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Asus Zenbook UX51VZ review / Asus U500 – top notch 15 inch ultraportable

Asus Zenbook UX51VZ review / Asus U500  – top notch 15 inch ultraportable
By Andrei Girbea - @ andreigirbea , last updated on 14 Sep 2012
Summary: The Asus Zenbook U500 is a premium thin and light 15 inch laptop, one of the best in its class and for sure one of the most popular in the months to come. It does have some heating issues, as expected, but overall the laptop looks, feels and performs good.
Rating: 4 / 5   Price range: $1999 - $2499

THE GOOD

sleek looks and sturdy build quality; thin and light for a 15 incher; excellent display, audio system and performances; good keyboard; plenty of ports; includes external optical unit

THE BAD

gets hot; trackpad is sometimes jumpy (also noticed on this sample: potential throttling problems)

Not even 12 months have passed since the first ultrabooks hit the stores. And while those early models had their issues, they cleared the way for the things to come: a myriad of thin and light laptops, some of them very very good.

The Asus Zenbook UX51VZ / U500 is one of those last ones, the biggest and the most powerful Zenbook on the market right now, packing a 15 inch screen, fast hardware and an awesome screen. But are these enough to make it a worthy competitor for some of the other premium thin notebooks available out there, like the Dell XPS 15 or the Retina Apple MacBook Pro?

Update: Looking for discounts on this laptop? Then you might want to read this article.

Update: Just to be clear, the U500 is not an ULTRABOOK per-se, it’s an ultra-portable laptop in an ultrabook body. That’s because Intel imposes a couple of regulations for laptops to be officially called ultrabooks and among them, is this one: “ultrabooks must be built on Intel’s ULV hardware platform”. In other words, the U500 is not an ultrabook because of its more powerful processor inside.

Update2: Looks like the Asus Zenbook U500 will sell as the Asus UX51VZ, or just the Asus UX5 on several markets. Early details on prices are available now, so go ahead and  check them out below.

You’ll find out the answer for that from this post, where I’ve gathered my impressions on the U500 after using it for a couple of days. So this is not really a review, for a couple of reasons. First, my test unit is an early prototype, thus things might differ between it and the final product that will hit the stores in early November/late October. And second, I only got to spend 4 days with it, like I said, and that’s not really enough time for a proper thorough review.

But enough jabber jabbering, let’s get into those details.

Asus Zenbook U500 / UX51VZ video review

First though, if you want to know the basics about this laptop and what it can do, the in-depth video below is what you need. For the hidden goodies though, keep reading.

The Specs for the Asus Zenbook U500 / Asus UX51VZ

And I should also tell you a couple of things about the specs, so you’ll know exactly which particular U500 version I got to play with here.

Asus Zenbook U500 / Asus UX51VZ
Screen15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, non-glare
ProcessorIntel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3612QM CPU, 2.1 GHz
ChipsetIntel HM77
Videointegrated Intel 4000 HD + Nvidia GT 650M 2GB
Memory8 GB DDR3
Hard-disk256 GB SSD (2 x 128 GB SSDs in RAID 0)
ConnectivityWireless N, Gigabit Lan, Bluetooth 4.0, WiDi
Ports3 x USB 3.0, mini-VGA, HDMI, LAN, card-reader, HD webcam
Baterry74 Wh, encased
Operating systemWindows 8
Size
Weightabout 2 kg
Extrasexternal subwoofer and external optical unit included

Design and exterior

From starters, you’ll notice that the Asus Zenbook U500 is astonishing looking. In fact, it’s an oversized version of the Asus Zenbook Prime we’ve tested a while ago. That means that it’s solid built and nicely finished, with a full metal body.

Asus U500 - clearly a Zenbook, just a bit larger

Asus U500 – clearly a Zenbook, just a bit larger

You get the dark silver aluminum on top, with those concentric circles pattern, and the silver finishing on the bottom. Speaking about the underbelly, you’ll notice that it does not offer quick access to the battery or the internals, as there are only some cooling grills back here. Still, that was expected from such a thin laptop.

The Asus Zenbook U500 measures about 20 mm in its thickest point, but just seems sleeker, as it gets slimmer towards the front. The edges are once again quite sharp, as on the other Zenbooks I’ve tested, and that might be a bit inconvenient, so be careful when handling this machine. Besides that, the U500 has a slightly smaller footprint than most of the other laptops within the 15 inch class. And it is quite light as well, weighing about 2 kilos. Unfortunately I can’t provide the exact weight right now, as I do not have an electronic scale around. So I’ll have to get back on that.

There are plenty of ports lined on the sides of this laptop. On the right there’s a headphone/microphone jack, a card-reader, an USB slot, a mini-VGA port and the connector for an external subwoofer, plus a small indicator LED (shows you when the laptop in in sleep mode), while on the left, you’ll find the DCIN, a flopable Ethernet port, a Full Size HDMI and two USB slots.

You’ll notice that Asus could not fit an optical unit on this Zenbook, but there is one included in the box. In our case, that’s an external DVD-RW than can be easily connected to the laptop with the also included USB cable. But I’m pretty sure you could also get at least a BluRay combo once the U500 hits the stores. One thing though: you’re going to need two USB ports to power this external unit, but that’s alright, as there are two of them placed on the left side of the laptop.

There's an optical unit included in the box

There’s an optical unit included in the box

Speaking about what’s inside the box, Asus also bundles a miniVGA to standard VGA adapter and packs the external subwoofer we’ve seen in the past on the N multimedia series, and given how good those laptops were in terms of audio quality, this one is probably going to be just as good. We’ll talk more about that later.

Opening the lid cover, you’ll once again find the emblematic metallic interior we’ve seen on Zenbooks since the start, but since the U500 is bigger, the entire palm-rest is more spacious and there is now enough space to fit a more complex keyboard. There’s a dedicated power-button as well, placed in the top-right corner, as it’s not integrated within the keyboard as we’ve seen on other laptops in this family, while the status LEDS are extremely discrete and placed beneath the trackpad.

