If we like to transport light, concede is a approach of life. We’ve seen a annuity of ultraportable laptops this year, and everybody of them has had to give during slightest a tiny on weight, price, hardware, or build quality.
LG’s Gram 15 had that large shade and insanely low weight, nonetheless a keyboard and trackpad were mediocre. The glorious Dell XPS 13 sloping a beam customarily a bit some-more than some identical rivals. A slew of Surface clones charity cheaper or flashier alternatives to Microsoft’s 2-in-1, nonetheless some facilities like a OLED screen on Samsung’s TabPro S came with quirks.
Asus’s ZenBook 3, for a part, goes so minimalist that it flirts with being impractical. Unlike a 13.3-inch and 15.6-inch ZenBook siblings, this compress 12.5-inch laptop has customarily dual ports. And it’s not one for information and one for charging—a singular USB-C pier handles both. The other submit is a combo audio jack.
Yes, a ZenBook 3 is radically a Windows chronicle of a 12-inch MacBook. It’s kind of a shame, too, given a pattern hamstrings a cutting-edge hardware pressed inside.
Above and beyond
Asus has dual configurations of a ZenBook 3, and both fist a lot of high-end tools into a tiny volume of space. (At 11.65 x 7.53 x 0.47 inches and 2.09 pounds, a ZenBook 3 is customarily a bit wider and lighter than a MacBook.)
Our $1,599 examination section is a some-more costly of a two, with a 15-watt 7th-generation Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U processor as a headliner. Announced behind in August, this creatively launched CPU has a bottom time speed of 2.7GHz and a boost time speed of 3.5GHz, and shows some nice gains in performance over 6th-generation Skylake processors.
That newly launched CPU comes interconnected with a zippy 512GB Toshiba PCIe-NVMe Gen 3 x4 M.2 SSD and 16GB of LPDDR3/2133 RAM. You can’t find components many faster than these right now: For example, send rates of a storage expostulate sped along during 1.7GBps for consecutive high-queue reads and 1.4GBps for consecutive high-queue writes in CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2.
The RAM used is also special. Asus told us they worked closely with Intel to capacitate a 2,133MHz speed with Kaby Lake. The new 7th-gen CPU strictly supports customarily adult to 1,866MHz regulating a power-efficient LPDDR3—official support for 2,133MHz is customarily with DDR4.
If we wish to spend reduction cash, we can instead opt for a cheaper $1,099 pattern with a 7th-generation Core i5-7200U processor, 256GB PCIe-NVMe Gen 3 x4 SSD, and 8GB of LPDDR3/2133 RAM. You remove a lightning-fast fingerprint reader found on a some-more costly model, though.
Both systems come with a transparent (if somewhat washed-out) Gorilla Glass 4 12.5-inch IPS-like display, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1. And of course, those dual sole ports.
Limiting in mixed ways
If we do all in a cloud, or mostly customarily roller a web, that singular USB-C pier competence not seem like a large deal. In sell for a miss of ports, we get a neat and unequivocally unstable laptop with looks that opposition Apple’s likewise designed MacBook. (The ZenBook 3’s “aerospace-grade” aluminium doesn’t come in plain bullion or rose gold, though.) Asus even includes what it calls a Mini Dock—a dongle that expands that sole information and charging pier into one USB-C, one USB-A, and one full HDMI.
It’s a problem, though. People who need to block in some-more than one information device or bond to a non-HDMI arrangement will feel it most, given a suspicion of roving light and easy customarily flies right out a window. You can’t even get around some of it with an outmost expostulate that natively uses USB-C, as a Mini Dock’s USB-C pier is charging-only.
So for example, joining a Nexus 5X and an outmost storage expostulate means we have to select between them, use a USB hub, or buy a wharf with some-more ports. (Asus will privately offer an discretionary Universal Dock for $130 that offers USB-C, dual USB 3.0 Type A ports, full-size HDMI, a VGA port, ethernet, apart audio and microphone jacks, and an SD label reader.) And afterwards we have to lift all a ensuing additional cables and/or adapters, too, with a combined con of carrying and gripping lane of everything.
Users who customarily spasmodic use outmost inclination still humour a bit, too, if they like to use a latest and biggest technology. The ZenBook 3’s USB-C pier is USB 3.1 Gen 1—so all information transfers are singular to that 5Gbps limit send rate. You’ll never get to take advantage of a inner SSD’s blazing-fast reads and writes when regulating a USB drive, even if that expostulate is equally as fast. Data transfers of a 6GB .mov record and 30GB MKV record between a SSD and a Samsung Extreme 900 averaged in a 300MBps range.
