Asus Zenbook Pro 16X hands-on review: Fast, feature-packed

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Asus has a penchant for creating innovative laptop designs. It was the first to introduce the angled hinge that lifts the keyboard deck up for easier typing and better airflow. And it was the first to embed an LED in the touchpad to add more functionality.

The ZenBook Pro 16X doubles down on that focus on innovation, with a flip-up keyboard, an Asus Dial for application control, and a haptic touchpad. I got an opportunity to look at a prerelease ZenBook Pro 16X, meaning I can only provide my subjective opinion without any official benchmarks, but that’s enough to offer a taste of this new feature-packed machine.

It’s not an inexpensive laptop, though. My fully configured review unit with a Core i9-12900H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 will run $3,000. That’s a lot of money, but you’re getting a laptop that should provide excellent performance to go with several innovative features that make it both easy to use and productivity efficient.

Design

Backside of the the Asus Zenbook Pro 16X.
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When closed, the ZenBook Pro 16X looks a lot like other ZenBooks, with the usual Asus concentric swirl on the lid emanating from a stylized logo. It sports an all-black color scheme with virtually no bling, but attractive angles along the sides and the bottom of the lid give it some panache. It’s an attractive but not ostentatious design.

Open it up, though, and things get interesting. The keyboard lifts via a new AAS Ultra mechanism to a seven-degree angle, making it more comfortable for typing and exposing additional vents underneath that Asus says produce 30% more airflow and decrease the surface temperature by up to 7 degrees Celsius. The angled keyboard also points the tweeters on each side directly at the user for better audio performance. Along with the massive haptic touchpad and Asus Dial, the ZenBook Pro 16X exhibits a very modern and high-tech aesthetic indeed.

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The hinge is smooth, allowing the lid to be opened and the keyboard raised with one hand, no doubt aided by the laptop’s 5.29 pounds. I found the lid a tiny bit wobbly during my testing, but not enough to bother me. The chassis is constructed entirely of CNC-machined aluminum and is quite robust, with no bending, flexing, or twisting anywhere in the lid, keyboard deck, or chassis bottom. It’s the equal of the best laptops on the market. It’s also relatively thin at 0.67 inches, a remarkable feat given the technology packed inside. The weight makes it noticeable in a backpack, but it’s not thicker than the average premium 16-inch laptop.

Connectivity is strong, with one USB-A 3.2 port, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. Wireless connectivity is completely up to date with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.

Performance

A Asus Zenbook Pro 16X sitting on a desk.
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Asus touts its IceCool Pro cooling system, which utilizes twin IceBlade fans with 97 3D-curve blades and a 5mm heat pipe to allow the CPU and GPU to run at up to 140 watts combined without throttling when in performance mode. Standard mode slows things down and runs at a quiet 40 decibels or less.

All of that will come in handy given that the ZenBook Pro 16X can be equipped with up to an Intel 12th-gen Core i9-12900H, a 14-core (six Performance and eight Efficient), 20-thread CPU running at 45 watts. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 isn’t the fastest GPU you can configure in a laptop, but it’s powerful enough to create its own heating concerns. The ability to run the CPU and GPU at full speed should come in handy. During my testing, I found the laptop responsive, although, of course, given the prerelease status I couldn’t run any benchmarks.

Most likely, though, the ZenBook Pro 16X will be an extremely powerful machine for the most demanding productivity tasks, and it will be able to handle creative applications as well. Midrange 1080p gaming is also likely, although Asus equips the ZenBook Pro 16X with Nvidia Studio drivers that are optimized for stable application support rather than gaming performance.

Display and audio

The Asus Zenbook Pro 16X's display.
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The ZenBook Pro 16X features a 16-inch 16:10 4K+ (3,840 x 2,400) OLED display with small bezels around the top and the sides. It’s a touch display with support for the Asus active pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity.

I would have loved to submit the display to my colorimeter, but that wasn’t allowed. According to Asus, though, the display should be plenty bright at 550 nits, with a 100% of DCI-P3 color gamut and a 0.2ms response time. Pantone validation promises excellent color accuracy. And as an OLED display, its contrast is going to be off the charts as usual.

Subjectively, the display blew me away, as do all great OLED panels. It was incredibly bright and colorful without being oversaturated, and the inky blacks made for excellent text on white backgrounds. Its Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) support is also excellent. Switch it on and on-screen colors pop, while HDR video is stunning. This is a display that will please productivity users, creators, and media consumers alike.

I’m not entirely sure of the speaker configuration other than the dual tweeters next to the keyboards, but I imagine that there are some subwoofers on the bottom of the chassis. The audio was incredibly loud with more bass than usual, and mids and highs were nice and clear. This is an audio system you can use for bingeing Netflix with a group and enjoying music without resorting to headphones.

Keyboard and mouse

Close up on the Asus Zenbook Pro 16X's keyboard.
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The keyboard features White RGB backlighting and sidebar lights along the side that provide various levels of feedback. For example, the lights will be red if the battery is low, and different colors can be activated when a USB drive is plugged in or an email is received, along with many other activations. There’s also support for animated ambient lighting modes that add some fun.

The key caps are large with plenty of spacing, and the mechanism is tight with a nice click to the bottoming action. It’s a precise keyboard that’s as good as those on most Windows machines, and being tilted up at an angle makes for amazingly comfortable typing sessions.

The haptic touchpad is spacious and responsive to swiping. I found the haptic mechanism to provide reliable feedback, but I did run into the occasional problem with it registering clicks. Hopefully, that’s resolved in the drivers before the laptop makes it to market. Touch the switch on the upper right-hand corner of the touchpad and you can switch the LED numeric keypad on and off. That’s a nice compromise, providing for easier number input for those who need it, but leaving more space for a standard keyboard by skipping a physical numeric keypad.

Asus Dial sits to the left of the touchpad and provides rotary control for any installed app.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Finally, the Asus Dial sits to the left of the touchpad and provides rotary control for any installed app. Pressing the button in the middle activates a control, and scrolling around the dial provides a handy mechanism for controlling apps. Asus provides support for a variety of programs, including Adobe’s Creative Suite, and the customizable Asus ProArt Creator Hub lets the dial be configured for any other application.

Windows 11 Hello passwordless login is provided by an infrared camera and facial recognition. It worked quickly and reliably during my hands-on use.

Battery life

There’s a 96 watt-hour battery packed inside the ZenBook Pro 16X, which is nicely sized for the components and 16-inch OLED display. I couldn’t test the laptop, so I have to go by the estimate that Asus provides of up to 10 hours of battery life. Obviously, that will depend on workflow and CPU/GPU usage, but if you can hit 10 hours of standard productivity use, then that would be a great result.

Pricing and configurations

The ZenBook Pro 16X will start at $2,600 when it’s officially introduced (there’s no official date yet other than “soon”) with a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. My $3,000 review configuration represents the high end, with a Core i9, 32GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD. All configurations are equipped with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU.

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