ASUS-Zenbooks
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2016 is right at our doorstep, and as I look forward to this new year, I’m thinking about how I can reduce my clutter, be a bit more mobile, and not tied down to my desktop at home. This holiday season got me thinking a little bit about being closer to my loved ones, literally. Many times, I find myself upstairs, typing away, chatting with friends, while my fiancee is downstairs watching Friends – I mean, I love the show, but I can’t watch and be playing on my tower at the same time. I’d much rather be sitting next to her laughing, while I get to do my own thing too! (Sure, it’s obvious I could just shut down, disconnect, and just sit there and watch with her, but admittedly, it’s hard!)

The needs

Guilt aside, I’ve started to research which notebook I really wanted to help me with my first-world problem. I immediately turned my attention to our Zenbooks because I knew I wanted something thin and light, yet powerful enough so that it could, 1) allow me run around with it without being weighed down 2) look good, which guarantees I’ll play with it much longer 3) let me scour the internet, maybe play some League of Legends, and handle basic Office applications. I figure I’d leave my more powerful desktop to manage my more demanding tasks, so a product with the most powerful CPU wasn’t necessary.

The options and specs

The three notebooks I took from my office to play around with (quite a perk if you ask me) were the UX305CA, UX303UA, and UX501VW.

 
UX501VW-DS71T
UX303UA-DH51T
UX305CA-DHM4T
OSWindows 10Windows 10Windows 10
CPUIntel® Core™-i7 Intel® Core™-i5 2.3GHzIntel® Core™-M 0.9GHz
RAM16GB DDR4 8GB DDR48GB DDR3
Storage512GB PCIE x4 SSD256GB SSD256GB SSD
Display15.6” UHD IPS screen 3840x2160, glossy13.3" 1920x1080 FHD IPS (16:9), glossy13.3" 3200x1800 QHD IPS (16:9), matte
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GTX 960MIntegrated Intel® HD Graphics 520Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 515
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11BGN and AC, BT 4.0Wi-Fi 802.11AC, and BT 4.0Wi-Fi 802.11AC
Weight4.5lbs3.2lbs2.6lbs
Battery96Whrs50Whrs45 Whrs
Price$1499 (other models available)$839 (other models available UX303UB)$799 (other models available)
Where to buyASUS StoreASUS StoreASUS Store

IRL…(In real life) usage and thoughts: UX501VW-DS71T

I brought the notebooks to a nearby coffee shop to take some pictures and play with them for awhile and get a feel for how they performed. The first I brought out was the UX501VW-DS71T. In my mind, it’s almost not an ultrabook, weighing in at just over 4.5lbs, However, when you open it up and see how beautifully balanced and thin it is, you can see that it rides that fine line.

UX501VW-02
The UX501 maintains the timeless look of the Zenbook family with its concentric circle design

Speaking of beautiful, the UX501VW has the clean lines of its predecessor and continues to feature the concentric circle design on the back panel. Opening it up, you’ve got a gorgeous 4K screen that pushes more than eight million pixels into that 15.6” panel.

Inside, you’ve got Intel’s 6th-gen i7 CPU and NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 960M graphics which will allow you to play CS:GO, League of Legends at 4k, but Project Cars and other demanding titles might require some downscaling.

UX501VW-01
The UX501 is a powerful ultrabook with a Core-i7 CPU and discrete graphics

What I’ve noticed is that this thing is FAST. The 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM gives it enough speed and multitasking ability and it won’t slow down. There’s also plenty of connectivity with three USB 3.0 ports, and a USB 3.1 Type-C port for charging compatible devices and transferring data.

So how’s battery life? Good thing you asked! Starting at about 2:30 PM today to take pictures and draining the battery to 94%, then running a YouTube playlist from 4:30PM to 8:00PM, the battery is still at 51%. That’s really really good (or a lot better than I’m used to). This is at 100% brightness as well, so you can potentially get about 5 to 6 solid hours on this device. Of course, if you’re doing more demanding tasks, like Photoshop, and video editing, or gaming, your battery life will take a hit.

UX303UA-DH51T

Moving over to the 3.2lbs UX303UA, we’ve got a really beautiful, compact machine that still packs a punch. Like its more premium sibling, the UX501, it comes in a sleek, aluminum unibody that always feels cool to the touch. Speaking of touch, when you open the unit, you have a glossy 13.3” IPS Full HD display that supports a superior touch experience – made for writing and drawing.

UX303UA-03
At only 3.2 lbs, the UX303UA is pretty light and great for mobility

The keyboard feels responsive and has good key travel. However, playing on the UX501VW and moving to a smaller keyboard made me feel a bit cramped at first. I mistyped a few times, but eventually I got used to it and was able to compensate. Similarly, I felt that the trackpad was smooth and the tactile input was responsive. The difference between the UX501 and this was that I needed to press a bit harder to activate the left and right mouse tabs. I actually preferred to just tap on the track pad.

