You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent gaming laptop that can achieve respectable refresh rates with high-quality graphics. At least, that’s what my time testing the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 has reminded me.
Equipped with a 10th Gen Intel chip and a GTX 1660 Ti, you can get the M15 for as low as $1,279. A number that feels like a steal. I’ve been testing the M15 for the last few weeks, and while it’s not without its quirks, I found it to be a solid all-around laptop that kept up with whatever I could throw at it.
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Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 – Specs
Here are the specifications of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 I’ve been testing:
- Model: Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 (GU502LU-BI7N4)
- Display: 15.6-inch 144Hz FHD (1920×1080)
- Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H 2.6GHz (12M cache, 5.0GHz Max Turbo)
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (6GB GDDR6)
- Memory: 16GB 3200Mhz DDR4
- OS: Windows 10 Home
- Storage: 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD
- Webcam: N/A
- Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 3 with DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery (USB-C), 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 X RJ45, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x 3.5mm audio in, 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack
- Connectivity: WiFi 6 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1
- Dimensions: 14.2 x 9.9 x 0.8-inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 4.43-pounds
- Price: $1,279
All three models, including the higher-end variants are reasonably priced for what they offer.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 – Design and Features
There are three different colors available for the M15: Prism gray, Prism black, and Brushed black. The first two colors come with a single zone RGB keyboard, while the brushed black has individually lit RGB keys. I was sent the Prism gray version, but it looks more blue than gray, and I’m into it.
The M15 doesn’t look or feel like a laptop with a 15.6-inch 144Hz FHD display, measuring 14.2 x 9.9 x 0.8-inches and weighing under 4.5-pounds.
On the lid there’s a dot pattern on one half, with a blank slate save for the ROG logo on the other half. It looks as if the lid should have dimples, but unfortunately, it’s only an optical illusion.
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That same dot-matrix look taken from the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 carries over to the inside of the M15, with the top of the deck using the same design. That’s where you’ll also find the power button, along with dedicated shortcut keys for Armoury Crate, microphone mute, and volume controls.
A full-size chiclet keyboard below that, again, with single-zone RGB lighting. The keys are a little soft for my liking, especially when gaming, but took very little adjustment to type long emails or documents on.
The touchpad is centered on the housing, and is on the small side for my liking. There’s plenty of space on either side to expand it. Nonetheless, it’s smooth and responsive
As far as ports go, the M15 has plenty. On the left side, you’ll find a headphone jack, a dedicated audio-in jack, a USB3.2 Gen2 port, an HDMI 2.0b port and an RJ45 Ethernet jack.
On the right side are two USB3.2 Gen 1 ports and a Thunderbolt (USB-C) port with DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery support. You can use that port to charge the laptop with a Power Delivery adapter at up to 65W – so nothing you’ll want to use while gaming, but you can definitely keep the laptop charged during casual use.
The M15’s shows hints of its gaming DNA, but doesn’t go overboard with it. The subdued look and feel is a welcomed break from the in your face designs of most gaming laptops.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 – Performance and gaming
It’s been a while since I’ve tested a gaming laptop that doesn’t boast an RTX-series GPU, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the M15 before I started testing.
Inside its svelte housing is a 10th generation Intel Core i7-10750H, GTX 1660 Ti with 6GB VRAM, a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD and 16GB of 3200MHz memory. It’s a respectable build that, on paper and, as I found out, in use should have no problem hitting 60 FPS on AAA games.
Before we get to real-world use, here’s how it stacked up in IGN’s benchmark tests:
I picked the Acer Predator Triton 500 and the IdeaPad Gaming 3i to compare with the M15 because all three use the same processor, and it shows the difference between the M15’s GTX 1660 Ti, the Triton 500’s RTX 2080 Super with Max-Q, and the Gaming 3i’s GTX 1650.
It’s not surprising the Triton 500 comes out on top, but the difference between the 3i and the M15 is notable.
As for real-world use, the M15 kept up with whatever I could throw at it when it came to browsing or daily tasks like streaming Spotify, managing far too many tabs in Edge, and checking my email.
Where the M15 really surprised me was when playing Call of Duty: Warzone, at least once I ignored the warnings about VRAM use.
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The M15’s GTX 1660 Ti has 6GB of VRAM, and Warzone warns you when your game settings go above 4.5GB and cautions that you could see performance issues if you use those settings. For the first few days I heeded the warning, and turned down graphics to medium, along with a few other odds and ends, and while it was playable, I wasn’t impressed with the overall graphics quality.
Eventually, I got brave and decided to ignore the warning, and that’s when the M15 showed me its true potential. With all graphics settings on High in Warzone, and Performance mode enabled in Armoury Crate, the M15 averaged 89 FPS. When I used Turbo mode in Armoury Crate, that number jumped up to 102 FPS. Granted, the GTX 1660 Ti doesn’t offer up any sort of Ray tracing capabilities, but to be honest, I don’t think it makes that big of a difference in Warzone.
The 144Hz screen easily handled anything I threw at it, with smooth scrolling and quick movements. The colors were, perhaps, slightly undersaturated, but overall it looked like your typical 1080p display.
The M15’s fans, especially on Turbo mode, are pretty loud, mostly overpowering the speakers, or at the very least, loud enough to compete with in-game sounds that you’ll want to wear some headphones. As far as listening to music or watching videos, the speakers on the M15 sound fine. There’s nothing wrong with them, but there’s also nothing worth calling out.
One thing I did notice is that when playing Warzone, the GPU stayed pegged at 86-degrees Celsius the entire time I was in a match. The moment I went back to the lobby or waited for the next match to start, it would drop down.
I would love to see this configuration available with 1TB of storage, as 512GB fills up pretty fast when you start installing games – especially Call of Duty.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 – Battery life
Gaming laptops are notorious for coming up short on battery life. You usually trade power for battery, and it’s typically a fair trade. The same is true about the M15, although battery life feels more like a balanced trade. Using PCMark 10’s Modern Office battery test, the M15 powered through 8 hours and 31 minutes before turning off. That’s well past the Razer 15 Advanced‘s 6:14 mark, but not quite as good as the more comparable Acer Nitro 5, with 9:40.
Regardless, 8:31 of battery life is more than enough to get plenty of work done, or watch a couple of movies without having to worry about where the charger is.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M15 – Software
Asus takes a light-handed approach with preinstalled software, limiting it to Armoury Crate, GameFirst VI, GameVisual, and Sonic Studio III – all programs that add some value to a gaming laptop, or something you can ignore altogether if you don’t need it.
In the case of Armoury Crate, that’s where you go to change power modes – to switch between performance or turbo, for example. It’s also the application that’s used to control the RGB keyboard lighting, view system stats, create profiles for individual games, or change the appearance of the display based on the game type.
The best part of the preinstalled programs? The lack of bloatware.
You have to deal with the standard Windows 10 stuff like Candy Crush, but you won’t have to deal with any anti-virus programs shaming you for not subscribing
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