ASUS ZenBook 13 UX333 Review: the best Windows-based ultrabook you can buy

Rating: 9/10

Yay:

  • Great display
  • Ultra-portable
  • The keyboard is amazing to type upon
  • 8 hours of battery life

Nay: 

  • No USB Type-C charging
  • Audio is average at best

Introduction

Now, before we get into the actual review of the device, let us talk a bit about what the ASUS ZenBook 13 brings to the table. The ZenBook 13 UX333 is the 3rd generation of ASUS’ premium ZenBook series of 13, 14, and 15-inch laptops. The company has just upgraded their latest offerings in all the ZenBook 13, 14, and 15 models, powered by the latest 8th gen Intel chipsets. However, the highlight here

is evidently how they’ve managed to shrink down the bezels so much. The ZenBook 13 is available in plenty of configurations, with prices starting at Rs. 72,000 for the base Intel Core i5 variant. It goes all the way up to Rs. 1 lakh for the maxed out Core i7 variant with 512GB of SSD and Nvidia MX150 GPU. For the purpose of this review, ASUS did provide us with the maxed out variant. So, now that we’ve cleared that out, let’s get into the actual review of the device.

Design and Build Quality

Let me start this off with the design of this laptop. I mean, just look at it. The ASUS ZenBook 13 looks super premium. The laptop comes in two color variants, Blue and White, with gold accents on both of them. For our review, we got the Blue variant, which is also my favorite among the two. The back panel of this laptop features the ASUS branding with their evergreen concentric circular design. This panel is super attractive to fingerprints, and it was nice of ASUS to include a microfiber wiping cloth and a premium sleeve inside the box only.

Onto the front, you get this gorgeous display. While minimizing the bezels, ASUS has managed to fit this 13.3-inch display into a smaller frame. It’s so small that it is nearly the size of an A4 sheet of paper. And that’s not where the praises end. In fact, the laptop weighs just under 1.09kgs, making it super portable. My daily driver is a gaming laptop that weighs at 2.7kgs, so you can understand how happy I and my back were when I swapped it out with the ZenBook 13. 

Asus Zenbook 13 - 10

Coming back to the display, ASUS claims that this laptop offers a whopping 95% screen-to-body ratio. If you look it, you’ll get the perception that there is no chin on this thing either. The truth is that there is one, but ASUS has very cleverly hidden it, thanks to its ErgoLift hinge design. The moment you open the laptop up, it lifts the keyboard at an angle, thus hiding the chin at the bottom of the display. What’s more is that this hinge also serves for better cooling and uplifts the keyboard for a better typing angle. I’ll be talking about that later on this review, but for now, all I can is that the design is damn aesthetic and super appealing. 

All in all, the design of the ASUS ZenBook 13 is super premium, and it is a no-brainer as to why this laptop is praised by many. It looks fresh, neat, simple, and elegant. All while maintaining the look as well as feel of being a premium product. The ZenBook lineup is known for providing a superior sense of quality, and the ASUS ZenBook 13 UX333 has managed to raise the bar to new heights.

Ports and Connectivity

The ASUS ZenBook 13 actually offers almost every port you can expect out there. In a connected world, your laptop’s I/O options matter a lot. Thankfully, the ZenBook 13 has them in abundance. You get a DC power port on the left side, an HDMI port, a USB type-A port, and a USB Type-C port. Onto the right side, you have a microSD card slot, another USB-A port, and the beloved 3.5mm audio jack.

Now obviously, ASUS has got pretty much every port covered here. I know some of you must be thinking about why is there is a microSD card slot in there, but to be fair, it is still better than having no SD card slot at all. However, I do have a few complaints about the device. You see, the ZenBook 13 is designed to be portable. Moreover, it’s 2019, and I see absolutely no reason why ASUS would still go with a standard barrel-plug DC adapter. I mean, why doesn’t this device support USB-PD? And that’s not all.

There is no Thunderbolt 3 support on this thing either. Now, that is a shame, because the processor on this thing is actually quite powerful. As such, I know a lot of users who would have invested into an eGPU had the laptop come with support for the same. Oh well, I guess you can’t have it all, right?

Display

The display is the biggest talking point of this ultrabook, and for all the right reasons. The ZenBook 13 is the smallest 13-inch laptop out there, and it has managed to cramp a proper 13.3-inch display inside a chassis that is actually smaller than a single A4 paper.

