Windows 8 saw a rush of so called Hybrid tablet/laptop computers that had functionality all looking towards making the most of the touchscreen and Windows 8. Now that the big rush is coming to an end there are also some other Ultrabooks that, although they don’t feature touchscreens they do still make use of Windows 8 as an operating system.
The ASUS Zenbook Prime UX51VZ (also known as the U500) is a new 15-inch Ultrabook that uses the top Intel i7 Processor, top end NVIDIA GT650M graphics and a very nice 1080p IPS display to create a multimedia monster of a machine. This laptop has no detachable screen, it doesn’t spin and it’s got no time for fingers as an interface, it’s just what it is a powerful computer that looks to provide power and functionality.
As is expected with Ultrabooks now this edition of the Zenbook looks good, it’s thin and it’s light. It goes for more of a classy look rather than a more tablet like look and it’s going back to what some people want, an actual laptop that they can be productive with. There are lighter and thinner Ultrabooks out there but there does come a point where the weight is not really that much of an issue, if it’s light enough that should do.
In terms of the connection ports you’ll find everything you want down the sides. Ethernet ports, HDMI, USB 3.0 and power to the left side and an extra USB 3.0 port to the right along with a mini-VGA connection for the HDMI-less users who still want to connect the machine to a computer screen.
The main feature of this, along with the actual performance is of course Windows 8 and how does it perform on a computer that does not have the expected touchscreen interface. I’ve talked about this in other reviews and some how-to articles but the fact is Windows 8 is fully usable in an environment that does not have a touchscreen, but it just expects it to be there. Users without the touchscreen at first feel that they are in a world between tablets and desktop usability and it’s a bit like using a touchscreen but using a mouse as your finger. You get used to this and the more you use the desktop instead of the tiled interface the less you notice the “touchscreen” feel of the operating system. I have found from experience that the tile interface does become an area that touchscreen people tend to ignore to some extent until they really have to use it. Microsoft really need to start making some apps that will catch people’s interest as you tend to forget about it. There are still nice touches though like the ability to use Xbox Smartscreen but this too still needs something to make people want to use it more, it’s still not got that element of making the user WANT to use it.
Alongside the Windows 8 operating system you’ll find the usual pre-loaded software and free trials to start you off. ASUS have a selection of their own tools pre-installed too to get you started. There’s no stand out application though that makes it special, but it won’t be long before you put your own software on there.
The 1080p IPS screen which is around 15.6-inches in size is a very good screen for watching movies and doing your normal routine, like browsing the web and it’s nice and bright with good image quality. No noticeable viewing angle issues were found so you won’t find yourself having to sit rigidly in front of the screen to get that optimum quality.
In terms of power the 2.1GHz quad-core Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM provides all the power you’ll need. The 256GB SSD drive also speeds up the disk accessing which will be seen especially in the powering up of the machine and Windows 8 performance. Graphics power is provided by the NVIDIA GT650M chip with 2GB dedicated memory, included alongside this is the almost customary Intel HD graphics processor as a backup for less graphically intensive processing. This power is enough to play most games at a good enough quality, not full settings of course but it’ll look good enough to show off your new Ultrabook.
There are a few issues with the UX51VZ such as a poor battery life (around five hours) and of course the fact it’s not a touchscreen when we are arguably moving into a time when touchscreen will be one of the main interfaces for computers will be an issue. We are still at a time though when not everybody wants a touchscreen and are more interested in a powerful Ultrabook that will let them do everything they want on it, including play games.
Windows 8 love it or hate it is an operating system that is pushing for change in the PC market, it makes the move to touchscreen functionality and looks for hardware to catch up which will happen in time. Till then though there will still be a need for strong performing Ultrabooks like this that provide you with all the power you’ll need and put the focus on what the user wants.