- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Screen / Screen quality
- Competing gaming laptops / alternatives
++ Main reason to consider:
High quality slim and lightweight multimedia/gaming laptop with 4K IPS display
-- Main reason to avoid:
Performance/price ratio is low for gamers + although a good laptop, it’s not a great one, with hard positioning compared to other laptops, especially the Dell XPS 9550 with the better display.
+ Very good keyboard with good feedback, response and resistance and very comfortable touchpad
+ Probably good service and drivers/bios/firmware updates from Asus
+ Relatively rigid chassis with strong hinges
+ Relatively quiet, even under high load
+ 96Wh batterym ensuring relatively long operation hours for one charge
+ Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0 ports
+ 16GB DDR4 RAM
+ 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD
+ Good looks
- The 3840x2160 IPS display is not that excellent, showing relatively low contrast ratio and high black levels.
- Thermals aren't great. Will throttle under full load of Furmark + Prime95 (but not under Crysis 3)
- The higher capacity battery version is not really lightweight (almost 2.3kg)
- Maintenance is not that easy
- The 96Wh battery version has no 2.5 SATA option, you're stuck with the single M.2 SSD
- Sound quality is maybe a little above average - and not even sure about that
- Outer lid build quality is good, but not great, lower than the XPS 9550's.
- Some kind of electrical noise from the insides of the laptop. IT was noticeable
- High price tag
The Asus Zenbook Pro UX501VW is Asus’s latest ‘premium’ multimedia/gaming slim 15.6″ laptop. It sports neat stuff like a 3840×2160 resolution high quality touchscreen, Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, good keyboard and 512GB NVMe SSD. Moreover, build quality and high finish, keyboard and touchpad are probably good. I wonder if the service and driver/bios updates are good as well as I would expect they are. The weight of the UX501VW is relatively high at around 2.2-2.3kg, but this is for the configuration with the 96W battery which is preferred by most, probably.
The price is around $1500 for the configuration with 512GB SSD and 3840×2160 display and I paid less buying via Excaliberpc + got two game coupons, but I guess we’ll see lower prices anyway. The UX501VW plays at the same sandbox as the Dell XPS 9550 laptop (review here, here and here) which also goes for around the same price with a very good 3840×2160 display and 512GB NVMe SSD and is also a slimmer 15.6″ multimedia laptop with a GTX 960M 2GB GPU and an I5/I7.
I think about this segement of laptops as big premium ultrabooks with powerful GPUs and the XPS and UX501VW seem to be its stars in the USA. I wonder what is the place for this kind of laptop if eGPUs will be easy to work with and without real problems (and available ofcourse), but that’s true for mant laptops).
|Model||Asus Zenbook Pro UX501VW-DS71T|
|Price||As tested, $1400-$1500|
|CPU||Intel Skylake I7-6700HQ, 4C/8T, 2.6-3.6GHZ, 6MB cache, CZ-A1|
|GPU||Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5, GM107 (Maxwell I), 640 shaders, core@1097-1200MHZ, GDDR5@1252MHZ, 128-bit bus|
|Motherboard / Chipset||Asus N501VW / Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)|
2xPCI Express x1, 2xPCI Express x4, 1xPCI Express x16
|RAM||Samsung 2x8GB DDR4@2133MHZ M471A1G43DB0-CPB|
|Storage||HDD : None|
SSD: M.2 NVMe SAMSUNG MZVPV512 (300Q)
M.2 : M.2 SATA or PCIe/NVMe 2280 (one)
|Display Panel||In review: LG Display LP156UD1-SPB1 IPS 3840x2160|
|Weight / Dimensions||2.29kg (~5.05 Lbs.) + ~0.4kg 120W PSU|
383 x 255 x 20.57-21.34 mm
15.07" x 10.04" x 0.81" - 0.84"
(w x d x h)
|Keyboard||White backlit (4 levels including off)|
|Connection Ports||Right side: 2xUSB 3.0, SD Card Slot, audio out/microphone|
Left: AC power, USB 3.0, HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 3 type-C
|WiFi / Ethernet||WiFi: Intel 7265ac WiFi|
|Speakers / Audio||2.0 Bang & Olufsen Speakers|
|Bios / EC version (test unit)||N501VW.204 /|
Build quality of the chassis is good, but its not as rigid as the XPS and feels like a strong plastic (I don’t mind the plastic). The outer lid is pretty rigid, but will yield under high pressure. The screen’s bezel is firm and the screen’s hinges are good too.
