeds high and temperatures low whether you’ve been sucked into an epic gaming marathon or are knee deep in rendering.
Inside the chassis, an intricate thermal module whisks heat away from key components. The CPU and GPU each have their own dedicated heatsinks and pipes on either side of the machine, and dual heatsinks at the back that are shared by both chips and the circuitry feeding them power. The heatsink fins measure just 0.1mm thick, so we can stack more of them and increase the surface area available to dissipate heat. Even at higher densities, the fins are thin enough to lower resistance to airflow generated by dual 12V fans. The n-Blade fans pack 83 razor-thin blades apiece. Each blade is 33% thinner than conventional designs, and in order to survive spinning at the required RPMs, it’s made from an exceptionally strong liquid crystal polymer.
To prevent dust from building up in the heatsinks and fans, the housings have a self-cleaning design. Anti-dust tunnels use centrifugal force to collect and expel particles out the back, which helps to maintain consistent cooling that enables top performance and reliable stability over time.
There’s a big difference between the cooling and horsepower required while you’re clearing your inbox and what’s needed in the throes of battle. The Zephyrus M balances cooling and performance with three distinct operating modes. Silent mode minimizes distracting noise by taking performance down a notch when you don’t need top speed, while Balanced mode optimizes for high gaming frame rates without drowning out the action. When you need to eke out every last drop of performance, Turbo mode makes quick work of heavy lifting by letting the fans spin louder.
On-demand switching changes modes with a convenient keyboard shortcut. ROG Armoury Crate software can also switch seamlessly based on Scenario Profiles that let you link games and apps to specific modes. Once configured, the system automatically changes profiles to ensure you’re always in the right mode for the moment.
Charge into battle
Stop vying for power outlets in meetings; the Zephyrus M has the stamina for life at the office. One key is Optimus, a switching technology that reverts to the integrated Intel GPU when the need for graphics power is low, allowing the system to conserve power by shutting down the discrete GeForce GPU completely. Using the processor’s integrated graphics for lighter workloads lets the Zephyrus M stretch the run time of its 73Wh battery.
When you need to unleash the full might of the machine, the full-fat 230W power adapter delivers enough juice for intensive tasks that tax the CPU or GPU. But when you’re out and about and only engaged in lighter work like everyday productivity, you can maximize mobility by leaving the bigger adapter at home and carrying a standard USB Type-C charger up to 65W. Type-C chargers are lighter and more compact, and you can use them to charge other USB-C devices like the ROG Phone.
If you run out of battery without a socket in sight, the Zephyrus M can charge from compatible USB power packs. You won’t be able to fill up, but packs like the ZenPower Pro PD can buy enough time to finish an important project, send a few emails, or watch one more episode. USB Power Delivery also works for charging devices from the laptop, so you can quickly top up your phone without carrying a separate adapter.
In addition to Type-C, three USB Type-A ports offer ample connectivity for external storage as well as your favorite gaming mouse, so you don’t have to play musical ports with your peripherals.
A sound you can’t get out of your head
Audio is a crucial element of your entertainment experience that’s so often overlooked by laptops. But backed by an ESS Sabre HiFi DAC, the Zephyrus M’s headset out can deliver dulcet tones that are hard to forget. This setup lowers total harmonic distortion, so sound remains clear as you turn up the volume. The DAC's signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range far surpass those of common codecs, granting extra clarity even when explosions are booming and bullets are flying. And you can activate 7.1-channel virtual surround sound that heightens immersion by putting you right into the middle of the action.
Regardless of where you’re at, there are multiple options for getting online. Gigabit Ethernet delivers the low-latency wired connection you need for competitive play, while ROG RangeBoost technology bolsters your wireless link when roaming freely. It evaluates the signal strength of four internal antennas and uses the best pair based on the environment, an on-the-fly adjustment that can help extend range by up to 30%. The Intel 802.11ac (2x2) Gigabit Wi-Fi boasts peak theoretical bandwidth of 1.7Gbps, giving it the headroom to easily transfer large files at speed.
Keying your way into victory
While the Zephyrus M GU502 prides itself on a chill aesthetic that isn’t at all ostentatious, RGB is a drug that we can’t quit. The keyboard has per-key RGB lighting you can customize once Aura Creator launches in June 2019 and match with compatible Aura Sync peripherals. Configure individual keys with distinctive colors and effects to flag important bindings for games and shortcuts for workflows. The look can be as subtle as you like, and 10 preprogrammed effects let you quickly get a light show going.
The keyboard features a familiar desktop-style layout, grouping the F-keys in smaller sets and then spacing those out to make it easier to quickly find the shortcut you’re seeking. A distinct arrow key block speeds up navigation, while dedicated hotkeys make vital volume and microphone mute controls really easy to reach. N-key rollover registers every key press, no matter how many you mash simultaneously, so your inputs are precise whether you’re furiously typing an essay or hunting an enemy. Presses even trigger slightly quicker thanks to Overstroke technology that actuates early in the key travel.
||ROG Zephyrus M GU502
||Intel Core i7-9750H
||15.6" FHD 240Hz/144Hz 3ms IPS-type anti-glare PANTONE Validated
||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB GDDR6
||Up to 32GB DDR4 2666MHz
||256GB/512GB/1TB SSD M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 with RAID0 support
||Intel 9560 2x2 802.11ac Wave 2 Gigabit WiFi
||1 x RJ45 jack
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C (with DisplayPort 1.4 and USB power delivery)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A
1 x HDMI 2.0b
1 x 3.5 mm audio jack
1 x 3.5 mm mic in
1 x Kensington Lock
||RGB backlit chiclet keyboard with 1.4 mm travel distance, N-key rollover, and Overstroke
||2 x 2W speakers with smart amplifier technology
||76Whrs 4-cell Lithium-ion
||230W AC Adapter
||Windows 10 Pro / Windows 10 Home
||14.1 (W) x 9.9 (D) x 0.74 (H) inch
The definition of equilibrium
Lightweight and powerful, the Zephyrus M GU502 teams the latest Core i7 CPU and GeForce graphics with amazingly fast and accurate displays to create an incredibly formidable crossover laptop. Slim and serious enough to stow away in your work bag, it still has the muscle to throw down at high frame rates. Whether you're handling spreadsheets while travelling, cutting video on-site, or trying to stay alive in the midst of breakneck action, the Zephyrus M is up to the task. The Zephyrus M GU502 will be available in May 2019, starting at $1,899 USD. Check with your local ROG representative for pricing and availability in your region.
By Joseph Kincaid