reviews

New Laptop! Introducing the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW

UPDATE: I’ve since made a video review of the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW. Check that out over here on YouTube!

Hey guys! So after being intensely frustrated at the antiquity of my computer for the better part of the last year (since I started video blogging, really) I decided to spring for a new power house computer. I’ve always been the kind of techie who built custom desktop computers with the latest “best bang for you buck” components available at the time, but this time, I decided to go a different route. While I still get rather giddy at the idea of building a computer from individual components, I’ve decided that I have new goals in life. Namely, I want to minimize the amount of stuff I have, along with the size of all that stuff. A full desktop is just too big! Secondly, I think laptops have come such a long way since I built my last desktop over 5 years ago. Laptops today can easily be wicked powerful, wicked small, wicked light, and look sexy while adding the key feature of mobility to the bag.

What really sent me over the edge was the fact that I can’t use some of my new camera’s best capture settings. My GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition can take 4K video, my drone can take 2.7K video, and my vlogging camera can do 1080p 120fps. These are all very intense capture settings and my old computer just couldn’t keep up. For the past year, I’ve been artificially keeping those settings low to make editing and processing easier, but that’s ridiculous! Why have such nice cameras if I can’t even use them to their full potential?

About 3 weeks ago, I started researching what the best laptop would be. Of course, the MacBook Pro came up for a hot second in my mind, but I’m just not a Mac guy. I’ve grown up with Windows, I’m extremely comfortable with it, I love the compatibility with basically everything, and if I need a Unix-like environment, I can always install VirtualBox and run a Linux virtual machine. I also like not paying all that extra money to Apple. After going through reviews and spec sheets for several other Windows laptops, I finally decided on the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW. To be honest, when I discovered this laptop, I was almost immediately blown away.

The laptop has a single configuration: a 6th Generation Intel Core i7 6700HQ CPU (Skylake) @ 2.60GHz,16GB of memory, 500GB SSD storage, and dedicated Nivdia GTX 960M GPU . It also boasts an impressive 4K display in a 15″ form factor. It’s housed in a brushed silver aluminium shell and is beautiful to gaze upon.

In benchmarks that others have done, this laptop easily rivals two of the main competitors in this class of laptop: the Dell XPS 15 and the Apple MacBook Pro. Here’s one of the comparison articles I used: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Face-Off-Dell-XPS-15-vs-Apple-MacBook-Pro-15-vs-Asus-ZenBook-Pro-UX501.143900.0.html Scrolling through that, you can see the ZenBook ties or beats the MacBook in many substantial categories.

Alright, ready for the best part? This beast of a laptop runs for just $1500. The comparable MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15 in similar configurations run $2500 or more! OUTRAGEOUS.

I’ve only had the laptop for about half a day now, but within the hour that it was in my hands, I quickly unboxed it, set it up with a new universal docking station I picked up from Sabrent, and proceeded to install all the software I’d need to have it begin replacing my desktop. So far so good! I just finished syncing up my video scratch space, and ran some quick tests to see how editing and playback of those high capture setting files performed, and let me tell you, it’s amazing. So much better!

I’m pretty nervous about replacing my desktop with a laptop, but honestly, this ZenBook blows my old desktop out of the water. Could I have built a more powerful desktop? Sure. Might it have even been a little cheaper? Sure. But I would lose those other aspects I was going for (mobility and minimalism). I’m excited to try out this new workflow where I can take the full power of my desktop with me wherever I go!

UPDATE: I’ve since made a video review of the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW. Check that out over here on YouTube!

Huawei watch after four months!

After the relative “success” of my YouTube review video “Huawei watch after one week“, I’ve gotten lots of different questions asking about aspects of the watch I didn’t manage to cover. In particular, people were curious if after several months, if my opinions have changed, or if the watch has held up to expectations. I don’t want to publish another video to go over those things, so instead, I felt like writing a blog post.

