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

A touching solution

Even though there's a new CPU inside, a better cooling system and a lower price, that's not why I like this new version so much better than the original. The 2017 Zephyrus suffered from one of the most unfortunate touchpads in recent history. Not so much because it was unresponsive, but because it was shoved over to the side of the keyboard, and doubled as a backlit number pad. As I've said for (many) years, it's hard to overcome decades of muscle memory, and you mess with the traditional touchpad setup at your own risk.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Here, the keyboard and touchpad are much more traditional, and perfectly functional, which is more than I could say last year. If that all feels too square, at least the keyboard has a multicolor backlit keyboard that can mimic some of the lightshow functions of keyboards from Alienware or Razer.

Intel inside

As part of Intel's spring update to its current eighth generation of Core i-series CPUs, it includes the very first six-core laptop processor we've tested. Intel says these new chips, such as the Core 2.2GHz i7-8750H used here, are targeted for gaming, VR and content creation on high-performance laptops.

Intel also says the new Core i7 CPUs should give you a boost of about 2.7 times in gaming and 88 percent in overall performance, versus a similar three-year-old laptop (which is about how long you'd want to keep a gaming laptop before replacing it).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Of course, this is not the very top of of the line for Intel's latest additions. A new designation, called Core i9, is coming to some high-end laptops soon, so keep an eye out for laptops with the 2.9GHz Core i9-8950HK.

In our hands-on testing, there was a definite boost in CPU-intensive tests, comparing this eighth-gen chip to a variety of gaming laptops with seventh-gen Intel Core i-series CPUs, including the Core i7-7700HQ, a common CPU in high-end gaming laptops. At least in our initial testing, these new processors deliver great performance. 

In games and 3D tests, there wasn't a big difference between this new Zephyrus and the original model. That makes sense, because we're swapping the previous Nvidia 1080 Max-Q (which prioritizes efficiency) for a standard Nvidia 1070 (which prioritizes performance). The end result is a near tie, but certainly fast enough to any new game at high detail settings and full 1,920x1,080 resolution. For example, the PC version of Far Cry 5 ran at high settings and FHD resolution at 83 frames per second. 

Stepping up

The first-generation Zephyrus was an impressive engineering feat with a sky-high price and some annoying design compromises. This sequel keeps the overall slim look and feel and improves on performance (while swapping some components around), and thankfully hits the reset button on the unfortunate experiment in touchpad placement.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There are still a few missteps. Battery life isn't great, the display is merely OK with a basic 1,920x1,080 resolution, and there's no dedicated Ethernet jack on board, which is important if you're downloading 30GB-plus games on the regular.

Still, it's a big step in the right direction. The original was fun, slick-looking and powerful, but felt more like a proof of concept than something practical. This reworked Zephyrus adds just enough mainstream tweaks to make it a legitimate recommendation for a superslim gaming laptop that can work as your main nongaming machine, too. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018)
20,442
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017)
14,347
Alienware 15 R3 (2017)
14,060
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 (2017)
13,942
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017)
10,611

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018)
1,135
Alienware 15 R3 (2017)
746
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017)
722
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 (2017)
687
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017)
510

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 (2017)
4,095
Alienware 15 R3 (2017)
4,054
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018)
3,954
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017)
3,180
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017)
1,871

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018)
184.22
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 (2017)
180.94
Alienware 15 R3 (2017)
178.42
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017)
148.38
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017)
122.21

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 (2017)
84.3
Alienware 15 R3 (2017)
82.1
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018)
79.2
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017)
72.7
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017)
50.2

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017)
362
Alienware 15 R3 (2017)
236
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018)
225
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017)
216
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 (2017)
146

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 24GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD
Alienware 15 R3 (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD
Origin PC Evo 15-S (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q-Design; 512GB SSD

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