I’d say that build quality is good, but not on the same level as the XPS 9550.
The UX501VW finish is rather high and it looks good. Colors are silver-white and darker silver.
Maintenance and inner parts
Maintenance is not easy. The backplate is not easily removed and you have to pull out two of the bottom pads just to unscrew the screws beneath them and I couldn’t even do that and still make sure I’m not destroying the pads. But, it seems that it’s probably me, because these instructions show it’s pretty easy. I did take a look via the opening that I could make, and there is no place for a 2.5″ HDD, unless you go with the 60W battery. The 96W battery takes all the place, plus, it could be that 96W version doesn’t have 2.5″ SATA connection at all. Please check this picture of the motherboard from Ultrabookreview:
Both CPU and GPU are soldered. Two fans cool the system, but as we’ll see later, the cooling system with these specs isn’t amazing.
Keyboard. The keyboard quality is high. I’ll start with the bad part – I feel like the keys are a little stiff when clicked, like I have to pressure them a little “too much” compared to what I’d like it to be. But that’s really not that bad and it might even more comfortable for some (maybe even for me, with time), and otherwise, the typing experience is pretty good : keys are well spaced, feedback and travel depth are good, the keyboard is rather quiet too.
Touchpad. The touchpad could be a little smoother. The integrated buttons are comfortable.
Where is the bass. Two speakers, branded with Bang & Olufsen, located at the bottom from sides. Mids are somewhat ok, but the speakers don’t do much in terms of bass/low tones and same goes the clarity and balance between different sound types aren’t great. Also, max volume is rather low and I had sometimes some problem hearing some youtube music, if it was a bit quiet. But, it works, and, if it helps, it is better than the 7559 but not as ok as the XPS 9550’s speakers (which aren’t great).
Saying that, I must say that it did sound rather ok for some types of music. For example, playing some of Dave Van Ronk stuff (like this and this), maybe because there is some strength in the mids, at least when the music loaded with different sounds.
Common performance is very goodas could be expected from an I7 + 500GB NVMe SSD
Added CPU-Z and GPU-Z screenshots.
OS : Windows 10, fully updated
Drivers: Nvidia Geforce 361.75
Thief sees some advantage using Mantle API over the DX11. Heavily Vulkan/DX12 optimized games/game engines should see much higher improvements.
No matter what I’ve tried, performance in Metro Last Light remained problematic, it’s like the GPU stopped working even now and then
The new Fallout 4 is rather demanding, but the benefits of the high graphics presets are not clear to me.
As described before, the CPU and GPU share two heatpipes, both leading to two fans. Cool air is sucked from below and thrown up in disgust to the rear.
1. Idle, power saver mode
2. Gaming : Crysis 3 gameplay. “very high” settings with SMAAx2 For Crysis 3, “High performance” power mode.
3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.
4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1366×768 test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.
The UX501VW chassis’ upper part temperatures remain pretty moderate even highest load of Prime95 + Furmark. The areas that get hotter are around the Fs keys at the top of the keyboard. However, the bottom gets hotter considerably and more widely, including all the area beneath the keyboard’s center, the hinges, and a lot more towards the side edges. I’d say that under high load it could be a problem actually placing the laptop on your laps.
Under Prime95 + Furmark, the UX501VW’s CPU is throttled as well as the GPU core clock that goes down to 400MHZ! Even the FZ50VW and GL552VW, both Asus laptops, do a lot better. Also, my tests with the Dell 9550 (I5, 960M 2GB) showed a lot better stats, but then again, it was an I5 and not an I7.
Tried ThrottleStop and disabled Turbo altogether, and it didn’t help. The CPU went down to 2.1-2.2GHZ after a short time. I must say, though, that the UX501VW noise is relatively low, even at high load.