The interior is just as nice

The interior is just as nice

There’s metal around that 15 inch screen as well, with a slightly purple finishing, and on top of the display you’ll find an HD webcam with an indicator LED, an ambient light sensor and some microphones.

All in all, although I’ve got to play with just an early Asus U500 prototype, there’s just nothing wrong about it when it comes to its build quality and overall finishing. As for the design, this will definitely not go unnoticed, but some, like me, might consider it a bit too obtrusive.

When it comes to details and built quality, the Asus Zenbook U500 steps in front of the crowd

When it comes to details and built quality, the Asus Zenbook U500 steps in front of the crowd

Screen

Like I already mentioned above, there’s a 15.6 inch display on this unit. But it’s not just an average screen, it comes with an IPS panel and Full HD 1920 x 1080 px resolution. As a result, it is bright and offers good contrast and colors.

There's an awesome IPS FHD panel on the Asus Zenbook U500

There’s an awesome IPS FHD panel on the Asus Zenbook U500

In fact, this exact panel we have on the Zenbook U500 is made by LG and can also be found on some HP and Sony laptops, but while those had some issues with orange or blue colors, this one seems to be a lot more accurate, as you’ll see from the picture below, comparing the U500 with the IPS panels on my Lenovo ThinkPad X220 laptop and Dell 2209WA monitor.

And the LG panel has no color reproduction issues

And the LG panel has no color reproduction issues

You’ll also be able to use the screen in strong light conditions, thanks to its non-glare finishing and good brightness, but be aware that this non-glare coating is not completely matte, like on the ThinkPads for example, and still passes some reflections.

There’s one more thing I should add: IPS panels usually suffer from light bleeding, visible on dark backgrounds, but there isn’t any noticeable bleeding on this Asus. That doesn’t mean that your unit might not have some bleeding, that’s more or less a given with IPS panels these days, but if it’s only visible on dark static images, you’ll be fine with it.

As a quick wrap-up, the screen is excellent, despite not having the pixel density of the Retina Macbook Pro. There is however one issue: it can’t lean back too much, which means that in some situations, you won’t be able to properly adjust the viewing angles. And while this would be very annoying on a smaller device that I’d probably use while laying in bed or on the sofa, I can live with that on a 15 inch machine which will spend most of its life on my desk.

The screen only leens back that much

The screen only leens back that much

Oh, and if you’re wondering about color gamut, measured contrast and brightness and all these fancy things, I’m sorry to disappoint, I don’t own a colorimeter so I could not test these.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard on the Asus U500 is a lot like the one on the N56, but the rubbery finishing on top of the keys is gone. As a result, the keys feel a bit harsher, while they are also a tiny bit wobblier, as you can see in the video review.

Despite that, the overall typing experience is very good, as both the travel and the feedback provided by the keys are within satisfactory margins. The keyboard is also quite silent and only flexes a little bit when pressed in the middle.

The keyboard and trackpad are alright

The keyboard and trackpad are alright

The keys are also backlit and the laptop can either automatically adjust the backlightning intensity with the help of its light-sensor, or you can adjust it manually (you get to choose between three levels or OFF).

There is one thing I’m not particularly fond of though: Asus included a NumPad area on the U500, exactly like on the N56, with slightly narrower keys. As an indirect result though, the arrow keys are quite cramped, that’s why I feel like skipping the entire NumPad would have been a better call here.

The NumPad and Arrow keys are cramped

The NumPad and Arrow keys are cramped

As for the trackpad, it’s basically the one we’ve seen on the Zenbook Prime, which means it’s large, feels good and is usually accurate. And yes, usually is the word here, because at times it can get jumpy and erratic, which does ruin the overall experience.

Plus, it integrates the click buttons withing the tactile area and they are a bit stiff and noisy.

Hopefully, it will get slightly better on the final unit. If not, get yourself a proper mouse, you’ll be better off with it.

The trackpad can get jumpy and the click buttons are a bit stiff

The trackpad can get jumpy and the click buttons are a bit stiff

Hardware and performances

OK, this is probably the part you’re most interested in. Like I said at the beginning though, I can’t really focus on numbers, because this is an early prototype and Windows 8 drivers are still immature.

I will tell you that this laptop packs some powerful guts though: a quad-core Intel Core i7 3612QM processor, dedicated Nvidia GT 650M graphics, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD made by coupling two 128 GB SSD in RAID 0. All these handled by Microsoft’s Windows 8.

The pics below will tell you a bunch of things about the hardware. I must tell you that I could not open the back-panel of the device in order to show for sure the internal configurations, that’s why some of the things I’m going to say in the next paragraph are speculations based on the information provided by several hardware analysis programs.

So, there might be 4 slots of memory inside this unit, but once again, I can’t confirm that. Out of these, a 4GB module is almost surely soldered on the motherboard. For my test unit, only a 4 GB Hynix module was visible, while I could not find anything about the other 4 GBs, thus I concluded they were soldered.

We do know that the two SSDs are made by Sandisk and we’re probably talking about 2.5 inch SSDs, and not bar drives, like on the UX31, since Asus announced that this laptop will also be available with hybrid storage. Performances are quite good, as you can see from the benchmark below and the two support TRIM.

I can’t say for sure if these storage drives are easily removable or if Asus uses standard drives or proprietary ones until I can actually open that back-panel, which might not happen that soon. But SIW Pro says that they are not removable, which would be weird for 2.5 inch drives. We’ll see.

As for the graphics, this laptop bundles Nvidia GT 650M chip in its more powerful version, with 2 GB of DDR5 memory and that helps it push quite solid numbers in games.

