Asus makes some popular mid-range 15-inch laptops, like the much appreciated K501UW or the ROG GL552, all offering excellent specs for the amount of money you’re leaving on the counter.
With the Zenbook UX510 series on the other hand they’re keeping the specs, but upping the game when it comes to build-quality and construction. The Zenbook UX510UW is the more powerful model in the series, with a Core i7 U processor, up to 24 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 960M graphics and hybrid storage, plus either a 4K or a 1080p matte display, all tucked inside a metallic body that weighs just a little over 4 lbs (or under 1.9 kilos). A Zenbook UX510UX is also available.
You will pay extra for the fancier aesthetics and build quality associated with the Zenbook brand, as the UX510UW is priced at launch (will get cheaper down the road) higher than the more powerful Asus ROG GL552VW and significantly higher than the K501UW, with similar specs but a more ordinary plastic chassis and bulkier construction.
In other words, the Zenbook UX510UW is a 15-incher for those who value aesthetics and good performance in daily use over pure processing power in demanding apps, and don’t mind paying a little extra for them. It swims in some murky waters filled with many solid competitors though, so you should read the below article to find out exactly where it shines and where it falls behind before taking the plunge.
Specs as reviewed
||Asus Zenbook UX510UW
||15.6 inch, 3840 x 2160 px, IPS, non-touch, matte
||Intel Skylake Core i7-6500U CPU
||Intel HD 520 + Nvidia GTX 960M 2 GB GDDR5
||16 GB LPDDR4 2133 MHz (8 GB onboard+ 1xDIMM)
||256 SSD (M.2 SATA 80 mm) + 1 TB HDD (2.5″)
||Wireless AC (Qualcomm QCA6174), Bluetooth 4.1
||2xUSB 3.0, 1xUSB2.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C gen 1, HDMI, card-reader, mic/headphone, RJ45 and LAN with adapters
||382 mm or 15.03” (w) x 255 mm or 10.03” (d) x 20 mm or 0.78” (h)
||4.10 lbs (1.86 kg)
||backlit keyboard, 720p webcam, sleeve and IO adapters included
Our test configuration is one of the many you’ll be able to find in stores. Other UX510UW options include a FHD matte screen, an Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U processor, Nivida 960M graphics with 4 GB of video memory and various amounts of RAM and storage space.
Asus also offers a Zenbook UX510UX model, similar to the 510UW tested here, but with Nvidia GT 950M graphics and a Core i5 processor. We’ll talk about all these variants towards the end of the post, in the dedicated Prices and Availability section.
Design and first look
The UX510 feels and looks like a Zenbook, but what struck me from the moment I got it out of the box was how light it felt. Asus claims it weighs 4.4 lbs (2 kg), yet my scales measured only 4.1 lbs (1.86 kg) with the battery and the HDD inside, making it one of the lightest 15-inch notebooks available out there.
The build is solid as well. The entire case is made from sheets of aluminum, with a plastic inner chassis, so this does not get an unibody design. Regardless, the body is sturdy, with little to no flex at all in the lid or the keyboard. I’ve seen some people complaining about the lid cover flexing, but I don’t feel the same. Yes, this is not as strong as a Macbook Pro or a Dell XPS 15 and yes, there’s some flexing when you put significant pressure on the lid, but with no effect on the panel inside and not enough to actually bother me in daily use. And let’s not forget this Zenbook is a mid-range computer and not a high-end option like those two aforementioned.
Aesthetically, the UX510UW is a pretty standard Zenbook, with a gray color scheme, a shinny Asus logo in the middle of the lid with the familiar Zenbook pattern around, a matte interior with blunt sides and rounded corners, and a matte aluminum underbelly. I’ve nothing to complain about the choice in materials and overall finishing quality, as I’ve found no sharp edges or miss-aligned elements, but I should mention that the lid does show smudges easily and will probably scratch fairly easily too, so I’d be careful when carrying it around. Asus includes a padded sleeve in the pack which offers enough protection for daily use.
