ASUS ZenBook 15 UX533 Review: the lightweight content creator ultrabook

Rating: 8.2/10

Yay:

  • Great display
  • Ultra-portable
  • The keyboard is amazing to type upon
  • 7 hours of battery life
  • Good thermals under heavy load

Nay: 

  • No USB Type-C charging
  • Audio is average at best
  • Touchpad is bad
  • Fans stay on at idle too

Introduction

Now, before we get into the actual review of the device, let us talk a bit about what the ASUS ZenBook 15 brings to the table. The ZenBook 15 UX533 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 15’s prices starting at Rs. 1,39,990 being outfitted with an Intel i7 chipset alongside an Nvidia GTX 1050 Max-Q GPU. So, now that we’ve cleared that out, let’s get into the actual review of the device.

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

Design and Build Quality

Right off the bat, the ASUS ZenBook 15 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. The back panel of this laptop features the ASUS branding with their evergreen concentric circular design. To be honest, it is almost identical to the ZenBook 13. Actually, for that matter, the back panel hasn’t changed much in all the three generations of this laptop. That being said, it isn’t a bad thing. But as always, this back panel is super attractive to fingerprints. Thankfully, ASUS did pack in 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 15.6-inch display into a smaller frame. What’s more is that the laptop weighs just under 1.67kgs, making it super portable. Yeah, it isn’t the most ultraportable laptops out there, but considering its hardware, this is one of the lighter options out there. 

Coming back to the display, ASUS claims that this laptop offers a whopping 92% screen-to-body ratio. If you look at 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. Additionally, this hinge also serves for better cooling and uplifts the keyboard for a better typing angle.

All in all, the design of the ASUS ZenBook 15 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 15 UX533 pretty much defines the pinnacle of design in 15-inch Windows ultrabooks. And that’s saying something.

Ports and Connectivity

The ASUS ZenBook 15 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 15 has them in abundance. On the left side, you get the thermal exhausts followed by a single USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Over to the right side is where the fun happens. You get barrel plug DC charging port, an HDMI port, another USB 3.0 port, a USB Type-C port, and finally a full sized SD card slot. There are also two LED indicators succeeding these ports.

Now obviously, ASUS has got pretty much every port covered here. However, I do have a few complaints about the device. You see, the ZenBook 15 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 in an eGPU had the laptop come with support for the same. Yeah, it does come with a GTX 1050, but that too in Max-Q config. And if you read on, you’ll realize that this GPU isn’t that good for gaming. As such, having a Thunderbolt 3 port on the laptop would certainly have helped a lot of consumers planning to use this laptop for content creation AND some gaming on the side.

Display

The display is the biggest talking point of this ultrabook, and for all the right reasons. The ZenBook 15 is the smallest 15-inch laptop out there, and it has managed to cramp a proper 15.6-inch display inside a chassis for a standard 14-inch laptop.

Now, having used the ZenBook 13 earlier, I wasn’t exactly blown away by the display. In fact, I was slightly let down. While I don’t have the exact numbers to show for, the brightness levels on the 15-inch variant seem to be slightly lower than the 13-inch. That said, the display itself offers a 100% sRGB value. Which, to be fair, is a pure necessity if you’re planning to market this to content creators. Despite all its praises, I still do have some complaints with the device. You see, at its price, I really hope that ASUS would have made the panel a touchscreen one. No, I’m not asking for 4K UHD displays or a 144Hz panel. But touch support is something that really should have been there. Especially considering the price and the market that the company is targetting. The display is great, no doubt, but it could have been a whole better, which would have made my job of recommending it much easier.

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. Despite the cramped keyboard, I was still averaging about 72 words per minute, which, it pretty good. 

The ASUS ZenBook 15 comes with a full-size backlit keyboard which offers a great user experience. The typing experience is 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 15 only. Unlike the ZenBook 13 and 14, the ZenBook 15 also comes with a full numpad. I like it, but it’s the best ones out there, all credits to its layout. But it’s not something I would make a big deal out of. 

Overall, I love the keyboard. One more thing that ASUS provides on its laptop keyboards 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. Best of all, it’s present on all the models of the updated ZenBook series.

Touchpad

Yeah, so there is no touchscreen on the display. But the touchpad is there, right? Umm, not really, to be honest. I’ve had a weird relationship with most of ASUS’ touchpads, one filled with admiration at first, and hatred after using it for a while. Apparently, the story here is a little different. And not a positive one, I’m afraid.