Asus says that due to a motherboard’s chipset limitations, it would’ve had to supplement an additional controller for 10Gbps speeds, and a motherboard pattern was already cramped. Still, it’s unhappy to see a high-end member hold in check by a pier that moseys along during a same gait as USB 3.0.
An unflattering imitation
Unfortunately for cloud users, a keyboard and a trackpad on a Asus ZenBook 3 can’t be evaded or abandoned like a sole USB-C port. The Chiclet keyboard is a worse of a two—I’m customarily sincerely studious with a inputs on two-pound ultrabooks, nonetheless this laptop’s keys are an acquired ambience that we still disliked even after flourishing used to them. They have tiny transport and don’t give many pleasing feedback when they bottom out, and even after adjusting to them we found a whole typing knowledge deeply unsatisfying. The customarily certain about a keyboard is that it doesn’t feel mushy—but that’s given a keys are too shoal to concede that kind of sensation. we never suspicion I’d contend it, nonetheless we somewhat cite a 12-inch MacBook’s keyboard.
The trackpad is a some-more pleasing experience, notwithstanding pity a keyboard’s sarcasm and miss of organisation finish when clicked. It’s rarely responsive, permitting we to equivocate left clicks given taps are so simply recognized, and has a sharp aspect that lets your fingers slip uniformly over it. The fingerprint reader enhances a knowledge by charity ultra-fast approval of your finger.
As divisive as a outdoor bombard is, a Zenbook 3’s opening is top-notch. (Which creates that USB 3.1 5Gbps pier all a some-more disappointing.) Its components assistance put a ZenBook 3 among a tip ultrabooks we’ve seen—everyday tasks run like butter.
You don’t squeeze an ultraportable for gaming or calm creation. You buy it so we can write email, revise documents, video chat, and sequence too many things from Amazon. PCMark 8’s Work Conventional exam simulates that kind of use, and while any measure above 2,000 will be copiousness adequate for such work, a outcome of 3,273 means we should have a somewhat snappier experience.
Note a disproportion in opening between a Core i7-7500U in a ZenBook 3, a Core i5-7200U in a Kaby Lake XPS 13, and a Core i7-6500U in a Spectre 13.3. While there is some eminence between them, it’s not much. The ZenBook’s Kaby Lake i7 partial is 3.5 percent faster than a Kaby Lake XPS 13, and 7.1 percent faster than a Spectre 13.3. You won’t expected feel a poignant disproportion between these machines when modifying a Word request or chatting over Skype.
To improved inspect a unfolding where a Kaby Lake Core i7 processor would yield some-more benefit, we dismissed adult Cinebench R15. This benchmark measures pristine CPU opening by digest a 3D scene, and given it takes customarily several minutes, it gives a feel for how a laptop will hoop short-term complete tasks.
While a ZenBook 3 shows a medium opening benefit over a Core i5-7200U in a Kaby Lake XPS 13 (just 2.8 percent), it outperforms a Spectre 13.3’s Core i7-6500U by 11.5 percent. That’s not too unfair for a laptop that has some-more stipulations on cooling than a incomparable XPS 13 and Spectre 13.3.
But what about a MacBook, a ZenBook 3’s many apparent competition? Unfortunately, we didn’t have a Skylake-based MacBook in a bureau to test, nonetheless we can ballpark a stream MacBook’s opening by looking during Windows laptop with a identical CPU. The ZenBook 3 stomps all over HP’s Spectre x2: It outdoes a x2’s Core m7-6Y75 by 68.7 percent. Even accounting for a Core m7 MacBook’s somewhat faster time speed, you’ll be looking during a large disproportion between it and a ZenBook 3.
That improved opening does come with a cost, though. Asus allows a fans to run on a ZenBook 3, while a MacBook is fanless and silent. You can hear a ZenBook 3 in a still room when a system’s underneath load.
As mentioned earlier, ultrabooks aren’t designed for calm creation. We still chuck a Handbrake encoding exam during them anyway, as a woe exam to see how they understanding with complicated CPU loads. Some laptops stifle opening as a CPU heats up, while others flog their fans into high gear. Yet others try to strike center belligerent by doing a tiny of both.
The some-more absolute a complement is, a faster it translates a 30GB MKV to a smaller MP4 regulating Handbrake’s Android Tablet preset. Despite a rarely compress form, a ZenBook 3 still manages to keep adult with systems that are incomparable and have some-more cooling—it finished a encode in an hour and 51 minutes. That’s about on standard with a Spectre 13.3 and Skylake XPS 13, that both took about an hour and 53 minutes.
