Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 Review: Beauty And Brawn

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Introducing The ZenBook Pro UX501

Love it or hate it, Apple's MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines have remained a watermark for which the majority of notebook manufacturers aspire to, whether it's enthusiast gaming companies like Razer with their Blade, or mainstream vendors like Dell via their outstanding XPS 13.

Enter Asus. They've utilized their ZenBook line to satisfy a wide range of demographics and price points, but their UX501 -- with its "Pro" designation, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960m GPU, and 4K touchscreen display -- is a Zenbook aspiring to meet and exceed Apple's flagship notebook, and look stunning while doing it. 

As you'll see, in many ways, it's mission accomplished...
ux501 front small
Laptops can be sexy additions to your hardware arsenal, but we have to emphasize one of their harsh realities: In the majority of cases they're not nearly as upgradeable as their desktop equivalents, so it's crucial to choose the perfect specs out of the gate to fit your needs. Let's take a look at what's under the hood of the Asus Zenbook Pro UX501 and explain what we mean.  

ASUS Zenbook UX501JW
Specifications & Features

ProcessorIntel Core i7-4720HQ (6MB cache, 2.6GHz to 3.6GHz)
Operating SystemWindows 8.1 64-bit (free upgrade to Windows 10)
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M w/ 2GB GDDR5
Memory16GB DDR3L 1600MHz DRAM
Display15.6-inch IPS (3840x2160), 282 PPI, 280 nits
StorageSamsung PM951 512GB PCI-E x4 SSD
OpticalNone
EthernetNone (USB 2.0 to RJ45 adapter included)
Wireless Connectivity802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0
Interface (Left)
DisplayPort Out, HDMI Out, USB 3.0
Interface (Right)
USB 3.0 x2, MicroSD Card Reader, Headphone Out
Webcam1MP HD (720p) camera
Battery96Wh 6-cell) lithium-ion
Dimensions15.08 (W)  x 10.04 (L)  x 0.84 (H)
Weight5 pounds
Pricing$1499 as tested

It's easy to spot the highlights. For less than $1500, you've got a handsome looking notebook sporting some drool-worthy display capabilities. 4K resolution? Check. IPS panel? Check. Touchscreen? Check. And while Asus doesn't explicitly market it as a gaming product, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 960m can hold its own in moderate to heavy titles at 1080p.

The Zenbook UX501 has other premium flourishes too, such as its PCI-E x4 Samsung SSD which, in our testing, is capable of blazing fast sequential read speeds up to 1,606 MB/s. 

left ports

right ports

ux501 slim

For those keeping score, the UX501 is $500 cheaper than the baseline 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, yet eclipses it in both storage space and graphics horsepower. 

On paper, it's a notebook aspiring to satisfy the needs of creative professionals, power users, media junkies, and gamers. In reality can it please everyone? Let's dive in. 

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