With all these onboard, this laptop flies. Not only does it booth in about 20 seconds, but it just handles all of your daily apps at ease, whether we’re talking about browsing, editing photos, chatting with friends, watching all sorts of movies. It will also deal with more complex tasks, like editing video content, rendering 3D scenes or running some programming software.

Plus, with the Nvidia 650M chip inside, it will handle games as well. I’ve tried a bunch of them, like Crysis 2, Dirt 3, Need for Speed Unleashed 2 or Skyrim, as you can see from the clip below.

I did not focus that much on benchmarking those games, but if you’re interested in numbers, you’ll find some below. I ran all these games in FHD resolution and details set towards maximum (in some cases I lowered AA) and they all worked fine, except for Crysis 2 which was lagging on HardCore mode and was only playable on Gamer.

  • Crysis 2 (Gamer mode) – 30.8 fps;
  • Dirt 3 – 40 fps;
  • Skyrim – 39 fps;
  • Need for Speed Unleashed 2 – 38.4 fps.

Oh, and if you’re after gaming ultrabooks, you should also read my other post.

If you’re after the benchmark results, like I said, I can’t share much with you right now, but I’ll share two numbers:

  • PCMark Vantage: 16651 points;
  • 3Dmark 11 Performance: P2398 (2216 graphics, 5852 physics, 1890 combined)

That Raid 0 storage option definitely has a lot in influence on those numbers, so take that into consideration when comparing them with the scores got by other laptops.

All in all, the Asus Zenbook U50 is a beast in its class, but packing the powerful hardware inside a thin body comes with two potential issues, and we’ll talk about them in the next part of our post.

Heat and Noise

Yes, you might have guessed it, we’re talking about heat and noise. This laptop has two cooling fans inside and while they can spin fast when you’ll be pushing the device, they will almost never become annoyingly noisy. I measured the noise with an App on my iPhone, so I can’t say how conclusive it is.

I’ve tested to scenarios. First, with the phone placed on the trackpad, the recorded noise was at about 40 db in idle and 50 db while gaming. In the second case, I’ve placed the phone on the screen’s edge, over the Asus logo there, and recorded about 57-58 db in Full Load and 48 in idle . The phone measured an ambient noise in the room, when the laptop was OFF, of about 38db.

Noise measured with my iPhone

Noise measured with my iPhone

Take these numbers with a grain of salt, this is in no way a professional test, as I do not have the tools for that.

On the other part, this laptop can get very hot. I could not run a stress-test on this unit, since it’s an early sample, but I did run some games. When playing Crysis 2 for about two hour,s the CPUs will get close to 95 degrees Celsius, while the Graphics goes to 80+. Also, the bottom is getting scorching hot and so is the rim on top of the keyboard, as part of the cooling exhaust is placed behind the screen’s hinge. But the palmrest and the area around the keyboard stay merely warm, which is very important.

Speaking about the cooling system, the laptop seems to such air from the bottom and exhaust it behind the screen’s hinge, on the sides. as there are two cooling fans inside. That of course means that using this laptop with the lid closed is not going to be a very good idea, just in case you were thinking at using it as a desktop replacement or something like that.

The cooling system is covered by the screen's hinge and pushes the hot air upwards, towards the screen

The cooling system is covered by the screen’s hinge and pushes the hot air upwards, towards the screen

During everyday activities though, extreme heat in not going to be a problem and you’ll even be able to comfortably use the laptop on your lap. But if you’re after the Zenbook U500, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to use it just for casual stuff, right?

And there’s one more thing. While running games on High Performances, the CPU’s Cores run at 2.8 GHz. However, analyzing the logs recorded with HWinfo 64 while playing Crysis 2 or Skyrim, I noticed that sometimes, as the temperatures got higher, the frequencies drop to 1.2 GHz. And correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds like throttling to me.

I’m not going to insist on that or draw any conclusions, as this is not a final product. I will hopefully get to test a shelf-ready U500 in the next weeks and I’ll update this section then. For now, I only find two possible explanations for that: either the temperatures push the CPUs into throttling (still, this happens with the Cores at about 85+ degrees and 40-50% Load), or the 90W power adapter in the pack does not provide enough energy for the hardware inside this unit.

What do you guys think?

The 90 Wh charger on the U500 is compact, but is it powerful enough?

The 90 Wh charger on the U500 is compact, but is it powerful enough?

ON the other hand, I did not notice any frequency drops for the GPU, neither for the graphic processor or the memory, while playing those games.

With all those in mind, there’s one more thing I should add: the gaming experience on the U500 was pretty consistent and I could not see obvious drops in frame-rates while playing any of the games. In fact, if it wasn’t for the monitor programs, I would have never noticed that the CPU’s frequency does drop sometimes, when under intense load.

Speakers and others

The Asus Zenbook U500 comes with Bang&Olufsen IcePower speakers and there are no less than 4 bundled on this machine, based on what Asus says. The speaker grills are on the bottom, one on each side, like on the 13 inch Zenbook Prime and all in all, the audio is rich and definitely loud.

However, the true potential of the Zenbook U500 is going to be unleashed only when you’ll connect that external subwoofer, that’s going to take care of all the bass and low-frequency sound.

The sounds gets way better once you connect the external subwoofer

The sounds gets way better once you connect the external subwoofer

I’ve put up another video showing you how good this laptop sounds and what’s the difference when connecting or disconnecting the external woofer, so check it out.

You can of course place the subwoofer wherever you want, within the short margins offered by that connecting cable.

As for the other details, I should tell you that the U500 features an HD webcam on top and it will be alright as long as there’s enough light around, otherwise the images will get quite noisy and underexposed.

As for the wireless solution, Asus bundles the Intel Centrino Advanced-N6235 module inside this Zenbook and the overall performances are steady, even when you’re a bit further away from your router, with some walls between. WiDi and Bluetooth 4.0 are also part of the mix.

