The Coffee Lake gaming laptop guide: Meet ROG’s latest from ultra-slim to overclocked

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The arrival of six-core processors based on Intel’s 8th Generation Core has spawned a fresh collection of gaming laptops with more horsepower than ever before. Otherwise known as Coffee Lake-H, these chips boast 50% more cores than the previous generation, giving gamers and power users extra headroom for mixing gameplay with streaming, content creation, and other workloads.

While the CPU is extremely important, it’s just one part of a system of components that defines how games look and feel, so our latest lineup of ROG gaming laptops also has upgrades in other areas. High-refresh displays with ultra-fast response times are standard issue across all the models coming to North America, and efficient cooling ensures consistent performance when you stretch playing “just one more round” over several hours. With easily customized Aura Sync lighting and wicked-fast Intel Gigabit Wi-Fi, our new gaming notebooks raise the bar throughout.

Despite sharing many key features and components, the members of our Coffee Lake series have distinct personalities. The beastly G703 desktop replacement bulks up to beefcake dimensions to pursue peak performance, while the Zephyrus GX501 slims down to ultrabook proportions without sacrificing your gaming experience. Its sibling, the all-new Zephyrus M GM501, tweaks the formula with a more versatile design that mixes NVIDIA’s G-Sync and Optimus technologies. Finally, there are the esports-ready Strix Scar and Hero Editions, which balance portability and performance with affordable pricing that starts at only $1,099. Keep reading to see which one is the best Coffee Lake gaming laptop for you.

Desktop-grade hardware with amped-up cooling

Six-core processors are available across the entire lineup, right down to the entry-level Strix. Budget-conscious shoppers are especially likely to use the same system for work and play, and we want everyone to be able to enjoy Coffee Lake’s prowess with multitasking and multithreaded workloads. With a peak Turbo frequency of 4.1GHz, the Core i7-8750H found in most models also has exceptional single-threaded performance, allowing it to efficiently execute simpler tasks like web browsing and day-to-day productivity. The Core i9-8950HK on select G703 configurations is even faster, and its unlocked multiplier enables easy overclocking.

While the CPU has a big impact on how well laptops juggle gaming with other demanding tasks, actual frame rates are largely dictated by the graphics chip. We use discrete GPUs from NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 10 Series, which bring desktop-class performance to laptop-friendly power envelops. The lineup starts with affordable Strix models equipped with the GTX 1050 Ti and ends with laptops based on two flavors of the GTX 1080: one hot-clocked for the G703 and the other Max-Q for the Zephyrus.

It’s not enough to squeeze powerful chips into a laptop. Turbo and Boost mechanisms scale CPU and GPU frequencies based on thermals, so effective cooling is needed to maintain top speed. Each of our gaming laptops has a different solution optimized for its chassis. Most of them come with powerful 12V blowers that generate more airflow than conventional designs. We’ve also implemented anti-dust tunnels that help prevent airborne particles from accumulating on radiator fins and compromising long-term cooling. The Zephyrus and Zephyrus M think further outside the box with an innovative Active Aerodynamic System that opens a massive air intake as you lift the lid.

Raise the refresh rate and lower the response time

Serious gamers and esports professionals demand displays with high refresh rates and low response times, so even the baseline Strix comes with a tournament-grade 120Hz display that doubles the number of visible frames produced by typical laptop screens. Panels that push up to 144Hz are available with laptops featuring more powerful graphics, and the displays don’t sacrifice viewing angles or picture quality in the name of speed.

Higher refresh rates make first-person shooters and fast-paced action feel gloriously fluid, but the speed of individual pixel transitions is what makes graphics look clear and crisp in motion. Typical IPS-type laptop displays have sluggish pixel response times in the 25-ms range, which produces noticeable blurring in games and even when quickly scrolling through web pages. We’ve lowered response times to just 3 ms, resulting in a much cleaner picture that’s free of the ghosting of pixels past.

