Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW Review Editor's Choice

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Attractive all-metal chassis; Impressive battery life; Great value; Very good Nvidia graphics performance; Colorful 15.6-inch UHD touch screen; USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3

The Cons

Slightly heavier than competing machines; Superglossy screen; No configuration options

Verdict

Asus' ZenBook Pro offers top-tier performance and design at a fraction of the price of other pro-level 15-inch laptops from Apple and Dell.

Whether you're a future architect working on the next Fallingwater or a budding director trying to cut the next Citizen Kane, sometimes you just need more PC than what the traditional mainstream laptop has to offer. But that doesn't mean you need to shell out in excess of $2,000 to get one. Asus' ZenBook Pro UX501VW offers an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and Nvidia 960M discrete graphics, all for just $1499, more than $500 less than an equivalent MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 15. It even has a high-res UHD touch screen, which makes this an ideal machine for editing photos or videos. The ZenBook Pro is so good it feels like there should be a catch or secret hidden beneath its sturdy aluminum unibody frame, but aside from a few minor nitpicks, Asus' 15-inch multimedia machine is almost flawless.

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Design

On the 15-inch ZenBook Pro, Asus takes a simple, almost stately approach to design. The machine features an all-aluminum chassis topped by the company's signature concentric ring finish on the metallic gray lid, with subtle, polished edges on the sides. When you pry open the lid, there are more concentric rings set near the rear of the keyboard, and an ample, brushed metal deck where you can rest your palms.

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW Size
Weight 5 pounds
Dimensions 15.1 x 10.0 x 0.80 inches

 

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW Lid DesignWhile the ZenBook Pro's lid and palm rest have a little more flex than you get from other aluminum-bodied systems, like the 15-inch MacBook Pro, it's not enough to cause concern, and overall the UX501VW feels quite solid.

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VWWeighing 5 pounds, Asus' ZenBook Pro (15.1 x 10 x 0.8 inches) is about half a pound heavier and slightly larger and thicker than other 15-inch multimedia machines. That includes the 2015 MacBook Pro (14. x 9.7 x 0.71 inches and 4.49 pounds), the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Pro (14. x 9.8 x 0.70 and 4.45 pounds) especially Dell's sleek XPS 15 (14.01 x 9.23 x 0.45-0.66-inches and 4.4 pounds).

Keyboard and Touchpad

With a travel distance of 2.1 millimeters, the ZenBook Pro's keyboard features a long stroke, which, when combined with the keyboard's 62 grams of required actuation force, makes for a comfy typing experience. However, if you're used to boards with short key travel, like I am, it can take a little while to adjust to pressing down all the way in order for keys to register. I hit 76 words per minute on 10fastfingers.com's typing test, which is was on the slow side of my typical 75-80 wpm range, but not annoyingly so. 

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW KeyboardThe one trade-off Asus makes on the keyboard is a half-size Right Shift key in return for a set of full-size arrow keys. While this can make typing a little slower at first, it's a sacrifice that really benefits video pros, who often use those keys to navigate to different frames of while editing.

The ZenBook Pro' s ample, 4 x 2.75-inch touchpad features a smooth, silver-matte finish that blends in with the metal deck. As expected, the touchpad responded quickly and accurately to both clicking and multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom.

Display

With its 15.6-inch 3840 x 2160 UHD touch screen, the ZenBook Pro's display is ideal for photo and video editors who aren't wedded to Apple. Aside from a very subtle blue tint, both videos and pictures looked almost exactly the same on the ZenBook Pro's display as they did on my professionally calibrated NEC desktop monitor. I just wish the coating were less shiny, as I spent a little too much time staring back at myself.

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW DisplayWhen I watched the Warcraft movie trailer at 4K, I loved the supersharp detail on the humans' swords, which made them look like they might cut right through the screen. However, I did notice that the icy Blizzard logo at the beginning of the clip had a faintly deeper blue hue than I saw on other displays.

Asus ZenBook pro UX501VW Display: Test Results
Benchmark Score How it Compares
Brightness 289 nits Strong
Color Gamut (sRGB) 111 percent Very Srrong
Color Accuracy (Delta e) 4.37 Below Average

At 289 nits of brightness, the ZenBook Pro's screen was about as bright as the display on Dell's XPS 15 (285 nits), slightly dimmer than the one on Apple's 2015 MacBook Pro (303 nits) and a good deal behind the screen on Samsung's Ativ Book 9 Pro (405 nits).

The ZenBook Pro's screen can reproduce 110 percent of the sRGB color gamut. Anything above 100 percent is great, and the Asus bested the MacBook Pro by quite a bit (86 percent). However, this notebook's panel lost out to the super-rich displays on the XPS 15 (191 percent) and the Ativ Book 9 Pro (130 percent), although its colors looked more true to life.

Color accuracy also lagged a little behind similar systems, as the ZenBook Pro earned a Delta-E rating of 4.37. (Numbers closer to zero are better.) Dell's XPS 15 (0.7) and Apple's MacBook Pro (2.1) both scored better, while Samsung's Ativ Book 9 Pro was a fair bit away, at 9.5.

