The ROG Zephyrus M16 from ASUS is a thinner and lighter gaming laptop, but usually this combination means sacrifices have to be made. This review will cover all the positives and negatives to help you decide if it’s a gaming laptop worth buying. My M16 has Intel’s Core i9-12900H CPU, Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti graphics, 32 gigs of DDR5 memory and a 16” 165Hz screen, but you can check out other configurations and current prices with the links below the video. Just before we get into all the details, I’ve got to tell you about some new gaming products from GALAX, who have sponsored this part of the video.
The Vivance 01 is a 27″ 1440p 165Hz gaming monitor with everything you need, including G-Sync for smooth tear-free gameplay, a fast 1ms response time so you won’t miss your shot, excellent colors, eye care modes to reduce blue light and eye strain, as well as a borderless design.
With features like DLSS, the GALAX GeForce RTX 3050 EX graphics card offers great performance in games. Combined with GALAX’s 1-Click overclock you can easily boost your FPS even higher, and you can even get their Sonar-04 gaming headset with it for free during this promotion. These products are now available at Mwave, check the sponsored links in the video description to find out more! Back to the M16. The design of this year’s model is quite similar to last year’s version.
We’ve still got the metal lid with prismatic film underneath which gives off a subtle rainbow effect depending on the lighting, and the soft touch interior is still there, which is smooth and feels a little rubbery.
The back of the laptop gets lifted up by the back of the lid once you open it beyond 90 degrees or so. This helps more cool air get into the fans underneath, gives you a slight incline for typing, and stops the speakers underneath from being pressed against the desk. The lid was very easy to open and goes 180 degrees back for screen sharing. Overall build quality feels nice.
There’s some keyboard flex if you’re intentionally pushing down due to the lift up design, but it felt solid during normal use.
There’s a little flex to the lid, but no screen wobble when typing so no problems. The hinge felt quite sturdy. The laptop alone weighs under 2.1kg or 4.
6lb and goes up to 2.8kg or 6.2lb with the 240 watt power brick and cables included. The Zephyrus series aims to be thinner, and that’s why the M16 is just under 2cm or 0.78 inches thick.
Unlike last year’s M16, ASUS have added a MUX switch this year, so we’ve got the option of disabling optimus for better performance in games, but at the expense of battery life. Adaptive sync is possible with optimus on, but there’s no G-Sync or advanced optimus.
The 16” screen looks great. It’s 16:10, so taller compared to most others which is why there’s basically no bottom chin, it’s just all viewable screen space with a 94% screen to body ratio. My panel has excellent color gamut, though contrast was a little lower compared to others I’ve tested.
It gets fairly bright too, I measured up to 483 nits at full brightness. Generally I want to see at least 300 nits as a minimum, and the M16 was above this even at 60% brightness. The ASUS Armory Crate software, the control panel for the laptop, lets us enable or disable panel overdrive. With overdrive disabled we’re looking at a 6.44ms average grey-to-grey response time, but with overdrive on, which is the default, this lowers to a faster 4ms, but at the expense of some overshoot and undershoot.
It’s a great result compared to other gaming laptops, and a little faster compared to last year’s version of the M16 which used a different panel model despite being the same resolution and refresh rate. Screen response time is a factor that contributes to total system latency. This is the total amount of time between a mouse click and when a gunshot fires on the screen in CS:GO, and the M16 was doing very well in this regard, great for competitive players and almost 4ms faster than last year’s model. Backlight bleed was extremely minor, I never noticed anything during normal use, but this will vary between laptops. Unlike last year’s M16, ASUS has included a 720p camera here with Windows Hello face unlock, which I found to work fast.
I don’t know what’s going on with the camera and microphones, but as you can hear it just straight up sounds terrible. The chiclet keyboard has a single zone of RGB backlighting which lights up all keys and secondary functions. Key brightness can be adjusted between 3 levels with the F2 and F3 shortcut keys, while the F4 / Aura key lets you cycle between 5 different lighting effects. The keyboard has 1.7mm of key travel and I liked typing on it, it’s got a nice clicky feel compared to others like MSI’s GP66 that I’m currently testing, make sure you’re subscribed for that review as it can destroy the M16 in other ways.
