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Asus Zenbook UX51VZ / U500VZ with a Touch Screen Review

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Asus UX51VZ / U500VZ touch

Design: Asus Zenbook UX51VZ / U500VZ with a touch screen

The Asus Zenbook UX51VZ / U500VZ with a Touch Screen is a beautiful device. Its aluminium case is solidly constructed and Asus has paid considerable attention to detail with the lid, which has a very Zen circular pattern on it. There is almost no plastic to be seen on the case. The UX51VZ brings a top notch chassis to the field, and can proudly stand firm in the face of the competition.

Its 2.06 Kg weight is a mere 40 grams heavier than the 15 Inch Retina MacBook Pro, which in truth, is its only true competitor. The trade off for having a light aluminium chassis is that the body is scuffed fairly easily. But this is not unique to the UX51VZ, as all aluminium clad notebooks face this problem.

Screen:

The 1080p IPS touch screen, produces rich and vibrant colour and is very responsive to the touch. It can register up to ten touch points and is very fluid when it comes to gesture based commands.

I would have liked to have seen a panel with slightly higher brightness levels, for sunlight viewing, but this is really just being picky as the screens brightness levels are more than adequate.

Hardware:

The UX51VZ truly stands out in the hardware department. It is the lightest quad core Windows machine available on the market and it’s clearly aimed to compete with the Retina MacBook Pro.

With its 8 gigs of RAM, SSDs in RAID 0 and quad core i7 CPU, it scored an impressive PassMark of 3374, which is a mere 2% behind the entry level 15 inch Retina MacBook Pro. This 2% difference is due to its CPU being clocked a little slower than its Apple rival.

The solid state drives are simply astonishing. Using Crystal Disk Mark the UX51VZ achieved sequential reads of 800 MB/s and sequential writes of 650 MB/s. This RAID 0 SSD configuration puts the UX51 into a league of its own.

The downside of this RAID 0 SSD configuration is that the SSDs are proprietary and difficult to acquire. If you plan to upgrade from a 256 GB to a 512 GB SSD configuration, it’ll set you back at least €800. My advice is buy the model with 512 GB of storage if you foresee any problems having 256 GB of storage. The other alternative is to purchase an SDXC card or a USB flash disk to bolster the base storage.

The 8 cell, 70 Watt Hour battery, lasted just short of six and a half hours with the notebook being used in an everyday manner, with the Wi-Fi and keyboard backlight turned on and the screen backlight set to auto.

Input interface:

The 102 key backlit keyboard is a pleasure to type on and the keys give one a decent amount of travel for a responsive typing experience. Its back light levels can be made bright enough to even be seen in daylight.

It takes a while to adjust to the position of the arrow keys and the numpad’s zero key is half the usual size, which causes errors when pressing it with one’s thumb. These flaws are a worthwhile compromise, as the inclusion of a numpad is a welcome addition.

The 10.5 cm by 7.1 cm touchpad is more than adequately proportioned to make it one’s primary pointing device. The touchpad’s included gestures, function in a fluid and responsive manner but because the edge gestures use a single finger, one is prone to accidentally activating them. This can be avoided by making sure one’s hand is positioned in the centre of the touchpad at all times.

Unfortunately the touchpad is not on the Apple MacBook touchpad’s level. The one big gripe I have is the occasional jitter that the touchpad exhibits, where it appears to stop tracking momentarily. This is a firmware problem that Asus can fix, but it’s a disappointing quality that hampers an otherwise decent touchpad.

The addition of a touch screen to the UX51VZ adds icing to an already elaborately topped cake. One can see that Windows 8 was designed with a touch screen in mind, as the touch screen on the UX51 has become an integral part of my everyday usage. The 720p web camera is decent if one uses it in adequate light.

Windows 8

Windows 8 is a very ambitious and risky move by Microsoft. The learning curve of moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is fairly steep as a lot has changed.

Initially, I met Windows 8 with some frustration but over the past few weeks, I have fallen in love with the operating system. Working with Windows 7 appears rather boring after spending time using Windows 8.

The touch screen on the UX51 makes the Window 8 experience even richer, as most of the apps in the Windows Store have been designed for a touch enabled device.

Conclusion:

The Asus Zenbook UX51VZ with a touch screen is a phenomenal device. It has its flaws, but the flaws are small, and do very little to detract from an otherwise wonderful ultrabook.

The UX51 is on the Retina MacBook Pro’s level. Yes, its screen does not give one the same detail as the Retina MacBook, but it brings other tricks to the party, like its responsive touch screen and blazingly fast SSDs.

Would I buy the UX51VZ if it didn’t have a touch screen? At a lower price, yes, I would. It’s a one of a kind ultrabook and the lack of a touch screen would not detract from the package enough for me to justify looking at its slower and smaller competitors.

