After I was convinced that the laptop I wanted did not exist...I wandered into a store and found it.
The Zephyrus really does win compared to the Dell G5 or Lenovo Legion 5
The ASUS zephyrus A14 is a fucking gorgeous laptop.
I wanted an ultraportable laptop, that would be good for gaming, that was aesthetically pleasing, and had great thermals, and was reasonably priced. How did you do it ASUS?
Size: It is tiny. Perfect size for portability, travel, and commute.
Actual ultrabook size. The case is rigid and delightful to hold. It reminds me of the carbon fiber cases on higher end Dell Latitude business laptops. In fact, it is like they combined the aesthetics of a business laptop and a jet fighter to create this gaming laptop.
The case size is absolutely perfect.
Cooling is adequate.
Thank the AMD processors and cooling system.
That is all I can ask for lately. With these high power gaming laptops, you are going to get heat. Some of the laptops are running at like 80-90C regularly and that, while within spec, is unacceptable to me.
The cooling, judging from reviewers on line, sounds adequate.
This huge feat is accomplished by having the new AMD processors which do not take as much power to deliver performance. Less power means less heat to dissapate. Additionally, the cooling system and fans look great.
Which configuration and graphics card? RT 1600Ti.
I would likely get this laptop with the $1299 configuration of 16GB of RAM, and an RTX 1660ti... which is a 'three-step' upgrade over the 1650 on the $999 model.
Limitations? Of course they exist.
Only one slot of expandable RAM, only one HDD.
The limitations are that one stick of RAM is soldered in. Initially, I was looking for a dual-SODIMM slot laptop. The idea was that I could upgrade the system. However, I am realizing, that for word processing, browsing the internet, and watching TV, a lower power processor should last for years now. Additionally, if you are doing anyting intensively, I think it is better done on another device. Having 4K on a laptop is not a priority for me, unless it was going to be my only machine. As it stands, I have a desktop for anytime I want to have a higher resolution experience.
Over time, the primary limitation on gaming comes from the graphics card. This processor is super beefy and will be able to handle anything you throw at it, include intensive gaming, for a long time. The graphics card would need to keep up and that is why I would opt for at least the RTX 1660ti.
Competition and other laptops in the market?
The competitors would be the Lenovo Legion 5, the Dell G5, and the A15 version. The Razer Blade laptops do not have what it takes to compete in their most recent versions. They are improvements over 2019, but still have warranty, customer service, and durability complaints. Until you can get someone to stand behind this machine, I would opt for purchasing from a store that offers warranty (ex. Best Buy in the United States or Costco).
The Legion 5, to me is the closest competitor, primarily because it has great thermals, great performance, and a solid case. The A15 version looks way too big for me. That said, my primary use case is a lot of travel, commuting, and using the laptop in small areas. If you are good with a 15 inch screen, I would absolutely look into some of the other options (specifically the Legion 5 or the Zephyrus A15). The Dell G5 wins my heart with superior performance (the new AMD cards, crazy powerful graphics), upgradability (two slots for RAM, NVME, SATA), and ports (glorious, glorious ports... full size HDMI, USB-C, USB-A, even a FULL SIZE SD card reader). If I was primarily at home, or traveling via car (not bicycle), or just didn't mind the weight, those would be great. However, it really lags behind the other laptops mentioned in terms of build quality and aesthetics. To me, those things never used to matter, but seeing them in person, and back to back, the size and durabilty of the A14 are compelling. The Legion 5 is basically a Dell G5 that trades some performance for superior durability, styling, and has a cool perk of all the ports being on the back.
All in all, the Zephyrus A14 with a 1660ti will be my next laptop assuming I get a new gaming laptop. You do not have to choose. It is somehow both ultra portable and powerful enough to play games. It is aesthetically pleasing. It does not have the blistering performance of a Dell G5, or the superior cooling of the Legion 5, but it does have more than enough performance, great cooling, and in an portability factor and aesthetics and durability that no one can touch. The best rounded machine as of August 2020.
I bumped my budget from $500 to $1000 after seeing that there were actually gaming laptops that had some beef to them.
The version I want is $1299.
In all honesty, in the interest of frugality, I might wait until winter to see if there are sales and buy one then. However, I could easily see myself just coughing up the extra $200 and buying it outright now if I did not have a gaming machine.