There are some extra keys above the keyboard on the left for volume adjustment, microphone mute, and a shortcut to open the Armory Crate software. The touchpad is large, very smooth and feels nice and accurate. I preferred it so much more compared to the Scar 15 from ASUS that I recently covered, this is definitely one of the better ones out there. The left has an air exhaust vent followed by most of the I/O, including the power input, HDMI 2.0b output, 2.
5 gigabit ethernet facing the preferred way so you don’t have to lift up the machine to remove it, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C ports, the first of which is also Thunderbolt 4, followed by a 3.5mm audio combo jack right down the front. The right has a second USB 3.
2 Gen 2 Type-A port, UHS-II MicroSD card slot, there’s an air exhaust on this side too and a Kensington lock right up the back. The status LEDs are on the back and hard to view when you’re sitting in front of the machine unless you move your head forward. I also want to note how difficult it was to actually plug anything into the USB Type-A ports, at least initially.
It’s a bit better now, but yeah just trying to put anything in was really stiff and difficult. I don’t know if that was just an issue with my unit, but yeah it was really hard to plug anything into the Type-A ports.
Both Type-C ports can be used to charge the laptop with up to 100 watts, and both also offer DisplayPort 1.4 support. If you’ve got optimus enabled then the Thunderbolt 4 port will connect to the integrated graphics, but if optimus is disabled then Thunderbolt 4 will connect straight to the Nvidia graphics. Both the other Type-C port and HDMI ports already connect directly to the Nvidia graphics no matter what. And although we confirmed that the HDMI port does support G-Sync, so variable refresh rate, it only goes up to 4K 60Hz 8-bit.
There are 13 Phillips head screws to remove to get inside. The three in the middle are under rubber covers for some reason, and there are two different screw lengths, so keep track as you remove them. The front right screw doesn’t come out of the panel and instead raises it up, which makes opening it very easy. The tools I use for opening laptops are linked below the video.
There are holes for air flow directly above the intake fans.
Inside we’ve got the battery down the front, two M.2 storage slots just above on the left and right, one memory slot in the middle with the rest soldered, and Wi-Fi 6E card on the left. Wi-Fi performance was good, a middle of the pack result compared to other Intel based options. The upgradeability score is the same as others from ASUS that just have the one memory slot. Otherwise it’s got two M.
2 drives for storage, upgradeable Wi-Fi and it was easy to open. Honestly for most people, I don’t think the soldered memory is that big of a deal. Especially if you get the 16 gig configuration like I’ve got here. With 16 gigs of soldered memory plus another 16 gig stick you’ve got 32 gigs, and that’s going to be plenty for most games in the near future. Especially considering that I still think 16 gigs is a great sweet spot today, and of course you could always install a 32 gig stick to take it up to 48 gigs total capacity.
And check out this video after the review if you want to get an idea of what the performance difference is without memory installed and only relying on the soldered memory.
Now the m16 is also available with just 8 gigs soldered to the motherboard, so if you installed an 8 gig stick you’d be looking at 16 gigs total, or if you installed a 16 gigs total then 24 gigs total, or 40 gigs total as an absolute maximum if you installed a 32 gig stick. Now based on my own testing, generally I have found worse performance when you start having bigger capacity differences on either side, so I probably wouldn’t be looking to run an 8+32 configuration. It is definitely possible but buying the 8 gig soldered memory option could be limiting to you in future, so yeah that’s the reason why I would personally go for the 16 gig of soldered memory if it’s an option. The speakers were ok but nothing special.
It still sounded pretty good even with the front facing ones covered. Definitely nowhere near as good as the Scar 15 I recently covered. There’s hardly any bass and they sound muffled at higher volumes. This is the second Windows 11 gaming laptop we’ve tested this year that didn’t fail the latencymon test. Speaking of sounds, by default it plays this one on boot.
