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Posts tagged ‘Asus’

27
Dec

ASUS’ future Chromebook is a premium alternative to the Flip


ASUS’ Chrome OS efforts are currently headlined by the cheap-and-cheerful Chromebook Flip, which mainly stands out for combination of a 2-in-1 design with a bargain basement price. However, the PC maker is about to shake things up in a big way. In the culmination of a series of leaks, Newegg has listed a $499 C302CA laptop that appears to be an upscale sibling to (but not replacement for) the Flip. It touts a larger 12.5-inch, 1080p screen, and it’s running Intel’s Core m3 processor instead of the budget Rockchip part you saw in the Flip last year. Combine that with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and it’s clear that this is a premium Google-powered system — not at the level of the Chromebook Pixel or HP Chromebook 13, but much nicer than the Celeron-based portables that dominate the Chrome OS world.

Accordingly, the C302CA carries a more refined version of the Flip’s all-metal design that includes two USB-C ports and a microSD card reader. It’s much heavier than the Flip at just under 2.7 pounds, but you might not mind as much given the larger display and 0.5-inch thickness.

Newegg shows the system in stock as we write this, so you might get to buy one before it’s even announced. You might want to hold off until CES in early January, though. There’s a real chance that ASUS will formally unveil the C302CA at the trade show, and it’s likely to confirm specs as well as the possibility of different configurations. You’ll have a better idea of what you’re buying.

Via: ChromeUnboxed, 9to5Google

Source: Newegg

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21
Dec

Taiwan to get first dibs on ASUS’ Zenbo home robot


At Computex, ASUS captured the hearts of many with its cute home robot, Zenbo, with Chairman Jonney Shih hinting at a retail launch before end of this year. Well, he’s not too far off in the end. At today’s local launch event, the company announced that its Intel-powered bot will be up for grabs in Taiwan on January 1st, albeit in a limited quantity for the first batch. Price-wise it starts from NT$19,900 or about US$620 — just a tad more than the intended $599 price point — for the 32GB standard package, and then there’s a 128GB model plus self-charging dock for NT$24,900 or about US$780.

But the biggest news today is perhaps ASUS’ collaboration with Taiwan’s National Police Agency, in order to enable emergency video calls with the police via Zenbo. Details are vague at the moment, but we did see a live demo in which a demonstrator pinged the actual call center (which is probably why they only did the demo once). When this feature eventually rolls out, my guess is that this will require a special voice command or gesture for toggling, and maybe the police can even take over Zenbo’s control to better assess the situation.

Other additions made to the Zenbo’s voice-controlled feature list mainly surround local services, including food delivery, taxi or van booking, online shopping, banking, medicine prescription, music streaming, house cleaning, gaming and more, but we’ll have to wait and see how far voice commands will take us for these.

With kid companionship being one of the big selling points, Shih also unveiled a simple Blockly-based programming suite that will let children as young as five years old use basic logic to automate a Zenbo’s movements. As for the even younger kids, they’ll also be entertained by simple games and story-telling, which now include an optional subscription featuring Shimajiro the Tiger (aka Eric in Taiwan) — the 32GB model comes with a one-month free subscription with 19 stories, whereas the 128GB model offers an extra month.

As for the basic set of features, Zenbo is able to control your TV plus stream content to it, be remote-controlled to roam around home for surveillance purposes, human fall-detection alert via a ZenWatch 3, and offer remote screen assistance to help those who aren’t as tech savvy. All of these go on top of the Zenbo’s collision and drop avoidance capabilities thanks to the sensors dotted around its body, as well as its depth camera in its head for facial and object recognition.

For those living outside of Taiwan, it’ll likely be a while before Zenbo makes its way to other markets, which is just as well since such a product will only learn quicker as its user base grows. Besides, it’s much more useful when local services plus speech recognition are properly tuned in each market, so it’ll be worth the wait. But of course, you can always fly over to Taiwan to pick up a Zenbo — just make sure you have an extra plane ticket for the little guy.

21
Dec

Watch ASUS’ adorable robot butcher a Christmas classic


ASUS held an event in Taiwan today announcing the availability of its Zenbo robot. From January 1st, customers in the country will be able to pick up one for between $620 and $780, depending on configuration. Engadget Chinese editor-in-chief Richard Lai wrote many words in his dispatch from the launch, including some that detail new features coming to Zenbo. You should read those if you want to know more about it, but I have more important things on my mind.

