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Why this gaming laptop is the MacBook Pro’s biggest competition

Forza Horizon 5 running on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There’s no other laptop quite like the MacBook Pro right now.

In particular, I’m talking about the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Max under the hood. The way this laptop balances performance and portability just hasn’t been seen before.

But it’s getting some serious competition, and it’s coming from an unexpected place. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is a gaming laptop, yes, but its new model this year is the closest thing we have to a MacBook Pro killer.


Keyboard on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

At first blush, you wouldn’t think these two laptops share much in terms of design. And it’s true, the ROG Zephyrus G14 looks decidedly more gamer-centric than the MacBook Pro. Whether it’s the slash of lighting on the lid or the font choice on the keyboard, there are elements that have retained that gamer DNA. Compared to other gaming laptops, they’re incredibly tame. But next to the MacBook Pro, they do stand out.

I’m not going to pretend that someone who’s turned off by even hints of the gaming aesthetic isn’t going to notice them on the G14. They will, and it’ll likely turn them off. But it’s about as toned down as I could imagine it being.

And there are some big changes in this year’s redesign of the G14 that inch it toward more of a MacBook-like aesthetic. First of all, it comes with an option for a light silver chassis — something that’s foreign in the world of gaming laptops. It’s also now made entirely of aluminum, which is an important calling card for the MacBook Pro.

Ports on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

It also comes with an enlarged trackpad, now stretching to nearly the entire depth of the palm rests. The keyboard is flanked by two speaker grilles, another feature of the MacBook Pro that’s been ported over. The two laptops are also relatively aligned on ports. Both include HDMI 2.1 and a headphone jack, with a mix of USB. The G14 includes USB-A and two USB-C, while the MacBook Pro has three USB-C. The one thing missing from the G14 is an SD card slot, which the MacBook Pro has. I really would have loved to see the G14 squeeze one in to better support creative professionals working directly from cameras.

But the biggest (and most important) similarity is in the size. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is 0.64 inches thick and weighs 3.31 pounds, slightly thicker and slightly lighter than the MacBook Pro. It’s the most portable gaming laptop ever made that can fully power an RTX 4070 (or even an RTX 4060, for that matter).


The back of the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Apple offers the same chip options in both the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Astoundingly, even with the M3 Max, the two sizes of laptop perform very similarly.

That same logic doesn’t tend to apply to gaming laptops. Larger laptops with the same specs tend to outperform their smaller counterparts, but the ROG Zephyrus G14 holds up remarkably well. The laptop maxes out at an RTX 4070 and a Ryzen 9 8945HS, making it a seemingly good match for the M3 Max. And it is. Kind of.

Obviously, the G14 is a far better gaming laptop than the MacBook Pro, but as tested in some head-to-head benchmarks, there’s still a bit of a divide between these two laptops in terms of performance. In Cinebench R24, the M3 Max MacBook Pro is 26% faster in single-core performance, 37% faster in multi-core, and 8% faster in GPU performance. For a more application-based example of this difference, I compared the MacBook Pro and the G14 in PugetBench’s Adobe Premiere Pro benchmark. Not surprisingly, the MacBook Pro scored 31% higher. Shockingly, even the RTX 4090 in the hefty ROG Strix 18 couldn’t quite match the M3 Max in this benchmark, even though the RTX 4090 has much more raw GPU power.

ROG Zephyrus G14 MacBook Pro (M3 Max)
Cinebench R24 (single-core) 103 139
Cinebench R24 (multi-core) 948 1522
Cinebench R24 (GPU) 11511 12765
Pugetbench Premiere Pro 7430 8046

And this is important, because it really comes down to what these laptops are used for. The MacBook Pro is a laptop almost exclusively for creative pros who can make use of the power in specific applications. That performance will vary depending on the task and application, but the MacBook Pro is certainly the most capable laptop in this regard. Unfortunately, 14-inch Windows laptops focused on creators are all limited to an RTX 4050, such as the Dell XPS 14 or Acer Swift X 14.

It’s hard to overstate how incredible it is that the M3 Max can still outperform a laptop with a discrete GPU like the RTX 4070 using just the integrated graphics of the system on a chip (SoC).

We don’t have exact data on it, but the G14 would likely be a much closer competitor to the M3 Pro. And as you’ll see, that’s actually a closer match in terms of pricing too. But the ROG G14’s inability to compete with the top-end MacBook Pro means those that need the absolute best performance in video editing, for example, will still find themselves turning to the MacBook Pro.

The price is right

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 with an HDR demo playing on it.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The ROG Zephyrus G14 is considered a pricey gaming laptop, but compared to the MacBook Pro, it’s a killer deal. The one configuration available right now costs $2,000, but it’s configured with 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and an RTX 4070. It should be noted that it comes with the 3.2K OLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. While it doesn’t get quite as bright as the MacBook Pro, the benefits of OLED in contrast and color accuracy might even give it an upper hand over Apple’s mini-LED screen. At the very least, both are killer displays.

Now, we can’t get an apples-to-apples comparison in terms of the CPU and GPU for the MacBook Pro, but the vast chasm in price is pretty obvious.

Even an M3 MacBook Pro with 24GB of RAM and 1TB of storage costs $2,199. Or put another way, you can spend $2,000 on a MacBook Pro and end up with just an M3 Pro, 18GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. The insane way Apple prices memory and storage is really the culprit here.

That price difference will become even more apparent when there are some cheaper configurations of the ROG Zephyrus G14 available, such as a 16GB model with an RTX 4060. This is one of the strongest aspects of the G14’s comparison against the MacBook Pro. You’re saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars by going with the G14 — or just getting a lot more for your money. Aside from all the positives of gaming, the G14 just provides a ton of value compared to the MacBook Pro.

The overall value

Of course, there are some things that factor into the price that are a bit harder to quantify. Take the speakers, for example. The MacBook Pro has a set of speakers on it that just can’t be dethroned. In fact, it’s not even close. Battery life is a similar story, as the MacBook Pro is just on a different level in terms of time away from the outlet. It’s hardly worth talking about, because no x86 Windows laptop can even come close.

And lastly, the MacBook Pro also has all the benefits of being part of Apple’s broader ecosystem, which is one of the primary reasons people are attracted to it in the first place. The G14 has that same ecosystem advantage when it comes to PC gaming, of course, but for people who also own an iPhone and iPad, the MacBook Pro complements them well.

But as a MacBook Pro alternative for someone wanting save a few bucks or stick with Windows, the Zephyrus G14 has emerged as the most convincing challenger. It can’t quite compete on the high end, but its handles its own balance between portability and performance with a lot of grace, while managing to undercut the MacBook pro in price by a significant value.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Larsen
Senior Editor, Computing
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
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