Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 review

An affordable, impressive but flawed 4K laptop

Asus ZenBook UX501 review

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At 15.08 x 10.04 x 0.84 inches or 383 x 255 x 21 mm (W x D x H), the 15.6-inch UX501's footprint is typical for its size class. The 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display is a little smaller, at 14.13 x 9.73 x 0.71 inches (358 x 247 x 18 mm), while the 15.5-inch Lenovo W550S measures 15 x 10.2 x 0.92 inches (381 x 259 x 23mm).

Though the UX501 is portable, at 5.0 pounds (2.26 kg) you probably wouldn't want to take this dense, heavy laptop while traveling and dashing through airports or everyday to the office.

By contrast, the Apple MacBook Pro weighs nearly half a pound less, at 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg) – although this option model lacks a touchscreen display. The aforementioned Lenovo, meanwhile, is heavier, at 5.46 pounds (2.47 kg).

If the weight alone isn't a big enough deterrent against toting the UX501, its chunky power brick will be. On top of being heavy, the included power adapter lacks any additional conveniences, such as an extra USB charging port or two – something that would take a bit of the sting off having to carry such a large brick around.

Asus ZenBook UX501 review

Here is the ZenBook Pro UX501 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.6GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (2GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3L (1600MHz)
  • Screen: 15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 IPS Display
  • Storage: 512GB PCIe x4 SSD
  • Ports: 3 x USB 3.0 ports, mini DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 2.0, HDMI, Headphone and Microphone combo jack, included USB-to-Ethernet adapter
  • Connectivity: Intel PRO Wireless AC 7260 + BT Wireless LAN Combo
  • Camera: Built-in 720P Video Camera
  • Weight: 5.0 pounds
  • Size: 15.08 x 10.04 x 0.84 inches (W x D x H)

For the $1,499 (about £967, AU$1,894) price, Asus packs a sizable wallop with this UX501JW-DS71T configuration. As noted above, you're getting a 4K touchscreen display – still uncommon on laptops today, let alone laptops under $2,000. Also of note is that spacious 512GB SSD, which uses latest storage interconnect, PCIe x4. I found the SSD super fast in day-to-day use; system startup and restart happened in a blink.

One of the big benefits of the UX501 is its big, bright display. The 4K, UHD display packs in 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution. That bests the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which features 2,880 x 1,800 pixels. The display is crisp and vibrant, with sharp text and detailed, colorful images. Applications ran smoothly, with no issues. And I found no lag in its touchscreen response. Sadly, the display appears to lack an oleophobic coating; very quickly, it became littered with my fingerprints.

Asus ZenBook UX501 review

Among its PC competition, the UX501 is all about value. At a reasonable price, this laptop delivers greater capacity and a higher-resolution display for less than the competition. With both a 4K display and Thunderbolt 2, this machine is ideal for multimedia content producers who need the daisy-chained, speedy storage that Thunderbolt 2.0 can deliver.

You'll pay a significantly lower price for the UX501 than for a comparable, $2,499 (£1,999, AU$3,499) Apple MacBook Pro. Whether there's value in getting a Mac over a Windows laptop will depend solely on your needs.

Another laptop that the ZenBook Pro UX501 compares well with is the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s. That model comes at a lower entry-level price of $1,236 or £1,229 (about AU$1,568). However, for a comparable configuration, the 3K screen, quadrupled memory and 512GB solid state drive bring up the final price of this workstation to $2,361 or £1,876 (about AU$2,995).

Asus ZenBook UX501 review


Everyday tasks were smooth on the UX501. The touchscreen was responsive, as was the SSD. The laptop made quick work of sorting thousands of 4K digital images, for example.


Here's how the ZenBook Pro UX501 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 11,497; Sky Diver: 9,945; Fire Strike: 3,669
  • Cinebench Graphics: 47 fps, CPU: 519 points
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,561 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 20 minutes

As compared with the Lenovo W550S, the UX501's PCMark 8 Home score is noticeably better. The W550 scored just 2,182 points to the ZenBook Pro's 2,561 points. While both models have a Core i7 inside, the W550s we tested uses a dual-core mobile Broadwell chip, whereas the UX501 is equipped with a quad-core CPU.

The ZenBook Pro UX501 also outpaced the W550S on the graphics end within the 3DMark tests. With a graphics card better suited for gaming compared to the Lenovo's Nvidia Quadro K2100M GPU, the results were nearly double, or more in some cases. The W550S scored 1,426 on Fire Strike, 5,246 on Cloud Gate and 4,830 on Sky Diver

Interestingly, the the W550s produced higher frame rates on the Cinebench GPU test than did the ZenBook with 59 and 47 frames per second, respectively. Lenovo's mobile workstation, however, had a worse CPU index of 279 points, while the UX501 finished with 519 points.

Asus ZenBook UX501 review

Battery drain

The battery life was mediocre to decent with the UX501. PCMark 8 estimated 3 hours and 20 minutes at maximum brightness. Asus claims the laptop can last about 6 hours.

I eked out some more time by lowering the brightness some, and by keeping to light mixed use of Web surfing, YouTube viewing, and Google Docs work. But by around the 5 hour mark, I was reaching for the charger to keep it at the ready.

By comparison, the Lenovo W550S achieved 8 hours and 15 minutes, albeit it at the 50% brightness setting we used at that time of testing, and with a massive extended battery. And the older 15-inch MacBook Pro lasted for almost six hours, but this laptop runs with a lower-resolution display; the current model purports to last up to 8 hours.

Asus ZenBook UX501 review

Bundled software

In addition to various apps including Line, Twitter, iHeartRadio and Netflix that you didn't ask for, Asus has pre-loaded a few of its own apps that might be useful:

  • Asus PowerDirector
  • Asus PhotoDirector
  • CyberLink video- and photo-editing software
  • Asus WebStorage