Asus’s TUF Gaming series is a bit of a conundrum. On one side, TUFs are the best selling mid-range gaming laptops in many markets, thanks to their solid specs and excellent prices, but on the other, most reviewers are complaining about their sub-par thermal design, which leads to high temperatures with demanding loads, somewhat reduced performance and possible long-term reliability concerns.
We rated the 2020 TUF models high in our reviews, considering what they offered for the price, but we also gave them heat for the limited cooling solution and hot running components on the higher-end configurations, and argued there’s better value in the lower-power mid specced models.
As of early 2021, Asus have updated their 15 and 17 inch TUF models with Ryzen 5000 hardware and RTX 3000 graphics, raising the specs even higher than before to up to Ryzen 9 5900H/RTX 3070 MQ on the top models.
At the same time, though, they’ve revamped the cooling module, which now benefits from more open intakes on the back, over the fans, as well as an extra heat pipe that primarily handles the CPU VRMs, which were neglected with the previous generations.
Update: Here’s our review of the 2021 Asus TUF A15 built on a Ryzen 7 5800H and RTX 3070 configuration, and here are my thoughts on the updated 2022 TUF Gaming A15/F15 lineup, and my detailed review of the 2022 TUF Gaming A15 series.
It’s too early to tell whether these changes are enough to bring the 2021 TUF Gaming models more on par with the strong competition in the mid-range segment from the top-rated models of the previous year, such as the Lenovo Legion 5 and the HP Omen 15, since we can’t run any benchmarks on these early samples illustrated here.
I find it encouraging that Asus were listening to the complaints and took steps in the right direction, I just hope those are enough to make a difference on what has been a thermally challenged series over the last years.
Here’s a quick specs sheet of the 2021 TUFs, and we’ll get in-depth on some of their important traits down below.
|2021 ASUS TUF Gaming A15 FA506QR – review||ASUS TUF Gaming A17 FA706QR|
|Display||15.6-inch, 16:9, non-touch, matte, several panel options:
up to 1920 x 1080 px IPS 240 Hz 3ms with 100% sRGB
|17.3-inch, 16:9, non-touch, matte, several panel options:
up to 1920 x 1080 px IPS 240 Hz 3ms with 100% sRGB
|Processor||AMD Cezanne, up to Ryzen 7 5800H, 8C/16T||AMD Cezanne, up to Ryzen 7 5800H, 8C/16T|
|Video||AMD Radeon Vega + up to Nvidia RTX 3070 Laptop 8GB||AMD Radeon Vega + up to Nvidia RTX 3070 Laptop 8GB|
|Memory||up to 32 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (2x DIMMs)||up to 32 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (2x DIMMs)|
|Storage||2x M.2 PCI x4 slots||2x M.2 PCI x4 slots|
|Connectivity||Gigabit LAN, Wireless 6 2×2, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Ports||2x USB-A 3.2, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C gen 2 with DP and data, HDMI 2.0b, LAN, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||90 Wh, up to 230 W power adapter|
|Size||360 mm or 14.17” (w) x 256 mm or 10.079” (d) x 24.9 mm or .98” (h)||399 mm or 15.70” (w) x 269 mm or 10.59” (d) x 25.2 mm or .99” (h)|
|Weight||2.22 kg (4.9 lbs), .80 kg (1.76 lbs) power brick and cables, EU version||2.45 kg (5.4 lbs), .65 kg (1.1 lbs) power brick and cables, EU version|
|Extras||single-zone RGB backlit keyboard, webcam, stereo speakers|
Design and construction-wise, little has changed on these 2021 models, which get the same textured plastic interiors, same formats, and IO on the sides, but this time around supporting USB-C charging from what I can tell, something that was missing on the previous gens. WiFi6 is also standard now on all 2021 TUF, another update from the previous gens.
Asus still offer these in two variants, one with a plastic black lid, on the lower-tier configurations, and another with a matte aluminum finishing. They did slightly tweak the designs and the TUF logos, replacing that weird bird-like logo with what now looks like a transformer robot head, a simpler and more modern branding element. I like it. Not a big fan of the TUF writing on the aluminum model, though, I would have preferred a plain design with just that muted logo in the corner.
On the inside, these 2021 TUFs get the same single-zone RGB lit keyboard with a NumPad Section on both size variants, and the same mid-sized fixed touchpad with physical click buttons. Asus also stuck to the red-lit power button in the top corner, status LEDs under the screen, and some air intakes on top of the keyboard.
As for the screens, our A15 sample gets the well-balanced 240 Hz 3ms panel with 100% sRGB colors and 300+ nits of brightness, previously offered only on the ROG Asus models, but I’d also expect the more washed out 144 Hz option to be available on lower-tier configurations. The A17 here gets the 144 Hz panel, and I’m not sure whether it will also be paired with the superior 240 Hz 3ms option, or that would remain exclusive to the A15.
