Saturday, September 25, 2021
LaptopsWindows laptops

Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703 review (2021 GX703HS model


The 2021 Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703 truly sparked my interest when I first found out about it, so I’ve been eager to spend time with it and dig out if it meets my expectations in real use.

The proposition here is a 17-inch thin and light performance laptop with powerful hardware specs, a thermal design to match, good inputs and IO, and two high-quality screen options. Furthermore, Asus implemented a moving keyboard that separates itself from the components and thus ends up much cooler to the touch than on the other slim models out there while the laptop runs demanding loads and games.

At the same time, the Zephyrus S17 is one of the most expensive ROG laptops out there, especially in the i9 + RTX 3080 variants, so it needs to stand out in order to justify that kind of prices over a more traditional design such as the ROG Scar 17, for instance. For what is worth, though, the pricing is not absurd and around the same level as the current Razer Blade 17 or the MSI GE76 Raider.

Before we start the article, you should know that I’ve initially spent time with a preview version of the S17, which we covered in an article published a few weeks ago; in the meantime, I also got two finalized units that we were able to properly benchmark and test, and gathered all my final thoughts in this detailed review down below. So let’s get on it.

Specs – ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703

2021 ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703HS
Display 17.3-inch, 16:9, non-touch, matte,
UHD 3840 x 2160 px IPS, 120 Hz 3ms with 100% DCI-P3 and sRGB, with AdaptiveSync or
QHD 2560 x 1440 px IPS, 165 Hz 3ms with 100% DCI-P3 and sRGB, with Advanced Optimus/GSync
Processor Intel Tiger Lake, Core i9-11900H (8C/16T)
Video Intel + Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop 16GB (125W, up to 140W with Dyn Boost) on 703HS model
Memory 32 GB DDR4 3200 (16 GB onboard, 1x DIMM, up to 48 GB)
Storage single SSD (3x M.2 PCIe gen4 slots)
Connectivity WiFi 6 (Mediatek?) 2×2 with Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
Ports 3x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-C gen2, HDMI 2.0b, SD card reader, LAN, headphone&mic
Battery 90Wh, 280 W power adapter + USB-C charging up to 100W
Size 394 mm or 15.51” (w) x 264 mm or 10.39″ (d) x 19.9 mm or .78” (h)
Weight 2.75 kg (6.06 lbs), .9 kg (1.98 lbs) power brick and cables, EU version
Extras per-key RGB backlit keyboard with optical-mechanical switches, 6x speakers, HD webcam, finger-sensor in the power button

This article covers the Zephyrus S17 GX703HS configuration with the QHD screen and 3080 Nvidia GPU. However, we’ve also included details on the 4K screen option down below, and we’ll follow up with a separate article on the more affordable Zephyrus S17 GX703HM configuration, with the i7-11800H processor, 16 GB of RAM, and RTX 3060 graphics. I’d expect good interest on that one, as it’s a lot more affordable than the 3070/3080 models.

Back to our GX703HS review unit, it’s the QHD screen configuration, with Advanced Optimus and GSync. Unlike regular Optimus, which is available in most other ROG laptops and the 4K screen variant of the S17, Advanced Optimus still allows on-the-fly switching between the iGPU and dGPU based on the active load, but with the ability to directly connect the laptop’s internal display to the Nvidia GPU through a MUX. Regular Optimus routes the signal through the iGPU, which impacts performance in some cases, especially in older games.

Normally, Advanced Optimus would be a key selling point for this QHD version of the Zephyrus S17, but we find it buggy on our unit, and we’ll explain why throughout the Performance section.

Design, construction, and ergonomics

This S17 is my favorite Asus design at this point, both regarding how it looks and how it feels with everyday use.

The aesthetics are completely matte black with muted black branding elements: the ROG Zephyrus name engraved under the screen or the ROG logo on the lid, which is glossy black and not backlit. In fact, there are no lit or RGB elements on this model, and that will allow it to make its way in professional environments where other ROG laptops might not be acceptable.

The only downside is that the surfaces do smudge easily, and so do the rubbery-coated keys. For demonstration, I’ve purposely included a picture of how the laptop looks after about a week of use if you don’t clean it up. Not pretty. Oh, and Asus still put some stickers on the arm-rest, which I’d peel off; there’s no place for them on this otherwise ultra-clean design.

Looks aside, Asus also nailed the craftsmanship quality here. Thick pieces of metal are used for the entire chassis, the kind the barely bulge even when pressed hard and abused, and the kind that do not creak at all, unlike on the other Zephyrus models launched this year, such as the G15 and M16. Unlike those, this S17 truly feels premium made.

Going with the more robust construction, the Zephyrus S17 is not as lightweight as some of the other 17-inch ultraportables out there, weighing just a little over 6 lbs (2.75 kg) in our configuration that has a single SSD inside. It’s still competitive in terms of overall footprint and thickness, though. Nonetheless, the Razer Blade 17 or the MSI GS76 Stealth are slightly lighter, but I, for one, don’t mind slightly sacrificing the weight for the uncompromised build and internals. Furthermore, the unique keyboard design of this product adds to the total weight as well.

As mentioned already, this laptop’s keyboard deck mechanically lifts and separates itself from the main chassis as you open up the screen. This means that it ends up slightly tilted towards the user, at a ~5% angle, which positively impacts the typing experience imo.

This design also allowed Asus to tuck the fans underneath this keyboard tray, allowing for unobstructed fresh-air intake into the fans. In addition, the exhausts are properly positioned on the sides and back, blowing the hot air away from the user. This is the kind of design I’d like to see on all their laptops, and much more practical than what Asus offers on the Zephyrus G15 and M16 models, with their Ergolift hinge.

Not only does this approach favor the intakes and outputs, but with the keyboard physically separating itself from the hot components underneath, the inner surface only ends up in the high-30s with games and demanding loads, so much cooler than on any of the other 17-inch portable designs out there.

Now, there are also a few potential culprits of this design that you should be aware of.

The most important is that you’ll need to be careful not to get anything in between the laptop’s body and the lifted keyboard tray, such as a cable or anything else. Even if you do, you’ll probably know it immediately, as you’re not going to be able to close the lid if there’s something stuck down there. So if the lid doesn’t close up smoothly, don’t try to force it, and check out what’s stuck!

I was talking to Derek about this, and he mentioned the power cable used to get in between on some of the older Asus/Acer laptops that he used with a similar design. Still, on this laptop, the gap is smaller than on the previous ROG models, as the tray doesn’t rise up as much as on the Zephyrus Duo, for instance, and the power brick is also thick and incorporates a bulge that prevents it from even fitting in the space under this keyboard.

