Gaming laptops have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Not long ago, gamers had to choose between two kinds of laptop: a portable one that just about managed a full HD display or a bulkier machine that sacrificed portability for power. Now, however, laptops that are just as powerful as desktops are finding their way onto the market packed into ultra-thin, lightweight designs.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus and Razer Blade (2017) laptops are exemplars of this new breed of machine. On appearance, neither of these laptops should be able to meet the technical specifications they do. But, by reducing the size of components and strategically placing parts within the laptop’s frame, both machines perform outstandingly despite their compact designs.
Asus ROG Zephyrus vs Razer Blade (2017) at a glance
- The Asus laptop supports more games and runs smoothly
- The Razer Blade has a more durable design and longer-lasting battery
- Both laptops are slim and easy to carry
Design & build quality
The Asus ROG Zephyrus is an Nvidia Max-Q laptop, which means it combines an energy-efficient graphics card with a slim laptop body. In fact, the Asus Zephyrus is thinner than most regular laptops at just 1.79cm thick.
Opening the laptop feels like stepping forwards in time. The keypad is backlit with red LEDs to give it a futuristic feel. Meanwhile, the long case places the keyboard and trackpad at the front edge of the laptop while leaving room behind for the device’s hardware.
You’ll notice the front panel slants downwards like a ramp. This angles the air vents to improve airflow and help the laptop to remain cool. Inside, the fan blades whirring in the Asus Zephyrus are made from a specially designed polymer that makes them ideal for removing heat.
Although the design is innovative, it isn’t particularly user-friendly. As there’s no space in front of the keypad to rest your wrists, you get a separate wrist rest in the box. Unfortunately, the rest isn’t comfortable to use and gets grubby fast.
The touchpad, which sits to the side of the keypad rather than beneath it, is awkward to use too. This is partly because having the touchpad to one side feels wrong at first. But, the pad is also small and as a result, you must swipe multiple times to move your cursor across the screen.
By comparison, the Razer Blade (2017) is a more elegant laptop. I personally prefer its rounded edges, although they do give the machine a conventional look (you can’t help but compare its appearance to an Apple MacBook). The Razer branding on the machine is also stylish, with the signature glowing snake placed in the centre of the lid.
When opened, you’ll notice the Blade has a pretty funky keyboard. The laptop comes with a Chroma app that lets you light each section of the keyboard in a different colour; a trick that’s handy when playing a game where you want certain keys to stand out. You have the option of configuring the colours yourself or using a pre-set, which is kind of gimmicky, but fun nonetheless.
Gimmicks aside, the Razer Blade’s aluminium chassis feels sturdier than that of the Asus. Razer Blade laptops are known for their longevity and this model promises to be no different. Overall, the design is very similar to previous versions of the Razer Blade, and it works.
Performance & hardware
Both laptops have excellent specs that won’t go out-of-date for several years. But, the Asus ROG Zephyrus is a touch ahead of the Razer Blade (2017), hence the higher price tag.
The Asus runs Nvidia GTX 1080 and has an Intel Core i7 processor. Do I hear whoops of joy? Well, I should, because combining that GPU with that processor is going to give you a brilliantly fast machine.
Also, remember that new air flow system I mentioned earlier? Asus refers to this as an ‘exclusive Active Aerodynamic System (AAS)’ and claim that it increases air flow by 32% while reducing the temperature of the laptop by 20%. From our time with the machine, the system lived up to expectations. Even when playing virtual reality (VR) games, the Asus ran quietly and didn’t get too hot.
The same couldn’t be said for the Razer Blade, which has embarrassingly loud fans that leave you doubting its cooling system. Indeed, you’ll notice after running games for an hour or so that the machine heats up and performance slows.
What’s more, the Razer Blade doesn’t use the latest Nvidia graphics card (instead it runs GTX 1060). The card is still a Nvidia 10-series, but it runs GDDR5 memory (instead of the upgraded GDDR5X). The Razer’s GDDR5 memory has less bandwidth speed, which makes the machine up to a third slower.
