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Asus ZenBook Pro 15

Test : Asus ZenBook Pro 15

Presented at the Computex 2018 fair in Taipei, the Asus ZenBook Pro 15 is undoubtedly one of the most attractive versatile laptops in the brand's catalog. On the one hand because it only ships very high-end components, compressed in a really thin case. On the other hand because the ZenBook Pro 15 is equipped with an atypical touchpad, called ScreenPad. As its name suggests, more than a sliding surface to control the mouse cursor, the ScreenPad is actually a small screen on which several types of information are displayed depending on the applications launched, which can even be used for extension of the Windows 10 desktop. Do you also think MacBook Pro looks like TouchBar? Yes, so do we, but let's not go too fast.

First of all, it should be noted that the version we received for testing is the most high-end of the family, that it has the war name UX580GE-E2048T, and that on its label is printed the pretty sum of 3000 euros. At this price, as much to say that our requirements towards it are at a very high level. That said, cheaper versions of the machine are available commercially, from 1300 euros. Each time, the ScreenPad remains in the game. Only the components and the definition of the screen and the platform change.
If you're Parisian or live in a big city, you've probably seen Asus ZenBook Pro 15. Yes, yes, it's the laptop with which actress Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) has been showing off at bus or metro stops for the past few days. A 15.6-inch computer that is tailored to meet the needs of both creative and demanding users, which would allow us to " unleash our creative power  " chants the slogan of Asus.

Finishes, comfort and ergonomics

It must be admitted that this laptop is beautiful. The case of the device is entirely made of brushed aluminum alloy, cut with precision industrial tools (CNC), and its thickness remains below 2.25 cm.
The midnight blue tint of the whole is finely enhanced and enhanced by a bronze-colored border that runs around the entire periphery of the interior tray. A metallic color that is also found on the logo on the back of the screen and even on the screen printing of the keyboard letters.
A keyboard whose keys are, of course, separate, backlit (three intensity levels) and which occupy the space of the interior tray. The numeric keypad is however absent subscribers (well, not quite, it is hidden in the ScreenPad) and is replaced by a series of keys that are usually found in the form of shortcuts (End, Start, Page Next and Previous) on many laptops. We regret that Asus had to, to implement these functions, plan the "Enter" key and reduce it to a simple horizontal rectangle, and that the "*" key is - completely - disproportionate. Still, once in the fingers, the range of keys provides good typing comfort, not too long,

The ZenBook Pro 15 offers fairly complete connectivity, starting with two USB 3 sockets (on the right) and two others, Type-C, Thunderbolt 3 compatible (on the left). An HDMI video output, an audio jack combining the stereo output and the microphone input as well as a microSD card reader come to fill the sides of the device. No wired network socket, you will have to buy an additional USB / Ethernet adapter or go through the Wi-Fi module for Internet connections.

Is the ScreenPad really the future of the touchpad?

The ScreenPad is undoubtedly the main innovation of this ZenBook Pro 15. As we said in the introduction, it is a touchpad under the surface of which hides a screen and which can put on three different costumes. That of simple substitute for the field mouse, that of secondary touch screen on which one can slide for example windows of Windows 10 or, still that of a TouchBar of MacBook Pro, with some additional subtleties.

To switch from one role to another, press the F6 key on the keyboard and, in any case, waving your finger on the surface continues to move the mouse cursor.
As a touchpad , the ScreenPad does its job, nothing to say. It responds well to various manipulations with several fingers. The surface is matte, slides well and the click buttons hidden under the sliding area are hard as we like them.

As a secondary 5.5-inch screen , it offers a Full HD definition, scaled to 175% by Windows 10 so that the readability remains correct. It is possible to have several small windows or one, in full screen. Perfect for watching a Netflix series discreetly at the office! Or, more seriously, to keep web pages, a document, news feed or even a folder full of files that could clutter up the main screen.
In this usage scenario, we can only highly recommend the use of an external mouse because dragging and dropping elements with a finger on the touchpad converted to a second screen is sometimes a bit complicated.

Note also that when we move - for example - from the role of touchpad to that of second screen by pressing the F6 key, Windows accuses the blow and emits a sound, that of the connection of an external device to the computer. In the long run, it's tiring.

Second screen yes, alternative to the Touch Bar, no

In ScreenPad mode , the touchpad is powered by a home navigation interface. This gives you access to a quick launch bar, which you can display as you would on a smartphone, by sliding your finger up and down. First observation, after a few hours of manipulation: everything does not really obey the finger and the eye. It is sometimes difficult to lower the bar of a flick on the screen.
It is thanks to this bar that we will then have access to several other customizable functions. By default, the virtual numeric keypad, the MP3 song player or even the calculator and the Launcher menu are offered. But all of this changes via the settings menu, accessible by touching the gear icon.

Let’s dwell on the Launcher menu (the house icon). Thanks to it, we build up a library of shortcuts to all the applications installed on the machine. Once selected, they are organized in alphabetical order in the menu. We would have appreciated being able to arrange them according to our tastes as on the different components of a smartphone interface. It should also be noted that the more apps there are on the machine, the more time it takes to list them in the menu and therefore display them.
Like the Touch Bar of MacBook Pro, the ScreenPad can also display specific options or tools depending on the applications running on the machine. So when you launch Word , Excel or Powerpoint , the Pad becomes a virtual tool palette, offering shortcuts to formatting options that appear on the screen. Lists of options that can also be personalized, by choosing from a (limited) range of possibilities, provided that the developer has thought about it.