The other downside that I can think of is the possibility of dust and small debris getting under the keyboard, where they would be difficult to clean up. That can certainly happen, and I’d suggest using a can of compressed air from time to time to blow off anything that might have stuck there.

Bottom point, this whole moving keyboard concept is higher-maintenance and requires extra attention than a traditional design. I feel that the benefits are worth it, but it’s up to you to decide whether you’re fine with the extra hassle or not.

All these aside, there’s little to complain about the laptop’s practicality. All the surfaces are nice to the touch, with the interior smooth and rubbery feeling, and all the edges and corners are blunted and friendly on the writs. The IO is lined on the sides, and there’s a knob on the front lip that allows to pick up the screen and easily adjust it with a single hand. I need to add that the screen only goes back to about 140-150 degrees, which is fine for desk use, but somewhat limiting if you plan to use this on the lap.

The laptop also sits firmly anchored on a flat surface, thanks to the large and grippy rubber feet on the bottom. Speaking of, you’ll notice two large speaker cuts on the laptop’s belly, and those are only the “woofers,” as four more “tweeters” are placed just under the screen, slightly behind the raised keyboard tray.

Asus also placed some bright status LEDs over there, the same kind they put on the ROG Scar models, but the lifting tray actually hides them with daily use, so they’re not as annoying when using the laptop at night. Plus, as you’ll see down below, you can also easily disconnect these once you open the laptop if they still bother you. There’s also no light in the power button, which always annoyed me on older Asus laptops, as this Zephyrus gets the new power button design with the integrated finger sensor in it.

Circling back to the IO, there’s almost everything you could want here, including Thunderbolt 4 and a fast card reader that fits flush an SD card. However, I don’t like that most of the IO is still placed on the front left side, including the PSU, HDMI, LAN, audio jack, and USB-C ports, so this side will get cluttered if you decide to hook peripherals. I would have preferred to see some of these on the back edge instead, like on the ROG Scar models.

Also, I should mention that the HDMI (which is only 2.0b, not 2.1) and Thunderbolt 4 ports are both connected to the iGPU on this notebook, so the only way to output the dGPU signal directly to an external screen is to use the USB-C at the very front of the left edge, with DP support.

All in all, while still not perfect due to the IO placement, this Zephyrus S17 is a big step-up from the previous Zephyrus 17 generation in terms of design and practicality.

Gone are the downshifted keyboard and minuscule clickpad, and in are properly-placed inputs with a proper arm-rest, a comfortable keyboard, and one of the best thermal designs available in this 17-inch thin-and-light niche. Just be aware of the extra care and maintenance required with this sort of mobile keyboard deck.

 

Keyboard and trackpad

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the inputs on this Zephyrus S17.

Asus put here the same kind of optical-mechanical keyboard that we’ve already tested in their ROG Scar 17 and Scar 15, with clicky switches and deeper actuations than what you’ll normally get with most thin-and-light laptops. The layout is a bit peculiar, with a minimalist NumPad area, without dedicated keys for Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn, which are instead secondaries. All the other keys are full-size and in the right place, though, and the arrows are also full-size and nicely spaced out from everything around.

I must also add that the typing position is a significant upgrade from the previous generation S17 GX701, with this 2021 update offering a proper arm-rest and the keyboard placed in the right place, in the top half of the chassis. It’s also slightly inclined forward at a ~5-degree angle, which I personally appreciate. Furthermore, thanks to this design, because the tray is separated from the internal components underneath, it doesn’t heat up with games and demanding loads.

Unlike on the Scar 17, though, there’s no longer that set of extra media keys at the top-left, which have been instead replaced by a configurable volume wheel, slightly larger than the one on the previous Zephyrus S17 model. It’s practical for adjusting the volume or muting the speakers, but I kind of miss not having the Armoury Crate key there at the top, as one on the other ROG laptops. Asus didn’t cut it off, this is now on the bottom row, next to the Space key.

Layout aside, having spent time with this keyboard on both this laptop and the Scars, I still feel that it will take time to adapt to. The mechanical laptop keyboards that I’ve tried are somewhat weird to me and different from the rubber dome keyboards that I’m used to, which I still prefer. I can’t properly put this in words, but the feedback is a little unnatural to me, and I’m not a big fan of the noisier clicks either. And that’s even though I’ve been using mechanical PC keyboards for a while now, with either Brown or Red switches, but those are taler and just feel different when pressed.

Nonetheless, Scar 15/17 buyers seem to be happy with their keyboards, based on the general feedback I’ve seen online, and this S17 is identical to those. So give it a try with an open mind and see how it does for you.

Asus also implements RGB per-key illumination on this keyboard, with bright and uniform LEDs and a fair bit of configurability possible in the Aura control app.

On to the clickpad, it’s similar to the one available on many of the other 2021 ROG laptops, a large glass surface that feels excellent to the touch and responds accurately to swipes, taps, and gestures. The physical clicks are alright too, and the surface doesn’t seem to rattle with normal taps. Overall, this is one of the best clickpads available on a Windows laptop today.

As for biometrics, there’s a finger-sensor baked into the power button, but no IR cameras.

Screen

Asus offers two excellent screen options on the 2021 ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703 series, both 16:9 matte and non-touch, but with two different panels and sync options:

  • UHD 3840 x 2160 px IPS, 120 Hz 3ms with 100% DCI-P3 and sRGB, with AdaptiveSync;
  • QHD 2560 x 1440 px IPS, 165 Hz 3ms with 100% DCI-P3 and sRGB, with Advanced Optimus and GSync.

We tested the 4K panel in the preview unit, and we’ll touch on it further down, but on this review unit, we have the more affordable and arguably the more interesting QHD panel option.

This is 2560 x 1440 px in resolution, IPS, ~100% DCI-P3 color coverage, and 165 Hz refresh with fast response times. In fact, this is the same panel that Asus also offers on the ROG Scar 17.

Here’s what we got in our tests of this QHD panel, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:

  • Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE099D (NE173QHM-NY3);
  • Coverage: 99.8% sRGB, 85.7% AdobeRGB, 99% DCI-P3;
  • Measured gamma: 2.08;
  • Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 332.84 cd/m2 on power;
  • Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 17.70 cd/m2 on power;
  • Contrast at max brightness: 865:1;
  • White point: 6300 K;
  • Black on max brightness: 0.38 cd/m2;
  • PWM: No.
  • Response: ~5 ms GTG (as per NBC).