Flipping the laptops upside down and comparing them to the previous gens, you’ll notice the redesigned intakes. The D-panel gets the same honeycomb design and structural format, but more of those combs allow for air to pass through now, especially around the fans. We’re still not looking at a completely open back, as I reckon Asus are still trying to channel air in certain ways over the components and prevent too much dust from gathering inside. For what is worth, the competition is going the other way around with meshified open backs, and that seems to help their cause based on the previous models.
Internally, I wasn’t allowed to open these up, but Mr. Dave Lee took one for all of us and opened his sample, so we can peek at the thermal module (picture at the left) and compare it to the previous gen (at the right). Note that since this is an engineering sample, that 2021 design might suffer some changes on the retail models.
Nonetheless, as far as I can tell based on this unit, we’re looking at a couple of changes:
- higher capacity fans
- the secondary GPU heatpipe at the left now linked to the CPU as well
- the VRM heatpipe now goes over the CPU’s VRMs as well and hook into the right radiator
- still regular thermal compound applied on the CPU, and not liquid-metal as on the ROG models
Asus are still committed to a dual-fan 3-radiator design, and not the 4-radiator model used by the competition, so they’re still at a disadvantage here. That was expected, given the 2021 and 2020 models get the same chassis and that extra side is reserved for the IO with this design. I do hope these changes are enough to make a significant difference, which we’ll carefully test in the reviews.
While we’re peeking at the insides, Asus ditched the small battery + 2.5″ storage bay configuration option for the 2021 TUFs, which now all get the 90 Wh battery and dual M.2 SSDs for storage. They’ve kept the accessible 2x DIMMs, the stereo speakers, as well as the fairly easy access for upgrades, which requires popping out the back panel hold in place by a handful of Philips screws.
Speaking of the specs, we’re looking at Ryzen 5000 and RTX 3000 graphics on these 2021 TUF Gaming models.
Asus announced up to Ryzen 7 5800H CPU configurations and RTX 3060 90W and RTX 3070 MQ 95W graphics at this point, with 3000-series GTX variants most likely following in a few months. That means a 45W CPU envelope and up to 90W of graphics, just like on the previous generation. The performance definitely has significantly improved, based on what we know so far, but we can’t get into any details based on these preview samples with immature drivers. Look for updates in the next few weeks.
One final aspect I’ll mention is that Asus haven’t announced the official prices and availability of these new TUFs, which were mostly a silent launch. Based on availability from other OEMs, I’d expect these in stores around March 2020, with the Ryzen 7 + RTX 3060 configurations probably starting at around $1200 =/- $100. We’ll keep you posted, and in the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think about these 2021 Asus TUF Gaming models and their apparently small, but possibly major, updates, so get in touch in the comments section below.
Update: Here’s our review of the 2021 Asus TUF A15 built on a Ryzen 7 5800H and RTX 3070 configuration.
January 14, 2021 at 7:02 am
I am hoping to see a model configured with Ryzen 5600h, rtx 3050, 100%srgb. Resfresh doesn't matter in my case. Battery is also not a big deal for me just need entry level CPU, GPU good color accuracy that's it
If you get to know please share…
January 14, 2021 at 10:45 am
sub 3060 chips haven't been revelead yet, but I'm sure we'll see mid-range specs later this year. Idk about that screen that you want, I doubt they'll have 100% sRGB on anything else than the 240 Hz option
January 14, 2021 at 5:57 pm
Cezanne-based laptops, high end graphics, re-engineered cooling, what's not to like?
Hopefully, we'll see AMD's Intel competition beating them, if AMD's promises of single-core and multi-threaded performance out-pacing Intel's Comet-lake and above platforms. Exciting 45 watt microprocessors out-pacing 100+ watt Intel-based laptops? Now THAT is exciting!
If I have anything wrong here please by all means, update me? Thanks folks!
January 15, 2021 at 5:24 am
Now I'm considering buying Tuf N/B with R7 4800H+1660TI, It's worth to wait for the new TUF released?
January 18, 2021 at 11:13 am
January 15, 2021 at 1:04 pm
I think there is a mistake on the 15" model. FA506QR comes with up to NVIDIA 3070 (not max-q).
January 15, 2021 at 4:07 pm
Hope they do offer a small battery + 2.5" option, as was looking to replace my desktop and nvme drives of high capacity are still expensive
January 18, 2021 at 11:16 am
not an option this year
January 16, 2021 at 1:26 am
Hey is that correct reponse time 3 ms on the 240hz screen ?
Cause previous version have 25 ms causing ghosting effect.
Best regards and continue the great work !
