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Asus TUF Dash F15 review: The best budget gaming laptop of 2021

23 Mar 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,299
inc VAT

A £1,300 gaming laptop with an RTX 3070 at the helm; what’s not to like?

Pros 
RTX 3070 is a game-changer GPU at this price
Fine keyboard
Impressive battery life
Cons 
No webcam
GPU clocked down
Lurid keyboard backlight
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Asus’s latest TUF laptop, the Dash F15 is the very epitome of the new breed of compact, high-performance affordable gaming laptops.

In case you were wondering, the TUF acronym stands for “The Ultimate Force” and it distinguishes Asus’ cheaper gaming laptops from the more expensive Republic Of Gamers or ROG line.

All the machines in the TUF range are built to the MIL-STD-810H standard and so should prove a little more resilient to being dropped or shaken and used in humid or extreme temperatures than other run-of-the-mill laptops.

I didn’t test any of this because laptop makers tend to get miffed when you send back bricked press review machines that you’ve used in a sauna or thrown down the stairs.

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Asus TUF Dash F15 review: What do you get for the money?

Designed in cooperation with BMW Designworks the new Asus is quite striking. The Moonlight White model looks like a prop from the film Oblivion and that’s not a bad thing considering the target market. If you think it all looks just a bit too much, then the Eclipse Grey model is rather more restrained.

For a 15.6-inch gaming laptop, the Dash F15 is neither too bulky nor too heavy; indeed, at 360 x 252 x 20mm (WDH) and 2kg it is perfectly portable. The lid, which only tilts back to a rather upright 125 degrees, and keyboard deck are made from aluminium while the rest of the body is made from plastic. As you would expect from something built to a military standard, however, it does feel very solid.

Running the show is an Intel Core i7-11370H processor, combined with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card (with 8GB of dedicated RAM), 16GB of 3200MHz system RAM and a 1TB NVMe SSD.


That is a very solid specification for the money, but there are a couple of caveats. First, you can't actually buy this configuration with the 240Hz display as it was sent to me - it's a US model currently. Instead, you have to make do with the duller 144Hz display or take a hit on the GPU. The 144Hz laptop with the RTX 3070 is £1,300; the 240Hz model, which comes with an RTX 3060 is £1,400. Both are still cracking value. I'd pick the one with the RTX 3070 and the 165Hz display. 

Take the base panel off and you will find space for a second M.2 SSD and a second SO-DIMM memory slot giving you the option to buy a base model with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD then bump it up when you’re feeling flush.

Physical connections extend to three USB Type-A 3.2 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port and a Type-C port that supports Thunderbolt 4. There’s a 3.5mm audio jack, too, and a Gigabit Ethernet LAN port. Wireless connectivity is managed by an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 card which also includes Bluetooth 5.2 and there’s a Kensington lock in case some sticky-fingered git tries to pinch it at a gaming convention.

The chiclet keyboard is hard to level serious criticism at. It is well spaced, solid and the 1.7mm key-travel is nigh-on ideal. This being a gaming laptop, the three-stage backlight is a rather lurid aquamarine. There’s no option to change hue but the transparent WASD keys are a very nice feature.

The Dash F15 lacks either a webcam or a fingerprint scanner, forcing you to resort to a PIN number or password for security. Most built-in webcams are pretty poor so if you make regular use of one, you are better off buying a good one while typing in a PIN is not a major hardship.

Above the keyboard sit a pair of dedicated volume buttons, a microphone mute button and a launch key for Asus’ Armoury Crate control panel. Below you’ll find a very nice 105 x 75mm trackpad.

For those not familiar with it, Armoury Crate lets you change performance and fan settings – both for the CPU and GPU – depending on need, although the top Turbo mode is only available when you are plugged into the mains.

Running at maximum the twin fans make a bit of a racket but they certainly keep the temperature down. Armoury Crate also has a game launcher built into it, so you don’t have to worry about jumping between Steam, Epic or GOG to launch your games and it can be used to control other Asus’ Aura-enabled products.

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Asus TUF Dash F15 review: How good are the display and speakers?

The display is a 15.6-inch IPS affair with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and is available with a 144Hz refresh rate or 240Hz. The 144Hz model only covers 62.5% of the sRGB colour gamut and is a little on the drab side. We tested it on last year's TUF Gaming A15 and came away a little underwhelmed.

The 240Hz version, as featured on this model is far better and technically is bang on the money with only the maximum brightness of 294cd/m2 being a little below what I had hoped for.

The out-of-the-box average Delta E colour accuracy of 0.92 is excellent and while the 98.2% sRGB coverage doesn't quite match the advertised 100% it's close enough. A contrast ratio of 1,029:1 and black luminance of 0.28cd/m2 round out the display’s solid set of numbers.

The two 2W speakers fire out of the underside of the body which is never an ideal design solution in my opinion. They are certainly loud enough and there is some bass but I did expect a rather less raucous sound from a system with DTS:X Ultra certification. When it comes to laptop audio systems, Dolby’s Atmos is rather stealing the show at the moment.

Asus TUF Dash F15 review: How fast is it?

I was more impressed by the performance of the Dash F15 and I don’t think the slightly underclocked GPU should worry you too much. The Hitman 2 benchmark ran at a perfectly decent 61fps and the results from the Wolfenstein: Youngblood tests were equally solid at 98fps with all the ray tracing bells and whistles.

The way the RTX 3070 brings real-time ray tracing and DLSS (deep-learning supersampling) to sub-£1,500 laptops is why people are calling it a game-changer.

The Asus stomped all over less-demanding gaming tests, too. The Metro: Last Light Redux test returned 134fps and in DiRT Showdown it reached 111fps. There's no Doom benchmark but I saw a consistent 120fps while running about Mars shooting at demons.

Turning to more general benchmark results, the GeekBench 5 test returned almost exactly what I expected from an 11th generation Tiger Lake Core-i7 machine and the SSD’s read and write speeds were fine for a machine costing this sort of money. In short, this is a thoroughly capable laptop, if perhaps not one you could put into service as a full-blown workstation like some more expensive gaming laptops.

The rather substantial power block can charge the 76Wh (4,800mAh) 4-cell battery at 200W through the DC-in jack but you can charge via the Type-C port to at up to 100W.

Battery life is a strong point. In our standard video run-down test, the Asus managed 12 hours 50 minutes which is a very solid result. Of course, once you unplug the Dash F15, the iGPU system switches from the Nvidia to the integrated Intel graphics processor, just in case you thought the Dash was performing some sort of miracle.

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Asus TUF Dash F15 review: Verdict

Stylish, compact, powerful and with all the little refinements that separate a good gaming laptop from the notebook herd, the Asus TUF Dash F15 has it all.

A webcam would have been nice and a less dull display than the 144Hz panel that adorns the RTX 3080 laptop would have been better, too, but when those are the only criticisms you can make you know you’ve got a pretty decent product on your hands. 

Overall, it’s an outstanding gaming laptop at a highly competitive price.

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