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ASUS ZenBook Pro review: Stylish, practical and fun

In the not too distant past, having a dedicated GPU inside a thin and light laptop usually meant something low powered and ultimately compromised. Thankfully, the NVIDIA Pascal-based 10-series GPUs changed all that. It's now possible to squeeze more power in less space than ever before.

Gaming laptops are the natural benefactor, but it's also led to a number of professional-class notebooks coming to market with fairly powerful dedicated graphics. Dell's XPS 15 is one such example, and one of the newer contenders is the ASUS ZenBook Pro.

It's a 15-inch laptop with NVIDIA 10-series graphics, a svelte all metal chassis and a pretty attractive price tag for a laptop in this class. It's also pretty good.

About this review

This review was conducted using an ASUS ZenBook Pro loaned to Windows Central by ASUS for the purposes of review. It was run on the latest production build of Windows 10 throughout and all specs and benchmarking details are contained within the body of the review.

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ASUS ZenBook Pro specs

CategorySpecification
SoftwareWindows 10 Pro 64-bit
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7700HQ
GraphicsNVIDIA GTX 1050 4GB
Storage512GB PCIe SSD
Memory8GB 2400MHz DDR4
Display size15.6-inch IPS matte finish
178-degree viewing angles
Display resolution1920 x 1080
PortsHDMI, 3.5mm headset jack, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB-C, 1 x USB-C Thunderbolt 3, microSD card

ASUS ZenBook Pro hardware and design

ASUS ZenBook Pro

The unit we've been sent by ASUS is in black, which isn't the most outrageous finish the company offers on its laptops by far. In this case, though, it isn't a case of "oh, it's boring looking," the ZenBook Pro looks amazing.

The ZenBook Pro is one handsome thing

The all metal body is black all over, which I love, save for the slightest accent of silver around the chamfered edge on the base. It's just enough to set off the design. Black metal looks better than black plastic always, and the ZenBook Pro is a handsome thing indeed.

The lid is etched with ASUS' trademark concentric circle design, and paired with the black finish as the light catches it, it looks quite striking. It's like a metallic record disc. And whether you're a fan of glowing corporate logos or not, you'll find one on the ZenBook Pro.

What you don't find on the outside of the ZenBook Pro is a fingerprint scanner, which seems like a mistake on a premium laptop such as this. There are plenty of speakers, though, for better or worse, tuned by Harman/Kardon.

They do sound really good though, albeit suffering in clarity at the highest volumes. But logging in with a fingerprint instead of having great speakers is a trade I'd be willing to make.

As you'd hope from a Pro level laptop, you're well-catered for when it comes to ports. You get USB 3.0, USB-C and a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connector, alongside a 3.5m headset jack and a full-sized HDMI output. Though for some reason there's a microSD card slot rather than a full-sized one.

Why would you put only a microSD card slot on a laptop like this?

Which is odd. And unfortunate.

Beneath the sleek metallic surface lies plenty of hardware goodness. We're looking at an Intel Core i7-7700HQ quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, along with a 4GB GTX 1050 GPU from NVIDIA.

Despite all this, it produces pretty decent battery life, too. I've been easily hitting 8 hours between charges on regular use, and this particular model is no doubt helped in that arena by 'only' having a 1080p non-touch display.

ASUS ZenBook Pro display, keyboard, and trackpad

ASUS ZenBook Pro

The display on the ZenBook Pro is neither high-resolution nor touch enabled. At least not on our review unit anyway, but there are options.

What we have here is a 15.6-inch 1080p display with a matte finish. To the eye, it looks nice, though as I experienced on the VivoBook S15, it's not as bright as I'd like. Using it in a bright room or on a train next to a window left me wanting more.

There's virtually no glare, which is great, but I'd like to see it a little brighter.

Colors aren't bad on the ZenBook Pro, though far from the best in class. And out of box calibration is terrible, with too much warmth and a green/yellow tint over everything.

Run through the Datacolor Spyder 5 Pro (opens in new tab) to calibrate properly yields pleasing results, with nice whites and fairly deep blacks. The calibration reveals a 97% sRGB compatibility which isn't bad, but it's far from exemplary. For a laptop in this category we'd be looking for a 100% compliance.

There's also a weird bug I encountered a few times where the laptop will just reject the calibrated data and resort back to the nasty out of box colors.

One other thing to point out about the display is that it's not too bezel heavy. ASUS has been a lot better at this recently and the ZenBook Pro screen is framed by slim top and side bezels.