The screen is hold in place by a long hinge (well, actually two at each end of that long plastic strip), strong enough to keep it anchored as you set it up and also stiff enough that you will require both hands to open up the display. It goes back to about 135 degrees, which is OK for desk-use, but limiting for those of us who use computers on their laps or leaned on their thighs while lying back in bed or on the sofa.
I do have to mention that I took a close look at the hinges’ design and they look a little beefier than the ones on the Zenbook UX303 and UX501 series, which weren’t very reliable, so hopefully won’t break as easily as those did. Now, the hinges themselves have always been metallic on the Zenbooks, the issue is they are attached to plastic frames on the inner chassis and the screen, which might not handle the torque in the hinge and eventually crack. So the issue was never with the hinges, but with those plastic parts, but even so my suggestion is to open and adjust the screen gently, so you’re not putting excessive pressure on the ensemble.
On the practical side, the Zenbook UX510UW is grippy and easy to grab and use, doesn’t get any sharp edges and even the screen is easy to grab from the font and lift up, but the hinge doesn’t allow it to open single-handedly, like mentioned earlier.
The IO is lined on the laterals, with the most used connectors on the right, where you’ll also find the PSU, which can be a little annoying if you’re right handed and plan to use a mouse. Asus also includes USB 3.0 to RJ45 and HDMI to VGA dongles in the pack, so you’re pretty much getting anything you might need. Too bad that USB 3.1 port doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3 though.
Our test model came with a UHD matte panel, the same one Asus use on their Zenbook Pro UX501VW, which is a pretty solid option in terms of resolution, viewing angles, brightness and even contrast, but crappy in terms of color reproduction.
In fact this is one of those dreaded Samsung panels with mustardy yellows, which pretty much kills the laptop for professional use, as you can see from the pictures (next to my Dell XPS 13) and measurements below. These can’t be addressed with calibration in any way.
- Panel HardwareID: Samsung SDC434B (LfFL156FL02-101);
- Coverage: 98% sRGB, 73% NTSC, 77% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 317 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 480:1;
- White point: 6300 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.66 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 4.4 uncalibrated, 4.37 calibrated.
In fewer words, if you care about color accuracy, don’t get this display option. Otherwise, it’s not bad.
The good news is most configurations will be offered with a FHD IPS matte panel, probably similar to the one on the ROG GL552VW. However, the specs on the official site are a little confusing, as they mention two FHD IPS panel options, one covering 60% of NTSC and another covering 72%. I’d pick the latter, and you can read more about it in the GL552VW article linked before, but I’ll also update this section once I find out more exact details on any of the two options.
There’s also a FHD panel with 45% NTSC covarege mentioned on Asus’s page, that’s a TN panel, so definitely stay way from it.
Unfortunately there’s no way to easily tell which of these three options is present on a given configurations, but you can ask the shop to confirm there’s an IPS panel on the units they’re selling and that will probably get you the 72% NTSC variant. At least that’s the case with the configurations available in my region.
Oh, one more thing to mention here is that the UX510 comes with an ambient light sensor that’s going to adapt the screen’s brightness and keyboard illumination based on the lighting in your environment, and it doesn’t do a good job at it. Make sure to disable it by hitting FN +A or going through the Power Options and disabling Display Adaptive Brightness manually.
Keyboard and trackpad
I have mixed feelings about the keyboard on this laptop after typing several thousands of words on it. It’s fast and with the right amount of key drop (1.6 mm), but for me it wasn’t the most accurate and I believe that’s because the keys are just harder than what I’m used to. What I mean by that is they require quite some force to actuate (over 70 grams in my tests) and they have to be pressed all the way down to actually register a command, and I’m just not used to this kind of feedback after using shallower keyboards for the last years. This however might not be an issue for you if you’re coming from an older laptop or you’re not used to a modern ultraportable.
The UX510 gets a backlit full-size keyboard and a large trackpad
The layout is mostly alright when it comes to the main keys, yet the arrow keys and the entire Num Pad section is cramped, like on most Asus laptops, and the Power Button is integrated within the keyboard as the top-right key.