Audio

At first glance, the ZenBook Pro looks like it's hiding its speakers behind the circular patterns on its deck, but in fact, sound comes from a set of Bang & Olufsens located on opposite sides of the laptop's bottom. When listening to Ratatat's "Neckbrace," I liked the system's clear highs and its reproduction of the wailing guitars, although I found its low-end thump lacking as I missed the headbanging bass I was really looking for.

Heat

Discrete graphics often make it difficult for a system to keep its heat properly bottled up. But the ZenBook Pro didn't suffer from this problem. After we streamed a video for 15 minutes, the hottest spot on the system (the underside, in between the two middle fans) measured just 91 degrees Fahrenheit, safely below our 95-degree comfort threshold.

The space between the G and H keys was even cooler, at 88 degrees, and the touchpad didn't register much above room temperature, at 80 degrees.

Ports and Webcam

In addition to three regular USB 3.0 ports, the ZenBook Pro now features a superfast USB-C connection with support for Thunderbolt 3.

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW PortsThat means the port can be used to hook up an external display, or for making blazing-fast data transfers at up to 40 Gbps. You also get a combo microphone/headphone jack, HDMI 2.0 and an SD card reader.

The HD webcam is less impressive, though. The picture I snapped in our well-lit office came out too dark, grainy and soft for me to really appreciate it.

Performance

The ZenBook Pro comes out of the box ready to tackle all of your productivity and multimedia needs, featuring an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. That's a good thing, because right now, this is the only config you can buy. 

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW (Core i7 / 16GB / 512GB): Performance Tests
Benchmark Score How it Compares
Geekbench 3 11,472 Below Average
Spreadsheet Macro Test 3:41 Strong
File Transfer Test 462.66 MBps Strong

 

In everyday use, the ZenBook Pro flies through tasks such as sorting through spreadsheets or simply running a bunch of browser tabs. Even with 15 tabs open in Edge, the UX501VW had no trouble streaming multiple 1080p videos from YouTube.

When we ran Geekbench 3 to measure overall system performance, the ZenBook Pro scored 11,472. That's slightly behind numbers from the $2,130 Dell XPS 15 (13,502), $1,599 Samsung Ativ Book 9 Pro (12,334) and $2,500 Apple MacBook Pro (14,423), despite those systems featuring the same, or older versions of the ZenBook Pro's Core i7 CPU.

The UX501VW's PCIe 512GB SSD was pretty speedy, registering a transfer rate of 462.66 MBps, which was significantly faster than showings by the Ativ Book 9 Pro's 256GB SSD (133.9 MBps) and the Dell XPS 15's 512GB SSD (254 MBps), but not quite as fast as the time for the MacBook Pro's 512 solid state drive (636 MBps).

Lastly, on our productivity test, the ZenBook Pro matched 20,000 names and addresses in OpenOffice in just 3 minutes and 41 seconds. Dell's XPS 15 and Samsung's Ativ Book 9 Pro were both in the same range, at 3:36 each, while the MacBook Pro was a little more lethargic, with a time of 4:14.

Graphics

Featuring an Nvidia 960M GPU with 2GB of vRAM, the ZenBook Pro expectedly kept pace with the graphics power of the Dell XPS 15 (which features the same Nvidia 960M GPU) and outdid the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Pro (which features an older and less potent Nvidia 950M GPU).

On 3DMark's Fire Strike graphics test, the ZenBook Pro scored 4,308, versus 3,949 for the XPS 15 and 3,236 for the Ativ Book 9 Pro. The ZenBook Pro also held a slight edge in gaming, as it pushed 38 fps in Rainbow Six Siege at 1920 x 1080 and high settings. The XPS 15 trailed slightly behind, at 32 fps, and the Ativ Book 9 Pro brought up the rear, at an unplayable 8 fps under the same settings.

Battery Life

Kudos to Asus for addressing one of the few issues we had with last year's ZenBook Pro. The UX501VW lasted a solid 8 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi) versus the pitiful 4:25 we got from this machine's predecessor. 

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

That's more than 2 hours longer than the typical mainstream laptop (5:37), and it beats Dell's XPS 15 (6:36) and Samsung ATIV Book 9 Pro (5:31). Only the MacBook Pro (9:08) lasted longer in this class of notebook.

Laptop Battery Life
Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW 8:00
Category Average 5:37

Configurations

Currently, both Asus and third-party retailers offer only the single $1,500 model, which has an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and an Nvidia 960m GPU. However, in the future, I wouldn't mind seeing a model with a more-powerful Nvidia 970M, or a less-expensive model with a 1920 x 1080 screen.

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW Config and Cost 
Screen CPU / GPU RAM / Storage Price
3840 x 2160 Core i7-6700HQ / Nvidia 960m 16GB / 512GB $1,500


Software and Warranty

The ZenBook Pro comes with Windows 10 Home and a handful of media-editing programs, such as Cyberlink's PhotoDirector and PowerDirector. But these apps seem like superfluous additions, since the laptop's target audience of Windows-based creative professionals tends to opt for Adobe's more-powerful editing apps. For those who don't already have access to something like Premiere or Photoshop, Asus conveniently provides a gift box featuring a 20 percent off coupon for Adobe Creative Cloud among other software deals. 

