Purchasing an ultrabook is a value of compromise between weight, size, mobility and performance. The Asus Zenbook U500VZ combines all of these features, with a focus on performance. It is one of the only ultrabooks you can use for 3D gaming because it has a dedicated graphics card inside. Asus delivers new BIOS updates to help with fan noise, so you will barely hear the fan running. Its brushed aluminum finish and reactive touchscreen make this powerful ultrabook great for moderate gamers, developers and everyday multimedia use. With its powerful Intel processor, this thin laptop easily earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
Up front, this ultrabook looks like many of its counterparts, but the Zenbook's ability to function as well as many powerful, traditional laptops can sets it apart from the pack. The system includes a GeForce 650M graphics card with 2GB of video memory, which runs about 40 percent faster than the new Haswell Intel HD 5200 Iris Pro. That means the GPU won't leach all that memory or share resources with the CPU. These discrete graphics are great for playing games like "StarCraft 2" and even "Borderlands 2" on medium to high settings, at 60 frames per second.
The Zenbook model we looked at has a 3rd generation Ivy Bridge processor that clocks in at 2.1GHz. This CPU also supports clock rates up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost. This quad-core processor can handle almost anything you throw at it. It is disappointing to see that the models come with a core 4GB of RAM, but you can upgrade to 8GB or add your own RAM sticks for up to 12GB of memory.
Depending on the model, you can get a 500GB hard drive with a 24GB SSD or a 128GB SSD with the same 500GB standard hard drive. To be considered an ultrabook, these devices used to have to have only solid-state drives and no moving parts. Even with the standard hard drive, the battery life on the Zenbook gives you extended use away from the wall with up to eight hours on one charge – with moderate use. The laptop also features two-second instant on resume.
Another advantage the Zenbook has over its competitors is the screen. The resolution is a sharp 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is full HD. The pixel density drops to 141 dpi because of this, but images are still clear and sharp. Moreover, this is a touchscreen ultrabook with the first full-HD IPS Panel. IPS Panel is a screen technology used for liquid crystal displays that helps counterbalance slow response times, strong viewing angles and low-quality color. The screen is bright, and a non-glare surface panel lets you avoid any annoying reflections. You will also appreciate the viewing angles of up to 180 degrees.
Going along with the touchscreen, these ultrathin laptops have a touchpad where fingers glide well over the smooth surface. It has precise controls and multi-touch gestures. This is a click pad, so the buttons are integrated into the lower part of the touchpad. Typing on the keyboard is quiet, and you won't need to pound on the buttons to get the keyboard to respond. You can activate backlighting on the keyboard and filter between three different light levels.
One important thing we like about this laptop is the SonicMaster external subwoofer that comes with it. This gives added pump to your bass with the already living audio of this multimedia laptop. Sound easily fills a room and doesn't seem grainy.
The system includes three USB 3.0 ports, which lets you transfer data 10 times faster than USB 2.0 ports. This is a step outside the comfort zone of most ultrabooks, since many only offer a limited number of USB ports. There is an HD 720p webcam with a microphone for conference calls. Onboard is a HDMI port, a Mini VGA Port and an SD card reader – and you can hook up extra Bluetooth peripherals. The system utilizes Windows 8, optimized for the touchscreen layout. You can choose to fork out a few extra dollars to get an external DVD-RW optical drive if you can't live without your DVDs or CDs.
Asus has always been a complex source of support information. The company has two different websites you can visit, though both offer the same support. There is a FAQs section, technical-inquiry support and Windows 8 support. You can opt for premium care that extends the support service to your laptop and lengthens the one-year warranty to two years. You'll also be able to chat live with representatives, which we recommend over calling or emailing.
The Zenbook U500VZ has earned its place amongst the best ultrabooks. The design gives you the right combination of quality and power. The device has a solid build that won't scratch when you carry it around, a powerful, integrated CPU and GPU processor and a touchscreen that works flawlessly with Windows 8. The only upgrade we'd like to see is the use of the new 4th generation Haswell Intel CPUs, but even the 3rd generation packs a punch no matter how you use the computer.
The full-HD, antiglare touchscreen displays brilliant colors with sharp contrast.
Asus hasn't updated the CPU to the 4th generation of Intel processors.
Asus enters its new Zenbook into a powerful lineup of ultrabooks. It is easily one of the best laptops because of its strong design and intuitive core computing components.