At the robot’s launch event in Taiwan, Asus decided it was apt to ring in the holiday season by getting a choir of Zenbos to perform Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

As anyone that’s been to a karaoke bar in December before will tell you, it’s almost always a terrible idea to try and compete with Mariah. We’ll leave you to judge how it got on:

15
Dec

ASUS’ ROG Strix GL502VS is a mid-range (and VR-ready) gaming laptop


The idea of a “gaming laptop” usually brings to mind one of two images: an oversize laptop with enough power to rival a desktop machine, or a shockingly thin (and expensive) notebook that punches above its weight. Somewhere in between you’ll find 15-inch systems like the ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS, a gaming laptop small and light enough to lug around, yet thick enough to house the sort of powerful internals you’d need to play just about any game you want. Though it’s not a premium machine by any means, the Strix strikes a nice balance between power and portability.

Design

Spotting a gaming laptop in a crowded coffee shop is easy — just look for the loudest, most garish machine in the room. Indeed, ASUS’ Strix wouldn’t take long to find: The laptop’s otherwise subdued chassis is adorned with glowing neon orange highlights. Colorful touches against a dark frame are a common design trope in gaming notebooks, but the Strix’s obnoxiously bright shade of orange is the ultimate “look at me” color, with accents everywhere from the speaker grilles, logos, WASD keycaps, and keyboard lettering to the touchpad. It’s also the machine’s only visual flair; apart from the dim red hue of the Strix’s air vent, the rest of the chassis is a study in black plastic and straight lines.

The Strix lacks the premium feel of an aluminum milled machine, but the trade-off is worth it: The plastic chassis makes this relatively light for a midsize gaming laptop, weighing in at just over five pounds. It doesn’t feel cheap for the sake of the material either — a brushed plastic palm rest mimics the look and feel of the single aluminum plate adorning the lid. It’s a handsome machine, and a fairly portable one too. All told, its 1.18-inch-thick frame is just thin enough to comfortably fit my backpack’s laptop sleeve.

Those thick edges leave plenty of room for connectivity too, including three USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, an SD card reader, Ethernet and outputs for HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. Worried the next generation of peripherals will leave you in the dust? Don’t. The Strix also has a single USB Type-C connector. Not bad.

Keyboard and trackpad

You could use the Strix’s keyboard to write home, but you wouldn’t. It’s nothing special. That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with it; the Strix’s well-spaced keys offer 1.6mm of travel and land with a firm but not hard stop. It’s a perfectly serviceable keyboard with little to add to the experience apart from a dark red backlight. In fact, the only thing that sets it apart from any other is an ASUS standard: The company has replaced the ten-key pad’s Num Lock toggle with a dedicated button for calling up its ROG Gaming Center software (more on that later).

It’s mostly a harmless change, but vigorous typists may accidentally find themselves launching ASUS’ gaming suite when they mean to strike the backspace key. Well, I did anyway. The keyboard at least has standard “gaming keyboard” features, including a set of colored WASD keycaps (draped in the same obnoxious orange as the rest of the laptop’s highlights) and anti-ghosting support for up to 30 simultaneous key presses.

The trackpad, on the other hand, can be a bit flighty. The large, smooth mousing surface works fine for basic cursor manipulation, but I found it unreliable when it came to multi-touch gestures. On more than one occasion, the surface misread two-finger scrolling as a zoom pinch. At least once, too, it misinterpreted my attempt to pinch the zoom back to normal as a scroll. Most of the time, it reads either gesture just fine, but these are the kind of issues that have long given Windows touchpads a bad reputation. Combined with the pad’s stiff buttons, this trackpad feels like a step backward.

Display and audio

The display here has everything you could ask for from a gaming laptop: a non-reflective screen with wide viewing angles, deep contrast and bright, beautiful colors. In fact, ASUS says the Strix’s panel covers 98 percent of Adobe’s RGB color space and 100 percent of the sRGB standard. That’s great for gamers, but even better for folks using the machine to do video editing or Photoshop work.

Laptop audio is almost never remarkable, but the Strix’s speakers are somewhat notable. Instead of flanking the keyboard, like on most laptops, the Strix’s speakers live on either side of the touchpad. It’s sort of clever: The speakers’ already clear sound pops just a little more by dint of being closer to the user. It’s nice. Beyond that trick, however, the audio seems to be on par with that of other gaming laptops: clear, but not particularly deep. As always, a good equalizer goes a long way; turning off the ROG Gaming Center’s audio enhancements leaves the machine sounding a bit dull.