However, you can see that running Crysis 3, at least for a short while, does not result in any serious throttling.
|CPU: stable temps [C]||CPU: max temps [C]||CPU: stable clocks||CPU: average utilization||CPU: max utilization||GPU : stable core temps [C[||GPU: utilization|
- Under high load, the fans are audible, but the noise is not high at all. I think they could give it another 10% in speed to keep temps lower, but probably a little better cooling system would be a lot more efficient in keeping CPU/GPU cooler.
- Under light/moderate, the UX501VW is pretty quiet and I could barely hear it, except when setting power mode to “high performance” and load the CPU a bit.
- There was always some kind of noticeable electrical noise, even with “power saver” mode and doing nothing
The Asus UX501VW uses the LG Display LP156UD1-SPB1 IPS 3840×2160 display. Subjectively, colors do look good, maximal brightness is high enough and contrast seemed to be ok. Viewing angles are very good in my opinion. The distorted colors in the images below are probably because of taking pictures with the camera – they are actually good in real. However, the display is glossy, which shows, especially when there the lighting conditions are not that good.
The UX501VW either not using PWM for brightness control or the frequency is very high, according to my simple tests. The issues from previous UX501 version – having a RGBW-Pentile display, are not the case here.
The contrast, according to other reviews, is better than what my readings showed, but I’ve tested with two different devices few times, so I think that probably there is some truth to that.
I’m adding the xRite i1Profiler contrast and brightness readings:
|Contrast||White Luminence||Black Luminence||Screen Brightness|
The UX501VW can hold its liqueur, mostly thanks to its high capacity battery, but the efficiency is not that good and power consumption is relatively high, even compared to some high performance laptops. Remember it has a 96Wh battery.
- I don’t know why, but sometimes memory usage is very high for no apparent voluntary reason. I could see 10GB used, while any of my applications are closed. It happened more than once and each after a reset.
- Positioned at the same box, the Dell XPS 15 9550 4K version (here)
- Slim and lightweight – MSI GS60, Gigabyte P35Wv5 (Newegg, Amazon) and there are more. Not the same service/build/updates quality, but these are slim and lightweight gaming laptops. 4K gaming with a 960M is anyway not that very possible with 3D heavy games.
- Other laptops with 960M which are not a lot more heavy and big than the UX501VW and XPS 9550, like the Dell 7559, Acer VN7-592G which is pretty close in weight and others. Add an SSD yourself and you are good to go. Need high quality 4K display for work? buy one and replace. This version is not even more lightweight than the VN7-592G.
Well, the UX501VW is a good laptop – it has good features, relatively good 3840×2160 resolution IPS touchscreen, it’s lightweight and slim, has Thunderbolt 3 and a ~500GB NVMe SSD. The build quality is relatively good and keyboard is satisfying, overall.
Between the two, Asus UX501VW and the Dell XPS 15 9550 (4K version), the XPS 9550 has a better 4K display which is more suitable for video/photo editor and other multimedia uses, for around the same price (w/ coupons), but equipped with 1TB SSHD and 8GB RAM only. So:
- If you don’t really need the display quality and given there are other slim laptops with such 3D power or higher (like the GS40/GS60/P35W) , you only left with the supposed build quality and service. Is that worth $1400-$1500
- If you do want the higher quality 4K display, then either get the cheap basic XPS 9550 and install one yourself for a much lower price, OR, get the Dell XPS 9550 fully equipped. It also has known high level of service/updates quality.
So, indeed, the UX501VW does surprise with good loads of goodies – the 500GB NVMe SSD, the 4K display, the overall good quality, but it’s not like it’s a perfect premium laptop, and bottom line, like we said – why would you want this one specifically? Only if you want specifically a laptop like the UX501VW, with no clear advantages, only a specific combination. I’m pretty sure the M.2 NVMe SSDs will be available for considerably lower price soon enough (like $100-$150 for 500GB, at most), so that’s not a big deal. The Acer VN7-592G, though not having the same quality, is as lightweight (compared to the 96Wh battery version), as fast for gaming, has good keyboard, Thunderbolt 3 port, NVMe M.2 slot and even better speakers. Just an example.
Bottom line, consider carefully why exactly you are looking at this specific laptop and think carefully if it satisfies your needs and wishes, because it has hard positioning. For $1100-$1250, it could be a very good option, but for $1400-$1500, I’m not so sure what are its advantages over the competitors.