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The 2024 Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 seems a little bit too grown up.

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[Editor’s note: Monica Chin is The Verge’s former senior laptop reviewer, currently taking a break from tech journalism. But some things are hard to quit.]

As soon as upon a time, within the olden days of March 2020, a little bit firm known as Asus launched a spritely whippersnapper of a gaming laptop computer known as the ROG Zephyrus G14. It weighed simply over 3.5 kilos, and it was powered by a really monstrous AMD processor, the likes of which had by no means been seen in a 14-inch type issue. 

I nonetheless keep in mind reviewing that laptop computer, virtually 4 years in the past, prefer it was yesterday. I keep in mind working the Crimson {Dead} Redemption 2 benchmark — the last word check at the moment — over and over, poring over the sport settings, making an attempt desperately to determine what I’d messed as much as make the egregiously high frame rates I used to be seeing make sense. (The most effective Intel needed to provide on the time, keep in mind, was Comet Lake. And, nicely, we don’t speak about Comet Lake on this family.)

The G14 because it was.
Photograph by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

After which there was the design. The G14 sported a retro aesthetic, spaceship-y in nature with massive, luxuriously snug keycaps and a keyboard font that evoked Johnny Rockets. The lid eschewed the sleek and smooth aesthetic round which laptops have been simply starting to converge at the moment, opting as a substitute to be lined with a curious however completely distinctive dot matrix. In the event you paid a bit (okay, rather a lot) of additional cash, these dots turned animated LEDs that you might do all types of funky issues with, from elevating a virtual pet to creating a dude’s head continuously explode. Since then, there’s been a G14 mannequin that doubles as a DJ deck and one other lined in obscure shapes with “BLACK HOLES IN THE NOW” scrawled across the bottom. It has by no means been a laptop computer involved with mixing in.

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Ain’t no person mistaking this for a MacBook.
Photograph by Monica Chin / The Verge

I keep in mind emailing Asus to ask if the $1,449 value they’d despatched me was a typo — shouldn’t one thing this distinctive be $1,000 extra? And I viscerally keep in mind the sensation I received when Asus’ consultant replied that no, imagine it or not, that was the actual value. It was a realization that this pc was one thing new — that this pc was one thing totally different

The G14 went on to create what was basically a brand new class of gaming laptop computer over the subsequent few years. The product’s recognition made it mainly not possible to purchase for fairly a while. It’s been an enormous product for Asus, a near-consistent presence on Finest Purchase’s bestseller lists, and, anecdotally, one of many gaming laptops I most frequently noticed within the wild. 

Lately, revolutionary 14-inch rigs abound. Asus’ wasn’t the primary ultraportable gaming pocket book — that honor, in fact, belongs to the Razer Blade — however the Zephyrus G14 nonetheless proved to everybody that not solely may heavy-duty video games run nicely on a 14-inch laptop computer with all-day battery life and a cool, daring design, but in addition that such a machine didn’t have to value an arm and a leg.

It redefined the class, in different phrases, by being the precise reverse of a MacBook in mainly each manner.

RIP to the dot matrix exploding head factor.
Photograph by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge

Quick-forward to CES 2024. The G14, which has largely retained a facsimile of its 2020 chassis since launch, was unveiled with a serious redesign. It’s a lot thinner and far lighter. The spaceship vibe isn’t any extra. Gone is the dot matrix, as are the exploding heads and digital fauna that it wrought. The lid is now smooth {and professional}, with a — I don’t know, is it a slash? — throughout the middle as the only ornament. Every part about it’s rounder, extra polished, and status. As reports from the show have identified, it all of the sudden seems, feels, and appears a heck of rather a lot like a MacBook.