ASUS ZenBook Pro

Looking down a little at the keyboard and it's mostly the same good review that ASUS keyboards usually get. The key travel is excellent, and the typing experience a real pleasure. There is a little flex around the keyboard area, but the keys feel sharp so long as you're not stamping on them with your fingers and making everything bend.

There is one thing that frustrates me though with its layout. The worst of which is the second Fn key which is directly to the right of the right-hand arrow key. I use the arrow keys a lot and the number of times I've hit this instead doesn't bear thinking about.

It should be to the left of the left hand arrow, really. Or so I think, anyway. I'd also love to see ASUS (and others) mimic Dell and not require a press of the Fn key to change things like volume and backlight brightness on the F keys.

ASUS ZenBook Pro

The trackpad is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it has a precision touchpad, which is good and it would lose lots of points if it didn't. But it's a little inconsistent in performance, which could just be an issue on this review unit, but still worth pointing out.

The cursor speed felt way too slow from first boot, which at least is something you can fix. But every now and again it hesitates like it's frozen for just a split second.

Otherwise, it's a perfect size and placement for a laptop of this stature. It has a good solid click action and has a really nice, smooth metallic finish.

ASUS ZenBook Pro performance

ASUS ZenBook Pro

This isn't a gaming laptop, but once you're done working for the day you can absolutely play some games on it. That 4GB GTX 1050 might be the entry level of the new Pascal GPUs, but it's still generally a solid performer.

There's lots to like about the ZenBook Pro when talking about performance, with that GPU partnered with SSD storage and a quad-core i7 processor. You'd expect it to shine, and it does.

Let's look at some numbers.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
ASUS ZenBook Proi7-7700HQ4,02113,270
ASUS GR8 IIi5-74004,09311,819
Lenovo Legion Y720i7-7700HQ4,69714,810
Razer Blade Stealthi7-7500U4,2118,333
Dell XPS 15i7-7700HQ4,50313,587
Razer Blade Proi7-6700HQ3,66012,325
Surface Laptopi7-7660U4,6779,538

There are no surprises in CPU performance aside from a slight dip compared to the Lenovo Legion and Dell XPS 15 with the same processor. The latest generation outperforms the 6th-generation version, too, which we saw in the mighty Razer Blade Pro, as well as the desktop 7th-generation Core i5 found in the ASUS GR8 II.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 Graphics OpenCL (Higher is better)

DeviceScore
ASUS ZenBook Pro GTX 1050 4GB65,444
ASUS GR8 II GTX 1060 3GB126,311
Razer Blade 14 GTX 1060 6GB139,603
Surface Book GTX 965M63,029
Surface Studio GTX 965M53,685
ASUS Strix GL753 GTX 105076,007

Compared to another GTX 1050 laptop from the same manufacturer, the score in the Geekbench compute benchmark is surprisingly low, almost to the point of the previous generation mobile GPUs in the Surface products.

Storage

CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

DeviceReadWrite
ASUS ZenBook Pro523.9 MB/s501.2 MB/s
Razer Blade (960 EVO)2,079 MB/s1809 MB/s
MacBook Pro 13 (2016)1,549 MB/s1,621 MB/s
Spectre x360 5121,332 MB/s589 MB/s
XPS 13 (9360) 2561,287 MB/s794 MB/s
Surface Book 1TB1,018 MB/s967 MB/s

The version of the ZenBook Pro we have for review has the slower PCIe SSD which shows compared to some of the top laptops out there with NVMe SSDs on board. It's hardly slow, but if you can afford the upgraded model with the NVMe drive you'll get a lot more performance.

It's also fairly handy in games. Here's how it fared in some popular titles. Graphics settings are detailed per title, all run with VSync off and at 1080p resolution.

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (High) - 35.9 FPS
  • Grand Theft Auto V (High) - 79.7 FPS

The ZenBook Pro isn't a gaming laptop, and expecting high frame rates at high settings at 1080p would be foolish given the hardware. However, getting above 30 FPS in some pretty demanding games is respectable, especially considering the current consoles sometimes struggle to meet this mark. GTA V is perhaps a little anomaly, since it's a pretty CPU intensive game and the ZenBook Pro has a strong CPU. But by turning down settings you'll still get solid frame rates in demanding titles.

For lighter titles like CS:GO, Rocket League, Dota 2, League of Legends and such the ZenBook Pro is more than enough to have a great experience. Equally, it's not hard to have a great time with some decent settings in titles like Forza Horizon 3 and Forza 7 from the Windows Store.

