Inside the slim, sleek aluminum shell of the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ lays a great Windows-based multimedia laptop, experts say. But the more expensive 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Est. $2,000 and up) is a more powerful performer.
"A power users' ultraportable." The Zenbook UX51VZ comes absolutely stuffed with goodies, Engadget.com says. There's a quad-core Core i7 processor, but not the latest Haswell processors as of this update; 8 GB of RAM; powerful Nvidia graphics; and blisteringly fast dual 128 GB solid-state drives. Step-up drives and processors are available. The Zenbook can play most games but runs alarmingly hot on graphics-heavy titles even with the settings turned down. It manages to web-surf or play video for four to six hours in tests, leading PCMag.com to dub it "a power users' ultraportable," though Haswell-based Ultraportables now have longer battery life.
Comfortable, even without a touch screen. You'll navigate Windows 8 via the multi-touch clickpad, which testers say works well, and the UX51VZ's comfy keyboard helps. The Asus is just under 0.8 inch wide and light enough to commute with at 4.6 pounds, and it squeezes in more ports than most Ultrabooks. You get three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, mini VGA, a combo headphone/microphone jack, Ethernet and SD/MMC card reader. However, there's no DVD or Blu-ray Disc drive. The Zenbook UX51VZ normally runs cool but gets very hot trying to play demanding games like "Batman: Arkham City" in more than one test. Again, it's not designed for heavy gaming.
Splendid screen, speakers, even a subwoofer. "Beautiful," Laptop Magazine calls the brushed-aluminum Zenbook case, crafted with subtle concentric circles on the lid. Inside is the 15.6-inch, 1080p HD matte display that multimedia lovers crave. It's relatively glare-free, with nice, wide viewing angles and bright, vivid colors, adjustable through Asus' Splendid Utility. It's not as high-res as the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display but is very nice nonetheless, experts say. Audio sounds equally rich thanks to the Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers and a tiny 3.5-inch, tube-shaped, plug-in subwoofer that makes the sound "immediately fuller," CNET says. You can fine-tune the audio through the Zenbook's built-in Waves MaxxAudio and MaxxLeveler software.
Great warranty, but mixed reviews for tech support. Owners say Asus laptops rarely break down, and that dependability helps the brand win a Readers' Choice award at PCMag.com. The UX51VZ is backed by a one-year warranty that includes free two-way standard shipping and 24/7 tech support; one year of accidental damage coverage against drops, spills, power surges and fire damage; and a 30-day display guarantee. However, PCMag.com readers rate Asus low for tech support.
"Worth the money." If you want a fantastically portable Windows multimedia laptop and you're willing to pay for it, the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ won't disappoint. You'll enjoy tremendous power, a big beautiful screen, rich-sounding speakers, rock-solid build and a high-end warranty. "Yes, it's pricey," CNET says. "But as a multimedia machine that can do business and casual gaming, the UX51VZ is a four-star Windows 8 laptop and worth the money."
1. Laptop Magazine
David Eitelbach finds very little to criticize about the Editors' Choice Asus UX51VZ. It's blazingly fast, with a big, beautiful screen and satisfying speakers packed into its sleek case. It can even play graphics-heavy games, although that makes it run hot. However, there's no touch screen and it's pricey.
Review: Asus Zenbook UX51VZ-DH71 Review, David Eitelbach, Nov. 28, 2012
The Asus Zenbook UX51VZ ranks as one of CNET's favorite laptops, ideal for multimedia, business and casual gaming. After a full test, including benchmark and real-world performance evaluations, Goldman calls it one of the best Windows alternatives to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.
Review: Asus Zenbook UX51VZ-DH71 Review: Good Looks, Strong Performance, Not Cheap, Joshua Goldman, March 13, 2013
The powerful Asus Zenbook UX51VZ just misses an Editors' Choice nod here due to mediocre battery life and a screen that's "only" full-HD. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display's is even sharper. It's still recommended, says Santo Domingo after a thorough test; "just keep that power adapter handy."
Review: Asus Zenbook UX51VZ-DH71, Joel Santo Domingo, Jan. 31, 2013
4. Notebook Check.net
After an exhaustive weeklong test, NotebookCheck.net declares the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ not quite as good as the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The latter's display and battery life are considerably better, and it edges the Asus in build quality and performance, too. Still, Schönborn says, "we can definitely recommend this notebook."
Review: Review Asus Zenbook UX51VZ (U500VZ) Notebook, Till Schönborn, Nov. 18, 2012
5. Computer Shopper
Jamie Bsales gives the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ 4 out of 5 stars after an extensive review. It lacks a few features like a touch screen and optical drive, but if you won't miss those, it's "a standout."
Review: Asus Zenbook UX51VZ-DH71 Review and Ratings, Jamie Bsales, Feb. 11, 2013
Engadget.com editors don't test as many laptops as sources we rate higher, but when they do, they're very thorough. The Asus Zenbook UX51VZ proves more powerful than any other Ultrabook, with a comfortable keyboard and sleek design. However, it suffers from so-so battery life and no touch screen.
Review: Asus Zenbook Prime Review (UX51VZ): A Blazing 15-inch Ultrabook with a Lofty Price, Sarah Silbert, Dec. 5, 2012
"Closer to perfect than any laptop we've ever reviewed," Smith says after fully testing the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ. Only the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display "might stand toe to toe." Fan noise and the expensive price tag are the only two drawbacks noted.
Review: Asus Zenbook UX51VZ Review, Matt Smith, Nov. 29, 2012
Here, Asus wins a Readers' Choice award for highest customer satisfaction among laptops, second only to Apple. However, Asus ranks lowest among the 10 brands listed for tech support, although its score did improve this year. "We hope Asus will continue to make significant improvements in this area," Gottesman says.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013 Winners: Laptops and Desktops, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 20, 2013