“Holy Smokes, Asus made a MacBook!” this was the thought that popped into my head when I laid eyes on the Asus ZenBook 3. There is no denying that Asus’ latest high-end laptop looks quite like its competitor from Apple. I won’t blame them; there is only so much you can do to make a rectangular slab more interesting. And Asus it seems, has taken up the challenge to make it stand out among the crowd of ultrabooks.
Asus ZenBook 3 Design
Asus sent us the Rose Gold version of the ZenBook 3 and I must say, it is quite a looker. The laptop has the branding in Gold along has a concentric design on the lid. The circular design pattern is highly subjective, while some people like it, a lot of my colleagues disagreed. There are a few more details like the gold highlights around the display which show the attention to detail put into this device.
What is surprising is how much this thing weighs, a mere 910 grams, that’s all. Asus has managed to make it lighter than the MacBook. It is commendable to see such a tiny device pack in so much power(more on that later). Open the lid, and you see a 6-row backlit chiclet keyboard that uses most of the space, leaving only a few millimeters on the side. The precision trackpad is placed bang in the center and has a glass covering on top which makes it smooth to use. Also, it has a fingerprint scanner embedded into it that makes unlocking the device easier via Microsoft’s Hello. The laptop comes with Harman Kardon speakers; two positioned above the keyboard and two under the body towards the edge.
One of the highlights of the ZenBook 3 is the 12.5-inch Full HD IPS display. Asus has kept the bezels thinner (not as thin as the Dell XPS 13), and that adds significantly to the way it looks. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 making it scratch resistant. The 1080p resolution is perfect for a screen this size and managed to impress us with its contrast. The laptop has good viewing angles, and the brightness is good even in well-lit environments. I did spend a considerable amount of time on YouTube watching videos purely for the experience the laptop delivered. The crisp display and those Harman Kardon speakers are a match made in heaven, if you use your laptop primarily for media consumption, this one is a strong contender.
The ZenBook 3 has only two ports on the body, that’s right only two. A Type-C port for everything from charging to data transfer and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The single Type-C port is very restrictive as you will be limited to a single function at a time. The only way around this is to buy a dongle that lets you have the connectivity you need. I would’ve said that “Asus needs to add more ports”, but there is no space left on the body for any other port. I guess that’s the sacrifice you need to make for an ultrabook.
Asus ZenBook 3 Specifications
The spec sheet of the ZenBook is an entirely different story. While I was expecting it to sport a Core M processor like the Macbook, I was surprised to see the Core i7 sticker on it. The Asus ZenBook 3 is powered by a 7th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and has one lower variant with a Core i5 chip. Our review unit has the Core i7(7500U) clocked at 2.9GHz, with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD drive (SATA), a combination that makes it potent enough to go through a lot of stuff without breaking into a sweat.
Regarding connectivity, there is Bluetooth 4.1 and dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac. It also features a VGA camera (that isn’t quite up to the mark) above the display. I was expecting something better considering the cost of the device. Spread across the chassis of the laptop is the 40Whr battery and to top it up; there is a 45W charger. Asus claimed it would do 60% in close to 50 minutes and in our test; it did manage something similar.
The ZenBook 3 comes with Windows 10 Home Edition along with trial versions of a few apps. It also gets a dongle in the box which has a port for USB Type-C, HDMI and USB Type A. This dongle was missing in our box, and we couldn’t test it.
ZenBook 3 Performance
At first glance, it looks like the laptop features a fanless design, it isn’t the case. Asus has crammed in a fan that is just 0.3mm in thickness and sits in the center towards the hinge. It almost kicks in instantly the moment you start the laptop, but it isn’t audible. They have turned the dial all the way up to eleven regarding specifications. The Core i7 chip along with the SSD make the machine boot up in less than 15 seconds. The fingerprint scanner mounted on the touchpad coupled with Microsoft Hello makes it easier to login. The scanner is quite helpful and saves you the hassle of entering a passcode or PIN.
I quite enjoyed watching content on it and the display, as I said before is top notch. The screen is a little reflective for my liking. An anti-glare coating might have helped in this case. The keyboard falls a little short of my expectation. Yes, it is well sized, but the feedback and travel that it offers are inadequate. There have been multiple instances where it missed registering a keystroke. One has to push hard enough to make it register, bottoming it out most of the time. You will get used to it in a few days, but other laptops like the MacBook Air offer a much better typing experience. Another peeve was the lack of a way to lock the function button which made it a two key affair to change the brightness or volume, every single time.
The weight and size bundled with the processing power have to be the biggest advantages the ZenBook has over the competition. During use, the laptop did seem to heat a little, more so on the right side. The rest of the laptop is significantly cooler during use.
When it comes to battery, Asus has used a big battery and spread it across the chassis of the laptop allowing it to maintain a high capacity and a thin profile at the same time. The 40Wh battery is decent enough to keep the ZenBook going for a couple of hours when it is off the plug. How long, really depends on what you are doing. Casual surfing and a bit of YouTube videos made the device last over 6-7 hours. We ran the CrystalDiskMark benchmark test for the SSD, and the laptop managed 1680MB/s and 892MB/s for sequential read & write respectively for a queue depth of 4. In the same test with a queue depth of 32, it managed 1688MB/s and 1308 for sequential read & write respectively.
The Asus ZenBook 3 is a very powerful ultrabook meant for those who want the computing power on the go. If you are among the ones with such a need, get ready to pay the price, because the ZenBook isn’t cheap. The review unit we had is the mid-variant (Core i7, 8GB RAM & 512GB SATA SSD) that costs Rs 1,23,990. The top end variant (Core i7, 16GB RAM & 512GB PCIE SSD) for Rs 1,47,990 and the lower variant (Core i5, 8GB/512SSD) for 113,990.
The lack of ports will be an issue in day to day use. Even simple tasks like transferring data via a USB stick will be a problem without the right accessory. If you are willing to pay the price, deal with these issues and adopt the dongle life, then the ZenBook 3 is the compact powerhouse for you.