AT A GLANCE
The ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501JW-DH71T(WX) is a prime example of how premium hardware can really influence the price of a system. A few months ago, we were used to similarly equipped laptops going for hundreds of dollars more, due in no small part to the cost of relatively rare 4K resolutions and high-end graphics hardware.
A new ASUS notebook in the market and the usual “buzz” that accompanies new Zenbook releases is high than ever. People are rounding up questions all over the internet, some clearly entertaining the idea of buying the laptop if it meets their criteria. Well, the ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501JW-DH71T(WX) looks and feels like a premium laptop. It has some sweet niceties such as a stylish aluminum construction, a gorgeous 4K display, and hardware that sets it ahead of the competition in terms of performance, it’s clearly competitive.
When compared with leading systems like the Dell XPS 15 Touch and the Apple MacBook Pro (2015) that cost relatively more, the real kicker isn’t performance of features, but price. Despite its impressive feature set and leading performance, the ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501JW-DH71T(WX) is several hundred dollars less than the competition, and that makes it easy to name it our Editors’ Choice premium desktop-replacement laptop.
ASUS has maintained a fairly consistent design over its several Zenbook iterations, and the latest Zenbook Pro UX501JW sports the same brushed-aluminum construction seen on the more expensive ASUS Zenbook NX500 with a radial, brushed pattern across the lid, and a distinctive circular pattern of perforations serving as the grille for the system’s built-in speakers. Sure, there’s more than a passing resemblance to the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro (2015), but those unique design elements give it a flavor all its own. The ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501JW-DH71T measures 0.8 by 15.1 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighs 5 pounds, the same as the Asus Zenbook Pro UX501J-DS71T and within an ounce or two of competitors, like the Apple MacBook Pro (2015) and the Dell XPS 15 Touch.
While the laptop isn’t built to satisfy hardcore gamers, and certainly won’t deliver the sort of 4K graphics the display can support, it does have some gaming capability, so long as you dial down the settings and don’t expect flawless performance. For storage, there’s a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD). While not as large as the 1TB of hard drive storage offered by the Toshiba Satellite P50T, it is larger than the 256GB Flash Storage module offered in the base model of the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro (2015).
It’s also faster than both of those alternatives, thanks to a 4x PCIe connection that offers better data-transfer speeds than traditional SATA connections. The Zenbook Pro UX501JW’s 15.6-inch 4K display will turn heads, thanks to an impressive In-Plane Switching (IPS) 3,840-by-2,860-resolution panel (4K), with edge-to-edge glass, and 10-finger touch capability that offers vivid colors and excellent viewing from almost any angle.
Display and Keyboard
These Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) displays have become the new standard for premium desktop-replacement systems, putting the Zenbook Pro on even footing with the likes of the Dell XPS 15 Touch and the Toshiba Satellite P50T. The keyboard is the same as that seen on the Asus Zenbook NX500, with square, chiclet-style keys and automatic backlighting that adjusts according to the ambient lighting in the room.
The biggest difference is the addition of a 10-key numeric pad, which has narrower keys than the keyboard proper, but adds some extra utility for anyone working with numbers. Below the keyboard is a touchpad, and Asus claims that the 16:9 aspect ratio of the touchpad is more efficient since it matches the aspect ratio of the display, and works well with Windows 10 gestures, and the ASUS ICEpower speakers on either side of the keyboard provide quite clear and rich sound. You get one year warranty and bloatware pre-loaded but can be shed off in one hour or even less.
On the right side, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, and a headset jack. On the left are a third USB 3.0 port, which also boasts power for charging gadgets while the laptop is asleep, along with an HDMI-out port and a Thunderbolt port. That Thunderbolt port does double-duty as a mini Display Port, but also offers fast data-transfer capabilities for high-speed storage and docking accessories.
This is an especially nice feature if you’re buying this laptop for use in a home or business that uses a lot of Apple Mac hardware, where Thunderbolt has the largest market presence. Internally, the Pro UX501JW-DH71T features not only dual-band 802.11AC Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, but is also equipped with LoJack, so you can track down your laptop if it gets lost or stolen.
The Zenbook Pro UX501JW boasts a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ processor (Turbo up to 3.6 GHz) and 16GB of RAM, with an NVidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics card with 2GB GDDR5 memory. This is exactly the same specifications we’ve seen on the Zenbook Pro UX501J-DS71T, only that the newer version comes with Windows 10 (Home 64-bit) pre-installed, while the former comes with Windows 8.1 and a free upgrade.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on Asus products lately, you may notice that this configuration is nearly identical to the gaming-oriented ASUS ROG GL551JW-DS71, with only a few small features and a chassis design distinguishing the two. But there’s one other major difference—where the Asus ROG G501J-DS71 fell flat as a gaming machine, the ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501JW-DH71T(WX) does very well as a premium desktop-replacement laptop.
The decent features means that the Zenbook DH71T can outperform major competitors in performance, for instance it scored 2,775 point in PCMark 8 Work tests, slightly ahead of its earlier sibling the Zenbook Pro UX501J-DS71T (2, 769) edging ahead of the Dell XPS 15 Touch (2,661 points), the ASUS Zenbook NX500 (2,563 points), and the Toshiba Satellite P50T (2,593 points).
It also beat out competitors in Photoshop, running through our test in 3 minutes 18 seconds, which is several seconds ahead of the nearest competitor, the Apple MacBook Pro (2015) (3:25). Graphics performance is also top-notch in testing, as the system is the only one of the five comparison systems that is able to produce playable frame rates (albeit at medium detail and lower-resolution settings).
The only lackluster feature is battery life, with the laptop lasting 4 hours 56 minutes, which is quite OK with 4K displays being energy efficient; though Apple MacBook Pro (2015) leads the pack with 8 hours 55 minutes, but the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch leads with 8 hours 55 minutes, which is decent for office work.
The ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501JW-DH71T(WX) is a prime example of how premium hardware can really influence the price of a system. A few months ago, we were used to similarly equipped laptops going for hundreds of dollars more, due in no small part to the cost of relatively rare 4K resolutions and high-end graphics hardware. Moving forward, technology is getting more affordable, and the technology behind high-resolution displays and high-performance CPUs now ring up at a much lower price. The result is a system that not only outclasses competitors on most fronts, but is far more affordable. As such, the Zenbook Pro UX501JW-DH71T replaces the Apple MacBook Pro-Retina Display (2015) as our top pick for high-end desktop-replacement laptops.