Sunday, October 24, 2021
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ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 (2021) quick review – improved cooling and better hardware


The updated version of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 has some interesting new things under the hood like AMD Zen 3 CPUs and NVIDIA Ampere GPUs. So, powerful hardware that is fitted in a shell of a compact 14-incher – it may sound exciting for a lot of you. Actually, we have a review of the first iteration of this device and it has the same hardware formula – powerful AMD CPUs with up to 8 cores and good NVIDIA GPU video card options.

The 2021 version of this device looks (almost) identical to the 2020 variant. As we said, the updates are hidden under the bonnet. In short, our device is equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS – that is a strong 8-core Zen 3 processor with 16 threads and a 35W TDP. This kind of TDP sounds like a good idea given the fact that we are talking about a small gaming device that has a slim profile (ok, for that kind of laptop). In most cases, the regular 45W version of Ryzen 9 5900H may be a bit too much for this design so it looks like ASUS has done the right thing choosing the 35W variant of this Zen 3 processor.

We’ve mentioned that it’s a gaming device but in reality, this could be a good all-rounder. Sure, this notebook has a decent NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 (80W) but when you want mobility it can be quickly transformed into a portable laptop with just a few clicks. All you need is the ASUS Armory Crate app (that comes preinstalled in most cases) – when you apply the Silent profile the AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 (R4000/5000, 35/45W) will improve the battery life.

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Overall, that’s a machine that can be altered in whatever you want – a gaming device, a portable notebook that can be used in the park, or you can take it with you in the office and it’ll do the job as well because of its powerful hardware. Just like last year’s laptop, the 2021 variant can be equipped with the fancy AniMe Matrix (this is an optional feature) that is located on the lid of the laptop and has 1215 mini LEDs that can be customized to show different info like battery life, some custom text that you like, etc.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/asus-rog-zephyrus-g14-ga401/

Contents

Specs Sheet

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 – Specs

OS

Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro

Dimensions

324 x 222 x 17.9 ~ 19.9 mm (12.76″ x 8.74″ x 0.70″)

Body material

Aluminum, Magnesium alloy

Ports and connectivity

  • 2x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps), DisplayPort, Sleep and Charge
  • HDMI 2.0b
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Audio jack 3.5 mm combo

Features

  • Fingerprint reader optional
  • Web camera
  • Backlit keyboard optional
  • Speakers 2x 2.5W, Smart AMP technology
  • Optical drive
  • Security Lock slotKensington Lock

What’s in the box?

The box contains a 180W power adapter, some manuals, and the notebook itself.

Design and construction

The design of the laptop is a distinctive one. First of all, the build quality is good – the lid is made of aluminum and we have a magnesium-alloy base. The AniMe Matrix LEDs are an optional extra so if you want it just make sure that you have checked the specs of the laptop that you want to buy because the regular model comes with CNC-drilled holes on the lid. Measurements-wide, the device feels like a compact piece of hardware and it really is – it weighs 1.70 kg and the profile is 19.9mm. The less-powerful variations are a bit slimmer and lighter – 17.9mm for the profile and their weight is 1.60 kilos (note that the device we show you is part of the bigger siblings).

The lid can be easily opened with a single hand. As you’re doing it, you can spot the ErgoLift hinge that lifts the base of the laptop, providing even more fresh air for the intake fans which affects positively the performance of the cooling solution. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s made of aluminum, the lid isn’t very sturdy and you can observe some bends and flexes while opening it, which is definitely not good.

Well, the keyboard lacks a NumberPad section but probably we are asking too much from such a small device – accountants that like to play games after work should probably look somewhere else if this feature is mandatory. On the bright side, the keyboard has a backlight, the key travel is good and the feedback is clicky enough. This unit is good for both typing and gaming and its only downside are the small Arrow keys.

We are happy to see the four dedicated buttons placed on the upper section of the keyboard. These keys can be used for quick access to volume, microphone (on/off), and for starting the ROG Armory Crate. Some models come with a fingerprint reader that is part of the Power On/Off button. This ASUS laptop lacks a Web cam that certainly leads to a safer Web browsing experience but unfortunately if you need a camera you have to buy a separate 3rd party unit. We like the fact that this laptop isn’t a fingerprint magnet.

Now, the touchpad has a good gliding surface, and that results in easy finger sliding and in addition, the feedback is accurate as well.

