Hands-On, Laptop

Asus ZenBook 13 (UX333) Hands-On: The Laptop of My Dreams

Looking for a good productivity laptop in a sleek, compact form factor has never been easier. Thanks to the shrinking screen bezels on modern laptops, they are now more compact than ever, and one such laptop is the new Asus ZenBook 13 (UX333).

Launched in Malaysia just yesterday – alongside the ZenBook 14 and 15 – the ZenBook 13 has an extremely small footprint. On top of that, it is priced pretty competitively too. I managed to spend some time with the ZenBook 13, and simply put…I’m really impressed with Asus’ latest ultraportable.

Right off the bat, the ZenBook 13’s compact form factor is reminiscent of a netbook – a class of very portable laptops introduced several years ago. But this is no netbook, of course. Not only does it have the processing power of a conventional laptop, the ZenBook 13 has a 13.3-inch 1080p display too with very narrow bezels.

There are still some bezels at the top and bottom of the ZenBook 13’s display, but they’re definitely not as chunky as those found in other laptops. According to Asus, the ZenBook 13 also has an impressive 95% screen-to-body ratio, and it looks incredible in person. I also love the fact that I can open the laptop’s lid with only one finger.

So how compact is the ZenBook 13? Measuring only 302 x 189 x 16.9 mm, Asus claims this laptop is even smaller than an A4 paper, and I’m inclined to agree. In fact, it’s quite surreal how Asus managed to cram a 13.3-inch display into this ultraportable – it’s so ridiculously small.

Speaking of which, the ZenBook 13’s 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display has vibrant colours, and it also has good viewing angles. However, using the laptop in bright outdoors may be troublesome. Even though the display can get quite bright, glare can be an issue with the panel’s glossy finish, so just keep this in mind.

Despite its compact form factor, the ZenBook 13 has a rather complete selection of ports. These include a USB-C port, two USB-A connections, an HDMI output, and a microSD card slot. I’ve mentioned this before, but I would’ve really loved to see an SD card reader instead of a microSD slot on this laptop – it’s a much more useful feature.

But for the average user, I imagine the lack of an SD card reader isn’t that big of an issue. And hey, at least there are two USB-A ports; one of which is a fast USB 3.1 connection.

Okay, now let’s get to the good stuff: performance. Powered by Intel’s Core i5-8265U or i7-8565U Whiskey Lake processor, the ZenBook 13 should be powerful enough for productivity-related tasks. After all, these are Intel’s U series processors, which are typically faster than the company’s more power-efficient Y series chips – the latter are usually found in other slim and light laptops.

If you want to do a little bit of gaming, you’ll be happy to know that all variants of the ZenBook 13 in Malaysia come with a dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU. It’s not a high-end GPU, but you will be able to get playable frame rate on games like Fortnite and Diablo 3 with it.

In terms of battery life, the ZenBook 13 can supposedly deliver up to 14 hours of usage on a single charge with its 50WHr battery. This is a very generous estimate, and I’m not entirely convinced the ZenBook 13 can last that long. Nonetheless, I’ll put this to the test in a full review of the laptop.

Input devices are very important for a productivity-focused laptop, and in this regard, the ZenBook 13…is a bit of a mixed bag. Let’s start with the keyboard, which is smaller than a conventional keyboard. Despite this, I did manage to adapt pretty quickly to the smaller layout, though I imagine there will be folks who won’t like the cramp keyboard.

Thankfully, the typing experience on the ZenBook 13’s keyboard is quite pleasant. The 1.4mm key travel is enough for the keyboard to not feel shallow, and the keys’ good tactility make for a pleasant typing experience.

As for the ZenBook 13’s trackpad, it can track my fingers accurately, and the “NumberPad” built into the trackpad works surprisingly well. When activated, the NumberPad is smart enough to recognise between an input or a mouse movement; I can switch seamlessly between scrolling and punching in numbers with the trackpad, and that’s quite remarkable.

I’ve always wanted a capable productivity laptop in a small, compact form factor, and I feel like the Asus ZenBook 13 fits the bill. It has a good level of performance, I can do some gaming with its adequately powerful MX150 GPU, and the keyboard and mouse are more than good enough for their intended purposes.

What makes the ZenBook 13 that much more compelling is the fact that it offers good value for money. The base model of the laptop, which comes with a Core i5-8265U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of fast PCIe SSD, retails at only RM4,499. There’s also the more powerful Core i7-8565U variant with the same amount of storage and RAM, which goes for RM4,999.

For its asking price, the ZenBook 13 is an attractive productivity laptop. It’s ridiculously compact, its lack of bezels give it a sleek, modern aesthetic, and as mentioned, it has a good level of performance.

If there’s any reason I wouldn’t recommend the Asus ZenBook 13, it would come down to its battery life, which I will extensively test in a full review of the laptop. I’m excited to put the ZenBook 13 through its paces, and if it can deliver good battery life, it may very well be the laptop of my dreams.