With the Asus Zephyrus G15 blowing us away with its unholy alliance of an AMD CPU and an Nvidia GPU, we were very keen to see how the much-cheaper Asus TUF Gaming A15 performed. Is this going to be the best, budget, high performance laptop?
KEY SPECS OF THE Asus TUF Gaming A15
15.6-inch, matte, 240Hz, 1920 x 1080, non-touchscreen, IPS LCD; 3.2-4.4GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU; 16GB RAM; 1TB NVMe HDD; Nvidia RTX 3070; 90Wh battery; 2.3KG. SKU: TUF Gaming A15 (FA506). Full specs here.
Design and Handling
The Asus TUF Gaming A15 has an understated, industrial design. Its etched branding and ‘riveted’ corners won’t appeal to everyone and might raise some eyebrows in a stuffy boardroom, but this is a gaming laptop after all. Opening it up reveals a subtle geometric patterns on the palm-rest and brushed-style textures which are more universally appealing. Meanwhile the bezel is quite thick and houses an HD webcam in the top.
While it may be dark and understated in terms of styling the RGB keyboard makes up for it a little. The edges and letter on each key is illuminated and the WASD keys are totally translucent. The Scrabble-tile keys themselves are well-weighted and comfortable to type upon for extended periods. There’s a full number pad with slightly thinner keys plus reduced-size arrow keys. The trackpad is smooth and accurate and has two, individual, well weighted keys beneath it.
The screen is a 240Hz IPS panel that offers very smooth gameplay for shooters and racers with minimal ghosting and blur. It gets impressively bright although, at full brightness, you can lose detail in highlights. It’s not a million miles away from feeling like HDR though. The brightness also helps to reveal detail in dark areas so enemies will have a tough time hiding in shadows. There was a little stepping in colour gradients but this was more pronounced and distracting in monochromatic gradients. Nonetheless, with bright colours and a bright screen, few people will be disappointed with what’s on offer here.
All in all the Asus TUF Gaming A15 looks OK and is very comfortable to use.
The octa-core 3.2-4.4GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor is flanked by 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and a 1TB NVMe drive. In PCMark 10 it scored 6962 which is higher than every Intel-based competitor and only defeated by the more-powerful, Ryzen-based Zephyrus G15. Impressive. In the Cinebench CPU rendering tests it scored 2151 in R15 and 12533 in R23 which tells the same story.
In terms of 3D, it sports Nvidia’s impressive RTX 3070 GPU. In 3DMark Time Spy it scored 8975 (an average of 56fps) which is by far the best performance we’ve seen from a 3070-based laptop. In Fire Strike Extreme it scored 11,089 (51fps) and in Port Royal it scored 5473 which is a little slower than 3070-based rivals. All in all though, there aren’t going to be any games that the Asus TUF Gaming A15 can’t blitz on its Full HD screen.
UPDATE: Unfortunately since posting this review we noticed that when this laptop was left running at full pelt it could easily overheat. While this didn’t result in crashes it did cause a reduction in performance and may well be responsible for the subsequent drop in 3D test scores after getting off to a flying start. What’s interesting is that this was noted as being an issue in the previous generation of the laptop. That thread points out that there are many blocked ventilation ports in the base which reduces airflow and OP is not wrong. A look at the underside (below) shows that many of the potential air vents are still blocked.
Connectivity of the Asus TUF Gaming A15
To be frank, the port layout a bit too lop-sided for our liking – a few chonky plugs will stop neighbouring ports being usable. Finally, inside is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.
The two 2-Watt speakers don’t get very loud and don’t offer any bass worth speaking of. Nonetheless, treble and mid-range is solid and vocals are distinct.
The cooling system initially seemed to be very efficient: the fans only ramped up to a mild, constant swoosh when under heavy load. However, if you look closely at the picture below you’ll see that many of the hexagonal grilles below are primarily decorative and do not offer space for hot air to escape. The result is heat-related performance degradation mentioned above.
The Asus TUF Gaming A15 weighs 2.3KG which is standard for a machine of this type. The metallic lid is strong, flexes little and should withstand bashes when on the road. The 90Wh battery lasted a very impressive 8hrs 46mins when running PCMark’s Modern Office test – that’s a full day out of the office – very impressive for a high performance laptop.
Should you buy the Asus TUF Gaming A15?
We were very impressed with the rival MSI Sword which costs a bit ($400) less and offers similar specs and performance in some areas. Initially we felt the $2,599 Asus TUF Gaming A15 was even better: the CPU trounces it, the 3070 GPU is superior and the battery life is more than double. However, we are concerned about the thermal issues. This is a potentially a very good laptop that should ordinarily be near the top of your list, but we can’t recommend it when performance plummets when it gets a bit hot.