ASUS has a deserved reputation for innovation, creating the diminutive and cheap, but low-powered, NetBook market with its EEE PC, then the UltraBook with its slim and light, and decidedly more capable, ZenBook range. The ZenBook is popular with consumers and business alike, being a stylish unit that conveys a good amount of power in a very easily carried package.
However, until now, the ZenBook line was primarily for "work”, even if that work was home use. It was super-portable, and admirably ran your Office apps, email, web, and some photography.
Yet, it wasn't great for 3D modelling, 3D gaming, beefy photography or other demanding requirements. This is where the ASUS ZenBook Pro comes in, announced on Tuesday at COMPUTEX 2018.
The model was designed to help people unleash their creative power, reflected even in its colour schemes — deep dive blue or rose gold trim — are intended to model the sunlight hitting the tip of mountains before night.
Any concerns about video performance go out the window; the ZenBook Pro is armed with GTX 1050 Ti graphics. Not only does it sport a 4K panel, but it can drive three external 4K monitors too – that’s four 4K displays from the one laptop.
ASUS have narrowed the bezel using what it calls a 4K UHD “nanoedge” display, fitting a 15.6” screen in a 14” chassis, producing an 83% screen to body ratio. Ultimately, it means users can see and do more while carrying less.
For photographers, ASUS says the display hits 100% Adobe RGB colour accuracy, is Pantone validated and is Delta E < 2 colour accuracy. Delta E values of three and higher is what the typical naked eye can see as colour differences, ASUS says, while some skillful photographers can see colour differences of Delta E < 3. The ZenBook Pro panel achieves colour differences that are finer than this to satisfy the most demanding photographer.
Storage is no concern with a 1Tb PCIe x4 SSD, and 3D modellers are well-served with an Intel core i9 hexacore processor.
Connectivity includes 802.11ac gigabit Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.
However, there’s something more; the ZenBook Pro not only boasts high-performance power in a small package, but something new, and never-before-seen. The touchpad is itself a 5.5” FHD IPS panel – it is quite literally an extended screen or auxiliary display. ASUS calls this ScreenPad, the world’s first intelligent touchpad.
The ScreenPad is absolutely a touchpad; you use it to operate your laptop with alacrity and the usual gesture control you might expect.
Yet, it’s also absolutely a screen. You can set a wallpaper, position it in Windows as a second monitor (or fifth monitor, given the panel and three 4K external monitors) and drag-and-drop your apps onto it.
Or, you can use it as an auxiliary display for applications like Microsoft Word and Excel whereby ScreenPad adapts to provide shortcuts pertinent to your task at hand, along with websites such as YouTube where you can control your video playback from the pad.
Or, you can run special ScreenPad apps — available through the Microsoft Store — like a calculator, calendar, music player and numeric keypad. Or, you can run ASUS Sync and control your smartphone from the pad, even mirroring your mobile’s screen and quite literally play Clash of Clans on your laptop’s touchpad.
It’s a remarkably versatile add-on and becomes intuitive within moments of use.
You could drag your YouTube video onto the touchpad while crunching Excel on the main laptop screen – “who would know if I am working or not?” joked an ASUS representative. Perhaps professional eSports Gamers might do the reverse, sneaking away at Excel on their ScreenPad while pretending to watch Twitch replays on the panel?
ASUS is keen to work with developers to produce new ScreenPad-optimised applications and interested developers can register online. ASUS says the software developer kit, or SDK, will be available in Q3 2018.
The ZenBook Pro is available in two sizes – the ZenBook Pro 15” UX580 with GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and i9 CPU weighing 1.8kg and the ZenBook Pro 14” UX480 with GeForce GTX 1050 Max-Q and i7 CPU weighing 1.6kg.
The ZenBook Pro 15” starts at $2999, sporting an i7-8750H processor, 16Gb RAM, 512Gb SATA drive and GTX 1050 video.
ASUS also announced three new products to complement its existing lines:
- The ZenBook S UX391, an elegant and tough 13.3-inch ultraportable 1kg-light laptop with innovative new ErgoLift hinge awarded Best Choice of the Year, Best Choice Golden and Computex d&i at Computex 2018.
- The VivoBook S15 S530 and VivoBook S14 S430, lightweight laptops with the latest 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processors, featuring unique colour designs, ErgoLift hinge and NanoEdge bezel displays.
- The VivoBook Flip 14 TP412, a versatile 14-inch convertible laptop featuring a 360°-flippable NanoEdge display for immersive viewing, and powered by up to the latest 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processor.
The writer is attending COMPUTEX 2018 as a guest of ASUS.