When it comes to picking a laptop PC for gaming, it’s easy to go completely over the top and go all-out on as many high-end features as you can cram into a compact slice of portable computer hardware. But there’s always that trade-off between graphical grunt and battery life.
Laptop chips – both the CPU that runs the show and the GPU that handles the graphical heavy lifting – have been getting ever more power-efficient, but running current high-end games is never going to be all that battery-friendly – no matter how big the battery. If you’re buying a gaming laptop, you’re probably expecting to spend a lot of your time with it plugged into the wall.
As one of the most prolific makers of gaming laptops, ASUS has expanded their range over the years to give gamers plenty of options, and their mid-tier TUF range of laptops seems designed to balance the desire for high-end game performance with a dose of reality. You’re not going to be gaming on that computer 24/7, and when you’re not, you want to be able to count on it to do all the other stuff that a digital life requires – and do it without you needing to carry the power brick around to charge it.
You’ll realise that the ASUS TUF Dash F15 is clearly a thing of quality from the first time that you pick it up. While its main body is made of plastic, it feels like quality kit that’s been built to last – and the aluminium screen surround, etched with subtle logos, emphasises that. There’s all the connectivity you could want – a full-size HDMI port so you can throw stuff onto the nearest TV, three USB 3.2 ports, a full-size ethernet port – and a Thunderbolt 4 port which also works as DisplayPort and supports USB-C power delivery for fast charging.
The “chiclet” keyboard is backlit – unlike some others in the ASUS range, this one’s not RGB, but instead fixed to a moody shade of pale green. It’s a terrific keyboard in terms of feel and performance, but be aware that the colour is set in stone.
As is often the case, there’s more than one option available when it comes to graphical grunt. The Dash F15 sports an Intel Core i7-11370H processor, which is one of Intel’s newest offerings – though with only 4 cores, instead of the 8 or more seen on the competition, it’s not quite as fast at complex tasks like video encoding. But when it comes to games, its single-core performance is stellar.
Options with the Nvidia graphics range from a RTX 3050ti to a RTX 3070; our review model had the latter equipped. Keep in mind that these are graphics chips designed especially for laptops – you’re not going to get the same performance as you would from a desktop 3070, for example, a device that’s almost as big as a laptop itself. The laptop 3070 in the Dash F15 is a very low-powered version, too – at around 80 watts, it’s as low as this chip goes. That means you won’t be breaking frame rate records, but it also means that you’ll be gaming for a lot longer, thanks to the very low power draw of both CPU and GPU.
When not gaming, that also translates into incredibly long battery life – up to 15 hours when doing normal computing stuff, which is remarkable for a laptop this compact and light. If you’ve been looking for a laptop that can do dual duty as a reliable daily driver and as decent gaming machine, this one’s sitting around that hard-to-achieve sweet spot.
As far as performance goes, well, this one acquits itself well. The onboard NVMe SSD gobbled up Windows 10’s boot in astonishingly fast time, as did every game we tried out – being able to click the ‘Start’ button in Steam and be ready to play in 10 or 20 seconds never gets old.
“If you’ve been looking for a laptop that can do dual duty as a reliable daily driver and as decent gaming machine, this one’s sitting around that hard-to-achieve sweet spot.”
Graphics-wise, we threw the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark at it with every single setting turned up to maximum, and the result only dropped below 60 fps for a few moments, looking stunning all the way. However, you may want to dial down the graphical goodness if you’re on battery – estimated life went down to just over an hour when demanding games were in full flight.
As far as negatives go, the most annoying is a possible deal-breaker for some. This laptop has no inbuilt webcam. And while that may be something gaming laptops have moved away from, this one’s very real capability of being used as a “daily driver” laptop by day and a plugged-in gaming powerhouse at night means that the lack of a camera is a massive, missed opportunity. On the other hand, those who put stickers over laptop webcams for privacy reasons may see this as a feature.
The inbuilt speakers sound surprisingly immersive (software from DTS is provided to enhance it) but they vibrate something inside the plastic case when loud stuff happens, which isn’t ideal. This may have just been a thing on our review sample, and while there’s no discernible bass, the speakers sounded excellent otherwise. If you’re more interested in a surprisingly wide stereo experience from a compact laptop, this delivers.
Overall, the ASUS TUF Dash F15 is a terrific mid-tier gaming laptop that’s ideal for people whose primary goal is a well-built portable PC with serious power for day-to-day stuff, and the ability to plug in and deliver the goods with the most demanding games.
The ASUS TUF Dash F15 is available now.