The G703, Zephyrus, and Zephyrus M all add NVIDIA G-Sync technology to match the refresh rate of the display with the frame rate of the GPU. This close cooperation heightens your connection to the game by removing distractions that disrupt immersion. G-Sync smooths out performance dips that would otherwise be perceived as stuttering, eliminates visual tearing that cuts across your view of the world, and reduces the input lag that defines much of your physical connection to the game.

Stacking the deck inside and out

The keyboard is critical to control, so anti-ghosting tech with n-key rollover is implemented in all the gaming laptops in this guide. Each keystroke and corresponding action registers with perfect precision, regardless of how much you’re mashing the keyboard in the midst of battle. Our new desktop-style layouts put the essentials comfortably at your fingertips, and RGB backlighting adds a personalized glow for late-night visibility. Aura Sync lets you match lighting colors and effects with compatible ROG peripherals, including the mouse and headset you take on the road.

Under the hood sits faster DDR4-2666 memory enabled by Coffee Lake CPUs. Almost every model comes with a blazing NVMe SSD, and most also include a 1TB Seagate FireCuda SSHD that’s perfect for large game libraries. The hybrid drive has 8GB of flash-based cache that accelerates access to frequently used data like games. For something more extreme, the G703 combines up to three SSDs to reach insane speeds with NVMe RAID.

Connecting to fast wireless networks is easy thanks to Intel Gigabit Wi-Fi integrated into Coffee Lake’s accompanying chipset. The 802.11ac Wave 2 solution supports MU-MIMO and offers substantially higher throughput with compatible routers like the ASUS RT-AC86U. It also incorporates Bluetooth, which combines with an assortment of USB ports and display outs capable of driving a complete battlestation. The G703 and Zephyrus laptops even include Thunderbolt 3 for external graphics docks like the XG Station Pro and ROG XG Station 2.

Unleash Coffee Lake’s potential with the unlocked G703

Most notebooks aspire to thinner and lighter bodies, but the associated cooling limitations conflict with the G703’s quest for maximum performance. This monster of a desktop replacement actually bulked up recently to make room for an extensive cooling system that weighs 1.6 lbs all on its own. The combination of eight heatpipes, four radiators, and two 12V blowers dissipates enough heat to take the underlying silicon beyond stock speeds.

We’re so confident in the cooling that we factory-overclock the GPUs in configurations with GTX 1080 graphics. The top models are available with Intel’s flagship Core i9-8950HK processor, whose unlocked multiplier lets you increase clock speeds with just a few clicks in our Gaming Center software. Even at stock frequencies, the i9’s 4.8GHz Turbo peak leaves most desktop CPUs in the dust.

The G703’s hardcore hardware is capable of sustaining triple-digit frame rates that take full advantage of the 144Hz G-Sync display. While the peak refresh rate is unchanged from the previous Kaby Lake version, we’ve reduced the response time by more than half, from seven milliseconds to just three. Despite being turbocharged for speed, the IPS-type AHVA panel still has vivid colors that retain their lushness over wide viewing angles.

Core i9 variants of the G703 support new NVMe RAID arrays that bypass the chipset’s interconnect bottleneck and hook directly into the CPU. The chassis has room for three M.2 SSDs, two of which have a direct line to the processor, enabling sequential speeds up to a staggering 8700MB/s for a 3 x 512GB RAID 0. There’s also a 2.5” bay filled with up to 2TB of additional storage.

The larger chassis leaves room for four SO-DIMM slots and up to 64GB of memory. It also houses an Xbox Wireless module that lets you connect up to eight Xbox One controllers without a separate dongle. Speakers are split between dual full-range units in the base and twin tweeters that fire at you from below the display. Up top, the keyboard has longer travel than our other gaming laptops, plus the ability to adjust RGB backlighting colors and effects for each key individually. Around the edges, you get a diverse selection of ports that can easily power multiple displays, a full VR setup, and other peripherals.