The touchpad on the ASUS ZenBook 15 is horrendous, and there are no two ways about it. There is little to no palm rejection, and there are plenty of ghost touches. Also, considering the chassis, they could have easily added a larger touchpad to the laptop. Yes, it comes with Windows Precision Drivers. But the gestures also don’t work as smoothly as you’d expect them to. I loved the touchpad on the ZenBook 13 and had thought that maybe, just maybe, ASUS had managed to fix it this time around. Sadly, they haven’t. For slight editing, the touchpad might assist you, but it does come with hiccups every now and then.

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 15 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

The audio department is something we at Mr. Phone take quite seriously. Sadly though, ASUS doesn’t. I called it out on the ZenBook 13 and the issue exists on the ZenBook 15 as well. I’ll give you the simple TL;DR version of the audio review – it’s bad.

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.

For a laptop like the ZenBook 13, I could have let it pass. There are plenty of ultrabooks out there actually that have speakers at the bottom. And that’s okay. But for the ZenBook 15, I can’t let it pass. It is a major flaw, and for the premium that you pay, it doesn’t offer you the audio experience.

Performance

The latest Intel Core i7 chipset coupled with 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM and Nvidia’s GTX 1050 Max-Q GPU. That’s what the ASUS ZenBook 15 comes equipped with. 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, isn’t bad either. Yes, it is a Max-Q design, but that doesn’t mean it is a slouch. But, having said that, it isn’t a racehorse either.

For content creators, the GPU is near perfect. You can do extensive image and video editing without any hiccups. As for gaming, you can average at about 45 fps on all major titles. Provided that you run them on Low/Medium settings, of course.

In DOOM, the laptop was outputting 39fps on OpenGL and 44fps on Vulkan API. For PUBG, the game managed an average of 44fps on medium settings, with a peak of 60 fps at certain locations. As for Far Cry 5, thanks to the game’s optimization, the game was rendered at 53fps. In Final Fantasy XV’s benchmark, the device did drop down to 29.3 fps, but that’s a pure graphics benchmark. All in all, the gaming performance isn’t amazing, but it isn’t bad either. But whether this laptop is for you or not, is something I’ll be telling you at the end of this review.

Thermals

With high performance comes heat, and ASUS does bring forth a redesigned cooling setup for the ZenBook 15. There’s a dual fan setup, one for the GPU and the other for the CPU, and both push out the air to the exhausts on the left side.

Even during heavy loads, the max temp was about 82 degrees, which certainly is great. The only downside is that even on idle, the fans kick in, so there’s that.

Battery Life

The last thing that I want to talk about is the battery life. Now, if you’re wanting to use this on the go, the battery life is definitely a concern. The ZenBook 15 does come with a beefy 73Wh battery, which the company claims to last for, ahem, 17 hours. Yeah. It goes without saying that that is not going to happen. In my testing, I averaged about 7 hours on medium workload which meant lots of web browsing and slight gaming.

As for charging, ASUS has included a heavy-duty barrel plug charger. In my testing, I was able to entirely charge the device in under 2.5 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 15 UX533?

Well well, down to the main question then. Is the ZenBook 15 worth your rupee? It’s a divided opinion that I have, which is why I want to elaborate a lot of this part of the video. The target audience for the ZenBook 15 can be divided into two parts – gamers and content creators. Now, if you’re a gamer, this is not for you. Paying over 1.4 lakhs for a 1050 Max-Q is utter nonsense. And gaming laptops anyway require you to be plugged into a socket. As such, you’d be better off investing into a heavy laptop with at least a GTX 1060 at this price. Or, you could wait for a couple of months since RTX 1060 laptops are also around the corner.

Now, if you’re a content creator, the ZenBook 15 might be a great buy for you. Even at its price, the laptop is definitely undercutting the price of its competitors. That being said, if you bring a MacBook into the comparison, things can get slightly different. While macOS v Windows is a topic for another debate later on, the way I see it, the ZenBook 15 is certainly the best Windows ultrabook in the market for content creators.

All things considered, the ZenBook 15 does offer a great value for money at its price. That is not to say that the laptop is perfect. The audio department needs improvement, the touchpad needs to be fixed, a touchscreen panel would have been great, and the lack of Thunderbolt 3 and USB PD also leave a big room open for improvement. The way I see it, the ASUS ZenBook 15 UX533 is the best Windows ultrabook out there for content creators, at the moment. However, there is a whole lot of room left for someone else to exploit. Whether we’ll see something new come on and take advantage of it remains to be seen.

Buy ASUS ZenBook 15 UX533 here: starts at Rs. 1,39,990

Varun Mirchandani
varun.mirchandani@u2opiamobile.com

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.