The keys are also backlit, with three intensity levels of choose from, and they are moderately loud, again due to their firmer feedback.
The trackpad is average at best, similar to what I’ve seen on most Asus notebooks lately. That means it feels nice and it has a aesthetic beveled edge around, but the performance is lacking at times, with the cursor skipping or jumping, single taps registered as double taps and precision swipes not always working as they should. I had not problems with gestures though and the physical clicks offer quite good feedback, but are noisy.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
As mentioned earlier, our sample comes with an Intel Core i7-6500U processor, 16 GB of RAM, dual-storage with an M.2 SATA SSD and a 2.5″ 5400 rpm HDD, plus hybrid graphics with the Intel HD 520 integrated withing the Intel chip and an Nvidia GTX 960M dedicated solution, with 2 GB of VRAM.
Retail versions are available with either this Skylake or the newer Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U processor, with the later being slightly higher clocked and a little more efficient in some activities.
The good news is the RAM and the storage is upgradeable, and you can access them by removing the underbelly. It’s hold in place by 10 Torx T4 screws lined around the edges and two more Philips screws hidden behind the rear rubber feet. You’ll also need some plastic priers, as the bottom panel fits snug and won’t give up easily. Once inside, you’ll notice the M.2 slots and the 2.5-inch bay, as well as the available memory slot hidden behind an aluminum shield. The laptop comes with 8 GB of RAM soldered on the motherboard and the existing slot can take an extra up to 16 GB DIMM, for a maximum of 24 GB of memory. The CPU and the GPU are not upgradeable.
The UX510UW performed smoothly with daily tasks like browsing, editing documents, watching video content, etc and multitasking between these. Asus does put a fair amount of bloatware on it, which you should get rid of to get the most our of the hardware, or better yet just do a clean Windows install.
I’ve added some benchmark results below, for those of you interested in them.
- 3DMark 11: P4674;
- 3DMark 13: Sky Driver – 9097, Fire Strike – 3570;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2431;
- Cinebench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 3192, Multi-core: 6718;
- Cinebench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 3902, Multi-core: 7384, Computer score: 48419;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 55.91 fps, CPU 3.59 pts, CPU Single Core 1.47 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 81.64 fps, CPU 326 cb, CPU Single Core 128 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 111.56 fps, Pass 2 – 20.71 fps.
Our UX510UW also performed well in games, and keep in mind we had the GTX 960M chip with 2 GB of RAM here, while the retails versions will get the option with 4 GB of RAM, so results might be actually better in some titles. I’ve added our test results below, and you’ll notice they are pretty close to those recorded on the GL552 and other laptops with the GTX 960M chip and an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, which means the dual-core CPU on this Zenbook doesn’t have a significant impact on gaming performance. It does show its limits in video processing and other demanding loads with multi-core and multi-thread workflows though.
|Shadow of Mordor
I haven’t noticed any throttling in games while the laptop was plugged in, however on battery the CPU performed poorly in games which had a noticeable impact on performance, as you can see in one of the pictures above.
Besides this, you can’t really expect to be able to run modern titles at 4K on the 960M, which is one more reason why you should go for the FHD panel options.
Last but not least I also put this through our stress test and you can find the results of stressing the CPU (with Prime 95) and the CPU and GPU simultaneously (Prime 95 and Furmark) below.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
There are two fans on this laptop, one smaller and the other one a little larger, yet both cool the same heatpipe that runs along both the CPU and the GPU. As a result, this laptop is never completely quiet, despite the fact that the larger fan doesn’t spin while the Nvidia chip is inactive. The CPU fan actually gets a pretty powerful pitch though and you’ll hear it even at lower speeds. The mechanical HDD also ads its own share of noise.
That means the UX510UW is moderately noisy with daily use, yet on the other hand runs at very low temperatures. It doesn’t get very hot in demanding loads either, with the case barely reaching 40 degrees Celsius in certain spots, but the fans do get loud in this case, to the point that you’ll probably have to use headphones to cover them up when playing games.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
Connectivity wise there’s Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 on this Zenbook. Our test model came with an Intel dual-band AC 7265 module that performed well when close to the router, yet the speeds and signal strength dropped to barely usable levels at 30 feet with 2 walls in between. My apartment has some thick walls, but even so this laptop performed quite poorly in this case, so if you have poor wireless where you’re planning to use it, there’s a fair chance it will struggle.
