Zenbook 13: No Compromise… Almost
But more than its battery life and lightweight yet sturdy construction, the relatively inexpensive price point at just under $999 is what made its previous iteration such a well-loved device. Now that it’s past the $1,000 mark, some of those who only got the MacBook Air when they became cheaper find themselves in the same predicament as 10 years ago. Luckily, the combination that made the previous version of MacBook Air a success had been successfully replicated by other companies.
Asus is one of them. Their Zenbook UX333FA is their flagship 13-inch laptop contender. Its main draw is that it’s a full $350 cheaper than its Apple counterpart at an $850 entry-level price. The lightweight and sturdy construction and the great battery life comes only second. Even at the middle of the park price point of $999 with an onboard MX150 dedicated graphics card and a soldered on 16GB of RAM version, it’s still one of the best value laptops there is.
In this review, we’ll see if their newest release warrants a shift in loyalty from previous MacBook Air owners. The Zenbook 13 should be a great contender and even an excellent leader in the ultraportables segment of the laptop market as it offers more for a lot less.
Build and Screen Quality
Zenbooks of old are known for their excellent but not necessarily luxurious build quality. They’re functional but not elegant, especially when put next to an XPS or a Matebook X Pro. But this late 2018 release of the Zenbook 13 has definitely bridged the gap between the other top ultraportables in the market.
The most obvious upgrade is the screen. The bezels have definitely shrunk. Those bezels were one of the few gripes people had with the 2017 iteration. This new Zenbook line looks like it went on a bezel diet and the result is just this extremely immersive 1080p screen that’s perfect for content consumption.
The real engineering marvel here is that it’s not truly bezel-less. It still has a humungous bottom bezel. Asus just uses an excellent misdirection technique by hiding it under the keyboard base while showing only the side and top bezels which are certainly in contention as the smallest in the market.
Other than the screen, the material has also undergone quite the upgrade. It’s now on par with the feeling of luxury you get when you hold the carbon fibre XPS in your hand. The signature Asus concentric circles design is just a cut above the rest of the durable metal laptops – even against the class-leading Huawei Matebook X Pro.
The keyboard is also one of the biggest upgrades from 2017 to 2018 Zenbooks. It’s now backlit and feels great to type on. The key travel is also one of the best in the genre. The clickiness is also on par with the best of them like the XPS. However, the layout is a bit off as the arrow keys seem crammed to the bottom right area making navigating through Windows with it a bit difficult. With the power button also having a weird placement under the delete and above the backspace buttons, you’re sure to accidentally put the device on sleep accidentally numerous occasions before you get used to the layout. There’s a learning curve to be sure. The size of the right shift and control keys have also been sacrificed in order to fit a full-sized keyboard on such a small frame.
Sacrifice is a theme that occurs a lot in the Zenbook. But, at least it tries to compensate for it (Looking at you 2017 MacBook with just one USB-C port). The trackpad, for example, is tiny. But on the other hand, it runs on Windows precision drivers so it’s precise. It has something up its sleeves that aren’t trackpad related though. It doubles as a num pad with just a click of a button at the upper right corner of it. In a way, the trackpad compensates for what the keyboard compromises. Whether it’s successful in doing that though, will be for users to judge.
When it comes to ports though, the Zenbook doesn’t compromise. All the basics are present. From a charge-capable USB-C, a USB-A 3.1 and 2.0, HDMI, to an ethernet port, the Zenbook 13 has one of each.
Furthermore, the wireless connectivity also shouldn’t be a problem because the 802.11ac has it taken care of. Data transfers, therefore, is an absolute pleasure. With the addition of a Bluetooth 5.0, you’re sure that wireless connectivity should be great.
The Zenbook 13, like most of the laptops that came in 2018 had a significant performance upgrade because of the new generation of Intel chips that they come with. They’re now all quad-core processors with enough juice to supplement even a tiny amount of RAM.
But the RAM itself shouldn’t be a problem because the base model comes with 8GBs of it. Coupled with the CPU, it should handle multi-tab internet browsing fairly well even if you are a bit ADHD. All of these are at the base entry-level of the spectrum. Spend a little bit more and you’ll get an absolute beast of a mainstream laptop at a fraction of the price of the top two laptops in the same category.
Is The Zenbook The One To Get?
For most consumers, the Zenbook 13 is definitely the one to get. However, there are more premium laptops out there that deserve your attention if you’re truly looking for the best of the best. The Matebook X Pro, for example, offers a 3K screen that looks absolutely stunning to watch videos or work on. The carbon fibre XPS 13, on the other hand, has a premium feel to it that is unrivalled by anything else on the market.
The Zenbook, compared to those two laptops comes a close third and maybe even in close contention to for a tie at second with the XPS. It’s a laptop with very little compromise and a whole lot of punch.