Fortunately it’s possible to disable it in the Armory Crate software or BIOS. The M16 is powered by a 4-Cell 90Wh battery, and ASUS have some nice options to help make the battery last longer. The first is panel power saver, which is enabled by default. This will lower the screen’s refresh rate down to 60Hz and turn off the overdrive mode when you unplug the charger, and automatically reverse it when you plug back in, and this is why the screen briefly flashes black when it changes. If optimus is enabled, you’ve also got the option of enabling Eco mode.
This basically disables the Nvidia graphics and only uses the integrated graphics to further increase battery life. And you can also set it to automatically apply when you unplug the charger. The battery actually lasted for 3 minutes less with the iGPU mode enabled, but this small difference is within the margin of error range. Results could be better depending on what you’ve got installed and what applications are running though. You might find that some programs call the Nvidia graphics more and wake them up, something that is avoided with the iGPU only mode.
As is generally the case with Intel gaming laptops, the battery life just can’t compete with the AMD Ryzen options that dominate the top of the graph.
That said, it was lasting longer compared to most other Intel gaming laptops I’ve tested, and longer than last year’s M16 too. Let’s check out thermals next. There are multiple heat pipes shared between the CPU and GPU and the CPU has Thermal Grizzly liquid metal applied. Cool air is pulled in underneath then exhausted out of the left and right sides as well as from the vents below the screen.
The Armory Crate software lets us change between different performance modes.
From lowest to highest we’ve got silent, performance, turbo and manual mode. Manual is the only one that gives us customization. We can change the fan curve for the CPU and GPU, adjust power limits, and optionally lower the thermal throttle limit for the GPU if you’re paranoid. Both Turbo and manual modes apply the same overclock to the GPU, though manual mode gives us the option to customize it.
The temperatures were fine when just sitting there idle. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU stress tests which aim to represent a worst case, so I’d expect most games to be a bit cooler. The CPU and GPU don’t appear to be thermal throttling, but that’s not the case – more on that in a moment.
Maxed out in manual mode we’re looking at 92 degrees Celsius on the processor, however it was possible to lower this by 6 degrees with a cooling pad. The one I test with is linked below the video.
These are the clock speeds for the same tests just shown. Although manual mode boosts the CPU speeds compared to turbo, as per the blue bars, the GPU speed actually lowers, at least prior to adding the cooling pad. This is because the GPU was actually thermal throttling in both turbo and manual modes, despite the GPU temperatures previously looking ok, Nvidia throttles at 87 degrees after all and we were under that.
It’s not until we look at the GPU hot spot temperatures that we see Nvidia’s 87 degree limit was actually being hit. Looking at the power levels being reached helps illustrate what’s going on here.
In a combined CPU and GPU workload, silent mode caps the CPU at 28 watts, then 30 watts in performance mode, 40 watts in turbo mode while manual mode goes up to 60 watts, though we can customize it and lower it if we want. The GPU power levels are all over the place though. Only manual mode with the cooling pad fully removed GPU thermal throttling, allowing it to run at its full 100 watts. The 3070 Ti can go up to 120 watts in the M16, but that’s with dynamic boost and only happens when the CPU isn’t loaded up at the same time.
Basically manual mode is giving the CPU more power, which in turn makes the GPU thermal throttle harder, so it doesn’t draw as much power in manual mode prior to adding the cooling pad compared to turbo mode.
Here’s how an actual game performs with the different performance modes in use, so turbo and manual mode were both scoring the same here. It’s only in our stress test scenario with both the CPU and GPU fully loaded up where turbo mode appears to hit a higher GPU power limit compared to manual mode. In the games I checked it was alright, but it would depend on the specific game and settings as to whether or not the GPU would hit thermal throttling.
A lot of you left comments on the M16 game benchmark video asking if turbo mode would perform better than manual mode. To further demonstrate that this hardly matters I’ve retested a couple more games at two resolutions and confirmed that performance differences are all within the margin of error range.
In a CPU only workload like Cinebench though the difference between turbo and manual modes is larger. This is because for some reason manual mode limits the PL1 to 60 watts, and the Armory Crate software doesn’t let you increase it above that.
