The hardware inside the Asus ZenBook 13 is what actually puts this laptop on the map and the main reason you’d want to buy it. It features an Intel KabyLake-R Core i5-8250U processor and Nvidia MX150 graphics, as well as 8 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256 GB SATA SSD.
Solid CPU performance. Attractive design. Competitive battery life.
SATA SSD holds back performance.
Asus, being one of the Ultrabook pioneers, continues to push the Ultrabook revolution with the release of the Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN. The 13.3-inch display is packed in a very thin metal case, it features the 8th generation Intel-core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256 SSD, a matte FHD IPS screen, and an Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU.
The Asus finds itself in the competition with systems that have dominated the airwaves in the Ultrabook category including the HP envy 13, Dell XPS 13, Swift 3 SF314-52G and the IdeaPad 320s-13IKBR. For many, the XPS serves as the standard in the 13-inch niche of thin-and light notebooks where the ZenBook plans to compete.
The ZenBook 13 does not come into the competition with features of a full-fledged gaming laptop or graphics workstation. It however offers seamless performance on day to day tasks that could be an uphill task on other ultraportable and games are faster and smoother. It is the kind of machine that you will want to consider. Let us now go deeper to find out the hits and misses of this Ultrabook.
The ZenBook dons a dark navy blue color that gives the laptop a premium look. Asus haven’t changed the iconic logo which is surrounded by concentric circles on the lid but they have tweaked the design a bit. The lid has a shiny layer on the top that feels like plastic but provides a beautiful glass-like shine.
The entire casing of the laptop uses metal save for the display bezel and the inner chassis that is still made of plastic. The surface is a however a finger print magnet so you will need some cloth to clean them regularly.
The build quality of the ZenBook appears to depart from what we were accustomed with in systems like the ZebnBook 3 Deluxe and ZenBook Flip S which are solidly built with minimal flexing. In this case, the ZenBook 13 is a bit bendy if one presses on the lid, keyboard deck or the bottom of the chassis and some flexing can be noticed too.
When it comes to size, the ZenBook falls in the middle of the pack. It measures 12.2 x 8.5 x 0.5 inches and weighs in at 2.47 pounds which is almost identical to the HP Spectre 13. Ultrabooks like the Lenovo Yoga 720 measure 12.2 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches and weigh 2.8 pounds while the Dell XPS 13 measures in at 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches and 2.7 pounds. Ultimately, the ZenBook 13 does not claim the lightest or thinnest ultrabook spot, but it is a modern machine that utilizes space and won’t weigh you down to carry around and get some work done.
Under the hood, the ZenBook 13 houses an eighth generation Intel core i5-8250 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz that can run up to 3.4 GHz with Turbo Boost Technology. The system combines the CPU with 8GB of memory and 256 GB M.2 SSD to offer enough power for plenty of multitasking. The laptop can crank through day to day activities like streaming music and videos while running google chrome with a dozen of tabs open without slowing down.
The laptop packs a GeForce MX150 graphics card that makes it possible for the notebook to run older gaming titles and newer titles with graphics details turned down. The Chip won’t deliver mind blowing gaming performance as the frame rates won’t be fast enough for enjoyable play on high detail settings. However, the GPU does a better job compared to Intel’s UHD Graphic 620 integrated GPU seen on the Asus ZenBook Flip that it comes to improve on. Apart from gaming, the ZenBook comes in handy for editing photos and video any other application that can utilize the discrete GPU.
Asus packs plenty of connectivity options into the ZenBook 13 but they are not great for this day and age. There are two USB 3.0 ports and a full-size 1.4 HDMI connector for extending your display to bigger HDTVs and Monitors.
There is a USB 3.1 port that does not support thunderbolt 3 thereby limiting data speeds and display support and does not support laptop charging. Consequently, you will have to carry its little 65-watt power supply. A microSD card reader and 3.5mm combo audio jack are also on hand.
The lack of Thunderbolt 3, the lack of full size card reader and HDMI 2.0 connection might steer professionals towards other systems such as the XPS 13 and HP Spectre 13 that supports Thunderbolt 3. Photographers would have appreciated a proper SD card reader more compared to the Micro SD card slot placed in the system.
Internet connectivity is available through 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The laptop comes with a 13.3inch display with Full HD 1920X1080 resolution that is crisp and bright. The display bezels are a bit wider than on many of its competitors including the XPS 13. We hope that Asus will consider this aspect in the next iteration of the device.
The Display in the Asus ZenBook is at the upper end of average in today’s premium notebooks. In the sRGB color gamut, the display cover 119 percent which is slightly higher than the premium laptop average. It eschews the XPS 13’s 117 nits and the Envy’s 106 nits but does not topple the Yoga’s 171 nits.
The ZenBook averages 296 nits of brightness, which is also slightly higher than the average 287 nits but lower than the 372 nits averaged by the XPS 13.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on this laptop has well-spaced and sized keys. It features a 1.4mm keys travel that however, feels shorter when typing. The keys are also a bit spongy so you will need to hit them firmly to actuate and in few cases they might not register a click if not aimed and pressed perfectly.
There is a 4.1×2.8-inch touchpad that is roomy and responsive. It is very accurate and fast thanks to Microsoft’s Precision technology and drivers. There is reliable detection of Multi-touch gestures and they are always spot-on.
The ZenBook 13 features dual stereo speakers that Asus partners with Harman Kardon to offer an active amplifier with great audio. The laptop audio is decent enough to fill a room with the volume pumped up thus making it enjoyable to watch a movie or listen to music. The Asus AudioWizard will allow you to tweak the audio settings to your liking.
The 50 watt-hour batter on the Asus ZenBook 13 can run up to 9 hours and some minutes with continuous website browsing. This is higher than the premiup laptop average of 8 hours and 25 minutes. It howver does not outdo the Dell XPS 13 that offers a whopping 11 hours and 59 minutes.
Not so Good
Asus has more hits than misses on the Asus ZenBook 13. However, some folks might find a few things as deal-breakers. For instance, the 8GB of RAM that is soldered on the motherboard is a big impediment should you want to expand its memory down the road. It is possible to increase the storage but the lack of an expansion slot for the RAM gives no room for improving the systems performance.
The users who are deep into typing might find the keyboard uncomfortable due to the short key travel. Additionally, the fact that the special mirror-like finish for the top lid is a fingerprint magnet makes it a bit difficult to clean. The metal bottom that has a matte finish compounds the problem as it also picks up print quickly.
The Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN is a premium laptop that offers decent performance for everyday use. It has a great design, save for the fingerprints smudges, and offers a great service for the money. It is not a cheap system but then it is well priced with the competition which includes the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre 13. There are several things that Asus could have done better, but if all you need is a travel-friendly laptop for business or school with some extra graphics, then the Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN gladly makes it to your list.