Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 review: too expensive and too little power

I can’t tell you how excited I was to test the Zephyrus M16. It takes the exceptional chassis of the AMD-powered Zephyrus G15 and adds the two things I most wish a laptop had: a 16:10 display and a webcam. That sounds like a great package on paper, but there’s one other important thing that sets the M16 apart from the G15: the Intel processor.

So, a review of the M16 is not just an opportunity to evaluate Asus’ product. It’s also an opportunity to answer a question I’ve been wondering since I first reviewed the G15 earlier this year (and gave it the highest score I’ve given a laptop in my career): how much of the excellence of the G15 has to do with Asus engineering, and how much has to do with the combined power and efficiency of AMD’s processors?

I wish this had an RTX 3070.

The M16 has made a pretty clear judgment: a lot of it is AMD. The Zephyrus G15 leaves the M16 in the dust, not only in terms of raw frame rates and battery life, but also in terms of power per dollar. While the Zephyrus M16 has a few benefits that will be significant to some, the Zephyrus G15 is unequivocally a better value for the majority of buyers. The M16 has a beautiful chassis with a striking display, but it is also a realistic illustration of how far Intel is currently lagging in terms of value and efficiency.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 keyboard seen from above.

However, I love this keyboard.

Besides the screen and the processor, the main difference between the M16 and the G15 is the price. There are two M16 models listed at: Asus’ website: my test model ($1,849.99) with a Core i9-11900H, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, 16 GB RAM, a 1 TB SSD and a QHD 165Hz display and a $1,449 option with a Core i7-11800H, an RTX 3050 Ti, a 512GB SSD and a 1920 x 1200 144Hz display. (The latter is quite an odd configuration – 512GB really isn’t much storage for a gaming laptop, and the 3050 Ti won’t take full advantage of a 144Hz display on many titles.) A G15 with an RTX 3060 is considerably cheaper for $1,499 – while that model only has 512GB of storage, it also has a more efficient Ryzen 9 5900HS processor. For $1,849.99, you can get a G15 with specs identical to this M16 model, but a more powerful RTX 3070.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 facing away from the camera, half open.

Bigger battery, bigger charger, better screen and better chips than the previous Zephyrus M15.

So the Intel-based M16 is already fighting an uphill battle when it comes to value. What will the extra money get you? It’s mainly the screen.

If you’re after a QHD 165Hz display with a 16:10 aspect ratio (allowing Asus to cram a 16-incher into a chassis not much bigger than most 15-inch gaming laptops), the Zephyrus M16 is the one for you. one of the few places where you will find it. Put this next to the G15, and the main difference you’ll notice is that where the G15 has a large and visible chin, the M16 just has more screen. The bottom border (at least, the part that’s visible) is almost nonexistent and gives you a noticeable amount of extra space when scrolling a web page or reading a document.

However, aside from the vertical space, the screen is also phenomenal. It’s bright, up to 444 nits and vibrant, covering 100 percent of the sRGB gamut, 86 percent of Adobe RGB and 98 percent of P3. It’s significantly brighter than the G15’s screen and the difference is clear to see. Games and graphics were beautiful to look at, with sharp colors and details, and the matte texture eliminates all glare, even at low brightness levels.

The M16 also has a slight advantage as an Intel system because it can support Thunderbolt 4. It has a Thunderbolt 4 port in addition to a Type-C, a power port, an Ethernet jack, a headphone jack, an HDMI and a USB-A port on the left and a microSD slot, a lock slot and a USB-A on the left. the right side. It’s a good selection, although I wish the ports were more evenly spaced – seven out of 10 are on the left.

The M16 has another feature that is unique among the recent Zephyrus line: a webcam. Yes, there is a webcam! Both the G15 and G14 don’t have this feature, and I really don’t know why – while not everyone needs one, it would make both laptops more appealing to anyone like me who often video calls. The M16’s 720p camera isn’t great, but it’s not terrible, and that’s saying a lot for a laptop webcam. I was fairly clear on Zoom calls and the noise-canceling microphones picked up my voice well too.

Ports on the left side of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16.

On the right: Power port, HDMI 2.0b, RJ45, USB-A, Type-C with Thunderbolt 4, Type-C, combo audio jack

Ports on the right side of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16.

Left: Kensington lock, microSD (312 MB/s), USB-A

But the M16 can’t stand up to its AMD counterpart in most other areas – and unfortunately gaming is one of them.

The M16 averaged 236 fps CS:GO, meaning it takes full advantage of the 165Hz screen on simpler esports titles. But it had more problems with AAA games. It was an average of 46 fps on Red Dead Redemption 2‘s Ultra preset (55 fps with DLSS on “Quality”, 48 fps in 1440p) and 42 fps with all sliders maxed out. on Shadow of the Tomb RaiderThe M16’s highest preset averaged 38 fps with ray tracing on Ultra (46 fps with DLSS on, 40 fps in 1440p) and 63 fps with ray tracing off (68 fps in 1440p).

