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I really hope Asus doesn't ruin the Zephyrus G14

I really hope Asus doesn't ruin the Zephyrus G14

Once upon a time, in the good old days of March 2020, a small company called Asus released a spectacular whippersnapper of a gaming laptop called the ROG Zephyrus G14. It weighed just over 3.5 pounds, and was powered by a truly massive AMD processor, the likes of which had never been seen in a 14-inch form factor.

I still remember that laptop review from almost four years ago like it was yesterday. I remember running the Red Dead Redemption 2 benchmark – which was the ultimate test at the time – over and over again, looking at the game settings, desperately trying to figure out what caused the extremely high frame rate I set. what was the reason. I saw what happened, how much I messed up to make it happen. Understanding. (Remember, Intel's best offering at the time was Comet Lake. And, okay, we don't talk about Comet Lake in this house.)

And then there was the design. The G14 had a retro aesthetic, spaceship-y nature with large, luxuriously comfortable keycaps and a keyboard font that evoked Johnny Rockets. The lid abandoned the sleek and smooth aesthetic around which laptops were just starting to coalesce at the time, opting instead to be covered with a curious but entirely unique dot matrix. If you paid a little (okay, a lot) of extra money, those points became animated LEDs that you could do all kinds of weird things with, from petting a virtual pet to constantly exploding a man's head. Were. Since then, there has been a G14 model that also serves as a DJ deck and another with "Black Holes in the Now" written in vague shapes across the bottom. This has never been a laptop concerned with blending.

I remember emailing Asus asking if the $1,449 price they sent me was a typo error – shouldn't something so extraordinary be $1,000 more? And I remember well when the Asus representative replied that no, believe it or not, this was the real price. There was a feeling that this computer was something new – that this computer was something different.

The G14 essentially created a new category of gaming laptops over the next few years. The popularity of the product made it basically impossible to purchase for some time. This has been a huge product for Asus, with an almost constant presence on Best Buy's bestseller list, and, in fact, it's one of the gaming laptops I've seen most often in the wild.

These days, advanced 14-inch rigs are available in abundance. Asus wasn't the first ultraportable gaming notebook – of course, that honor belongs to the Razer Blade – but the Zephyrus G14 still proved to everyone that a 14-inch laptop can not only run heavy-duty games with good battery life all day. , Life and a brilliant, bold design, but also that such a machine didn't have to cost an arm and a leg.

In other words, it basically redefined the category by being the exact opposite of the MacBook in every way.

Fast forward to CES 2024. The G14, which has largely retained a replica of the 2020 chassis since its release, was unveiled with a major redesign. It is quite thin and quite light. The atmosphere of the spacecraft no longer exists. The dot matrix is gone, and so are the exploding heads and virtual creatures he created. The lid is now sleek and professional, I don't know, is it a slash? - As the only decoration in the entire center. Everything about it is more detailed, more refined and prestigious. As reports from the show revealed, it suddenly looks, feels and looks like a MacBook.

The G14 is far from the only CES release that's clearly chasing the Mac line in terms of design. Dell has swapped out its 15-inch and 17-inch XPS configurations for 14-inch and 16-inchers, respectively (sound familiar?). The models have not only lost their full-sized SD slots (sigh), but also their physical function row in favor of haptic touch buttons (another thing a certain Cupertino company tried). Everyone and their mother is angry with this. And it's emblematic of a larger trend we've been seeing in the computing sector in recent years, with 13-inchers and 14-inchers converging on boardroom aesthetics, while getting thinner and lighter at all costs.

Now, I understand the desire to emulate the MacBook. This is an unprecedented series of computers. It tops best laptop pages all over the Internet, and there's little disagreement about its value.

But I really hope there are a few things that manufacturers keep in mind as they consider whether to scrap the unique and distinct design in pursuit of the MacBook look and feel. First of all, the MacBook isn't just about its looks and feel. this is too much.

I would argue that Apple computers have become the machines that every professional owns, more than anything else, their performance. It's the class-top power of both their chips and their battery life – it's the combination of strength and efficiency they offer. After all, the MacBook Pro 13 in early 2020 and the MacBook Pro 13 in late 2020 had very similar chassis, but only the latter had both category-top performance and category-topping battery life, and it only took one year to completely outlast it. Took a year. , It took a few months. Sales of its Intel counterpart. Class-top performance and class-top battery life, incidentally, have been present in the G14 for many years.

I don't mean to say that design is unimportant. I'm saying that the pursuit of thinness, smoothness, gentleness, whatever you want to call it, often comes at a price.

We've seen that game again and again. You can see the transformation from the Dell XPS 13, an absolutely phenomenal laptop that topped best-of pages in the pre-M1 era, to the Dell XPS 13 Plus, a blazing fire of an ultrabook with nearly five minutes of battery life. This is a cycle. , a shallow touchpad, disappointing display, and a disappointing keyboard that received average reviews from almost everyone. (Tom's Guide, a noted fan of the XPS line, described it as "a stunning step backwards".)

You can look at the ThinkPad Z-series, which had to give up most of the features that made the ThinkPad world famous in order to maintain a slim frame. Razer has been working on making the Blade thinner and sleeker for years, and it's consistently been faster, more expensive, and worse in terms of battery life than the G14. Hey, you can even look at Apple. After all, that pay-less-at-all-costs mentality is what kept us under the thumb of butterfly keyboards for five years.

I hope that won't be the case with the G14, XPS 13, and other flagship laptops that received redesigns at CES this year. But I'm seeing some warning signs. Last year's G14 could accommodate the RTX 4090 – Nvidia's top guns – while this year's limits the RTX 4070. Admittedly, the G14's 4090 was limited to 125W, which was a significantly lower number than the larger 4090 machines were pulling. time, and the RTX 4070 model was definitely the sweet spot of performance and price. But the fact remains: SKU options for G14 fans are now more limited than before.

And then there's battery life, which has long been one of the G14's most outstanding features. The 2024 G14 not only has a smaller battery than its predecessor, but it has a higher-resolution OLED screen. Don't get me wrong: I love OLED screens, especially for gaming, and the Zephyrus looks great. But last year's QHD Mini LED panel was already amazing, with some reviewers reporting that it was basically as good as OLED. And the high-resolution OLED screen combined with the H-series processor is hardly a recipe for exceptional battery life. I would again point you towards the XPS 13 Plus. Acer Swift 3. HP Pavilion Plus 14. Asus ZenBook 14X OLED. HP Specter x360 13.5. I mean, literally, just take your pick.

I understand the impulse to follow the cool kids to their cafeteria tables. really I do. But the Zephyrus G14 had one good thing. It wasn't for everyone, but it was completely and unapologetically for me. It would be a shame, because if such bold products disappeared, Windows machines across the market would be rushing to compete with MacBooks.

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