The G14 is way from the one CES launch that’s blatantly chasing the Mac line in relation to design. Dell has swapped out its 15-inch and 17-inch XPS configurations for a 14-incher and 16-incher, respectively (sound acquainted?). The fashions have misplaced not solely their full-sized SD slot (sigh), but in addition their bodily operate row in favor of haptic contact buttons (one other factor a sure Cupertino firm tried). Everyone and their mother is grumpy about it. And it’s emblematic of a bigger pattern we’ve been seeing all through the computing area in recent times, during which 13-inchers and 14-inchers are converging on a boardroom aesthetic whereas getting thinner and lighter in any respect prices.

Now, I perceive the need to emulate the MacBook. It’s an outstanding line of computer systems. It’s on prime of Finest Laptop computer pages all throughout the web, and there’s little disagreement as to its worth. 

However there are some things I actually hope producers will take into account as they mull over whether or not to scrap designs that have been distinctive and totally different in pursuit of the MacBook’s appear and feel. The primary is that the MacBook will not be simply its appear and feel. It’s rather more.

I might argue that the rationale Apple computer systems have turn into the machine that, like, every professional has is, moreso than anything, their efficiency. It’s the category-topping energy of each their chips and their battery life — it’s the mix of energy and effectivity that they provide. In any case, the early-2020 MacBook Pro 13 and the late-2020 MacBook Pro 13 had very related chassis, however solely the latter had each category-topping efficiency and category-topping battery life, and it only took a few months to completely eclipse its Intel counterpart’s gross sales. Class-topping efficiency and category-topping battery life, by the way, are additionally what the G14 has had for a number of years. 

I don’t imply to indicate that design is unimportant. I am saying that the pursuit of thinness, sleekness, suaveness, no matter you wish to name it, typically comes with prices. 

We’ve seen that play out time and time once more. You may look to the transition from the Dell XPS 13, an all-around distinctive laptop computer that was topping Finest pages within the pre-M1 period, to the Dell XPS 13 Plus, a flaming fireball of an ultrabook with about 5 minutes of battery life, a shallow touchpad, disappointing efficiency, and a irritating keyboard that received middling critiques from just about everybody. (Tom’s Guide, famous fans of the XPS line, slammed it as “a shocking step backwards.”)

You may look to the ThinkPad Z-series, which needed to omit many of the options that make ThinkPads world renowned with a purpose to preserve a slim body. The Razer Blade has been doing the thin-and-sleek factor for years on finish, and it has persistently been louder, hotter, pricier, and worse within the battery life division than the G14. Heck, you possibly can even look to Apple. In any case, the thin-at-all-costs mindset is what subjected us to 5 years of butterfly keyboard.

I hope this isn’t what’s taking place to the G14, the XPS 13, and different main laptops that acquired redesigns at CES this 12 months. However I’m seeing some warning indicators. Final 12 months’s G14 may accommodate as much as an RTX 4090 — Nvidia’s prime weapons — whereas this 12 months’s caps out at an RTX 4070. I can’t be sure that that is as a result of thinner chassis’s diminished cooling capability, however that appears a probable rationalization. 

After which there’s battery life, which has lengthy been one of many G14’s most excellent options. Not solely does the 2024 G14 have a smaller battery than its predecessor, nevertheless it has a higher-resolution OLED display screen. Don’t get me unsuitable: I really like me an OLED display screen, particularly for gaming, and the Zephyrus’ seems nice. However final 12 months’s QHD Mini LED panel was already beautiful, with some reviewers reporting that it was basically as good as an OLED. And high-resolution OLED screens mixed with H-series processors are hardly ever a recipe for distinctive battery life. I’ll level you, once more, to the XPS 13 Plus. The Acer Swift 3. The HP Pavilion Plus 14. The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED. The HP Spectre x360 13.5. I imply, actually, simply take your decide.

I perceive the impulse to observe the cool youngsters to their cafeteria desk. Really, I do. However the Zephyrus G14 had a superb factor going. It wasn’t for everybody, nevertheless it was wholly and unapologetically itself. It will be a disgrace, as Home windows machines throughout the market race to catch the MacBook, if such daring merchandise disappeared.

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