Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 review: Six cores, no waiting

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The Good This second-gen version of the Asus Zephyrus keeps the inventive raised cooling vent, lowers the price, adds a new six-core Intel Core i7 CPU and fixes the poor touchpad placement in the original.

The Bad The fans still get quite loud, battery life is short, there's a thick screen bezel around the nontouch display, and there's no built-in Ethernet jack, which is important for downloading large game files.

The Bottom Line Asus adds Intel's powerful new six-core Core i7 CPU to the slim Zephyrus gaming laptop, while fixing some of the original's design quirks and even lowering the price.

8.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Battery 6

Asus has a new gaming laptop that's not only powerful, inventively designed, and extremely portable, it's also one of the very first systems with a new wave of high-performance laptop CPUs from Intel.

Inside the Asus ROG Zephyrus GM501 is the Intel Core i7-8750H, which is a six-core processor -- the first one we've tested -- up from the usual quad-core. No, it's not one of the coming-soon Core i9 CPUs, but it's definitely a sizable step up in performance over even recent chips from last year, at least according to our initial benchmark tests.

It makes sense that Asus should put this new component technology in the Zephyrus line, as it was originally used last year to debut the Nvidia Max-Q graphics card design, which fits more GPU power into a smaller, thinner laptop, to impressive effect. But here the spotlight is reserved for the six-core Core i7 CPU, as the graphics have moved from a Max-Q GeForce 1080 to a standard GeForce 1070.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How does a laptop that's just 19.9mm thick (and weighs about 5.5 pounds) fit in a high-power graphics card and six-core CPU? Asus calls the cooling solution an Active Aerodynamic System, or AAS, and it's a bottom panel that lifts up when the laptop's lid is open, exposing a hidden vent used for cooling. This vent rises up about 9mm from your desk, which is 2mm higher than the previous Zephyrus. It's a pretty subtle effect, lifting the rear of the keyboard up slightly.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are even more changes from the original 2017 Zephyrus (named after the Greek god of the west wind, in case you're curious). The price of the 2017 model was about $2,700 in the US, while this new version is $2,199. That's especially notable because even though the 2018 model was much faster in performance benchmarks and just about tied in 3D and gaming benchmarks. Asus says online retailer NewEgg will also carry a version that drops the GPU to a still-decent Nvidia 1060, for $1,899.

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501

Price as reviewed $2,199
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel display
CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)

The non-touch 1,920x1,080 display gets tweaked as well, moving up to a 144Hz refresh rate and support for Nvidia's G-Sync technology, which matches GPU output to the refresh rate of the display, resulting in smoother-looking games.

The new Zephyrus will start shipping in the US on April 16.