The release of new graphics cards from NVIDIA has allowed manufacturers to realize what I always dreamed of: a relatively compact laptop with a discrete graphics card. This, on the one hand, allows you to work productively, and on the other – to periodically play games. But all this in theory, so it was interesting to try how such a device will show itself in practice. To discover the actual performance of the device, we’ve used the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550 laptop for more than two months.
Why ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550?
Choosing a model for my experiment, I was primarily interested in the weight of up to 2 kg, the availability of a discrete video adapter in the configuration, as well as the price. The latter should ideally be below 1450 USD, as if more expensive, it is more rational to take a gaming laptop with a GeForce GTX 1060 and above, whose weight will be 2.2-2.4 kg.
ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550 proved to be an ideal candidate since with a 15.6-inch display its weight is only 1.8 kg, it is equipped with a discrete NVIDIA GeForce 1050 Ti graphics card with 4 GB of memory, and its recommended price is 1450 USD. This is not a top configuration. However, it’s even more interesting, considering that the laptop should also be used for games.
The ZenBook Pro UX550 has a classic design for ASUS notebooks; the user is greeted with a branded lid with concentric circles and a luminous logo. When you open the laptop cover, the first thing you notice is a rather thin frame around the screen. Therefore, the case itself, as for the 15.6-inch matrix, turned out to be relatively compact. I already wrote above that its weight is 1.8 kg, but the thickness is only 18.9 mm.
I got a laptop in black, it has a completely aluminum casing, and only a touchpad and keyboard are made of plastic. The materials as a whole proved to be practical, I had a test laptop, which before had not been on one review, plus I used it for more than two months, but on the case. As a result, there are no scratches or scratches. The only thing, not everyone can like that on the polished cover of the display there are fingerprints so that they do not exist, you almost every day to wipe it. But I honestly can not remember a single day, when it worried me or prevented me from working. As for me, the main thing is that there are no prints on display, you still can not see the laptop cover while you are working.
Metal in the case of ZenBook Pro UX550 is dense, it only slightly presses on the keyboard, but this requires more effort than when typing on the keyboard. The same applies to the display unit, on the reverse side, it does not bend. Therefore, there is a feeling of good quality from the laptop, which is only strengthened by a good fit of the parts, as well as the hinges of the screen. The latter, on the one hand, do not allow to open the notebook with one hand, but on the other hand, the display is fixed in any position. And given that the laptop has been active for five months, moving from one test to another, we can state that the hinge does not wear out at such a rate soon.
In the end, from a purely practical point of view, I have no complaints about the design of the ZenBook Pro UX550, nor the quality of its enclosure. I mostly use any laptop for working on the Internet, writing texts, editing images (all of this is often on the move), so the main parameters for me are the display, performance, keyboard with a touchpad, and autonomy. Therefore, I will elaborate on each of them.
The 15.6-inch laptop’s IPS display with Full HD resolution, and the matte finish is perfect for all of the above tasks. When you work with the device for 10-14 hours a day, the shortcomings of the screen are felt right away. In the ZenBook Pro UX550, I have no questions about the display, the color rendition is good, the viewing angles are the maximum. With all this, through the utility ASUS Splendid, you can slightly change the color and color temperature.
IPS, of course, does not allow you to twist colors like OLED, but you can make them a little brighter, and the screen itself is warmer. The only complaint to the display is the minimum brightness when you play or work in the dark, it’s felt.
ASUS has a ZenBook Pro UX550 configuration with the 4K screen, but I do not see much advantage in this resolution on the 15.6-inch model. Full HD is enough to work comfortably on the Internet or with documents. In addition, a higher resolution would have worsened autonomy, which is not the record here. At a low load, which includes a dozen tabs in the browser, instant messengers and music playback in the background, the laptop runs about 6 hours. I would like more, but then I would have to sacrifice the dimensions and weight of the model. For all the time using the laptop, I have not had situations in which I could not recharge it after 5 hours of battery life. Another thing is that the use of a discrete video card has dragged the need for a 120 W power unit, it does not look very aesthetically pleasing and is quite large.
