Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 review

An affordable, impressive but flawed 4K laptop

Asus ZenBook UX501 review

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The Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 looks terrific from the outside, and looks even better when you fire it up. This model stands up well to its competition by delivering a solid punch of features and performance for your dollar.

That said, battery life comes as a disappointment but it's decent considering the high-res screen. But if portability and a 4K touch display are paramount priorities, and you want to keep costs down, the ZenBook Pro UX501 can suit your needs well. Just count on keeping the chunky power brick nearby, and not straying far from an outlet for long.

We liked

I can't say enough good things about the display. The high-resolution 4K display makes all the difference, whether you're watching videos, editing photos, or simply reading documents. The screen's clarity makes everything a pleasure. Even better: I can tap away on it with my fingers, always a useful addition to the standard laptop configuration.

I also appreciated the gentle backlight of the keyboard. All too often, between the MacBook and other competitors, I've found the keyboard backlight's leakage an annoying distraction. Not so here. And when off, the key clarity doesn't suffer.

The fast, roomy 512GB SSD was a boon, too. I loved the idea of not having to constantly prune my on-board storage, as I currently do with a laptop that only packs a 128GB SSD. And its performance was instantly responsive – I barely lifted my finger off the power button and it was already ready to go.

We disliked

The weight on the UX501 is a disappointment. Granted, other laptops with 4K screens often weigh more. But the 15-inch MacBook Pro style that the UX501 aims to replicate is surface only, given that the MacBook weighs nearly half-a-pound less.

That makes a big difference for the frequent flyer, or anyone who wants to take this laptop on the go. It's not something you'll tote around campus, office complexes or conventions without feeling the strain as the hours pass.

I also disliked the design of the downward firing speakers. I found it too easy to accidentally block them whenever I placed the laptop on soft surfaces. Even on a hardwood desk, I found them unsatisfactorily tinny and insufficiently loud.

Final verdict

If physical aesthetics and a 4K screen are your primary goals, and you're looking to keep costs down, the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 is an excellent bet. With a large SSD, this model can work well for content creators and consumers alike.

But, beware the battery life: It's enough to get you through a few hours, but not enough for a laptop you're taking out for a whole day – or relying on at a conference, where outlets may be few and far between. This model's heavy weight is another detriment when it comes to portability.

This laptop is inexpensive compared to a 15-inch MacBook or Lenovo ThinkPad W550s. Regardless, the Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 is a strong buy on its strengths alone – including good performance, 4K touchscreen, on-board storage.