ROG Zephyrus 14 2023 Edition AMD 7940HS+4060 Initial Experience

ROG laptops this year continue with their impressive lineup, from the powerful Gunshin and Mobad series that kicked off with the 40 series, to the handheld Ally, and then the slim and light Zephyrus X, Zephyrus 13, and Zephyrus 14. Every popular model has been in high demand. On July 1st, the Zephyrus 14 sold out in just 2 seconds. I, who was a bit slow, suddenly remembered that when I used to try to grab an iPhone, the China Merchants Bank credit card app would also release stock in sync. With a try-it-out attitude, I checked and found one black model that nobody seemed to want. It could be bought at the original price with a 12-month interest-free installment plan. $1509/12 = $126, which rounds down to practically nothing. So, without hesitation, I bought it.

To elaborate a bit on why I got it: I already have a 13th-gen i9+full-blooded 4080 water-cooled laptop. However, I do require some mobility for work. Currently, I have a main laptop for stationary work and an M1 MacBook Air for mobile work, along with OneDrive for document synchronization.

The benefit of this setup is clear separation of roles for the two laptops. The main laptop provides gaming power surpassing that of the PS5 during breaks and lunch breaks, while the MacBook Air provides sufficient office performance and battery life for mobile work. Moreover, the MBA has excellent build quality and durability, with an appropriate level of prestige.

However, the downside is that there’s a division in usage. For example, WeChat documents end up on different computers, and browser history doesn’t sync. Documents being written need to be saved to the cloud and reopened to continue. Additionally, there’s no gaming capability while doing mobile work.

Therefore, I’ve been trying to buy a thin and light powerhouse to consolidate the functions of both laptops. I want good gaming performance, portability, long battery life, and a stylish and low-profile appearance. Fortunately, this year’s combination of AMD’s 7-series CPU on TSMC’s 4nm process and NVIDIA’s 40-series GPU makes these demands feasible. The ROG Zephyrus 14 in black meets my requirements for brand quality and appearance. Previously, I bought Razer Blade 14 with a 3070, which was powerful and slim, but Razer’s bright green logo was too flashy. The 16:9 screen was also inferior for office use compared to a 16:10 screen.

From this perspective, this year’s Zephyrus 14 can almost meet all my requirements. Let’s dive into the details.

First, let’s look at the design and dimensions. Judging from this stacked image, the Zephyrus 14’s footprint is just a little larger than that of the 2020 13-inch MacBook Air, but it comes with a 14-inch high-refresh-rate screen. The overall weight is 1.65kg, a bit heavier than the 1.29kg of the 13.3-inch MBA, but still within an acceptable range. The main concern is thickness, which is considerably more than the MBA’s. This is a challenge posed by discrete graphics cooling. In fact, it’s already quite a feat to handle the heat dissipation of an R9 CPU and a 4090 GPU in such a small and thick chassis.

As for the appearance, the distinctive feature of the Zephyrus 14 is its A-side. This black Zephyrus 14 looks like a scaled-down version of the Zephyrus 16. The perfectly perforated sections epitomize what it means to be “colorfully black.” Compared to the LED logo on the starry edition, this version is less flashy, but also lighter by 100g and cheaper by $155.13. For me, this configuration suits my office needs better.

The Zephyrus 14’s display is worth praising. With a resolution of 2560×1600 in the golden 16:10 aspect ratio, a 165Hz refresh rate, nearly 500 nits of brightness, support for 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, 143% sRGB, a 3ms response time, four color presets, and NVIDIA G-Sync support, the only pity is that it doesn’t support HDR. Of course, HDR on an LCD screen isn’t very meaningful anyway.

In terms of performance, the R9 7940HS is not significantly different from CPUs like the R7 7840H. The only notable difference is a slightly higher maximum frequency. The theoretical performance of the 7940HS matches Intel’s 13th-gen i7 13700H, but this year’s AMD 7-series CPUs support AVX-512 instruction sets. As a result, the support for the PS3 emulator will be greatly improved and may even surpass Intel’s 13th-gen processors, as Intel dropped support for AVX-512 starting from the 12th generation.