UX303UA-01
The UX303 is great for multitasking with its Core-i5 CPU

Inside you have an Intel® Core™-i5 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for super fast boot times and application launches. This notebook is fast, and powerful enough for heavy multitasking. You can play games without issues, but hard core games would require heavier downscaling.

For connectivity, you have a three USB 3.0 ports for super-fast transfers, an SD card slot, HDMI port, Mini Display Port, and a combo headphone/mic jack. Speakers are on each side of the device and are loud enough for me. At full volume, it put out 65dB while listening to a YouTube video.

UX303UA-02
The UX303UA has enough USB 3.0 ports to keep you productive!

In terms of battery life, I was able to squeeze out about 4.5 hours of constant web browsing, YouTube videos, and typing on Google Docs. The keyboard was lit to full brightness and the display was set to 100%. Though the notebook is rated for 7 hours, that would be minimal tasks like email, browsing, brightness set lower, and keyboard lighting off.

This is a great notebook overall and JUST FYI, there’s a Core-i7 2.5GHz, 12GB RAM version, the UX303UB-DH74T, if you need more power.

UX305CA-DHM4T

Thinnest and lightest of the three, the UX305CA weighs in at just over 2.5lbs. It is an update to last year’s UX305F with a faster Skylake processor improving its clock speed. We’ll get into that later.

UX305CA-02
The UX305 has the same obsidian stone colorway from last year’s chassis

Design-wise, the UX305CA remains the same as last year with the “obsidian stone” colorway, and slim aluminum unibody. Again, the body has a fanless design so it runs really quietly and never heats up in a way that would require fans and vents. The keyboard is comfortable and with the depression that the keys sit in, it allows for a good resting position. The keys themselves have minimal noise and decent travel.

The display, like the UX303 is 13.3”, but differs in that it is a Quad-HD, IPS matte display. So you’ve got a lot of pixels (3200×1800) at that 16:9 ratio. Everything is crisp and clear, and is just a pleasure to look at. Some people might think that the text icons at full resolution is too small, but I prefer it because it makes me feel like I have more real estate to work with.

UX305CA-01
The Intel Core-M processor is great for simpler tasks and light gaming

Inside, you’ve got an Intel® Core™-M that is clocked at 0.9GHz. Don’t let that number fool you though. The UX305 features a 256GB SSD and 8GB of DDR3 RAM so it’s speedy in that respect and multitask easily.

For connectivity, you have a micro-HDMI, combo headphone/mic jack, three USB 3.0 ports, and SD card reader slot. So you’ve got pretty much everything you need to stay productive.

From my experience using the UX305, I didn’t run down the battery from 100 to 0, but I can say that it’s more than 5 hours of my typical use. I’ve used the notebook like I would any other day and went from 100 to 52% in about 3 hours while watching YouTube videos, and running audio, and brightness all at 100% will drain the battery faster. Unlike the other models, this device doesn’t come with a backlit keyboard and that definitely helps with battery drain. Also keep in mind that Battery Saver was not enabled in any of these battery tests.

UX305CA-04
The best thing about the UX305 is that it runs noiseless with its fanless design

Do keep in mind that there other iterations of this machine and one of them comes with a 512GB SSD and a dual core M7-6Y75 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. Be sure to check out our review article on the UX305CA.

The Verdict

The Zenbook series of notebooks can fit any budget and practically any need. You have your powerful UX501VW with its amazing 4K display, the UX303UA that is a compact workhorse, and you’ve got the ultraslim UX305 made for simpler tasks, and for productivity on the go.

In the end, I wanted to have a notebook that I could easily take with me wherever I wanted to go without the hassle of needing a large laptop bag. With its quiet, fanless design, lightweight chassis, and budget-friendly price, I chose the UX305CA. I knew that for me, I didn’t need to do any heavy gaming on it, which I reserve my desktop for.

So if you’re looking for cream of the crop, powerhouse with screen that just oozes pixels, colors, and clarity, the UX501VW is a great choice. But, if your needs calls out for a portable device (all are for sure, but we’re talking the lightest) that can handle the simple things, the UX305 is perfect. Lastly, if you need something in between that has a bit more OOMPH, the UX303 is a nice fit.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Earlier this month I purchased an ASUS ET2702IGTH. Most of the hardware is fine, but I find the included Microsoft operating system totally useless for my needs — it will not allow me to load or run any of my DOS-based software, or my Lotus software. Can you replace the operating system with Windows XP, or do you have another solution for my situation? If not, I’ll return this useless system and resurrect my old XP system.

    The hardware problem that I encountered was with the included optical disc drive. It could not and cannot read a virgin Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2007 disc. I finally attached an external optical disc drive, which had no problem in reading and loading the disc. Your internal optical drive is either defective or very poor quality.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Unfortunately, you need to bite the bullet and upgrade your apps and use a newer OS. These days, data security should be your number one concern. Windows XP is no longer being supported (or patched) by Microsoft, so you do not want to be using that for anything, especially if it is connected to the Internet.

