The Asus TUF Dash 15 (TUF516PE-AB73) is a masterclass is balancing ana attainable price with an elegant, portable form factor, alongside strong performance in gaming and productivity.
- Long battery life
- Super thin and light
- Strong gaming performance
- Plenty of ports
- No webcam
- Keyboard lighting color can't be changed
Gaming laptops like the Asus TUF Dash 15, that pack mid-range performance in a thin and light package, have all time been much more expensive than your traditional gaming laptop. Apparently, if you needed a laptop powerful enough to run the latest AAA PC games at high settings and you wanted to carry it around with you in a backpack, you definitely going to drop a couple grand on it.
However, this time around, thanks in large to Intel’s 11th-generation Tiger Lake-H35 processors, the Asus TUF516PE-AB73 brings with it a gorgeous gaming experience at an affordable price to start.
Not surprising though, there are a few compromises made to make this laptop work at its low price. The most obvious must be the lack of a webcam. Well, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing this in an Asus gaming laptop either, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 from 2020 – still one of our favorite gaming laptops – made this compromise, too. It was worth back then, and it’s still worth it now.
If you’ve been crossing fingers for a portable gaming laptop that can play both the latest games at high settings, and doesn’t cost as much as a down payment on a car, the Asus TUF Dash 15 should be near the top of your short list.
When opening the Asus TUF Dash 15, you have to do a double take to be sure it’s a TUF product and not an ROG Zephyrus. For starters, Asus’ TUF lineup of gaming laptops and accessories are aimed at a budget audience that just wants the most bang for their buck. As such, these products take a utilitarian approach in design and performance, but the TUF516PE-AB73 is a masterpiece of both.
This laptop is just 0.8 inches thick, and weighs in at just 4.5lb, which is extremely thin and light for a gaming laptop. Both the keyboard deck and lid are made of aluminum with a beautiful gray colorway, meaning it doesn’t lose rigidity for the sake of portability. The bottom is made of plastic, so don’t think you’re getting a unibody or anything, that’s something still reserved for much more expensive devices.
The TUF Dash 15 has plethora of ports under its sleeve, with two USB-A ports on the left side. Over the left, you get one more USB-A, along with a Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, Ethernet, a 3.5mm combo jack, and a dedicated charging port. Now, while it gets a dedicated charging port, you can charge the Dash TUF via USB-C, only that it is not quite as fast.
The display is a FullHD panel, with a 144hz refresh rate, making it a big deal for esports, especially paired with an RTX 3050 Ti. With an average peak brightness of 265 nits and averaging 110% of the sRGB spectrum, the screen is also bright and colorful enough for single-player hits, too.
The bezels surrounding the display aren’t the thinnest we’ve seen around, and definitely not thick enough to distract your gaming experience. Still, we just can’t help but wonder why Asus couldn’t fit a webcam in the top bezel. It’s just thick enough, but it would be one of those cost cutting measures to tame the Asus TUF Dash 15’s price.
It’s annoying, but not the end of the road either, especially if you’re not looking to use the Dash TUF 15 in video calls or streaming on Twitch. If a webcam is a must have, you’re going to invest in one of the best webcams.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Asus offers good keyboards, overall; and the Dash TUF’s keyboard isn’t exceptional. It’s comfy to type on, with plenty of key travel, considering the thin build of the laptop. Individual keys are well spaced, though we wish the lighting was a bit different. It doesn’t have RGB lighting, again another compromise for the price. Instead, you just have teal backlighting, and this isn’t the most attractive color in the world, and it looks worse around WASD keys, which are clear.
What’s cool however is that there are some dedicated keys above the keyboard that are genuinely useful. You can control volume without having to awkwardly straddle between the Fn key and the function keys, along with a dedicated mic mute button and one that opens the Asus Armoury Crate software.
As for the trackpad, it’s fine. It’s big enough to use gestures and the clicking mechanism is sturdy enough, but for a gaming laptop, you really should be going with a gaming mouse, anyway.
As a standout, the Dash 15 is one of the first machine to arrive with an Intel H35-series CPU. Announced in January, these series of chips were designed specifically for ultraportable laptops, as it can operate at a TDP between 28W and 35W. Our Dash TUF 15 review unit comes with an Intel Core i7-11370H. It runs at up to 35W, has four CPU cores, eight threads and a clock speed of up to 5.0GHz.
The Asus UF516PE-AB73 model in this review combines the H35-series CPU with a 512GB m.2 2230 NVMe PCIe SSD and 8GB of DDR4-3200 RAM. That, right there, is enough to keep up to 17 Google Chrome tabs running, with one streaming a TV show, Spotify and the Epic Games launcher. The last tab will make the fans to kick up for a few seconds, but they are not so loud to overpower the audio.
For graphics, Asus opted for the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card, which is a faster variant of the RTX 3050 mobile card, and is based on the GA107 Ampere chip. This GPU packs 2560 CUDA, 20 Ray Tracing and 80 Tensor cores. As such, if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to enter into the world of Ray-Tracing and DLSS you may not easily get a better deal than this Dash 15.
Since the RTX 3050 Ti here is built on Nvidia’s Ampere architecture, it easily brings along the second-generation implementation of its ray tracing tech. Furthermore, the performance is boosted out a lot by this in games that support it. For instance, Metro Exodus at Ultra settings scored 49 fps average without ray tracing. When turned on, thanks to Nvidia’s DLSS tech, it only drops down to 41 fps.
Clearly, that’s not the ideal 60 fps that you might be hoping for, but at Ultra settings, it’s more than playable. Considering that you ‘re getting that performance in a computer that can easily fit in your backpack, we consider it a win.
Gaming laptops have a thing with having short battery life, though we’ve seen notable improvements recently. Most notably, in early 2020, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 came out with an AMD Ryzen 4000 processor and an RTX 2060, though which we saw an amazing 8 hours of battery life.
The Asus TUF516PE-AB73 is even better, nearing 10 hours of battery life, with an even powerful GPU and a faster 144Ghz display. This means that this gaming laptop should not have absolutely no issue getting you through a full work day. And, if you factor how heavy the charging brick is, being able to bring this thing to work without the brick is a huge plus.
Finally, you have a midrange, portable laptop in the Asus TUF Dash 15 that expertly balanced performance, practicality, and value. Though its Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i7 has only four processing cores, it manages to offers plenty of pep for the latest AAA games when paired with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti mobile GPU. The Dash TUF 15 is inherently practical with its comfortable keyboard and superb battery life.
That said, its gaming performance is only status quo with its last-generation gaming notebooks since its GPU is cast to a low power level, from what we’re seeing in the early run, not all RTX 3050 notebooks are created equal. At least this runs relatively cools and quiet.
Value-wise, the Asus TUF Dash 15 (TUF516PE-AB73) looks great in dark gray, and it looks like an even better value than competing portable gaming laptops. If you do decide to for TUF, just remember to also budget for a good external webcam.
ASUS TUF Dash 15 (2021) Ultra Slim Gaming Laptop, 15.6” 144Hz FHD, GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, Intel Core i7-11370H, 8GB DDR4, 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi 6, Windows 10, Eclipse Grey Color, TUF516PE-AB73
6 used from $829.99