I think this is a bit silly, Turbo mode lets the CPU run up to 90 watts and the laptop is clearly capable of running it long term, so I’m not sure why they don’t let us do this in manual mode too. Basically right now this means you need to swap between manual and turbo mode depending on what you’re doing for optimal performance. If we look at how the best results compare against other gaming laptops it’s holding up very well when you consider how the M16 is a thinner gaming laptop compared to the two machines that are scoring better than it.
It’s beating the far thicker and more expensive MSI GE76 by a small amount which is quite impressive.
Granted that machine definitely does have headroom for tweaking. Performance drops back when we unplug the charger and run purely off battery power. It’s still one of the higher results out of the same selection of laptops due to the higher core and thread count, however other 8 core Ryzen options were now able to beat it. The keyboard was a little warmer compared to other gaming laptops at idle.
Most sit around 30 degrees Celsius, but still this is fine. It’s quite hot in the middle with the stress tests running in silent mode, but that’s expected here as the tradeoff is lower fan noise. The next level up in performance mode was much cooler despite it performing better now because the fans get faster. Turbo mode was starting to get warmer in the middle but I wouldn’t say it’s uncomfortable. Manual mode was slightly cooler, though as we saw earlier the GPU power limit seems to lower in favor of the CPU in this test, though the fans were much the same as turbo, let’s have a listen.
The fans weren’t making audible noise when sitting there idle, but they could get quite loud in turbo or manual modes, at least in this worst case scenario, however there is some level of adjustment with manual mode. The thermal camera allowed us to clearly see that hot air was exhausted onto the screen. I can’t really say if this is going to be an issue without doing long term testing, this is still a brand new model, but ASUS have told me in the past that they’ve done the testing and they think it’s fine.
Plus I just haven’t heard of any screen issues with the Zephyrus series laptops. You’d think if it was a common issue everyone would be hearing about it like other things like MSI hinges or Razer battery bloat.
If this has been a problem to you in your Zephyrus laptop then please do let me know in the comments. Now let’s find out how this year’s Zephyrus M16 actually performs in games and compares against other gaming laptops! We’ll focus on 1080p and 1440p resolutions here as that’s what we’ve got for the purposes of comparing, but check out this video after the review if you want to see how well the m16 performs in way more games at its native 2560 by 1600 screen resolution.
And we’ve also tested more features there like DLSS, FSR and ray tracing. Cyberpunk 2077 was tested the same on all laptops, and I’ve got this year’s M16 shown by the red highlight.
It’s just a couple of positions ahead of last year’s 11th gen M16 with lower tier 3070 graphics and lower power limit. Last year’s version doesn’t have a MUX switch either, but in GPU heavy games like this we’re not expecting that to make much of a difference.
Especially at higher resolutions, which is probably why last year’s M16 is now even closer to this year’s at less than 1 FPS behind. There’s basically no practical difference between them that you’d actually notice while playing. I’ve only tested one other 3070 Ti laptop so far, the legion 5i Pro, and with a higher GPU power limit it’s around 10% ahead, or about 5 FPS, nothing major.
Control is also a GPU heavy game, even at 1080p. It’s ahead of the RTX 3080 in last year’s G15, but make sure you’re subscribed for when I get this year’s new 2022 version to test. Again it’s ahead of last year’s M16 with lower tier specs, but we’re talking less than a 5% boost to average FPS. At 1440p last year’s M16 is even closer here, we’re talking about 1 FPS lower on average which you can definitely argue is within the margin of error range.
It’s kind of crazy when you consider that a much smaller and thinner 14” laptop from last year was ahead of it.
Here are the 3DMark results for those that find them useful, now for some content creator tests. Adobe Premiere was tested with the Puget Systems benchmark, and this year’s M16 was able to get us one of the better results, which I suspect is simply due to it having an Intel 12th gen processor, as apart from the MacBook, Intel 12th gen dominates the top of the graph.
Although the games didn’t have much of a difference between this year’s and last year’s M16, here the 2022 model was scoring 24% higher than the older one. The M16 got us one of the best results so far in Adobe Photoshop. It’s the third best result recorded so far and is within the margin of error range compared to the thicker and more expensive MSI GE76 just above it.
