HomeLaptopsReview: Asus Zenbook 3 UX390U

Review: Asus Zenbook 3 UX390U

The Breakdown

8.3
A well designed laptop with extremely good hardware. Recommended for those who want a work horse.
Design
9.5
Display
8.0
Keyboard and Trackpad
7.5
Performance
9.5
Battery Life
7.0
Pros
Stellar design, top notch hardware and very portable.
Cons
Poor battery life and sluggish trackpad.

The ZenBook 3 is a top-of-the-range 12.5-inch ultrabook from Asus, small, sleek and light. It has redefined the Ultrabook, with the lightest and thinnest Intel Core i-powered laptop on the planet. However, as you might expect, the compromises that are made when you shrink a laptop down are notable, but certainly not deal-breakers. Up against it is the 12-inch MacBook, which packs a lower-power processor but the promise of much better battery life and a better screen.

Our review unit shipped with an Intel Core i7-7500U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe solid state drive, and a 12.5-inch 1080p display panel, with a retail price of ₹122,990/- in India (appox. $1900).

Is the Zenbook 3 worth your money and time? Let’s find out!

Specs:

Asus Zenbook UX390U
Screen 12.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, non-touch, glossy
Processor Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U CPU
Video Intel HD 620
Memory 16 GB LPDDR3 2133 MHz (soldered)
Storage 512 M.2 NVMe SSD (80 mm)
Connectivity Wireless AC (Intel AC 8260), Bluetooth 4.1, WiDi
Ports 1x USB 3.1 Type-C gen 1, mic/headphone
Baterry 40 Wh
Operating system Windows 10
Size 296 mm or 11.66” (w) x 191 mm or 7.51” (d) x 11.9 mm or 0.46” (h)
Weight 2.00 lbs (910 g)
Extras Backlit keyboard, VGA webcam, Available in three colors: Rose Gold, Royal Blue or Quarts Gray, IO adapter included in the pack

Design and Display:

The build quality here is excellent, as the Zenbook’s chassis doesn’t flex, creak, or crack the way cheaper all-plastic laptops do. The hinge is a little looser than other laptops tend to be right out of the box, but its construction is great, and solidly attached to the body without any give at the edges.

Asus says the ZenBook 3’s aerospace-grade aluminium chassis is 50 percent stronger than standard laptop alloy. And it does feel that way. The overall construction is very solid and feels like a proper unibody. On top of that, the signature concentric ring design unique to the Zenbook lineup adds an eye-catching sheen to the lid. The Asus logo on the front is go golden in colour while even the edges are golden. This gives the laptop a very unique and luxurious look unlike any other. Definitely a eye popper for those who love bling.

It’s obvious Asus studied Apple’s Macbook when designing the Zenbook UX390U, replicated it and tried to outmatch some of its particularities, both aesthetically and functionally. There are two air-intake meshes on the underbelly, towards the sides, and the hot air is blown through a grill behind the hinge. On the belly you’ll also find the four rubber feet, small yet grippy enough to keep this well in place on a desk, and two speakers cuts towards the front lip.

The display bezels are thin enough to give it an appealing look (not as thin as the XPS). You’ll only find a headphone/mic jack and an USB Type C slot on this computer, plus two small status LEDs. And unlike the MacBook, the USB-C is on the left, which as a righty find rather annoying. So yes, you’ll have to carry along separate dongles along with you, just like the MacBook Pro. In the box, buyers will find a Thunderbolt 3 to HDMI dongle, alongside a standard Thunderbolt 3 to USB Type-A dongle.

Open up the laptop and the 12.5-inch screen is bright, with good colour rendering. But there are some disappointments: it’s not touch-responsive. Given the price, I would definitely expect a touch screen display. A touch panel would have given this laptop quite some edge over the MacBook Pro.

With a 12.5-inch display, Asus managed to outdo the MacBook by half an inch. But Apple’s laptop boasts a higher-resolution 2,304 x 1,440 display, as compared with 1080p on the ZenBook. At least it’s a good-looking display, though; it’s bright enough for outdoor use, while colors appear vibrant and mostly accurate. Asus covered it in Gorilla Glass 4 for extra protection. I feel this Zenbook is not a computer you’ll be able to comfortably use outdoors or in strong light environments, due to the Gorilla Glass display, but also due to having a fairly dim panel.

Overall though, the design is near perfect while the display has some room for improvement. Resolution could’ve been higher while the anti reflective properties improved.




