The MacBook Pro Faces Strong Competition from This Gaming Laptop

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

There’s no laptop quite like the MacBook Pro at this moment.

Especifically, I’m referring to the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Max underneath. The manner in which this laptop harmonizes performance and portability has never been witnessed before.

However, it is facing formidable competition, and it is emerging from an unforeseen source. The ROG Zephyrus G14 is a gaming laptop, indeed, but its latest model this year is the nearest thing we have to a MacBook Pro slayer.

Design

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

Initially, there appears to be scant resemblance in design between these two laptops. And it’s accurate, the ROG Zephyrus G14 appears decisively more focused on gamers than the MacBook Pro. Whether it’s the slash of illumination on the lid or the font selection on the keyboard, there are components that have preserved that gamer DNA. In comparison to other gaming laptops, they are incredibly restrained. But when placed alongside the MacBook Pro, they do stand out.

I’m not going to pretend that an individual put off by even clues of the gaming aesthetic won’t detect them on the G14. They will, and it’s likely to deter them. However, it’s about as restrained as I could envision it being.

And there are notable changes in this year’s revamp of the G14 that nudge it toward more of a MacBook-like visual. Firstly, it arrives with an option for a light silver chassis — something that’s alien in the realm of gaming laptops. It’s also now constructed wholly of aluminum, which is a crucial hallmark for the MacBook Pro.

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

It also features an enlarged touchpad, now extending to almost the complete depth of the palm rests. The keyboard is flanked by two speaker grilles, a further feature of the MacBook Pro that’s been carried over. The two laptops are also reasonably aligned on ports. Both incorporate HDMI 2.1 and a headphone jack, with a combination of USB. The G14 includes USB-A and two USB-C, while the MacBook Pro has three USB-C. The one absence from the G14 is an SD card slot, which the MacBook Pro includes. I truly would have cherished to see the G14 fit one in to better support creative professionals working directly from cameras.

However, the most significant (and crucial) resemblance lies in the dimensions. 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 produced that can fully power an RTX 4070 (or even an RTX 4060, for that matter).

Performance

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

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

That same rationale doesn’t typically apply to gaming laptops. Bulkier laptops with the same specifications usually outdo their smaller equivalents, but the ROG Zephyrus G14 stands up remarkably well. The laptop peaks at an RTX 4070 and a Ryzen 9 8945HS, positioning it as a seemingly good match for the M3 Max. And it is. To a degree.

Evidently, the G14 is a significantly better gaming laptop than the MacBook Pro, but as evidenced in some direct benchmarks, there’s still a minor rift 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-oriented example of this contrast, I compared the MacBook Pro and the G14 in PugetBench’s Adobe Premiere Pro benchmark. Predictably, the MacBook Pro scored 31% higher. Astonishingly, even the RTX 4090 in the substantial ROG Strix 18 couldn’t quite match the M3 Max in this benchmark, despite the RTX 4090 possessing significantly 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 significant because it truly boils down to the intended use of these laptops. The MacBook Pro is nearly exclusively intended for creative professionals who can leverage the power in specific applications. That performance will fluctuate depending on the task and application, but the MacBook Pro is unquestionably the most capable laptop in this aspect. Unfortunately, 14-inch Windows laptops tailored for creators are all confined to an RTX 4050, such as the Dell XPS 14 or Acer Swift X 14.

It’s difficult to exaggerate how remarkable it is that the M3 Max can still surpass a laptop with a dedicated GPU like the RTX 4070 using solely the integrated graphics of the system on a chip (SoC).

We don’t possess precise data on it, but the G14 would likely be a substantially closer contender to the M3 Pro. And as you’ll observe, that’s effectively a more comparable match in terms of pricing as well. However, the ROG G14’s inability to rival the top-tier MacBook Pro indicates that individuals requiring the absolute best performance in video editing, for instance, 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 perceived as a pricy gaming laptop, but when juxtaposed to the MacBook Pro, it’s an exceptional bargain. The sole available configuration at present costs $2,000, but it’s configured with 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and an RTX 4070. It should be pointed out that it comes with the 3.2K OLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. While it doesn’t achieve the same level of brightness as the MacBook Pro, the advantages of OLED in contrast and color accuracy might even provide it with an edge over Apple’s mini-LED screen. At the very least, both screens are extraordinary.

Currently, we can’t obtain a direct comparison in terms of the CPU and GPU for the MacBook Pro, but the substantial difference in price is glaringly evident.

Even an M3 MacBook Pro with 24GB of RAM and 1TB of storage costs $2,199. Or in other words, 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 irrational manner in which Apple prices memory and storage is truly to blame here.

That discrepancy in price will become even more pronounced when there are more economical configurations of the ROG Zephyrus G14 available, such as a 16GB model with an RTX 4060. This is one of the most robust aspects of the G14’s comparison against the MacBook Pro. You’re saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars by opting for the G14 — or simply getting a lot more for your money. Apart from all the positives of gaming, the G14 simply provides a ton of value compared to the MacBook Pro.

The overall value

Naturally, there are certain factors contributing to the price that are somewhat harder to quantify. Take the speakers, for instance. The MacBook Pro has a set of speakers that cannot be surpassed. In fact, it’s not even close. Battery life tells a similar story, as the MacBook Pro outshines in terms of time away from the power outlet. It’s hardly worth discussing since no x86 Windows laptop can even come close.

Lastly, the MacBook Pro also enjoys all the advantages of being part of Apple’s broader ecosystem, which is one of the primary attractions for people in the first place. The G14 enjoys the same ecosystem advantage when it comes to PC gaming, of course, but for individuals who also own an iPhone and iPad, the MacBook Pro complements them nicely.

Still, as a MacBook Pro alternative for someone wanting to save some money or stick with Windows, the Zephyrus G14 has emerged as the most persuasive rival. It may not fully compete at the high end, but its adept balancing act between portability and performance, along with its ability to undercut the MacBook Pro significantly in price, adds a considerable value.

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