It’s also now 32% ahead of last year’s M16. Quite a big single generation jump. It’s doing great in DaVinci Resolve too, only being beaten by thicker 12th gen laptops that have higher GPU power limits, so not too surprising when you consider how much Resolve relies on GPU power. This year’s M16 was scoring 12% higher compared to last year’s model in this test.
I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads.
Intel 12th gen supports fast PCIe gen 4 storage, and the 2TB SSD was able to provide excellent read and write speeds. The UHS-II MicroSD card slot was doing quite well too. The card clicks in and sits the entire way into the machine, so no chances of accidentally bumping and breaking it, though it could be a little annoying to remove as you have to stick a fingernail in There aren’t a whole lot of options to change through the BIOS, just the basic minimal stuff that you’d expect any laptop to have. Others like MSI offer far more customization through their advanced BIOS. Linux support was tested on Pop!
_OS 21.10. By default out of the box the keyboard, touchpad, speakers, ethernet, Wi-Fi and camera worked. Keyboard shortcuts for screen brightness, keyboard brightness and volume controls also worked, however it wasn’t possible to use the Aura key to change the RGB lighting modes and I couldn’t adjust performance modes either.
Let’s discuss pricing and availability next.
This will of course change over time so refer to those links in the description for updates. At the time of recording the same configuration I’ve tested but with half the SSD space goes for $2150 USD at BestBuy, but they are known for frequently running sales, so again check the link in the description for deals. Now let’s summarize all the good and bad parts of the Zephyrus M16 to help you decide if it’s a gaming laptop worth buying. Overall there are some nice improvements here compared to last year’s model, including a camera above the screen and the MUX switch, though it would have been icing on the cake if the screen also had G-Sync support, because G-Sync does require that direct connection between screen and the Nvidia graphics and we have that now with the MUX switch. There is adaptive sync if optimus is enabled, but to actually get the performance boost with the MUX switch you need to turn optimus off.
So yeah G-Sync would have been a nice bonus.
The MUX switch also affects games less at higher resolutions, like our native 2560 by 1600 that we’ve got here. So even though this was added, in a lot of games we don’t see that big of a performance difference, especially at higher settings, though eSports titles could be a different story. The internals didn’t appear hot based on the usual sensors I measure, but I was seeing the GPU hotspot being triggered. I almost never see this, so I’m not sure if it’s just my machine.
It’s possible that it could just be silicon lottery or maybe the thermal paste wasn’t applied correctly to the GPU or something. Unfortunately I just can’t take off the heatsink and confirm because then I’d have to deal with the liquid metal on the processor and then it wouldn’t be running at stock for the next reviewer that gets this machine. In any case, the performance in games was decent. I mean yeah there are obviously other laptops that also have the 3070 Ti that perform better, like the Legion 5i Pro, but that’s also a thicker machine so it can sustain higher power limits, and at the end of the day this machine was still running games at high settings in a resolution above 1440p.
CPU performance outside of games was excellent in turbo mode, which helps other tasks like content creator workloads to do very well.
Combined with the bright screen that also has a high color gamut, I could definitely see this laptop being great for someone that does a mix of gaming and content creation. I’m just not sure why ASUS don’t let us boost the CPU higher than 60 watts in manual mode. It’s obviously capable of doing it in turbo mode, so why not let us do it there too? It just results in confusion and the weird situation where some workloads end up doing better in turbo and others in manual, though as we saw for games it didn’t really matter. I didn’t like the speakers, battery life wasn’t impressive but that’s standard for Intel gaming laptops.
I thought the keyboard and touchpad were great, and there’s good I/O, though I’m sure a lack of HDMI 2.1 for 4K high refresh screens will be a downside for some. I don’t really think that the soldered memory is that big of a deal as long as you go for the model that has the 16 gigs. Of course that will cost more than the 8 gigs so if you can only afford the 8 gig option then you’ll have to weigh up the future upgradeability choices, because that could be more limiting for you in the future. If you like the thinner Zephyrus design but think the M16 might be a bit too big for you then check out this review next of the ASUS Zephyrus G14.
It still packs quite a punch despite being a smaller 14 inch model. Otherwise we’ve still got the new Zephyrus G15 to cover, so make sure you’re subscribed for that review!.
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