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January 11, 2018

Asus Zenbook 13 (2018) hands-on review

by John_A

Research Center:
Asus Zenbook 13 (2018)

Asus has more Zenbooks than anyone can keep track of, but it’s newest is a standout. The Zenbook 13, is an ultra-thin clamshell that just might be one of the lightest laptop you’ve ever held. It’s not to be confused with the Zenbook 13 from 2017, which was a heavier product, with options for a 4K display and discrete graphics card.

The new Zenbook 13 has neither of those. Asus is clearly selling this laptop based on the crazy-light design. However, there’s more to a laptop than just it’s dimensions — here’s how the rest of it stacks up.

The Asus you know, with something new

We haven’t always been the biggest cheerleaders of Asus’ laptop design. It’s often a little bland, and the company rarely attempts to change the formula. That’s fine when you’re talking about a budget laptop like the Zenbook UX330UA, but when you’re spending over a thousand dollars, you should expect more from the look of your laptop.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Asus must be aware of that perception, because the new Zenbook 13 is a total revamp. The Zenbook 13 doesn’t make any drastic shakeups, but the designers have done enough here and there to make it feel fresh. It has a black (or dark blue), matte finish, rather than the super-glossy texture of many other Zenbooks. It’s still brushed metal, but the non-reflective surface makes it more subtle this time around. Angles are sharpened, and the bezels have been slimmed down.

At 0.55 inches thick, it’s not quite as tiny as something like the HP Spectre 13, or even the Dell XPS 13. Asus used that extra space smartly to include full-size ports like HDMI and USB-A, which are becoming increasingly rare in laptops like these. The Zenbook 13 also includes a microSD card slot and USB-C port (3.1). It’s a great selection of connectivity that should please many — both people who use legacy USB accessories, and those who want future-proofing in their I/O.

Portability is off the charts

But again, the real thing to talk about here is the thinness and weight of the Zenbook 13. At 2.17 pounds, it’s one of the lightest laptops ever made, with only a handful of competitors that have ever gone lighter. It’s so light that when you pick it up, you immediately feel the difference between picking it up compared to a MacBook Pro, Dell XPS 13, or even the 2017 Zenbook 13. Some might even think it’s almost too light, but unlike many laptops this airy, it doesn’t feel flimsy.

One thing is for sure. You’ll hardly notice the extra weight in your bag.

The display didn’t wobble in the slightest, and there wasn’t a hint of flex in the keyboard, which is where you will spend most of your time. Impressively, we could even lift the display with one hand. We did notice a bit of bend and flex in the lid. It was most noticeable when the laptop was set open on a table, as well as on the corners of the lid. While that’s not great, the rest of the laptop does feel sturdy and well-built.

With battery claims of up to 15 hours, the Zenbook will follow you wherever you go. We’ll have to wait until we can put the Zenbook 13’s 50 watt-hour battery to the test, but one thing is for sure. You’ll hardly notice the extra weight in your bag.

Runs fast, looks good

Under the hood you’ll find the usual suspects. There’s 8th-gen Core i5 CPUs and 8GB of RAM as a base configuration, going up to a Core i7 and 16GB of RAM from there. We haven’t been able to benchmark this laptop’s processing power yet, but we suspect that it will perform honorably, like similar machines with those same components. The Zenbook 13 also starts with 256GB of SSD storage and comes with an attractive, FHD display. There’s no option for 4K or touchscreen here — you’ll have to go back to the 2017 Zenbook 13 for that.

Asus Zenbook 13 (2018) Compared To

Asus Zenbook Pro UX550VE

Asus Zenbook UX330UA-AH54

HP ZBook Studio G4

Microsoft Surface Book with…

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017)

Acer Aspire VX 5-591G 5652

Dell Latitude E5470

Dell XPS 15 9560

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (2017)

Lenovo Yoga 910

Acer Swift 7 SF713-51-M90J

Asus Zenbook 3 UX390UA

Lenovo Ideapad 710S

LG Gram 15 Z960

Gateway 200XL

The touchpad and keyboard are similar to those inputs we’ve seen on other newer Zenbooks, featuring 1.4mm of travel and nice backlighting. The Windows Precision touchpad is good enough, but its feel is nothing to write home about. We did, however, notice that it did a better job with palm rejection than the trackpad did on the UX330UA.

Asus’ Zenbook 13 is a laptop that a lot of people will like, and some people will love. It starts at $999 for the Core i5 version with 8GB of RAM, and can be configured upward from there. For reference, you’ll pay exactly that for a similar configuration on the new Dell XPS 13. Asus couldn’t give us a firm date, but you should expect to be able to pick this one up within the next few months.

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