Some of you, our readers, have asked us to make an in-depth comparison of two of ASUS’ best ultrabooks on the market – the ROG G501 and ZenBook Pro UX501 so we decided to make it happen. If you look at form and dimensions the two can be easily confused, but there is the obvious color difference, with the ZenBook looking pretty similar to a MacBook and the ROG having the signature black and red color palette of the gaming series.
Both machines are pretty close spec-wise but there surely must be differences – the internals are pretty much identical and both machines have a choice between Full HD and 4K UHD IPS panels. The ROG should perform better in games, but will it be also good enough for designer work, and not only gaming? We will cover these and more topics in this in-depth comparison.
You can read the full review of ASUS ROG G501 here
You can read the full review of ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 here
Typically for ASUS both machines come with accessory-rich boxes. In addition to the usual power cord and manuals both come with a cleaning cloth, cable tie, USB to Ethernet LAN adapter as they don’t have RJ-45 connector and an HDMI to VGA dongle for UX501 and mini DisplayPort to VGA for the G501.
Design and construction
Both devices have pretty similar dimensions, shell form and build materials but as far as design goes that’s pretty much it. The UX501 is a classic example of ASUS’ Zen design language, but it also has some slight hints of Apple’s MacBook Pro feel. The ROG G501 comes with the series’ iconic all-black design with red accents all around. While the difference may look as just a paint job for some the overall feel and appearance of both machines are totally different.
Starting off with the lid – both are fully aluminum with ASUS’ logo in the middle. The ZenBook comes with the iconic concentric-circle design, while the G501 comes with the ROG logo in the center just under the ASUS one. Both lids are pretty sturdy and doesn’t bend much even under big pressure, which is a sign of quality engineering and design. On the other side of the lids are the usual webcam and microphone, with a UHD screen for the ZenBook and a FullHD one for the ROG notebook.
ZenBook Pro UX501
Going around the sides, both machines have basically the same configuration with plenty ports for such thin devices – on the left we have the DC charging port, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, and an always-on USB 3.0, the right offers a combo audio jack, card reader slot and two USB 3.0 ports, and the front has a few status LEDs. While talking about the sides, we should mention how thin they are – the UX501 measures at 21.3mm, while the gaming rig comes at only 20.6mm, or 0.7mm thinner, both looking impressively thin.
ZenBook Pro UX501
Opening the lids we are again offered with the same flawless design and build quality. The keyboards of both devices are pretty similar – long key travel, evenly separated keys, big keys and three levels of LED illumination, white for the ZenBook and red for the ROG. The typing experience is great on both and should offer you comfortable work for long periods of time. The same goes for the touchpads – comfortable, fast, responsive, with no wobbling effect. They are both large and don’t have separate keys, if you click on the right corner you get a right click and clicking anywhere else will register as left click. There are also single finger tap for left, two-finger for right-click, as well as two-finger “natural scrolling”.
ROG G501 keyboard
ZenBook Pro UX501 keyboard
Both machines are of very high class with premium look, feel and build materials, and comfortable and responsive input devices. The build quality is flawless on both and there is little margin left for improvement on the design and build front.
Display and sound
Both devices come with a screen choice between a Full HD IPS or 4K UHD IPS panels with optional touchscreen for the ZenBook Pro. Given the same chassis and display specs we suspect both use the same panels, so here we will make a comparison between the two panels and not the two notebooks, as both machines come with a choice between the two screen panels. In our case the G501 came with the Full HD screen and the ZenBook UX501 came with the 4K UHD one as marked on the following images and graphics.
The Full HD IPS panel is made by Samsung, model 156HL01-102. It has a 15.6-inch (39.62 cm) diagonal with 1920×1080 resolution and an aspect ratio of 16:9. The pixel density is 141 PPI with 0.18 x 0.18 mm dot pitch. The screen can be considered “Retina” when viewed from a distance greater than 61 cm.
