Asus Zenbook 13

SLEN­DER DE­SIGN, IM­PRES­SIVE PER­FOR­MANCE AND AC­CU­RATE STEREO SPEAK­ERS MAKE THIS 13.3IN LAP­TOP A CRACK­ING BUY

PC & Tech Authority - - CONTENTS - CHRISTO­PHER MINASIANS

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.

MIXED ER­GONOMICS

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

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