Last but not least, we’ll check the bottom of the laptop – it has four ventilation grills that are smartly placed under the SODIMMs, the M.2 placement, and (what a surprise) the cooling fans. Because of the small shell of the notebook, it’s exhausting the hot air through four vents – two of them are blowing hot air in front of the “chin” below the display (not a great idea actually, the panel area beneath the display gets hot during gaming) and the other two are side-placed. The sound department is represented by four speakers and two of them are rated at 0.7W while the other two have a 2.5W of power.

Ports

On the left side of the laptop, we can spot an HDMI 2.0b connector, a USB Type-C 3.1 (Gen. 2) port that has Power Delivery and DisplayPort 1.4 capabilities, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The right side has a USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) ports and a USB Type-C 3.1 (Gen. 2) port.

Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

For removing the bottom plate, you have to unscrew 14 Phillips-head screws that are holding the plate to the base. In reality, it’s not a hard process at all – just remove the screws and the bottom plate isn’t too hard to be popped up. You can use whatever you have around you – a pry tool, credit/debit card, or something similar.

The cooling solution looks promising. It has 4 heat pipes in total (and of course, two cooling fans) – three pipes are shared for cooling the CPU and the GPU while the other one is solely dedicated to the memory modules and the VRAMs as well. This cooling is a bit different compared to the 2020 device that has five heat pipes but it seems that the new unit is doing a better job (check the temperature results at the end of this review).

When it comes to upgradability, the laptop comes with a single stick of soldered 8GB/16GB DDR4 RAM but at least there is one free SODIMM slot it can handle another 8GB or 16GB memory module. The maximum possible memory configuration in dual-channel mode is 32GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM. In terms of storage, there is a single M.2 PCIe x4 drive and of course, you can upgrade it to something that has a bigger capacity (in our case we have a 1TB drive). Sadly, there is no other slot for NVMe SSD or a regular SATA port.

A 76Wh battery unit is a bit of a pleasant surprise for such a small shell – we’ll discuss that further in the battery section.

Sound

The sound quality of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 is loud and punchy. Additionally, the low, mid, and high tones are clear.

Drivers

All drivers and utilities for this notebook can be found here: https://rog.asus.com/us/laptops/rog-zephyrus/2021-rog-zephyrus-g14-series/helpdesk

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This laptop is equipped with a 76Wh battery brick and it’s a true king (at least when we’re talking about compact gaming devices) when the charger is unplugged. During our tests, it scored 16 hours and 40 minutes of Web browsing and exactly 10 hours of video playback – nice!

CPU options

As far as we know, the 2021 version of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 can be picked with AMD Ryzen 5900HS and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 (80W) only. It seems that the new variant can be ordered with the best possible hardware for this model and if you want something not-so-powerful, you can check the 2020 model that can be ordered with different Zen 2 CPUs and previous-gen NVIDIA video cards.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 CPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the CPUs that can be found in the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different CPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / CPU.

GPU options

Once again, the only GPU variant is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 (80W) which isn’t a bad thing – this graphics card is a good mid-ranger.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 GPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the GPUs that can be found in the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different GPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / GPU.

Gaming tests (internal display)

Gaming tests (external display)

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.

AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS (35W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 (2021) 3.42 GHz (B+14%) @ 67°C 3.40 GHz (B+13%) @ 72°C 3.50 GHz (B+17%) @ 87°C
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503 3.57 GHz (B+19%) @ 69°C 3.54 GHz (B+18%) @ 71°C 3.57 GHz (B+19%) @ 79°C
AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX (45W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
Acer Nitro 5 (AN517-41) 3.41 GHz (B+3%) @ 69°C 3.42 GHz (B+4%) @ 74°C 3.35 GHz (B+2%) @ 80°C
ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733 3.58 GHz (B+8%) @ 76°C 3.55 GHz (B+8%) @ 81°C 3.59 GHz (B+8%) @ 81°C
ASUS ROG Strix G17 G713 3.44 GHz (B+4%) @ 70°C 3.38 GHz (B+2%) @ 72°C 3.44 GHz (B+4%) @ 71°C

Now, we can spot an improvement compared to the last year’s device that was equipped with the Ryzen 9 4900HS. The laptop was having a hard time keeping the CPU base clock around the 3.0 GHz mark in long loads. The 2021 sibling doesn’t have this problem – it’s keeping reasonable clocks and temperatures in short-to-medium loads and when it comes to prolonged periods of heavy usage it maintains 3.50 GHz average effective frequency while the CPU reaches 87°C. Not bad for a small notebook like this one.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 (80W) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 (2021) 1722 MHz @ 75°C 1656 MHz @ 82°C
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 (2020) 1478 MHz @ 77°C 1436 MHz @ 84°C

We put the result from the 2020 sibling just to show you that the new one comes with an improvement in the GPU temperatures as well no matter the fact that the cooling has to deal with a GPU that is more powerful than the GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q.