The 4K UHD IPS panel is also manufactured by Samsung, model FL156FL02. Again it has a 15.6-inch diagonal, but this time the resolution is 3840 x 2160, leading to double the pixel density to 282 PPI and 0.09 x 0.09 dot pitch. The screen can be considered “Retina”, when viewed from half the distance of the FullHD panel – 30 cm.
Viewing angles from 45 degrees on both panels are great and without any image distortion.
The maximum brightness we measured on the Full HD is 322 cd/m2, with a maximum deviation of 12% (acceptable). The screen is bright enough for using in really bright rooms and the matte finish should help even with outdoor usage. The average color temperature on a white screen is 8005K, colder than the optimal 6500K.
The 4K UHD panel has a slightly lower maximum brightness at 280 cd/m2 with a deviation of only 10%. This is still very good for use in really bright rooms, but you might have problems outdoors, due to the reflective glossy finish of the screen. The average color temperature on a white screen is 6800K, much closer to the optimal 6500K.
Color gamut coverage (CIE)
The Full HD display covers 94% of sRGB and 74% of Adobe RGB color gamut with only little part of the red left uncovered. The 4K UHD panel offers pretty similar results with 90% sRGB and 71% Adobe RGB coverage.
The average DeltaE deviation of the Full HD panel screen is 3.51. The screen is accurate enough for gaming and other applications, excluding the ones that require exact colors.
The 4K UHD screen has a DeltaE=6.16, lower score is desirable, but it is still good enough for most casual uses.
Pulse-width modulation (PWM), Screen flickering
The 4K UHD screen is a winner here. There are no major screen flickering issues. PWM occurs under 25% screen brightness, where it is practically unusable unless you are in a really dark room. Even if you need to lower it to these levels the frequency is 1.35 kHz, which is high enough to not cause discomfort during long periods of time.
The situation with the Full HD panel is unfortunately on the opposite side. There is PWM on all brightness levels, except 100% and the frequency is low – 200 Hz. This can lead to eye fatigue during continuous use. Lowering the brightness level doesn’t affect the light intensity, which is an additional disadvantage. Instead, when the brightness is lowered to the minimum the screen is lit only for 0.3ms, followed by 4.7 ms dark phase. A very disappointing result.
Gaming capabilities (Response time)
Surprisingly the winner in the gaming test is the 4K UHD screen. In our test the refresh time of the pixels from black to white and white to black for 10 to 90% we were able to measure Fall Time + Rise Time = 21.4 ms. This is a relatively good result for an IPS screen, but still slower compared to TN panels. The response time will not be noticed by most gamers, but the fans of FPS (first-person shooter) games will experience a bit blurry effect.
4K UHD panel
On the Full HD screen we measured Fall Time + Rise Time = 31.4 ms. It is quite a bit higher than the UX501 result, which is very disappointing as this is the gaming series notebook.
Full HD panel
We have a clear winner – the 4K UHD takes the crown in our display tests. It comes with a stunning resolution with close to no PWM and faster response time. The color reproduction is not as good as we would have liked, but it is still good enough for most uses. The Full HD screen beats it in this case, but it is still not enough for professional work with colors. Unfortunately it has a pretty slow response time, which can lead to blurry images, especially for first-person shooter fans.
If we assume a distance of 58cm (~23in) between the human eye and the notebook monitor, then normal (20/20) vision would require a pixel density of at least 150ppi in order to interpret an image as perfectly detailed.
|ASUS ROG G501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141|
|ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 3840 x 2160 pixels||282.42||+100.3%|
Higher panel brightness is of key importance for visual comfort when working outside or in a brightly lit room.
|ASUS ROG G501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||322|
|ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 3840 x 2160 pixels||280||-13.04%|
Delta E is a CIE measurement unit of color difference. Higher values indicate that the display produces less accurate colors. (lower results are desirable).
|ASUS ROG G501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||3.48|
|ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 3840 x 2160 pixels||6.16||+77.01%|
The sRGB color gamut, introduced as a standard for the Web, shows the percentage of colors used on the Web that can be displayed on the screen of the device being tested (higher values are better).
|ASUS ROG G501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||94|
|ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 15.6-inch, Samsung, 3840 x 2160 pixels||90||-4.26%|
Both machines offer exceptional sound quality. Even under subjective tests the sound is really good with deep lows and clear highs, some of the best we’ve measured on a laptop. The Bang & Olufsen speakers are really good and offer great quality.
