ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501V

I have recently been testing an ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501V with Ubuntu. It is a really solidly constructed machine and really does feel professional. It is not however without a few quirks that do rather spoil the user experience.

The Good

  • Amazing screen resolution. 3840 x 2160 is just mind blowing. I can view pictures from a digital camera at 1:1 zoom level and they do not fully fit on the screen. 

    Great North Snowdog at Saltwell Park, Gateshead showing full size

  • Battery life is pretty decent. I got somewhere between 4 and 5 hours on a full charge whilst using the Eclipse IDE.
  • Hardware support. Everything pretty much works with a standard install of Ubuntu. I used the Mate flavour but I am told that standard Ubuntu works fine too.

The Bad

  • It was remarkably difficult to get Ubuntu installed in the first place. The device came pre-installed with Windows 10 Home using Fastboot and Secure Boot. This meant that a boot far enough into Windows to allow a shutdown with the Shift key pressed (bypasses Fastboot) was required. Then a trip through the BIOS to disable Secure Boot and set things up to boot from a Ubuntu image on a USB thumbdrive.
  • The touchpad is positively horrible to use. First off it is centered across the body of the computer so it is to the right hand side of the alphabetic keys. This means that whilst touch typing your palm tends to rest/touch the touchpad. I’ve used others before that have the touch pad centered in front of the space key which keeps it out of the way.

    Touch pad at center of casing

The Ugly

  • As shipped the ACPI BIOS does not play nicely with the Linux kernel. The fans run at full speed permanently. This can be solved by updating to the latest BIOS (301 released 9/9/2016) from the shipped version 207 released 28/4/2016. That upgrade can either be performed within Windows 10 or direct in the BIOS.
  • There is a frequent hang on startup or shutdown. This can be worked around by adding nouveau.modeset=0 to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT in the /etc/default/grub file. Once this is done run sudo update-grub to make the change take effect from the next boot.
  • The laptop does not have a RJ45 network port built in. I know this is difficult given how thin laptops are these days. However ASUS do redeem themselves by shipping a USB3 to RJ45 adapter with the laptop. This just works(tm) with Linux so I’m happy.
  • Ubuntu does not seem to do scaling for high DPI screens yet. I haven’t investigated very far but instead of using 3840 x 2160 I use the Monitor Preferences to set the resolution to 1290 x 1080 and that gives a usable screen.

    Tiny login dialog at full resolution

Overall a nice laptop.

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