You also get helpful utilities such as Nvidia's GeForce Experience, along with Asus Live Update, which helps optimize and update your laptop to keep it running smoothly. The Zen Book Pro comes with an Asus' standard one-year warranty as well.

Bottom Line

I'm still trying to find the source of Asus' black magic that permitted the creation of a $1,499 machine that rivals the best from Dell and Apple but at a fraction of the cost and with nearly zero compromises. A similarly equipped XPS 15 runs $2,130 and has battery life that's an hour and a half shorter, while the closest MacBook Pro config costs a whopping $2,500 and features a lower-res display and no touch screen or Thunderbolt 3. And despite those other systems sky-high price tags, neither offers much of an advantage, if any, in performance.

The UX501VW's supershiny screen, somewhat-stiff keyboard and slightly greater heft are minor quibbles when you consider this laptop's solid 8-hour battery life, colorful UHD touch screen and beautiful aluminum unibody chassis. The ZenBook Pro is so good, it feels like theft, stealing wind and dollars out of Dell's and Apple's sails while saving you money at the same time. 

Ask a Question
CPU 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 16GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 512GB
Hard Drive Speed n/a
Hard Drive Type SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.6
Native Resolution 3840 x 2160
Optical Drive None
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce 960M GPU with 2GB of RAM
Video Memory 2GB
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model Dual-band 2x2 802.11ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4.1 x 2.8-inches
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Combo Headphone/Mic Jack
Ports (excluding USB) USB-C
USB Ports 3
Card Slots SD memory reader
Warranty/Support one-year standard warranty
Size 15.1 x 10.0 x 0.80-inches
Weight 5 pounds
Company Website www.asus.com
Add a comment
18 comments
  • Muhammad Says:

    does it switch from battery to Direct current when you connect the cable ?

  • AdarshKumar.H Says:

    Asus zenbook pro UX501VW over price
    Low cost Indian market all sold

  • Emmanuel Ntol Says:

    When get to the dearler how will you know that this is best and durable.

  • Juan GarcĂ­a Says:

    How is this better than the Dell XPS 15 (late 2015)for photo work? Worse gamut and color accuracy BY FAR. Who writes this stuff?

  • Daniel S. Says:

    The text of the review is for a Dell Inspiron laptop, not the ASUS Zenbook Pro!

  • Kalaiselvan Says:

    Is it possible to add a 1T HDD in this laptop?

  • andrew Says:

    It is business class i real like it.

  • Todd Klassy Says:

    This is NOT a good computer for photo and video editors. It is rubbish. I am returning mine today. Why? It claims to be 100% sRGB accurate, but it is nothing of the sort. The best you can achieve if 95% accurate. And what's more, it renders the color yellow HORRIBLY. It is dull and looks more like mustard no matter how much you try to calibrate the monitor. PLUS if you try to return it ASUS will charge you a 15% restocking fee just because they can. Run, don't walk, away from this computer. ESPECIALLY if you are going to edit photos or videos on it. Horrible. Just horrible.

  • Anthony Says:

    Do you know when/where the nontouch version of this laptop with the matte screen will be available? Lots of reviews reference it, but I can't actually find any documentation of it existing. Just that it might not be available everywhere and it, supposedly, will exist.

  • Robert Brooks Says:

    1...What is the maximum Ram that can be installed on this Asus Laptop Model.

    2...Can a optical drive/ secondary drive be installed on this Laptop.

  • Arvid Says:

    Is it possible to add a 1T HDD in this laptop?

  • David Says:

    Not sure how an Asus Zen can make a top list of PC's with their horrible hinge on these devices. Within months you will find it sticking when you open the display to use your computer and shortly after that you will find the hinge is broken. Support will tell you that engineering has done a bad design and if you get it repaired it will simply break again.

  • Shuaibu Suleiman. Says:

    Hi, I recently bought this model of asus zenbook pro UX501VW to specifically use it for my revit software but i dont know what is wrong with it, if i lunch the application it stop working it just free. am really frustrated with the laptop because the purpose of buying it is not achieved. please can someone help me solve this problem.

  • Michael Says:

    Why don't any of these laptops have an Intel RealSense 3D camera? They all have good hardware except really old, cheap and useless webcam cameras. Can you use these cheap cameras for Windows 10 'Hello' security?

  • Niko S Says:

    I also had electrical noise coming from the center of this laptop when i touched touchpad or did some work with it. Returned it and now waiting for new one.

  • Brian Says:

    on Asus website it says it has a 2.5" bay for an additional HD, did you happen to pop the back off and locate it?

  • Mike Ellman Says:

    Did you notice any electrical noise coming from the center of this laptop ? I just returned one that had this issue along with a persistent feedback issue.

  • Vincent Says:

    I own both this and the MacBook Pro 15. This is a much better value.

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