Asus ROG G20CI

The Asus ROG G20CI is a gaming PC that certainly stands out – but not because it looms over your desk. Instead, it has a compact chassis with some visually-arresting design flourishes. It also comes with a fine pedigree; Asus, and its Republic of Gamers brand, are held in high regard when it comes to gaming devices, be it graphics cards, peripherals or gaming desktops or laptops.

Many desktop gaming PCs are huge devices that dominate the desk, either to show off their powerful components or to provide enough room for adequate airflow to keep the components running cool.

The Asus ROG G20CI is not one of those machines. Instead, it comes in a compact design that’s around the size of the original Xbox One. This means it’s a viable gaming PC to have in your front room, but you'd expect this to come at a cost, in the financial sense and/or in terms of keeping things cool; the smaller the chassis, the harder the fans will have to work, which could lead to a nosier machine.

Price and availability

Price-wise the Asus ROG G20CI does indeed come at a cost. A gaming PC that packs some of the most powerful components on the market today into such a small chassis was never going to be cheap, and the $1,599 (£2,155.49) price tag confirms this.

That’s a fair amount of cash Asus is asking you to part with, especially in the UK, where it is more expensive than the Alienware Aurora R6 configuration with similar specifications.

It's worth noting that we found quite a wide range of prices for the Asus ROG G20CI, so it's definitely worth looking at a number of online retailers before you buy, as you could save yourself quite a bit of money.

In Australia, the Asus ROG G20CI isn’t currently available, but the Asus ROG G20CB is. This has slightly different specification, including a weaker graphics card (an Nvidia GTX 1060 vs the G20CI’s GTX 1080), and costs AU$2,299. We’ve contacted Asus to see if and when the ROG G20CI will be available in Australia.

Design

Two things immediately struck us when we opened the box and set up the Asus ROG G20CI. First is its size – at 4.09 x 13.38 x 14.09 inches (10.3 x 33.9 x 35.8cm), it’s smaller than compact desktop gaming machines such as the Alienware Aurora R6, which measures 8.3 x 14.2 x 18.6 inches (21 x 36 x 47cm).

It’s also smaller than the (admittedly bloated) original Xbox One, and it’s not hugely larger than the PS4 Pro. If you’ve been looking for a gaming PC that you can plug into the TV in your lounge without it looking completely out of place, then the ROG G20CI’s compact design could sway you.

The actual aesthetics of the ROG G20CI were the other thing that leapt out at us. This is a bespoke chassis designed especially for the Asus ROG G20 line of gaming machines, and it certainly stands out from gaming desktops that use third-party cases. 

The design is unmistakably ROG, though, with severe edges, along with grilles for airflow that have a design reminiscent of circuit boards. This design can be seen in a number of Asus ROG products, such as the Asus ROG Gladius II mouse and the ROG Claymore keyboard – so if you’re an ROG fan and have these peripherals already, or are planning to get them, then the ROG G20CI will fit in very nicely.

The case also features Asus Aura RGB lighting, which lights up the box with various colors. It’s an arresting effect, and the lights can be tweaked via a preinstalled app, enabling you to change the colors, alter the patterns or simply turn off the lights. Many Asus products (including the aforementioned mouse and keyboard) feature Aura lighting, and these can all be synced up.

At the front of the chassis are two USB ports, a mic jack and headphone jack. There’s also something that's a bit of a rarity these days: a DVD drive. In these days of Steam and Good Old Games, the humble DVD drive can feel a bit superfluous, but it at least allows you to play older disc-based games, or play DVDs and CDs. 

This is a nice touch if you do indeed have the Asus ROG G20CI plugged into your TV, though the lack of Blu-ray or even a UHD drive detracts from its media player credentials. And for the vast majority of modern PC gamers, we feel this DVD drive will remain largely untouched.

The power button is also located on the front of the case, but you may not immediately spot it. We spent a good while searching for it – not a highlight of a decade in technology journalism. We even asked a colleague if they could find it, and they were stumped as well.

Eventually we located it: a small black triangle towards the top of the case, nestled amid a design of other small black triangles. Once you’ve located it you’ll be able to find it more easily the next time you need it, but it was our first hint that the Asus ROG G20CI’s design might value visual flair over usability.

On the side of the case is an imprint of the Republic of Gamers logo, which is about as subtle as the ROG G20CI’s design gets, while on the back are the usual array of I/O ports you’d expect to find on a gaming PC.

However, there is one difference here – there are two power sockets. Yep, the Asus ROG G20CI requires two power adaptors, which admittedly surprised us, as it's not an excessively large or powerful machine.

This has obvious implications, as it means you’re hiding two sets of cables, and need two free power sockets to run the Asus ROG G20CI. Asus has attempted to mitigate this inconvenience by combining the two power bricks into a single design, but it doesn’t quite work. It’s a weird element of the Asus ROG G20CI, as other gaming desktop PCs don't need such an arrangement.

Difficult to upgrade

The compact design of the Asus ROG G20CI also means components are packed in tightly, which makes replacing or upgrading them tricky. One of the best things about desktop PCs is that it's pretty straightforward to replace some ageing components, such as RAM and graphics cards, with newer versions, which can give older machines a new lease of life.

It would appear, though, that Asus doesn’t want you to even open the ROG G20CI’s chassis, as there’s no easy way to gain access to the insides of the machine.

