Today Asus announced their new ZenBook Pro UX501. The ZenBook Pro UX501 sits above all the other ZenBooks as a flagship laptop for people who need serious processing power when they're on the go. It could be called a workstation laptop or a desktop replacement, but whatever the case may be it certainly packs some potent hardware. I've organized its specifications in the chart below.

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501
Size 15.1 x 10.0 x 0.8”
38.4 x 25.4 x 2.03cm
Mass 5 lbs - 2.27 kg
Display 15.6" 1920x1080 IPS LCD or
15.6" 3840x2160 multi-touch IPS w/ 100% sRGB
Battery 60/96Wh battery rated for 6 hours of usage
Storage/DRAM 1TB 5400RPM HDD or
128/256GB SATA3 SSD or
512GB PCIe x4 SSD
16GB DDR3
CPU Intel Core i7-4720HQ (2.6GHz base, 3.6GHz turbo)
GPU NVIDIA GTX 960M
Wireless 2x2 802.11ac + BT 4.0
Ports 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x Thunderbolt 2.0/mDP, HDMI, SDXC,
3.5mm Headset Jack
Front Camera HD 720p
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Warranty 1-year limited
Price $1799 for UHD + 512GB SSD model

Starting with its appearance, we see that the UX501 features an aluminum chassis with the same spun metal finish that ASUS has put on most of their products. At 2.03cm thick at its thickest point and a mass of 2.27kg, it's definitely not an ultra portable laptop. The aluminum build and high end specs will inevitably draw comparison to the MacBook Pro, and the name ASUS has chosen certainly gives the impression that they're taking on Apple's flagship laptop as well. That being said, in my view the UX501 is distinctly an ASUS product with its slightly tapered chassis and brushed metal lid.

Just looking at the specs, it's clear that the UX501 is what one might call a desktop replacement laptop. The most notable point may be its display, which is a 15.6" 3840x2160 IPS panel. At 282ppi it's an extremely high resolution display, although I don't think anyone was unhappy with 3200x1800 panels and the lower power consumption that comes with them. ASUS is also reporting full sRGB gamut coverage, and hopefully high color accuracy is bundled with that gamut. The rest of the specs are equally impressive, with a 2.6GHz quad core Intel Core i7 CPU, and NVIDIA's GTX 960M GPU.

In terms of storage, ASUS is offering several options with the UX501. Buyers can opt for a 1TB 5400RPM HDD, a 128GB or 256GB SATA III SSD, or a 512GB PCIe x4 SSD. The PCIe SSD is definitely the most interesting option, with ASUS quoting maximum read/write speeds of 1400Mbps.

Battery life on the UX501 is a bit low, but hardly unexpected for a laptop with these specifications. With no Broadwell quad core i7 parts available, companies making desktop replacements are stuck using Intel's 22nm Haswell parts. The display is undoubtably the biggest consumer of power, and one can debate the merits of moving to 4K from QHD+ or other resolutions. With a 96Wh battery in the UHD model, ASUS is also pushing up against travel regulations that do not permit battery packs above 100Wh on airplanes. Regardless, any users interested in a desktop replacement should always be ready to keep their charger with them.

The I/O ports on the UX501 are fairly standard for a laptop of this class, but there's one port that is fairly unique among Windows laptops. ASUS has included a single Thunderbolt 2 port on the UHD model of the UX501. Thunderbolt never really took off like many had hoped, but it seems that there's enough adoption of it in the professional space to warrant ASUS putting it on their flagship laptop. The 1080p models will feature a Mini-DisplayPort output rather than the Thunderbolt 2 port.

The ASUS ZenBook UX501 is available now in the United States from the ASUS Online Store as well as from various retailers. The fully featured model with the UHD display and 512GB PCIe SSD will be $1799 USD.

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  • ToTTenTranz - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    What's with the 720p front cameras nowadays? Reply
  • MrTeal - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    Probably the short answer is that most people don't need more or want more. You don't use it for taking pictures, and 720p is fine for Skype and whatnot. I'm surprised they don't go 1080p just for the bullet point, but for most people the extra cost adder is probably better spent on something else. Reply
  • ntn2008 - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    ASUS ZenBook UX501 video on youtube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ7Pqaef75Y
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    If they already have the chassis I'd like them to make a distinctly different version:

    - drop the discrete GPU (for non-gamers)
    - drop Thunderbolt, add USB 3.1
    - offer the Spinpoint M9T (up to 2 TB) along with small form-factor SSDs
    Reply
  • ingwe - Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - link

    Looks very nice. I don't think it is what I am looking for though. Seems to much like a DTR for me. Who is this targeted at? That is just an honest question. It seems to me like there have been too many tradeoffs in weight and battery life to really be a business laptop. But maybe that is just me.

    Somewhat separately, I would really like a 13in thin and light ultrabook with loads of battery life and thunderbolt. I may have to go with an Apple to get that. Has anyone seen something like that? What would be even better would be if there was a tablet with thunderbolt.
    Reply
  • whitingjon - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    Has anyone actually seen this device in person with Thunderbolt. I ordered one that arriv3ed today, but it didn't have the port. Still trying to figure out what model and where to get one with the port. Reply

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