To PC or to not PC that is the question that a lot of gamers find themselves contemplating. When I decided to take the plunge in 2020 I was tossing up between building my own PC or investing in a top of the line gaming laptop. Since I chose the former, I’ve always wanted to get up close and personal with a portable high powered gaming device. Therefore I was lucky enough to have the opportunity, off the back of ASUS announcing their new line of 2023 laptops, to spend some time with the ASUS TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition laptop.
Whoever said good things come in small packages obviously hasn’t had a TUF delivered to their house. With the device coming in at 2kg in weight, the box it came in was beefy, with ASUS making the unboxing experience memorable. You know when you open some tech and the presentation is underwhelming and doesn’t match with the product you have spent so much cash on? Well opening the TUF A16 was not one of those experiences. The unboxing is very much focused on celebrating The Ultimate Force that TUF stands for, with slogans such as Get TUF Play Tough plastered on the back of the laptop’s box.
There is a recurring image of a mech throughout the packaging and also the “Exclusive unboxing experience” of playing this mech in a mobile game via a QR code on the inside of the laptop box. Gimmicky, sure, but the inclusion of this element shows that not only are ASUS constantly aiming to entertain and provide a unique user experience for their customers, but also that they are very much running with the theme of their TUF laptops being Military Grade.
As soon as I retrieved the laptop from its protective sleeve I could see the correlation between the repetition of the tough narrative and the device itself. Firstly, the design of the laptop is sleek and shiny. It feels good to move your hand over and looks durable enough to take a few jolts in transit. Along with the Off Black paintjob, the 2023 TUF A16 comes in a brand new light tan colour for the top and rear of the device – Sandstorm. The laptop’s keyboard is the Off Black and though it does look striking, the black surface easily shows up finger and other smudges, which may be a gripe for those who like their laptop surfaces to be less susceptible to low impact marks.
Aesthetically however, it is an impressive machine, mainly due to the little, subtle design touches. For example, the simple, yet elegant TUF logo on the now larger touchpad, the burnt orange triangle rubber on the back of the teflon texture base and the Backlit Chiclet Keyboard Single Light Touchpad all make the TUF A16 look damn good. The keyboard is nice to touch, although I’m more of a fan of the mechanical type, the A16’s keyboard obviously has more gaming then typing in mind. It has four hotkeys, a num pad and the backlit function which made my experiences with it in low light/night time much easier. I primarily game with a controller on PC, but I found I was confident enough to give gaming via keyboard and mouse a go due to the keyboards size and layout. I raced through scenes in Katana Zero with ease using this more “traditional” PC gaming method showing that ASUS really know how to make keyboard/mouse gaming super smooth.
Of course, looking good is one thing, but what kind of tech specs does the TUF pack? Firstly the screen includes a QHD 240Hz 16-inch display with AMD FreeSync™ Premium and a 90% screen-to-body ratio and during my time with it, I had limited issues with the the device’s graphical performance. I tried to play a number of different genres of games with higher performance needs to see how the TUF would perform. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was the highest performing game that I installed on the device.
Graphically, it looked amazing and performance wise the combination of the AMD Ryzen™ 9 7940HS CPU, AMD Radeon™ and RX 7700S GPU delivered a mainly smooth experience. However, there were times during battle scenes when the machine did become glitchy and could not keep up with frame rates. This only occurred a few times, but it was enough for me to be worried that the flickering could become a problem as the device ages. The device also shut down and restarted twice during my month with it and not during a time that I was pushing the machine to perform.
“To combat the dreaded overheating issue that is the thorn in the side of gaming laptops, the TUF A16 boasts extra cooling support.”
To combat the dreaded overheating issue that is the thorn in the side of gaming laptops, the TUF A16 boasts extra cooling support. The four Arc Flow Fans consist of 84 blades made from special liquid-crystal polymer and has increased airflow by 13%. Also, the machine has six dedicated heat pipes to regulate the temperatures of the CPU and GPU. Whilst in use, the system did get hot and when I’d pause Showgunners the A16 fan system was extremely loud. However, it was quieter when the system was in action, and it never interrupted my gaming flow whilst I was in the middle of playing. You can monitor how the laptop’s system is coping via the ASUS Armoury Crate system that displays CPU and GPU stats and usage along with fan speeds.
On the topic of “laptop problems” no discussion would be complete without mentioning battery life. Being the beast it is, the TUF A16 runs out of juice pretty quickly. I probably got about forty minutes tops of gaming in before I received the “your battery is low” warning message. However, the rapid charging Type-C 90Wh battery means that once you do plug in the charger, the device will charge up 50% in just 30 minutes. I found the power of the charger to be a lifesaver when I was in the middle of an important moment in Jedi and the battery was nearly flat. Plugging the charger in I was ready to go straight away and the charger worked quickly in boosting battery power.
Sound wise the system has two Dolby Atmos speakers and I found sounds to be clear and loud enough when not using my headphones. However, when I did connect them, I really did feel the immersive sound experience that is created by Hi-Res Audio and the Two Way AI Noise Cancelation. It made the little elements of battle sound audibly clearer; such as the roar of the crowd in Showgunners, zooming past my enemies at lightning speed in Katana Zero and the delicious distinctive sound of a light sabre in action in Jedi.
The ASUS TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition really is a beast of a laptop. Sure, it has some cooling issues and the battery isn’t long lasting, but these are issues that you will encounter with all high-end gaming laptops. What it lacks in those areas it makes up for in design, power and the unique elements that ASUS have included that show they understand the needs and wants of their players. Coming in at $2,299 AUD this is a capable, sleek, consumer friendly device to upgrade your current device or to make a smooth move to PC gaming.