The Strix also comes equipped with a trio of microphones designed to filter out ambient sounds, but the array failed in my recording tests to remove noise from a fan on the other end of my house or even the sound of passing traffic. There may be three laptop microphones in this gaming rig, but at the end of the day they’re still just laptop microphones.

Performance and battery life

ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS (2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ , NVIDIA GTX 1070 620) 5,132 6,757 E15,335 / P13,985 25,976 2.14 GB/s / 1.2 GB/s
HP Spectre x360 (2016, 2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,515 4,354 E2,656 / P1,720 / X444 3,743 1.76 GB/s / 579 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 910 (2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, 8GB, Intel HD 620) 5,822 4,108

E2,927 / P1,651 / X438

3,869 1.59 GB/s / 313 MB/s
Razer Blade (Fall 2016) (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,462 3,889 E3,022 / P1,768 4,008 1.05 GB/s / 281 MB/s
Razer Blade (Fall 2016) + Razer Core (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, NVIDIA GTX 1080) 5,415 4,335 E11,513 / P11,490 16,763 1.05 GB/s / 281 MB/s
ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,448 3,911 E2,791 / P1,560 3,013 1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s
HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,046 3,747 E2,790 / P1,630 / X375 3,810 1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s

So how do you make up for a gaming laptop’s gaudy orange highlights and the disappointment of a mediocre touchpad? By overshadowing them with high-end internals and excellent gaming performance. With a 2.6GHz Intel i7-6700HQ CPU (3.5GHz with Turbo boost), 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage on top of a 256GB SSD boot drive, the Strix handled my workload with aplomb. Still, we don’t buy gaming laptops to manage cloud documents, chat applications, music players and Photoshop; we buy them to play games. So how’d ASUS’ kit do? Just fine, thank you.

The Strix’s NVIDIA GeForce 1070 GPU didn’t completely shrug off my PC game library, but it certainly kept pace with it. Games like TitanFall 2, Just Cause 3, Hitman and Battlefield 1 all maintained solid frame rates of 60 to 90 fps on their highest graphic settings, though Battlefield 1 could occasionally drop into the high 40s on busier multiplayer maps. More demanding titles like The Witcher 3 and Watch Dogs 2 dipped just below the 60-fps threshold on “Ultra” settings, but could be coaxed above it with a few tweaks. All told, there wasn’t a single game in my library the Strix couldn’t comfortably play at its highest settings. Well, at least not until you put those games in virtual reality.

That’s right, we’re living in a new era of gaming laptops — an age when any machine worth its salt will bear a “VR Ready” sticker. The Strix is the first of this breed to land on Engadget’s review desk. With a score of 6,135 in VRMark’s “Orange Room” benchmark (and 1,640 in the more intensive “Blue Room” experience), the GL502VS is indeed a VR-capable gaming PC. It can run pretty much everything available in today’s consumer virtual reality market. It can’t, however, play all those VR games at their highest fidelity.

The laptop can run most virtual reality titles at their default settings, but configuring games like Raw Data and Serious Sam VR on Ultra can give the Strix serious pause. Pushing these games to the max turned their virtual landscapes into laggy, stuttering realities, resulting in the kind of head-tracking delays and low frame rates that can lead to nausea and VR headaches.

Fortunately, you’d really have to go out of your way to get a bad experience: Few VR games offer configurable graphics for this very reason, and everything I ran on the Strix played beautifully on default settings. That’s more than good enough for the first generation of PC VR games, but you also shouldn’t consider the machine future-proof by any means. Still, it’s good enough for now. Keep your virtual worlds tuned for performance, and not visual fidelity, and you’ll be happy.

