ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501VW Review – 15.6″ 4K Touch Laptop (UX501VW-DS71)
Asus’s ZenBook Pro UX501VW is a 4K UHD laptop that offers more than the average level of high end 4K performance. Whether you’re a graphic designer editing some very high resolution photos or a budding director whose cutting together and cleaning up his 4K camera-created movie footage, this laptop is capable of performing in ways we consider to be superior to those of many competitor machines. And it’s powerful internal PCU, GPU and even SSD specs bear this out. In simple terms, this is an ideal machine for editing photos or videos and for general web browsing and photo viewing in 4K resolution. It works quickly, smoothly and the massive pixel counts of 4K resolution don’t easily stall or stutter on its 15.6 inch display. Basically, as far as the normal standards for 4K laptops go , the ZenBook Pro is as close to perfect a 4K performer as we’ve seen to-date.
However, like pretty much all 4K laptops we’ve reviewed to date. The UX501VW does not have the power for serious 4K UHD graphics rendering or gaming in particular. For these particular needs to be met, you’d have to jump up the price ramp and get yourself a nicely designed full-blown 4K PC gaming rig with a true ultra HD-capable GPU built into it .
Right off the bat, we love the price of the ZenBook Pro. While we’ve seen lesser quality 4K laptops on sale before for prices that went into the range of more than $2000, the ZenBook Pro UX501VW delivers some seriously robust specs (which we’ll go into momentarily) and great performance along with a physically lovely design for a much more reasonable laptop price of just under $1500.
Next up, there are the internal specs of the ZenBook Pro. Asus has really decked this little machine out with some powerful hardware which includes an Intel Core i7CPU, a massive 16GB of RAM and even a 512GB SSD storage memory which makes powering up and overall performance much faster than they are with conventional HDD drive technology. On top of all this, the Nvidia GPU in the UX501VW is no slouch at all, while not a true 4K graphics card, it manages the pixels in the ZenBook with some fine efficiency under most circumstances.
Then there’s the display of the UX501VW. It’s bright, vibrant, colorful and of course wonderfully sharp with over 8.29 million pixels packed into a 15.6 inch screen space. We also like that the screen offers touch performance and scales superbly with the internal Windows 10 OS, which has been designed to smoothly work with 4K displays.
And finally, there is the design of the ZenBook to enjoy as well. This is stylish and well-built little machine, with an all metal polished silver body, one honestly impressive battery life and some superb connectivity ports integrated into it, some of which aren’t commonly found in other 4K laptops we’ve seen selling for considerably higher prices.
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Overall, the ZenBook Pro UX501VW is remarkably sparse on defects. A few minor things stand out here and these but with one exception they’re not what we’d call deal breakers by any means. For one thing, some users might actually find the shiny all-brushed metal outer body to be a bit on the unattractive side. This is a subjective detail but there is a sort of elegance to matte darker colors which is lacking in this ZenBook Pro. In addition to this, the laptop is also a bit heavier than we’d like. It’s certainly heavier than similarly sized Mac machines and also weighs a bit more than even many other Windows laptops in its own 4K notebook market niche. Again, not a big deal but something to keep in mind if you’re looking for an ultra-light body in your portable machine.
Now, we had mentioned that the flaws of the ZenBook Pro UX501VW are minor with one single exception. This is the display and it’s a glaring design flaw, quite literally. The UX501VW offers what we found to easily be one of the most annoyingly reflective and glaring displays we’ve seen so far. Even minute sources of light mirror off the screen panel in a distracting way that’s hard to get used to without just getting angry first and if you’re working in a brightly lit room with major light sources threatening to reflect off the laptop screen, you’ll have some serious problems with the UX501VW. Worse still, the mirrorlike glass surface of this laptop is notably separated from the underlying display panel, with a sort of dark gap line visible along the inner bezel edges between the two and this also tends to slightly affect the quality of the touch responsiveness in the UX501VW.
We should also note that contrast is oddly weak in the UX501VW, with a tested ratio of just 460:1. While this isn’t intolerably bad by laptop standards, it’s also below what we’d consider the average among major 4K and other high end laptops .
• Type: midsize
• Screen size: 15.6 inches
• Aspect ratio: 16:9
• Resolution: 3840 x 2160
• Included OS: Windows 10 Pro
• Battery life: variable, depending on processor and GPU usage, nominally 6.5 hours
• Processor: Intel Quad Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Processor
• RAM: 16 GB DDR3L SDRAM)
• Weight: 5.1 lbs
• Storage (Hard drive): 512GB SSD [256GB Solid State Drive] + 1TB 5.4k HDD [1TB 5400 rpm Hard Drive]
• GPU (Video card): NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 2G/4G GDDR5 VRAM
• Connectivity: WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x Microphone-in/Headphone-out jack
1 x USB 3.1 TYPE C port(s)
3 x USB 3.0 port(s)
1 x HDMI
1 x Thunderbolt port
• Card Reader: 2 -in-1 card reader ( SD/ SDXC/ MMC)
As we’d said, the display of the ZenBook Pro UX501VW has its details we don’t like, to put it lightly. On the one hand, this laptop comes with a superb resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which looks downright stunning in its visible pixel-free sharpness when viewed from close up or further away. Furthermore, the internal hardware specs make sure that 4K resolution flows quite smoothly for the most part, unless stretched to some serious limits through interactive graphic editing in UHD or by gaming with 4K textures.
