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Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 review: Good looks, strong performance, not cheap

There's very little not to like about this premium 15-inch laptop, except maybe its price.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
7 min read

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.


Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71

The Good

Cased in aluminum, the <b>Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71</b> is an impressive-looking laptop with an excellent 15-inch screen, a strong combo of components, and prime performance.

The Bad

A premium price to match its high-end design and components; no touch screen to take full advantage of the Windows 8 interface.

The Bottom Line

The Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 is a nice fit for anyone looking for premium looks and performance in a Windows 8 laptop who is willing to pay for it.

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)
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GT 650M 2GB GDDR5
Operating system Windows 8
Dimensions (WD) 15x10 inches
Height 1-1.2 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.6 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 4.5 pounds / 5.6 pounds
Category Midsize

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

The two SSDs are an important part of this system's generally excellent performance. Boot time averaged 11 seconds and resuming from sleep was about 2 seconds. Along with those, you get a quad-core standard-voltage Intel i7 processor (so it's not technically an ultrabook), 8GB of RAM, and, the aforementioned Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.

The combination makes it a fine multitasker, well suited for day-to-day stuff like e-mail and Web surfing as well as basic video and photo editing and streaming movies and music. Compared with a similarly configured Apple MacBook Pro (which, let's face it, is what Asus is targeting with this machine), the UX51Vz completed our Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test in 164 seconds and the MacBook Pro completed it in 125 seconds. It's up to you if 40 seconds is a big enough difference to make you go with a Mac; for us, it's not.

Gaming at 1080p isn't completely out of the question, but you'll probably want to turn down some other settings to keep frame rates playable. You'll also want to keep this thing off your lap when doing anything that needs high performance; it gets pretty hot. This will also crank up fan speeds, which you'll be able to hear pretty easily. Overall, though, if you want to do more than just basic computing, this laptop is an excellent choice. (Benchmark test results are at the end of this review.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

Considering all that's in this system, its battery life is respectable. In our video playback drain test, the UX51Vz didn't manage 5 hours, coming in at 4.5 hours. Under more typical use, though, it regularly lasted about 5.5 hours. If you need "all-day" battery life, you'll have to go with something else.

The warranty for the Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 is slightly above average. You get the standard one-year parts and labor with 24-7 tech support. On top of that, though, there's a one-year accidental damage warranty and a 30-day zero-bright-dot panel warranty.

The Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71 is definitely one of the best Windows 8 competitors to Apple's MacBook Pro line, both in design and performance. Yes, it's expensive, but it's not overpriced.

Multimedia multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

System configurations:

Asus Zenbook UX51Vz
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 512GB Adata XM11 SSD (256GB x 2)

Toshiba Satellite P845t-S4310
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio E17
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-3632QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB AMD Radeon HD 7650M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Acer Aspire S7-391-9886
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 128MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Intel SSD

HP Envy 4-1102
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm


Asus Zenbook UX51Vz-DH71

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Battery 8Support 7