And here are our findings on the 3060 model, which gets the exact same panel:

  • Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE099D (NE173QHM-NY3);
  • Coverage: 99.8% sRGB, 84.7% AdobeRGB, 99.4% DCI-P3;
  • Measured gamma: 2.13;
  • Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 345.14 cd/m2 on power;
  • Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 40.10 cd/m2 on power;
  • Contrast at max brightness: 1219:1;
  • White point: 6900 K;
  • Black on max brightness: 0.28 cd/m2;
  • PWM: No.

There’s a degree of variation between the two, with different Gamma, White Points, and especially Black levels, which also result in a significant difference in contrast. I also found that one of these screens remained very bright even at the lowest brightness setting, while the other dimmed a lot more. Weird.

This aside, both screens came satisfactorily calibrated out of the box, with a Pantone certification for that matter, but further tweaking is possible in both cases.

That aside, I noticed light bleeding on the bottom bezel of both units, but worse on the 3080 sample (on the left in the picture down below). Our tests also show some significant DeltaE color inconsistencies in the corners on both panels.

All in all, I feel that I ended up with a poorer panel on the 3080 sample, and a slightly better one on the 3060. None are flawless though, and both our units are retail, so these findings suggest there’s a degree of variation between these panels.

That’s why, if you decide on this laptop and this QHD screen, make sure to test for uniformity or any other issues on your unit, especially if you plan to use the laptop for any sort of creative work that would require accurate colors and good uniformity. Display QC can be problematic on modern laptops, at any level, including here. Oh, and make sure to only buy from places that would properly handle returns, if it gets to that.

As for that 4K panel option available on some 3080 variants of the Zephyrus S17, that one is brighter, offers better contrast and potentially superior uniformity compared to the QHD panels, as you can tell from our readings down below:

  • Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUODE95 (B173ZAN06.1);
  • Coverage: 99.9% sRGB, 86.6% AdobeRGB, 98.6% DCI-P3;
  • Measured gamma: 2.25;
  • Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 480.39 cd/m2 on power;
  • Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 26.62 cd/m2 on power;
  • Contrast at max brightness: 1020:1;
  • White point: 6800 K;
  • Black on max brightness: 0.47 cd/m2;
  • PWM: No.
  • Response: TBD.

At the same time, this 4K panel is also significantly more expensive than the QHD option and has slightly lower refresh and response times. Plus, the laptop might struggle with some of the more recent games at 4K resolution with maximum details even in this 3080 variant. Add in GSync support on the QHD panel, and this ends up the better option for serious gaming here. The 4K panel only gets FreeSync support.

On top of all these, keep in mind that while the QHD configurations support Advanced Optimus, with on the fly switching between the iGPU and dGPU and a direct connection between the Nvidia dGPU and the internal screen in the dGPU mode, the 4K variant does not. Normally, Advanced Optimus would be a strong selling point for the QHD configurations of the S17, but you’ll find out that it’s not for now, at least until Asus manage to release a proper fix for it. We’ll further touch on Advanced Optimus use down below.

At the same time, on the fly switching between the iGPU and dGPU is still offered on the 4K models through regular Optimus, but the internal screen is always connected to the Intel GPU, which takes a small toll on the performance in some games. However, the difference is small to nonexistent at 4K resolution and more noticeable at FHD, so there is no downside here.

Hardware and performance

My review unit is a top-specced configuration of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703, code name GX703HS, built on an Intel Core i9-11900H 8C/16T processor, 32 GB of DDR4-3200 memory in dual channel, 2 TB of fast SSD storage, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 3080  Laptop dGPU with 16 GB of VRAM, and the Iris Xe integrated within the Intel processor.

A follow-up article on the S17 GX703HM configuration with the Intel Core i7-11800H processor, 16 GB of RAM and RTX 3060 graphics will also be published in the next couple of days.

Before we proceed, note that our sample was sent over by Asus and is a retail unit, the kind you can buy in stores. We’ve tested it with the software available as of early-July 2021 (BIOS 308, Armoury Crate 4.1.6.0, GeForce 471.11 drivers). Since the software is still young, some aspects might change with future tweaks.

Spec-wise, this 2021 ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 is built on the latest Intel Core H and Nvidia RTX 3000 hardware available as of mid-2021.

We’re looking at a Core i9-11900H processor, one of the top mobile processors meant for ultraportable formats in this Tiger Lake H 11th generation, with 8C/16T, clock speeds of up to 4.9 GHz, and a design TDP of 45W. Asus offers a couple of power profiles in the Armoury Crate control app that allows you to juggle with the sustained power limits, thermals, and noise levels based on your needs. But, as you’ll find out from this review, the Core i9 processor runs at higher sustained power on most profiles, with a set PL1 level of 100W and PL2 of 107W on Turbo, as per the settings available with BIOS 308.

Improved IPC, faster memory support, onboard Thunderbolt 4, and PCIe gen4 storage support are some of the side benefits of the 11th gen Intel hardware that this ROG Zephyrus S17 benefits from.

For the GPU, the S17 series is built on higher-power variants of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060/3070/3080 graphics chips, overclocked out of the box with ROG Boost on the Turbo profile. The RTX 3080 we have here runs at up to 140W with Dynamic Boost 2.0 in supported titles. Higher power RTX 3080 laptops are available, but don’t forget that the Zephyrus S17 is a thinner and lightweight design. In its class, only the Alienware X17 offers the same hardware specs (a higher power GPU, in fact), while the other options implement more power-constrained hardware.

Asus also implements Advanced Optimus on some versions of the Zephyrus S17, namely the configurations paired with the QHD screen. This allows the system to automatically switch between the iGPU and dGPU based on the activity you’re running and also directly connects each of the GPUs to the internal screen through a MUX switch. In comparison, all the other ROG laptops of this generation and the 4K variants of the S17 implement standard Optimus and route the signal through the iGPU, which negatively impacts the performance in some cases, as documented in our reviews.

The Zephyrus S17 also comes with 8 or 16 GB of RAM soldered on the motherboard and one accessible RAM DIMM. Our unit came with 16 GB onboard and a 16 GB DIMM, for a total of 32 GB DDR4-3200 in dual-channel.

As far as I can tell, Asus will most likely offer 16 GB of onboard memory on the RTX 3080 configurations, while the RTX 3060/3070 come with only 8 GB of soldered memory. This pretty much forces you to spend extra for the 3080 model if you’re looking for a longer-term performance laptop that you would use for professional work and can benefit from 32 GB of dual-channel memory. Knowing Asus, the configurations will differ between regions, so perhaps they will also offer RTX 3070 models with 16 GB of onboard RAM in retail.