 G703GI-XS99KG703GI-SX98KG703GI-XS74G703GI-WS71
CPUIntel Core i9-8950HKIntel Core i7-8750H
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 OC 8GB GDDR5XNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5
Display17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080
Panel144Hz G-Sync with 3ms response
IPS-Type AHVA
Memory64GB DDR4-266632GB DDR4-266616GB DDR4-2666
Storage3 x 512GB NVMe SSD RAID
2TB HDD
2 x 256GB NVMe SSD RAID
2TB HDD
2 x 256GB NVMe SSD RAID
1TB SSHD
1TB SSHD
NetworkingGigabit Ethernet
Gigabit Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wave 2
Connectivity1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x mini-DP 1.4
1 x Type-C Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 Gen2
3 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2
2 x 3.5-mm audio
1 x 2-in-1 card reader
Battery4-cell 71Wh
Dimensions16.7" x 12.6" x 2.0"
Weight10.4 lbs
OSWindows 10 Pro
MSRP$4,999 USD$3,699 USD$3,499 USD
$4,499 CAD
$2,299 USD
Availability (USA)Amazon
B&H
ASUS Store
Amazon
B&H
Fry's
Xotic PC
HID Evolution
Pro Star
Newegg
ExcaliberPC
HID Evolution
Xotic PC
Pro Star
ASUS Store
Amazon
B&H
Fry's
Xotic PC
HID Evolution
Pro Star
Availability (Canada)NANANewegg
Canada Computers
Memory Express
NA

The top-of-the-line G703GI-XS99K has all the trimmings, from the unlocked Core i9 CPU to the 1.5TB of NVMe RAID storage and 64GB of RAM. While its premium $4,999 USD price tag is definitely earned, you can save a lot with the G703GI-SX98K, which scales back to dual 256GB SSDs and 32GB of RAM for $3,699 USD. The G703GI-XS74 trades the i9 for an i7 and the 2TB HDD for a smaller 1TB SSHD at $3,499 USD and $4,499 CAD. It keeps the GTX 1080, but the G703GS-WS71 swaps in a GTX 1070, drops the SSDs, and sticks to 16GB of RAM for just $2,299 USD. This configuration is particularly suited to would-be upgraders who plan to add their own SSD and more memory down the line or even right away. Look for each model at the retailers listed above.

Innovative cooling lifts the Zephyrus above ultra-slim competitors

The Zephyrus squeezes a premium desktop gaming experience into an ultra-slim chassis just 0.7” thick. You can stack three of them in the space taken up by the G703, but we didn’t skimp on performance for the sake of fitting into the slender body. The six-core processor and GTX 1080 Max-Q graphics effortlessly power through gaming and other demanding workloads, and they’re joined by a 15.6” G-Sync display with the same refresh rate and response time as the screen on the beastly G703. Together this trio of features delivers impeccably smooth gaming with gorgeous graphics.

Maintaining maximum performance is exceedingly challenging inside such a small chassis, so we developed a unique Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) that opens up for greater airflow. Lifting the lid raises the chassis, exposing a large vent that dramatically increases the amount of cool air that can be sucked into the system. Thinner blades allow us to pack more into each blower, which further increases airflow, and thinner fins allow us to add more to each radiator, which enlarges the surface area for heat dissipation. As we saw in our hands-on look at the original Zephyrus based on Kaby Lake, these and other cooling enhancements help the system sustain high clock speeds over long gaming sessions.

Our unconventional approach to cooling shifts the keyboard forward to create more room around the CPU and GPU. This layout tweak lets your wrists sit comfortably on the desk, emulating the hand position of a traditional desktop keyboard. While most gamers will plug in their preferred mouse, there’s still a trackpad on the right for quick navigation. It turns into a numpad at the touch of a button if you need to make quick calculations.