The Kaby Lake XPS 13 and a Core i5 processor kick a ZenBook 3 by some-more than 6 minutes, that customarily goes to uncover that cooling can make a disproportion in performance. While we weren’t means to endorse it given Intel’s XTU program doesn’t work with Kaby Lake customarily yet, my theory is that a ZenBook 3 somewhat lowers a time speed once a core temperatures arise underneath extended load, instead of spinning a fans faster (and louder).
3DMark Sky Diver
The ZenBook 3 sports common integrated graphics, so don’t pattern to play many some-more than lightweight indie games on it. Still, a HD 620 Graphics uncover some medium gains over a last-gen HD 520. In 3DMark’s Sky Diver benchmark, a fake graphics exam that simulates DX11 gaming during 1080p on Medium settings, a ZenBook 3 scored 3,912.
If we indeed wish to play a game, you’re improved off perplexing it on Medium settings during 720p (if that), nonetheless this Sky Diver measure shows that a ZenBook 3’s faster RAM and Core i7 partial competence be giving it a bit of a leg adult on a Kaby Lake XPS 13, that uses LPDDR3/1866MHz RAM and that Core i5-7200U processor. Versus a Spectre 13.3’s Core i7-6500U and comparison HD 520, a ZenBook 3 outperforms it by a slim 2 percent.
But opposite a Spectre x2 (a.k.a. a substitute MacBook), ZenBook 3 clearly comes out forward by a large 41 percent. The Spectre x2’s HD 515 Graphics aren’t so many a problem as that lower-power chip and fanless design. It would have been unsporting to discuss that when deliberating a Handbrake benchmark, given nothing of these ultraportable laptops are designed with calm origination in mind—but some people do like to play games on their laptops, even if they’re not blockbuster AAA titles. Asus should get credit for putting in a additional energy into this compress laptop, as it expands what we can do with a ZenBook 3 in comparison to a MacBook.
Asus also does a good pursuit with battery life on a ZenBook 3. Despite a some-more power-hungry CPU, this laptop lasted customarily over 8 hours in a video outline test, that involves using a 4K film record on loop in Windows 10’s local Movies TV app.
That’s 100 mins longer than Surface Pro 4, that has a identical row distance nonetheless a higher-resolution touchscreen and a somewhat smaller battery. On a flip side, a Kaby Lake XPS 13 lasted 3 hours and 15 mins longer, nonetheless a battery is about 50 percent incomparable than a 40-watt-hour container inside a ZenBook 3. It’s misleading how a MacBook and a 41.4-watt-hour battery would do in a identical outline test, nonetheless with that lower-watt Core m processor, we’d theory it’d be maybe an hour or so longer than a ZenBook 3.
Asus touts a ZenBook 3 as a higher MacBook alternative, and I’d have to partially agree. In a lighter and roughly equally compress package, we get a many faster processor—one that improved matches adult with a quick storage and RAM interconnected with it. The fan sound we get in sell for that energy is unequivocally tolerable. It’s some-more of an heard sound than a loud jet-engine roar.
You also compensate reduction than for a MacBook—the starting cost for MacBook is $1,299 for a Core m3 processor, 8GB of LPDDR3/1866 RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD. Processor differences aside, that’s $100 some-more than a ZenBook 3 with a same volume of memory and storage. Meanwhile, a $1,599 MacBook has half a volume of RAM as a $1,599 ZenBook 3 examination unit.
I even consider that a one area that Asus downgraded (relative to a MacBook) is a intelligent decision. While a MacBook facilities a 2304×1440 display, a ZenBook 3 sports a reduction glamorous 1920×1080 screen. I’d disagree that on a 12.5-inch screen, a reduce fortitude is distant some-more gentle to work with.
But Asus didn’t finish a beatdown on a many apparent rival. The keyboard could use a lot of improvement, and it’d be good if that USB-C pier had a faster controller for information transfers. (That latter indicate kills me a little, given a appurtenance is so packaged with high-end components otherwise.)
If we don’t give dual figs about Apple and customarily wish a compress Windows appurtenance that’s easy to lift around, well—the ZenBook 3 is unequivocally portable. we carried it to and from work on open movement but seeing it too many in my backpack. It performs well, too. So if we can live with customarily one USB port, there’s a lot to like. If we can’t—well, there are copiousness of glorious ultrabook competitors to select from. You’ll customarily have to collect a opposite underline that compromises on something we don’t caring about.