I did notice that sometimes, after the laptop resumes from sleep, the wireless module takes a bit longer to reconnect to the network, even north of 10 seconds. That is a bit annoying, but I can’t say if it’s a Windows 8 issue or something more serious.

Battery life

As we get close towards the end of this clip, it’s time to talk about battery life. There’s a 74 Wh battery inside the Zenbook U500, which sounds promising. This test unit however averaged about 3 to 3 and a half hours in daily use, while browsing, chatting, editing some photos, writing some posts, listening to some music, in Balanced Mode with the screen at 60% and WiFi ON.

The 74 Wh battery will lat for about 3 hours and a half on daily average use

The 74 Wh battery will lat for about 3 hours and a half on daily average use

I also managed to run BEPro in Classic mode, with the screen at 100% and High Performance Mode, and the laptop shut down at 5% after almost 80 minutes. I did not have the time to run any other “standard” battery test though, due to the short time I had with this U500 and some problems with BEPro on Windows 8.

Anyway, I did notice that BatteryBar shows that the laptop eats around 18 Wh while in idle, on PowerSaving mode with the screen at 0%, but that varies inconsistently between 15 and 22. At Full Load, the same BatteryBar showed that the laptop eats 55 Wh, while on average daily use, it eats about 22-25 Wh.

All in all, you have to be aware that this is a powerful machine and not one of those ULV ultrabooks. Even so though, I was expecting it to do a bit better, but given that this test unit was a sample and the same potential Windows 8 drivers’ issues, we can only hope that the final products will do better.

Prices and availability

There will be several versions available for the U500 and the laptop will sell as the Asus UX51 or the Asus UX51VZ on some markets. For now, we know about two configurations:

  • ASUS UX51Vz-XH71 – the top version, with a similar config to the laptop tested here, but a 512 GB Raid 0 SSD, going for around $2499 in the US and around 2000 euros in Europe;
  • ASUS UX51Vz-DH71 – a cheaper version, going for $1999 in the US and around 1700 euro in Europe, and sporting only a 128 GB SSD, from what we know right now.

More details about all these configs, plus some potential discounts, are available over here.

Of course, more details will be available in the next days, as we get closer to November, when the laptop should start shipping. So stay tuned for the updates.

Wrap-up

All in all, the Asus Zenbook U500 is certainly one of the most impressive premium laptops of the moment. It’s beautiful, it packs an excellent display and it’s powerful. But, like you’d expect from such a thin machine that bundles fast hardware, it does have some heating issues.

And it’s going to be expensive.

The Asus Zenbook U500 is impressive, despite its slight issues. I'm holding off the final judgement until I also get to play with a final release though, so look for updates in the near future

The Asus Zenbook U500 is impressive, despite its slight issues. I’m holding off the final judgement until I also get to play with a final release though, so look for updates in the near future

I’m not going to jump into conclusions for the time being though, as I’ve only played with an early sample of the Asus U500 and not the final product. Thus, you’d better bookmark this article and check it out from time to time, I’ll add updates over the next weeks and months.

I was told that I will also get a shelf-ready Zenbook U500 for tests, which will help me bring light over the yet shady aspects of this review, like the potential throttling and sub-par battery life issues. But that might not happen until late October.

With that in mind, It’s time to end this post. Like I said, this is mainly an indepth preview of the Asus Zenbook U500 then a review, as it lacks most benchmarks results and was tested quite hasty, given the short time I got to spend with this unit. But I’ll update and get back with more details in time.

Till then, if you have any questions, suggestions, critiques or just want to add something smart to the article, the comment form below is there just for that.

Andrei Girbea, aka Mike, Editor-in-Chief and a huge fan of mobile computers. Since 2007, I've only owned smaller than 12.5" laptops and I've been testing tens, if not hundreds of mini laptops. You'll find mostly reviews and guides written by me here on the site.

99 Comments

  1. Huns

    September 14, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks a lot!

  2. mitko

    September 15, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Hi, thanks for the preview! U500 is a really interesting offer from Asus.
    Will the final product have a touchscreen and does the touchpad support gestures for the new Win8 user interface?

    • lars

      September 16, 2012 at 7:07 am

      The screen does not have a touch.

      • Richard

        October 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

        At their press conference on October 23rd, Asus announced that there would be both touch and non-touch versions of this computer. The model numbers of each are not known, nor are the prices.

        See also http://zenbook.asus.com/zenbook/

        • Mike

          October 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm

          Cool. Still, touch on a 15 inch laptop… meh. A glossy glass filled with fingerprints and smudges doesn’t sound right to me…

          • john

            November 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm

            except this won’t be a glossy glass…finger prints on a matte screen isn’t good either. harder to get rid of.

          • Mike

            November 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm

            the one with a touchscreen will come with glossy glass. Like you said, fingerprints on matte displays are awful.

  3. Peter

    September 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Mike, thanks foe posting this excellent informative preview :-) .

    Thanks for using the db app as suggested, one comment though, even with pro ones you want to keep it from touching the test subject to avoid vibration effects since we don’t usually put our heads against the laptop. You would want to test with the mic of the device at the approximate height and position where a user’s ear would be. That would give useful db details. Thanks for testing though.

    Can you mention if your unit came with the headphone microphone combination adapter?

    I did not realize until you mentioned it that the U500 has a 10% slower CPU than the N56Vz, that really makes me think of getting it since it is available now and is cheaper. Thank you for all the work you’ve done on both :-) .

    Peter

    • Mike

      September 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Hey Peter

      I did the tests this way so the readers could go ahead and compare with what they get on their own laptops. at least that was my judgement at the moment, but it’s true that vibrations can interfere with the records, i didn’t think at this. On the other hand, in practice it’s a lot more important to find out how loud the noise is around the place where our ears would be, but I think that varies from person to person (height, desk positioning, etc). Still, i’ll definitely go ahead and think about some kind of noise testing environment and scenarios, for my next reviews. Thanks once again for suggesting the app thingy πŸ˜‰

      As for that adapter, no, it’s not included in the pack. But you can get one at every electronics shop and over here it costs like 2 euros or something.

