Let’s take a look at a not-so-budget laptop with a good build quality. So once again, I found myself at the local BestBuy, shopping for a laptop to give to my dad as a birthday present. Being a difficult person to get presents for (a tablet was out of the question since the screen was too small for him to read), the laptop was more or less the “fall-back” option since there was nothing else I could think of.
I originally planned to purchase a 17-inch Dell Inspiron 7000 series since it had a larger screen which would give him plenty of reading room…. and then I saw the actual thickness of the LCD display. Yeesh. I have to hand to Dell marketing; it doesn’t look that thick from the website, but the moment I got my hands on the display version at BestBuy, there was no way I was buying it. It was considerably thicker than the 15 & 14-inch versions, which makes me wonder if a bean-counter got in the way.
After checking other stores (since I was a bit too time-constrained at the time to wait for an internet delivery), I came back for another look and took notice of and Asus laptop. At first I thought it looked awful; the machine was dirty with smudges everywhere and scratches on the casing. The poor lighting angles made it look like the same cheap plastic that adorned the budget machines lined up around it. However, after taking a closer look and actually feeling it with my hands, I realized how mistaken I was.
Yes, it’s another laptop that isn’t really designed for gaming. At $750 though, it wasn’t exactly a deal breaker for me; despite it being in the price range of Lenovo’s Y-series laptops. Since my dad isn’t a gamer or planned on doing anything remotely graphics intensive, this seemed like a good fit.
CPU: Intel Core i5 4200U
GPU: Intel 4400
RAM: 8GB DDR3
Harddrive: Toshiba 750GB
Ports: 3x USB 3.0, HDMI,
Screen: 1920×1080 IPS display
Weight: 5.1 lbs
Build Quality & Design
Really, it’s a bit sad that I completely overlooked the machine at first due to the poorly lit display at the store. The dark, brushed aluminum is a welcome sight and it certainly feels better when you actually pick the thing up with your hands.
On the left you have a USB 3.0 port, SD card slot, headphone jack, and Kensington lock.
On the right, you have two more USB ports, HDMI, ethernet, and the power jack.
There is no optical drive, giving it a more ultra book type feel, but the weight seems to push it out of that category.
The exhaust port is designed exactly like the Macbook Pro; it’s hidden between the hinge of the display and opens out when you open the screen. Unlike the Macbook Pro however, the back isn’t made out of
aluminium aluminum, instead, it sports a rubbery plastic which feels a bit like the back of a Nexus 5.
Opening it takes a bit of work. After taking out the ten screws on the bottom, the back cover doesn’t simply fall out like the Macbook Pro does, it’s snapped into place. To open it, I had to firmly grip the area between the cover and the hinge and pulled.
The insides reveal a one-fan design with the usual expansion areas and a Toshiba hard drive.
Naturally of course, I replaced the spinner with an SSD.
The Screen – I’ll be honest, it’s not the best screen out there, but the 15-inch IPS Display was bright & crisp enough for everyday use with good enough viewing angles that didn’t give my dad a headache.
Large Trackpad – Self explanatory, but I like this trend that’s going on.
Low Sticker Count – It had four small ones, and I ripped off two already with the third coming up. The only sticker that should stay is the Intel one. I could care less that it complies with Energy Star and has HDMI (which should be standard).
HD 4400 GPU – While I did mention that GPU power wasn’t that big of a deal for my dad, I do have to say this: why the hell aren’t more OEMs using 5000, Iris, and Iris Pro chips? I suppose I can answer my question with cost saving, but at the very least they should realize a GPU bump is far better than a CPU bumps these days.
RAM Expandability – Or lack there of. The maximum is 8GB for this machine, no exceptions.
The Keyboard – The backlit chiclet keyboard certainly looks nice, but after using it, I started to notice it simply wasn’t able to keep up with my keystrokes. It was actually lagging behind. Out of all the negatives for this laptop, I personally think this is the most damning. If the machine is more expensive whether it’s spec for spec or just relative performance, it should at least make up for it with other features. While the build quality and screen are good, the keyboard is just as important since it’s going to be used a lot. Comfort and reliability is not something that should be overlooked here.
Asus really has something with the build quality here, especially for a starting price of $750. However, at that price point, it does come dangerously close to the Lenovo Y410P which also sports a GeForce 755M, is 5.5lbs, but lacks a 1080p display. The Y510p however, does have a 1080p configuration that prices at $900. The Q501LA does win on the thickness side though; at .91 inches, it’s just a sliver thicker than the Razer Blade Pro, and beats out the Y410P’s 1.23 inches.
If Asus would just fix the keyboard issues and add a better GPU, this machine would be golden.
Asus Q501LA-BSI5T19 Laptop Review by Alfon