Asus ZenBook UX51Vz-DH71 Review

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The Asus ZenBook UX51Vz-DH71 is a power users’ ultraportable, with a quad-core CPU and high-end 3D graphics. Middling battery life and "only" a 1080p screen keep if from earning our top honors.

(4 out of 5)

Pros

  • 1080p IPS screen
  • Quad-core i7 processor
  • Nvidia GT 650M graphics
  • Twin SSDs in a RAID array
  • Subwoofer
  • Good sound for a laptop
  • Additional damage and screen warranty protections

Cons

  • Mini-VGA, not Mini-DisplayPort
  • No touch screen
  • Middling battery life

The Asus ZenBook UX51Vz-DH71 ($1,869.99 list) is a high-end ultraportable for power users like multimedia mavens and part-time gamers. Its speedy SSD RAID array, 1080p screen, Core i7 processor, beefy discrete graphics and other performance-oriented components will keep these power users happy. A few nits like middling battery life kept the UX51Vz from true greatness, but if you stick close to a power outlet, you’ll be a very happy user indeed.

Design and Features
The UX51Vz is a little on the large size, measuring about 10 by 15 by 0.8 inches (HWD), and weighing about 4.39 pounds. It’s got a dark grey-sliver top lid with concentric circles etches into the metal surface, while the keyboard deck has a more conventional matte silver finish. The dark grey, chiclet-style keys are backlit—the function key command cycles through four brightness levels, including off. Keyboard feel is fine, as is the responsiveness of the one-piece trackpad. The trackpad is multi-touch, supporting Windows 8 gestures, but at this price point we would have preferred a touch screen as well. Windows 8 gestures without a touch screen are tricky, and we found it easier using the hotspot corners to bring up Windows 8 UI elements, rather than using the swipes from the sides of the trackpad.

The UX51Vz comes with a 15.6-inch IPS screen with 1,920-by-1,080 (true 1080p) resolution. The system’s screen looks very good, with smooth text and graphics that can be seen from a wide variety of angles. The resolution is good for those who like to keep multiple windows open on the screen simultaneously, and of course it is ideal for 1080p online videos. However, it should be pointed out that both the Editor’s Choice high-end ultraportable Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Retina Display) ($1,999) and former EC Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display) ($2,199) have much higher than 1080p resolution screens (2,560 by 1,400 and 2,880 by 1,800, respectively). This means more desktop real estate and the ability to display 1080p video at full resolution and any program interfaces you might be using to edit that video. 1080p is good, but better than HD is better for people that need to do graphics work or keep many windows open simultaneously.

The system comes with an external subwoofer, which looks physically similar to the inexpensive tubular speakers you see in the impulse buy aisle at electronic stores. Thankfully, the Bang & Olufsen branded sound system only routes low-end bass frequencies to the subwoofer: the high and mid frequencies continue to emanate from the laptop’s built-in speakers. With the subwoofer, watching movies like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was more enjoyable. When we plugged the subwoofer in during the sandstorm sequence, we instantly noticed the additional low frequencies that helped sell the scene. The speakers also helped dance music like Daft Punk’s soundtrack for “Tron: Legacy” sound richer and more energetic. It’s not going to replace a good set of headphones or a beefy external speaker bar, but the 3.5 by 2.7 inch cylinder is a lot more portable, and will let you please a small group of people with better than average sound.

Other connectors include three USB 3.0 ports (marked in blue), a full HDMI-out port, a full size Ethernet port, headset port, SD card reader, and a mini-VGA port (with included adapter). While VGA is useful for older displays, we think Mini-DisplayPort or Thunderbolt would be a better future-proofing choice. The UX51Vz is WiDi compliant, so you can use it with an external WiDi adapter if you don’t want to directly connect with the HDMI-out port. The system supports dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) WiFi, so it can connect to a majority of the hotspots and wireless routers out there.

There are quite a few programs pre-installed on the 256GB SSD RAID array, which is two 128GB SSDs chained together for speed and capacity. You’ll find a apps like Asus World Clock, Asus Converter, Caclulator, Tap Tiles, Solitaire, Fresh Paint, Skype, Microsoft Office, Asus Install, and Waves Maxx Audio in the Start screen, with many other Asus icons on the system’s desktop mode. The UX51Vz-DH71 comes with a one-year standard warranty, but also has a year of accidental damage protection and a 30-day Zero Bright Dot Panel warranty, which will reassure folks who are anal about the perfection of their 1080p displays.

Performance

Performance is the reason you buy a high-end system like the UX51Vz-DH71, and thanks to its Core i7-3612QM quad-core processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics, 8GB of memory, and the dual SSD RAID array, the system packs serious processing power for multimedia, gaming, and day-to-day tasks. The twin SSDs and Core i7 processor help the system boot and wake from sleep in seconds; plus all the components together help the UX51Vz-DH71 gain a PCMark 7 score just short of 5,000 points.

Of recently tested laptops, the Acer Aspire S7-391-9886 ($1,650) matches the UX51Vz on PCMark 7, but falls far behind on other performance metrics. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is measurably faster than both the Acer S7 and the Asus UX51Vz on the Handbrake video and Photoshop CS6 tests. We retested the MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display) with current versions of Handbrake and Photoshop CS6 for comparison purposes.

The UX51Vz-DH71 is more of a multimedia laptop than a gaming rig, but that said, the ultraportable’s Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics helped it achieve very good scores on the Aliens vs. Predator and Heaven benchmark tests at middle quality, and better than average scores on both tests at the higher quality settings. This means that the ultraportable can be used for moderate 3D duties on the game grid. You should be able to play games like World of Warcraft or Civilization 5 in a window while simultaneously chatting and surfing in other windows.

The chassis has a lot of space for batteries (70WHr in this case), but then again the system’s Core i7 processor and Nvidia graphics use a lot of juice. Therefore it’s not too surprising that the UX51Vz only managed a middling 4 hours 6 minutes on our battery rundown test. The Acer Aspire S7 managed a bit more battery life at 4:45, thanks to better power consumption from the low-powered Core i7 processor with integrated graphics. Systems like the MacBook Pro 13-inch (7:10) and MacBook Pro 15-inch (6:53) both manage seven hours at the same test. Both MacBook Pros have even more battery capacity (74 WHr and 95 Whr, respectively), giving them longer legs in the battery test. If you find yourself using an UX51Vz, then you might want to tote the AC adapter around.

The Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 proves itself to be competitive with our current and former high-end ultraportable Editor’s Choice systems, the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch and 15-inch with Retina Display. Like the MacBook 15-inch, the UX51Vz matches a quad-core processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics, giving you higher expectations than you would from a less tricked-out system. However, the lower resolution and shorter battery life keep the UX51Vz from true greatness. We still recommend this system for Windows-based multimedia mavens; just keep that power adapter handy.

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Asus ZenBook UX51Vz-DH71 with several other laptops side by side.

laptop

By Joel Santo Domingo, PCMag

Specifications

    • Type: General Purpose, Ultraportable, Ultrabook
    • Processor Name: Intel Core i7-3612QM
    • Processor Speed: 2.1 GHz
    • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
    • RAM: 8 GB
    • Weight: 4.4 lb
    • Screen Size: 15.6 inches
    • Screen Type: Widescreen
    • Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GT 650M
    • Storage Capacity (as Tested): 256 GB
    • Networking Options: 802.11n


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