The Asus Zephyrus is an incredibly thin gaming laptop with one serious drawback [Updated]

Update: Asus reached out to say that the version of the Zephyrus shown at Computex with the half-shift key was an early design. Updated samples, as well as the retail version, will feature a full-size left shift key. Here's an updated product shot:

Original Story: The Asus Zephyrus is an incredibly thin laptop with a GTX 1080 inside it, measuring only 18mm thick and weighing just under five pounds. It's a marvel of engineering, but I'm not sure I'd actually want to use it. Let me explain.

The Zephyrus is the first laptop announced under Nvidia's new Max-Q initiative, which Jarred wrote about in detail here. The goal is to make thin systems with high-end components like the GTX 1080 by dialing in the point at which thermals and performance are most efficient. Look at a photo of the Zephyrus, and you can immediately tell how much effort Asus put in to make this possible.

The keyboard has been moved to the front of the laptop to make room for a large perforated section in front of the display. That's all for cooling. Look closely and you'll see holes for fans. When the laptop is open, a vent at the bottom of the laptop actually folds open to allow for more airflow. Brilliant design.

If this vent holds up under long term use, it's a brilliant mechanism for airflow.

To devote as much possible room to cooling, though, the Zephyrus made some sacrifices with its keyboard. It's shallow, given the thin laptop body, and the touchpad is a small vertical space sandwiched to the right of the keyboard. I could get used to the positioning just fine, but it's definitely a narrow touchpad. Easy solution, though: just use a bluetooth mouse with the laptop. No problem there.

What I have a bigger problem with is the left side of the keyboard. The Zephyrus has made what I consider the cardinal sin of keyboard design: a half-size Shift key. Maybe there are some strange typists out there who rely on the right Shift key for their capitalization, but I'm all left Shift, all the time. My pinky is in an open relationship with the A key and Shift. If I can't quickly catch that shift key and go back to typing, two decades of typing skills may as well be tossed down the drain.

As nitpicky as this may seem for such a complex, amazingly engineered piece of technology, it might be a deal breaker for me. After all, even with a gaming laptop, there's one thing I'm going to be doing a lot more than gaming, and that's typing. A bad shift key might be a dealbreaker for me. Using an external keyboard is always an option, of course, but that's far less portable than a mouse.

Pour one out for the missing half of this poor shift key.

The spec sheet for the Zephyrus really is fantastic, though. The touchpad can turn into a digital number pad, which is cool. The display is a 120Hz G-Sync panel, with an Intel i7-7700HQ CPU running the show.

According to an Asus rep at Computex, the Zephyrus will cost $2300 for a model with a GTX 1070 and a 256GB NVMe SSD, and $2700 for a GTX 1080 model with a 512GB NVMe SSD. That's the price you pay for cutting edge design. And so is, seemingly, half of the left Shift key.

Considering how thin Asus managed to make this system, though, I'm excited to see next generation's model, when Nvidia's next round of GPUs arrive. As these things go, those should be even more power efficient, which should give Asus a bit more room for the keyboard and other amenities while still keeping the system cool.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).