Tech review: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 dazzles with retro dot-matrix LED lid

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (available on Lazada and Shopee) is arguably the most unique-looking gaming laptop now.

Half of this 14-inch laptop’s lid is covered by 6,536 tiny perforations that let the light from internal mini LEDs pass through.

This feature, dubbed the AniMe Matrix display, lets users create their own custom dot-matrix images and animations on the lid, using the included Asus Armoury Crate app.

It is the first time that I have seen a dot-matrix LED display on a notebook lid. While the idea is not new, such displays are often found on modified desktop computer casings created by PC enthusiasts.

The Armoury Crate app comes with several premade animations for the AniMe Matrix display. You can make one from scratch by uploading your own images. Advanced tip: use Adobe Photoshop’s halftone filter to convert normal photos to a dot-matrix version.

Users can also choose to have the AniMe Matrix display show status notifications, such as the time or battery indicator. My favourite use case is to have the display act as a visualiser for the laptop’s audio.

The G14 is portable for a gaming laptop with a compact 14-inch magnesium aluminium chassis weighing around 1.7kg.

More importantly, the palm rest and the lid are stiff and rigid, giving the laptop a reassuringly solid heft. The keyboard, too, has practically zero flex and offers good key travel.

Some gamers may be slightly disappointed that the keyboard backlight only comes in white and not the usual customisable RGB colours. But it does fit with the monotone vibe of the G14’s dot-matrix display.

Given the G14’s ultrabook-like form factor, Asus has unsurprisingly reused some features from its ZenBook ultrabooks, such as the ErgoLift hinge.

This hinge raises the notebook’s base slightly off the desk and tilts the keyboard at a more comfortable typing angle when the lid is opened. This design is also said to help with the air flow as it gives more breathing room for the bottom vents. But the base still gets uncomfortably warm when running a game.

The G14 also has a fingerprint sensor integrated in its power button that lets users conveniently sign into their Windows account when pressing the power button with a pre-registered fingerprint to turn on the laptop.

But if Asus intends for the G14 to be a laptop for both work and play, there is the glaring omission of the Web camera. Perhaps it is the AniMe Matrix display or the thin top bezel, but whatever the reason, the lack of the Web camera is a big miss given the current widespread use of video conferencing software. Of course, you can always get an external USB Web camera, but it would use up a valuable USB port (the G14 only has two USB Type-A ports).

On the bright side, the G14 has two USB Type-C ports that can be used to charge the laptop’s battery. However, you have to use the laptop’s bundled power adapter (with a barrel-shaped connector) when using the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics chip as this power brick delivers more power than USB-C.

This Nvidia graphics chip is a lower mid-tier model that can run most games at less intensive graphics settings. It is aided by an eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS processor that compares well against Intel’s latest Core i7-10875H chip, especially in multi-threaded workloads.

Playing Crysis 3 game at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, the G14 managed an average frame rate of 65 frames per second (fps). This is slightly lower than the 68fps of the Acer Nitro 5, which has a slower Core i5 processor, but a more powerful Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics chip.

Personally, I did not feel a lack of gaming performance while using the G14. But its 14-inch screen feels small – objects and text are more difficult to decipher for my ageing eyes.

Its battery life is excellent for a gaming notebook. In The Straits Times video-loop battery test, the G14 lasted six hours, just an hour shy of most ultrabooks.

At $2,498, the G14 is more expensive than some competitors, though I find the premium reasonable given its unique dot-matrix display. For those who want a more capable graphics chip, the G14 is also available with a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics chip at $2,798.

FOR

LED dot-matrix display on lid

Compact and well-built

Outstanding battery life for a gaming notebook

AGAINST

Lacks a Web camera

No RGB keyboard backlight

14-inch screen a tad small for games

SPECS

Price: $2,498

Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS (2.9GHz)

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6

RAM: 16GB DDR4

Screen size: 14 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Connectivity: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, HDMI, audio jack

Battery: 76 watt-hour

RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 4.5/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 4/5

Battery life: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

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