Asus Zenbook 13
SLENDER DESIGN, IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE AND ACCURATE STEREO SPEAKERS MAKE THIS 13.3IN LAPTOP A CRACKING BUY
While the royal blue nish of the ZenBook 13 may not be familiar on these pages, the fundamental design certainly is. This is the 2018 iteration of the ZenBook UX330UA, which ruled supreme on the A-List for over a year. While the external design hasn’t changed, Asus achieves a minor miracle inside by squeezing in Nvidia’s discrete GeForce MX150 graphics chip. That’s quite an achievement given the ZenBook’s slender 13.9mm frame.
With such a slim design, you might expect a limited number of ports – yet that’s anything but the truth. Asus has squeezed in two USB 3 Type-A ports, one USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2), HDMI, microSD and a 3.5mm jack. Unlike the Dell XPS 13, Huawei Matebook X Pro, HP Spectre 13 and Apple’s 13.3in MacBook Pro, there’s nothing missing. And as for wireless connectivity, there’s dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2x2) and Bluetooth 4.2. Bravo, Asus.
The party doesn’t stop there. There’s a blisteringly quick fingerprint sensor at the bottom right-hand corner of the keyboard for sign-in, which is aided by the integration of Windows Hello. Naturally, there’s a webcam, too.
Weighing only 1.12kg, it’s easy to lug around with one hand (although, if you’re sensitive to such things, you might want to don a pair of gloves before getting too close – the glossy lid attracts a lot of fingerprints). Finally, a set of Harman Kardontuned stereo speakers sit underneath the laptop. I found that setting the laptop to Music mode through the preinstalled AudioWizard app resulted in the best audio quality. The speakers are loud enough to ll a small room and sound surprisingly accurate.
The ZenBook 13’s trackpad is superb. The palm rejection works
awlessly, and I liked the fact that you can left-click anywhere on the pad – except, of course, the designated right-click area at the bottom right-hand side.
Its accompanying keyboard is similarly re ned. It’s fully backlit with white LEDs and, as the keys have 1.4mm of travel, there’s plenty of feel and feedback – you can touch type on the laptop at full speed and with a minimum of noise.
The laptop has a 13.3in Full HD matte display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The thin 6.86mm bezels ensure that the display takes centre stage, but when tested with our X-Rite i1Display Pro calibrator, its IPS panel proved a letdown. The panel only covers 84.5% of the sRGB colour spectrum, which, in comparison to high-end rivals that typically achieve between 90% and 96%, means colours appear dull.
With an average Delta E of 3.64 and maximum of 9.85, it’s not the most colour-accurate of screens either. It’s miles behind the Huawei MateBook X Pro’s Delta E gures of 1.27 and 2.53, and inferior to the Dell XPS 13, which achieved 2.49 and 7.95 in the same test. Arguably its biggest shortcoming is brightness. With a peak brightness of only 314cd/m , it’s quite dim, especially in bright light conditions. Here, the Dell XPS 13 manages 454cd/m and the Huawei Matebook X Pro 488cd/m . There are no such issues with contrast, with the Asus’ panel delivering a ratio of 1,117:1. However, even here it lags behind those two rivals from Huawei and Dell, both of which achieve contrast ratios of over 1,500:1. In general
use, that won’t make much of a difference, but a higher contrast level does help when watching moody films.
TURN OF SPEED
Performance is strong across the board. The UX331UN-EG009T we test here includes a 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U processor that turbo boosts to 3.4GHz when required. Even with 8GB of RAM – 16GB seems a more apt partner to Intel’s chip
– it whipped up a score of 75 in PCTA’s benchmarks. That’s only one point behind the Huawei Matebook X Pro, which included the faster Intel Core i7-8550U, but significantly behind the Dell XPS 13, which scored 104.
While I haven’t tested the ZenBook 13 with a Core i7-8550U, I’m quietly confident that it will be closer to the Dell’s score than the Huawei’s. The reason? While the Huawei’s cooling mechanism struggled to keep the Core i7 chip cool under heavy load, the Asus’ cooling is great for a slim machine: it gets to around 90°C across all four cores under full load. The fans can be heard at this point, but they aren’t obnoxious.
In Geekbench 4, the Asus ZenBook 13 managed a single-core score of 4,178 and a multi-core score of 14,253. That’s very impressive, given that Dell’s Core i7 XPS 13 hit scores of 4,744 and 15,047.
Only the 256GB SATA3 SSD lets the side down: it scored 476MB/sec read and 369MB/sec write speeds in the AS SSD sequential benchmark. That’s deeply ordinary compared to the Dell XPS 13’s 512GB NVMe SSD, which managed a blazing 2,224MB/sec and 444MB/ sec in the same tests. That said, in general use, you aren’t going to notice the difference.
Where you will is gaming. The Asus’ discrete Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU helped pull away convincingly in the gaming benchmarks. In the GFXBench Car Chase benchmark, the Asus managed an impressive onscreen score of 54fps. By comparison, the Dell XPS 13, which relies on Intel’s UHD Graphics 620, achieved only 31.9fps.
At 8hrs 23mins in our strenuous battery benchmark, the ZenBook 13 will last around a day or so
– as long as you keep the screen brightness below 50%. And even if you do run dry, the fastcharging feature replenishes 60% of the battery’s capacity in only 50 minutes.
It’s not perfect by any means – a faster SSD, 16GB of RAM and an improved display are top of my wish list – but the Asus ZenBook 13 still packs plenty of appeal. The discrete graphics chip puts it in another league compared to its closest competition, while its design, sheer amount of connectivity and turn of speed make it a great all-round machine. In short, the Asus ZenBook 13 is the best value 13.3in laptop you can buy.
“The discrete graphics chip puts the ZenBook 13 in another league compared to its competition, while its design, connectivity and speed make it a great all-round machine”
The ZenBook 13 is a featherweight at 1.12kg, making it easy to carry around
The keyboard is fully backlit and there’s enough travel for fast and quiet touch typing
The ZenBook 13’s glossy royal blue lid might look stylish, but be aware that it picks up fingerprints very easily