I’ve have owned so many laptops that I’ve literally lost count. Some of those systems, like my Surface Book, are capable of playing games. However, none of them are, or were, dedicated game machines. I’ve helped my friends and family pick out their portable game machines and have spent plenty of hours playing on them. Their cost versus their life span was always prohibiting from my point of view. I could get more bang for my buck from a desktop rig and portability wasn’t a concern.
Now that top of the line GPU cards cost almost as much as an entire laptop, I have reconsidered my position. I wanted something that I could treat like a gaming console and hook up to my televisions. I also plan on it traveling with us some depending on the destination. It needed to have enough power to play AAA titles on decent settings, but I didn’t want to break the bank. The closer I could stay to $1500.00 the better. I figured I would pay at least that much to get a hold of an upgraded GPU for my desktop, if I could find one at all.
I started my shopping spree by doing a bunch of research. At the time the best gaming laptops still had RTX 2070 and 2080 cards in them. I just happened to be on BestBuy’s site when they put up the ASUS TUF system with an RTX 3070 for pre-order. I was a little concerned with pre-ordering a system that featured a brand new, untested card, but you can’t always play it safe. I wasn’t in a hurry and I knew I could return it if I didn’t like it, so I pulled the trigger. Waiting more than two months for it to get here was agonizing.
Of course it showed up in the middle of a work day so I couldn’t immediately tear into it. As soon as my shift was over, I carefully opened the box and was pleasantly surprised by the look and feel of the system. The nondescript case is metal, there are two color choices, I have the black one. Except for the lightly etched TUF and logo on the lid, it looks like any other high-end slim notebook you might see in a boardroom. It measures 14.17 x 9.92 x 0.78 inches (360 x 252 x 19.9mm) and weighs 4.41 pounds (2kg).
The 15.6 inch screen features thin bezels along the top and sides. There’s no built-in web cam and if you’re planning on this being a daily driver, that may be an issue in today’s video conference based world. The non-HDR screen is 1080P and can hit 240 frames per second witch is super smooth. You may wonder why I didn’t go for a 4k or 1440P screen. On a 15.6″ display the extra res doesn’t exactly equate to a better picture. It does however, require more of your GPU and battery to push. You’ll also spend more on the systems that have higher resolutions. I didn’t see any 3070 laptops with a 1440P+ screen for less than $2000.00.
The keyboard is backlit and the WASD caps are clear. It is only a single teal color but I like it. There’s a row of dedicated volume, mic, and management keys which I find myself using more than I thought I would. The keys themselves feel great, the caps are a little concave and there’s a decent snap from the membrane that lets you know you’ve completed the stroke. The trackpad is nice. It is offset from the spacebar, but centered under your thumbs where it should be. It’s responsive, but ignores my accidental brushes while typing.
The sound system is decent and has a trick that I didn’t expect to work. It has built-in noise canceling in the on-board mics. You know what? It totally works. I’ve played multiple on-line games of CoD, Apex, and Destiny without head phones and questioned my friends about how I sounded. I wanted to know if they could hear the fans, or the game echoing from the speakers and was pleasantly surprised to learn they didn’t. It’s really nice to be able to play without headphones once in a while.
You’ll find an HDMI 2.1 port to connect the system to your home theatre. I recommend that you get an HDMI 2.1 rated cable to go with it. Otherwise you will probably have issues hitting higher frame rates with HDR enabled. I did. When connected to my Q70t home theatre using an HDMI 1.4 cable, I could do 120 hertz or 60 hertz with HDR. A new $10.00 2.1 cable from Amazon solved the issue.
You will also find a Thunderbolt 1.4 port which will take care of docking stations, external GPUs, display port monitors and lots of other accessories including most USB-C devices. It also has an RJ-45 network jack, headphone/mic jack, and three USB 3.0 ports. The Intel AX201 is Wi-Fi 6 compatible and hits the 1200 MB/ps mark with ease. Bluetooth is built-in as well. I’ve connected my system to the afore mentioned home theatre with an external keyboard and mouse without needing another port.
The one terabyte SSD is fast and large enough to hold the games I am currently playing. It came with 16GB of PC-3200 RAM, I will probably be taking advantage of the fact that it is user upgradable in the future but it does the job. The 11th gen 4 core i-7 11370H CPU is more than fast enough for anything I plan on doing.
Right out of the box I was disappointed with the performance of the GPU. I spent an hour running updates, BIOS, firmware, Windows, drivers, and the management app all needed updates. It’s a good thing I bothered before packing it back up, it was like a totally different system. When playing CoD BlackOps, Destiny, Apex, Tomb Raider, and Doom Eternal on the built-in screen I was able set everything to ultra, including ray tracing, and still hit over 120 fps with the fans barely running.
When connected to my big screen I have a choice to make. I can run the games on high, or ultra at 1440P and still hit my TV’s 120 FPS limit with HDR on. Or, I can crank down some of the settings to medium and low and run at 4K with 60 – 90 FPS. Personally I prefer the lower resolution with more post processing, but the games look and play great either way. At 4K they look and play better than the same games on my PS4 Pro, or Xbox One X at the same resolution. If you want more out of your system make sure to get one that is not a Max-Q GPU design. Basically, the thin and light gaming systems use the Max-Q versions of GPUs which limit power to prevent overheating. The thicker, heavier systems tend to have the full power chips that preform better but are, well, huge.
Overall I’m really happy with the ASUS. It is a good balance of performance and cost. There are systems with the same GPU that have features like a web cam and RGB lighting, but they’re all much closer to the $2000.00 price point. I’ve had the DASH F15 for a couple of weeks and have spent a lot of hours sitting in my easy chair with it on my lap and connected to my TV. It’s a keeper.