The UX51VZ has a rather heavy price, which may put a lot of people off, but its pricing competes directly with the 15 inch Retina MacBook. At R22 000 it is still at least R1000 less expensive than its MacBook foe. I wouldn’t call the UX51 great value for money, but in the light of its premium appeal it’s not wildly overpriced. I give the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ with a touch screen a 9 out of 10.

For the SPECIFICATIONS click here.
Avatar of Jason Malan

Writer and editor for Tech Net Africa.

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  1. 10 June 2013

    Patrick Calder

    Can you also email me the detail for where to buy the laptop?

  2. 10 June 2013

    Patrick Calder

    Can you also email me the detail for where to buy it?

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      10 June 2013

      Jason Malan

      Sure. For anybody else looking for it. As of the 10th of June, it’s available on the Microsoft Store in the US but it does not mention anything about a dedicated graphics card. See the link below:
      http://tecne.ws/6e

  3. 23 May 2013

    Weber M.

    It is really a nice device and i’m considering buying one except that it is nowhere to be found. If someone knows a shop please contact me. I found the same laptop without the touch in germany but the keyboard layout is in qwertz which isnt an option.

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      26 May 2013

      Jason Malan

      Hi Weber,
      The UX51 with a touch screen only seems to be available in Sweden and Denmark, but the keyboards are different (See the pictures below).

  4. 21 May 2013

    Alexander Guzman

    Edit: The swedish ones have a nordic layout. The letters Å, Ä and Ö will be on it.

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      21 May 2013

      Jason Malan

      Howzit Alexander, thanks so much for the information. Is the Nordic layout the same as the picture below?

  5. 7 May 2013

    andrew

    Hi Jason, thanks for your great review on this laptop.

    I like to know where i can buy this laptop. I am in Singapore. Also how does this compare to Samsung chronos 7 touch. That too has a discrete graphic card at seemingly similar specs

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      8 May 2013

      Jason Malan

      Hi Andrew. I don’t actually know where you can get the UX51VZ with a touch screen from anymore. I haven’t played with the Samsung Chronos 7 touch but it looks like a pretty good alternative. The important thing is that it has a quad core CPU like the UX51. I also like the fact that you can put 16 GB of RAM in it. The UX51VZ only supports 12 GB maximum. The Chronos doesn’t seem to come with SSDs though. I don’t know if that’s a deal breaker?

  6. 3 May 2013

    AK

    Hi, Thanks for the review. I have a couple of questions, I hope you don’t mind.

    1. It seems to have a uni-body design, or at least, not the traditional design which allows for upgrades. But if one was to open up the Torx screws on the back, will the battery be replaceable or is it fused to the motherboard?

    2. Some other reviews complain about the fan noise and how it constantly stays on, even though no intensive tasks are being performed. Is this true? Very few people also said this doesn’t happen, as Asus may have fixed this fan issue in a BIOS update.

    3. The Windows 8 gestures on the touch pad are a neat addition, but I can see them get annoying at times. Is there any way to disable those gestures? And while on the topic, can the automatic screen brightness be disabled as well?

    4. I’m assuming the external optical drive is optional, because I didn’t see it in your unboxing. A few reviews claim it comes with the box, although I highly doubt it.

    5. You don’t really have to answer this, but – where did YOU get the laptop from?

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      4 May 2013

      Jason Malan

      Hi AK,
      It isn’t very upgradable. The battery doesn’t seem to be fused to the motherboard but it may be glued to the chassis. One stick of RAM is soldered to the motherboard and the other is upgradable with an 8 GB DIMM. The SSD’s are replacable but proprietary. Have a look at the photo below. It should give you a better idea of the internals.

      The fan does stay on all the time, but it’s almost silent. I really haven’t found it an issue, even when using it on my lap.

      The Windows 8 gestures can be disabled. It took me a while to find them because they’re only accessible through the notification area on the desktop.

      I have also seen the external optical drive is a couple of unboxings. It’s region specific I’m sure.

      All the leads I had to online stores that were selling it or had it listed have disappeared. I will email you if I find it anywhere. People have told me it is available in Belgium for around $2500 US. And I’ve heard Sweden has stock as well.

      I hope this helps.

      • 4 May 2013

        AK

        That image does help, thanks. SSDs are always proprietary for new laptops, yeah? If one decided to buy the 256GB model, there’s no way you can actually upgrade it to 512 or higher. Either way, they’re bound to be very expensive, but since the laptop itself is $2,000+..

        It’s nice to know the gestures can be disabled. What about the ambient light sensors? Is this also accessible?

        The problem is, even if it’s available in Belgium or Sweden market, I wouldn’t know for sure if they have the “international” version or the one with local keyboard. I’ve seen a couple of variants of keyboards, and I would want to buy the original English keyboard. If you have any idea about this, please do let me know.

