Due to all the new notebooks this year, my review of the 2021 Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 was delayed. I decided to delay testing the finalized and mature version of this laptop with the correct software, BIOS, and drivers.
We are now more than six months after the release of the 2021 G14. This article compares two variants of G14 and explains the differences between them. It also discusses the two screen options, the CPU/GPU options, and the two-color schemes Asus offers on this series.
My impressions and thoughts are based on several weeks of using these G14 models, not just a one-time experience.
Now, the 2021 G14 is mostly a hardware refresh of the popular design launched in 2020, with updated CPU, GPU, and screen options, as well as a slightly updated thermal module, but otherwise similar in every way to the previous generation.
The updated specs make the 2021 Zephyrus G14s a more compelling option in their class and an evolution of the previous models. This series needed to compete with other 14-inch performance laptops, like the Razer Blade 14 and the Acer Triton 300 SE.
Here’s what you can expect from the 2021 ROG Zephyrus G14, both it’s solid traits as well as its quirks.
Design and construction
Asus offers two color options for the 2021 Zephryrus G14: one with a dark-gray lid and a black keyboard and a white lid, and a silver interior.
Both are great, and I enjoy them both. I also appreciate the simplicity of both and how they incorporate very few branding elements. However, I prefer the darker version because I’m not too fond of white-lit keyboards with poor contrast and poor readability.
However, the dark-gray model is more susceptible to fingerprints and smudges than the lighter models, making it harder to clean.
Both cases are constructed using magnesium-aluminum alloys. The lids have a smoother finish, and the interior has a rougher finish. Based on the 2020 G14 generation, they feel soft and should last a long time.
The lid of the G14 is optionally available with an Asus Anime Matrix secondary display. This display, which features a collection of tiny LEDs, can display images, text, and animations in a geeky manner. Although this is what sets the G14 apart from other laptops, it’s a gimmick. I don’t find it necessary, and it fades away after the initial wow factor.
The base-lid models that do not have the Anime Matrix secondary display are lighter, cheaper, and thinner than those that do. It is up to you to feel differently about it.
Trackpad and keyboard
Asus has nailed the inputs for the 2020 G14, and my impressions about the 2021 generation haven’t changed. It is still my favorite laptop, with a great combination of feedback, key feel, and quiet clicks.
It is largely the same layout as the 2020 model. There’s a large main deck of keys and a line of multimedia keys at the top-left. Asus has updated the layout by adding Home/End/PgUp/PgDn to the arrow keys as secondary functions. They have not done this before, and I am glad that they listened and implemented this important tweak.
The keyboard does not have RGB lighting and instead only has white-list LEDs. These LEDs are bright at maximum settings and fairly uniform across the units I tested. There is still some light that sneaks under the keycaps.
However, it’s not too bad. I also appreciate the physical Caps Lock indicator. The illumination can be activated with a swipe over the clickpad. It doesn’t require a key-press to turn it back on after timed out.
Due to its size, the clickpad is made of glass and has a small keyboard. It is still very usable, and it handled swipes, taps, and gestures well during our time with these laptops. The physical clicks are also very nice, and they’re smooth and not too clunky.
Biometrics are handled by a fingerprint sensor that is integrated into the power button. This logs your fingerprint every time you press the button to open the laptop. However, there is no IR camera.
Asus offers three options for the 2021 Zephyrus G14 screen: an FHD panel with 60 Hz refresh in the base configurations; a mid-range FHD panel with 144 Hz refresh; and a QHD 120 Hz panel for higher tier configurations. The base FHD panel with 60Hz refresh is too washed out and slow.’
Both panels are interesting and have been tested on our review units. Both panels offer excellent blacks, brightness, and contrast. However, the QHD panel displays richer colors and has 100% DCI–P3 gamut coverage.
The FHD panel only offers 100% sRGB and 70% DCI–P3. Although the FHD screen has a slightly more uniform color and brightness, the QHD is still better for accurate colorwork.
The FHD 144Hz is better suited to gaming at 1080p native resolution.
However, the QHD resolution will require more hardware than the 14-inch laptop can support. Ghosting can be noticeable in action-oriented games, as both panels are slow. A 15-inch laptop is better if you are looking to play these titles, especially competitively. Both panels are fine for regular gaming, thanks to their 120/144 Hz refresh rates, AdaptiveSync, and AdaptiveSync.
Benchmarks and performance
Let’s now talk about performance. Let’s start by testing the CPU. We will run Cinebench R15 at least 15+ times per loop with a 1-2 second delay between each run.
The Ryzen processors maintain 65+W of power when using the Turbo setting on both laptops. However, the Ryzen 9 has slightly higher temperatures and clocks. The Ryzen 9 scores were 5% better than the Ryzen 7. In both cases, the fans spin at 46-47 decibels at head level. These are solid results!
The Performance profile allows processors to run at 65W for a few loops and then stabilize at 45W. In this case, the fans spin at 42+dB with good temperatures and scores.
The processors run at 25W, with barely audible fans (35dB) and low temperatures. Despite the limited power, the scores are approximately 75% of the Turbo systems’. The CPUs can run at 35W on the battery using the Performance profile. Fans oscillate between 30 and 42 decibels every few minutes. With 85+% Turbo scores, the CPU performance on the battery is outstanding.
The Zephyrus G14 was the only compact laptop on the market capable of handling demanding loads and playing games. However, that has all changed since mid-2021 with new devices like the Razer Blade 14, Acer Predator Triton 300SE, or the ROG Flow X13.
The Flow X13 is portable, the Triton offers a 3060 configuration starting at $1300, and the Blade 14 is powerful with a Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, up to a 3080 100W dGPU, and a stunning thermal module. The Blade 14 base model starts at $1799.
The 2021 Zephyrus G14 is somewhere in the middle. It’s the laptop that I believe has the best balance in this market. This holds for both the 3050Ti as well as the 3060 models. While the 3050Ti GA401QE model is cheaper, the 3060 GA401QM variant costs a few hundred more and faster GPU-heavy loads.
Thermals must still be considered. That’s why I prefer the 3050Ti model. It runs slightly cooler and doesn’t overheat when playing games that don’t properly scale with Dynamic Boost 2.0.
That being said, if you’re primarily looking for a gaming laptop and could live with a 15-inch chassis, your money would still be better spent with something like a Zephyrus G15, for instance, or one of the alternatives out there.
This is due to the slower response time panels on these 14-inch notebooks, which aren’t as fast as what you get in the 15-inch class. However, you will get more power and overall better performance with the 15-inch notebooks.