Keyboard and Trackpad: 

The keyboard is a similarly mixed bag of good and less good features. The key area stretches right to the sides of the chassis, giving room for big QWERTY keys that are easy to hit accurately. There’s plenty of travel, but the keys don’t feel very springy under the fingers, making the typing experience less comfortable than it could be. Though I can say that after spending some time with it, I got very accustomed to the low feedback. The edge to edge keyboard means each key gets enough room. This further leads to more accurate typing. As far as accuracy is concerned, I’d rate the Zenbook 3 keyboard on par with the MacBook Pro.

he keyboard is of course backlit and there are three intensity levels to choose from. As a note, there’s a small LED on the Power Button. I really hated the position of the top power button. It is located on the top right corner, where the Delete button sits conventionally. I pressed the power button often instead of the delete button, leading to annoying sleeps. I really prefer the power button placement on the side, like the HP Spectre x360 or the Surface Pro 4.

The trackpad, while large and relatively smooth, is a chore to use. It requires a lot of pressure to register clicks, which isn’t great when you’re trying to balance an ultralight notebook on your lap. I often prefer taping once to click then pressing the trackpad again and again, even here the cursor tends to be pretty jumpy. You actually need to tap it a little hard, meaning more effort for the lightest job. Ohh and its a Windows Precision Touchpad multi-touch gestures are quick, responsive, and accurate.

The placement of the scanner might not be ideal for some, sitting as it does in the top-right corner of the trackpad. During my time with the ZenBook 3 there were no occasions where I accidentally strayed onto the scanner, but someone with different trackpad habits might not be so lucky. Speaking of the fingerprint scanner, I’ve got no complains with it. It’s fast and accurate. It’s a pleasure to simply just place your finger and the device unlocks. While Windows Hello is also pretty good, it often lacks much needed accuracy. I feel fingerprint scanner should now become mainstream on laptops.

Performance: 

The UX390 is scheduled to retail with Intel’s Skylake Core i5-7200U and Core i7-7500U processors. What’s truly impressive about the ZenBook 3 is that ASUS has managed to fit in seventh-generation Intel Core processors and gobs of memory in such a tiny case. Our review unit came with a Core i7-7500U, which offers speeds between 2.7GHz and 2.9GHz, and 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 2,133MHz.

This laptop includes up to 16 GB of LPDDR3 memory and a single M.2 NVMe SSD stick for storage. Everything but the SSD is soldered on the motherboard, but the storage can be replaced with compatible 80 mm sticks. Asus has designed a heat dissipation system specifically for the ZenBook 3. It includes some impressive materials such as a fan whose liquid crystal polymer blades are just 0.3mm thick, and 0.1mm-thick heat pipes. Heat emerges around the hinged area constantly, making this part of the laptop noticeably warm to the touch even when it’s idling.

The 512GB SSD should provide enough storage for the mobile professional. Sound emerges from four speakers, two sitting above the number row and two on the underside. Asus makes bold claims about sound quality, but I found that while there was plenty of volume on offer, audio quality was a bit empty. The base seems non existent. It’s a little less impressive, but still sounds better than most laptops.

The ZenBook 3 felt just as zippy as other high-end ultraportables. It didn’t skip a beat during my typical workflow, which involves having several browsers open with dozens of tabs each, plus Slack and Adobe Premiere. Overall, this laptop can definitely get all your work done smoothly. If you’re into video rendering, Intel’s seventh generation processors have codecs built right in, so rendering is a little faster.

PCMARK 7 PCMARK 8 (CREATIVE ACCELERATED) 3DMARK 11 3DMARK (SKY DIVER) ATTO (TOP READS/WRITES)
ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,448 3,911 E2,791 / P1,560 3,013 1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s

Battery:

When it comes to real-world battery life, the ZenBook 3 also outshines some recent ultraportables. There’s a 40 Wh battery on the Zenbook UX390UA, which is small for a computer motorized by an Intel Core i7 processor, as you result you may not get the best battery life, but it’s going to be sufficient.

Asus bundles the laptop with a 45W power brick with integrated and non-retractable prongs, which charges the battery in around 2 hours via the USB Type-C port, yet there’s also fast-charging (up to 60% in 50 minutes) implemented. It lasted me around 6 hours minimum. When doing less intensive work, the battery could tug along till 6 hours 35 mins. If you want insane battery life, better for the MacBook Pro or the XPS 13.

Conclusion:

The Asus ZenBook 3 is a well built, very light ultraportable that looks fantastic. It is, though, very expensive, and that makes me critical of those features that don’t come up to the mark. The somewhat unrewarding keyboard and touchpad are notable in this respect, along with the single USB-C port.

Apple’s MacBook, which is really the only direct competitor, starts at $1,299, with a significantly slower Core M3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Bumping up to $1,599 gets you a Core M5 and more storage, but you’ll still be stuck with 8GB of RAM. On the surface, it’s easy to fall in love with this comely clamshell. The biggest ding to the device is its poor battery life, coming in under 7 hours in our tests.

Ultimately, with the ZenBook 3, Asus did what it does best: pack in plenty of powerful hardware for a cheaper price than the competition. Asus still has a long way to go, when it comes to perfection. If you’re going for style points, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe earns top marks. Whether you’re at work, the office or home, someone’s going to notice your laptop.

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