The Asus TUF Gaming A15 is targeted at gamers with entry-level budgets, but that doesn't mean there's anything ordinary about it. This model is the first laptop we're reviewing with a 4000-series AMD Ryzen Mobile processor, which definitely helps to set it apart in the market. AMD has promised that this generation can easily hold its own despite Intel's virtual monopoly in the laptop market. We'll be paying attention to this, but there's also a lot more to take into account. Asus has launched this laptop with a lot of variants, and there are plenty of features that should appeal to gamers.
As the follow-up to the well priced and popular TUF Gaming FX505, the new TUF Gaming A15 claims to be slimmer and lighter, while offering up-to-date hardware, immense customisability, and of course some design elements just for gamers. As its name suggests, physical toughness is also a focus of this series. However as we've seen quite often, powerful laptops can appeal to audiences beyond gamers, including creative professionals and students. We're going to see what Asus has managed to achieve here, and whether the hardware and features are competitive enough to make this a strong recommendation.
Asus has created the new A15 name to simplify its alphanumeric naming scheme, and there are actually two models – the FA566 (Fortress Grey) and FA506 (Bonfire Black) – that will be sold as the TUF Gaming A15. There will be slightly different configuration options for each, and some configurations will primarily be available offline while others might be targeted at online buyers. Bonfire Black is a more traditional “gamer” aesthetic in textured plastic with sharp lines and red accents, while Fortress Grey is more subtle with a metal finish and can blend in more easily.
The 15.6-inch TUF Gaming A15, and its larger 17-inch A17 sibling, have been launched in a variety of configurations in India. There will also be Intel-based equivalents sold as the TUF Gaming F15 and F17.
The range starts at Rs. 60,990 for the 15-inch TUF Gaming A15 (FA506) in Bonfire Black, and that's also the same starting price for the 17-inch TUF Gaming A17 (FA706). These entry-level options feature the AMD Ryzen 5 4600H CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, a 256GB SSD, and a 60Hz full-HD screen.
At the top end, you can get up to a Ryzen 9 4900H CPU, GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, a 144Hz full-HD screen, and a 1TB SSD plus a hard drive. The availability of different configurations will vary, and such a tricked-out configuration did not seem to be in stock anywhere online at the time of our review. The price would of course be considerably higher.
All variants feature a 48Wh battery – in a preview prior to CES late last year, Asus had brought up the idea of offering different battery capacities in different variants (probably trading off the space used by the hard drive), but this would have made the lineup more confusing, and so the plan has been dropped.
AMD has seen a number of wins in the desktop CPU space, especially with enthusiasts, but still has to convince laptop OEMs to take more risks developing and selling entire product lines around Ryzen processors. The Ryzen Mobile 4000-series might be slightly confusing in terms of naming, because these CPUs are based on the same Zen 2 architecture as the desktop Ryzen 3000-series, and do not represent a new generation. AMD has used a modular chiplet-based layout with integrated Radeon Vega graphics, and a and 7nm manufacturing process.
Of course AMD's success depends on partners like Asus – buyers look for the overall package and experience, and that means designs have to be slick, cooling mechanisms have to be effective, and other components can't cause bottlenecks. It will be hard to judge how much of the TUF Gaming A15's overall performance can be attributed directly to the CPU, but if it's bad, we'll know.
For the TUF Gaming A15, Asus has chosen AMD's 45W H-series models, the six-core Ryzen 5 4600H, and the eight-core Ryzen 7 4700H, and Ryzen 9 4900H. All models feature multi-threading for twice the number of threads. Unlike their desktop counterparts, these CPUs do not benefit from the fast new PCIe 4.0 interconnect, and use PCIe 3.0 like the rest of the industry. These chips are classified as SoCs, with integrated IO, storage and memory controllers, and hardware for sensors, power management and display output. All of this is tied together using AMD's Infinity Fabric.
The configuration that we're reviewing is the TUF Gaming A15 (FA566) in Fortress Grey, and is priced at Rs. 94,990. Our unit has an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU, a 144Hz full-HD adaptive sync display, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD, and a 1TB hard drive.
Asus says this variant (but not all) has one empty M.2 slot for an additional SSD, and that the RAM is all socketed. Users will be able to upgrade storage and RAM, and there's quite a bit of flexibility here even though you don't get a hatch on the bottom for quick access.
