It seems like there just aren't a lot of options when it comes to premium larger-screen Windows 8 laptops. And those that we do see, like the Acer Aspire S7 and HP Spectre TouchSmart XT, typically don't have discrete graphics.
The Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71, on the other hand, is the complete package. Its high-end design stands out from the crowd of commodity laptops. It has an excellent 1080p screen, a comfortably large full keyboard and touch pad, and plenty of ports. Asus also didn't skimp on performance components, including forgoing integrated graphics for a discrete 2GB Nvidia card.
Those who need extremely long battery life or a touch screen, or who are looking for a full-on gaming rig, will want to invest in another system. And yes, it's pricey, 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.
Asus says the spun-metal finish on the Zenbook's lid requires a 32-step manufacturing process. That seems like a lot of effort to go through for a laptop lid, but it pays off. The UX51Vz is a very nice-looking laptop; cased in aluminum, it has a very high-end look and feel.
|Price as reviewed||$1,949|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel i7-3612QM|
|Memory||8GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||256GB SSD (128GB x 2)|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 650M 2GB GDDR5|
|Operating system||Windows 8|
|Dimensions (WD)||15x10 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.5 pounds / 5.6 pounds|
Asus calls this Zenbook an ultraportable, but with its case dimensions and a weight of 4.5 pounds, we would just consider it easy to travel with for its size. It's definitely thin, so you probably won't struggle to get it in and out of a bag, and it likely won't be back-breaking for regular commutes.
Open up the lid and the only thing that ruins the appearance is the array of labels for the system's components (they can be easily peeled off, though). It has a backlit full keyboard with a number pad and Asus managed to keep all the important keys large enough for comfortable and accurate typing. Considering how shallow the body is, the keys of the chiclet-style keyboard have very good travel. Plus, there's plenty of room below the keyboard to rest your wrists.
The touch pad is large with no discrete buttons for right and left clicks; there is, however, a vertical line at the bottom so you don't have to guess. It's set up for multitouch use, for things like two-finger pinch-to-zoom and scrolling and three-finger swipes for showing open applications or the desktop. Fingers glided smoothly on its surface and it generally didn't misbehave if a palm accidentally landed on it. Touch-pad performance is a little more important with this system, too, since it doesn't have a touch screen (something that's become important for us with Windows 8).
So, yeah, it's not a touch screen, but the Zenbook's 15.6-inch screen is otherwise top-notch. With wide viewing angles thanks to its in-plane switching (IPS) technology, 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, and excellent color, it's one of the better Windows laptop screens we've seen recently. It also gets very bright and has a matte finish, making it useful in a variety of lighting conditions, even if contrast suffers some for it.
Maybe it's because we've gotten used to laptop speaker systems over the years, but the speakers in this Zenbook sound really good. Featuring Asus hardware and software-optimized SonicMaster Premium audio, co-developed with Bang & Olufsen Icepower, the stereo speakers perform well for both movies and music. No tinny sound here, and once you plug in the tiny tabletop subwoofer the sound gets immediately fuller. As long as you're not trying to fill a large space with sound, most should be pretty happy with the audio this laptop provides.
|Asus Zenbook Prime UX51Vz||Average for category [15-inch]|
|Video||HDMI 1.4, Mini-VGA, Mini-DisplayPort, Intel WiDi support||HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers and external subwoofer,headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 3.0, SD Card reader||2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
There are enough ports and connections on the UX51Vz to keep most users happy, I would imagine. On the left there are two USB 3.0 ports (one of which can charge a device while the computer sleeps); an Ethernet port (its lower lip drops down to accommodate a full-size connector); HDMI; and power. The right has all the remaining jacks including one for the add-on desktop subwoofer.
Above the screen is a 2-megapixel Webcam capable of 720p video. If you're using it outdoors or in a really well-lit room, the picture is very good. With typical office environment or dimmer home lighting, it doesn't do nearly as well, but that's pretty much the case with most Webcams. The built-in mic did a fine job with our test Skype calls.
The UX51Vz is an off-the-shelf configuration, so you get what you get and if you want anything else you're on your own. It is, however, available in two versions: the one reviewed here, with two 128GB solid-state drives (SSDs), and another with dual 256GB SSDs.