Battery life

ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS
3:03
Surface Book with Performance Base (2016)
16:15
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics)
13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13-inch, no Touch Bar)
11:42
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)
11:34
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics)
11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)
11:23
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (15-inch)
11:00
iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2015)
10:47
HP Spectre x360 15t
10:17
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13-inch, Touch Bar)
9:55
ASUS ZenBook 3
9:45
Apple MacBook (2016)
8:45
Samsung Notebook 9
8:16
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
7:15
HP Spectre 13
7:07
Razer Blade Stealth (Spring 2016)
5:48
Razer Blade Stealth (Fall 2016)
5:36
Dell XPS 15 (2016)
5:25 (7:40 with the mobile charger)

Gaming laptops rarely get good battery life, and the GL502VS is no exception. In Engadget’s standard battery test (where we loop an HD video at fixed brightness until exhaustion), the Strix barely lasted three hours. Sadly, that’s barely below par for the majority of larger gaming laptops, but still: It’s disappointing. When competitors like Alienware, Razer and HP can make high-performance rigs that last between six and eight hours, three is just underwhelming. ASUS can, and probably should, do better.

Software

As the years go on, manufacturer pack-in software has become less and less necessary. Most laptop builders have done away with branded update tools, display managers and audio filters. ASUS hasn’t, but its software suites get slimmer year by year. In the past, ASUS’ ROG Gaming Center application served as a hub for half a dozen purpose-built programs for adjusting the audio equalizer, tweaking screen settings and configuring keyboard macros. Now all of that is simply integrated into the main application. Unfortunately, that app is unintuitive and messy and doesn’t even do much.

The ROG Gaming Center will let you adjust the color temperature of your screen (including normal, vivid, manual and “eye care” modes); choose from five audio presets; and disable the Windows key. But that’s about it. There’s an “advanced tuning” button as well as a system resource monitor, but these features just replicate the functions of the built-in Windows Task Manager. Being able to tweak screen and audio presets in one place is nice, but it’s not useful enough to warrant a dedicated keyboard button. If only the software suite included a key mapper — at least then the laptop’s ROG button might be able to do something useful.

The Strix does pack in one more standard ASUS gaming application: the Gamefirst network manager. This program isn’t necessary, but it is sort of neat, offering users an overview of their PC’s internet activity. Want to know what programs are using the most bandwidth, or prioritize Steam over Chrome for downloads? You can do that here.

Configuration options and the competition

My $1,700 review unit came with the maximum specifications ASUS offers for its Strix laptops: an Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz CPU (3.6GHz with Turbo Boost), 16GB of RAM, 1TB of onboard storage with a 256GB SSD boot drive, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics chip. Downgrading the GPU on that machine to NVIDIA’s GTX 1060M will save you $200.

To cut the price by another $120 and change, be prepared to give up the “VR Ready” sticker, cut the solid-state storage in half and settle for last year’s GTX 970M GPU. Finally, bottom-dollar buyers can find a $1,200 model with the same CPU and RAM as our review unit, sans solid-state drive and paired with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX970M graphics card. ASUS says additional configurations exist too, but they vary from one country to another.

Not sure this is the right 15-inch gaming rig for you? You have plenty of other options: Dell’s Alienware 15 comes in an array of VR-Ready configurations between $1,350 and $1,750, with plenty of RAM, fast processors and NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics chips — but you’ll need to shell out $2,150 for the top model if you want to match the Strix’s GTX 1070. MSI’s GT652VR Dominator is a close match to our review laptop as well, but it’ll cost you $100 more and leave you with half the RAM.

If you don’t mind having a slightly larger screen, the best bang-for-your-buck alternative might be HP’s 17-inch Omen, which can be configured with the same processor and GPU as the Strix for only $1,500. The trade-off: It ships with only 512GB of storage.

Wrap-up

ASUS’ Republic of Gamers brand has a strong pedigree for reasonably priced, powerful gaming laptops, and the GL502VS Strix is exactly that: a mid-range gaming rig that can handle just about anything you might throw at it, even virtual reality. Some garish flourishes, subpar battery life and a disappointing trackpad keep it from being a truly excellent machine, but for those looking to split the difference between the category’s large, overpowered gaming rigs and its expensive ultraportables, the Strix is a solid choice.

7
Dec

ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe review


ASUS made quite a splash in January last year with the mid-range ZenFone 2, with the device offering impressive specifications and features that were coupled with a very budget-friendly price tag. This is a practice that has becoming increasingly common since then, with a lot of OEMs jumping on the “high quality, affordable price” bandwagon, and has also become a growing trend in the flagship space as well.

  • ASUS ZenFone 3 review
  • ASUS ZenFone 3 family hands-on

This year, ASUS has released a high-end Deluxe edition along with the two mid-range ZenFone 3 variants, to better compete in this growing smartphone category. Is ASUS’ latest flagship offering a compelling option in the face of stiff competition? We find out, in this comprehensive ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe!

