Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 Review (GA502IV-PH96)
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA502IV-PH96 is almost all you’d want in a gaming laptop from kickass performance and good battery life and the best multi-purpose display available right now
- Compact build and beautiful design
- Excellent 165 Hz QHD display
- Powerful hardware and solid performance for the class
- 76Wh battery, with support for USB-C charging
- Shallow keyboard and clunky clickpad
- Only available with MaxQ graphics
We’ve reviewed several different AMD Ryzen 4000 laptops in the past few months and this right here, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA502IV-PH96) from Asus is one of the more balanced gaming laptops available right now, with new AMD hardware.
For as long as you don’t expect our review unit to be as compact as the Zephyrus G14, and not as powerful as the TUF Gaming A15s, you’ll be impressed by pretty everything else: a good quality display, lots of memory, a peppy Max-Q processor and a strong RTX 2060 graphics card.
Aside from the configuration we’re reviewing here, Asus also offer an entry-level Zephyrus G15 GA502IU-ES76 that we reviewed here a few weeks ago; and, depending on your gaming needs and budget, either of the two are excellent options.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus GA502 is a compact and lightweight laptop, at just 4.6 pounds. Asus used a brushed black metal for the lid cover, accented with a black ROG logo, but the interior and bottom are made out of plastic.
In this Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 review, we can confirm that this gaming laptop looks neat and professional, with nibble branding and free of annoying lights, save for the status LEDs and the power button that are always lit and placed beneath the screen.
The build quality is OK too, with minimal flex in both the lid and the chassis, with well-polished edges and corners. However, the lid and interior are fingerprint magnets and pick smudges easily, unlike few other laptops we’ve reviewed recently.
Most of the laptop’s essential ports are placed on the left side, but towards the middle, in a way that they can accommodate the thermal design around the back, and that means the power-plug and LAN and HDMI cables would get in your way if you decide to use them.
On the right, there are only USB slots and that leaves part of it free for your mouse. This laptop doesn’t include Thunderbolt 3 or a card reader, but the available USB-C port allows for charging, just in case you need to bring along your power brick.
It lacks a finger-sensor or IR camera – in fact there’s no camera at all, much like the entire Asus ROG Zephyrus GA502 lineup, but you have some microphones placed beneath the screen. As a result, the screen gets small bezels around the side and top.
Keyboard & Touchpad
While the Asus Zephyrus G15 specs are great, its keyboard and touchpad aren’t.
The keyboard has a good layout, with full-size chiclet keys, tiny arrows, and an extra functions column at the right as well as dedicated volume keys in the top-left side. But typing o this keyboard feels a little shallow and imprecise, unlike on the higher tier Zephyrus models. Even the G14 stands out as a good typer, even if the keyboard looks much like the Zephyrus M model at first glance.
On this keyboard, you don’t have RGB lighting and only gets white LEDs. They’re quite bright and typing on each key is easily visible on this Black/White theme, but the light creeps from underneath some of the keycaps.
For the clickpad, it works well for daily use, but it’s just a small plastic surface with clunky clicks, so it’s not something to praise.
Asus offers the G15 with two screen options, one with 144Hz refresh rate and poorer brightness, colors and response times, and another iteration with a 240 Hz refresh rate, 3ms response and 300+ nits of brightness and 100% sRGB coverage. The latter model is what we have on our review unit, and that makes all the difference. Both variants are 15.6-inch in size, matte and non-touch.
The panel is well calibrated out of the box, with the 144Hz producing around 300-nits of brightness, but the response time is slower and the color coverage is quite wide with 100% sRGB, which is common at this price range, and also available on the TUF Gaming A15.
Our review unit – the ROG GA502IV-PH96, is a top-tier configuration with AMD Ryzen 9 4800HS processor, 16GB of RAM, 1 TB SSD of storage and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q 6GB GDDR6 with ROG Boost. As configured, the G15 is not just a performance laptop and can also handle everyday multitasking, browsing, and video while running quietly.
The GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card used here is hardly the meager, capable middle child of Nvidia’s GPU RTX 2000 Series. It brings quite a few things to the table, with full masterly of full HD and QHD gaming, and it lets you bask in the glory of Nvidia’s ray tracing future. More importantly, it’s future proofs as it can also deliver a playable 4k experience.
In real-world gaming, the ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA502IV-PH96) plays modern games at acceptable frame rates at medium-high settings. When compared to its rivals, it plays the Far Cry New Dawn benchmark (Very High, 1080p) with 70 frames per second, which is much better than the Dell G5 15 SE (AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU) and MSI Alpha 15 (AMD Radeon RX 5500M GPU), yielding 44 and 35 fps, respectively.
On Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Very High, 1080p), the G15 hits 80 fps, which is much higher than the 57 fps category average. Once again, it triumphs over the competition: Dell G5 15 SE which only musters 56 fps while the MSI Alpha only achieves 51 fps. However, on Hitman (Ultra, 1080p), the Razer Blade 15 Base takes the throne with 108 fps, while the Legion 5 produced 76 fps, still above the 63 fps category average.
If you’re wondering if the Asus Zephyrus G15 could handle VR gaming, the answer has to be a resounding yes. Tested on VRMark Cyan benchmark that measures VR performance, it garners 6,246 P, which is more than double the 3,562 midrange gaming laptops.
There’s a 76Wh battery inside this ROG Zephyrus G15, and paired with the relatively efficient hardware, this laptop offers good runtimes on a single charge. The Asus Zephyrus G15 battery life is another reason to buy this machine; at around 7 hours on a single charge, editing documents, streaming on Netflix at 60% screen brightness, that’s great for a gaming machine. However, that drops to just under 2 hours when playing modern games.
It’s tough to make a hit more than once, but Asus manages to drop a banger. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 boasts some of the most powerful components you can get right now. Almost every part of this machine is surprisingly great and well worth the money you’ll be paying.
However, it’s not perfect. A webcam is missing, and the keyboard isn’t the best we’ve seen around, but you can always get an external gaming keyboard, but those are issues to be aware of, and not reasons not to buy. Everything else is great on this laptop, and Asus offers different iterations of the same model in case you need more power than our review unit offers.
If you’re looking at taking gaming seriously or a professional creative looking for a do-it-all machine, with the base designation of a laptop, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA502IV-PH96, is without a doubt, the right system, with the right design, at the right price.