Asus harnesses innovation to lead the AI PC race

The dawn of the AI-enhanced “CoPilot+ PC” could be the most exciting thing that’s happened to personal computers in years, and Asus is at the forefront.

And since the first models will be made by many different manufacturers, and share similar software and chips, how does one brand stand apart from the rest?

I’ve had a chance to spend some time with Asus at its headquarters in Taipei, to learn more about how it plans to leverage innovation to lead the “AI PC” era, and beyond.

Fun facts about Asus
Asus was established in 1989 at a coffee shop by a few engineers who wanted to make a “small and beautify company”. Now, it has 16,000 employees in over 58 countries and is well known for making personal computers, gaming devices, phones, monitors, graphics cards, routers and other high-end tech. But did you also know that the name ‘ASUS’ was derived from ‘Pegasus’, which also serves as the Taiwanese company’s logo? Rumour has it that this mythical unicorn’s name was shorted to just the last four letters so it would be listed first in the phone book. The company’s guiding principles include humility, integrity, diligence, agility, and bravery.

CoPilot+ PC

In a few short weeks, a wave of CoPilot+ PCs will splash onto Australian shores. There will be a lot of fanfare and a lot of choices, leaving many consumers baffled. What does an AI PC do? Why buy one? And which model is right for me? This is a huge opportunity for PC makers to show customers how their products stand apart, and in turn, position themselves for the new road ahead.

Asus’ road to success

Asus’s Peter Chang, General Manager – Asia Pacific – System Business, says that the company is going “full force with AI”, meaning it will be the “fastest to market” and offer the “most complete range.”

To move quickly, Asus will jump-start pre-orders in Australia, and be ready to ship from day one, meaning customers can get their hands on the first CoPilot+ PC model from as early as 18 June.

We’ll also see brand-new AI models across Asus’s ProArt, Zenbook and Vivobook portfolios.

Apart from enhanced compute, graphics and neural processing power, Asus’s range will also include its signature OLED displays, up to 18 hours of battery life, Wi-Fi 7 and new, lightweight designs.

Also, the trend will extend beyond laptops to Asus’s compact NUC desktop units as well as high-powered servers. 

While models featuring the revolutionary Qualcomm Snapdragon X chip will arrive first, Asus will offer a wider range of chip configurations, including the powerful AMD Ryzen AI 300 Series Processors, and AMD Ryzen 9000 Series Desktop Processors, due out from late July and early August.

Intel’s eagerly awaited NPU-enhanced Lunar Lake silicon lineup will also be included in the range, and is expected to follow in the coming months. Ultimately, Asus’ aim is to offer the widest selection of AI PCs to suit a broad range of budgets and use cases, giving customers more choice.

Asus AI tools

To further its intention to go “full force” with AI, Chang says that Asus’ ProArt CoPilot+ PCs will come with additional in-house AI tools. This includes StorageCube, which uses pattern recognition to automatically identify, tag and categorise photos and images so they’re easier to manage and locate. The system can also automatically detect facial features to help search for specific people, and presumably, finding emotive moments. 

Asus’ MuseTree app helps you realise ideas with the help of generative AI. Artists can start with a simple doodle or sketch, and then progress through a AI guided evolution their visual ideas, gradually moving towards more defined and lifelike iterations until the concept is fully realised. 

I also really like Asus’s AI Build Navigator. This may or may not be available in Australia, and it helps you configure your next Asus computer. The process starts by telling the AI how you plan to use your new computer, such as “I’m a graphic designer and run Adobe Photoshop extensively” and it will produce a shortlist of PC options, and you can customise these based on your budget or even the components you want it built with.

Design thinking

At its heart, Asus is a company led by engineers, designers and researchers, all working towards the same goals. Vice General Manager of Product and Strategic Planning, Shawn Yen, says that the company’s “design thinking” is an important step in establishing what consumers want. Yen describes it as: “thinking about being in a consumer’s hands and how they interact with our products”. The approach is well illustrated by the creation of Asus’s portable PC gaming device, the ROG Ally, which is now in its second iteration

Asus ROG Ally X announcement
The Ally X with bigger battery. Image: Asus.

“The original concept came to life by evaluating the amount of time gamers spent on their devices, which led to an understanding that there were a lot of other times they would love to play, but couldn’t, such as because they were not at home. Asus looked at their lifestyle and came up with the Ally to fulfil their desires.”

Through user feedback, Asus’ engineers have learned that battery life is generally more important to customers than weight, so they increased the size of the battery, doubling its capacity for extended playtime. Funnily enough, during the original testing of Ally, engineers would hold the Ally over their heads while lying on a sofa, and would sometimes drop it on their faces. This led to prioritising weight over battery life.

New materials

Asus knows that innovation in materials design is critical to success in the laptop world. Also, as laptop layouts are generally limited due to the placement of the silicon and a large battery, it takes a lot of work to stand out.

At Computex 2024, Asus revealed its flagship Zenbook S 16 CoPilot+ PC. This AMD-powered model shows off a brand-new material called “Ceraluminum”. Bonded together at a “nano-level”, ceramics and aluminium particles are combined to create a surface that looks and feels like stone, with the durability and weight of aluminium. While only found on the S 16’s outer screen cover, Ceraluminum adds refinement and an organic touch, helping it stand out from the crowd. 

Yen explains: “This was an experiment done in the last three to four years. We tried bamboo but it made [the laptop] really thick. Asus wanted to bring the texture in the natural stone to the laptop, it’s like having a marble table.”

I also had a chance to test out a new e-Ink cover, which might just make its way to select Asus ROG laptops soon. Instead of decorating your laptop with stickers, why not have a full-colour e-ink version instead? This can be customised via an app and takes very little power to stay on.

Future foundations

While visiting Asus HQ, I also had a chance to peruse some of the brand’s history, as well as its testing facilities. This included an array of different test labs, where they torture test products for humidity and temperature, water resistance, drops, mechanical shock, vibration and an array of repetitive ‘usage’ apparatus that fold laptop lid hinges, press keys, insert plugs and the like. It’s clear that ASUS does the hard work behind the scenes to make sure that its products stand up to day-to-day use.

And with a comprehensive lineup of AI PCs waiting in the wings, plus an aggressive go-to-market strategy to get them into customer’s hands quickly, Asus is ready for the future, and it looks very exciting indeed.

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Valens Quinn travelled to Computex 2024 in Taipei as a guest of Asus Australia