      As for the N56 vs U500 matter. I for one, when testing the N56, got really bothered by the fact that the left part of the palm rest got hot. ON the U500, the palm-rest stays fairly cool, only the bottom and the rim below the screen get hot, and you’re not going to come in contact with them on daily basis. that’s just one thing. If you can live without the slim and light body, you should probably go for the n56, especially since the U500 is going to be way more expensive than that one…

  4. Ciprian

    September 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

  5. Mauro

    September 21, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Hi Mike,
    thank you very much for the great release. I tell you of a very little mistake: I have seen on a screenshot of your release (panel of the integrated intel GPU) that the chipset is the HM 77, not the HM 76 as reported in the specs part ;).
    I would like to ask you if, in our opinion, it could be able to support a more powerful cpu as a i7 3720QM or 3820QM (both 45 tdp, they are produced also with the BGA 1224 socket, the same of the 3612QM). I ask for that because it probably has a dedicated fan for the cpu (since there are two fans) and a separeted one for the gpu, so the cooling system seems to be well done.

    Thank you

    • Mike

      September 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Thanks for the heads-up on the mistake πŸ˜‰

      I’m not sure if this can take that CPU. and besides that, don’t forget that this laptop comes with a 90Wh charger which is find that it’s slightly small for this hardware. adding a more energy hungry CPU would definitely require a more powerful power brick as well.

      ANyway, the only way to see if the CPU is upgradeable would be to actually take the laptop apart, which i cannot do at the moment. My money are on a soldered CPU though, but don’t take that for granted just yet

  6. Mike

    September 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Hei Ciprian, that’s my blog too. I’m in fact Romanian πŸ˜›

  7. Ciprian

    September 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Lol. The crops on giz.ro are very amateur-ish. Also the attempts to hide UB logo :) Hence the reason I was thinking it’s maybe a rip off :)

    • Mike

      September 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      if you could elaborate on how are those crops amateur-ish… that would be great. Feedback is golden πŸ˜›
      Also, i don’t see any of those pics hiding the UB logo… am i wrong?

      • Ciprian

        September 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm

        Actually everything is OK: the pictures, the text, your methods to test the equipment – and thank you for that :)
        I was convinced that giz.ro is a ripoff and I looked very very briefly over the Romanian review and this one (http://www.giz.ro/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/asus-zenbook-u500-zgomot.jpg) remained in my mind as a crop to remove the UB watermark. My apologies, my remark was the consequence of a very speedy “reading”. Cheers!

        • Mike

          September 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm

          alright then

  8. Mikel

    September 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Hy,

    I’m going to by a new laptop. My first choise was the Lenovo X230 but then i found the Asus Zenbook Prime. But I didn’t buy it because the laptop has to support a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and the hdmi connection of the Asus Zenbook Prime only supports 1080p or has problems with a higher resolution because of the intel graphic board. It only supports a higher resolution over a display port.

    So I looked forward and found the Asus Zenbook U500. And I think the U500 support a higher resultion than the Zenbook Prime because of the nvidia graphic board. So now, I can’t decide between the Lenovo X230 and the U500.

    I need the notebook for university so for office, programming, and watching movies but I think I will watch most movies on the 27″ monitor.

    So I saw you have the previous modell of the X230, which one do you prefer for my tasks?
    Do you have the X220 with the IPS panel because the X230 has the same? Do you miss a higher resolution on the X220 when you use notebooks like the U500?
    How is the monitor of the X220 in comparison with the U500?

    best regards and a nice review
    mikel

    • Mike

      September 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      Well, comparing the two is a bit odd. I mean, on one side it’s a 12.5 incher and on the other there’s a 15 incher with an Nvidia 650M inside.

      For uni, I’d probably pick the X230, it’s a lot more compact, thus easier to carry around.

      I’m satisfied with my X220, but there are some things i wish Lenovo would have done better. First, it’s the screen. I have the IPS panel but 1366 x 768 res… meh. And that’s the same for the X230 as well. Something like 1600 x 900 would have been golden, FHD on a 12.5 inch screen is a killer for my eyes.

      ON the other hand, I connect the x220 to a higher monitor when working, editing videos, photos, etc so that solves most of the problem.

      The IPS on the X220 is a bit better than the one on the U500, it’s brighter i think and displays colors a bit more accurate.

      OH, and about the second issue I have with the X220: the plastic on the interior is a bit squiky, I wasn’t expecting that from a $2000 laptop

      ON the other hand, I can’t tell you much about the X230, it’s not yet available here and I didn’t get to spend much time with it. Still, from what I know, the two issues mentioned above are still there.

      All in all, I’d still probably pick the X230 if you don’t plan to run games or perform any other types of graphic intensive tasks on your laptop. The U500 might be light and slim for a 15 incher… but it’s still a 15 incher and has a big footprint that will require a big bag, etc etc

      Hope this helped. Cheers, Mike

      • Mikel

        September 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm

        Hy,

        thank you for the fast answer! I think I will go with the X230 because as a student you get it cheaper and I have a comfortable docking station to connect everything easily.