There's a 48Wh battery, and Asus surprisingly doesn't make any claims of how long it should run for. Our unit came with a relatively slim but still heavy 180W charger. Charging through the USB Type-C port is not supported.
Nearly all the ports are on the left – there's Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0b, two USB 3.2 Gen1 ports (5Gbps), one USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port (10Gbps plus DisplayPort 1.4 output), and a 4.5mm combo audio socket. The only things on the right are a single USB 2.0 port and a Kensington lock slot. There's no SD card slot, which is disappointing.
Other specifications include Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, stereo speakers with DTS:X Ultra sound enhancement, and a 720p webcam.
Asus ships the TUF Gaming A15 with Windows 10 Home. We saw several huge, annoying popups for McAfee LiveSafe. The Asus Armoury Crate tool is thankfully not at all intrusive but the layout could be better. It lets you switch between Performance, Silent, and Turbo modes, to let you balance power consumption and fan noise with CPU and GPU performance. You can also check hardware usage, manage the keyboard's RGB effects, and check for system updates.
There's a lot to like about the TUF Gaming A15. For an entry-level laptop, it looks fairly slick and modern. The Fortress Grey lid finish that we have isn't as subtle as we would have liked – the fake plastic rivets in the corners and large tattoo-like TUF logo in the centre definitely call attention to this laptop – and some might find it almost cheesy. The outer lid is metal, while the rest of this laptop's body is plastic.
Flipping the lid up, we see relatively slim borders around the screen, except for a little tab at the top to make room for a webcam. This also lets you open the lid easily, and we like this better than a displaced or missing webcam. The lid is held up by hinges at the two ends and the thick bottom chin is somewhat visually reduced by a large cutout across the middle. When the lid is down, this lets you see the laptop's status LEDs from the outside. The lid does wobble slightly and can be bent enough to warp the screen.
On the lower deck, we have a large RGB backlit keyboard with a full-sized number pad and transparent WASD keys. We noticed the separated arrow keys immediately, which are somewhat smaller than usual but not compressed into one row. We also like the grouping of the Fn key row, and the fact that there's no rim interfering with the bottom row. Gamers will appreciate the quick Fn shortcut to lock the Windows key.
Asus has also gone with individual physical trackpad buttons, which it says is in response to user feedback. The trackpad itself isn't clickable but fully supports taps and Windows 10's multi-touch gestures. In terms of usability, both the keyboard and trackpad are comfortable, and we were able to work as well as play games without trouble.
The keyboard deck does flex slightly towards the centre, and the transparent sides of the keycaps mean that the RGB LEDs might be distracting at some angles. The entire keyboard is one lighting zone and you get only four basic effects plus three levels of brightness. Surprisingly, you can't create your own colour sequence and we didn't see options to sync effects with games, music, or system temperature. You can link other Asus Aura Sync compatible devices though. We also noticed that when the laptop went to sleep, the backlight would change to a flashing white, which was awfully distracting. An option to disable this is buried within Asus' Armoury Crate utility.
Weighing 2.3kg and just under 25mm thick, the TUF Gaming A15 is relatively compact for a gaming laptop. Although not ideal for a daily commute, you should be able to carry this laptop around everywhere without a lot of trouble. Asus says it has used multiple heatpipes and heatsinks with two self-cleaning fans and lots of vents behind the keyboard, at the back, right, and bottom for airflow.
The TUF series gets its name from what Asus says is a military-grade level of toughness. The TUF Gaming A15 is supposed to be resilient to drops, shakes, extreme temperatures, and high humidity. The plastic body doesn't look or feel all that reassuring, especially the hinges, but Asus does say that it has survived tests in such conditions at the design stage.
The combination of the Ryzen 7 4700H, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, 16GB of RAM, and NVMe SSD made for a very smooth usage experience across all kinds of workloads. General performance was snappy, and that perception might also have been helped by the screen, which runs at 144Hz even on battery power.
By default, Asus sets this laptop to Performance mode, and that's how we conducted all our testing. When running on battery power, the Turbo mode isn't available. You can also cycle between these modes using a Fn shortcut on the keyboard.
