A Review of the ASUS Zenbook 15.6″ World’s First 4K Quantum-Dot Touchscreen Display Laptop
The Asus Zenbook 4K laptop is definitely a high end model with some serious horsepower under its sleek brushed metal body. Aside from its 4K ultra HD screen, this particular notebook also features some remarkably powerful specs, an excellent GPU and a powerful CPU engine that work together to guarantee some ideal performance at rendering the 8.2 million pixels that 4K delivers to a screen.
Furthermore, though not specifically advertised as a “4K gaming laptop” the Zenbook is the one that comes closest to actually being able to deliver such an experience out of the laptops we’ve reviewed so far. Its Intel Core i7 processor is an 4712HQ model with a wide and high GHz processing range (especially in turbo mode) and one of the more powerful on the market right now and the GPU is also one of Nvidia’s more powerful GTX models and definitely superior to some of the AMD graphics cards we’ve seen in other 4K notebooks.
While the ASUS Zenbook 4K laptop certainly doesn’t deliver the kind of 4K rendering and 4K gaming experience a serious ultra HD desktop PC could offer a user, it comes closer to being able to do this than many other UHD laptops on the market and this earns it some solid bonus points in our book.
First of all, like any 4K laptop, the Zenbook offers an extraordinary level of pixel density and this has to be mentioned. While 4K resolution is always best appreciated on really large screens like those found on UHD TVs in the 65+ inch range, this many pixels on a 15.6 inch screen mean a PPI of more than 280 (pixels per inch) and this means a display fineness so sharp that even close examination with the naked eye won’t let you see actual pixilation unless you literally have the eyesight of an eagle, maybe. In addition to this, the color spectrum coverage of the Zenbook is superb thanks to the highly unique inclusion of quantum dot technology, something that for now is almost exclusively found only in some of the best 4K TVs on the market.
Furthermore, the processing power of the Zenbook is impressive. The GTX 850M GPU offers 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM and can deliver HD gaming at absolutely excellent frame rates. 4K gaming is a trickier proposition however. The CPU is also nothing to sneer at and offers a maximum of 3.3 GHz when running in turbo mode.
Finally, the overall design of the Zenbook is elegant, sleek and beautiful to behold. This is a laptop that looks cool without straying into garish territory. In other words, it balances almost perfectly between looking professional while also looking cool enough to be in a gamers studio.
3.7 - 19 Review
The ASUS Zenbook doesn’t have much in the way of genuinely bad features working against it. By the standards of ordinary laptops, this machine is a king and even by the standards of 4K laptops, it deliver above average performance. However, we can say that it still doesn’t meet the requirements needed for genuine 4K gaming or anything like it.
While watching videos in ultra HD and processing graphics at this resolution should work smoothly on the Zenbook, any gamer who really wants a decent UHD gaming experience will still prefer a real 4K PC to this little notebook. Nvidia’s 850M GPU is excellent for HD graphics but not enough for serious 4K gameplay at reasonable frame rates.
Finally, we should also mention that the Zenbook can run really hot, much hotter than is ideal for something as compact as a laptop. The GPUU in particular can reach temperatures of 80 degrees Celsius or more if put under heavy strain. This kind of temperature might easily get diffused away from a full desktop machine’s GPU but things get a bit more complicated and delicate in a far smaller laptop interior.
Also, its’ worth noting that this specific 4K laptop model is very expensive, even by the standards of its own class. While many UHD laptops now retail for less than $1500, the Zenbook is still selling for almost twice that price range.
Screen size: 15.6 inches
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Included OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
Battery life: variable, depending on processor and GPU usage, nominally 5 hours
Processor: Intel Core i7-4712HQ 2.3 GHz Quad Core
RAM: 16GB DDR3
Weight: 5.0 lbs
Storage (Hard drive): 512GB SSD
GPU (Video card): Nvidia GTX 850M 2GB
Connectivity: WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x mini DisplayPort, Headphone/microphone jack
First of all, we need to mention the quantum dot technology on the Zenbook’s display. This is an extremely unique feature on a laptop and even most 4K TVs don’t include this kind of drastic color augmenting innovation in their screens. This key trait of the Zenbook means the delivery of some excellent, rich dark tones and a more diverse than normal colore coverage with excellent accuracy and vibrancy. In fact, during testing, the Zenbook has delivered 100% sRGB color coverage and even manages 96% AdobeRGB coverage –stats that put it on par with some very high shelf professional 4K monitors for desktop PCs. This is an impressive achievement for a “mere” laptop to reach.
As for contrast, we also see some excellent specs emerge: with a ratio of 790:1 at the maximum brightness of 320 lux, the Zenbook again delivers something close to perfection. This kind of contrast and the attending gamma of 2.1 are almost unbeatable among all 4K laptops anywhere on the market. Specs like these at least partly justify the very high price of this particular notebook.
Finally, as we said, the color accuracy of the Zenbook is excellent and difference from ideal color can be measured at less than 0.5. This is something the human eye won’t even notice under any normal conditions. Even many pro 4K monitors, once again, can’t beat this kind of color accuracy.
