MAKING LAPTOPS FOR SO-CALLED CREATIVES uses to be firmly in the domain of Apple, with insufferable top-knot-rocking-types using them to "like, totally capture that wine's bouquet on file". There have been other hardware makers in on the game but they've struggled to kick the MacBook Pro off its lofty pedestal.
Then Acer came along this year waving its ConceptD around, aiming to get the attention of creative professional types, and now Asus has entered the game with its ProArt range.
At the top of the range of these laptops, which target people who also do product design and visual data stuff as well as make fancy videos, sits the ProArt StudioBook One, a mobile workstation machine Asus has claimed is "the world's most graphically-powerful laptop".
That's down to it sporting Nvidia's Quadro RTX 6000 mobile graphics card, a high-end Turing-based GPU that's designed with ray-tracing rendering in mind, rather than gaming performance.
We got a closer look at the StudioBook One and plonked our hands on it to get a better impression of what Asus has come up with.
For a laptop with a 15.4in display and a heck of a spec, the StudioBook One is actual reasonably slim at 24.2mm thick. It won't make an ultraportable look fat, but it's less chunky than previous workstation powerhouses and is around the girth of some of Asus' Republic of Gamers (RoG) laptops.
Speaking of which, there are, to our eyes at least, some vestiges of the RoG design DNA in the StudioBook One. It has angular edges around its chassis, which we've seen before in RoG laptops.
That might not appeal to some folks, but we felt it looks rather fetching, especially in blue-grey livery with some silvery highlights around the ports.
Speaking of those, for a creative-pro laptop, there's not a lot of connectivity. A trio of USB-C port means one will have to opt for the dongle life, but those ports are Thunderbolt 3 compatible so they should support a lot of high-end peripherals.
And here's something a bit odd; the ports are actually in the sides of the laptop's lid rather than on the lower edges. That's down to the lid being chunkier than one might expect due to the StudioBook One housing its GPU and other heat-generating bits in there; think of it as a Surface Book 2 but in reverse.
Keeping such components in the top half of the laptop means Asus has come up with a rather interesting cooling system. The bottom section of the lid comes away a little from the chassis, thereby creating a vent to help keep the gutsy bits cool. This is a bit like a flipped take on the cooling system Asus has in its Zephyrus RoG laptops; guess one can inspire one's self.
When we first opened the laptop though we did feel we'd slightly broken it, though on closer inspection the vent-like section felt pretty rigid and not something that'll probably fail pretty quickly.
Back to more traditional laptop things; the trackpad is a good size and feels slick and precise, as we expect from Asus - and indeed other - laptops.
The keyboard, on the other hand, was a little more head-scratching. The key travel was pretty minimal, something we haven't experienced from Asus before. It reminded us of the Butterfly mechanism on MacBook Pros.
We'd be hesitant to say this was a coincidence, as we'd not be surprised if someone on Asus' design team though that a MacBook-like keyboard could help to tempt creatives away from Cupertino's machines and onto the StudioBook One.
It'll be a matter of taste, but we're not particularly sold on minimal travel keyboards unless they use something like the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1's MagLev mechanism.
Over than the fact it weighs a lot more than it looks - 2.9kg - the StudioBook One is a pretty nicely designed machine and one that stands a little out from the crowd machines trying to copy MacBooks or Dell machines.
Give it's a laptop for creative pros, it unsurprisingly has a 4K panel in its 15.6in display. And what a screen it is. Everything looks razor-sharp, bright and flush with colour and contrast, with things like videos really ‘popping' with colour.
It looks pretty colour accurate as well, which is arguably a ridiculous thing to claim as we couldn't test it, but to our eyes, it looks like Asus' claim of 100 per cent Adobe RGB colour space coverage could be on the money.
As the screen is in a 16:9 aspect ratio and has a 120Hz refresh rate, it should also be a boon for video and movie editors.
Our only concern with the screen is how reflective it is; as you can see from our photos, the lights of Asus IFA booth were rampantly reflected in the screen despite us trying to find a good pic-snapping angle.
You'll want to avoid using the StudioBook One if you've got a lot of harsh light sources above and behind you. But in a darkened environment - Asus dimmed the lights at one point - the screen really sings.
Performance, storage and battery life
While we couldn't get a proper impression of the StudioBook One's performance while on the Asus stand, the machine comes with a mighty spec.
Intel has given it a high-end Intel Core i9-9980HK, also kept in the laptop's lid, and up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, which is a pretty hefty set up one would expect to see in a desktop machine or a laptop that's as thick as a brick.
The aforementioned Quadro RTX 6000 comes with its own pool of 24GB of GDDR6 video memory, which is why the StudioBook One has Asus claiming laptop graphical supremacy. That amount of VRAM should ensure it can handle large, ultra-high-quality video assets with ray-tracing thrown in for good measure, without falling down in a silicon sweat.
Storage comes in the form of a 1TB NVMe PCIe 3.0, which isn't as an impressive spec as it once was, but should be enough storage to hold the assets and files for a specific video making project for example.
Asus has kept tight-lipped on battery life, which we suspect won't be particularly long when the laptop has such a powerful graphics card. It does come with a 300W power brick, so we don't expect the StudioBook One to sip power.
But this looks like a machine that's less about being used on the go away from power sockets and one for folks who have to move from desk to desk when working with fellow creatives or professional CAD wranglers. As such, one could expect the StudioBook One to be shuffled from socket to socket in an office or ‘imagination space'.
There's no doubt that the Asus ProArt StudioBook One is an impressive machine and a showcase for Asus' engineering chops.
And having such a powerful professional mobile GPU in a chassis that's heavy but not too hefty, offers the types of folks who need such power, a machine that's practically portable with a solid rucksack.
There are no details on a release date or pricing yet, and we expect the StudioBook One to cost an absolute bomb as Quadro-equipped machines don't come cheap.
As such, we'd need to be convinced that Asus could really challenge Apple and others who've been creating such creative-focussed machines for ages. Some might prefer to opt for a MacBook Pro and iMac Pro or Mac Pro setup to handle their creative needs, thereby having a powerhouse desktop for the office and a solid performing yet portable mobile machine for creative tasks out and about.
But the StudioBook One is still a standout laptop and there's isn't much like it around; if nothing else it's worth a good glance if you or your company has deep enough pockets to afford such a device. µ