Laptop Review | Asus TUF A15
In the gaming world, the only thing that’s made more of a splash on the market than the gaming laptop has been AMD’s Ryzen series of processors. Well, that and laissez-faire capitalism causing a culture of burnout and crunch, but I digress. The Asus TUF A15 attempts to merge the gaming world’s two success stories by creating a gaming laptop powered by AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series – the charmingly titled Renoir – but with a twist! Asus is catering to a budget-conscious audience.
Where the ROG gaming line from Asus touts Mayan-influenced aesthetics and aims for the premium, high-end gamer experience, the TUF line instead opts for a more rugged aesthetic and favours… uhm, boets with bakkies? Perhaps the T in TUF stands for Transvaal? We’re getting off point. It’s the company’s budget gaming range, basically.
I say budget. The TUF A15 touts a monstrous eight cores and sixteen threads in its Ryzen 7 4800U CPU, 16GB of DDR4-3200 memory, a 1TB NVMe SSD for storage, and in an interesting twist, Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060. All of these delicious components are neatly packaged and rendered on a 15.6” 1080p 144Hz “nano-edge” IPS display. More than just a gaming laptop, the TUF A15 has all the makings of a productivity super-suite, ideal for gamers and designers alike.
Okay, but let’s dispense with the formalities. You want to know how this thing performs and I must admit, I’m kind of underwhelmed.
On paper, the TUF A15 certainly looks like the business. It’s got the specs, it’s got a sexy design, everything’s there! My issues with it stem from the decisions Asus seems to have made here, presumably concessions made in accordance with a budget-friendly design.
The IPS display is the first perpetrator. Despite its claimed 144Hz refresh rate, response times could not keep up. This resulted in noticeable ghosting at high frame rates, with no G-Sync compatibility to help mask that. There was less ghosting at 60FPS, but then just use a 60Hz panel, right? Bizarrely for an IPS display, colours also looked notably under-saturated. Even HDR video looked sub-standard next to my own non-HDR IPS monitor. Underwhelming.
The next perpetrator is thermal performance, and even for a gaming laptop with a Ryzen CPU things got unbelievably toasty. Idle temps reached 60°C with audible fan noise, and the first few minutes of playing a game would see temperature spikes exceeding 100°C on the CPU and 90°C on the GPU. These would normalise slightly over time, but clocks also fell indicating undesirable down-clocking. My PC builder brain tells me that the honeycomb aesthetic isn’t doing the TUF any favours with all the closed off vents underneath and on the sides. Underwhelming.
Then we come to connectivity, and this one’s more of a mixed bag. You do get ethernet, audio, USB 3.0 including a Type-C port that doubles as DisplayPort 1.4, the ports you expect. You also get – hold on, let me check my notes – a USB 2.0 port? In our lord’s current year of 2020, Asus?! Elsewhere, the webcam and speakers are better than average but nothing special, and the RGB-backlit keyboard features styling similar to the ROG aesthetic if they disabled italics, with a similarly light key-press. Not as underwhelming, but certainly not very impressive either.
One thing that did impress, and was not all underwhelming, however, was the battery life. The TUF A15 idled for a cool nine hours off charge in its silent mode, and managed a decent enough two hours in performance mode before the battery needed a shot of Eskom juice. While I wouldn’t recommend using it for gaming off charge, and sure enough the laptop will ask you to rather use the iGPU until plugged back in, it’s certainly capable enough if you need to unplug and still be productive. This is largely thanks to the exceptionally low power draw of the Ryzen processor, allowing for processor-heavy workloads without running the battery into the ground. Just, maybe skip the gaming or video editing because the GPU and display are heavily compromised off charge.
So, here we are. The world of potential seemingly squandered by questionable design choices, the cooling implementation in particular.
I’m not angry at the TUF A15, just disappointed. Underwhelmed, if you can believe it. It’s got sixteen entire threads and an RTX graphics card available to you anytime, anywhere, and all you really need to take full advantage is an available plug point. I just would’ve liked a display that made sense, the USB 2.0 to be a 3.0, and better cooling performance so it wouldn’t down-clock and waste all that raw potential. Surely that’s not unreasonable, right? Surely that would – as the kids would say – slap different (damn, I’m old).