Both machines support VR gaming so don’t worry too much about limitations here. However, if you need a laptop that supports higher frame rates and has no problem streaming console games, I’d opt for the Asus.
Display & speakers
The Asus ROG Zephyrus has a colour-rich display that produces sharp images from wherever you’re sat. The 1080p native resolution isn’t particularly high, but the graphics remain dynamic regardless.
Meanwhile, the Razer Blade laptop is available in two displays: full HD (FHD) and 4k ultra HD (UHD). Unless you’re a designer as well as a gamer, I’d recommend the FHD version. The FHD display is good enough to display colours accurately and has the same CPU and GPU as the more expensive 4k version. Moreover, the 4k model weighs more and drains battery life faster.
Both laptops have reasonably good speakers, but the Asus’s sound system is louder. Located towards the front of the laptop, the Asus’s speakers produce a clear sound that carries across the room. Noise will occasionally become grainy, but only when it reaches a volume that’ll have your partner barking at you to turn it down anyway.
The Razer Blade’s speakers don’t reach the same decibel levels, but the sound has a depth you don’t find with the Asus. If you’re watching a video at a normal volume, the quality of sound produced by the Blade is superior. Of course, you’ll find headphones give you the best sound experience whichever laptop you pick.
Are you wondering where the Asus ROG Zephyrus is going to finally come a cropper? Well, it’s here; when we come to look at battery life.
From a full charge, the Asus Zephyrus will last for just over two hours. That’s if it’s carrying out undemanding tasks, like browsing the web. If you start gaming without this machine plugged into a power source, you’re going to find your laptop’s life comes to a short and abrupt end.
In contrast, the Razer Blade (2017) has an admirable battery life for a gaming laptop. That’s because the Blade has a 70 Wh lithium-ion polymer battery, which is larger than most gaming laptops. From charge, the laptop easily lasts five hours when carrying out regular tasks like watching videos and surfing the net. Although, if you want to game on battery power alone, you’ll have to limit your GPU settings to play for more than an hour.
Is the Asus ROG Zephyrus or the Razer Blade (2017) a better buy for gamers?
The Asus Zephyrus combines a lightweight, sleek design with superb gaming performance. To look at, you wouldn’t believe a laptop this size could pack so much power. But it does, and for this reason, it’s the better choice for anyone serious about gaming.
However, the cost of upgrading to the Asus Zephyrus doesn’t come cheap. It currently costs £1,200 more than the cheapest version of the Razer Blade (2017), which is enough to put off a lot of people. The Asus Zephyrus might be an innovative masterpiece, but that price tag is hair-raising.
If you’re not all about gaming and want a more rounded machine, save yourself some pennies and go for the Razer Blade. It looks better, the battery lasts longer and the display is just as good. Okay, it doesn’t run quite as smoothly, but this is only problematic when playing games that rely on faster clock speeds.
|Asus ROG Zephyrus (GX501)||Razer Blade (2017)|
|Width||14.9 inches (37.9cm)||13.6 inches (34.5cm)|
|Height||10.3 inches (26.2cm)||9.3 inches (23.6cm)|
|Graphics Processor||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060|
|Size||15.6 inches (39.6cm)||14 inches (35.6cm)|
|Pixels per inch||FHD 1920 x 1,080||FHD 1920 x 1080 (can upgrade to 4k UHD)|
|Processor||Intel Core i7 7700HQ Processor||Intel Core i7 7700HQ Processor|
|Internal||256GB, 512GB or 1TB||256GB|
|Installed Memory||16GB RAM||16GB RAM|
|Charging & expansion|
|Ports||x1 mic in/headphone jack|
x1 Type C USB 3.1 Thunderbolt
x4 USB 3.0 (Type A)
|x1 mic in/headphone jack|
x1 Type C 3.1 Thunderbolt
x3 USB 3.0 (Type A)
|Battery type||4 cells 50 Whrs polymer battery||Lithium Polymer|