      Change stinks, I know, but sometimes it’s really the only good choice available.

      I hope it all works out for you.

    • I was able to load and run Lotus 123 (R9) on Window’s 10 without any big issues. One of the “helper” apps it asks you to install won’t work on anything past Windows XP, but the core spreadsheet program installs and runs without issues. Try a custom install, and only install the parts you actually use, and you’ll likely be fine.

      For your DOS apps, you may need to run them in compatibility mode. Right-click on the executable, click the “Compatibility” tab and run the Compatibility Troubleshooter or just chose the mode you think will work.

      That optical drive sounds iffy though. Good luck getting a fix.

  2. I just love my tablet / laptop . I can’t remember if it has Zen written on the box. It’s may first time every getting Asus product and I’m so pleased with it. I got it last year for a Christmas gift that I picked out. I was comparing all bands and the Asus was my pick of the corp….

  3. I really enjoyed my laptop/notebook, until recently I was updating i-tunes and the cloud and after I went to reboot the system crashed. I contacted the help and they were not able to resolve the issue. I have not had this for even 1 year. Very disappointed your technical help could not resolve the issue. I now have to take the unit in and wait to see if this can be fixed. My case number is N151246370, I am now using my older laptop.

  4. None of these are right for me…mine is a POS. Still crashing constantly while playing videos. Nobody has an answer…done with ASUS!

    • Simply return it for a new one as it sounds like you have a bad one. No matter how good your product is or how good your quality control is, there will always be bad ones that make it into distribution. Personally, I’ve always had good luck and good experiences with all ASUS products, and they are always my go-to brand for computers, motherboards, etc.

  5. I have 2 ASUS. Those are performing well. Especially one with my daughter’s!
    I have used many different notebooks, Dell, HP, SONY, Toshiba, & Lenovo. ASUSs are the best. NO doubt I will buy another one. I am actually planning to buy a new one for my daughter when she goes to a college next year.
    Hopefully a light one with i7 and SSD from ASUS! I am willing to pay $100-200 more for ASUS.
    ASUS makes the best computer. My friends with ASUSs tell all the same!

  6. Why don’t you make a hinge assembly on the Zenbooks that will last longer than 4 months before the screen falls off as mine did? My ux303ln is lightening fast, light weight and beautiful but really doesn’t look so good when propped up on my desk by a 5 lb. hand held barbell. Just got it back from Asus repair shop but still has the same junky hinge assembly that will probably not last more than another 4 months with loving care.

  7. I’ve had a zenbook for almost two years, I love it! I had a problem at first but I called customer support- I googled Assus customer Support – and the first link was to a PHONE number, with real HUMAN BEINGS who answered, I didn’t have to dig through 100 layers of website to actually find the Number! The issue couldn’t be resolved, they told me to send the laptop back and within days I got a replacement which has worked superbly!
    This is one of a very few technology companies that bothers to staff 24 hr support..to me that’s very impressive and worth my loyalty

  8. Nothing but Asus for me, I build my own systems using Asus MB’s, using their video cards, optical drives, laptops had the Toshiba, Sony, HP and Dell = fair but the Asus V60 changed it all for me, still works great for, upgraded to SSD, Windows 7 even though they said it wasn’t intended for it but it was personal challenge that succeeded, Zenbook series equally impressive, I have 2 of them and both work flawless, tech support with Asus is impeccable, response time A++, one of the Zenbooks developed screen separation and Asus repaired it under warranty, without any hassles had the Zenbook back within 4 days, great product,great support, great brand

  9. While I agree that Asus makes a good product, I am greatly disappointed in their graphics card choices in some odels. I specifically told the salesman at Best Buy what I needed this laptop to do and now I find out that I spent over $1,000.00 for a word processing laptop. Bought Fallout 4 for the PC only to find out that the Intel graphics card does not support gaming and Asus does not allow for switching out the graphics card or updating it. Had I known that there was no gaming functionality for this particular model, I would not have purchased it. I now have a very disappointed Grandson with a Christmas present he can not play. I would happily exchange it for a gaming laptop if I could get the proper response from Asus.

    • Hi Tamara, Zenbooks are made for ultra portability and productivity first. Although they can handle some higher end games on low settings, it’s like using a wrench when you need a hammer. It’ll do the job okay, but you’re using it for not what it was intended. A gaming notebook to play Fallout 4 would require at least a core i5 with dedicated NVIDIA graphics – at least a 970M to play as the game was intended. If gaming is what your grandson cares about, our ROG lineup – like the G750-G751s would be what you need.

      • I have the i5 processor, just not the graphics card. Geek squad can not find an upgrade for the Intel graphics catd. Not sure what you are talking about when you refer to the below processors or computers. Can you expand on that a little?

  10. “Inside, you’ve got an Intel® Core™-M that is clocked at 0.9GHz. Don’t let that number fool you though”

    How might I be fooled by “that number”, Kang Thai?

    I was planning on buying a UX305, but your comment makes me think I should be careful.

    Thank you!

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