Laptop, Review

Asus ZenBook 13 (UX333) Review: The Best Sub-RM5,000 Ultraportable?

Light, compact, and light laptops are aplenty in the market, but only a few are truly remarkable; one such ultraportable is the Asus ZenBook 13 (UX333). Not only is it a compact laptop, it has very minimal bezels and good value for money.

I’ve used the ZenBook 13 as my daily driver for a few weeks now, and if you’re looking for a productivity laptop within the RM5,000 price range, this is one of the best – if not the best – options.

Specifications

Display13.3-inch FHD LED-backlit (1920 x 1080)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8265U / i7-8565U
GPUNvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
RAM8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3
Storage512GB PCIe 3.0
CameraHD (Windows Hello)
Battery50WHr
Dimensions302 x 189 x 16.9 mm
Weight1.19kg
AudioBottom-firing stereo speakers
Ports1x USB 3.1 Type-C
1x USB 3.1 Type-A
1x USB 2.0 Type-A
1x HDMI
1x microSD card reader

Design

Thanks to its tiny bezels, the ZenBook 13 is a small, compact laptop. This makes it highly portable, and tipping the scales at 1.19kg, it’s pretty light too. These two qualities are what you would want in a productivity laptop, which make the ZenBook 13 ideal for those who are always on the go.

Build quality is also one of the ZenBook 13’s strong suits. The top, bottom, and palm rest area of the laptop are all metal, and it feels very robust. I also love the fact that the display is protected with a sheet of glass, further accentuating the premium look of the laptop.

And that’s really the highlight of the ZenBook 13’s design: the almost bezel-less display. It gives the laptop a very sleek appearance, and it’s a head-turner.

Despite its slim bezels, Asus still managed to place the webcam at the top of the display, so it won’t be pointing at you from an awkward angle. On top of that, the webcam also supports Windows Hello, and it works very well. A quick glance at the webcam is enough to unlock the laptop.

As for connectivity, the ZenBook 13 has a rather generous selection of ports. These include one USB-C port, two USB-A connections, an HDMI output, and a microSD card slot.

Overall, the ZenBook 13 is a well-designed, compact laptop. It’s sleek, it feels great, and the almost bezel-less display is simply a sight to behold.

User Experience

One of the most important features of a productivity-focused laptop is battery life, and in this regard, the ZenBook 13 delivers. On average, I got between 9 to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge with this laptop, and this is very, very impressive.

Of course, I managed to get this kind of battery life after I set the laptop’s power mode to battery saver, and dimming the display to a comfortable – but still very usable – brightness. Up to 10 hours of battery life is very good, though it falls short of Asus’ estimate of 14 hours.

Besides that, the ZenBook 13’s 13.3-inch 1080p display is equally good too. It can get bright enough for comfortable use outdoor, and the colours are vibrant as well. However, glare can be quite an issue with the screen’s glossy finish.

A good keyboard is very important for a productivity laptop like the ZenBook 13, and I’m happy to report that it offers a pleasant typing experience. Although the keyboard layout is slightly smaller than a conventional board, I had little to no trouble adapting to it.

Once I’ve accustomed myself to the ZenBook 13’s keyboard, I can type as quickly as I do on a full-size keyboard. The 1.4mm key travel is long enough to offer a comfortable typing experience, I love the tactility of the keys, and when you lift the lid of the laptop, the keyboard is lifted up slightly too, improving ergonomics.

And then we have the ZenBook 13’s trackpad, which also doubles as a numpad. I don’t use the numpad all that often, but from what I can gather, it’s smart enough to differentiate between inputs and mouse movements. If you absolutely need a numpad, this should suffice.

How does the trackpad itself perform? Very good. While it’s not in the same league as a MacBook’s trackpad, it’s definitely above average. It feels accurate, my fingers can glide effortlessly on the trackpad’s glass surface, and never did I feel the need to plug a mouse into the laptop throughout the review period – except when I want to game, of course.

But when it comes to audio, the ZenBook 13 leaves much to be desired. Even at maximum volume, the bottom-firing speakers are simply not loud enough. If you want the best audio experience, just use a pair of headphones with this laptop.

Throughout my time with the ZenBook 13, i thoroughly enjoyed using it. In fact, I was confident enough to use it as my primary laptop when I was travelling for MWC 2019, and it served me very well.

Performance

I tested the highest-end variant of the ZenBook 13 with an Intel Core i7-8565U processor, and it provided very good performance level. It doesn’t skip a beat, I can open multiple tabs on Google Chrome with absolutely no slowdown, and overall, it feels like a really fast laptop.

If you want to do some gaming on the ZenBook 13, the laptop can definitely handle it. The Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU under the hood may not be very powerful, but it’s capable enough to do some gaming here and there, including Diablo 3, Fortnite, and even Apex Legends.

However, don’t expect amazing gaming performance, and you will have to lower down the graphics settings and resolution quite a bit to get playable frame rate.

Competition

There are two variants of the ZenBook 13 in Malaysia, which have the exact same hardware except for the processor. The Core i5-8265U model retails at RM4,499, while the higher-end variant with a Core i7-8565U processor goes for RM4,999.

So if you’ve got about RM5,000 to spend, what other alternatives do you have? Let’s break it down.

HP Envy 13

Much like the ZenBook 13, the HP Envy 13 comes with very similar hardware, along with some extra goodies. The highest-end variant of the Envy 13 also has a Core i7-8565U processor, an MX150 GPU, a 13.3-inch 1080p display, as well as 512GB of SSD storage. But when it comes to RAM, the Envy 13 has double the capacity at 16GB – very generous.

That being said, the Envy 13’s bottom bezel is noticeably bigger than the ZenBook 13’s, so the latter is arguably the sleeker-looking option. On top of that, HP’s offering is also more costly at RM5,199.

Lenovo Yoga S730

Another alternative to the ZenBook 13 is the new Lenovo Yoga S730. It has the same Core i7 processor, SSD storage capacity, and display size as the ZenBook, but it features 16GB of RAM and a much lower RM4,399 price tag. That’s very good value for money.

But of course, there are some sacrifices here and there. Not only does the Yoga S730 lack a dedicated GPU – relying instead on Intel’s UHD Graphics 620 integrated solution – it also has larger bottom bezel than the ZenBook 13, just like the Envy 13.

Conclusion

The Asus ZenBook 13 is a polished, compact productivity laptop with commendable battery life and value for money. I really enjoyed using it as my daily driver for the past few weeks, and I love its compact form factor and almost bezel-less display.

However, there is no such thing as the “perfect laptop,” and the ZenBook 13 is no exception. Its audio performance is decidedly average, the screen’s glossy finish can result in annoying glares, and the keyboard’s small layout may prove to be an issue for users with larger hands.

Nonetheless, you should definitely give the ZenBook 13 a consideration if you’re looking to get a productivity laptop within the RM5,000 price range. If you want absolute value for money, go for the Core i5 model; you’re still getting similar hardware as the higher-end Core i7 variant.