In a bezel-less world, this laptop is going to be ranked pretty high. In fact, the ASUS ZenBook 13 manages a screen to body ratio of a whopping 95%, which is just insane. Just to draw a comparison, the Dell XPS 13 (2018) comes with a screen-to-body ratio of 80.7%. So yeah, the ZenBook 13 easily beats it out of the park. If you talk about numbers, the display offers 100% sRBG coverage and a wide 178-degree field of view. Trust me when I say this, I’ve used a lot of laptops, and the ZenBook 13 has one of the best displays out there. In fact, I dare say that the display on this thing is as good as one on the MacBook. 

Now, since we’re comparing it with the Dell XPS 13, it is only fair to mention the lack of a 4K screen as well as no touch support. Now, while touch-support is a debatable question, the 4K screen isn’t. You see, on a 13.3-inch screen size, anything above Full HD won’t make any difference. In fact, I’ve used a couple of 4K ultrabooks, and almost every one of them has rendering issues with the content on the screen. Personally, I’d any day pick the Full HD display over a 4K panel on a laptop of this size. Oh, and to make things sweeter, the Full HD display also uses a lot less battery. I’ll be talking more about the battery life later on in this review, so keep reading.

Keyboard

As you know, the keyboard is undoubtedly one of the crucial parts of a laptop, especially for me. On my personal laptop, I actually manage to average at about 80 words per minute, which is pretty damn good. Now, when I first came to know that I’ll be reviewing the ASUS ZenBook 13, I was quite skeptical about it. I had already tried the ZenBook 14 and the ZenBook 15, and I was pretty satisfied with those.

As for the ZenBook 13, I let my intuition get the better of me initially. You see, ASUS has actually cramped up the keyboard and tweaked its layout to make it fit in this tiny chassis. Now, I’m a person with pretty large hands. Surprisingly though, my fingers familiarized themselves with the ZenBook 13 rather quickly. And truth be told, I kind of like the overall keyboard experience on this thing. That is not to say that the keyboard is perfect. But let’s discuss the positives first.

The ASUS ZenBook 13 comes with a full-size backlit keyboard which offers a great user experience. Typing on this feels mostly natural, and I personally love the spring feedback offered by the keyboard. There is just the right amount of key travel at 1.4mm, which makes the experience feel just so soothing. In fact, this entire review has been written on the ASUS ZenBook 13 only. I’m currently averaging a speed of  68 words per minute, which is pretty great. The laptop has a lot going on for it in the keyboard department. Sadly, there is one issue that I just didn’t like.

In order to fit a full-size keyboard on such a small chassis, every ultrabook manufacturer makes compromises here and there. At this point in time, I’ve gotten used to the divided up and down arrow keys. I’m not a fan of it, but I’ve come to accept the fact that things are going to be this way. That being said, one thing I just can’t adapt to is the dwarfed Right Shift key. I mean, just look at it. My natural hand movement almost never managed to get the right keystroke, and I was instead constantly tapping on the Up arrow. That is one thing that my hands were just not able to adapt to.

Overall, I still love the keyboard. The Right Shift key might not be an issue for some, but it certainly is for me. Apart from that minor flaw, everything about the keyboard is great. Another noteworthy feature that ASUS has done with the ZenBook 13’s keyboard is that it has provided the user with the option of switching between the priority of the function keys and hotkeys from the keyboard itself. As opposed to going to the BIOS to change your preferred settings, simply pressing the “Fn” and “Esc” key together allows you to switch between Hotkeys or Function keys. Yes, it is a small addition, but something that really adds on to the user experience.

Touchpad

Okay, so touchpads on most ASUS laptops have usually been pretty crappy. I’ll say it outright, it’s one of the things I’ve always hated on an ASUS laptop. But boy did ASUS manage to win me over this time around. The ZenBook 13 comes with a decently spaced touchpad with a glass finish on top. The actual experience of this is actually so good. And in case you’re wondering, it does come with Windows Precision Drivers support. So all those Windows Gestures (that were copied from macOS) can be used on this without any issues. And there’s palm rejection too, which is what makes the experience all the more better.