Those results look decent – until you compare them to the G15. The AMD-powered machine we tested is the exactly the same price like this M16 unit, but it has a GeForce RTX 3070. That’s technically only one step up from the RTX 3060, but these numbers illustrate just how big that step is. The G15 (at 2560 x 1440) hit 58 fps red death on Ultra, 61 fps on Tomb Raider with ray tracing on and 81 fps on Tomb Raider with ray tracing off. That’s a booming sound from an identically priced unit.

In fact, these results are closer to those of the G14 (which has the same GPU as this M16 model, but in a much smaller chassis). The M16 beats that model by less than 10 fps on both red death and Tomb Raider. (That device isn’t the best value either – with only a 120Hz screen it currently takes precedence) $50 less than this M16.) Overall, I don’t see much reason to buy the M16 over the G15, which is exactly the same price.

Battery life didn’t help the M16’s case. The G15 and G14 both basically never die, but I averaged just under six and a half hours of using the M16 as my daily work driver with the screen at around 200 nits brightness. That’s a few hours shorter than what I averaged on the G15 and just a bit more than what we saw from the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, which has the same GPU but a much smaller battery. Intra-Asus comparisons aside, six hours isn’t a great result for a laptop that should be able to double as a primary driver when needed (which is the main benefit of the 16:10 display).

Battery-powered gaming wasn’t much better. I only have 57 minutes red death playing with one charge, where I got an hour and 21 minutes out of the G15. The experience wasn’t great either: the game started to stutter after 22 minutes and became unplayable (with crackles and distorted sound) after 42 minutes with 20 percent left. The M16’s battery is the same size as the G15’s (90Wh) and has a weaker GPU, so it looks like it’s on Intel.

Charging was also a bit slow. The 240W charger took 50 minutes to discharge the device to 60 percent with light Chrome use. (The M16 also supports 100W Type-C charging, but that will be even slower.)

The dot matrix in the lower left corner of the lid of the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16.

No small LEDs here, like on some G14 models.

The power button on the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16.

There is a fingerprint sensor in the power button.

Raw performance isn’t the only place the M16 struggled to keep up. The cooling system is also very loud – even on gaming laptops. The G15’s fans have never drowned out the sound of my games, but I really struggled to hear the speakers above the sound of the M16. They were also quite pushy, even when I was just working in Chrome. Turn on silent mode when you’re not gaming. (To Asus’ credit, the fans were effective – I rarely saw the CPU exceed 80 degrees Celsius, and it was often in the mid-’70s or high-’60s during benchmark runs.)

It didn’t help that the M16’s speakers (two tweeters and two force-cancelling woofers) aren’t super loud. The vocals were clear and the songs were well balanced, but they didn’t fill my studio apartment, and I sometimes found myself having to lean forward to hear while trying to watch YouTube videos, even at the maximum volume. You can use Dolby Access to switch between equalizer presets for gaming, movies, music and voice calls – the gaming and movie profiles sound a bit tinny on these speakers.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 open, seen from the right.

New Arc Flow fans have 84 blades as thin as 0.2mm.

Everything else about the M16 is standard Zephyrus stuff. It’s the exact same weight and almost the same thickness as the G15, at 4.19 pounds and 0.75 inches — portable as 15-inch gaming rigs. It has the familiar dot matrix covering the lid and Asus’ signature ErgoLift hinge that folds under the screen and raises the keyboard slightly (hiding much of the bottom bezel).

The keyboard is great and the touchpad is huge, with a smooth surface and a very easy click. I occasionally had problems with palm rejection – the cursor jumped pretty much every time my palm touched the touchpad. This became so annoying that I ended up turning off the touchpad input when playing games with external peripherals. But overall, it’s an excellent chassis that’s sturdy and sleek.

In a vacuum, there’s nothing particularly objectionable about the Zephyrus M16. The exceptional 16:10 display and the existence of a webcam are great additions – and they make the M16 more pragmatic as a primary work driver than other gaming laptops in its class. The addition of Thunderbolt- and Intel-specific features like Quick Sync will be the icing on the cake for creative professionals who can’t find those benefits in an AMD system.

However, the M16 is still a Zephyrus. It is not intended as a primary work engine or for creatives in coffee shops; it is primarily a gaming laptop. And it is too expensive for its performance. It offers a weaker GPU, worse battery life, and a significantly worse battery gaming experience than comparably priced AMD systems. You pay for this webcam and the incredible screen not only with extra money, but also with frame rates.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience for the M16. The screen, improved ports and webcam are no trivial bonuses. The M16 isn’t a bad laptop, but most gamers will be happier with the G15 – and I wish Asus put this screen and webcam on that product.