Chances are that you, like me, are stuck at home for the time being and are looking for ways to fill the time you used to use for outdoor events, going out to the movies, going out to dinner, hanging out with friends in person and just leading a normal social life. Now your choices may be working, streaming videos, doing home projects and playing your favorite video games.
But with video games, most of us must use a desktop gaming rig. The problem is we do need to go outside because we are all likely to become Vitamin D deficient, and Vitamin D is critical for fighting viruses.
This exposure means we suddenly have a significant need for a gaming notebook. However, most of them are very expensive, very heavy and have a battery life that sucks. Addressing that problem is AMD’s latest mobile platform based on its Zen 2 architecture and Radeon Graphics. Called the AMD Ryzen 4000 series, this platform promises to provide that perfect balance of performance and mobility I, and others like me, have been waiting for.
There are other laptops in this category, but one caught my eye, and that was the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14. This laptop has one of the coolest features I’ve ever seen: a dot matrix display on the lid that allows you to create custom images and messages on the cover of your notebook. Oh yes, it also will display the time.
Gaming Laptops Are Becoming the PC World’s Corvette C8
Gaming laptops tend to be technological showcases, often sporting desktop components in a portable form factor that weighs a ton and costs a ton and has battery life measured in minutes. If I were to compare old gaming laptops to cars, they’d be like drag racers—very powerful but ultimately not the right choice if you also needed the device to drive you to work. They are, however, where you often see aggressive designs, high refresh-rate displays and some of the most advanced display technology. They often use advanced materials, such as carbon fiber, to keep the weight down a little.
But the sustaining issue was that mobile platforms just didn’t have the power to do gaming well, and gaming platforms just couldn’t perform in a reasonable portable power envelope. That is until now. The new AMD platform promises to provide the best of both worlds—taking gaming PCs potentially from dragsters to be more like exotic cars. They are powerful but still able to drive you to work or, in this case, perform as a work laptop when needed and do that well.
Exotic cars usually come with an exotic price, but not all do. The new Corvette C8 is priced very reasonably, but it is still by any measure a competitor for other mid-engine cars costing up to 5x as much.
Now, most of the AMD-based laptops I’ve seen that will be using this new platform look like generic corporate PCs. I get it. Much like it is likely smarter to drive to work in a sleeper (a car that looks like a regular sedan but has a performance engine and suspension in it) so your boss doesn’t think he, or she, is paying you too much, it is likely smarter to have a gaming laptop that looks like a business laptop.
But even with these sleeper cars, you generally can flip a switch and turn the car’s Dr. Jekyll personality into a Mr. Hyde beast. With this first batch of laptops, only one seemed to step up to that challenge, and it was the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
What allows the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 to transform is a dot matrix display that is on the cover of this impressive laptop. It showcases the future of how this class of laptop could transform dynamically into something far more interesting. When the display isn’t being used, it looks like a standard laptop. But fire that display up and suddenly you can put an image (granted a dot matrix image) on the lid, send rude messages, trash talk or just alert the person now sitting some distance from you (social distancing) that you are ready for battle.
So at work, turn the cover display off and you are in stealth mode, but fire that display up and anyone within sight of you—particularly in a darkened room—knows you have something unique, and half the fun of having an advanced gaming laptop is the ability to show it off.
The new AMD mobile gaming platform is impressive, but it needed an OEM to step up and create an impressively unique design that could be stealthy in the office but would transform the way Superman does from Clark Kent. The closest to that is the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14, and I’m not embarrassed to admit I have lust in my heart for this laptop. I expect other OEMs will get the hint and realize that doing something like this turns the computer into something others will notice and want to own. It certainly would increase sales and pull more people to the brand (it does fit the definition of a Halo product after all). I did get to game on this laptop for a short time, and the performance was impressive.
As a result, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 may be the perfect laptop for those of us stuck at home and need a sleeper gaming laptop that can transform into the equivalent of a Corvette C8.
Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and a longtime contributor to eWEEK and Pund-IT.