June 6, 2023

Hands-on with Asus’ Dell XPS 15 rival

In the past, if you were after a Windows-based quad-core multimedia machine, the Dell XPS 15 would almost certainly make your shortlist. The Asus ZenBook Pro might do, too, but until today the Pro brand had represented slightly chunky, flabby multimedia laptops that didn’t really stir the soul.

This year’s ZenBook Pro appears to be a step forward, with a thinner design and a lighter weight – and if the price is right, it could become a decent rival to the Dell.

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The ZenBook Pro weighs in at 1.9kg, about the same as the Dell XPS 15 (in its smaller battery configuration). The 15.6-inch screen comes in Ultra HD and Full HD options, and Asus has a name for its relatively thin bezel: NanoEdge. Dell’s InfinityEdge is still significantly thinner, however, so it isn’t a huge selling point.

The blue metal design has become Asus’ trademark style, but the rounded corners don’t do much to eliminate that slightly chunky feel; even though the machine is only 18.9mm thick, it seems bigger than that.

It feels like your average ZenBook, which is to say fairly solid but not perfect. There’s slight flex from the lid and the keyboard tray; it doesn’t feel as sturdy as its premium rivals. The keyboard, too, isn’t as tactile, clicky or responsive as I’d like – I’d go as far as to say it’s a bit mushy. It’s at least backlit and roomy, so it isn’t all bad. The touchpad is Microsoft Precision-certified, and it feels responsive.

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The screen is bright and vibrant, and the huge number of pixels makes everything super-sharp. Audio-wise, the stereo speakers felt like they were being pushed beyond their limits when playing the ZenBook Pro trailer at 75% volume, which doesn’t bode well.

Connectivity is generous, with two USB-C connectors with ThunderBolt 3 integrated, along with two USB 3.1 Type-A connectors. A full-size HDMI and 3.5mm audio jack complete the set.

Even if it’s physically a little underwhelming, performance should be excellent. A quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 H-series CPU will be included, and Nvidia’s latest GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti will provide the graphical grunt for 3D work, video effects and a bit of gaming. A PCI-E SSD completes the package, which should make for a very fast PC.

Early Impressions

It’s likely the price that will determine the success of the ZenBook Pro. If it can undercut its quad-core rivals, such as the Dell XPS 15, it stands a decent chance. Its physical design and keyboard may not be perfect, but for the right price, folk will be willing to accept some compromises.