There are more ports than you’d expect in such a lithe chassis, including an HDMI 2.0 that’s perfect for powering 4K TVs up to 60Hz, and a Type-C USB that can carry DisplayPort 1.2 signals for an auxiliary gaming monitor. The four USB-A ports are are enough to connect a VR headset with multiple motion trackers, equipping the Zephyrus to serve as a highly portable demo platform for taking VR on the road.

Everything is wrapped in a sleek black chassis with just enough of an edge to signal that this is no ordinary ultrabook. You can add your own touch of personalized style with the Aura Sync keyboard, which includes separate RGB lighting zones for the WASD and QWER clusters used by FPS and MOBA games.

 Zephyrus GX501GI-XS74
CPUIntel Core i9-8950HK
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB GDDR5X Max-Q
Display15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080
Panel144Hz G-Sync with 3ms response
IPS-Type AHVA
Memory16GB DDR4-2666
Storage512GB NVMe SSD
NetworkingGigabit Ethernet (USB dongle)
Gigabit Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wave 2
Connectivity1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x Type-C Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 Gen2
2 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2
2 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen1
1 x 3.5-mm audio
Battery4-cell 50Wh
Dimensions14.9" x 10.3" x 0.7"
Weight5 lbs
OSWindows 10 Pro
MSRP$2,899 USD
$3,699 CAD
Availability (USA)ASUS Store
Newegg
Amazon
B&H
Adorama
Mobile Advance
iBuypower
Pro Star
Availability (Canada)Soon

The Zephyrus GX501GI-XS74 available in North America comes with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe storage for $2,899 USD and $3,699 CAD. Find it at the retailers listed in the spec table.

The Zephyrus M is flexible enough to blend work and play

While the Zephyrus does everything it can to shave millimeters, the all-new Zephyrus M adds a couple to make the laptop more versatile. Many of the same core features remain, including the AAS and its expanding intake, which opens slightly wider on the new model. The Zephyrus M also adds a radiator and exhaust outlet on the right, and the fins on both sides are angled back slightly to direct warm air away from your mousing hand.

These cooling upgrades allow the Zephyrus M to run a full-power GeForce GTX 1070 GPU alongside its Core i7 six-core CPU. Test results from the hands-on look at ROG show no signs of thermal throttling in popular games like Fortnite and PUBG. They also illustrates how well the GTX 1070 pairs with the high-refresh display. The GPU is powerful enough to push more FPS than the 15.6” 144Hz display can handle. G-Sync kicks in when frame rates dip below the maximum refresh rate to smooth out the wrinkles. And 3-ms response times keep blurring at bay regardless of the frame rate.

G-Sync is undoubtedly the best option for gaming, but it doesn’t work with the NVIDIA Optimus tech that intelligently disables the discrete GPU to save power. To get around this limitation, we developed a hardware switch that lets you choose between G-Sync and Optimus modes; simply open our Gaming Center software, select the desired mode, and wait for the system to reboot. When you’re finished gaming, switch to Optimus mode to extend battery life with everyday tasks like web browsing and productivity, which run comfortably on the integrated graphics alone.

The tweaked AAS layout moves the keyboard back to its usual position, which is more comfortable when the Zephyrus M is sitting on your lap. Dedicated keys for volume, mute, and ROG Gaming Center software put vital functionality easily within reach for quick adjustment. Four-zone Aura Sync backlighting illuminates the deck below with a customizable glow that extends to another zone for the logo on the lid.

Expanding the chassis makes enough room to add a 2.5” drive bay, giving the Zephyrus M the best of both worlds. A 256GB NVMe SSD offers plenty of ultra-responsive storage for your OS, apps, and favorite games, while a 1TB SSHD brings loads of flash-accelerated capacity for the rest of your library. The plethora of ports and dual display outputs further compound the machine’s versatile foundation, which is as at home pumping out a true 144-FPS experience in Overwatch as it is using the GPU to speed up video production.

