While the technology put into building a perfect laptop has evolved exponentially with time, the innovation has come to a standstill for sometime now with manufacturers upgrading only the specs. A few years ago, Apple did something new by introducing a touch bar on the top of the keyboard and although it was not a runaway success, Macbook fans did like the concept. Asus has now gone a step further by introducing an 'over-sized' touchpad that doubles up as a full 1920x1080 HD touch interface termed 'ScreenPad'.
At 5.5 inches, the ScreenPad functions as a second screen to the 15.6-inch 4K display and has the potential to be your perfect companion if you love watching music videos at work, even as you rack your brains over that ever-boring presentation for the next meeting. The ScreenPad also comes with pre-installed apps like a calendar, a music player and two calculators, and can act independently if needed.
While all that sounds very useful, everything is not hunky dory with the ScreenPad. Like the Apple MacBook Pro's Touch Bar, Asus' ScreenPad also felt gimmicky to me. The ScreenPad is activated and deactivated by pressing the Fn-F6 key. It instantly transforms the pad into a secondary display, complete with a Windows Taskbar and a desktop background. You can drag an app window from the main display to the small one but the small size and dragged feeling makes it a quirky experience that I mostly avoided. The only practical use of the extended display was watching videos and although the ScreenPad became a cool quotient among my friends, the powerful innards attracted me the most.
The Zenbook Pro 15 boasts an Intel Core i9-8950 HK CPU (Intel Core i7-8750H processor also available) coupled with 16GB RAM, 1TB PCIe SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card. Specs that you generally see in a gaming console are bundled into the Zenbook. The six cores and 12 threads make multitasking on this laptop a breezy walk in the park and the laptop has a mere 15-second boot time. I produced videos, edited photos, played Call of Duty and the laptop sailed through anything and everything without breaking a sweat. While the innards are more than enough for almost everything you throw at them, the inner me feels that GTX 1060 GPU would have done more justice to the laptop, given the price point.
A gorgeous 4K display adds on to the overall experience. The 3840x2160 resolution comes with 7.3mm-thin bezel and a glossy finish which delivers brilliant colours that give a cinematic feel to whatever you do on the laptop. The colour output is also enhanced by Pantone color calibration and a blue-light reduction feature ensures a warmer colour output that is less harmful to the eyes.
However, the 4K screen's beauty is marred by the touchscreen abilities. The touch interface of the main screen is simply below par for a premium laptop. I used keyboard for the majority of my workflow and Asus needs to improve a lot on the same. The keyboard on the other hand is backlit, sturdy and comfortable with a generous 0.6 inch of key travel. While the absence of a full-scale numpad is a turnoff, there is nothing much to complain about the keyboard and there's a fingerprint sensor too at the bottom right edge.
As far as ports are concerned, the laptop comes with all the necessary ones. While the LAN port is missing on the laptop, ASUS bundles a LAN-to-USB cable in case required but the 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi is good to go for internet connectivity. The sound output from the Harman Kardon-tuned speakers is just fine for regular work but external sound output are recommended in order to enjoy precision sound that does justice to the 4K display. The VGA webcam on the other hand is an absolute turn-down for a laptop that costs a premium. Images are grainy and soft even in well lit conditions and I suggest you to use your phone instead in case of video calls or Skype conferences.
Surprisingly, the laptop passed with flying colours on heat management. The Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580G) comes with two cooling fans and three heat pipes, even though it weighs just 1.9 kg. Although the laptop stays lukewarm for the most part, heat won't be an issue. The battery time is decent and lasts for 5-6 hours max, depending on usage. The build quality, on the other hand, is sturdy and the sleek metallic finish makes the laptop an eye-catcher.
Overall, the powerful innards, impressive display, sleek design make it a great option at Rs 2,09,990 for the i9 version (Rs 184,990 for the i7 version). The Zenbook Pro 15 (UX580G) is a perfect companion for exhaustive office work, high-res gaming and even intense multimedia producing but the ScreenPad needs a lot of improvement before it can be considered as a serious option.