The current specs sheet is for these particular models and configurations may differ depending on your region.
|Model||ROG G501||ZenBook Pro UX501|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4720HQ (4-core, 2.60 – 3.60 GHz, 6MB cache)||Intel Core i7-4720HQ (4-core, 2.60 – 3.60 Ghz, 6MB cache)|
|RAM||12GB (1x 4096MB + 1x 8192MB) – DDR3, 1600Mhz||12GB (1x 4096MB + 1x 8192MB) – DDR3, 1600Mhz|
|Graphics card||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5)||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (2GB GDDR5)|
|HDD/SSD||Hitachi Travelstar Z5K1000 (1TB, 5400 rpm)||256GB M.2 PCIe x4 SSD + 1TB HDD (5400 rpm)|
|Display||15.6-inch (39.62 cm) – 1920×1080 pixels FHD, IPS or 3840×2160 4K UHD IPS||15.6-inch (39.62 cm.) – 1920×1080 FHD IPS or 3840×2160 4К UHD IPS with optional touchscreen|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0||Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Battery||60WHr, 4-cell Lithium Ion||60WHr, 4-cell Lithium Ion|
|Thickness||20.60 mm (0.81”)||21.3 mm (0.8″), touchscreen version|
|Weight||1999 g (4.41 lbs)||2.06kg (4.5 lbs)|
Both devices came with Windows 8.1 pre-installed and we used it for our tests. If you want to make a clean installation of the machines you can find the drivers at ASUS’ official support page.
Drivers for ASUS ROG G501 – http://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/G501JW/HelpDesk_Download/
Drivers for ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 – http://www.asus.com/Notebooks/ZenBook_Pro_UX501/HelpDesk_Download/
The many pixels of the ZenBook Pro’s 4K UHD panel are great and offer a stunning picture, but unfortunately they take a pretty big toll on the battery life of the device. While ASUS is claiming 6 hours of web browsing and video playback with the 60Wh battery inside, we found this is not exactly the case. The ROG G501’s Full HD screen comes with the same battery, but the lower resolution screen manages to squeeze some extra working time off the charger. Both machines are also offered with a 96Wh, which will provide significantly more battery life.
All tests we run at connected Wi-Fi, 120 cd/m2 brightness and Power Saver mode.
|Model||ROG G501 (Full HD screen)||ZenBook Pro UX501 (4K UHD screen)|
|Web browsing||257 minutes (4 hours and 17 minutes)||200 minutes (3 hours and 20 minutes)|
|Watching a movie||(3 hours and 37 minutes)||(2 hours and 38 minutes)|
|Gaming||82 minutes (1 hour and 22 minutes)||75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes)|
Although Intel Core i7-4720HQ made its debut in Q1 of 2015, this high-end processor is part of the Haswell family, since the Broadwell generation represents only energy-efficient “U” series chips. The Core i7-4720HQ is a direct successor of the i7-4710HQ which is commonly used in gaming laptops as a raw performance boost due to its higher clock speeds and high power consumption. As usual, the Core i7-4720HQ uses the so-called HyperThreading technology, allowing the CPU to emulate one virtual core for each physical one, thus running 8 threads at the same time with only 4 physical cores. The CPU has a base frequency of 2.6GHz and Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz for 4 active cores, 3.5GHz for two active cores and 3.6GHz for one active core. This makes the Core i7-4720HQ faster than the Core i7-4710HQ by only 100MHz.
