Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550 Review

The ASUS ZenBook line of notebooks are usually all about being thin and light. Some users, however, need more power on the move than a typical ultrabook can accommodate. ASUS has a ZenBook for these users: the ZenBook Pro, model UX550.

If the ZenBook Pro name sounds familiar, that’s because there’s an earlier version of it back in 2015, the model UX501 which I had previously reviewed. The 2017 edition is the UX550.

The ZenBook Pro is for users who value greater performance over ultra-portability. This is a big notebook with a 15.6-inch display. It is, however, by no means hefty. It may be bigger than most others, but it is unmistakably a ZenBook, with distinctive features such as the very recognisable concentric circle pattern on the lid. The ZenBook Pro in Singapore is available in only one colour: royal blue.

Like other ZenBooks, the ZenBook Pro isn’t just beautiful and elegant. It is very well-built. The precision crafted solid-aluminium unibody is very sturdy. Every part of it feels very solid. The brilliant diamond-cut edges give it some bling. The ZenBook Pro looks and feels premium.

Physically, the ZenBook Pro measures 367 x 251 x 18.9 mm (WxDxH), and weighs 1.8 kg. It’s clearly neither clunky nor hefty, and it is quite remarkable considering the powerhouse that the ZenBook Pro is.

As you would expect of a premium “pro” notebook, the ZenBook Pro is decked out with a good variety of ports.

On the left side, there is a DC input jack, a HDMI port, and two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports. Those two USB Type-C ports support Thunderbolt 3, and 4K display output. I would very much have preferred to see the USB Type-C ports used for power input, but quite understandably this powerhouse may require more power than Power Delivery on USB Type-C can support. Still it would be nice to have both power options offered together.

On the opposite side, there is a 3.5 mm audio jack, MicroSD slot, and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports.

I think the kind of people who use a ZenBook Pro would probably want to use a full-sized SD card with it. That the ZenBook Pro offers a MicroSD slot is both nice, but at the same time not terribly useful.

Like most other ASUS notebooks, the ZenBook Pro’s display is excellent. It is bright, and colours are very vibrant. The display offers 100% sRGB color gamut and 178° viewing angle. At 15.6-inch diagonal, the Full HD 1920×1080 resolution seems almost not enough to enjoy this beautiful display. Unfortunately, there is no QHD or 4K variant available.

The display is both touch-enabled and supports pen input. The multi-touch supports up to 10 fingers. Unfortunately, ASUS does not provide a pen with ZenBook Pro so I did not get to test that out.

The bezels around the screen aren’t massive, but it would have been nice to have lesser of them. The VGA webcam, yes, just VGA resolution, is nicely centred above the display. That VGA resolution webcam seems very inadequate, let alone on a premium notebook like the ZenBook Pro is.

Being a large notebook with its 15.6-inch display, ASUS has put a  big, expansive, backlit keyboard on the ZenBook Pro. The keys are spacious, with 1.5 mm of key travel. The typing experience is above average. My main complaint is that the slightly short key travel means I feel the keys bottoming out whey I type.

I personally don’t like the idea of an extra column of navigation keys on the right side, especially since it displaces the Delete, Backspace, and Right-Shift keys from the edge. I found myself hitting the power key whenever I meant to reach for Delete. The extra navigation keys are nice to have, don’t get me wrong, but just put them somewhere else.

The large touchpad on the ZenBook Pro is centrally located below the keyboard. Its glass surface is smooth, and fingers glide easily on it. The touchpad supports Windows Precision drivers, so all the Windows 10 gestures work well with the ZenBook Pro.

A Windows Hello fingerprint reader is embedded in the top-right corner of the touchpad, a location commonly seen in several other ASUS notebooks. It seems like it will interrupt the use of the touchpad, but considering the size of the touchpad, the fingerprint reader being where it is doesn’t really get in the way.

Sound is produced by two smart amplifiers driving four Harman Kardon tuned speakers. The speakers are well-positioned. Two are top-side, upward-firing from either side of the keyboard, and the other two fire downwards from the underside of the ZenBook Pro, along the front edge. The sound isn’t particularly loud, but they sound pretty good for a notebook. The stereo surround effect from the speakers make watching movies more enjoyable.

For better Cortana voice-recognition support, ASUS has put array microphones into the ZenBook Pro. The microphones work well, especially for speaking to Cortana, without having to talk directly into the ZenBook Pro.

The ZenBook Pro’s specifications under the good are pretty exciting. For starters, it has a powerful 45-Watt, not the usual 15-Watt, quad-core 7th generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, clocked at 2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.8 GHz. With hyper-threading, this processor has 8 virtual cores. There is 16 GB 2400 MHz DDR4 memory onboard.

The integrated Intel HD Graphics 630 aside, this notebook also packs NVIDIA GeForce 1050Ti discrete graphics, with 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM. The ZenBook Pro can serve as a decent gaming machine.

For storage, ASUS has put a very speedy Samsung PM961 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 module with 512 GB of capacity.

In the connectivity department, the ZenBook Pro has dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 support.

The ZenBook Pro has a large 73 Wh Lithium Polymer battery which ASUS says is rated for 14 hours of runtime, impressive considering it has a 45-Watt processsor.

In the box, the ZenBook Pro comes with a 120 Watt power adatper, USB to Gigabit Ethernet dongle, and an ASUS notebook bag.

The ZenBook Pro performs well in benchmarks.

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