        Do you know another good notebook with an IPS Panel and a higher resolution than 1366 x 768 with a 12″ till 14″ display?

        best regards and have a nice weekend!
        Mikel :)

        • Mike

          September 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm

          The Vaio Z but I wouldn’t recommend it… Not sure about others. Nothing come to mind right now

          • Mikel

            September 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm

            Hy,

            thanks for your I help!
            Today I bought the Lenovo X230. I think it was the right choice for the things I need it.

            best regards and thanks for your help!
            Mikel :)

          • Mike

            September 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm

            Glad i could help Mikel. And if you know anyone else looking for pieces of advice, I’ll be here πŸ˜›

  9. Ciprian

    September 22, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    My bottom line: After my personal extensive research in finding a 14-15 incher with aluminium casing (no necessarily slim, but with MBP-ish aspect) and 1080p screen and i7-3 processor, this is the best option for me. Therefore waiting for U500 to be launched in stores.

  10. Tobias

    October 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Hey Mike

    Do u know anything about the price yet? and when this monster comes.

    • Mike

      October 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      no, nothing on these for now

  11. Paolo

    October 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Hi Mike, thank you for this preview! Do you know when will you get the final product to rip apart and make a full review? Any idea?

    • Mike

      October 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      i do hope to get it around the end of the month, but there’s no guarantee I will get it at all…

  12. tekkie

    October 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Good review. I’d like to see this one reviewed against the Samsung Series 9 NP900X4C-A03US once the Asus is officially released. I’m not expecting that the Samsung can compete in terms of display, but curious about performance, features, etc. for the price.

    • Mike

      October 3, 2012 at 7:24 am

      the samsung 9 is built on an ULV platform and la lacks dedicated graphics. SO it’s no going to compete with the U500 in terms of performances, but should be interesting if you’re after the looks, thinness, etc should also have better battery life

  13. David

    October 4, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Great review Mike! Do you happen to know the width and length of the laptop?
    Thanks!

    • Mike

      October 4, 2012 at 8:18 am

      hey David, sry, i don’t have the exact numbers, I forgot to measure it properly when I had the computer around…

  14. Tauhon

    October 10, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for all your reviews! Given your experience, would you say I’m losing a lot of value for going for the N56VZ over waiting for the U500? I know all the differences, but I’m curious what you feel subjectively over this comparison. Thanks!

    • Mike

      October 11, 2012 at 7:48 am

      Well, I have one big gripe with the N56: the left pal of the palm rest and the left area of the keyboard get very hot when using, and that’s very annoying, since you’ll always have your hand there around the ASD keys.

      ON the other hands, while the U500 gets hot on the bottom, hotter than the N56, the user will hardly feel any discomfort, as the areas he’ll come in contact will only get warm.

      Otherwise, if you’re alright with these, I’d go for the N56. It’s half the price and the same features, while not being a lot heavier. Just bulkier.

  15. Roger

    October 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Hi Mike, thanks for the preview!

    Do you think the width and length almost like the N56?

    Thanks

    Roger

    • Mike

      October 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      I haven’t put those side by side, but I think this is going to be close in terms of length, and a bit shorter. Overall though yes, since they are both 15 incher, they should have about the same footprint, give or take a few mm.

  16. Lars

    October 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Why do you also call it asus ux51vz?

    I cant get any official information on that through a google search:-)

    Thanks.

    • Mike

      October 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm

      because that’s how it’s going to be sold in the US and on some other markets. Asus Ux51v or Asus UX51VZ. Search for it on google, I can find some results available right now

  17. Grant

    October 23, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Hey Mike, I’m pretty sure that ASUS isn’t offering the gt650m in the GDDR5 version :/ If this is the case, what will be the extent of the power reduction if its GDDR3 instead of GDDR5? Thanks!

    • Mike

      October 24, 2012 at 12:22 am

      Grant, see the print screens., it’s the gdr 5 version

  18. Lars

    October 23, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Okay, makes sense now:-) .

  19. test

    October 24, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Hi Mike,
    the U500 is out now. Do you know if you can get the Notebook for your review? And will it be the touch or non-touch Version?
    Thank’s!

    • Mike

      October 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      I will try and see what’s going to happen. I’ll get back here on the site if I manage to get the final unit, it might take a bit, it’s still not available here yet

      • Paolo

        October 29, 2012 at 9:30 am

        If you manage to get it, could you tell us even before starting to work on it? πŸ˜€ At this point every piece of information is GOLD! :) Thank you!

        • Mike

          October 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm

          Yes, for sure

  20. Eric

    November 2, 2012 at 5:00 am

    For potential US buyers, I’ve done some extensive searching, and so far Adorama is the only retailer who has stock as well as the cheapest price. I’m tempted to purchase the DH-71 model, but I was hoping to get a hybrid model with just a HDD for a cheaper price. I’ve bought a Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSD to install into the other bay. Mike, any ideas when, or if there will be a cheaper UX51VZ model with a standard HDD for those who want to install their own drives? Thanks for the great review!

    http://www.adorama.com/ASUX51VZDH71.html
    http://www.adorama.com/ASUX51VZXH71.html

    • Eric

      November 2, 2012 at 5:02 am

      Essentially I want to do to the UX51VZ what most owners did with their UX32VD’s, minus a RAM upgrade

      • Mike

        November 2, 2012 at 6:52 am

        Hei Eric, I’m not sure if there’s going to be a cheaper version, I will go ahead and ask Asus about that and get back if a find out anything

        • Eric

          November 2, 2012 at 7:36 am

          Thanks for the reply, but when you mentioned this:

          “We do know that the two SSDs are made by Sandisk and we’re probably talking about 2.5 inch SSDs, and not bar drives, like on the UX31, since Asus announced that this laptop will also be available with hybrid storage.”

          Were you referring to the particular model that I was talking about? With the HDD instead of SSD? Looking forward to ASUS’s reply :)

          • Mike

            November 2, 2012 at 9:04 am

            I was referring to the model I got to test, with 256 GB Raid 0 SSDs. I’m not sure if there is going to be a config with hybrid storage and I did not even get to have a look inside the U500 to see exactly what kind of components they put in there…

          • Mike

            November 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

            Oh, sry, i misunderstood you.

