ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED laptop for glorious colour (review)
The ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED laptop is part of the ASUS OLED range with Intel 11th Gen Core ‘H’ or AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors and 15.6 FHD or 16” QHD displays.
The reason to buy, of course, is the 15.6” OLED screen. But throw in ASUS’s quality, innovation and support, and you have an excellent OLED screen workhorse. ASUS aims the ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED at so-called ‘creators’, but as the review shows, it is more suited for heavier business, tertiary students, and casual gamers.
I have one complaint. Although the ASUS website says it is touch, the review unit K3500P (X3500PC_K3500PC) was not touch-enabled. Frankly, I see it as mandatory for the creators it aims to woo. So be careful when shopping on price as there is the K3500 family with a few quite different siblings.
ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED Model K3500PC-L1101T
|Website||Range and review unit product page and Manual|
|Price||Around $2,3000 for the i7/16/512GB/non-touch OLED to $2549 with 1TB|
|Colours||Quiet Blue or Cool Silver|
|From||Mainly from computer stores like mWave and Scorptec|
|Warranty||12-months ACL Service centres Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth (Sydney not listed)|
|Country of origin||China|
|Company||ASUSTeK Computer is a Taiwanese company that produces motherboards, graphics cards, optical drives, PDAs, computer monitors, notebook computers, servers, networking products, mobile phones, computer cases, computer components, and computer cooling systems.|
|More||CyberShack ASUS news|
First impression – ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED
I am wowed by the 15.6” OLED, even one that is only 1920 x 1080p. It is a terrific screen. Albeit, the first thing I did is get rid of the gloomy dark theme that suits OLEDs so well. Why? The Dark theme uses less power when an OLED pixel is off and minimises the possibility of burn-in. Light mode means all pixels are on; it can shorten OLED life and consumes more power. But it looks so much more lively.
It is also a non-touch panel despite the website claiming otherwise. I am sure the website is at fault as some resellers specify non-touch or say nothing.
The Quiet Blue colour is non-descript, as is the overall finish. ‘Plain Jane’ has an aluminium lid and plastic (polycarbonate) deck, chassis, and bottom plate. While the lid has ASUS Vivobook embossing on a little plaque, it makes no design statement, unlike ASUS’s lovely Zenbooks.
Still, we are not all blessed with Hollywood looks, so perhaps this is just the right style for Joe and Jane Average.
ASUS aim this at entry-level Creatives who want OLED over IPS screens. My advice for creatives is to skip this for the 16” Pro 16X N7600 4K 16:10 version and get 32GB (16GB is not enough for Creatives), and it should have a touch screen. Sure, it is several hundred dollars more, but it is getting closer to a creative’s laptop.
While its big at 35.98 x 23.53 x 1.89 ~ 1.99 cm x 1.65kg its relatively light for this size laptop.
Flexibility leads to confusion
ASUS generally sells specific models via retailers, including JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and Bing Lee (all sell AMD Ryzen models only and no TB4 port). Computer stores like mWave and Scorptec have Intel and AMD models.
But there are several variants on the overall model – i5 (Xe GPU), i7 (Intel Xe GPU and GeForce RTX 3050), AMD Ryzen 5000 (R7/R9 and AMD integrated VEGA GPU and some with RTX 3050), 8/16GB ram, up to 1TB storage, IPS/OLED, FHD/4K, touch and non-touch screens. So be careful, as ASUS’s website does not make these choices clear.
The integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics supports PlayReady Digital Rights Management for HDR video streaming. It drives a Samsung ATNA56YX03-0 panel (Samsung specs):
- 15.6” 60Hz, OLED
- 1920 x 1080 x 141ppi
- 10-bit 1.07 billion colours
- 400nits (typical) – 395nits tested and fairly even over the screen
- Infinite contrast (all OLEDs have this as a pixel is either on or off)
ASUS provides a Windows colour profile that is only active in SDR Mode. It allows
- Normal: Gamma and colour match closely what the eye can see. It is the only TÜV Low Blue Light Certificated mode
- Vivid: Over saturates the image at the expense of colour calibration. The human eye yearns for saturation
- Manual: Adjust the colour temperature from -50 to +50.
- Eye Care Mode: This mode reduces blue light by up to 30% giving everything a warmish cast
- 100% DCI-P3 and 133% sRGB
- 95% Adobe RGB and Pantone Verified (with Colour Profile loaded)
- Colours are accurate at Delta e <3 (<4 is good)
- The lack of touch, a glossy panel, and the need to load the ASUS ICC colour profile for SDR only to achieve Pantone Validation (for the P3 gamut only) makes this an average OLED screen. I doubt that professional videographers or editors would use it.