In terms of GPU, the 4060 in this unit can reach a TDP of 125W. When you set the ROG console to the performance mode, it will automatically overclock the 4060’s core by 50MHz and its memory by over 100MHz. At this setting, the Time Spy GPU score can reach about 10,400 points. Compared to last year’s 3060 laptop GPU, this is a 15% improvement, but it’s still inferior to the 12,500 points of a 3070 laptop GPU. However, the 40 series supports DLSS 3, which greatly enhances frame rates in games that support it. For example, in a game like Cyberpunk 2077 that supports DLSS 3, the actual gaming experience can surpass that of the 3060 by a significant margin. The Zephyrus 14’s highest configuration is equipped with a 4090, but currently, only the 4060 version is available in China. If they release a version with 4080 or higher, I might consider buying another unit.

In terms of cooling, this machine’s CPU can reach 75-80W and 95 degrees Celsius under load. When both CPU and GPU are under load, the CPU can draw up to 35W and the GPU up to 100W, sometimes reaching 25W for the CPU and 110W for the GPU, with temperatures around 85 degrees Celsius. The fan noise can reach 55 decibels, and the surface temperature is also unbearable. Thus, it’s necessary to use an external keyboard or controller to play games. If you find the noise annoying, you can switch to the quiet mode, which reduces the GPU’s performance to around 70%. Lowering the resolution or adjusting graphics settings can make the games playable.

Let’s take a look inside the machine. It has a 76Wh battery and a native configuration of 16+1TB. The 16GB of soldered DDR5 4800 memory on the motherboard can easily be expanded by adding another 16GB from Adata for around $45.08. This way, you

can have worry-free dual-channel 32GB RAM. The SSD is a 1TB Western Digital SN560. Unfortunately, there’s no extra SSD slot. I personally upgraded to a 4TB Patriot P7000Z for around $155.13. This is a comprehensive solution. Other internals are not very exciting: heat pipes, CPU liquid cooling, GPU thermal paste, and the Wi-Fi card from MediaTek, which can be replaced with an Intel one if needed.

As for external interfaces, this machine is quite generous with 2 USB-A ports, 2 USB-C ports, HDMI 2.1, a TF card slot, and headphone/microphone jacks. The only missing part is an RJ45 Ethernet port. If you need one, you can consider purchasing a docking station.

Finally, let’s talk about battery life. Considering my usage intensity, the 13-inch M1 MacBook Air lasts about 7-8 hours. With the assumption that the Zephyrus 14, equipped with the 7940HS and the dedicated GPU disabled, and a large 76Wh battery, could achieve a similar level. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In the default quiet mode, I found that the actual usage time was about 5.5 hours. The usage included WeChat, QQ, browsing (Telegram, Bilibili, YouTube), and Microsoft Office, along with some occasional tasks. Fortunately, after the 6800U gaming handheld’s big breakthrough last year, enthusiasts developed a software called “体感游戏助手” specifically for AMD CPUs. Yes, that’s its name. Its primary function is to adapt to the gyroscopes of gaming handhelds, but it can also limit power consumption and GPU scheduling. I found that this software also works for the 7940HS. After disabling the dedicated GPU, using this software to limit the CPU’s power consumption to 8W allows smooth operation of the functions and software mentioned above. This software also handles the 2560×1600 resolution screen, allowing for a battery life of over 7 hours with the screen at 60Hz and 60% brightness. This just barely fits my mobile office needs.

Furthermore, this machine supports 100W PD charging. I used a power bank with 65W output and found that it could run Cyberpunk 2077 smoothly even without ray tracing. This year’s combination of the 40 series and AMD’s CPUs has provided quite a few pleasant surprises in terms of performance and power consumption. If you find the original charger too large and heavy, you can consider purchasing a 180W gallium nitride charger for around $34.15. This should provide enough power for the Zephyrus 14 (the original charger is 240W, which is a bit excessive).

To sum up, this machine is currently the best choice for my needs, combining mobile office tasks with gaming. It can handle Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing or running Kingdom of Tears at 4K 60fps on an external monitor without any issues. The overall appearance and quality are also up to par, and I find the price reasonable. So, I share this information with fellow users who have similar requirements.