What's also impressive is the lack of heat and lack of noise. The ZenBook Pro only ever gets hot around the hinge, with the keyboard and wrist area staying cool even when you're really pushing it.

ASUS Zenbook Pro: The bottom line

ASUS ZenBook Pro

The ZenBook Pro isn't perfect, but It is a very good laptop for someone looking for something that can do it all. The display could have better colors, especially since it's an attractive proposition to creatives, but all-round it's pretty good.

There are some annoyances, like the Fn key location, the pretty ridiculous choice to have a microSD card slot in place of a proper one and inconsistencies in the trackpad, but none of the negatives are close to being a deal breaker.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous design
  • Quad-core i7 processor
  • Powerful GPUs from NVIDIA
  • Plenty of ports
  • Well priced

Cons:

  • Inconvenient Fn key placement next to the arrow keys
  • Trackpad has some inconsistencies in performance
  • microSD card slot instead of full-sized SD
  • Display could be brighter

More importantly, the ZenBook Pro looks amazing, packs lots of performance into a sleek chassis, has good battery life, excellent speakers, and an attractive price point. It's not necessarily the best in its category, but it's a very strong contender nevertheless. On balance, the Dell XPS 15 is still a better laptop, but beating it would also require something pretty special.

The model reviewed here currently retails for £1,349 in the UK (opens in new tab), while in the U.S. an upgraded model with a GTX 1050 Ti and an NVMe SSD is available for $1,699.

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Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

14 Comments
  • Not worth the price because of poor SSD!
  • It's not exactly poor, I mean, it's not the best you can buy in the ZenBook Pro, as highlighted in the review. There's an NVMe model that costs more money and will be faster. I have an NVMe drive in my desktop PC and in regular use I couldn't tell you it was faster than the PCIe drive in this. On benchmarks, sure, it's a ton faster. The numbers are a lot higher.
  • Biggest con is the price for me - I wish it was available with a normal HDD so that the price could come down significantly
  • How do you fit a normal HD in a ultrabook that thin?
  • HDD drives are the devil. They are so horribly slow.
  • Does it do GPU switching between the NVidia and the builtin Intel HD Graphics from the CPU?  I've got a 4 years old laptop that does that, when there is no high demand on GPU, it runs with the Intel HD Graphics from the Core i7 4700 in my laptop and automatically switch to the NVidia one when GPU intensive processes are running.  Saves a lot of battery when using the Intel HD Graphics.
  • I wonder, why does Asus rent subpar model for testing, as people will judge the whole line of ZenBook Pro models by it. Two weeks ago, I got the stronger model of Zenbook pro, Asus UX550VE, with i7, 16 Gb RAM, NVMe SSD, GTX 1050 Ti graphics, pressure sensitive touch display and gorgeous black blue colour. It is realy beautifull and fast laptop with HD display and I dont know, who is able to recognize missing 3% of colur it suposed to have. With side by side evaluation, I think it is THE BEST multimedia laptop on the market beating XPS15 and Macbook pro as well Aero15 not only with price, but particulary if you want to use it for drawing on the screen as it's pressure sensitive - unlike the screen on XPS. I bought additional Wacom Bamboo windows ink pen and the whole new dimension of laptop usage arise. If you are able to use or need this function, not a single laptop comes close - maybe Yoga 720 i7, but it lack ports (i.e. no HDMI, card reader etc.). I got the same behaviour as Richard with screen calibration utility, which now and then windows defender (WD) turns off. Exception of calibration utility added to WD fixed that.
  • Can only review what's available. In the UK I don't think the Ti model is available. I can only work with what they send me :) Even the cheaper model XPS 15 is better than the cheaper model ZenBook Pro. It's still the one to beat I think.
  • There's an option in the NVIDIA Control Panel that allows you to have it auto-select between integrated or dedicated graphics. Or you can manually specify which you want.
  • You got the mid-range model. The full model features a 4K Touchscreen panel and a fingerprint scanner embedded in the trackpad.
  • Doesn't matter, fingerprint scanner should be on all models. This is a laptop that costs over £1,000, a fingerprint scanner is not a premium accessory.
  • Put these specs on a 2 in 1 and I would save for that.
  • I would not spend a DIME on a laptop in this class with a 1080p screen.  I have the current ZenBook Pro with a 4K display. This one is a major fail.
  • I don't think it's unreasonable at all to put a microSD reader in the latptop. I don't have any devices that use a full size SD card. I always have to use an adapter to use my microSD cards in my desktop and laptop. What devices do you have that use a full size SD card?