Advertisement
Advertisement

Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED review: Dial C for the creatives

Alun Taylor
22 Oct 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,999
inc VAT

An innovative mobile workstation with a 16in OLED display, dial controller and a stylus-supporting touchpad

Pros 
High-quality sound system
Sumptuous 4K OLED screen
Unique and innovative controls
Cons 
Stylus not included
Power jack positioning
Screen refresh rate limited to 60Hz
Advertisement

With the new StudioBook 16 OLED Asus is hoping to redefine how creative types interact with their laptops. With some unique control features, a rather lovely 16in 4K OLED screen and high-end internal components the new StudioBook is designed to be the ultimate portable workstation and jump to the top of the want list for anyone who spends serious time using photo and video editing or CAD software.

Find out more at Asus


Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED: What you need to know

Asus’ new creative laptops come in several flavours. Top of the line are the new ProArt Studio Pro machines which come with third-generation Intel Xeon workstation processors and Nvidia A2000 and A3000 GPUs.

At the bottom sit the Vivobook Pro 14X/16X OLED models, which feature a virtual rather than physical “Asus Dial” (more about this below). In the middle, you’ll find the ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED machines, which are aimed more at the general but still serious creative user.

The principal intended use of all the machines in the Asus creative range is photographic, video and computer-aided design or CAD work. A high-quality display isn’t just handy for these sorts of jobs, it's a downright necessity. It just so happens that a good specification for creatives is pretty much the same as a good specification for gamers so I suspect many an hour will be spent gaming on Asus’ new creative machines as well.

Of course, everything else needs to be up to snuff too. Have you tried using Photoshop with a less than stellar mouse or a sub-par trackpad and sloppy keyboard? Or with a GPU that struggles to render 4K video? Trust me, you don’t want to. Perhaps more than any other class of laptop a creative workstation needs to not trip over its shoelaces in any one area.

Find out more at Asus


Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED: Price & Competition

In the UK the ProArt StudioBook machines will go on sale via Amazon and Currys in November and there will be two models available: the AMD Ryzen 7 5800H and Nvidia RTX 3060 model for £1,999; and the Ryzen 9 5900HX, RTX 3070 model for £2,499. The review models currently doing the rounds all have US-style keyboards and power cables but UK retail models will be fully domesticated.

For similar money, you can get the Gigabyte Aero 15 which also has a 4K OLED screen, albeit at 15.6in instead of 16in. With an Intel Core i7 chip and the same Nvidia RTX 3070 GPU, the Aero 15 almost matches the StudioBook, but you only get 16GB of RAM out of the box rather than the Asus’ 32GB. The rather cramped keyboard and poor battery life of under six hours knock some of the shine off the Gigabyte but it’s worth a look if the price is right.

If it’s just an OLED screen you are after then Samsung’s superlight Galaxy Book Pro 15.6 has a lot going for it. At 1.05kg it’s incredibly light and the 1,920 x 1,080 AMOLED panel is lovely. There’s a good spread of connections, too, including support for Thunderbolt 4. The quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7 1165G7 processor with integrated Xe graphics and 16GB of RAM can’t compete with the StudioBook in performance but for lighter tasks, it’s an interesting alternative. Right now it’s available from Amazon for £1,449.

Marching along a path through that vague borderland between creative and gaming laptops is Asus’ TUF Dash 15, on balance my favourite laptop of 2021 so far. At the time of writing, Asus is selling the optimum version with an Intel Core i7 chip, an Nvidia RTX3060 GPU and a 1TB SSD for £1,200. This is also the version with the rather fine 240Hz display. There’s no 15.6in laptop better to look at or use for the money.

I would be remiss of me not to mention Apple’s new MacBook Pros. The 16in models start at £2,399 and run to a huge £5,899. From what I’ve seen so far the 16.2-inch Liquid Retina 3,456 x 2,234 display is stunning though you are still stuck with a maximum 60Hz refresh rate. Performance is likely to be spectacular.

Finally, if what you require is the maximum amount of power in the smallest package may I suggest either the Razer Blade 14 or, if that’s too expensive, Acer’s Predator Triton SE300. The Razer is a more overtly gaming-orientated machine but such is the depth of quality and design that it can turn its hand to most intensive tasks.