Design

Expectations are high when a word like “Deluxe” is tacked on to the name of a device, and the ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe does deliver in terms of design. As expected from a flagship smartphone, the build quality of this device is fantastic. Unlike its mid-range siblings that utilize a metal and glass construction, the Deluxe edition features a full metal unibody design.

Chamfered edges around the front and back, a sloping, curved back, and rounded corners and sides all make for a device that provides a smooth and comfortable feel in the hand. It is fairly thin, with a thickness of just 7.5mm, which gives it a sleek look, but even more impressive is the fact that the ZenFone 3 Deluxe features a truly full metal construction.

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You won’t find any plastic antenna lines as is seen with every other smartphone with a metal body, and ASUS claims that this is the first smartphone to achieve this. This choice doesn’t seem to inhibit the phone’s ability to pick up a wireless signal, which makes you wonder why we haven’t seen this already, especially from much larger OEMs.

Like previous ZenFone devices, you will notice ASUS’ signature pattern of concentric circles above the display, on the bottom chin, and along the power button and volume rocker that are both located on the right side. Up top is the headphone jack, and at the bottom are the USB Type-C port and a single speaker unit. On the left side is the SIM and microSD card combination slot.

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The device uses capacitive navigation keys, but instead of embedding a fingerprint scanner into the capacitive home button up front, ASUS decided to keep the sensor on the back. The fingerprint scanner features a thin rectangular design which is unlike the circle or square sensors that we are used to seeing with other smartphones.

Display

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The ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with a large 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1080p resolution. This screen is not going to stack up to a Quad HD display in terms of sharpness, particularly if you are planning to use this phone for VR, but it certainly more than gets the job done and actually looks really great.

You get bright and vibrant colors, excellent viewing angles, high contrast, and deep, inky blacks, which are expected features of a Super AMOLED display. The large display makes it the perfect size for playing games and watching videos and movies. It also comes with some handy features that are becoming increasingly common, including a blue light filter, and the ability to tweak the display and color settings to have the screen look the way you want it.

Performance

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Under the hood, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor that is backed by the Adreno 530 GPU and a whopping 6GB of RAM. This is the processing package that powers the majority of 2016 flagships, plus more RAM than the standard, so unsurprisingly, performance isn’t an issue with the smartphone.

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The device handles everyday tasks like opening, closing, and switching between apps, browsing the web and social media, and a whole lot more, without a hitch. Gaming is very enjoyable, and multi-tasking is a breeze. You can easily have numerous apps open in the background, including a couple of games, without any signs of slowing down. Despite ASUS’ heavily skinned version of Android, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe manages to provide a very fluid experience.

Hardware

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64GB, 128GB, and 256GB are the options available in terms of built-in storage, which is further expandable up to an additional 256GB via microSD card. However, keep in the mind that the second SIM slot doubles as the microSD card slot, so users will have to choose between dual SIM capabilities or expandable storage.

As mentioned, the device comes with a single speaker unit at the bottom which sounds fine and gets decently loud. It’s not going to compare to a phone with stereo or front-facing speakers though, and as is the case with any bottom-firing speaker, it is very easy to cover up when holding the device in the landscape orientation.

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The different design of the fingerprint scanner from the back doesn’t take away from how accurate it is, with it able to unlock the device every single time. However, it isn’t the fastest sensor out there, and there have been a few instances where it took two to three seconds to wake and unlock the phone. I’m also not a fan of the fact that there is no haptic feedback or vibration when using the scanner, so there is no way to tell that you are actually unlocking your phone when you are doing it blindly.

The ZenFone 3 Deluxe comes with a decently-sized 3,000mAh battery, but in my experience, the battery life leaves much to be desired. Light usage will allow for a full day of use, but even slightly heavier usage that involves watching videos on Youtube and playing games will mean that you will need to charge your device in the middle of the day.

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Heavy gaming will cause rapid battery drain with any smartphone, but I noticed that it was much faster with the ZenFone 3 Deluxe when compared to other flagship smartphones I’ve used recently like the Galaxy S7 Edge, Google Pixel, and OnePlus 3T. The phone typically lasts about 8 to 9 hours off the charger, which is significantly shy of what I would normally expect to get a full day’s worth of use. The phone does support Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 though, so at least it doesn’t take a long time get it back to a full charge.