For storage, we got one fast PCIe x4 gen4 Samsung drive on our unit. The device offers three M.2 80 mm SSD slots, supporting various RAID configurations (the configuration illustrated below came with 3 installed SSDs).

Getting inside to the components requires you to pop out the back panel, hold in place by a couple of Torx screws. Everything is packed up tightly, making good use of the limited space. For what it is worth, the design allows you to easily disconnect the status LEDs if you want to.

Specs aside, Asus offers four power profiles for the ROG Zephrys S17 GX703:

  • Silent – quite fan-noise and limited CPU/GPU speeds and power;
  • Performance – balanced profile with stock CPU/GPU settings, averagely noise fans – GPU runs at around 125W and stock clocks;
  • Turbo – High-Performance profile with increased CPU power allocation, faster-spinning fans, and overclocked GPU (up to 140W, +100 MHz Core/+150 MHz Memory).
  • Manual – gives the ability to custom tweak the CPU power and GPU power/clocks, plus create manual fan profiles based on temperature limits.

Turbo/Manual are only available with the laptop plugged in and are meant for gaming and other demanding loads. Performance is, in theory, a jack-of-all-trades, while Silent is excellent for daily light use and low noise work. You can also power the laptop through USB-C, in which case you can use this on the Performance mode without depleting the battery, but with a performance toll in demanding combined loads.

Here’s what to expect regarding performance and temperatures with everyday multitasking, browsing, and video on Advanced Optimus.

And or regular Optimus.

We ran our tests in both the Advanced Optimus or regular Optimus modes. For some reason, the system required less energy on the Advanced Optimus mode, leading to slightly longer runtimes in this case, especially with lower-level tasks and video. Unfortunately, rogue apps can still wake up the dGPU in either mode, and the only way to stop that is to force the iGPU mode from the Nvidia Control panel.

I also noticed slight choppiness and the image occasionally freezing for fractions of a second with daily use in the Advanced Optimus mode, especially when the system switches between the iGPU and dGPU, like when launching a game or work app. This seems to be normal with Advanced Optimus laptops, based on our prior experience with other implementations, and we’ll also further touch on the impact of Advanced Optimus in heavier GPU loads in the Gaming performance section, down below.

Finally, I’ll also mention that you can also force the dGPU on, which we used for most of our tests. Ideally, you’d want to do this from the BIOS, though, not from the Nvidia Control Panel. dGPU and Advanced Optimus modes also support GSync, but for testing, GSync was disabled.

Performance tests and benchmarks

On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 test 15+ times in a loop, with 1-2 seconds delay between each run.

The i9-11900H processor stabilizes at ~90W of sustained power on the Turbo setting, which translates in frequencies of 4.1+ GHz, sustained temperatures in the low 90s C, scores of a little under 2200 points, and the fans spinning at about 46-47 dB at head-level. The processor runs at higher power, clocks, and temperatures for the first loops before it settles at around 90W sustained. These are excellent results, pretty much the maximum the i9-11900H processor is capable of in the first few loops, and about 90+% of its potential in the longer-time sustained loads.

Asus allows to undervolt the CPU in BIOS. Our system ran stably at -80 mV, resulting in higher sustained clocks (4.4 GHz) and power (90+W), lower temperatures (high-80s), and a ~3-5% increase in scores, averaging 2250+ points.

Switching over to the Performance profile leads to a bit more erratic performance and slightly quieter fans, which stabilize at around 41-42 dB at head level. In addition, the CPU fluctuates in power and eventually ends up thermally limited at 95 C and around 90W of power. This behavior is different than what we recorded on other Asus laptops on the Performance profile and might be further tweaked with future software updates.

On Silent, the processor quickly stabilizes at~30W with barely audible fans (<35 dB) and temperatures in the high-60s C. It returns scores of around ~1300 points, roughly 60-65% of what the system scores on Turbo.

Finally, the CPU runs at ~45 W on battery, on the Performance profile, with fans fluctuating up to 38+ dB, but somehow lower scores than on the Silent profile, despite the higher CPU power.

You’ll find more details about all these profiles and scenarios in the logs down below.

To put these findings in perspective, here’s how this 11th gen i9-11900H processor fares in comparison to other 8C/16T options available in various other laptops.

The 11900H outscores previous-gen 8C Intel i7/i9 processors by a fair margin in this test, even those able to run at higher sustained power. It’s also very competitive against the Ryzen 9 5900 HS/HX processors of the 2021 generation, especially once undervolted, outscoring even the 5900HX in the G15 Advantage.

It’s also worth adding that this Zephyrus S17 runs a little bit louder in this benchmark than most of the other notebooks that we’ve tested in the past. Still, the CPU stabilizes at lower temperatures in the high-80s C, and not the mid-90s that we saw on most of the Ryzen 9 models, such as the ROG Scar 17 or the ROG Strix G15 Advantage. The GE76 Raider or the Razer Blade Pro run cooler, but that’s because they also set a much lower sustained TDP, which translates into the difference in performance illustrated below.

We then went ahead and further verified our findings with the more taxing Cinebench R23 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95 on the Turbo profile.

We also ran this newer 3DMark CPU profile test on our sample, and you should take the findings as they are. Because this is a new test, we don’t have past data to compare these with.

We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation over time, and this unit passed it fine, suggesting consistent performance as the heat builds up.

These stress tests suggest solid engineering quality on this Zephyrus S17, with excellent sustained performance in CPU and CPU+GPU loads. The internal temperatures look good as well in these CPU loads, and that’s paired with fans only running averagely loud on the Turbo profile, at 46-47 dB at head-level.

In comparison, the full-sized ROG Scar 17 or the MSI GE76 Raider that we tested in the past ran a little quieter, at ~45 dB, but also returned lower performance (both of them, but especially the power-limited i9 in the GE76) and/or higher CPU sustained temperatures (on the Scar).

Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the stock Turbo profile in Armoury Crate and FHD resolution and with the dGPU mode selected in the Nvidia panel (with GSync OFF).

These are important for consistency between the various tested laptops, as 3DMark returns slightly different scores at FHD, QHD, and 4K for the same tests. The scores are also impacted by having Advanced Optimus active or the dGPU only. So this is FHD on the dGPU.

  • 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 25675 (Graphics – 31372, Physics – 26235, Combined – 10725);
  • 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 7473;
  • 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 11822 (Graphics – 12338, CPU – 9558);
  • Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7759;
  • Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 22307;
  • Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 52.56 average fps;
  • PassMark 10: Rating: 8222 (CPU mark: 24987, 3D Graphics Mark: 19508, Disk Mark: 42844);
  • PCMark 10: 7437 (Essentials – 10892, Productivity – 9266, Digital Content Creation – 11061);
  • GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1623, Multi-core: 9641;
  • CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 2291 cb, CPU Single Core 241 cb;
  • CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 5485 cb, CPU Single Core 608 cb;
  • CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 14231 cb, CPU Single Core 1565 cb;
  • x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 27.36 s.