Secondly, the color palette in the UX501VW is quite rich and vibrant, with some good if not absolute excellent accuracy. The tested error level was at about 2.49 (lower numbers are better) and while this isn’t great (we’ve seen laptops go as low as 0.55), it’s also not too bad at all as far as realistic interpretation of reality goes. Furthermore, the contrast in the UX501VW is passably good at about 500:1. We’ve seen better in some PC monitors and laptops, with contrast reaching even beyond 1000:1 however. Contrast is however improved by the high native brightness of the UX501VW. At 290 nits (cd/m2) it puts out plenty of luminance.
On the other hand, as we’d described above in our “Bad” section, the UX501VW comes with an extraordinary reflective glass screen which nearly ruins its visual specs through sheer glare under conditions of any sort of brightness. The effect is particularly atrocious in well-lit rooms or in a sunny environment. This defect of the ZenBook Pro is the only one which really weakens the overall quality of this laptop to the point where you might not consider buying it.
Overall, the UX501VW’s display looks and works best when used in a darkened room. It’s extremely bright, the sharpness of the 4K resolution is stunning and the contrast and color accuracy readings for the UX501VW are reasonably good. In fact, the display is better by far than what’s average in most mid-range laptops on the general market. However, try using the Pro UX501VW in a bright room and that display glare can easily make you forget a lot of these points in this laptop’s favor.
Due to a quirk of its physical design, the UX501VW looks as if it has speakers located behind the upper part of its keyboard surface, just below the hinges for the display segment. However, the actual built-in stereo and array microphone speakers are located off to each side of the laptops bottom and they come from the brand Bang & Olufsen, with support for Windows 10 Cortana and Voice. Overall, the sound quality they deliver isn’t anything to depend on for serious sound quality but it’s also not nearly as bad as the audio we’ve seen in many laptop setups. The high notes sound clear in particular, but low bass-like noises fall flat in the UX501VW
The Asus ZenBook UX501VW is definitely not the lightest or thinnest of the 4K laptops in the mid-size 15 inch range we’ve seen to-date and its 5.1 lb weight is just a tad too heavy for our liking. That said however, the laptop physically looks great for the most part and its touch pad is nicely sized, though its responsiveness isn’t exactly stellar. On the other hand, the external body is tough, scratch resistant and won’t easily get stained by fingerprint oil or random rubbing against other objects. Furthermore, the backlit keyboard is well-sized and easy to use without too much discomfort after a few hours of typing.
One other thing we absolutely love about the UX501VW is the truly powerful 96 watt-hour battery Asus squeezed into it. This is a lot of power and for normal web browsing means a charge-free use-time of at least 6.5 hours, though this obviously diminishes if you go ahead and watch videos in 4K resolution or crank up the gaming on this ZenBook.
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Graphics power in the ZenBook Pro UX501VW is downright superb for the most part. We’ve sedn some very similar specs in other laptops in the 4K display market but the UX501VW makes them work particularly well with a couple of added beef-ups. For starters, the UX501VW comes with one very powerful and robust Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU and a massive 16GB RAM. Both of these hardware components are definitely a cut above the performance laptop average and the RAM in particular outshines the 8GB setups we often see in so-called “powerful” laptops on the market.
Furthermore, the UX501VW comes with one of Nvidia’s GTX GeForce GTX 960M GPUs. This could be considered the bare minimum for any gamer-friendly 4K laptop but the 960M GPU still isn’t a true 4K-gaming tool. Full HD game performance in the can reach up to or above 60 frames per second with some mid-performance games like Counter Strike: Go, but even at HD resolution, more heavy-duty games like “Battlefield 4” or “Crysis 3” hover around the 30 fps performance line when set to high detail levels. As for 4K gaming , it’s nearly useless to try at any reasonable detail level if you want playable fame rates. However, some much lighter games with 4K textures can be made to reach at least 30 fps if you dial back the detail level to something low.
Finally, the hard drive of the ZenBook Pro is a smart piece of hardware that we definitely appreciate at this price. This laptop comes with a Samsung 950 Pro 512GB solid state drive and it’s definitely one of the fastest performing SSD units we’ve had the pleasure of seeing so far. Write speeds are incredibly fast in the UX501VW because of this SSD hard drive storage.
Finally, moving onto the connectivity ports in the UX501VW. There are plenty and they’re nicely advanced to boot . This laptop offers up both three USB 3.0 ports --which is great—and also manages to squeeze in one USB Type-C/Thunderbolt port –which is downright great to have available in a laptop seeing as how many high-end 4K PC monitors don’t even offer Type-C connectivity. Additionally, there is a single HDMI 1.4 port (we’d have preferred at least two of these), an SDXC card reader slot and a combo 3.5 jack for headphones and microphone connectivity.
Asus’s UX501VW ZenBook Pro runs a Windows 10 configuration, with either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro being available for this machine. Not much to say here aside from the fact that we liked how little bloatware the laptops software installation comes with and how well Windows 10 generally performs in a PC with 4K ultra HD resolution. It’s clear that Microsoft kept the higher resolution in mind when designing their latest operating system.
Most of all, we intensely disliked the ZenBook Pro UX501VW’s rather terrible display surface glare. This was a major ball-drop on the part of Asus. Aside from this, the UX501VW suffers little in the way of major flaws, though it could have come with slightly better contrast and color accuracy and have also been a bit lighter in its weight.
The ZenBook Pro UX501VW from Asus is currently retailing for $1,499.00 on Amazon.com. We consider this to be a relatively decent price for the specs, overall performance and hardware this machine offers up.
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• Excellent CPU, GPU and RAM specs
• Lightning fast SSD hard drive performance
• Superb display sharpness
• Fantastic battery power
• Great overall performance and cooling
• Nice design
• Decent price
• Terrible display glare
• Weak contrast level
• Color accuracy could have been better
• One more HDMI port would have been nice