However, vibrancy of color on the Zenbook is extremely strong and while this is also a great thing to have, it has its downsides too, with the screen sometimes rendering colors in ways not intended by those who made the images which appear on the screen. Thus, certain colors which are supposed to be more subdued come out looking a lot brighter than they should, even almost looking garish at times.
On the other hand, a built-in utility included by ASUS in the Zenbook, called Splendid, lets you calibrate color temperature to your own specific needs. However, there is no built-in way to reduce color gamut as a whole if needed.
Finally, the screen is built with touch functionality in it and this makes it ideal for the built-in Windwos 8.1 Pro OS in this laptop and this will also be ideal for anyone installing Windows 10 in their own unit now that it’s available. However, we should also mention that the screen is very glossy and this can lead to some unfortunate levels of glare in brightly lit rooms, especially at odd viewing angles.
The sound system on the ASUS Zenbook 4K laptop is definitely superior in comparison to what’s typical in many laptops. Built by Bang & Olufsen, the ICEpower speakers offer stereo sound power and a remarkably robust depth and richness of audio that’s almost good enough to stand on its own if you’re not really picky about having a truly powerful external sound system connected to the laptop. Furthermore, because the speakers are built into the laptop so that they face up and towards a user, sound isn’t muffles by the body of the Zenbook or the surface it sits on when music etc is being played.
The Design of the Zenbook is definitely one of its finer points. This is a lovely piece of hardware that stays far away from a boring look without going overboard into garishness. It’s equally at home in both a gamer’s studio or a professional office setting.
The lid of the Zenbook is made of burnished aluminum with a circular texture ground into it in a way that catches the eye and light attractively. Furthermore, the matte silver inside of the notebook nicely complements the external metal design.
On the other hand, the Zenbook doesn’t feel as solid as it could and the keyboard is one of its few disappointments. Instead of being large enough to be used comfortably, it’s small and sits in the middle of a large empty inner surface as if it were an afterthought instead of the most crucial physical design feature that it is.
Furthermore, keys, when pressed, don’t deliver a satisfying movement and instead feel sort of vague in their depression, as if they’re not working properly. In addition to this, the backlighting of these keys is less than ideal, with not enough light offered to all keys evenly. This is surprising considering how bright the screen on the Zenbook is.
The graphics hardware in the Zenbook is definitely top level for a 4K laptop and beyond ideal by the standards of any normal HD laptop. With an Intel Core i7-4712HQ processor that clocks at a normal speed of 2.3 GHz and a turbo boost max speed of 3.3GHz, the Zenbook delivers excellent CPU power in a portable setup.
The GPU is also no mean performer. The Nvidia GTX 850M isn’t near being one of Nvidia’s best GPUs and is certainly not 4K ultra HD graphics card but it’s still excellent for a 4K laptop that isn’t being advertised as a 4K gaming unit anyhow. What this means is that the Zenbook’s GPU can deal with slow, steady 4K graphics and 4K video from the web quite nicely but for 4K gaming, forget about it. While this laptop will rock out with HD graphics and deliver them at frame rates that can go above 100 for some games, ultra HD at decent frame rates is still a no-go. Moderately intense games played in 4K resolution at low resolution settings might reach 30 frames per second (which is still pretty bad by gaming standards) but if you up detail to High levels, forget about anything more than 20 fps at a max, particularly for more heavy duty UHD gameplay.
However, we should also mention the excellent 512GB SSD hard drive in the Zenbook. It not only offers the stability and faster load time of solid state memory, but also gives transfer speeds of up to 1,113 for reading and 930Mbps when writing in sequence. These are excellent stats.
Finally, the connectivity ports on the ASUS Zenbook are excellent. You not only get the usual mix of 3 USB ports (one a 2.0 version and two of them 3.0 versions), one HDMI 1.4 port and the usual audio, Ethernet and microphone/headphone jacks, you also get to enjoy a mini DisplayPort connection –something a bit less common in a laptop.
The ASUS Zenbook 4K comes with Windows 8.1 Pro built into it. This is a decent OS for supporting 4K graphics but it’s not as good as Windows 10 in this department. However, now that Win 10 is out on the market and already arriving in some laptops, you could do a manual install or maybe wait for ASUS to re-release the Zenbook with Windows 10 built in.
To summarize briefly, the ASUS Zenbook suffers from a few minor defects as an otherwise extraordinarily good laptop: It’s keyboard is unsatisfying to use, somewhat small and poorly backlit, the color vibrancy can sometimes go overboard in delivering colors that should be subdued too brightly and most crucially, the Zenbook doesn’t deliver processing specs that justify its very high price.
The Zenbook 4K from ASUS is currently selling on Amazon.com for $2,699.00. This is indeed a very steep price when you consider that the Y50 from Lenovo goes for just $1,299 and the Dell Inspiron for barely over $1000. Both of these other laptops deliver slightly inferior overall specs but the Zenbook isn’t superior enough to justify a price that’s more than two times that of either laptop.
3.7 - 19 Review
• Quantum dot display
• Excellent color delivery
• Super contrast ratio
• Fantastic SSD
• Beautiful build
• GPU isn’t for 4K gaming
• Color vibrancy can go overboard
• Poor keyboard design
• Way too expensive