January 18, 2021 at 11:16 am
yep, the 240 Hz panel is the upgraded option previously available in the Zephyrus and ROF models
January 16, 2021 at 11:59 pm
Biggest plus for me is the Touchpad with clicky buttons. Will get this one probably.
January 17, 2021 at 12:02 am
Or I may get the Tiger Lake-H 45W versions if they also have a touchpad buttons+Thunderbolt 4
January 18, 2021 at 10:00 am
Thanks for the review! I have some questions about A17's display. Can you tell me how bright is the 144hz panel? Is it above 300 nits? Also I hope it's below 19ms.
January 18, 2021 at 11:19 am
Will check once we get this for review
February 22, 2021 at 10:40 am
I'm thinking of getting one of these laptops. Last May, I bought a 10th gen Aorus 5 with an RTX 2060 and I find the fans to be noisy even when not gaming. The fans don't seem to shut off whilst doing normal work or browising the web and when it installs something the fans go loud even on a Windows build update. It's crazy!
So I'm thinking of getting either this or an MSI GE66 Raider with an RTX 3070. Which one is better? I play mainly games like Oddworld and they got a new game coming called Soulstorm that is set to be their biggest Abe game yet with over 10 hours of gameplay. I also do development work in Unity too with my freelancers along with audio and music production on programs like Mixcraft, Audacity, Cubase etc.
February 22, 2021 at 10:54 am
The GE66 is a higher-tier laptop, better build quality, design and thermal module. It runs on Intel, though, while these are the more capable and efficient Ryzen 5000, and up to you if the superior AMD CPUs would benefit your workloads.
March 8, 2021 at 9:45 pm
when is the launch date
March 9, 2021 at 10:36 am
they are already available in some regions
March 11, 2021 at 1:37 am
This will arrive in 2022 just like the 2020 model arrived at the beginning of this year. I just bought it and paid for an option to return it in 60 days just in case new models really are released in March (or April) but I highly doubt that and wonder from where do all these reviewers always get such confidence especially when their estimates always turn up to be fantasy. Originally I wanted to buy the 2019 model, then they announced the 2020 revolutionary line-up with superb cooling and power so I waited. And waited… One year after it was supposedly be released, they finally became available just a month ago. And of course the price is 40% higher than what everyone announced. But finally after five years I can game again. I also set up notifications in all major stores when the new line-up actually releases but I doubt it will be this month or even the next one.
March 11, 2021 at 12:36 pm
Chill, that might be the case in your country, but it's not everywhere. Over here, the FA506 has been available in stores to buy for more than a month now.
March 19, 2021 at 5:54 pm
I am in the US.
My interest is ASUS 17.3" TUF Gaming A17 Laptop (2021).
(1) One reputable US store claims that it is discontinued:
(2) Amazon.com doesn't have it.
(2) I called Asus US directly. They have no idea what is going with that model.
March 19, 2021 at 5:58 pm
the laptops is available in stores right now here in Europe. Might not be available in the US, but that's something else
April 4, 2021 at 2:56 pm
I'm a little confused, I already have it five days (A17 model) so why can't you measure it and are talking about previews? I'm in a market which usually gets things really late compared to others.
April 5, 2021 at 10:33 am
what do you mean?
April 10, 2021 at 12:31 am
in which country? I can´t find it in Germany
May 3, 2021 at 10:32 am
It's Ryzen 7, not Ryzen 8, not Ryzen 5 as mentioned in 2 different places in this article :) Also, peek, not peak.
May 3, 2021 at 12:13 pm
May 5, 2021 at 8:32 am
I’ve just bought the 2020 model one not too long before knowing of its 2021… And the heat isue really concerns me. Idk if i could replace the D-panel of the 2020 with 2021 one. Have any idea on this? Thanks anyway!
May 5, 2021 at 9:50 am
Might work, but idk. Where would you just find the D-panel for the 2021 model though?
May 5, 2021 at 11:22 am
Not so sure, but now i can find one of 2020 model, so i think its just the matter of time for the 2021 model. Anyway, i think that s cool and helps a lots, not saying completely solve the problem of inefficient design
May 5, 2021 at 11:23 am
Then get the 2020 back and cut holes in it. You'll find a video from hardware unboxed on Youtube about it.
May 5, 2021 at 4:20 pm
Yeah, i actually considered that too
June 3, 2021 at 2:42 pm
I do not recommend buying a product in 2020 – the cooling system does not cope with such hot components, I was convinced of this from my own experience, getting 95 degrees Celsius (97 in peaks) with the "Turbo" settings profile. The reasons for poor performance are the insufficient number of air intake openings, maybe not a very well-made cooling system (the heat pipes and fans themselves). By coincidence, I managed to get the 2020 laptop back to the store.