        • Avatar of Jason Malan
          4 May 2013

          Jason Malan

          No, SSD’s can use the SATA and mSATA standards. You can upgrade the Asus UX51VZ’s SSD’s but you have to buy the proprietary drives, which I found in Europe for a whopping €800 (for the pair – 2 X 256 GB).

          What you can do is buy the cheaper, 256 GB version and use a SDXC card to add more storage. The only problem with that is that the SD card slot is only half size, so the card will stick out of the case.

          Yes, the ambient light sensor is accessible via the keyboard.

          Sorry, they’re actually available in Denmark, not Belgium. I spoke to someone about Danish keyboards and he said they’re the same as the English version, but include a special characters section for keys “Æ” “Ø” and “Å”.

          I’ll let you know if I get any leads on any stock.

           
        • 4 May 2013

          AK

          Woah! That’s freaking expensive for an old technology =/ I wonder why they still sell them based on the capacity..

          Yeah, I have extra class 10 SD cards, but I don’t want them sticking out like that. I carry my laptop around a lot, so that’s not such a good option.

          And yes, that’s the thing, due to the inclusion of additional keys, they layout kind of changes. Please do let us know – so eager to get my hands on one.

          (or sell yours, I’ll pay a good price :P)

           
        • Avatar of Jason Malan
          4 May 2013

          Jason Malan

          It’s insanely expensive. I wish I could have got a hold of the 512 GB version but as you’re well aware, it’s probably easier to find water in a desert than find the touch screen version of the UX51VZ.

          The options for expanding the storage are somewhat limited. A USB flash drive is okay, but that sticks out even more than a SD card and you also lose a USB port. If push comes to shove I’m going to probably go the SD card route.

          You’re right the Danish keyboard layout is different and it would hamper one’s typing experience (See image below).

          I’ll keep my eyes open for the touch screen version.

          Ha ha ha. Strangely that’s somewhat of a tempting offer, as I love getting new stuff. But as it’s so rare and so good, I just can’t say yes.

           
      • 21 May 2013

        Alexander Guzman

        There are some swedish shops who has it: Inet.se and dustinhome.se (it’s in swedish, but im sure there are ways to translate them)

  7. 25 April 2013

    Penguin

    Can I have the website as well? Thanks!

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      26 April 2013

      Jason Malan

      Hi @Penguin,
      Unfortunately it’s not available anymore. Sweden apparently has stock, but I don’t know what keyboard design the Swedish versions use.

  8. 16 April 2013

    Brad

    Please email the location of where to buy one….hopefully will ship to the US….thanks!

  9. 15 April 2013

    Peter

    Thanks for a very helpful review. I’m in the market for a new laptop, and this one is a top contender. (I would also like to know where to buy — they don’t seem broadly on the market yet.)

    I have a Lenovo Yoga and had the same issue with swipe gestures on the touchpad — it was just too easy to trigger them accidentally. My solution was to just turn that feature off on the touchpad and use edge swipes only on the screen. (I love the Yoga and use it for commuting and travel — the upgrade will be for my home music studio which needs something a little more powerful.)

    I also love Win8 — I have developed a fluid way of working that used the keyboard, touchpad, and touchscreen all together. Using non-touch devices seems hobbling to me now.

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      15 April 2013

      Jason Malan

      Hi Peter. Thanks fro the feedback. Great hear you’ve had a positive experience with Windows 8. I think people generally give it a hard time.

      Send me a mail through the contact form and I can tell you what I know about stock. It’s seems to be difficult to get a hold of anywhere in the world at the moment.

      I was glad to have the single finger gesture initially, because I’ve been using a MacBook for the past four years. I’m with you with regards to using non-touch devices. I keep reaching for the screen to attempt something and feel instinctive disappointment when nothing happens.

  10. 10 April 2013

    RBP

    Hello, could you please email me the details of where to buy this as well?

  11. 5 April 2013

    R. Brooks

    I’m interested as well. Haven’t seen the touch version available many places, and it’s a natural modification to a great machine…Pls email me.

    • Avatar of Jason Malan
      30 March 2013

      Jason Malan

      I can email you the details, if you don’t mind that?

      • 7 April 2013

        aunezsite

        sure please email me

        • 19 April 2013

          Max

          Hello where can I buy one??

           
        • Avatar of Jason Malan
          19 April 2013

          Jason Malan

          They’re difficult to find. Can I email you what I have?

           
        • 19 April 2013

          R. Brooks

          Definitely difficult to find. Still out of stock at every reseller i contacted, no one seems to know when Asus is shipping more – including Asus. Finally opted for the none touchsceen version instead.
          -R

           
        • Avatar of Jason Malan
          19 April 2013

          Jason Malan

          Have you received the notebook yet? How have you found it?

           

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