The CPU is manufactured through a 22nm process (since it’s part of the Haswell generation). The cache levels are high: 256KB at level 1, 1024KB at level 2, 6144KB at level 3. The maximum operating temperature is 100°C, and as for the maximum TDP – 47W, and that includes the memory controller, VRMs, and integrated graphics. Speaking of which, the Core i7-4720HQ accommodates the Intel HD Graphics 4600 with 20 EU (Execution Units) clocked at 400MHz (up to 1200MHz). The maximum supported memory of the chip is 32GB DDR3L 1333/1600 with two memory channels. Other notable features are HyperThreading, AVX, AVX2, Quick Sync, Virtualization, AES-NI.
The official Intel Core i7-4720HQ web page can be found here: http://ark.intel.com/products/78934/Intel-Core-i7-4720HQ-Processor-6M-Cache-up-to-3_60-GHz
You can take a look at our CPU rating system, to see which place the Core i7-4720HQ gets: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you can find more information about Core i7-4720HQ: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-4720hq/
Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark which tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-4720HQ managed to get 12.451 million moves per second on the ROG G501 and 12.493 million moves per second on the ZenBook UX501. For comparison, one of the most powerful PCs, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
ASUS ROG G501 – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5
The GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5) is placed at the high-end of the graphics domain, but it is used mostly in budget gaming laptops. It is part of the Maxwell family of GPUs and features 640 CUDA cores (or simply – shading units), along with 32 ROPs and 53 texture units. It has 4GB of dedicated VRAM, GDDR5 in this case. The bandwidth of the memory is 80.2 GB/s and it has a 128-bit bus.
The GTX 960M uses the same GM107 GPU core that we saw in last year’s 860M, but this one is mainly meant to bump the notebook’s battery life and add some extra performance, emphasis on the former. However, the GM107 is clocked a bit higher than last year’s model – 1097MHz base clock and boost up to 1176MHz. It also supports 2048×1536 through VGA and 3840×2160 with DisplayPort and HDMI.
Here you can download the latest drivers for GeForce 960M: http://www.geforce.com/drivers
See where the 960M is placed in our Top Laptop Graphics Ranking page: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you can find detailed specs and more information about the model: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-gtx-960m-4gb-gddr5/
ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
The GeForce GTX 960M (2GB GDDR5) is placed as a high-end graphics card, but used mostly in budget gaming laptops. It is part of the Maxwell family of GPUs. It features 640 CUDA cores or simply – shading units, along with 32 ROPs and 53 texture units. It has 2GB of dedicated VRAM and in this case GDDR5 type. The speed bandwidth of the memory is 80.2 GB/s and 128-bit bus width.
The GTX 960M uses the same GM107 GPU core that we’ve seen in last year’s 860M, but this one is mainly oriented to bump the notebook’s battery life and add some extra performance, but that’s not stressed as much. However, the GM107 is clocked a bit higher than last year’s model – 1097MHz of base clock and boost up to 1176MHz. It also supports 2048×1536 resolution through VGA port and 3840×2160 with DisplayPort and HDMI.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this GPU: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-gtx-960m/
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
The drivers used in our tests of the G501 are version 350.12, while the UX501 was tested at a later date and the results we have are with driver version 353.30. The results on both machines are from benchmarks at Full HD resolution, the 4K benchmarks of the ZenBook can be seen in its full review.
While both notebooks feature the same GPU – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, the ROG should have some advantage in games, which require more textures to be loaded, with the double video memory available, but in the benchmarks we performed the results have in most cases just marginal differences to one another, maybe some future games will benefit from the larger memory, but the current games perform equally better on 2GB and 4GB video memory.