However, for the moment, there are very few applications that are really useful, optimized or compatible with the ScreenPad. In short, there are only the three Office suite software mentioned above. That's all.

There are also eight dedicated apps (see screenshot below), in a small house store (Asus GiftBox), three of which are also available on the Microsoft Store.

Asus has launched a program to encourage developers to embrace its ScreenPad but, for the moment, few have answered the call ... Difficult for him to fight with the MacBook Pro and its Touch Bar; making the ScreenPad a selling point is therefore very premature! Especially since, in the state, it must be admitted that the interface suffers from some slowness and sometimes has trouble interpreting the finger pressures exerted on its surface.

ZenBook Pro 15: a beautiful 4K screen calibrated at the factory

It is now time to leave the small screen of the ScreenPad and focus on the large screen of this ZenBook Pro 15. High-end model requires, Asus has used a 4K screen, touch and therefore brilliant. We cannot say that the Taiwanese brand took special care in planing the side or upper edges and that is a shame. This slightly taints the very neat aesthetics of the machine.
On the technical side, the slab benefits from certification to the Pantone color standard (like those of Gigabyte's Aero 15X ). Asus mentions that the Delta-E is less than 2, which augurs very good color fidelity. And, after checking with our tools, it turns out that this value is confirmed on the gray levels since measured at 1.57 average. On the other hand, on colors, the Colorchecker data indicates 3.52. Good results but not as exceptional as those touted by the manufacturer.

We then measured the brightness and the contrast ratio, being careful to keep the color profile of the small Asus Splendid utility in "Normal" mode. The panel has good scores, 368 cd / m 2for the first and 1415: 1 for the second; the ZenBook Pro 15 therefore gets a good score in Display .

Core i9 to report!

We mentioned in the introduction, this version of ZenBook Pro 15 is equipped with a muscular platform. Particularly at the processor level, since it is the very latest Core i9-8950HK and its six hearts (12 threads) clocked at 2.9 GHz (4.8 GHz in Turbo mode) which are responsible for running everything. An Intel chip that we had already seen in Apple's latest MacBook Pro 15 . In terms of RAM, Asus is betting on 16 GB DDR4 and for storage, on a 1 TB Samsung SSD (PCIe NVMe).
The graphics part, for its part, is provided sometimes by the graphics controller integrated into the processor, sometimes by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti . Its presence does not mean, however, that the ZenBook Pro 15 is a gamer at heart even if, according to our 3D performance tests, it will be able to run some games in good conditions.

For that, it is necessary to be reasonable at the same time on the definition of the screen (not higher than Full HD) and the levels of details (Medium to High for recent titles) because the 1050 Ti is clearly not equipped to display AAA in 4K, fully.
If you strain the ZenBook Pro 15 hard, by mobilizing both the processor and the graphics card in complex tasks, you may first of all make the ventilation hum very loud. It emits almost 42 dB maximum, 1.5 dB less than the Apple MacBook Pro 15 for information.
Then, the mercury will gently climb under the machine (47.6 ° C max. Readings). And as the heat tends to spread a little on the inner tray, be aware that the temperature on the palm rests can approach 40 ° C.

If you tickle it too hard, the ZenBook Pro 15 slows down the pace

Finally, just like the last MacBook Pro 15 before it was patched by Apple, the ZenBook Pro 15 is sometimes " too hot to (work) well ". The Core i9 processor throttles and has a violent tendency to lower its frequencies in certain usage scenarios, especially when the temperature rises in the machine and the ventilation is struggling to evacuate all the calories. Reducing the airfoil in this way is a way to protect against a heat stroke that could be fatal. Thus, instead of the minimum 2.9 GHz expected, we end up with a CPU that beats the measure between 1.4 and 1.7 GHz as soon as we ask it to mobilize all its computing units and that the graphics card is , too, requested on a 3D rendering.
In conventional use, that is to say in surfing, viewing multimedia content, and other office tasks, the processor does not know (and it is happy) problems. Same observation when we do little advanced photo editing. It maintains the level of the Turbo at rates between 3.8 and 4.4 GHz on one or more cores. The ventilation then remains almost silent but, for no apparent reason, sometimes tends to start, roar for a few seconds, then calm down again.

Long working sessions on battery are to be forgotten

Let us conclude this test with our traditional endurance tests. Let's be clear, the ZenBook Pro 15 is mainly intended to stay at home or in the office. It can however accompany you on some of your trips because its reasonable thickness (2.23 cm, we remind you) and its weight less than 2 kg (1.99 very precisely) allow it to slip into a backpack carefree. Do not forget to include the charger in the equation. In block format, it weighs 554 grams and quickly proves to be essential. Especially if you use the ScreenPad often. Because yes, this small screen impacts the autonomy of the ZenBook Pro, however announced at more than 9:30 am by Asus.

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