The highlight of this touchpad, however, is the NumberPad. Like last year’s variants, the newer ZenBook 13 UX333 also comes with a NumberPad. What this does is, is that it just illuminates a numpad on top of the touchpad. All you have to do is use the toggle in the top-right corner of the touchpad. You can then tap on the highlighted sections to enter a number. What actually amazed me the most is that ASUS’ software still manages to differentiate between taps for numbers and actual system related taps. Oh, and that’s not all. Even with the NumberPad enabled, you can use Windows’ gestures as well. Now, that’s actually impressive. Or is it really?

The thing is, I do like ASUS’ idea behind it. However, I’m just not really satisfied with the final experience that I got. You see, since this is an illuminated display, there is no mechanical or haptic feedback. It just makes the entire process feel unnatural, and I found myself using the number row up top more often. No, I’m not saying that having the NumberPad on top of the Touchpad is a gimmick, but then again, it isn’t a great feature either. Yes, it might give it a slight edge over other 13-inch ultrabooks that have no sort of numberpads out there, but I’d still recommend using the number row at the top or just getting a USB number pad. 

Camera

The major issue in both the smartphone and the laptop world is the placement of the selfie camera. You see, while marching towards bezel-less displays, each manufacturer has tried its hand at finding a different placement for the webcam. For instance, the webcam is placed on the hinge of the LG Gram, and on the bottom bezel of the Dell XPS 13 (2018). One of my favorite laptops, the Huawei Matebook X Pro, takes a step ahead to in fact hide it inside the keyboard only. Now while these are all good, the issue with that is that the camera is placed at an angle which looks right up your nose. Nobody wants that, right? Thankfully, ASUS understands that, and they’ve placed the webcam in its ideal position only.

Oh, and it’s not just any webcam. The ASUS ZenBook 13 houses a 3D IR HD webcam. So yeah, you guessed it right. There is Windows Hello support on this. For those of you unaware, Windows Hello is practically just Face Unlock for your Windows devices. Honestly, the unlocking mechanism on this is pretty fast, and I happen to like that quite a lot. However, the same cannot be said about the actual quality of the webcam in itself. The camera takes some of the crappiest images I’ve seen, and with a resolution of 720p, I wouldn’t expect a lot out of it. Yes, it’d assist you for the occasional video call, but that’s about it.

Audio

We at Mr. Phone are audio fanatics. Now, to be fair, I wasn’t expecting the audio on this laptop to be something super amazing. But to be fair, this is the biggest let down of this laptop. Like, for real. 

I’ve already talked about the hinge on this laptop, but there’s another use of that. You see, the speakers on this laptop are located at the bottom. Now, ASUS claims that it helps the audio bounce off the surface and get further enhanced. But, you know, I don’t really agree with that. There’s one thing to be said about the audio quality. The audio is really flat, and there is hardly any bass. The vocals are hushed, and to be honest, no genre plays well on it. But that thing comes on at a later stage. The fact is that the speakers in themselves aren’t loud enough either.

I’ve tried plenty of laptops with bottom-firing speakers, and the way to still make it a sell is to at least make them loud enough. On the ZenBook 13, however, the speakers aren’t that loud, to be honest. Now, I’m not saying that the ASUS ZenBook 13 sounds bad or low, but it is clear that audio is the one department where they’ve certainly made compromises. ‘Coz other than that, the machine seems pretty damn good. And it performs like that as well. And with that statement, I’ll comfortable segue into the performance section of this laptop’s review.

Performance

The latest Intel Core i7 chipset coupled with 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM and Nvidia’s MX150 GPU. Hmm, certainly sounds like a great device to me on paper. And thankfully, the ASUS ZenBook 13 holds up to its claim. The device manages to ease past in standard CPU benchmarks. The newer quad-core i7 chipset based on the Whiskey Lake architecture certainly performs better than its previous generation. The GPU, on the other hand, is a different story. The MX150 is not a gaming GPU, and that shows in benchmarks as well. In fact, the dedicated graphics performance on this thing is super low. Now, you can still use for some lightweight Photoshop or Premiere Pro edits, but don’t think of the ZenBook 13 as your primary machine for it. It is not designed for that, and it will certainly not work like that.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, the MX150 is not a gaming graphics card. However, if you’re into eSports titles but want to play them casually, the ZenBook 13 would suffice for that. Titles like CSGO, Rocket League, and DOTA 2 were all able to run smoothly on Medium settings, capping out at 60fps. Just for the kick of it, I did decide to run the fan favorite PUBG on it. As expected, the average FPS of 11 was enough for me to close the game in a jiffy. All in all, the ASUS ZenBook 13 works best for the purpose that it is crafted. It’s designed as an ultrabook and it certainly works like one. Expect a little bit more out of it, and you’re headed into disappointment.