The full-HD screen is non-reflective, which is something we always like. Viewing angles are fine, and it's bright enough for comfortable use indoors. Colour reproduction is limited to 45 percent of the NTSC gamut which is good for general use and gaming, but might not be enough for pro-level photo and video work. The speakers can get quite loud and the sound doesn't distort at high volumes, but there's very little bass. Voices and game effects are clear, but music sounds somewhat hollow and dull.
Starting with real-world usage tests, we put the TUF Gaming A15 through a few situations that a gaming laptop should be able to breeze through. We compressed a 3.24GB folder of assorted files using 7zip, and that took 2 minutes, 10 seconds. Transcoding a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 in Handbrake took only 48 seconds. The Blender benchmark v1 ran in 21 minutes, 33 seconds.
CrystalDiskMark showed good, but not great sequential read and write speeds of 1984.3MBps and 974.5MBps respectively for the SSD. Random read and write speeds were 300.7MBps and 374.8MBps. We expected a little better from an NVMe SSD.
CineBench R20 showed single-core and all-core scores of 477 and 4,151 respectively, while POVRay completed its render benchmark in 1 minute, 7 seconds. The intensive PCMark synthetic test managed 4,816 points in the standard run and 6,054 points in its extended run.
Of course graphics performance matters the most for a gaming laptop, so we fired up 3DMark. We saw scores of 5,807 in the Time Spy DX12 test and 3,220 in the older Fire Strike Extreme test. Unigine's Superposition ran at an average of 58.68fps using its 1920x1080 High preset.
We started our game tests with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and this is where the 144Hz refresh rate really made itself evident. The built-in benchmark often stutters, but motion was perfectly smooth this time. We noticed slight texture pop-in, but the average frame rate across scenes was 79fps with a minimum of 65fps. We used the High preset at 1920x1280 with TAA enabled. Moving on, Far Cry 5 also gave us an average of 79fps running at 1920x1280 using its Ultra preset, and World War Z managed 130fps, also at Ultra.
We also fired up GTA V and manually raised nearly all the quality settings and sliders to their highest values, with only the AF dialled down to 4X. We got an average of 119.86fps which is great. Shifting gears a little, we used Civilization VI's built-in benchmark at the Ultra setting and got an average of 103.36fps.
We ran through the open world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and saw an average of 52fps which is quite good, considering that we used Ultra graphics preset and High post-processing level. On the other hand, the much more forgiving Doom (2016) had no trouble staying above 80fps even at its Ultra setting in the middle of intense firefights.
The TUF Gaming A15 does make a fair bit of fan noise when it's stressed and this might be distracting especially in the middle of a gaming session unless you're wearing a good headset. The middle and right side of the keyboard get quite hot but the WASD key area and left wrist rest aren't affected so this should be okay for most games. We felt hot air blowing out of the right side which might affect where you can comfortably use a mouse with your right hand.
Finally, we come to battery life. For a model that wants to be more than just a desk-bound gaming laptop, the TUF Gaming A15 lasts for around four hours of casual use which is just barely average. Our more intensive Battery Eater Pro test ran for 1 hour, 42 minutes which is also not great. It took a little over two hours to charge the battery fully. Don't expect to get a lot done if you're taking this laptop on the road for work.
TUF Gaming is supposed to be Asus' entry-level series, positioned below the ROG models. If you grab the most basic variant of the TUF Gaming A15, at the starting price of Rs. 60,990, you'll have a decent enough experience. We do think that most people will come to this series looking for the most affordable gaming laptop they can buy.
However, the price climbs significantly if you want a more powerful CPU and GPU, and of course we'd prefer a large SSD and the 144Hz screen. If you're looking at a high-end package such as our review unit, which costs nearly Rs. 1,00,000, you might be willing to spend a little more, or trade some specifications for features. Even Asus' own ROG models at that level offer better features such as per-key RGB backlighting, a more vibrant screen, or a more stylish body.
AMD's Ryzen 7 4800H CPU worked fine in our experience, and we can't find any fault with it relative to any Intel processor that you'd get in an equivalently priced laptop. With eight cores and 16 threads, you'll also have to trouble multi-tasking and running heavy creative workloads such as video editing or 3D modelling. Some people might hesitate to give up the trust of the Intel and Core brands, but we wouldn't hesitate to recommend either one if the price is right.
We like the generous SSD, though it isn't the fastest, and the potential to upgrade is always a plus. There are no design flaws that impact usability, and you can enjoy games as well as get your work done.
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