This feels like a desktop PC with elements of a game console’s design. In some respects, such as the small chassis, this is welcome, but in other ways – for example when it comes to upgrading the system, it feels more restrictive than traditional gaming PCs.

There’s also no getting away from the fact that if you want a console-like experience for your living room there are consoles out there, such as the upcoming Xbox One X, that will provide decent graphics for a lot less money.

Despite its small stature, the Asus ROG G20CI certainly packs some powerful components. The model we were sent comes with a seventh-generation Kaby Lake i7-7700 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card with 8GB of GDDR4 RAM. While both of these components have been superseded by more recent models, they should be enough to ensure decent performance in games at high settings.

For general desktop performance the ROG G20CI performed well, with Windows 10 feeling fast and responsive. However, we were concerned with the noise levels of the fans. With such a compact chassis, we expected the Asus ROG G20CI to be loud, as those fans work have to hard to keep the components cool in an enclosed space, but we weren’t expecting it to be as loud as it was.

Even during relatively simple tasks, such as downloading games from Steam, the fans would occasionally kick in loudly. The spinning up, then slowing down, of fans led one person nearby to comment that it sounded like the sea breaking on the shore, and we have to agree.

The Aegis software showed the fans working hard to keep the temperature down

Because the noise of the fans is so distracting, we opened up the ROG Aegis software to see if there was a reason for the fans kicking in. This software is a comprehensive tool that enables you to monitor components, adjust fans, overclock the hardware and change the ROG Aura LED lights. 

To our surprise, the fan profile was on the ‘silent’ setting. The software did show that the hardware was running warm, and when we updated Windows, and played games, the fans grew louder – and at a couple of points the Aegis software even warned us of the temperature.

So it seems that if you want a powerful gaming PC in as small a chassis as the Asus ROG G20CI has, then you’re going to have to live with noisy fans. This can impact your enjoyment of games, and it makes it less suitable as a PC for the lounge, as those fans can become distracting.

Benchmarks

Putting the Asus ROG G20CI through our suite of benchmark tests confirmed that this is a pretty capable gaming machine that's able to handle most modern games at mid-to-high graphics settings at 1080p. If you’re buying the ROG G20CI as a compact gaming machine for plugging in a HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, then there’s enough oomph here for VR gaming. However, for playing at 4K, the GTX 1080 is going to struggle.

In our Deus Ex: Mankind Divided benchmarks, a good indicator of how a machine can cope with a graphically-demanding game, the ROG G20CI did about as well as we'd expected, managing 20fps on ultra settings at 1080p, and 113fps on low settings. This means that with a few tweaks you’ll get a very playable experience without too much compromise.

However, for higher resolutions, especially 4K, you’ll have to cut a lot more graphical effects. Total War: Warhammer is a game that's pretty CPU heavy, and the Asus ROG G20CI did better here with highs of 220fps on low settings, and very decent 95.06fps on ultra settings.

In our real-world tests games played pretty well, though we did need to tweak the graphical settings for consistent frame rates on more visually demanding titles – don’t think that this is a machine on which you can just set a game to ‘ultra’ and play. Considering the price tag, that will be a disappointment to many – and you’ll also need to consider that due to the difficulty of upgrading this machine, you may be stuck with these specs for a fair few years.

And, not surprisingly, those fans became distractingly loud as we played.

We liked

The compact design of the Asus ROG G20CI is certainly impressive, and Asus has performed some pretty impressive design magic to cram everything into such a small body.

And the design overall is pretty great – especially if you have a number of Asus ROG peripherals already, as the ROG design ethos continues with the ROG G20CI.

We didn’t like

While we marvelled at the small size of the ROG G20CI, we did worry that it might be a struggle to keep the components inside cool – and sadly our fears were realized. The fans will kick in even when the machine is performing relatively lightweight tasks, making this one of the nosiest desktop PCs we’ve used.

Warnings from the Asus Aegis software about temperatures were also concerning. The compact design, meanwhile, will make upgrading the PC in the future very difficult.

Final verdict

Our first impression of the Asus ROG G20CI was that this could be a gaming PC that married the best things about desktop PCs with traditional games consoles – a compact and lounge-friendly machine that could pump out visuals the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X could only dream about.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the ROG G20CI instead exhibits some of the worst aspects of both form factors – so we get the difficult-to-upgrade design of a console with the high price tag of a gaming PC.

If you’re not interested in games consoles the Asus ROG G20CI performs well, but there are more powerful desktop PCs out there, and if you don’t mind a larger device then you may even get a more powerful machine for less money. Having a larger, more traditional, chassis would also make the PC more easily upgradable, and therefore more future-proof.

Because of the loud fans that struggle to keep the ROG G20CI cool, this is also not a great device for having in the lounge, unless you turn the volume of your TV or sound system right up. Sadly, it appears Asus hasn’t learned its lesson from the Asus ROG G20BM, another compact gaming desktop in a similar chassis that was too loud and too expensive.

So we’re a bit torn over the Asus ROG G20CI. It’s a perfectly decent machine, and in no way a bad device, but we feel that a few too many compromises have been made to keep the size so small. Fan noise, component temperature, price and upgradability are all affected – but if you don’t mind accepting those concessions, you should be happy.

But for most of us, the high price tag and loud fans will be too much to ignore.

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