Gaming comfort

Sadly but not unexpected, the laptop gets loud during heavy loads – the fans have to work hard to cool down the powerful internals that are sandwiched in a tiny space. Alas, the keyboard isn’t as cool as we wanted it to be because the whole shell is warm during gaming. At least the WASD area isn’t boiling hot and the same goes for the palm rest area – you’re going to feel that it’s warm but it’s fine for gaming. A cooling pad isn’t a bad idea for the summer.

Verdict

The updated version of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 impresses us just like the 2020 variant. The new iteration has a lot to offer – it looks good – not too gamer-ish and that’s why you can use it for office purposes as well without being distracted by hundreds of glowing RGBs. Moreover, the device is compact and light as well which contributes to good portability and it’ll fit in most backpacks.

In this scenario, small doesn’t mean less powerful at the same time – this fella has a lot to offer when it comes to system power. The collaboration of AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS, GeForce RTX 3060 (80W), and a fast NVMe drive lead to a snappy performance. Daily tasks like Web browsing, watching videos, or editing office documents are a piece of cake for this machine. The CPU and GPU have enough power to handle heavier tasks like compression/decompression, picture and video editing, etc.

The build quality is good – we have an aluminum lid and magnesium-alloy base. The main body of the laptop is rigid and sturdy and it feels solid while typing or gaming while the lid seems a bit unstable but no one is perfect. The keyboard and touchpad combo left us with a positive feeling – the keyboard is good enough for gaming and it’s characterizing by decent key travel and clicky feedback. The touchpad is easy to use – it has a great surface for gliding and it’s accurate in the same.

When it comes to battery life this notebook is great just like the 2020 version – 10 hours of video playback and more than 16 hours of Web browsing is a respectable result for a laptop with such powerful hardware. This adds even more points to the overall score for the versatility of the device – it’s portable and it offers a great battery life when it’s away from the charger. Probably this thing will last a full day in the office without charging it. Just remember to check if the variable refresh rate option is turned on – it’s a lifesaver.

Compared to its 2020 version, the new ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 comes with a more powerful AMD Zen 3 CPU (Ryzen 9 5900HS) and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 (80W) that definitely packs more power compared to the last year’s top GPU option – the GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q.

The good news is that the laptop retains almost the same battery life (and we saw a 100-minute improvement in the Web browsing test compared to the 2020 laptop) despite the fact that it has more firepower under the shell. In addition to that, the CPU clocks during longer loads are drastically improved than the 2020 variant and now can have the full power of your CPU at your disposal when you want to “torture” it.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 looks and feels like a modern compact versatile machine and it really is. Just like most devices it has its flaws and the main one is the price – yes, this one isn’t an affordable machine. Despite its premium look and build, the device is loud during heavy loads and its shell isn’t too cool in this situation. We don’t like the absence of Thunderbolt support – a premium device like this should offer an extra like that. Ok, we’ll not complain too much about the lack of an SD card reader. Despite the abovementioned cons, this 14-inch gaming laptop remains one of the best offers on the market and if you’re on the hunt for a powerful, compact, and light gaming laptop you can shortlist it.

Pros

  • Optional AniMe Matrix light that can be turned off for better battery life
  • Nice keyboard with decent travel and clicky feedback, good for both typing and gaming
  • Has one of the most beefier mobile chips
  • 8GB or 16GB of soldered memory and one additional RAM SODIMM slot supporting 3200 MHz memory in dual-channel and NVMe drive support
  • Great battery life
  • One of its USB Type-C ports can be used to charge the laptop or to output a DisplayPort 1.4 signal

Cons

  • Lacks an SD card reader and Thunderbolt support
  • The laptop gets loud and warm when gaming
  • Expensive

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/asus-rog-zephyrus-g14-ga401/





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