ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: The cost of innovation?
After every refresh cycle, it seems like the laptop market has tanked, with manufacturers only chasing marginally better performance in compact form-factors. Very few laptops feel fundamentally different from the rest of the crowd. The ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) is one of them, which replaces the trackpad with a fully functional touchscreen, called as the ScreenPad. But is that enough to justify this laptop’s exorbitant price tag? Let’s find out.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: Build and Design
If you’ve seen one ASUS laptop, you’ve seen them all. At least in terms of design. With the Zenbook Pro 15 you get the same iconic concentric circles on brushed metal, this time with a dark blue coat along with a copper trim on the edges. It is fairly sturdy and bulky, but definitely reassuring. There is no chassis flex either. However, this is a very design with nothing we haven’t seen earlier. For a laptop aiming to be a trendsetter in this premium space, something more unique would have been appreciated.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: Display
4K displays on laptops are cool to have but provide little functionality. The panel on this Zenbook has high contrast and saturation screen, with great viewing angles, and extreme sharpness. Not much to complain about, and it would be wrong to expect a higher refresh rate panel too as this is not a gaming laptop.
This is a touch panel, which is very usable for Windows 10 and the screen wobble was minimal to not spoil the user experience. The glossy coating would get smudged easily making it difficult to swipe your fingers across the glass, but my usage revolved more around occassional taps so that was not a problem.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: Performance
The Zenbook is a powerhouse when it comes to processing prowess, with a top of the line 6-core Intel Core i9 (not an i7), which was impossible to bog down with just windows to usage. However, anyone looking to get a laptop of this caliber(and price tag) will probably want to use it for gaming or rendering or other graphics-intensive tasks, and for that, the 1050ti seems to bottleneck this laptop’s output. That is a capable budget GPU, but can barely push 60fps on 1080p gaming, on low to medium settings. I will go as far as saying that I’d much rather prefer an i7 with a 1060ti instead of this i9 with a 1050 series card. There are very few tasks that are not dependent on the GPU wihile being so dependent on the CPU. Don’t even think of toggling to a 4K display output during gaming, unless you want a toaster that lags.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: Keyboard and Trackpad
This laptop has a full-sized keyboard with big keys and nice springy feedback. Key travel felt sufficient too. The keys are backlit for ease of use in darker scenarios. There is no NumPad on the far right, which could be a bummer for some. Looking at the inch-thick frame on either side of the keyboard, I fail to understand why the NumPad didn’t make the cut.
Oh wait, that is because this laptop does have a number pad, and it appears when you need it to, on the touchpad. More on that later. In its standard state, this is a spacious smooth trackpad with a glossy surface. There are no dedicated buttons for the LMB and RMB on the bottom, so you will have to resort to gestures for that.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: Battery and Charging
You know what they say, gaming and professional laptops aren’t supposed to be used unless plugged in. This Zenbook takes that a little too seriously with the 3 hours of battery life it brings. Divide that by 5 for gaming. It would be wrong to expect great gaming battery life with that monster processor, but for regular light use of writing and surfing, I wish it would last me post-lunch-time without needing the power brick. Around 4 hours is the max I got out of this guy.
Thankfully, the charging speeds were much better, giving more than half the tank in less than an hour. Mind you, the charging brick is as heavy as a literal brick and takes up a lot of space in the bag. TL,DR, this is no desktop replacement, this is a desktop which can go untethered for some time.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: ScreenPad
Let’s get to the main reason for why you are still around reading this review. The marquee feature on this laptop is the ScreenPad, a first of its kind idea where the trackpad has an inbuilt 5-inch display that has a few cool party tricks. The features include a calculator, NumPad, calendar, music controls, and even Spotify. These have some swag and did turn heads each time I used it at work, but those were me going out of my way to use them. It seems like a half-baked concept providing functionality nowhere close to what it potentially can. Even getting it to work was a Level 40 task, where even after multiple downloads, no other mode would work. Eventually, we had to delete and disable the screenpad drivers and install them again from the store to be able to use them.
Other modes which were a little more usable were the option to use it as an extended display (like playing YouTube on the ScreenPad and continue regular work on the main screen) or use it as a trackpad with a static wallpaper. I hope that the successor fixes these kinks before hitting the shelves.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: Misc
The laptop has a healthy port selection with two USB Type-A’s, two Type-C’s, audio, HDMI and a microSD card slot. It would have been a creator’s dream if it came with a full-sized SD card reader instead. You also get a RJ45 lan connector dongle in the box, with UBS on the other end,
The speakers were of high quality with above average bass and ample volume. For private listening, it shall suffice.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Review: Verdict
This laptop was definitely fun to use, but for that price, you are better off with any other laptop in the segment that will offer better graphics performance or even look more premium. In its current state, the ScreenPad does little to improve the laptop’s usability or productivity and is a borderline gimmick. Having said that, this laptop does score very high on the cool quotient, and if ASUS will pursue it rigorously to get more apps and features onboard, I see it becoming a trendsetter in the industry. Till that time, the ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) will remain as a courageous first-gen product that almost got it right.
ASUS Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580) Specifications:
- Display: 15.6-inch, 3840×2160 resolution, IPS with touch input
- Processor: Intel Coffee Lake Core i9-8950HK, 6 cores at 2.9GHz
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4 GB GDDR5
- Memory: 16GB DDR4 RAM
- Storage: 1TB PCIE SSD
- I/O: 2 x USB Type C with Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB Type A 3.0, 1 x HDMI , 1 x MicroSD card reader, 1 x combo Audio jack
- Battery: 71 WHr
- Weight: 2 kg