 Zephyrus M GM501GS-XS74Zephyrus M GM501GM-WS74GU501GM-BI7N8*
CPUIntel Core i7-8750H
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
Display15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080
Panel144Hz G-Sync with 3ms response
IPS-Type AHVA
120Hz with 3ms response
IPS-Type AHVA
Memory16GB DDR4-2666
Storage256GB NVMe SSD
1TB SSHD
128GB SATA SSD
1TB SSHD
NetworkingGigabit Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wave 2
Connectivity1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x Type-C Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 Gen2
4 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2
1 x 3.5-mm audio
Battery4-cell 55Wh
Dimensions15.1" x 10.3" x 0.8"
Weight5.4 lbs
OSWindows 10 ProWindows 10
MSRP$2,199 USD
$2,799 CAD
$1,899 USD$1,499 USD
Availability (USA)ASUS Store
Newegg
Amazon
B&H
NFM
ExcaliberPC
Mobile Advance
iBuypower
Xotic PC
HID Evolution
NeweggBest Buy
Availability (Canada)Newegg
Canada Computers
Memory Express
NANA

In North America, the Zephyrus M is available in GM501GS-XS74 form with GTX 1070 graphics for $2,199 USD and $2,799 CAD. The GM501GM-WS74 steps down to a GTX 1060 GPU that’s still potent enough to drive triple-digit frame rates in popular esports titles and in AAA blockbusters with dialed-down details, dropping the price to just $1,899 USD.

A similar laptop dubbed the GU501GM-BI7N8 is available exclusively at Best Buy online and in-store for only $1,499 USD. It uses GTX 1060 graphics with conventional cooling instead of the Zephyrus AAS, opts for an IPS-type display with a fixed 120Hz refresh rate, and makes a few other changes to hit its lower price point.

New Strix Scar and Hero Editions hit the esports scene

Although the Strix GL503 and GL703 Scar and Hero Editions are built for esports, they’re also great for all kinds of gaming. Our balanced configurations hit the sweet spot for performance and value at prices more gamers can afford, yet they still include key features required by competitive players.

The family is divided into two camps with different uniforms; the Scar Edition’s gunmetal gray garb and kevlar patterning subtly broadcast its FPS roots, while the Hero Edition’s matte black skin and stylized dragon scales channel its MOBA inspiration. Each is available with a range of 15.6” and 17.3” loadouts based on a common foundation designed for serious competition.

Our commitment to high-refresh panels is in part a reflection of what’s important for esports, where heightened responsiveness and low input lag are required to keep up with lightning reflexes. Most models are fixed at 120Hz, which is a good target for the GTX 1060 and 1050 Ti GPUs that dominate the lineup. Jumping to 144Hz is an option on a couple of variants, including one with faster GTX 1070 graphics and a side order of buttery G-Sync smoothness.

The 0.94” chassis is the right thickness for more traditional cooling, with one radiator and fan each for the CPU and GPU. Running the blowers on 12V power lets them hit higher RPMs to deal with heavier loads, and their dust-catching channels help maintain consistent performance over the life of the laptop.

We redesigned the keyboard for Kaby Lake versions of the Scar and Hero, and it remains in the latest Coffee Lake generation. The desktop-style layout and four-zone Aura Sync lighting are the same as on the Zephyrus M, complete with handy shortcut keys and a larger spacebar that’s easier to reach from a gaming stance. ROG Overstroke technology triggers actuation earlier, making input more responsive without affecting the total key travel.