And here are the results on the stock Turbo profile, but with Advanced Optimus set on Auto:

  • 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 25217 (Graphics – 31276, Physics – 24793, Combined – 10389);
  • 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 7466;
  • 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 11780 (Graphics – 12300, CPU – 9507);
  • Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7706;
  • Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 21748.

We’re looking at a minimal impact on either the CPU or the GPU scores.

And here are some QHD-resolution 3DMark scores on the dGPU mode:

  • 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 25632 (Graphics – 31411, Physics – 26289, Combined – 10604);
  • 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 7475;
  • 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 11815 (Graphics – 12355, CPU – 9473).

Most of the other test results are fairly consistent between the different modes and resolutions.

All in all, these are solid results are among the better you can get on any laptop these days. For comparison, the i9-11900H in this implementation holds its ground against the better Ryzen 9 5900HX models, but it does so by running at slightly higher sustained power. Despite that, though, the average CPU temperatures in sustained loads are lower by 5-10 degrees here than on most of the Ryzen 9 models we’ve tested.

As for the RTX 3080 140W graphics chip, this ends up scoring roughly 7-10% lower than the more powerful RTX 3080 155W we tested in the MSI GE76 Raider, both with similar overclocking settings. For what is worth, though, Asus does all the tweaking automatically in their software, so you don’t have to manually overclock the GPU, like you have to on the Raider.

With that out of the way, one particularity of this Intel-based Zephyrus is the ability to undervolt the CPU at up to -80 mV in the BIOS. Here’s what happens on a -80mV profile, at FHD resolution, and on the dGPU mode.

  • 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 25491 (Graphics – 31305, Physics – 25105, Combined – 10758);
  • 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 7467;
  • 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 12146 (Graphics – 12325, CPU – 11225);
  • Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7758;
  • Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 22314;
  • Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 52.70 average fps;
  • PassMark 10: Rating: 8403 (CPU mark: 25655, 3D Graphics Mark: 19780, Disk Mark: 42926);
  • PCMark 10: 7827 (Essentials – 11041, Productivity – 10065, Digital Content Creation – 11710);
  • GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1627, Multi-core: 9656;
  • CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 2294 cb, CPU Single Core 241 cb;
  • CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 5647 cb, CPU Single Core 607 cb;
  • CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 14679 cb, CPU Single Core 1564 cb;
  • x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 27.42 s.

We’re looking at slight increases in multi-core CPU scores in some tests, or a slight reduction of sustained power and temperatures in others. We haven’t encountered any stability issues on our sample at -80 mv, but just to be on the safer side, I’d recommend a more conservative -50 mV undervolt, which is what we’ve used for the gaming tests that we’ll discuss further down.

Then, given the noisier fan levels on Turbo, we also ran some tests on the Silent profile (with the CPU undervolted at -50 mV and Whisper Mode ON). This is something you could use if you’re interested in running demanding loads with barely audible fans (<37 dB). Here’s what we got:

  • 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 13397 (Graphics – 13786, Physics – 18878, Combined – 8135);
  • 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5215;
  • 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9557(Graphics – 9484, CPU – 9993);
  • PCMark 10: 5281 (Essentials – 9122, Productivity – 6188, Digital Content Creation – 7082);
  • CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1312 cb, CPU Single Core 136 cb;
  • CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 8465 cb, CPU Single Core 972 cb;
  • x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 44.84 s.

The scores take a significant hit in this mode across the board, both in the single and multi-core CPU tests and GPU tests. Overall, expect 50-60% of the Turbo performance in this mode. I’d expect the single-core CPU to improve with future software updates, as our other tests of the same i9-11900H on the Zephyrus M16 did not return the same kind of single-core score drops. Multi-core CPU and GPU performance, though, are going to be greatly limited on this profile.

Finally, we also ran some Workstation related loads on this Core i9 + RTX 3080 configuration, on the Turbo profile, with stock voltage settings:

  • Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 3m 0s (Turbo);
  • Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 31s (CUDA), 14s (Optix);
  • Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 8m 19s (Turbo);
  • Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 1m 23s (CUDA), 49s (Optix);
  • Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: -;
  • SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 223.47 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 152.21 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 227.19 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 27.29 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 360.93 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 77.34 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 153.16 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 19.21 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 118.41 (Turbo).

And the SPECviewperf 2020 test:

  • SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 137.85 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 2020 – Catia: 69.97 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 2020 – Creo: 94.48 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 2020 – Energy: 27.39 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 2020 – Maya: 365.88 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 2020 – Medical: 35.2 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 2020 – SNX: 19.2 (Turbo);
  • SPECviewerf 2020 – SW: 262.04 (Turbo).

These are once more solid results and some of the better you can get on a performance laptop these days.

This configuration trades blows with the all-AMD version (Ryzen 9 + RX 6800M) of the ROG G15 Advantage, with this one winning most workloads (3DSmax, Catia, Energy, Maya, SW), and that one wining some (Medical, SNX). As for the Ryzen 9 + RTX 3080 130W version of the Scar 17, that one trails this i9 + 3080 140W Zephryus S17 configuration in all the tested workloads.

Gaming performance

With these out of the way, let’s look at some games.

We ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the stock Turbo, Performance, and Silent profiles, on FHD and QHD resolution on the internal screen, and at QHD on an external display.

We also ran tests with Advanced Optimus active, with it switched off and the dGPU manually selected, and on the regular Optimus mode. Furthermore, GSync is disabled from the Nvidia Control Panel for all these tests, and Whisper Mode is enabled in GeForce Experience on the Silent mode.

Just to ensure everything is clear about it, Advanced Optimus directly connects the laptop’s internal screen to the Nvidia GPU, while regular Optimus routes the signal through the iGPU, with a toll in framerates.

The same would happen if you connect an external monitor through HDMI or the Thunderbolt 4 ports of the laptop, as both are hooked through the iGPU. For uncompromised performance, you need to connect the monitor through the first USB-C on the right edge, the one right next to the audio jack, as that’s the only one connected to the Nvidia GPU.

Finally, keep in mind that we’ve kept a -50 mV CPU undervolt for all these tests, which proved perfectly stable and did not cause any crashes or freezes.