|Metro: LL (1080p, Low)||Metro: LL (1080p, Medium)||Metro: LL (1080p, Max)|
|ROG G501||59 fps||42 fps||15 fps|
|ZenBook Pro UX501||61 fps||45 fps||17 fps|
|Tomb Raider (1080p, Low)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Medium)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Max)|
|ROG G501||141 fps||66 fps||32 fps|
|ZenBook Pro UX501
||135 fps||65 fps||32 fps|
|F1 2014 (1080p, Low)||F1 2014 (1080p, Medium)||F1 2014 (1080p, Max)|
|ROG G501||115 fps||99 fps||79 fps|
|ZenBook Pro UX501||112 fps||86 fps||62 fps|
|Thief (1080p, Low)||Thief (1080p, Medium)||Thief (1080p, Max)|
|ROG G501||48 fps||38 fps||27 fps|
|ZenBook Pro UX501||41 fps||33 fps||21 fps|
|GTA 5 (1080p, Low)||GTA 5 (1080p, Medium)||GTA 5 (1080p, Max)|
|ROG G501||85 fps||37 fps||18 fps|
|ZenBook Pro UX501||97 fps||36 fps||18 fps|
Temperatures and comfort
Before we begin with this section we would like to note that the following tests do not represent real-life situations. It is extremely difficult to reach 100% CPU and GPU load under normal usage for such an extended period of time as in our stress tests, but we run them to see how the machines handles higher temperatures, and check the overall stability of the systems in the long run. The test consists of three parts – firstly, we start off with a CPU stress test, then we run a similar GPU stress test and finally we measure the temperature on the surface of the notebooks to see how this affects user experience.
Under normal usage the temperature of both machines is around 40-45°C. After one hour the ZenBook kept a temperature of around 84°C with a similar result for the ROG – 83°C and a maximum of 86°C. Both are pretty high temperatures, but they are still far away from the maximum operating temperature of 100°C. There was no excessive throttling on both devices.
After the first hour has passed we add 100% GPU load along the CPU and leave it for another hour. The CPU temperature of both devices did not rise a bit, but there was some throttling on both devices, which is kind of expected given the extremely thin profile of both devices and the excessive heat from the powerful internals.
The last part of our heat management test is measuring the temperature on the surface of the devices. The clear winner here is the G501, with a maximum surface temperature of 34°C on the top-center part of the keyboard and overall no temperature-related comfort issues. The ZenBook runs with about 5-6°C higher surface temperatures, but they are still not high enough to cause any discomfort while working.
ASUS have made two very amazing machines, both the ZenBook and the ROG are very high quality devices with great design, extremely thin profiles, light weight, really sturdy build and very powerful internals. Let’s start our conclusion with the things they both have in common – the specs are pretty close with the most notable difference in the GPU memory size, where the ROG has double that of the ZenBook. Interestingly the bigger memory size did not help the ROG G501 in the gaming benchmarks with just marginally better results in some games. Both devices also offer great keyboard experience and a responsive and fast touchpad.
While both devices are very similar in form and function there are some differences, except for the obvious color palette and overall style. First off there is the clear display difference – the 4K UHD screen of the ZenBook is just stunning and performed very well in our display tests. Don’t get us wrong, the Full HD screen of the ROG is also gorgeous and has nearly identical display test results, excluding the unfortunately bad PWM result and the lower response time. Unfortunately for the UX501, the higher resolution screen takes a toll on the battery and the gaming-oriented sibling is able to squeeze an extra hour of battery life in our web browsing and video playback tests.
Overall whichever device you choose you will not make a mistake. Weather you are a fan of the sleek light Zen design, or prefer the more aggressive black and red style of the G501, both devices offer great design, premium feel and sturdy build, thanks to the great materials used. The two also have great performance for both serious work and gaming and the cooling systems are good enough to take the heat off during the heavy work process or some hard battle on the virtual battlefield. If you want touchscreen capabilities and a slightly better sound quality you should go for the ZenBook Pro, while if you want to be sure you will be able to play the upcoming AAA game titles with no problem or you do video editing and require some extra video memory – the Republic of Gamers notebook is your choice.
- Twice the GPU memory
- Surface temperature under high load is lower
- Optional touchscreen panel
- Slightly better sound quality