Thermals

So yeah, the laptop looks good, and it performs well. But let’s be realistic. With an Intel i7 chipset and an MX150 GPU on board, the system needs to have proper cooling. As such, I really wanted to monitor the thermals of thing. And to be fair, it performs just like every other ultrabook in the market under usual testing. In my normal testing, the peak temperatures on this thing were 55-degree Celsius. However, I wanted to push this to its limit. Surprisingly, the ASUS ZenBook 13 managed to heat up to a high of 89-degrees after an hour of benchmarking.

Now, I really wanted to take a deeper look into the laptop, so I decided to pop the back lid off. As you can see, the laptop comes with a single heat-pipe that takes the heat first from the CPU and then towards the GPU and finally blowing it to the single fan. Which kind of explains the rise in temperatures, since there is no alternative escape route for the heat.

Upgradability

Now, in my time of reviewing laptops, a lot of users have asked me how upgradable a laptop really is. The ASUS ZenBook 13 is a mixed bag in that aspect. Opening this thing up is super easy, so there are no issues there. Now, the RAM here is soldered on, so there is no way to upgrade that. Moving on to the storage, the laptop has no SATA ports. As for the PCIe slot, yes you can swap out the internal SSD that ASUS provides. However, with a sequential read speed of over 1700MB/s and a sequential write speed of about 1450MB/s, I wonder why you’d want to go that route. 

Battery Life

The last thing that I want to talk about is the battery life. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but the reason why most people prefer an ultrabook is 1 – because of the portability, and 2 – because of how it allows you to stay away from the charger. ASUS actually claims a battery life of 10 hours on this, which I never got. That being said, I did manage to score a respectable 8 hours, on the balanced mode, which is very good. This includes browsing the web, writing amazing reviews like this and news stories on the website, watching some YouTube videos, or streaming music via Spotify. Also, there are the occasional CSGO and Rocket League sessions.

The 8-hour of battery life is largely possible due to the huge 50Wh battery on this thing, which, as you can see, occupies half of the body of the laptop. While reviewing this, I’d leave my charger at home, just bring the laptop with a full charge to work, and it would easily last me the entire day. However, in case the same doesn’t work for you and you’re a power user, the charger on this is a small 65W adapter. In my testing, I was able to entirely charge the device in under 2 hours, which seems to be quite good enough. As I said, I would have preferred Type-C charging, but you can’t have it all now, can you?

Should you buy the ASUS ZenBook 13 UX333?

So, the moment of truth, right? There’s a lot to love about the ZenBook 13 and very few things to complain about. And even about the things that I don’t like, I can very well see myself compromise on that front. But the question out here is that is it worth enough to compromise on those little drawbacks? The way I see it, yes. At least for now. You see, the only direct competitor that the ZenBook 13 has right now is the Dell XPS 13 (2018).

Launched last year, it comes with the older Kaby Lake chipsets and has that obnoxiously placed web camera. The only thing that works in Dell’s favor is the audio department, and that’s all. If it were to me, I’d pick the ASUS ZenBook 13 over the Dell XPS 13 right now. However, Dell has announced the update to the XPS 13 at this year’s CES 2019. So if you don’t really need a laptop right now, and are willing to wait out for a couple of months, you could see how Dell prices its newer laptops here in India for a better investment.

With the ZenBook 13, ASUS deserves all the praises. There’s hardly anything to not like about this laptop. With a starting price of Rs. 72,000, the ASUS ZenBook 13 is definitely a no-brainer. If you’re in the market for a premium ultrabook, this is definitely the option to go forward with.

Varun Mirchandani

Varun is your go-to guy for everything related to technology. Someone with a keen interest in the Android world, he installs a new custom ROM every week and is always living on the bleeding edge of technology. When not writing for Mr. Phone, you can find him gaming on his beastly gaming rig which is also his prized possession.