The Asus ZenBook 13 is an excellent piece of hardware that squeezes lots of power in a tiny, sleek chassis yet remains affordable over most of its competitors. If you’re looking for a great laptop, and not in the financial mood to spend thousands, this is a great choice.
- EDITORS RATING
Asus has been trying to undercut the Apple MacBook Air, and they kind of succeeded with the ZenBook 13 line that rings low prices but packs more power than the most powerful Air ever produced. With the ASUS ZenBook UX333FA-AB77, the company is taking on the Dell XPS 13 with a sleek, premium design and lots of power for less money.
The only thing missing from the XPS 13’s offering is a Thunderbolt 3 port, but it compensates with a nano-edge display, powerful 8th Gen. Core i7 processor, a dual-function touchpad with a switchable numeric keypad for enhanced productivity and a TPM security chip to secure your files.
With the premium design and new components, is this the laptop that finally dethrones the Dell XPS 13?
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Also known as the Asus ZenBook 13, our review unit bears close family resemblance to the premium ZenBook S, with a chic blue aluminium finish with concentric circles surrounding a gold Asus logo centered in the lid. The lid remains a fingerprint magnet, but it happens quite a lot on metallic builds. The ZenBook UX333FA-AB77 gets Asus’ so-called ErgoLift hinge that tilts the keyboard at a 3-degree typing angle when you open the laptop.
It measures 0.67 by 11.9 by 7.4 inches, making it almost 143-percent smaller than last year’s model, with less screen bezels (2.8mm on the sides and 3.3mm at the bottom). Compared: Dell’s XPS 13 measures 0.46 by 11.9 by 7.8 inches and even weighs a few milligrams more than the Zenbook 13 (2.62 pounds against 2.7 pounds).
We applauded the ZenBook UX331 for being one of the few laptops to offer a discrete graphics card (the Nvidia GeForce MX150, now succeeded by the MX250 found on some models of the Blade Stealth), its successor now joins the XPS 13 in sticking with the Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated silicon. That spec makes it a machine meant strictly for productivity, and unsuitable for light gaming.
Also, the older ZenBook’s Windows Hello fingerprint reader has been retired too, it’s now replaced by a built-in IR webcam placed above the screen, and accepts Windows Hello sign in. The camera shoots images that are clear, but slightly pale in a sunny room.
For such a slim ultraportable, we expected some corners when it comes to I/O ports, but Asus offers robust connectivity. There is a USB 3.1 Type-C port along with full-size USB 3.1 Type-A and HDMI ports along the left edge, as well as a connector for the power adapter. On the right edge, there is a USB 2.0 port, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack.
The full-size HDMI port comes handy when you need to connect to an external monitor without having to use a dongle, though Asus bundles into the package a USB-C-to-Ethernet, in case you need to use wired Internet instead of the 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
The ZenBook UX333FA uses a 13.3-inch display that offers a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) native resolution. Fine details are produced well, but some icons and screen elements appear a little too big with Windows’ default 150 percent zoom. Competing ultrabooks produce very bright colors, thanks to high-res screens.
Brightness is good – not the brightest we’ve seen, but good contrast yields impressive white rather than off-white backgrounds. The screen colors are well saturated, and it even offers nice off-center screen viewing angles that are wide. It easily compares with the category leaders such as the Huawei MateBook X Pro and LG Gram, both high-end units meant for professional creatives.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The keyboard on this ZenBook earns points for key arrangement. It gets a dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys (F9 through F12 on the small top row) and the cursor rows are in an inverted T instead of a row, though some keys are still cramped. You’ll notice that the right Shift and Delete keys are tiny, and the latter has been moved next to the power button instead of occupying the top right corner all by itself.
The F7 keys lets you cycle through three backlighting levels, and a button in a corner on the touchpad turns it into an LED-illuminated keypad for numeric data entry. When the number-pad feature turned off, the touchpad responds swiftly to swipes and gestures, but requires a firmer rap than the gentle taps you’re used to in other laptops. Overall, the keyboard offers a shallow but snappy feel at first, but you’ll get your grip after an hour’s practice.
Our review unit of the ASUS ZenBook 13 is powered by an 8th-Generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD – all of which make it an above the fold productivity machine. Again, considering the thin profile, it makes for an excellent business laptop that easily rivals Lenovo’s ThinkPad as it now offers a TPM Security Chip for securing your data.
Apart from the ThinkPads’ sturdy construction, the security feature is one aspect that has kept most business executives going the Lenovo way. Asus now offers the same level of security in a stylish, portable and powerful ultraportable.
Asus now gives you the very top specifications on the UX333FA-AB77, underlain by a quad-core chip that maxes at 4.6GHz, making it quite impressive both on paper and on productivity. There’s more good news from the hard drive option. It’s a solid state NVMe-based drive that offers read speeds of up to 1,097 megabytes per second and write speeds of 964 MB/s. It doesn’t set any record, but it’s much better overall.
Well, the new Intel processor doesn’t do much to change the level of graphics performance. You’re getting the usual Intel HUD graphics, and that can only mean basic gaming performance for older 3D titles, and even then, you’ll only play at lower settings. If you need something portable that lets you play while not working, both the Asus ROG Zephyrus S and Razer Blade 15 are good alternatives.
A 50-watt-hour battery is enough for a full day at work or college. It’s not a massive battery, but it isn’t small either, and this laptop is well configured to utilize it. If you’ll be using the Asus UX333FA-AB77 for a lighter load like watching 1080p video, you’ll easily snag 13 hours without a charger.
That’s around the same duration you get from the Asus ZenBook UX333FA-DH51 – a Core i5 model of the ZenBook 13, beating the Apple MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13, with the latter coming really close.
The Asus ZenBook 13 is an excellent piece of hardware that squeezes lots of power in a tiny, sleek chassis yet remains affordable over most of its competitors. Counting from the Huawei MateBook 13, this is the second recent Ultrabook we’re inclined to forgive for not having a Thunderbolt 3 port, but it makes do with a USB Type-C port and a Type-A port that the MateBook relegates to an external port.
Once again, the fairly subpar keyboard keeps it from earning our Editors’ Choice award (not that it’s the worst, only that competitors offer better keyboards), but above that the ZenBook 13 offers impressive value that makes it well worth a look.
Is there a better alternative?
The Dell XPS 13 is a better laptop, but it costs considerably more for the same hardware. Not everyone will consider the improvements like a better keyboard layout and superior design are worthwhile the price hike.
A number of other alternatives around don’t really stack up. In the lineup you have the likes of the Acer Aspire 5 and Lenovo Yoga 730, but both come short in performance and other areas. The Apple MacBook Air would be a better alternative, but it skimps on processor performance – yet, its more expensive.
Another good choice is the Huawei MateBook X Pro, it offers a better design and great overall performance but availability is drying up, so in case you can find one at a reasonable price, it might be the best purchase you make this year.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The ASUS ZenBook UX333FA-AB77 remains a top contender among affordable ultraportable laptops. If you’re looking for a great laptop, and not in the financial mood to spend thousands, this is a great choice.