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Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW review - sharper than a MacBook Pro?

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,430
inc VAT (as of 18th May)

The Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW has a great 4K screen but its processing power could be better

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel-Core i7 6700HQ, RAM: 12GB, Dimensions: 383x255x20.6mm, Weight: 2.3kg, Screen size: 15.6in, Screen resolution: 3,840 x 2,160, Graphics adaptor: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Total storage: 512GB SSD

The Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW is a high-end desktop replacement that has its sights set firmly on the 15in Macbook Pro and Dell XPS 15. It certainly looks the part, as Asus’ trademark ripple effect on the lid gives it a welcome premium feel that’s subtle yet has just enough detailing to make you want to show it off. It’s got a 15.6in IPS display with an incredible 3,840x2,160 resolution, putting the Macbook Pro’s 2,880x1,800 to shame.

It’s this screen that really makes the Zenbook Pro UX501VW stand out, as it’s nothing short of gorgeous. While our sRGB colour gamut measurement of 90.4% doesn’t quite match Asus’ claimed 100% coverage, it still looks absolutely lovely and is only a fraction behind the Macbook Pro’s 91% coverage.

Likewise, its 4K resolution means that you get plenty of desktop space to work with, and text and icons look wonderfully sharp. Admittedly, Microsoft’s scaling software isn’t quite as seamless as Apple’s, but Windows 10 certainly delivers a better overall experience than Windows 8.1, and multitasking is an absolute breeze.

However, dive a little deeper into the display, and not all is as it seems. For instance, while colours have a palpable richness to them, the laptop’s contrast ratio is shockingly poor, coming in at just 407:1. This is partly due to its somewhat low peak brightness of just 248.7cd/m2, but I also measured a black level of 0.47cd/m2 on its highest brightness setting, which is much higher than I’d normally expect to see on such a high-end laptop. Its backlight wasn’t terribly even, either, as there was a noticeable amount of bleeding around the edges of the screen. The Zenbook Pro UX501Vw might beat the Macbook Pro on resolution, but Apple remains king when it comes to overall quality.

Keyboard and touchpad

Thankfully, the Zenbook Pro U501VW redeems itself slightly with its excellent backlit keyboard. Three levels of backlighting are available, making it great for working in the dark or low lighting conditions, and each key is sensibly spaced and has plenty of travel. My only real gripe is the rather small spacebar, which seems miserly in size considering the footprint of the laptop.

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW

The touchpad is quite sizeable, though, providing plenty of space for swipes and multi-touch gestures. Its integrated buttons also provide a good level of tactile feedback, but occasionally I found myself accidentally clicking the wrong side of the touchpad when navigating the desktop, so you may want to think about using a mouse if you’re going to be using it for long periods of time.

Ports and connections

You’re definitely not left wanting when it comes to ports and connections on the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW. As well as three USB 3.0 ports, you also get a USB 3.1 Type-C port, which not only lets you benefit from faster transfer speeds, but you can also use it to connect and charge modern smartphones such as the LG G5 and Nexus 5X.

You’ve also got an HDMI output, an SD card reader and separate headphone and microphone jacks. There’s no Gigabit Ethernet port, though, so your only way to get online is via the laptop’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi. This might not be ideal if you do a lot of travelling, but considering the UX501VW’s size and weight, it’s not too much of a problem with this particular laptop.


Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW

Speakers

Oddly, the speakers aren’t positioned where you’d expect them to be. At first glance, you’d think they’d like beneath the speaker-like detailing on either side of the keyboard, but its pair of Bang & Olufsen-branded drivers are actually found underneath the laptop instead. It certainly gives your audio a substantial thump, but with all the sound being driven into the table, low-end sounds do lack a bit of kick. They’re also not particularly loud, as even on max volume, they still sounded pretty quiet.

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