Compared to its predecessor, the UX550 is able to make better use of its 4K display thanks to its quad-core Kaby Lake CPUs: both the top-tier Core i7-7700HQ (2.8GHz to 3.8GHz; 8 threads, 6MB cache) and the Core i5-7300HQ (2.5GHz to 3.5GHz; 4 threads, 6MB cache) feature dedicated 4K HEVC support, meaning they can process 4K video more efficiently. The UX550 has swapped one of the old USB Type-A ports for a second Type-C port next to the full-size HDMI 1.4 port, and with both Type-C ports supporting the Thunderbolt 3 spec (up to 40 Gbps), this laptop can handle dual 4K video output and power delivery.

The laptop’s own 4K display has the same 72-percent NTSC gamut plus 178-degree viewing angle as before, though this time it has a slimmer 7.3mm bezel, which has helped shave 18mm off the previous body width. But there is a trade-off: ASUS decided to remove the numeric keypad, likely because it thinks not many people need this feature these days. Another downside — though probably unrelated — is that the old full-size SD card slot is now just a microSD slot, which is a nuisance for people like me who still use SD cards in our cameras.

On a brighter note, the UX550 has a denser battery with a whopping 12 to 14 hours worth of juice — almost doubling that of the older model; and its quick charging can take it from zero to 60 percent in just 49 minutes. It can be configured with up to 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM and up to 1TB of PCIe x4 SSD. There’s also a new dual-fan cooling system to keep the CPU and GPU well-behaved. Another nice upgrade is the Harman/Kardon-certified quad-speaker audio system — one driver on each side of the backlit keyboard (with 1.5mm key travel) and two beneath the trackpad. Speaking of, the multitouch glass trackpad has gained a fingerprint reader at the top right corner.

Based on our brief hands-on time with the UX550, it feels like a laptop that can go toe-to-toe with the MacBook Pro. The 4K screen looks bright and bold, and the keyboard is a huge improvement from what we typically see from ASUS. Its case is also solid and well constructed, nothing like the ZenBook 3 from last year. The big takeaway? ASUS seems to have learned a lot over the past few years when it comes to building a refined laptop.

The ZenBook Pro UX550 is launching with either Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Home in July this year, starting at $1,299.

Devindra Hardawar contributed to this report.

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