Sunday, July 3, 2022

Asus’ new Zenbook Pro 16X OLED raises the entire keyboard tray when you lift the lid

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In 2017, Asus surprised us with an ultra-thin gaming laptop that thicker when you opened the lid, opening a giant hidden hatch to keep its unusually large GPU cool. But the original Zephyrus also committed the mortal sin of joining the keyboard-in-the-front club — and the new $2,599 Asus ZenBook Pro 16X OLED, announced today, could right that wrong.

Instead of lifting the entire laptop like the Zephyrus or, say, lifting a large swath of touchscreen like the ZenBook Pro Duo, the new 16-inch laptop lifts its whole keyboard tray when you lift the lid.

The lift is mechanically connected to the hinge.
Image: Asus; GIF by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Asus says this fancy hinge gives the laptop’s Core i9 CPU and RTX 3060 GPU a combined 140W of thermal headroom – though the chassis is only 16.9mm (0.67in) thick.

And that is just the beginning from what sounds like one of the most premium ultra-thin laptops we’ve ever seen. I’ll spend some time going into detail, but here’s a TL;DR diagram:

The standout features of ZenBook Pro 16X OLED are that fancy hinge, 4K 16:10 OLED display, and jog dial, but there’s a lot more to it.
Image: Asus

Yes, an Nvidia RTX 3060 isn’t the most game-capable graphics chip out there – this machine is clearly aimed at makers with its focus on putting a 12th Gen Intel Core i9-12900H CPU in place of a more powerful GPU, two speakers and four woofers and stylus support for an “ASUS Pen”.

But as a gadget geek, I’m instantly jealous of those who get a 16-inch 4K OLED display with a pretty tall 16:10 aspect ratio with 100 percent DCI-P3 color and 0.2ms response time, not to mention two. do-it-all Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 985 MB/sec SD Express 7.0 card reader, and a giant touchpad with both pressure sensitivity and a linear actuator for haptic feedback (not that I expect many software developers to actually use that).

Oh, and do you have the dial for palm rest and white RGB lighting per key?

The white RGB lighting per key is all programmable, including the beams coming out of the hinge.
Image: Asus

I’m sure I could think of a reason to end up using that one! And for all the fancy features, Asus still makes room for a full-size HDMI 2.1 port, a full-size USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port (yes, that’s the fast one) and a 3.5mm headphone jack. You also get good-but-not-table-stakes-at-this-laptop features like up to 32GB of RAM, up to 2TB of PCIe 4.0 NVMe storage, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and one of the biggest laptop batteries you can go with. 96 Wh into the plane. It does weigh 5.3 pounds, so it’s not exactly light.

The keyboard tray lifts up to a 7-degree angle and you can charge via Thunderbolt 4 or a standard DC cylinder jack adapter.
Image: Asus; Screenshot by The Verge

My big question here is whether that keyboard is really ergonomic when raised to 7 degrees like this, because that goes against the conventional wisdom that the tilt of the keyboard probably needs to be flat or even negative for optimal control of your wrists. It’s not like you can adjust the tilt here as it’s attached directly to the laptop lid. But it’s clear that some people are buying these tilted keyboards because the “ErgoLift” is a feature Asus has been selling for years.

And it certainly isn’t as slanted as Asus’ dual-screen machines, which use a similar hinge to prop them up to 12 degrees for a better view. And I’m also very curious to see if Asus can get more out of its RTX 3060 than the competition at 140W TDP, because laptop chip speeds are increasingly about how much thermal headroom you can give them. Asus says the ventilation provides 30 percent more airflow and lowers the temperature by 7 degrees.

Speaking of dual-screen machines, the ZenBook Pro 16X OLED isn’t the only new laptop the company is announcing today, by no means! There’s a new dual-screen Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED if you’re still OK with being part of the keyboard-in-the-front club, a backflipping Zenbook Pro 15 Flip OLED with Intel’s new Arc discrete graphics — both with 120Hz OLED screens! — a Zenbook Pro 17 with an AMD Ryzen 6900HX chip and a few smaller OLED laptops too. Asus has been all-in on OLED lately and you like to see that.

Here are Asus’ bento box infographics for each of those other machines:

The $1,999 and up Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED has a 14.5-inch 120Hz OLED display, i9-12900H and RTX 3050 Ti at 17.9mm thin, with a 76Wh battery.
Image: Asus

The Asus Zenbook Pro 15 Flip OLED is 15.6-inch 2.8K 120Hz OLED with up to i7-12700H, Intel Arc A370M GPU, with 96Wh battery.
Image: Asus

The Asus Zenbook Pro 17 has a 2.5K 165Hz display with up to Ryzen 9 6900HX, RTX 3050, with 76Wh battery, with a thickness of 18.9mm. No Thunderbolt here.
Image: Asus

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED has a 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED and Ryzen 7 6800U, 14.9mm thick, 67Wh battery. USB-C instead of Thunderbolt.
Image: Asus

The Asus Zenbook S 13 Flip OLED has an i7-1260P, also with a 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED with a thickness of 14.9mm, a 67Wh battery and three Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Image: Asus

You might also want to check out Asus’ new pop art-inspired slates.

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