- The screen folds back at 135°. Again, if it were touch, we would expect it to fold flat to a 180° studio style.
Pulse Width Modulation
All OLEDs use pulse width modulation to control brightness. It is noticeable below 100 nits, but you will be at 200 nits or more for typical office use.
The My ASUS app has an option to switch to DC Dimming in non-HDR mode, which reduces screen brightness and colour gamut.
If you buy an OLED screen, you need to be aware of the potential for burn-in with constant static images (like the taskbar). The My ASUS app has OLED Care that enables pixel refresh (a screen saver to help avoid burn-in) and Pixel Shift (constantly moves the image slightly).
There is also
- Target Mode that dims non-active windows to minimise OLED ageing (it gets confused as to what is the active window – best disabled)
- Auto-hide of the taskbar (the prime cause of burn-in)
- Various transparency effects.
To be clear, OLED is the future of premier laptops (as it is in smartphones), and these issues are quite manageable.
HDR Mode (warning – disables all screen adjustments)
ASUS Claim 600nit peak and a VESA certified DisplayHDR True Black 600 panel. This means the screen can reach 600nits for two frames (there are 24/30/60 frames per second or Hz) in an even smaller percentage of the screen. In short, it is over-driving the native 400nits screen, and we are not sure what long term effects this may have.
Windows 11 identified it as a generic High Dynamic Range (HDR) panel but without HDR certification. When we tested HDR content, it was clear that the panel only offers marginally better image definition in highlights and lowlights.
Quote: “This FHD OLED NanoEdge display is super-bright — up to 600 nits” is just plain hype. ASUS may get 600nits peak brightness panel (which is at odds with Samsung’s 400nits specs), but you will never see this in typical use.
The review unit has an Intel I7-11370H, 10nm, 3-4.8GHz, 35W, 4-core/8-thread CPU, and an integrated XE 96EU GPU.
All tests are in performance mode on mains power. It lowers to 28W and 3-3.4Ghz on battery or around 20-30% less.
Geekbench 5 single/multi-core is 1475/5114 (1099/4255 battery). There is an option for i5-11300H (Geekbench 1370/4590).
In terms of overall performance, detailed tests are here.
It has 16GB (2×8 DDR4 dual-channel 1600MHz=3200MHz) soldered to the motherboard. At idle, it uses 30% of available RAM. Maximum RAM is 16GB – fine for general productivity but too light for video and still image editing. The CPU supports 64GB, and ASUS lost the opportunity by not offering a 32GB LPDDR4x option (as it does for the 16X 4K model).
Storage is a 512GB SK Hynix HFM512GD3JX013N, a top-tier PCIe 3.0 capable of sequential read/write of 3545/2908MBps – nearly double that of entry-level SSDs. It has good larger file transfer speeds too. ASUS lost the opportunity to fit an even higher performance PCIe 4.0 SSD (the CPU supports it) that creatives want – cost being the main issue.
CPU Throttling temperature reaches 95°after after 10 seconds dropping from 4.8Ghz (35W) to 3.0GHz, then stabilising at 3.3GHz (28W). The external chassis temperature did not exceed 40°. The highest fan noise level was 50dB, but typically it is <40dB. That means that gamers and heavy users will chug along at 3.3GHz speeds regardless of the power source.
It has an integrated Intel Xe 96 EU 1350MHz GPU (on i5 K3500PA and PC models) that drives the internal screen and external HDMI and USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 ALT DP 1.4 connected screens.
It also has an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Laptop GPU, 4GB GDDR6 (on K3500PC version), only if the app supports it. ASUS is unclear about which RTX version, but we suspect it is the entry-level model (not Ti) up to 1057Mhz. It supports NVIDIA Studio and drivers. It achieves:
- Open CL 53,462 (40932 battery)
- Vulcan 14811 (12882 battery)
- CUDA 54566 (45301 battery)
- Cinebench R20 2618
Intel says its Core H-series are game-oriented, and the NVIDIA RTX GPU should handle most games at higher frame rates.
Window 11 and Bloatware
The review unit came with Windows Home, but it should be the Pro version, according to the website.
The PC is full of bloatware and discounted nagware that keeps popping up mercilessly and focuses on getting you to agree to install to stop the popups. If ever there was a good use for Remove Windows Bloatware and get back heaps of memory and CPU resources (guide), this is it. It also wants you to register with ASUS, which has privacy implications. Fortunately, you can use the My ASUS app for firmware, driver updates, and system tweaking without registering.
