ASUS has launched a new sub-series of their popular K501 multimedia laptop / ultrabook line. The brand new K501UW-AB78 model is a stylish gaming laptop which doesn’t scream at you with flashy colors or aggresive lines, but rather glides quitely under the rader, making it ideal for a host of usage scenarios.
The ASUS K501UW-AB78 has been designed with functionality in mind first and foremost. It’s arguably not the best looking device, nor is it the lightest or thinnest, but the people at ASUS have put together a robust laptop from quality materials and managed to offer a premium finish to a somewhat understated notebook in terms of design language.
Certain details like the textured metal finish on the lid, the elegantly rounded corners or the tasteful silver tones of the chassis make it stand out just enough from the crowd of black, plastic-made cohort of mid-range laptops.
The ASUS K501UW-AB78 comes with a 6th generation dual core Intel Core i7-6500U processor. This CPU has a frequency range between 2.5 GHz and 3.1 GHz, a cache size of 4 megabytes and a thermal design power of 15 Watts (ouch!). If those numbers don’t mean much, you can see a benchmark comparison here between the i7-6500U and a similar desktop processor which can be used for gaming, the Intel Core i3-6300. As you can see, it’s more than respectable when it comes to computing power and it will likely hold up for at least two years before feeling sluggish when playing newer titles.
System memory is where it gets interesting: the ASUS features 8 gigabytes of on-board DDR4 SDRAM @ 2133 MHz. This memory stick is soldered to the motherboard, but expansion is available through one SO-DIMM socket, meaning you can double the amount of memory yourself. DDR4 is the new memory standard, but it’s still just a bit too expensive to completely take over. The benefits include increased bandwidth size and operating at lower voltage, but also means a slightly higher latency rating: CL15 compared to CL11 on the DDR3.
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Storage capacity is rather satisfying, considering that you get a 512-gigabyte solid state drive in a premium laptop that costs under $1000 at the time of this review. The SSD will guarantee a snappy and instant experience, with everything from games to demanding programs opening up in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, the 512 gigabytes of capacity are likely ideal for most users, except those who like to keep media collections.
The ASUS K501UW-AB78 couldn’t have been a gaming laptop without a dedicated video card. It’s been fitted with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M – and it’s the 2GB GDDR5 model. For instance, this laptop (with the standard 8 gigs of RAM) will run GTA V at high settings, so most new releases will be playable at medium to high settings for at least another two years with the ASUS – great value for money in my book.
The 15.6-inch screen has a matte full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display which can cover about 45% of the NTSC color gamut, so it’s pretty standard when it comes to displaying accurate colors. Not particularly vivid, this display benefits from ASUS Splendid Technology, which enhances and adjusts the settings in order to give more vibrant colors and deeper contrast – much like an IPS panel, but using software tweaks. It has four available modes: normal mode, vivid mode, manual mode and something called eye care. The latter helps with eye fatigue when reading at night by reducing the amount of emitted blue light, much like f.lux software does.
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The ASUS K501UW-AB78 has plenty of interface ports, but lacks a USB-C port. Here’s the list:
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 1 x USB 2.0 port
- 1 x HDMI-out
- 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
- 1 x audio combo jack
- 1 x SD card reader
Connectivity-wise, the ASUS features the latest Wi-Fi technology: an integrated 802.11ac wireless card, built-in Bluetooth 4.0 and 10/100/1000 BaseT Ethernet. The ac wireless protocol will enable faster transfer speeds and reduced latency over busy Wi-Fi networks – think airports, cafe shops, college amphitheaters, business meeting rooms and so on.
Before jumping to portability, I want to talk about some great features this notebook has:
- Dual fan cooling system – The ASUS K501UW-AB78 has two dedicated fans, one for the CPU and one for the GPU. They share the same heat sink and will cool down the laptop more efficient when gaming or running demanding programs.
- IceCool technology – All the heat-generating components are strategically placed towards the far side of the notebook to help keep the palm rest cooler when using it.
- ASUS SonicMaster – A blend of software and hardware fine tuning brings out more clear and defined sound, even on higher volume settings. The lows are deeper and the high notes are more crisp.
- Backlit chiclet keyboard – The ASUS has a full-sized chiclet keyboard that’s roomy enough to ensure that you’ll make fewer mistakes while typing fast. It has a responsive key travel of 1.6 mm and thanks to discrete led back-light, you can work or game even in dim-lit places with ease.
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When it comes to portability, the ASUS K501UW-AB78 doesn’t particularly shine. The 3-cell, 48 Whr battery struggles to hold a charge for more than 7 to 7.5 hours of normal, everyday light use – think browsing the web, editing documents and writing emails. For some, that’s more than enough, but for travelers and college students, the average battery life may prove to be a hurdle. Of course, the battery will be drained in maximum 2 hours if you decide to play games while unplugged.
Furthermore, it’s not exactly lightweight, but it’s considerably lighter than I expected: it weighs around 4.4 pounds – decent for a laptop this powerful. I wouldn’t take it with me everywhere I go, but that weight is manageable when going to the office, school or to a library.
All things considered, I think it’s more portable than your typical mid-range laptop, but not enough to be considered as a travel companion. Short transit is ok, long travel is a big no-no.
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As a conclusion, the ASUS K501UW-AB78 is a superb laptop which offers users a healthy mix of powerful computing, great features, decent battery life and a sleek, unassuming design. It can be used as a complete desktop replacement, as an all-rounder, gaming laptop, multimedia device, work laptop or college notebook. Considering that the price tag is just under $1000, I must give the ASUS K501UW-AB78 5 out of 5 stars for being one of, if not the best laptop to be released in 2016 so far.
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