            Yeah, the official press release for the U500 talked about hybrid storage. But i don’t know if they’ll actually stick with that or not…

          • lars

            November 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm

            In Denmark you can only buy the one with dual 128 GB ssd’s(at the moment).

  21. Eric

    November 2, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Thanks anyways for your help Mike, your reviews have made me certain that this is the machine I’ve been waiting for.

  22. Paul Van Cotthem

    November 3, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Hi Mike, do you know if there are any free slots inside to add an extra hard disk or SSD?

  23. Andreas

    November 3, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Thank you for an excellent review.
    Awesome. I’ll wait for this baby… Only 4 more days :)

    • Paolo

      November 5, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Why 4 days? Did they announce a release date??

      • Mike

        November 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm

        It’s already available in several countries

  24. John

    November 7, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Is the graphics card really a DDR5? All the retailers seem to have it listed as DDR3 only.

    • Mike

      November 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      See the print screen from GPUZ, it says DDR5 on this test unit..

  25. Colton

    November 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Hey Mike, I really appreciate the reviews. I’ve been looking at this machine for a while and am just not quite sure whether I want to look at grabbing it or not. A big concern for me is the battery life, have you gotten a chance to test a different unit and see if the 4 hours you got in your tests the actual average capacity?

    Thanks

    • Mike

      November 11, 2012 at 10:47 am

      NO, unfortunately the local Asus PR team has not received another U500 yet. And right now I’m not even sure they will, although back in October they said they will..

    • Paolo

      November 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

      On notebookreview there are some people who have already bought it. One did a real-life battery test: starting from fully charged battery, he played in loop a FullHD (1920×1080) movie, with display at 50% brightness, wifi on and external subwoofer plugged in. The laptop went in sleep mode at 5% battery after 4 hours and 1 minute. So, much better than the 3.5-4 hours in idle of the prototype

      • Mike

        November 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

        That’s great

  26. Patrick

    November 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Mike!
    I really like your reviews and your “smaller is better” angle, as I started my laptop career with a Soncy PCG-1Xd. But now that laptops have really light I am stuck in a dilemma.

    I am typing a lot in libraries as a researcher and writer. I also use my laptop as TV substitute (so the good sound system of the U500 is luring me). If you compare the UX31A to the U500, are the extra 2″ and the better hardware worth the reduced portability for activities like these? I wouldn’t mind the price as I really like well designed, sleek laptops with good haptics.

  27. Napoleon

    November 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I have read from one user feedback that the fans are making a racket. Would be interesting to know how this one compares with other comps in the same segment. Yes, I hate noise!

    • Mike

      November 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Mine was alright… can’t say that all of them are though

  28. Matt

    November 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Hey, great review. Is there any news yet on when this will be available in the US?

    • Mike

      November 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      It should be available already

  29. Alex

    November 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Mike.
    Thanks very much for the great review!

    I’d like to have some information: I know that, as of today, you didn’t have the opportunity to open the cover, but do you know if the battery is replaceable or is soldered?

    FYI, this laptop (U500VZ-CN046H) is available in Mediamarkt in Brussels and in The Nederlands while in Italy is not yet available.

    Alex

    • Mike

      November 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      the battery is for sure soldered

  30. Somebody

    November 16, 2012 at 1:38 am

    does it have a touchscreen?

    • Mike

      November 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      My test unit did not, but some of the versions you’ll find in stores have one

  31. Berg

    November 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I am curious if you can use the SSDs in another RAID-configuration to get 256GB capacity. Have you tried this or heard if it is possible?

    • Mike

      November 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      Not really sure, I did not try it myself

  32. lars

    November 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I was at a gagdet mess in Denmark today called Beep.
    At Asus’ place the man said that they will make the u500 with a touchscreen. BUT he was’nt told from “above” but it seemed a bit like he assumed it because they a making the other zenbooks with touchscreens.

    But MAN even without the touch that machine kicks ass.:-)

  33. Dan

    November 18, 2012 at 12:03 am

    When is this laptop going to be released in US?

    Did you get a chance to test another one to check if the heating issues is still a repro ?

    Thanks!

    • Mike

      November 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      NO, not yet. The local PR agency did not receive a final unit yet and although they said they will receive one when i first tested the U500, I’m not so sure anymore that’s going to happen :(

  34. Rahul Kapoor

    November 22, 2012 at 12:20 am

    I am planning to buy this laptop but I have a question, does it have switchable graphics because when i saw the specs on asus’s global site it only lists GT 650m. Can you confirm if both intel hd 4000 graphics and gtx 650 are listed in device manager.

    Thanks

    • Mike

      November 24, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Yep, switchable graphics indeed

  35. Kristos

    November 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Is it possible to upgrade the RAM (i.e. throw out the the 4GB and replace it with an 8GB) in order to get a total of 12GB?

    Memory is dirt cheap, and there should be no reason for not allowing this from a technical perspective, right?

    Great review, btw!!

    /Kristos

    • Mike

      November 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Not sure, the memory might be soldered. I wasn’t able to tear the back apart, this test unit was a lease and was not allowed to do that.. maybe you cna check the forums, in the owner’s lounge section

    • Paolo

      November 26, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Yes, you can take out the non-soldered 4GB slot and replace it with a 8GB one, for a total of 12 GB RAM. Confirmed by owners

  36. Paolo

    December 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Mike! I’ve heard that in Romania it should be available the configuration with 128 GB SSD + 500 GB HDD. Can you confirm/deny?
    If it is actually available, do you know how they can fit this storage configuration in the laptop? (i.e. mSATA, soldered cache, or something..)

