Hands on: Asus ZenBook Pro review

Surprisingly powerful for a thin-and-light 15-inch laptop

What is a hands on review?
TODO alt text

Our Early Verdict

The Asus ZenBook Pro looks very promising indeed. If this thin-and-light 15-inch laptop can really offer entry-level gaming laptop power with battery life that’s better than most Chromebooks, it’ll be a smash hit.

For

  • Significantly thinner and lighter than rivals
  • Specs rival entry-level gaming laptops
  • Seriously gorgeous display

Against

  • Shrunken MicroSD card reader
  • Reduced key travel

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an update for the ZenBook Pro UX501, and now Asus has really delivered with the new ZenBook Pro. It features beefier specs, with Intel Core i7 H-series processors and an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti, and yet it’s thinner and lighter than ever.

The new hardware not only puts it on a par with 15-inch workstations like the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15, but also with gaming laptops. And, considering its $1,299 (about £1,010, AU$1,750) starting price, this 15-inch thin-and-light notebook could catch the attention of many students.

Design

The Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 always looked like the odd one out of the ZenBook family due to its thicker body and the concentric circles pattern etched into the keyboard deck. The new ZenBook Pro falls in line with the diamond-cut, aqua blue chassis look established by the ZenBook 3 and ZenBook UX305 before it.

Looks aside, the updated ZenBook Pro is also much thinner, measuring a scant 18.9mm, whereas the UX501 was 21mm. More impressively, Asus’ latest 15-incher is 1.8kg, which is significantly lighter than the 2.26kg model it replaces.

It’s startling how thin the ZenBook Pro is when you consider it comes outfitted with a GPU that we typically see inside entry-level gaming laptops. The only other 15-inch thin-and-light to come with the same part is the Dell XPS 15 (that happens to be only a hair thinner).

The only downsides to this slimmer, lighter form factor are that the full-sized SD card port has been shrunk to a microSD-sized one, while key travel also offers a less satisfying click with each key stroke on the keyboard, although thankfully it’s not too disappointing. 

Almost all is forgiven thanks to the inclusion of a glass trackpad that feels much better than the plastic surface of the pointing device on the UX501.

Specs and configuration

What makes the ZenBook Pro truly impressive are the parts Asus has managed to squeeze into this thin package. Users will be able to scale their configuration up to an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti. 1TB of PCIe x4 SSD storage and 16GB DDR4 RAM sweeten the deal even further, if you have the money to burn.

Out of all the ZenBooks, Asus says this one should last the longest at up to 14 hours thanks to its 73WHr battery. It also charges back up to 60% in just 49 minutes, if your use case is particularly demanding.

The 15.6-inch nano-edge 4K display is no slouch either, offering great color reproduction and superbly wide viewing angles. Rounding out the entertainment package are four speakers that have been engineered to offer  2.5x louder sound and 1.6x wider frequency response. 

Early verdict

Asus has put forth what is arguably one of the most impressive thin-and-light laptops to date. With specs to rival a gaming laptop and battery life that even outstretches most Chromebook, it will have a lot to prove in our full review. For now, though, the laptop looks like a solid package and we love a lot about it from our initial impressions so far.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.