 Scar Edition GL703GS-DS74Scar Edition GL703GM-US74Scar Edition GL703GM-DS74Scar Edition GL703GE-ES73Scar Edition GL703GE-IS74Scar Edition GL703GE-DB71-CA
CPUIntel Core i7-8750H
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GBNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
Display17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080
Panel144Hz G-Sync with 3ms response
IPS-Type AHVA
144Hz with 3ms response
IPS-Type AHVA
120Hz with 3ms response
Wide-view TN
Memory16GB DDR4-2666
Storage256GB NVMe SSD
1TB SSHD
128GB NVMe SSD
1TB SSHD
256GB SATA SSD
1TB HDD
256GB NVMe SSD
1TB SSHD
NetworkingGigabit Ethernet
Gigabit Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wave 2
Connectivity1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x mini-DP
1 x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen2
4 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2
1 x 3.5-mm audio
1 x 2-in-1 card reader
1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x mini-DP
1 x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen1
3 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2
1 x Type-A USB 2.0
1 x 3.5-mm audio
1 x 2-in-1 card reader
Battery4-cell 76Wh4-cell 64Wh
Dimensions16.2" x 10.8" x 0.9"
Weight6.5 lbs
OSWindows 10
MSRP$1,899 USD
$2,499 CAD
$1,699 USD$1,599 USD
$1,999 CAD
$1,299 USD$1,299 USD$1,699 CAD
Availability (USA)ASUS Store
Newegg
Amazon
B&H
Xotic PC
GenTech
CUK
Pro Star
SoonASUS Store
Newegg
Amazon
B&H
Fry's
Xotic PC
GenTech
ASUS Store
Newegg
Amazon
B&H
Xotic PC
iBuypower
Pro Star
SoonNA
Availability (Canada)SoonNASoonNANASoon

The 17.3” Scar Edition GL703GS-DS74 raises the stakes with a more premium config based on GTX 1070 graphics and a 144Hz G-Sync display for $1,899 USD and $2,499 CAD. Ditch G-Sync and swap in a GTX 1060, and you’ve got the GL703GM-US74 at $1,699 USD. The next rung down the ladder is the GL703GM-DS74, which opts for a 120Hz refresh rate with GTX 1060 graphics for $1,599 USD and $1,999 CAD. It’s followed by a trio with GTX 1050 Ti graphics and different storage configs: the GL703GE-ES73 with a 128GB NVMe SSD and 1TB SSHD for $1,299 USD, the GL703GE-IS74 with a 256GB SATA SSD and 1TB HDD for the same price, and the Canadian-exclusive GL703GE-DB71-CA with a 256GB NVMe SSD and 1TB SSHD for $1,699 CAD.

 Hero Edition GL503GE-ES73Hero Edition GL503GE-US72Scar Edition GL503GE-RS71Hero Edition GL503GE-ES52
CPUIntel Core i7-8750HIntel Core i5-8300H
GPUNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
Display15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080
Panel120Hz with 3ms response
Wide-view TN
Memory16GB DDR4-26668GB DDR4-2666
Storage128GB NVMe SSD
1TB SSHD
1TB SSHD128GB NVMe SSD
1TB SSHD
NetworkingGigabit Ethernet
Gigabit Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wave 2
Connectivity1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x mini-DP
1 x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen1
3 x Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2
1 x Type-A USB 2.0
1 x 3.5-mm audio
1 x 2-in-1 card reader
Battery4-cell 64Wh
Dimensions15.1" x 10.3" x 0.9"
Weight5.7 lbs
OSWindows 10
MSRP$1,249 USD
$1,599 CAD
$1,149 USD$1,099 USD
$1,399 CAD
$1,099 USD
Availability (USA)Newegg
Amazon
ExcaliberPC
Pro Star
SoonSoonNewegg
Amazon
ExcaliberPC
Mobile Advance
iBuypower
Xotic PC
HID Evolution
Availability (Canada)Newegg
Canada Computers
Memory Express
NASoonNA

One more Scar slots in at 15.6” with the GL503GE-RS71, which lays an upgradeable entry-level foundation with a GTX 1050 Ti, 120Hz display, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB SSHD for just $1,099 USD and $1,399 CAD. The GL503GE-ES52 sets the starting point for the Hero Edition, trading CPU power for faster storage with a Core i5-8300H quad-core CPU and NVMe/SSHD tag team at the same $1,099 USD asking price. A six-core CPU upgrade is $50 more with the GL503GE-US72 at $1,149 USD, while the GL503GE-ES73 bumps up to 16GB of RAM for $1,249 USD and $1,599 CAD.