On the one hand, this is the standard solution for ASUS laptops; respectively, if something happens to this power supply, it’s not an issue to buy. But on the other hand, I would like that on such an expensive laptop it was a little more compact and directly inserted into the socket, it would make it more convenient.
As for the performance itself, my test ZenBook Pro UX550 was equipped with an Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor with a frequency of 2.5 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and a discrete graphics card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with 4 GB of memory. The built-in SSD was atypical for this configuration, instead of 256 GB, it was 512 GB. This is not the top-end configuration of this model, but for my tasks, it was quite enough. At the same time, the memory in the laptop expands, it can be increased to 16 GB, which is relevant for those who work in resource-intensive programs (video editing, graphics). Given that the standard configuration is sold with a 256 GB SSD, this will not be enough for a large number of games. I put the “Witcher” and a couple of old games, as a result, along with the image of the system, it took 146 GB, if you add to this some more modern games of 40-50 GB, then the standard 256 GB for everything is not enough. Nevertheless, if the laptop is bought mainly for work, and there are plans to play 1-2 games periodically, then this amount of internal memory is enough.
Separately, I will stop on the keyboard, because for two months I used it very actively. And here I can not but praise ASUS, the keys in the ZenBook Pro UX550 are pressed with a pleasant soft stroke, the keyboard works quietly. But with the touchpad not everything is so smooth, it was more difficult to get used to it. It does not have very large dimensions while recognizing several simultaneous touches does not always work correctly. This is especially noticeable when you want to highlight text on a page; it is not always easy to do this. Otherwise, gestures work well; you can see all open programs by scrolling up three fingers, and down – to collapse everything and get to the desktop. Also worth noting that in the upper right corner of the touchpad is a fingerprint scanner. Why did the company engineers choose this place for its installation, for me it remains a mystery? The scanner simply takes away from the touchpad a useful area, and sometimes during work, a finger clings to it. But it should be noted that the scanner itself works fine, it allows you to quickly unlock your laptop via the Windows Hello function.
What is still hard to get used to in the ZenBook Pro UX550 is the functional keys, which by default allow you to adjust the brightness of the display, the keyboard backlight, and even the volume only with the Fn button pressed. In ASUS, conservativeness is preserved in this issue. Therefore, it is not possible to reassign its work, although it is logical that this option of interaction with function keys may not appeal to everyone.
Before moving on to the next section of this material, I’ll stop for a bit on the connectors. They are all on the side faces of the ZenBook Pro UX550, on the right are two USB 3.0, a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm mini jack, and on the left are HDMI and two USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 3).
All this is enough to not have problems when connecting peripherals, moreover, you can connect adapters to both Type-C ports, so that the number of connectors can be significantly expanded if you suddenly need it. The only thing that looks strange in all this set is a slot for microSD memory cards. Apparently, to save space, the SD card reader has decided not to use it, but to avoid leaving the user with nothing, they added microSD. Nevertheless, in practice, it turns out to be unclaimed, in the vast majority of modern smartphones there is no quick replacement of memory cards, and still, basically the SD format is used in cameras, although not all models work properly with microSD via an adapter.
In ZenBook Pro UX550, as well as it is necessary models with prefix Pro, the operating system Windows 10 Pro is used. Since October I used a laptop with the latest version of the Fall Creators Update. Here I note that I use laptops with macOS, and the transition to Windows is always accompanied by the search for applications, with which you can solve work issues. In this regard, the store programs Microsoft Store does not help, even if you look at the most popular ratings, it’s difficult to find something useful, not counting a dozen messengers.
The first thing on the laptop was the browser, despite all the efforts of Microsoft to promote its Edge, I stopped at Google Chrome, although with the release of the new Firefox spent more time in it. The browser Mozilla turned out really fast.
To work with mail, I usually use the mail client, on macOS you can find a dozen good programs, including free ones, on Windows c this is harder. In addition to the built-in application “Mail” and the good old Thunderbird from the free, I found only eM Client and Mailbird Lite, which also did not like. As a result, I just stopped on the web interface of Gmail, if I open a dozen tabs in the browser, then it’s not so convenient to work with mail, but at least it’s always at hand.
