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ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA Review

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Crafted to Perfection

The latest entry into the ultra thin notebook contest is the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA. This is a serious contender but it also has to compete with other notebooks of about the same size. It also comes with Windows 10 Pro (64-bit), along with a lot of other Asus apps pre-installed.

Ever since Apple released the MacBook Air, there have been several computer manufacturers which also introduced look-alike products. The concept of a computer with an aluminum chassis and only half an inch thick is a goal worth fighting for.

Summary

The ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA is a thin notebook which is the latest entry to the half-inch thick notebook market. It comes with powerful specs and runs Windows 10. It is not fair to compare Windows and OS X, as this usually becomes a religious discussion among users. At the same time, if you are not Apple, you won’t get to run OS X.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA

The problem with trying to be like a MacBook Air, is that you have to compare the performance with the Air. This is not a fair comparison, as you should be competing with other Windows products instead. However, since Apple owns the space, they set the standard and sell more computers in this category then there is no choice but to sit through a side-by-side comparison.

Asus did a good job making this machine look good and perform well. Part of the performance failing is due to Windows. With that consideration, it is easy to see that it works well as a Windows computer. It is also common practice for Windows machines for the manufacturer to include additional software as part of the package. This bloatware takes up additional storage space as well as eats up much needed resources.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA

However, there are some traits where the ZenBook still has a ways to go when compared with the MacBook Air. For one, the battery life of the MacBook Air is significantly longer between charges compared to the ZenBook 3. Asus needs to work on ZenBook 3 to make it last as least 3 hours longer on a single battery charge.

The Asus ZenBook 3 comes in two models. The Intel Core i5 model costs $1,100 while the i7 model costs $1,600.

Our Score:
Pros
• Up to Intel Core i7 processor
• Plenty of RAM
• Thinner and lighter than most ultrabooks
Cons
• Battery life could be better

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA

The good news is that ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA is powerful, priced competitively, and is lighter and slightly smaller than the MacBook Air. The bad news is that it is fully loaded with Windows 10 and Asus factory installed software and a questionable battery life. To be fair, it is not Asus’s fault that Windows 10 is large and that it is hard to compete with Apple in terms of battery life.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA

The Asus ZenBook 3 comes in two models. The first model has an Intel Core i5 with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD secondary storage, while the more powerful one has a Core i7 with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD secondary storage. Asus opted for the i5 and i7 processors instead of the usual M series for ultrabooks primarily because they have improved their cooling system. The ZenBook 3 has an integrated 3mm fan. The chassis is made of aerospace grade aluminum alloy, which is supposedly stronger and more durable than the aluminum used in other ultrabooks. A bonus for the i7 model is the addition of a fingerprint scanner on the edge of the trackpad.

The 8GB/16GB RAM will be a big help for the ZenBook due to Windows need to have a lot of other programs loaded and running in the background. These are usually the anti-malware and anti-virus variety besides the other system resources. It also has a shallow keyboard common in ultrabooks, which is also a common weakness. For Mac users, the touchpad may seem sluggish in response.

In terms of computing power, this should be at the top of the game. In terms of user experience, it tries but noticeably fails. It has a 12.5 inch screen with 1920×1080 resolution. Other competing high-end ultrabooks sport a 2560×1440 display. At that price point, there are some Windows ultrabooks even have touchscreens.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA

One problem of ultrabooks is the lack of ports. The ZenBook 3 has only one USB 3.1 port (a USB-C) along with a headphone jack. It comes standard with Bluetooth and WiFi. Other connectivity is done through a USB adapter for the HDMI. Sold separately is an adapter with HDMI, standard USB port and a card reader.

Another problem for ultrabooks in general is the shallow keyboard. With the ZenBook 3, it does not impress and it sounds amateurish creaking a little bit during travel. There are some people who take their keyboards seriously and this may cause some concern.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA price point puts the MacBook Air, as well as other competitors like the Razer Blade Stealth, HP Spectre, and

 

Verdict

There is a lot to love about the ZenBook 3. It has power and the chassis is pure eye-candy. However, using an ultrabook is a chore as it is and any help with the ergonomics is a big help indeed. It is smaller and lighter than the competition, like the HP Spectre, Razer Blade Stealth and the Dell XP 13. However, the design chooses – what to add, what to leave behind – is a tough juggling act.

Putting a machine together is a matter of compromises. Asus went with a significant amount of power in the i5/i7 along with 8GB/16GB of RAM. They went with a lower resolution on the screen. They used a lighter and more durable aluminum chassis and integrated fan. They ended up with enough space for a single USB-C and a headphone jack. The real compromise is in the usable time between battery charging. The ZenBook 3 was designed with power in mind, not range.

That being said, it still has a lot of working out to do in order to get ahead of the competition. The MacBook Air is a dated machine with a less power specification. However, it does have a large sales volume, and a loyal following. It remains the standard in the ultrabook space. The other Windows machines have as much power, longer battery life and touchscreen displays. The keyboard also needs some work.

The ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA set lofty standards. The performance goals are met handily. However, the time between charging might be a concern for most. For others, the ergonomics might be a concern.

Official: Asus

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