The ZenBook Pro's keyboard was also fantastic to type on. It offers a solid amount of travel and responsiveness, and I didn't lose a step compared to my desktop keyboard. It's a tad less comfortable than Microsoft's excellent Surface offerings, but at least it's miles ahead of Apple's stiff and flat MacBook Pro design.
We tested one of the more powerful configurations, with a Core i9 six-core chip, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Unsurprisingly, the ZenBook Pro didn't have any trouble handling my usual workload. It seamlessly juggled dozens of browser windows, Slack, Spotify and Evernote. But this isn't the machine to get if that's your only workload. Instead, it's made for people in the content-creation trenches.
Based on the PCMark 8 benchmark, the ZenBook Pro keeps up with other powerhouse machines, like the Razer Blade and MSI's Stealth Thin. While playing Overwatch in 1080p, it reached between 90 and 110 frames per second with Ultra quality settings. The ZenBook Pro's graphics power should be more than enough for today's games at that resolution, but don't expect to play anything natively in 4K. You'll need a dedicated gaming laptop with a beefier GPU for that.
Like many thin and powerful machines, you'll have to live with some fan noise once you start taxing the system. The GPU hovered around 85 Celsius when I was playing games, which is fine for most notebooks, but the bottom was too hot to touch. That's something you'll have to deal with in any laptop with dedicated graphics. We've managed to cram more power than ever into notebooks but at the expense of making them safe to use on our laps.
Battery life was a disappointment, unfortunately. The computer lasted just four hours and 20 minutes with our usual benchmark, which involves looping an HD video until the system dies, while the ScreenPad was set to 50 percent brightness. During my usual workflow, it lasted last between three and four hours. I'd recommend turning off the ScreenPad if you're looking to conserve energy. The ZenBook Pro lasted five hours and 50 minutes in our test with the ScreenPad off. On most workhorse PCs, we typically see at least eight hours of juice, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro lasted more than 12 hours in our battery benchmark.
Pricing and comparison
The ZenBook Pro 15 starts at $2,299, which is $100 less than the MacBook Pro. In addition to our beefy Core i9 configuration, you can also grab it with a Core i5 or i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and up to 1TB PCIe SSD. And if you don't need the ScreenPad at all, then you can save a bunch and get a similarly specced ZenBook Pro with a normal trackpad for around $1,800.
ASUS has little chance of convincing Mac diehards to give up on Apple, but the ZenBook Pro's combination of performance and innovation might be enough to sway PC users from alternatives, like Dell's XPS and HP's Spectre. Still, both of those competitors last significantly longer on battery, and their designs are also more striking than the ZenBook Pro's.