With all these out of the way, here’s what we got:

Intel Core i9-11900H +
RTX 3080 Laptop 125+W
FHD Turbo,
Advanced Optimus
FHD Turbo,
dGPU
QHD Turbo,
Advanced Optimus
QHD Turbo,
Regular Optimus
QHD Turbo,
dGPU
QHD Performance,
dGPU
QHD Silent,
Whisper Mode On
QHD Turbo,
external monitor
Battlefield V
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
158 fps (24 fps – 1% low) 166 fps (86 fps – 1% low) 130 fps (28 fps – 1% low) 122 fps (72 fps – 1% low) 134 fps (82 fps – 1% low) 125 fps (78 fps – 1% low) 60 fps (56 fps – 1% low) 135 fps (90 fps – 1% low)
Cyberpunk 2077
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
74 fps (17 fps – 1% low) 78 fps (56 fps – 1% low) 51 fps (16 fps – 1% low) 50 fps (40 fps – 1% low) 53 fps (43 fps – 1% low) 51 fps (38 fps – 1% low) 53 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
Dota 2
(DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
117 fps (78 fps – 1% low)
Far Cry 5
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
128 fps (21 fps – 1% low) 134 fps (94 fps – 1% low) 114 fps (17 fps – 1% low) 108 fps (89 fps – 1% low) 121 fps (93 fps – 1% low) 106 fps (81 fps – 1% low) 60 fps (60 fps – 1% low) 119 fps (95 fps – 1% low)
Metro Exodus
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
83 fps (48 fps – 1% low) 63 fps (38 fps – 1% low) 67 fps (43 fps – 1% low) 64 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
(DX 11, Ultra Preset)
210 fps (142 fps – 1% low) 216 fps (146 fps – 1% low) 155 fps (96 fps – 1% low) 147 fps (108 fps – 1% low) 155 fps (110 fps – 1% low) 145 fps (98 fps – 1% low) 60 fps (58 fps – 1% low) 156 fps (110 fps – 1% low)
Red Dead Redemption 2
(DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)
118 fps (84 fps – 1% low) 78 fps (63 fps – 1% low) 94 fps (71 fps – 1% low) 88 fps (67 fps – 1% low) 95 fps (69 fps – 1% low)
Shadow of Tomb Raider (1)
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
115 fps (18 fps – 1% low) 102 fps (17 fps – 1% low) 95 fps (66 fps – 1% low) 105 fps (62 fps – 1% low) 106 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
Strange Brigade
(Vulkan, Ultra Preset)
229 fps (170 fps – 1% low) 231 fps (172 fps – 1% low) 170 fps (136 fps – 1% low) 152 fps (112 fps – 1% low) 171 fps (136 fps – 1% low) 172 fps (140 fps – 1% low)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)
146 fps (34 fps – 1% low) -231 fps (172 fps – 1% low) 112 fps (20 fps – 1% low) 107 fps (78 fps – 1% low) 114 fps (88 fps – 1% low) 107 fps (76 fps – 1% low) 60 fps (57 fps – 1% low) 114 fps (87 fps – 1% low)
  • Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
  • Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.

Those above are rasterization-only tests, and here are some results for RTX titles.

i9-11900H +
RTX 3080 Laptop 125+W
FHD Turbo,
Advanced Optimus
FHD Turbo,
dGPU
QHD Turbo,
Advanced Optimus
QHD Turbo,
dGPU
QHD Turbo,
external monitor
Battlefield V
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX ON, DLSS OFF)
113 fps (24 fps – 1% low) 118 fps (67 fps – 1% low) 81 fps (19 fps – 1% low) 84 fps (62 fps – 1% low) 85 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
Cyberpunk 2077
(DX 12, Ultra Preset + RTX, DLSS Auto)
67 fps (17 fps – 1% low) 73 fps (54 fps – 1% low) 51 fps (17 fps – 1% low) 53 fps (40 fps – 1% low) 53 fps (42 fps – 1% low)
Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA, RTX Ultra)
81 fps (19 fps – 1% low) 85 fps (52 fps – 1% low) 62 fps (18 fps – 1% low) 65 fps (38 fps – 1% low) 66 fps (40 fps – 1% low)

There are a lot of numbers here, so let’s get into some context. We’ll also talk about some comparisons further down.

Advanced Optimus performance

I was excited about having Advanced Optimus on this laptop, as it’s the first ROG model to implement the technology. However, at the same time, I was worried this mode could be buggy, based on our prior experience with all of the other Advanced Optimus models that we’ve tested. It turns out my worries were justified.

I noticed stuttering and choppiness during gameplay with Advanced Optimus mode on, with either GSync enabled or disabled, on both the 3080 and the 3060 models that I’ve tested.

It was noticeable in the gameplay and in our tests, illustrated by the 1% lows, which averaged in the sub-20 fps in most of the tested titles. Weirdly, though, older titles such as Shadow of Mordor and Strange Brigade did not stutter as badly as the other titles and ran smoother. I’d reckon that’s because those run at higher fps to being with.

The logs, on the other hand, look alright, except for the fact that the GPU doesn’t always spread out to its 140W maximum potential with Dynamic Boost 2.0.

 

I’ve waited before publishing this review to figure out if this is isolated to the two units that I’ve tested, or widespread. Since the S17 now ships in the US, I’ve also asked owners on Reddit if they experienced the same kind of stuttering, and was confirmed the same issue on a third S17 sample. So at this point, we can assume that Advanced Optimus behaves in this way on the entire S17 series.

I’ve also reached out to Asus about this and they’re looking into it. Hopefully, they can figure out what’s wrong and release a fix, but until that happens, Advanced Optimus is just not usable for gaming.

Regular Optimus performance

Aside from Advanced Optimus and the dGPU only modes, there’s also the ability to select the regular Optimus for this laptop. The downside is that the signal is routed through the iGPU, and there’s no longer the ability for GSync in this mode.

The performance toll is documented above, and it’s rather negligible, within 2-7% in most titles, at QHD resolution. It would be greater at FHD, especially in high fps titles such as CS:Go or Fornite, and smaller in the more demanding AAA titles that already run at lower fps.

And here are some logs. Again, they look fine, but the dGPU doesn’t run at up to 140W in some titles.

Gaming on Turbo, Performance, and Silent on dGPU mode

The reminding of the article covers the gaming experience on the dGPU mode, which links the internal screen to the Nvidia dGPU and addresses the stuttering issue noticed on Advanced Optimus.

There are two ways to set the laptop on the Nvidia GPU. The one that I’d recommend is from the BIOS, as that proved to be the most reliable on these units that I’ve tested. The other is to leave the GPU selection on Dynamic in the BIOS, and instead switch the dGPU mode from the Nvidia Control Panel. However, in this case, I had to restart the computer several times after selecting the dGPU mode to get rid of the stuttering, as a single restart do it. Switching then back to Advanced Optimus would reintroduce the stuttering, with or without restarting the laptop.

