Technophile

Performance and poise!

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on September 30, 2015

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ASUS' Zenbook Pro UX501 packs beefy specs into an attractive package but its 4K display isn’t for everyone

With the MacBook Pro firmly entrenched as the gold standard in premium portable computing, PC makers have been striving for years to come up with a formula that bests Apple’s offerings. The latest contender to throw its hat into the ring is ASUS’s 2015 flagship laptop, the ZenBook Pro UX501, newly arrived on Indian shores. It is well designed and powered by very powerful hardware. However, it also comes with a couple of major flaws that could be showstoppers depending on how you use your laptop.

Design

The ZenBook Pro does a great job of attempting to recreate the magic without seeming like a knockoff. The chasis is extremely sleek and made of aluminium with a brushed metal feel while the interior is plastic. The lid features ASUS’s classic spun-metal design and the keypad area comes with circular speaker grilles elegantly woven into the design. The case does have a little bit of give in the centre, but is quite rigid otherwise. The keypad has the full array of keys including a numpad. It offers good travel and is comfortable to type on but the silver lettering combined with white backlight means that the keys can be hard to read under certain lighting conditions. The Elan touchpad supports multi-touch gestures and is fairly roomy but isn’t as accurate as Microsoft’s Precision offerings. With SD Card, Thunderbolt and HDMI options in addition to the three USB 3.0 ports, the UX501 comes with a good range of connectivity options distributed evenly on either side. Since the laptop is only 21mm thick, there is no space for Ethernet or VGA ports, which are provided in the form of USB adaptors.

Display

The 15.6-inch 4K display is a delight to behold, but comes with a few important caveats. The panel, which is a Samsung PenTile, uses the RGBW configuration instead of the standard RGB subpixel layout. These displays, which have been used in multiple 4K laptops, offer resolutions inferior to RGB panels and have issues rendering certain colours accurately. These problems are almost unnoticeable for standard multimedia usage, but if you intend to use your laptop for graphics work that requires exact colour representation, the UX501 will let you down. The display also doubles as a touchscreen, which works exactly as you would expect. A flaw that you will notice though is the fact that a number of third party Windows applications aren’t designed for 4K resolutions. Applications that support the built-in scaling mechanism will only look slightly mangled, but those that don’t will end up with microscopic UI elements that make them entirely unusable.

Performance

Our review unit of the UX501 was powered by a 2.6 Ghz Intel Core i7 processor from the Haswell generation. This is a full power processor with a 47W TDP rather than the low voltage variant typically seen on thin laptops. Combined with the generous 16GB of RAM, multitasking was an absolute breeze. With over 20 tabs open on Chrome, a HD video encoding in the background and Microsoft Office and Outlook open, the Zenbook did not stutter at all. SSD storage means that file access and boot times are blazing fast as well. Graphics performance too was top-notch thanks to the dedicated Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M. Based on the Maxwell architecture, the 960M might not be the card of choice for hardcore gamers but it is solidly upper mid-range and with 2 GB of ultra-fast GDDR5 memory, it ran every game we threw at it with aplomb. Fifa 15 and Mad Max, which are on the lower end of graphics requirements unsurprisingly ran great even at the highest settings, but we were wide-eyed at the ease with which the UX501 managed to max out games like BioShock Infinite and Far Cry 4 which require a huge amount of GPU power. Temperature levels remained stable throughout our testing period.

Battery life

ASUS claims a 6-hour battery life on the UX501, but we averaged about 4.5 hours during our testing with WiFi on, brightness set to half and multimedia and productivity applications being used constantly.

This is hugely inferior to the MacBook Pro’s 9-hour rating, but the ZenBook Pro does have superior specs.

Bottomline

The ZenBook Pro UX 501 might be thin enough to be an ultrabook, but its high-end specs and weak battery life mean that it is really a desktop replacement. It is easily the best looking laptop in this category and offers impressive performance to boot.

The 4K display is a feature that it could have done without, but it is possible to forget bad scaling when you’re being wowed by games and films playing out in stunning visual quality.

The top of the line Zenbook Pro will prove a good buy for users who crave a huge amount of power in an attractive package. Just as long as they don’t care about colour accuracy.

Price: ₹115,999

Love: Design, performance

Hate: Display issues

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Published on September 30, 2015
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