The Asus ROG Mothership: An AIO, a tablet, a gaming laptop


The Asus ROG Mothership (GZ700) is meant to be a CES darling, the sort of product that grabs attention at a trade show where thousands of devices are clamoring for the eyes of every journalist walking the halls. And grab attention it did, alongside another wild-and-wacky, super high-end convertible design in the Acer Predator Triton 900. The two have key differences, though, primarily in that the Predator Triton 900 is a convertible with a screen that moves into different positions, whereas the Mothership is like a super powered AIO...or maybe it's just a modified AIO or gaming laptop. Or a combination of all three.

Seemingly heavily inspired by the Microsoft Surface Pro, the Mothership is basically a large tablet with a built-in kickstand on the back and a detachable keyboard on the front. Where it differs from the Surface Pro is that rather than being thin and light, it's large, heavy, RGB adorned, and crazy powerful.

The Mothership isn't exactly slim and trim, at 410 x 32 x 29.9 mm and approaching 5 kg, but it is loaded. It rocks an Nvidia RTX 2080 with a factory-overclocked Intel i9-8950HK, and it has up to 64 GB of memory. It's also compatible with three NVMe SSDs in RAID 0, with two of them connected directly to the CPU as opposed to going through the DMI link. Asus claims this setup will put you at roughly 8700MB/s in sequential read speed. Purportedly, the Mothership will allow you to slot in an additional four standard SSDs, as well. How configurable the device will be when you go to purchase one is unclear, because Asus didn't list configurations. 

The screen is a large for a gaming laptop but small for an AIO at 17.3" (44 cm). It's a 1920 x 1080 IPS panel running at 144 Hz with 100% sRGB coverage, and it's G-Sync compatible. The decision to go with a 1920 x 1080 panel makes some sense given the goal of high frame rates, but strong performance at 2560 x 1440 would likely be achievable with the included hardware. 

The keyboard, with n-key rollover and per-key RGB LEDs, functions as the screen cover, just like the keyboard on a Surface Pro. With the keyboard and trackpad moved to the front, the Mothership looks similar to the ROG Zephyrus S or the aforementioned Predator Triton 900. Like those laptops, the touchpad on the Mothership is tall rather than wide and can light up and function as a number pad. 

This keyboard has a few additional tricks, though. It's detachable, so you can use it in wireless mode (2.4 GHz), or you can connect it by magnetically snapping it together with the tablet. The back half of the keyboard also folds underneath the front, lifting it up and giving you a more typical keyboard thickness when typing on a desk or table. 

Four speakers adorn the front of this giant, pumped by a premium 24-Bit ESS Sabre HiFi DAC with Hi-Res Audio certification. Asus says they're 200% louder than typical speakers. Networking includes a 2.5-Gb Ethernet port, Bluetooth 5.0, and an 802.11ax Wi-Fi chip from Intel. 

The Mothership has a strong array of I/O ports, including two USB Type-C ports. One of them supports Thunderbolt 3, and the other supports VirtualLink, which is a recently introduced standard for plugging in VR headsets using a single cable. In other words, this machine is VR-ready. There are also four USB Type-A ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, a full-size SD card reader, and a Kensington lock. Asus also squeezed in jacks for 3.5-mm headphones and mics.

There's a button on the bottom of the Mothership that automatically releases the adjustable kickstand when you put it down. It appears as though the angle is rather limited, however, to either 105° or 127°. 

Because all the components are in the "monitor" part of this machine, they're up off of your desktop, like an AIO. Asus says this design improves cooling, which technically it should, given all the open air around the hot parts. There are two fans inside the Mothership helping to keep things cool, but we wonder how loud those fans will get when this system is under load, given the extreme hardware. 

Just like some of the other high-end gaming machines of this year, the Mothership requires dual power supplies, so make sure you've got plenty of free outlets around. Being one of Asus' new gaming machines, it has exclusive software allowing you to switch between G-Sync and Optimus. 

If you've ever looked at the Surface Pro and thought what it really needed was a collection of insane specifications, or wished your AIO had a semi-radical keyboard available, the Mothership is what you were thinking of. Whether it will be the machine of your dreams will still depend on pricing, which at this point is yet to be determined.
 

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