My advice – I would do a clean Windows 11 ISO install and download the necessary My ASUS app.
It has a 3-cell, 63Wh (11.61V/5.43A) battery. The supplied charger brick is 20V/6A/120W (hence it can fast charge) and weighs around 500g with cables. You can also use a USB-C GaN 100W PD charger or a dock with 100W upstream power (no fast charge).
ASUS claims a fast charge of 60% in 40 minutes and a full charge in about 2 hours (verified).
It defaults to an 80% charge (Standard mode), so we swapped to Full Capacity Mode (100%) and Balanced Performance Mode for our tests:
- Web surf, 150 nits, 10.5 hours
- Video loop 1080p, 150 nits, internal storage, aeroplane mode, 8.8 hours
- At 100% load, screen-on, the device lasts a little under two hours
Assuming you use standard mode, these times will reduce by 20%, so it is really a 7–8-hour device.
It has Wi-Fi 6 AX using a MediaTek MT7921, 2×2 card that connects at a maximum of 1200Mbps to our reference NETGEAR Nighthawk AX11000 12-stream router. By comparison, most late model Intel Wi-Fi cards connect at 2400Mbps.
In the past, this model network adapter had significant issues with AC routers, including slow connection speeds and drop-outs. We experienced a few ‘try again’ web pages and some Miracast errors, and I assume this is a fixable driver issue.
BT 5.0 has the SBC codec, and it was flawless to about 15m from the device.
Ports and expansion
Having soldered ram instead of two SO-DIMM slots may save cost and space, but power users will quickly find that 16GB is not enough for multiple browser tabs and editing/imaging apps. It has an M2 2280 slot for SSD upgrade or replacement. Ports include
- 2 x USB-A 2.0
- USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps (no ALT DP audio/video stream)
- HDMI 1.4 (this would be better as 2.0 for 4K@60Hz external, but you can use TB4 port/dock)
- Thunderbolt 4, 40Gbps, PD (requires a 20V/5A/100W PD Charger to charge
- 3.5mm 4-pole mic/headphones
- MicroSD slot
- Power in plug
USB-A 2.0 is an odd choice as they only support 5V/.5A/2.5W, enough for a keyboard or mouse – you would expect faster USB-A 3.0 5V/1A/5W power and 5Gbps speeds.
HDMI 1.4 is also an odd choice, as it only supports 4K@24/30fps (Hz) and 1080p@120fps. In short, it is not the best video expansion option, and it should be version 2.0b, which the CPU/GPU supports.
Basic expansion is via a low-cost USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 dongle in the TB4 port (no upstream power passthrough), usually with HDMI 1.4 (4K@30 to 60Hz), USB-A 3.0 and perhaps a microSD slot.
The real expansion is via a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 dock with 100W upstream charging. See Plugable TBT3 Thunderbolt 3/4 docking station range. It found the first 4K@60Hz screen, but we had issues finding the second 4K screen. The laptop required a cold boot to identify the screen – unusual.
It has dual array mics with a mic-on indicator. The My ASUS app controls the settings – Off (no optimisation); Basic Optimisation (omnidirectional sound); Single presenter conference call (unidirectional straight on); or Multi-presenter Conference call (some AI noise-cancelling and focuses on the person speaking).
While this level of customisation is good, it requires you to access the app or the Realtek Audio Console to set it up. In practice, leave it on Basic Optimisation.
There is also a setting to filter out all sound from the speakers except the human voice (frequency filter 1-4kHz). Leave this off if you want to listen to music or movies.
The Left and Right 2.0 down-firing speakers under the deck (Harman/Kardon tuning) use the basic Intel Realtek drivers, which again default to voice calls – turn this off for media use. It defaults to 16-bit 44.1kHz (CD quality), but you can select 24-bit 48kHz (DVD quality). The sound stage is slightly wider than the keyboard deck but easily muffled and reduced by sound-absorbent surfaces.
ASUS provides a DTS EQ with movie (wide), music (traditional), games (in-front) and custom (treble/vocal/bass boost) pre-sets. There is also a graphic EQ offering +/- 10dB from 100hz to 10kHz. Frankly, as you will see, these make little difference to the sound signature.
The BT SBC codec is adequate for headphone use with good left/right separation and adequate volume. There is also a 3.5mm 4-pole port for analogue earphones/mic, and it offers a reasonably good 20Hz-20kHz sound and volume.