Much the same can be said of the Triton SE300 and although it isn’t as powerful or achingly desirable as the Razer, it is a darned sight cheaper at £1,300 compared with the Razer Blade 14’s rather eye-watering £2,800.

Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED: Design & Build Quality

A black aluminium affair built to the US military's MIL-STD 810H standard, the StudioBook is both a handsome and sturdy machine. It isn’t very light at 2.4kg nor is it notably compact at 362 x 264 x 20mm but it will still slip into a medium-size backpack without too much pushing and pulling and that’s all I would expect from a laptop of this type.

Physical connectivity runs to two USB A 3.2 Gen 2 ports and two USB C 3.2 Gen 2 ports, an HDMI 2.1 connector and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The card slot is SD Express 7.0 speck, supporting speeds up to 985MB/sec which will come in handy if you are moving large amounts of data from a camera card.

A 3.5mm audio jack rounds things out and with a fingerprint scanner and a Windows Hello-compatible 720p webcam, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to logging in. Wireless comms are handled by an Intel AX200 card offering Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

The one element of the design I don’t like is the position of the DC power jack which is bang in the middle of the left side. It just looks a bit messy, especially if you have the power lead trailing forward. The rear end of laptops is the only place for power jacks, an opinion I shall not be swayed from.

The two Big Ideas that Asus has bestowed upon the StudioBook are the Asus Dial and a touchpad that can function as a graphics tablet when used with an MPP 1.51 standard stylus. The Dial takes the form of a partially recessed 25mm-diameter knob placed next to the top-left corner of the touchpad.

Asus has pulled off the tricky job of making it small enough to be wholly unobtrusive when you don’t want to use it but very easy to find and operate when you do. The rotary action has a faint click action to it making incremental adjustments an absolute breeze. Ergonomic excellence is not too strong a term for this concept and its execution. Asus has posted a handy little video of the Dial in action.

To activate the Asus Dial you simply tap the rotary knob and a circular menu appears on your desktop. You can move and pin the menu to wherever on the desktop best suites. Precisely which functions the menu displays can be adjusted in the ProArt Creator Hub control panel.

At the moment, the Asus Dial only works with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, After Effects and Premiere Pro. Other than that, it lets you manage some basic Windows settings like volume, brightness, application selection and scrolling. Asus says support for other applications will be added but I suspect that means upmarket CAD suites like Onshape rather than the poor man’s Photoshop, Gimp.

Now, I’m no Photoshop wizard, but even half an hour working on some very basic tasks was enough to convince me that the Asus Dial is a genuine step forward in usability. Adjusting things like colour levels or opacity using the knob is just so much easier than using the keyboard or mouse. Spend enough time using it, and combine it with the stylus function of the touchpad, and you’ll never want to go back to a conventional setup.

The trackpad does a very good job of the basics and has three physical buttons below it. The left and right do what you’d expect, while the middle one acts as a pan, rotate or orbit button for use with CAD software.

Finally, the keyboard is excellent. It’s solid, quiet and with a positive and nicely damped 1.7mm of travel. Between the Alt and Ctrl keys, you’ll find a handy programmable button that can be set to perform all manner of actions depending on what programme you are running.

The fingerprint scanner is built into the power button and the arrow keys have a nicely textured surface; both small touches but illustrative of the thought and attention to detail that Asus has put into the design of the StudioBook.

READ NEXT: The best laptops you can buy

Remove the base panel – a surprisingly straightforward operation – and you can access the two SODIMM slots and two SSD sockets should you wish to up the spec to the maximum of 64GB RAM and 4TB of storage. Incidentally, my review machine came loaded with Windows 10 Pro but upgraded to Windows 11 Pro almost immediately and without any drama.

Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED: Display and Audio

Asus has hit a solid home run with the 16in 16:10 4K (3,840 x 2,400, 283dpi) OLED display. It’s bright, colourful, super-sharp and utterly sumptuous, and carries Pantone Validated and Calman Verified certifications.

My preferred subjective way to test panels like this is with a 2160p 60fps YouTube video of the flora and fauna of Costa Rica and blimey did it look good on the Asus. Stare at it long enough and you feel as though you are going to fall into the screen. It’s really rather stunning.