Gustavo Veron writes:

“[I]t has been 4 months since this video has been published, how is the black watch holding against scratches?”

A great question, especially since the black watch is one of the more expensive variants of the device. I totally understand the concern of wanting the black finish to have some lasting quality to it. I’m pleased to report that it has done just fine. I wear the watch almost daily, and I’m not particularly careful about it either. I’ve brushed up against walls, the gym locker, car keys, etc. and haven’t managed to cause a single scratch on the black metal or the glass face.

One of the next hot topics has been the repeating notification bug. Lots of viewers responded to confirm that they also experience the same problem. Now, it’s not a terminal issue, but it is certainly annoying. Since doing the review video, I’ve upgraded my phone from the HTC One M8 to the Samsung Galaxy S6 and that has seemed to solve my problem. I know that’s not exactly a “solution” for everyone, but I think it’s a fair smoking gun to point at old software as being the issue. The Galaxy S6 has newer versions of all the software involved (Android OS, Android Wear, Play Services, etc.).

An unexpected, and cool outcome, of posting the video is that some users gave me tips that I wasn’t aware of. My favorite came from Djluv5, where he informs me that:

“Don’t need to go to theatre mode… Just double click on the side button and it will turn off the screen.”

I initially misread his comment, thinking he was saying “there was no need for theater mode,” but that wasn’t the case. What he meant was that you can activate theater mode quickly by pressing the side button twice. Very handy, as swiping through the menus on the watch face to enable theater mode is cumbersome, especially because usually by the time you need to activate it, you’re already in a situation where the light coming from the screen is a nuisance.

Viewer Michael Donato writes:

“Hey Alex, I was [wondering] if the smart watch would be suitable for [the] gym?”

Another good question, though I think this will be highly subjective. I personally don’t like having the watch on my wrist when I’m working out at the gym because I don’t find it comfortable in this scenario. The sensor utility is also reduced a bit, as it obviously won’t do much for distance traveled or anything like that. (Heart rate monitoring should still work fine, though.) So between the lack of comfort, and reduced utility of the sensors, I personally choose not to wear it at the gym. But, if you want to, there’s no reason why you couldn’t! The watch is water resistant to IP67 specifications, which means a little sweat won’t hurt it at all, and you could use it to control your music which might be especially useful if you play your music from your phone and keep your phone in a location that isn’t easy to access (e.g. an arm strap, sealed pocket, or in a small bag).

Tester First writes:

“Did you notice any problems with attaching watch to the charger, I’ve heard that sometimes it doesn’t stick well and you have to always check that it’s actually charging.”

Unfortunately, I have to confirm that this is true. The magnetic force that pulls the charging disk and the watch together doesn’t always complete the connection. It’s not too much effort for me to just make sure it’s snapped in correctly before I leave it alone, but it is something worth noting.

Lastly, I also wanted to say how delighted I am by the fact that Huawei included some forward thinking features in the device. With the recent launch of Android Wear 1.4, Google has introduced speaker capabilities directly in wear devices. The software itself wasn’t capable of this in prior versions of Android Wear. Huawei was forwarding thinking enough to know Google was planning to introduce this eventually, and so included a hardware speaker in the watch, even though it would lie dormant until this time. For those early adopters like myself, it’s nice to have even just a little amount of “obsolescence protection,” even if it’s just delaying the inevitable (as is with all technology). For non-owners, it’s nice to know the watch will have all the features of the current generation. It’s not quite out-dated yet! The new Android Wear update also brings some new gesture support, and expanded voice-to-text capabilities. Unfortunately, my watch hasn’t updated yet for some reason, so I need to investigate why this is and try to force it to update to Android Wear 1.4 before I’ll get to try out the new features.

Thanks for reading (and if you watched the video, thanks for watching!). I’m happy to answer any other questions people might have, so feel free to post them here, or on YouTube, and I’ll try to respond. Peace out guys!