We tested all DTS pre-sets and ‘custom’ with maximum bass, voice (mid) and treble. There were subtle differences, but it generally ranges from default to boosted.
|Deep Bass 20-40Hz||Nil||Nil|
|Middle Bass 40-100Hz||Nil||Nil|
|High Bass 100-200Hz||Dip below the baseline to 200Hz||Building slowly to 250Hz|
|Low Mid 200-400Hz||Vertical jump to 200Hz||starts late at 250Hz and is choppy but flattening|
|Mid 4000-1000Hz||Relatively flat with some peculiar peaks||Same|
|Low Treble 2-4kHz||Flat||Same|
|High Treble 6-10kHz||Slight decline but flattening||Flat|
|Dog Whistle 10-20kHz||Choppy flat to 15kHz, then off the cliff||Flat to 20Hz|
|Sound Signature type||Bright Vocal (bass recessed, mid/treble boosted) – for vocal tracks and string instruments, but can make them harsh.||Same, but with some high-bass for directionality|
|Soundstage||Slightly wider than the keyboard deck with reasonable Left/Right separation||Same|
The DTS EQ does very little apart from adding some sorely needed high bass and extends to high treble to 20kHz. It is not a good music signature unless you like vocals and instrumentals.
For example, our Bass/mid test track – The Blues Brothers Peter Gunn Theme – was muddy and lacked any dynamics. Our Mid/Treble test track – Manhattan Transfer Twilight Zone – was pretty good with excellent vocals and synth. The vocal track – Beach Boys Fun, Fun, Fun was OK but lacked some depth and dynamics.
You can read more about how we test sound and the test tracks (including Dolby Atmos How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide)
In all, I expected far more from Harman/Kardon tuned speakers. Many notebooks also include a Dolby Atmos decoder and EQ that would perhaps have produced a better result.
Camera – too basic
It has a basic .9MP, 1280x720p, 16:9, 30fps web camera with a privacy shutter and camera indicator.
It lacks brightness and colour, and the image gets progressively grainier in lower light. Most other premium brands now offer FHD or higher web cameras with better f-stop low light apertures.
Keyboard – one of the better ones
The three-level backlight keyboard is perhaps the best feature, although it is not without some quirks. It is a full-size QWERTY with a numeric keypad. For the most part, the keys are where you expect them, although the cursor and function keys are half-size.
ASUS claim 1.35mm travel chiclet keys (verified), and we tested 45g actuation force. It is nice to type on with very little key bounce. We suspect that the key lettering is not injection moulded rather the letters appear to be reversed out of the dark paint. This means that lettering can wear if the paint is chipped – but it is far better than keyboards that use lettering decals.
There is an easy-to-use full-sized touchpad, but its awkward centre placement (instead of under the space bar) makes it prone to left clicks when you want right ones.
You can get an optional fingerprint sensor on the power button. 2D Facial sign-in is available, but it lacks the Windows Hello IR 3D camera for added security.
An excellent carry bag comes inbox.
CyberShack’s view – ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED laptop delights and disappoints in equal measure
Sorry, but the ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED is slightly underwhelming, which I don’t usually say about ASUS gear.
Let’s explain that headline. This notebook is an excellent example of a curate’s egg (a thing that is partly good and partly bad) because it has to compromise to meet an admittedly keen price.
The 10-bit screen and keyboard are great – but touch and 4K (greater pixel count) are becoming critical to creators.
The processor is fine and thermal management is good – but not using its features like 2 x TB4, PCIe 4.0, and soldering ram is penny-pinching.
The camera, speakers and mics are basic – ASUS has done far better and creators demand more.
In all, it is a capable mid-tier product, but it offers nothing that makes it a compelling must-have. It is more for productivity and casual gaming than creators.
I suspect that the website claiming a touchscreen when it is not put me off a little. It is also 400nits, and HDR is more about bragging rights than usefulness.
There are quite a few OLED notebooks, and the pick is the Dell XPS 15 4K OLED touch, which is around $3900. The 1080p version is $3400. No compromises here.
Or ASUS’s Vivobook Pro 16X may suit you better (it is getting to Dell price territory) as it has far fewer compromises. Its ProArt Studio Book 16 (even more expensive) is outstanding.
Do you need the premium Dell or ASUS offerings, or can you compromise? My take is that true creators will not.
ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED
ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED laptop K3500PCAround $2300 but be careful you get the features you want
- Nice but bland design
- Reasonable 7-8 hour battery life
- TB4 with 20V/5A/100W PD upstream charging
- Only one TB 4 port (should be two)
- Soldered ram maximum 16GB (should be 32GB)
- HDMI 1.4 (Should be 2.0b at least)
- 2 x USB-A 2.0 ports are an odd choice
- Most screen features are disabled when HDR is enabled