I’ll get this out of the way first…the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703HS is not going to win any portability awards. Although it is rather sleek at a tad under 20mm thick, it is a huge beast of a laptop weighing in at a hefty 2.75kg…and that is before you add in the AC adapter which almost adds another kilogram to your laptop bag.
It is a sleek looking device though, with the laptop lid having a diagonal split design. One half of the split contains the ROG logo on a smooth surface, whilst the other half has a patterned dot design. The glossiness does acquire fingerprints fairly easily though. Overall, it has a sturdy feel to it, with the cover and keyboard baseplate having a metallic design, which probably accounts for the extra weight.
Upon lifting the laptop screen, a cool feature presents itself. The moving screen tilts the section of the dashboard that features the keyboard, essentially giving gamers a raised platform for typing. The keys too, seem to be a tad higher than on other keyboards, particularly when compared to the Microsoft Surface that I usually use for work. I did find that they were ultra-responsive thanks to the optical mech switches and I did find that the 5-degree angle of the keyboard felt more ergonomic. The keyboard is a full sized one complete with numpad.
Whilst the previous model of the Zephyrus we tested had a smaller touchpad, it was cramped in the corner of the dashboard and doubled as the numpad. The Zephyrus GX703HS has no such issue with cramping, with the laptop featuring a large touchpad, but still allows for enough room for hand-rests whilst typing or moving about with the WASD keys in your favourite games.
All the edges are slightly rounded, giving off an overall smoother appearance, and the grippy feet on the underside of the laptop allow it to be fixed in place. The only downside I could see from the design is that due to the keyboard tilt, the screen does not incline as much as you may like when working or playing away from your desk.
Features and Functionality
The Zephyrus S17 GX703HS has everything gamers need, and then some.
Although it is reasonably slim, its profile is high enough to allow all the required ports. With the fans allowing heat to dissipate towards the rear, all the inputs are located on the sides. However, because of the raised keyboard, all the ports are located towards the front of the sides, including the AC adapter port. It feels a little strange having it so far down the side, but it works well for the Zephyrus. The right side of the Zephyrus GX703HS houses 2 x USB 3.2 Type-A ports, whilst the left (apart from the AC port) contains a HDMI port, an ethernet port, another USB 3.2 Type-A port, a Type-C USB charging/DisplayPort, a Thunderbolt 3 port and a 3.5mm audio jack.
As mentioned earlier, the full-sized keyboard also features a numpad. The placement feels a little strange, as it is as far to the top right as possible. Where there is generally a row of keys for the Num Lock and mathematical symbols above the numbers, the Zephyrus GX703HS begins with the numbers on the top row. But there is a numpad nonetheless, allowing a boost to business productivity if you use numbers a lot. The arrow keys are reasonably separated too, which prevents the accidental pressing of the wrong key.
Another nice feature is the keyboard scroll wheel (known as a Multiwheel), placed above the top left section of the keyboard, that can be used for a variety of applications. By default, it is used for volume control, but by pressing the wheel down for a couple of seconds, it can be used for vertical scrolling of a page, for adjusting screen brightness, for adjusting the keyboard backlight levels, or can be used as a way to switch between tasks.
Like myself, there are a whole bunch of people out there who use their gaming laptop for work and for play. This may be particularly prevalent during COVID lockdowns, when working from home. Unfortunately, many of the current generation of gaming laptops aim only for the gaming market and forget about the features that enable dual use. The Numpad is one thing that can make it preferable for business use, but another is a webcam. Webcams have been omitted to allow for thinner bezels, but that doesn’t work if you need to catch up with colleagues for a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call. The Zephyrus however, does include a webcam, so you can make those video calls and remotely chat with staff in meetings.
Looks and features are great, but for a gaming laptop, it all comes down to what is under the hood.
With some quality specs on this machine (Intel Core i9-11900H, 32 GB DDR4 RAM, Nvidia GeForce RTX3080), it was able anything I threw at it – from a gaming perspective. If you’re a gamer with a compatible VR headset, then the Zephyrus will have no issues running all your titles. The Steam VR test gave an average quality rating of 11 (Very High) with no frames dropping below 90fps, but without having access to a VR set myself, I was unable to test this out with an actual VR title.
Those gamers who are playing traditional (non-VR) games will also be able to run any title at high qualities. Playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Ultra looked amazing, with the lowest framerate being 29fps. That is a little in the low end, but the average of around 70fps without any stutter gives gamers a stunning experience within Night City. Deathloop also looks gorgeous as players traverse the locations in Blackreef, staying up around 120fps for most of the game and only dipping down to double-digit framerates on a few occasions during a gaming session. Overwatch, although not taxing on most machines, churned out some huge framerates on the Zephyrus, averaging around 270fps over the course of a match. The colours are bright and the explosive bursts that Overwatch is known for look wonderful.
One thing that could be an issue for some users, are the fans. Under load, the fans begin to kick in and raise the decibel level a tad. This could partially be due to the increased airflow from the raised keyboard. However, the noise level was still below that of the Strix Scar III or the previous models of the Zephyrus that we have reviewed. As I normally game with a decent set of headphones, this does not affect me greatly, but it could cause concern if you game without a headset. It can also be a nuisance to others in the room trying to watch their favourite TV show with the hum of the fans in the background.
For those who like to use their laptops for Netflix and similar streaming services, the Zephyrus performs well, and although the internal speakers are decent (when compared to other laptops) they are still not as good as when you use a decent set of headphones. This is particularly noticeable as the fans can overpower some of the subtle tones required for gaming. It is less noticeable when people are whispering in your favourite TV show or movie though, as the reduced load drops the fan use down. But from a visual standpoint, users can watch in crystal clear 4K, with the option of adding Dolby Vision support to boost contrast, further augmenting the viewing experience.
When it comes to the battery, the Zephyrus does reasonably well when using it for standard day-to-day work or scrolling through the web, getting around six hours on a single charge. That drops to about two hours of gaming even when brightness is reduced. The 90Wh battery will recharge the laptop to full in around 40mins though.
OK, the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703HS is on the expensive side at just under $6,000 (AUD), but can take anything you throw at it from a gaming or productivity sense. It is price-comparable to other models with similar specs but has the nice little touches of the Multiwheel and the raised keyboard, which I hope will become standard going forward. Apart from the better ergonomics of the raised keyboard, it also keeps players separated from the excess heat that can normally be present when the laptop is under load. The three USB ports should be enough for most gamers, and the inclusion of a full-sized keyboard with numpad, the webcam, and the ethernet port will ensure that the Zephyrus can be used as your business laptop as well as your gaming device. When that is taken into account, the price tag could become less of an issue.
If you’re in the market for a sleek-looking laptop that has specs that won’t become obsolete within a year, and can be used for a variety of purposes, then look no further than the ROG Zephyrus S17 GX703HS – the beast with the lot.
Test Model Specifications
CPU: 11th Gen Intel(R) Core(TM) i9-11900H @ 2.50GHz
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU
32 GB DDR4 RAM
OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 10.0.19042
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