    Thank you

  37. MP

    January 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Hello Mike thx for review!
    I`m a mac user since long but not on a laptop, my prime workstation is mac/tower. Now i need a portable device and i look beyond MBP. My prime work is adobe CS… photoshop and indesign. Will this computer manage to fulfill my needs?
    From osx to windows 8 might be a problem but not a big issue.
    Dont think retina is neccesery but ips screen is a must for my work.
    thx for good review and hope you can read my english.
    is Asus Zenbook U500VZ/UX51VZ same computer?
    best regards
    /MP

  38. Darren McInerney

    February 19, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Just throwing this out there, because I know comparisons to the Retina Macbook Pro are inevitable, here’s some random facts that may be lesser known and may help some people.

    Battery
    Asus U500: 70-watt-hour lithium polymer
    Retina Macbook Pro 15: 95-watt-hour lithium polymer

    Discreet Video Card:
    Asus U500: Nvidia Geforce 650M w/ 2GB GDDR5
    Retina Macbook Pro 15: Overclocked (900MHz GPU clock / 1254MHz memory clock) Nvidia Geforce 650M w/ 1GB GDDR5 – Performs above a GTX 660M.

    Other noteworthy differences:
    – None of the Macbook Pro’s have number pads
    – Asus uses a semi-matte display, Apple uses a reduced-glare glossy by integrating the display with the glass
    – Both use HDMI 1.4a
    – The Retina Macbook Pro has non-replacable/upgradable memory integrated into the motherboard (configurable to 16GB LDDR3 1600MHz)
    – I believe, the Asus U500 has 4GB integrated (i.e. soldered DDR3 1600MHz) and 1 SO-DIMM slot (Their specs page is confusingly worded)
    – The Retina Macbook Pro does not have an integrated Ethernet port
    – The Retina Macbook Pro is configurable for up to 768GB of flash (solid state) storage, also non-replaceable/integrated into motherboard.
    – The speakers on the Retina Macbook Pro have been improved over the speakers that have been used in Macbook Pro’s for years
    – The fans have also been improved over the fans used in Macbook Pro’s for years

    Hope this helps some people. I’m on the fence between the two also. Rumors suggest the Retina MBP may see a redesign this year, despite this year. This is of course a RUMOR but something to consider.

    • Mike

      February 19, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Hei Darren and thanks for all these details. Is it OK to add this comment as a section in the article, so it will be more visible. I’m giving you all the credit, of course.

  39. Dwayne

    March 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Being that the 2 SSD drives are raided how much disk space did you have with? I would rather have 256 space instead of 128 Raided as I can back up my own stuff.

    • Andrei Girbea

      March 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      you can have either 2 x 128 or 2 x 256 by default. and of course you can customize that afterwards if you want to

  40. Paul Scholes

    April 5, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Andrei, thank you so very much for all the info, my old 17.2″Asus is now nearly 7 years old, still going strong and I’m going to repplace with the U500, I cannot see an Acer/Samsung/HP 15″ with the same specs, I have been told the price is around $AUD2950.00, yes, a bit pri old engineer,ng design work, looks well worth the money.

    To all you guys out there with your posts and terrific info, thank you to all.

    Regards from an old Aussie Mech. Engineer, Paul Scholes

    • Andrei Girbea

      April 5, 2013 at 8:39 am

      thanks rot he kind words Paul, I’m glad this post was helpful πŸ˜‰

    • Rahul Kapoor

      April 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      before you buy the u500 check out the new dell xps line and the hp envy dv6-7300; i was planning to buy the u500 as well but due to the limitation of storage space and battery i decided that dv6-7300 was best for me.

      My dv6 has a i7-3740qm, gt650 2gb, 1080p matte display, backlit keyboard, intel wifi/widi card, and a 9cell battery, i went with the standard dvdrw but you could add a bluray burner; these are customer add-ons that i add to my custom build dv6. for the ssd, i bought a 120gb mushkin atlas and added it by self(didnt take the 32gb msata from hp) and its perfect.

      the best part about this laptop is the fingerprint reader, i didnt have to remember any passwords for any sites; it does it for me.

      • Andrei Girbea

        April 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

        Rahul, but how big and heavy is you dv6. you’re comparing a regular laptop with a thin-and-light. they are not the same thing

        • Rahul Kapoor

          April 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm

          thanks for replying

          Size and weight weren’t a real big concern for me because i already own a G74sx, so an used to travelling with a big laptop but believe me when i say this it wasn’t big difference between the u500 and dv6t

          length and weight on both of then were about the same actually the dv6t was a little bit smaller but we are maily concern about the thickness and weight because they both are 15.6″

          dvt6 29mm thick and 2.5kg
          u500 20mm thick and 2.16kg

          That said you cant justify the price of over $2000, my dv6t for under $1200 came with a bluray and a sub built in, unlike the u500 where you would have to carry both with you separably; so when you weight those to in the u500 is actually harder to carry and heavier.

          In the end the both come with the same ips panel, the only advantage i see in the u500 is if you bought the touch version which is another $200 or so expensive but still doesn’t justify the price; and not to mention you can never get it fixed anywhere.

          • Rahul Kapoor

            April 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm

            i am not saying that the u500 is a bad product, i m just saying that it doesn’t justify the price and before anyone point to a macbook retina, its specs are identical to my dv6 and are better than the zenbook for cheaper

            macbook retine with 2.4gh i7 cost $2200
            macbook with 2.7gh i7 same as my dv6 cost $2700

          • Andrei Girbea

            April 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

            For many, those 10mm and .35 of a kilo really matter. They will pay the premium price for the U500 just for that, despite not getting the same hardware they would get in other bulkier laptops. Just because that’s what they need: something powerful, but thin and light. for them, the u500 or the retina MBP are not overpriced as you say it is for you.

            And that’s OK, everyone has it’s own needs to satisfy, luckily there are enough good products on the market to satisfy them all πŸ˜›

  41. Nitin Sharma

    September 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Dear Andrei,

    Which one has a touch screen :

    ASUS UX51Vz-XH71

    ASUS UX51Vz-DH71

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