To type texts, I usually use the Windows text editor Google Docs or Word on Windows, but this time it was interesting to find for this platform something with the support of Markdown. And in this regard, it’s still worse than with email clients. Developers either ask for a text editor for Windows too much money or the quality it leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, it turned out to be an acceptable option, and this GhostWriter is a small freeware Markdown application with a fun Hemingway mode in which you can not delete already typed text.
To create and store notes I’ve been using Evernote for several years, the main advantage of which for me is cross-platform and cloud storage. This is important when you constantly switch between different devices, but you want to have access to all your notes. On the ZenBook Pro UX550 I even had one attempt to move to Microsoft OneNote, the Windows program is well done, there are even two of them here for some reason. But here’s the Android app for convenience so-so, they should have been updated for a long time.
For image editing, I used two programs Paint.net and FastStone Image Viewer, both free and allowed you to perform basic image processing. Nevertheless, if I decided to move to Windows, I would have thought about buying Affinity Photo. On macOS, I use Pixelmator, and it’s really missing on the Microsoft platform.
For working correspondence, besides mail, I often use Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and Skype, but the latter is less and less common. Microsoft has not been able to make a fast mobile application, and recently it has become necessary to correspond more often while on the move.
Also, I will note a free application for keeping the list of tasks Microsoft To-Do, which is developed by the team that did the Wunderlist. Functionally it is quite simple, but it works well, allowing you to create reminders and to-do lists.
To listen to music on ZenBook Pro UX550, I used Deezer, not so long ago the service was updated, and now I can stream tracks in lossless. Also, it has the function Flow, which selects music depending on the user’s tastes, works well.
In headphones, the laptop sounds standard for devices of this class, the sound is answered by the Realtek High Definition Audio driver. But the external sound dynamics are very loud and voluminous. There are four of them in the ZenBook Pro UX550: two are located on each side of the keyboard, and two on the bottom of the case.
As I already wrote above, the idea of this experience of using was not only to work on a laptop but also to play periodically. With my tasks ZenBook Pro UX550 copes without problems, but what about the games? At once I will note that I am not an avid player, but sometimes I like to sit in Civilization V or VI, Stellaris, run to Fallout 4 or to “Witcher 3”. On ZenBook Pro UX550 I basically played just in the latter, but also in Titan Quest, Cities Skylines and Metro Last Light. Of all the above, more or less demanding games can be called Cities Skylines and especially “The Witcher 3”, which on “beyond-limits” graphics settings can still significantly load the hardware platform of the computer.
How does the ZenBook Pro UX550 handle it? I note at once that to put maximum graphics settings is not worth it, a bundle of Intel Core i5-7300HQ, 8 GB of RAM and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4 GB is a productive solution, but not enough to pull such a demanding game. Nevertheless, at high graphics settings, “The Witcher 3” gives tolerable 30-35 frames per second, and if you switch to the average, the FPS will grow to 50-60 at all.
With Cities Skylines, the GeForce GTX 1050Ti graphics card handles without problems, the processor’s performance in the ZenBook Pro UX550, as well as the amount of RAM is enough to play games of such a plan comfortably. Thus, the laptop is quite suitable for demanding games, but not on the maximum graphics settings. Still, this is not a specialized gaming solution, but as for a compact 15.6-inch laptop, the ZenBook Pro UX550 proved to be quite good.
At the same time, I also note that the cooling system copes with the games without problems. During the game in “The Witcher 3” on high graphics settings, the CPU temperature did not rise above 81 degrees Celsius, and the video card above 79 degrees Celsius. The case of the notebook is warmed most of all in the area above the keyboard, but its temperature does not exceed 40 degrees Celsius, so we can say that it is noticeably warm, but not hot. The noise from the cooling fanunder the load is audible, but not so much that it causes a feeling of discomfort.
From our experience, we can say that ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550 and similar models already allow you not to choose between a relatively compact and productive laptop where you can play games, even if not at the maximum settings. This, in general, gives us hope that in the next few years we will see more portable solutions with sufficient performance to not only be able to work productively, but also, if necessary, to relax playing your favorite games.