So if you plan to run games on this laptop and keep it mostly unplugged, I’d go with the dGPU mode in the BIOS.

Ok, let’s go through the performance logs that show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Red Dead 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and Battlefield V on the various profiles.

The laptop runs smoothly and cooly in all games. On Turbo, we’re looking at CPU temperatures of around 65-80 C and GPU temperatures of 75-80 C across the tested games at QHD resolution, most of them pushing the GPU towards its 140W upper limit.

Lifting the laptop from the desk to increase the airflow underneath has a slightly positive impact on the CPU/GPU temperatures, allowing them to drop by a few degrees. However, given the temperatures are already excellent on the Turbo profile with the laptop sitting on the desk, there’s no need to go this route here. Or use an external cooling pad.

The Performance profile cuts the fan noise to 41-42 dB and also limits the GPU power in the 120-130W range on our 3080 sample.

These result in a solid gaming experience, a slight toll in fps from the Turbo mode, but with quieter fans and nearly the same internal and external temperatures. Unlike with other ROG laptops that we’ve tested this year, Performance is actually my favorite profile on this Zephyrus S17 in terms of the overall balance of all the factors at hand.

Just a heads-up, I noticed switching from Turbo to Performance sometimes crashed the game that I was running, and occasionally froze the entire system and the laptop required a hard restart. Just a small detail, but I don’t remember experiencing this on other ROG laptops.

The fans spin even quieter on the Silent mode (capped at ~60 fps with Whisper Mode on), but the GPU is greatly limited on this profile, affecting the performance. Some older titles are perhaps alright on Silent, but the more recent games are not.

Finally, I’ll also mention that while you can play games with the laptop unplugged, you shouldn’t expect much in terms of performance, as the CPU and GPU are both power limited in this case.  The battery life isn’t much either; we got less than an hour in Cyberpunk.

Manual tweaks

There are limited ways to further tweak the performance and fans behavior on this laptop, but I wouldn’t bother with anything aside from setting a -50 mV undervolt in the BIOS. XTU or Throttlestop don’t seem to work on this laptop if you were planning for further CPU tweaks.

The Manual mode in Armoury Crate allows to set different CPU power limits and further overclock the GPU and create custom fan profiles for each of them. I’ll leave you to play around there; all I tested is the impact of switching the fans all the way to max. They ramp up to about 48-49 dB at head-level, so still not as loud as on other gaming laptops, but almost no impact over the performance in the default Turbo profile, and a tiny impact over the internal and external temperatures.

Performance on an external monitor

Since there’s a MUX on this laptop, the performance on Advanced Optimus, dGPU mode, and an external monitor connected via the USB-C port should be similar, as all these modes connect a display straight to the Nvidia dGPU. However, as explained above, Advanced Optimus is buggy on the internal screen. On the other hand, our test games ran smoothly on the external monitor, without any choppiness or stuttering, on any of the tested modes (regular Optimus, Advanced Optimus, and dGPU in BIOS).

Just make sure you’re using the USB-C port (the one right next to the audio jack) to connect your external monitor, as the HDMI and Thunderbolt USB-C are routed through the iGPU instead.

Everything looks fine in terms of performance and temperatures while playing games on the external monitor, with the laptop opened and sitting on a desk.

However, this Zephyrus S17 won’t do for vertical use with the lid closed, if you were planning for it. Due to how the system is designed to draw the fresh air in mostly from underneath the keyboard, a hard power limit is imposed as soon as you close the lid, as you can tell from the logs below.

All in all, if not for the buggy Advanced Optimus mode, this Zephyrus S17 would have been a flawless multi-purpose performer. Hopefully, Asus figures out Advanced Optimus and release a fix in the near future, but for now, Advanced Optimus is just not reliable and usable.

If Asus cannot fix this (and I’m basing that on the multiple issues other OEMs have had with A Optimus in the past), my recommendation would be to use the laptop on regular Optimus, which seems to work well with daily use and games. Yes, there’s no GSync with that mode, and the framerates take a small hit 5-10% at QHD resolution, but I think I can live with these inconveniences.

The other option that makes sense if you’ll mostly use the laptop plugged in is to just opt for the dGPU mode in the BIOS and don’t mind yourself with all the Optimus hassle. But in this case, you’d have awful battery life when unplugged and you’d have to restart back into BIOS to switch on Dynamic each time you’ll want to use the laptop on battery for longer than 2-3 hours.

Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others

There’s a complex thermal module on the Zephyrus S17, similar to what Asus put on their other 2021 ROG models. That means it implements two high-capacity fans with their latest fan-blade design, four radiators, and many heatpipes. More of them, but thinner than on the 2021 ROG Scar 17.

There are also high-quality VRMs on this series, as well as liquid metal on the CPU. Regular thermal paste is still used for the GPU.

The airflow design is different on the S17 compared to most other laptops. Fresh air is primarily sucked in from the top of the laptop, from underneath the keyboard deck. Some extra air also comes in through the back, but that’s only partially opened over the fans. The exhausts are placed on the laterals and the back edge, blowing the hot air away from the user.

As explained in the previous section, this cooling module does an excellent job at taming the components in this Zephyrus S17, both in daily and in demanding loads and games.

The fans run averagely loud on Turbo at 46-47 dB and quieter on Performance, at 41-42 dB. Both are reasonable levels, especially when both of these modes are usable on the laptop, unlike on some of the other ROG models tested this year, which overheated on Performance.

For what it is worth, you also get the ability to manually adjust the fans in the Manual mode, and they can go up to 48-49 dB at head-level at max, but with little impact over the internal and exterior temperatures.

The fans rest idly with basic use on the Silent profile, which turns them off as long as the CPU and GPU do not go over 50 degrees C. They kick on with average use and multitasking but are mostly inaudible in a normal room. However, due to this rather passive implementation, the S17 does run a bit warm at the chassis level with daily use. I don’t mind it, and in fact, I prefer this approach that keeps the fans quiet.

I do mind the slight electronic winning that I noticed when launching a demanding application or game, for the first few seconds before the fans catch up and start spinning. I haven’t noticed electronic noises in other situations or with everyday use, though.

I must add that I expect this to vary between the different units, as these noises are almost non-existent on the 3060 sample that we’re also testing right now. Still, others have mentioned slight winning and grinning nin the S17 reviews, so make sure to test for it on your unit within the return window.

Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Silent profile,  fans at 0 dB (up to 33 dB with daily multitasking)

The exterior temperatures remain excellent with demanding loads and games, as you can tell from the images below, on a couple of different power and fan profiles.

The keyboard deck doesn’t go past high-30s C in any mode, and the hottest interior part that you’ll come in contact with is the area just above the clickpad, which hits temperatures in the low-40s. Of course, the part under the keyboard deck, which is in contact with the components, does heat up closer to 50 degrees C.

As for the underbelly, that hits temperatures in the high 40s in the hottest region, under the components.

*Gaming – Silent – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Silent profile, fans at 36-38 dB
*Gaming – Performance – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 41-42 dB
*Gaming – Turbo, on a desk – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 46-47 dB

For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 through a MediaTek chip on this unit, as well as Gigabit Lan. Our sample performed well on WiFi both near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between, although I would have perhaps expected a higher-quality wi-fi chip at this price point.

The audio system includes 6 speakers, two woofers un the bottom, and four tweeters under the screen, just behind the keyboard tray. Both the quality and volumes are excellent here, for laptop speakers, with even some bass. Much like on the Zephyrus G15 and M16 models, this is one of the better audio systems you can find on any laptop these days.

There’s also finally a camera at the top of the display on this Zephyrus S17, with HD resolution and meh image quality. I was under the impression Asus would put an FHD camera on this series, but they didn’t; this is just the same kind of camera that most other gaming laptops offer these days. At least we do get a camera here, unlike on most other ROG units… But that’s no excuse for them not including something better!

There’s also an array of mics that does a fair job capturing your voice and can be set in a couple of different modes through the software, but it isn’t very good at isolating external noise, fan noise, or the keyboard’s chatter.

Battery life

There’s a 90Wh battery inside all the 2021 ROG models, including the Zephyrus S17 here.

Here’s what we got on our review unit in terms of battery life, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness) and on the Advanced Optimus mode.

  • 22 W (~4-5 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent  Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 16 W (~6+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 13 W (~7+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 24 W (~3-5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 100 W (~50 min of use) – Gaming – Cyberpunk 2077, Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.

And here are our results on Regular Optimus.

  • 22 W (~4-5 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent  Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 19 W (~5+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • 16 W (~6+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.

For some reason, our sample ran more efficiently on Advanced Optimus with video streaming and other light loads.

These are not amazing runtimes by any means, especially when compared to the AMD laptops out there. I’d still take them with a grain of salt for now, though, as Asus might perhaps improve on these power draws with future software updates.

Also, the 4K screen variant of the S17 will return even shorter runtimes by 1-2 hours.

Oh, and if you plan to keep the laptop on the dGPU mode while unplugged, don’t expect more than 2-3 hours of daily use or video streaming.

This RTX 3080 ROG Zephyrus S17 configuration comes with a 280W power-brick, fairly chunky and heavy. The battery fills up in about 2 hours, with fast charging for the first half an hour, and USB-C charging is supported as well, up to 100W. The USB-C charger is not included.

Below, there’s a picture of the 280W charger next to the 240W charger that powers other ROG laptops and next to a 65W USB-C Asus charger. I would have expected the 240W charger to be available with the 3060 configurations of the S17, but that’s also bundled with the bigger 280W brick.

Price and availability

The 2021 Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 is available in stores and shipping in some regions at the time of this article.

The configuration tested here, with the i9 processor + RTX 3080 GPU + QHD screen + 32 GB RAM + 1 TB SSD is listed at $3299 MSRP in the US and 3999 EUR in Germany. Expect to pay about $300 extra for the 4K 120 Hz screen option.

Pricey, for sure, but that’s no surprise given the Zephyrus S17 is Asus’s highest-tier ROG product right now. Also, this sort of pricing is on par with the competition in the 17-inch premium niche, such as the Razer Blade Pro 17, MSI GS76 Stealth, or the Alienware X17.

There are some cheaper and most likely better-value configurations with RTX 3060 (starts at $2199) and RTX 3070 (starts at $2699) graphics chips that you could also consider. The downside is that most of these are only available with 16 GB of RAM (and 8 GB onboard), but if you’re OK with that, I’d take a look at both of these, depending on your budget.

Of course, the availability of the Zephyrus S17 GX703 series differs between regions, so make sure to follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region at the time you’re reading the article.

Final thoughts

10000 words later, this is one of our longest and most detailed reviews here on the site. That’s because I had very high hopes for this ROG Zephyrus S17 and wanted to carefully look into all its tiny details, just to make sure this is truly worth the kind of money Asus asks for it.

Thing is, at 3K++ I would expect any laptop to be flawless, and this is still a little unpolished at this time. Right now, with the S17 just starting to sell in stores around the world, Advanced Optimus is bugged out for gaming, and there are some QC variations in the panels and amounts of electronic noises that you should expect, at least based on our experience with our samples and the few buyers’ reviews available out there.

Now, it’s up to you to judge how much these would matter for you, but buying this Zephyrus S17 2021 right now, at launch, feels to me like a bit of gamble; that’s why I’d advise you to only get it from stores that will accept returns, in case you draw any short sticks.

Down the road, though, hopefully, Asus get their QC in check and refine the building process, as well as address the stuttering we noticed while playing games on the Advanced Optimus profile. If that happens, this Zephyrus S17 GX703 is going to be the best-balanced 17-inch performance laptop currently on the market. Not the most powerful, but a very fine balance of build quality, portability, features, and performance in everyday use, workloads, and games.

On top of that, I wouldn’t even consider the 3080 model as my first choice anyway, as I’d expect better value in the 3060 and 3070 variants that sell for less. Unfortunately, though, Asus pretty much force you onto the 3080 configurations by only including 8 GB of soldered memory on the 3060/3070 models, from what I can tell right now. This way, you can only get 16 GB of dual-channel memory on those, which is fine for daily use and gaming, but not for the more demanding work and creative loads, and that for me is one of the most annoying downsides of this 2021 Zephyrus S17 series. Hopefully, Asus change their mind and decide on offering 16 GB of onboard memory at least on the 3070 models.

Ok, so I’m not going to carry on here, make sure to reach the whole article and draw your own conclusions on whether this is the right buy for you or not. Long story short, I feel this is the best ROG design so far, but I’d give it a few more months so Assu can figure out their manufacturing process, QC and software before jumping on it.

This wraps up our review of the Zephyrus S17 GX703HS series, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it in the comments section down below.

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Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief of Ultrabookreview.com. I’ve been covering mobile computers since the 2000s and you’ll mostly find reviews and thorough guides written by me here on the site.



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