Colour space reproduction is impressive. The panel is capable of reproducing a total gamut volume that’s 165.7% of sRGB and 117.3% of DCI-P3, while the peak brightness of 395cd/m2 also hits the mark. Black level response is superb, as you’d expect of an OLED panel and the contrast ratio registers as perfect.

Measuring the Delta E colour variance of my review device produced a rather high (for a machine of this ambition) number of 3.8within the sRGB colour gamut and even further out within DCI-P3. I suspect that the sort of users the StudioBook 16 is aimed at won’t rely on factory calibration, however, and recalibration of the StudioBook' display should be straightforward enough, thanks to the expansive gamut volumes and the fact that you can do it through the ProArt Creator Hub control panel. However, to do so you need either an X-Rite i1Display Pro or Pro Plus calibrator. The i1Display Studio model I use doesn’t cut the mustard.

The only real drawback with the screen is the refresh rate, which is fixed at a lowly 60Hz. This is really only an issue if you plan on playing games on the StudioBook but, with an RTX 3070 GPU, I don’t think this is an unlikely scenario. For the money, I think Asus could have stretched to a 120Hz panel as HP has done with its new ZBook Fury 15 G8. The screen doesn’t support touch but that's no loss on a machine designed for work.

The Harman Kardon-branded speaker system doesn’t let the side down, either, offering plenty of volume and a tight, punchy sound with a good amount of bass.

Find out more at Asus


Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED: Performance & Battery Life

Even a cursory glance at the specification – a high-end 3.3GHz octa-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, Nvidia RTX3070 GPU, 32GB of DDR4 RAM and a RAID0 SSD array – would suggest the StudioBook 16 is more than a little potent and so it proved. It scored 273 points in the Expert Reviews’ in-house processor benchmarking test, which easily places it among the fastest laptops we’ve ever tested.

The GeekBench 5 score was equally impressive with a single-core score of 1,416 and a multi-core score of 8,845. In real-world testing, the StudioBook chewed through some 4K video transcoding using Handbrake in impressively short order. If you are running some particularly demanding jobs you can put the system into “Rendering” mode, which increases the fan speed and boosts CPU performance, although things do get rather noisy when everything is running at full speed.

Gaming performance was solid, too. The Hitman 2 benchmark scored 50fps while the Shadow of the Tomb Raider test returned a similar 49fps. Both those scores were recorded at 1,920 x 1,080 with Ray Tracing on and detail levels turned up to the maximum.

Up the resolution to the native 3,840 x 2,400 and both benchmarks drop to 14fps but that’s not to say that gaming at 4K resolutions is out of the question with demanding titles. Knock the detail setting back and frame rates jump to the mid-50s. The less demanding Wolfenstein: Youngblood test scored 137fps with Ray Tracing and DLSS engaged at 1080p and 71fps at 4K. Oh, for a faster-refreshing screen that could actually render those frame rates.

Storage performance is equally impressive. The top-end StudioBook has two 1TB SSDs in a RAID0 Array for extra speed. With sequential read and write speeds of 4,483MB/sec and 4,326MB/sec and 4K write speeds of 217MB/sec it’s a very speedy set-up. Don’t think that RAID here means increased data protection. It doesn’t, RAID0 simply makes things quicker; it doesn’t involve any disk mirroring or redundancy.

Finally, the standard Expert Reviews battery rundown test drained the StudioBook’s 90Wh battery in 7hrs 17 mins. I had hoped for rather better given the size of the battery but, considering the display resolution and the hardware, it’s not actually all that bad a result. Given the intended use of this new Asus, I imagine it will stay hooked up to the mains most of the time.

Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED: Verdict

Whenever a manufacturer claims to have revolutionized the way we use our laptops I’m usually sceptical but, on this occasion, Asus can genuinely make that claim.

The Dial alone is a cracking idea and very well thought out, but add the graphics tablet touchpad and it’s a game-changer. Even if the rest of the package was a bit humdrum I’d recommend the new StudioBook 16 but that’s not the case.

The hardware, design and build quality are all tip-top, marred only by a display refresh rate that doesn’t do justice to the StudioBook’s gaming capabilities. At £2,500 I’d even rate the StudioBook as good value.

Find out more at Asus


Read more

Reviews