PC

ZenBook Pro for road warriors who need graphics power

The Windows-based ZenBook Pro, with its powerful graphics hardware, can give the MacBook Pro a run for its money.
The Windows-based ZenBook Pro, with its powerful graphics hardware, can give the MacBook Pro a run for its money.PHOTO: ASUS

For mobile professionals who need a notebook with more graphics horsepower, the usual choice is a 15-inch laptop with a dedicated graphics chip.

In recent years, the obvious recommendation would be the Apple MacBook Pro. But the latest model has left some professionals underwhelmed - its hardware seems more suited for home consumers.

Content creators might want to consider Windows laptops, such as the new Asus Zenbook Pro. For a start, it has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip that crushes the MacBook Pro's Radeon chip.

I like the ZenBook Pro's dark blue finish (Asus calls it royal blue). Its metal lid has the signature concentric finish of the ZenBook series radiating from the central, glowing Asus logo. But the laptop does pick up fingerprints and other smudges easily. Build quality is excellent. Its aluminium chassis feels sturdy. The lid is rigid and does not yield to my attempts to flex it.

At under 19mm thick, the ZenBook Pro is slim for a 15-inch model, but not as thin as the MacBook Pro. However, both laptops weigh 1.8kg, which is probably more important to users than the difference of a few millimetres.

The ZenBook Pro comes with a touchscreen, but it does not transform into a tablet. Asus sells a stylus for $69 but I cannot imagine who would want to scribble on a display that cannot be opened 180 degrees to lie flat on the table.

The screen resolution is relatively modest at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. It feels underwhelming when rivals sport higher resolution displays. But the IPS screen has excellent viewing angles and the colours look vibrant. Its bezel is slim, though not razor-thin like the Dell XPS 15's.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $2,898

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-7700HQ (2.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB DDR5

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB 3.0, HDMI, microSD card slot, audio jack

    BATTERY: 73 watt-hour


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE: 2/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The backlit keyboard has decent key travel, though the function keys could be larger. The Precision touchpad has a glass coating that feels silky. But I am not enthused by the location of the fingerprint sensor, at the top right corner of the touchpad. It reduces the usable area of the touchpad.

Kudos to Asus for outfitting the ZenBook Pro with two USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. These can connect to external 4K monitors, which is useful to graphics professionals. In addition, the laptop has two standard-size (Type-A) USB ports and an HDMI port. There is even a bundled USB-to-Ethernet dongle.

The ZenBook Pro is powered by an Intel Core i7 chip and comes with a dedicated Nvidia graphics chip. This Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti model has higher clock speeds and more processing cores than the GTX 1050 chips found in 15-inch competitors like the Dell XPS 15 and the Lenovo Yoga 720.

As a result, the ZenBook Pro scored 4,484 in the PCMark 10 benchmark compared with 3,949 for the Yoga 720. The ZenBook Pro is better at creating digital content, registering a PCMark 10 score in this category of 4,834 to the Yoga's 3,985. It will also run most games decently at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

With its modest screen resolution and a fairly large battery, it was not surprising that the ZenBook Pro had excellent battery life, lasting some 7.5 hours in our video-loop test. The Yoga 720 lasted just five hours and 20 minutes.

• Verdict: A capable, well-built 15-inch laptop for mobile professionals who need more graphics horsepower. But gamers can probably find more powerful and perhaps cheaper alternatives.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2017, with the headline 'ZenBook Pro for road warriors who need graphics power'. Print Edition | Subscribe