Asus ZenBook 13
£899 | $999 www.asus.com A shiny cover brings all the Windows fans to the yard
Carrying around a laptop that’s ultra-thin, lightweight and yet packs a punch seems to bring about a feeling of confidence on most days. Knowing that a powerful tool is in your backpack or briefcase is reassuring; even more so when that tool doesn’t cost a small fortune.
Take the new Asus ZenBook 13 as an example: this ultra-portable laptop packs Intel’s latest Core i5 processor, an Nvidia GPU and is more affordably priced than HP’s latest Spectre 13. Heck, it’s priced the same as Dell’s XPS 13, but with slightly better hardware inside.
Price and availability
If you’re in the market for the latest ZenBook 13, you won’t have any options to customise its internals in the US. The $999 price tag gets you the modestly configured laptop you see here. In the UK, the same model we tested is £899, with a more powerful model featuring an Intel Core i7 and double the storage costing £1,299.
A similarly specified HP Spectre 13 starts at $1,149 in the US, while in the UK it doubles the storage and a serves up a 4K display for £1,599.
The new Dell XPS 13 is priced at $999 (£1,299), but doesn’t have a touchscreen, and makes do with half the RAM, and half the storage found in the ZenBook 13. All in all, the ZenBook 13 is competitively priced for what it offers.
The next time you find yourself looking for a mirror, just close the lid of the ZenBook 13 instead. It’s not only shiny, but reflective enough to serve as an impromptu looking glass. We tested the Royal Blue model, but the Slate Grey model is just as reflective and shiny.
There are a number of ports on the ZenBook 13. On the right side is a microSD card reader, a 3.5mm headphone socket, and a USB 3.0 port. On the opposite side is where you’ll find a USB Type-C port, another USB 3.0 port, and a full-size HDMI port.
A standard keyboard is backlit with a white light and several levels of intensity. The chiclet keys offer 1.4mm of travel and are incredibly comfortable to type on. We use a lot of keyboards, and most take some sort of adjustment before we really get into a flow. With the new ZenBook 13’s keyboard, however, it was love at first type.
The 13.3-inch display is surrounded by Asus’ 6.8mm NanoEdge bezels. The touchsensitive display is smooth and responsive to our fingers. We didn’t have an Asus Pen to test on this particular unit, but it is available as an option should you want a stylus for jotting notes and drawing. Note, however, that the hinge doesn’t let the display fold flat, so you’ll have to adjust to drawing with the screen in laptop-like orientation.
Even though the display is Full HD (1,920x1,080 pixels), it’s very sharp and leaves the impression of being of a higher resolution.
Asus also now seems to have accepted that having a fingerprint sensor in the top-right corner of the touchpad is a bad idea – something we’ve long complained about. It now sits just below the right arrow key, and is far more convenient to use. Thanks, Asus.
With the fingerprint sensor out of the way, this is the first time we’ve had a chance to truly get a feel for an Asus touchpad. The touchpad works with gestures, but almost too well. When using two fingers to scroll down a web page, we often accidentally triggered the zoom function in Google Chrome. The gestures are different enough (two finger swipe and pinch-to-zoom) that we are puzzled by the mix-up.
Over the course of a week, we’ve put the ZenBook 13 through our daily work routines. There was lots of Slack messaging, Chrome tabs, music streaming and everything else in between. There was even a bit of casual gaming.
The addition of Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics showed in our benchmark tests. The ZenBook nearly pulled off a complete sweep against the HP Spectre 13, save for the single-core Geekbench test, where it scored 4,136 compared to the Spectre 13’s 4,782.
In daily use, the ZenBook 13 starts off sluggishly, but as it warms up any slowness disappears and it performs without any hiccups or issues. At multiple times we had many Chrome tabs and windows open and switching between them, along with multiple apps and emails, arrived at a rapid pace without any issues.
As we previously said, we didn’t test out any intense games, but did take some time to play a few online games and found it to get the job done without issue. You can expect to play more casual games without a problem, but anything more intense might drag.
Through our tests and daily use, we are able to confidently say the ZenBook 13 has a battery that’s more than enough to get you through a commute, flight or through a day of meetings.
The PCMark 8 battery test came in at three hours and 49 minutes, but the movie test was a strong six hours and 38 minutes. That’s not the longest battery life we’ve seen
“In daily use, the ZenBook 13 starts off sluggishly, but as it warms up any slowness disappears”
from an ultrabook by a long shot, but it’s reasonably long enough.
Smaller laptops don’t normally have the best sound output, and that is also true of the ZenBook 13. The speakers sound muffled, even when the laptop is sat on a desk, without any real power or robust sound behind them. If you do opt to play any games or listen to music on this laptop, you’ll want to use some headphones or earbuds.
The ZenBook 13 is a competitively priced laptop that offers more than enough power for the casual user and the occasional video editor. It’s not going to be enough to get through intense Fortnite rounds, but for casual gaming duties it should get by.
The super reflective lid is a magnet for fingerprints, which is either going to upset you or not matter at all. One of the smaller, yet most important, highlights of this particular model is the fingerprint reader’s new location – freeing up the touchpad. It’s unfortunate, then, that the touchpad remains frustrating to use.
Overall, the flaws with the ZenBook 13 aren’t deal-breakers, but caveats that you deserve to be made aware of regarding this otherwise impressive ultrabook.
The ZenBook 13 isn’t a speed demon, but it has a killer display and a smooth-as-butter keyboard.
Asus ZenBook 13 Supplier www.asus.com Processor 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 8250U (quad-core, 6MB Cache, up to 3.40GHz with Turbo Boost) Storage 256GB SSD (SATA3) RAM 8GB (LPDDR3) Graphics Nvidia GeForce MX150 (2GB DDR5 RAM), Intel UHD Graphics 620 Screen 13.3-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) wide view touch display Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2; 1x microSD card reader, 1x 3.5mm combo audio socket; 2x USB 3.0 Type-A; 1x full-sized HDMI, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C Camera VGA webcam Weight 1.12 kg Size 310x216x13.9mm