There’s nothing fancy about the audio on this UX510UW, with two speakers placed on the belly, towards the front, like on most other recently launched Zenbooks. They are moderately loud (around 86 dB in our tests at head level) and sound alright with the Music profile picked in the included AudioWizard app. However, due to their positioning, the speakers are quite easy to cover and muffle when using the laptop on the lap or on thighs, yet I noticed no such distortions on a flat surface or desk.
Last in this section is camera, which is decent in good light and very grainy in poor light, while the mics placed on top of the screen do a decent job at capturing voices. So overall this will do for occasional Skype calls and Hangouts.
The Zenbook UX510 gets a 48 Wh battery, which is rather small for a 15-incher. Asus chose to go with this smaller battery and added the 2.5″ drive in the remaining space, yet personally I would have preferred filling that up with more battery cells and dumping the 2.5″ bay.
Still, even so the battery life results aren’t awful, and keep in mind we had the 4K panel on our test unit, if you’ll opt for the FHD screen instead you’ll end up with longer runtimes. The Kaby Lake hardware configurations will also help with the efficiency.
- 8.8 W (~5 h 25 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9 W (~5 h 20 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.3 W (~7 h 40 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 8.2 W (~5 h 50 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 15 W (~3 h 10 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop comes with a 120 Wh charger and a full charge takes around 2 hours.
There’s merely a 48 Wh battery on this laptop, as Asus chose to fill the extra space with a 2.5″ storage bay
Price and availability
The Zenbook UX510UW is available in a few different configurations. Among them, the most popular one includes a Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 1 TB HDD, the Nvidia GTX 960M chip with 4 GB of VRAM and a FHD IPS screen for between $1000 to $1100 in the US and roughly 900 EUR in Europe.
You’ll find more about the latest configurations and updated prices via this link.
At one grand the Zenbook is rather expensive for the specs, especially since there’s no included SSD. In comparison, the Asus K501 with the same CPU and GPU, but a 512 GB SSD, sells for under $900, while the Asus ROG GL552 with a quad-core Intel CPU, the same GPU and the same HDD sells for under $1000. Yes, the Zenbook UX510 is better built, thinner and lighter than both, but spec per spec, these two do get you more value for the buck.
The Zenbook UX510UX is also available in stores, with a Core i5 U processor, 8 GB of RAM and the Nividia GTX 950M with 2 GB of VRAM configuration selling for under $900. Worth considering if you dig the looks of this Zenbooks and don’t care about gaming performance that much.
Asus charges premium for the build and sleek aehtetics
At the end of the day, the Zenbook UX510UW is not the laptop to get if you’re looking for the best specs for your money, the best performance or even the longest battery life. And that’s because Asus charges quite a lot extra for the premium build and the sleek aesthetics. That’s normal, this laptop is after all one of the lightest 15-inchers out there and it still packs some punchy hardware, enough to handle smoothly all sorts of daily chores and even modern games at FHD resolution with medium details. Just don’t get the UHD screen option, it’s expensive, color inaccurate and overall not a good fit for the hardware on this device.
My other nits are with the pretty crappy trackpad, the noisy fans, and the poor wi-fi performance once you get away from the router, which have a negative impact on the overall experience, but I don’t think they’re necessarily deal-breakers. Yet, they’re enough to lower the overall rating to 3.75 out of 5.
If you value looks and a thin and light chassis, the Zenbook UX510 could be the one for you
Bottom point, if you absolutely want a 15-inch laptop that feels and looks premium, without having to break the bank for it, then you should consider the UX510UW. Otherwise, look at the K501, the GL552 and some of the other 15-inch ultraportables available out there.
With that in mind we’ll wrap this up here, but if you have any questions or anything to add about the Zenbook UX510UW, please get in touch in the comments section below.
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