Camera

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The Deluxe comes with a 23MP rear camera with a f/2.0 aperture, optical image stabilization, and a laser autofocus system. Up front is an 8MP shooter with the same aperture, and it works pretty well to cover all your selfie needs. A slew of beauty mode settings to take a better selfie are available to use with the front-facing camera, that can hide blemishes, change your skin tone, widen your eyes, and thin out your face.

The camera app is packed with a variety of features, and comes with 20 different shooting modes, including beautification, low light, depth of field, timelapse, and more, so there is a whole lot you can do with this camera. The built-in manual mode is surprisingly well fleshed out. Apart from the usual granular controls for white balance, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, and focus, you also get a built-in histogram and a horizontal level so you can get a perfectly straight shot every time.

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With a 23MP shooter, you might expect the photos to be very well detailed, but that unfortunately just hasn’t been the case. The color reproduction and dynamic range are pretty good, but the images lack a lot of detail and sharpness, even in daylight shots. Shots do look fine overall, but zooming in is when you can really see the detail start to break down, and everything just appears rather soft.

In well-lit lighting conditions, the shutter is nice and fast, but in low-light conditions, it slows down drastically. The image quality also deteriorates and OIS doesn’t seem to be of any help here. There is a lot of noticeable noise and blooming in the highlights, and the overall image is just soft and lacking in detail or sharpness. It takes a good two or three seconds for the camera to capture a shot in low light, and that makes it really difficult to get a shot that was in focus. Any movement before you are sure that the camera has taken the picture will result in a blurry image.

What is impressive about the camera experience is all the features and shooting modes that are available, but quality of images it is able to capture is a little underwhelming to say the least.

Software

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On the software side of things, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with the Zen UI on top. While many OEMs have been streamlining their user interfaces, AUS has gone in the opposite direction. Zen UI changes a lot of the Android experience, and comes jam packed with a ton of features which may or may not be all that useful.

If you prefer something more simplistic, the Zen UI can certainly feel a touch overwhelming. Some of the elements also feel slightly outdated. For example, the app drawer still houses all the widgets, which we haven’t seen on stock Android since the Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean days.

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The out of the box is also very animation heavy, and while they do look good and flashy, some of the animations are quite long and can make something as simple as opening an app from a folder take more time that it should. You do have the option some of these, like the home screen scroll effects and folder animations to something shorter, but if you stick with the regular settings, it will make the experience feel a lot slower.

Zen UI is very reminiscent of Samsung’s TouchWiz from a few years ago. It is very bright, colorful, has a lot of cartoonish icons, and comes pre-installed with a handful of ASUS’s own bloatware applications. The experience can feel incohesive and bloated, but it isn’t all bad. There are some features that are useful, such as double tap to wake and sleep, a one handed operation mode, and a robust themes store that lets you change the look and feel of the UI.

Specifications

Display 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display
1080p resolution, 386 ppi
Processor 2.15 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Adreno 530 GPU
RAM 6 GB
Storage 64/128/256 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
Camera 23 MP rear camera, f/2.0 aperture, OIS, laser autofocus, dual LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera, f/2.0 aperture
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
NFC
GPS + GLONASS
IR
USB Type-C (USB 3.0)
Battery 3,000 mAh
Software Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions 156.4 x 77.4 x 7.5 mm
170 grams

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

So there you have it for this in-depth look at the ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe! The device is priced at $499.99 which isn’t a bad price tag, but there are several other smartphones out there like the Axon 7 and the new OnePlus 3T that undercut this price, while offering very similar experiences.

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The ZenFone 3 Deluxe features a beautiful design, a great looking display, and comes with a ton of features, but so do a lot of other smartphones, and the Deluxe just falls short in too many key areas to make it really stand out from the crowd.

25
Nov

ASUS ZenFone 3 review


ASUS first unveiled the mid-range ZenFone range of smartphones in 2014, and with ZenFone 3, the company wants to break away from the budget segment and is looking to increase its market share in the premium segment where it competes with the likes of the impressive OnePlus 3 and Honor 8 for example.

Available in two variants – one with a 5.2-inch display (3GB RAM/32GB internal storage) and the other with a 5.5-inch display (4GB RAM/64GB internal storage) – the ZenFone 3 packs mid-range innards into an all-new glass chassis and holds no qualms about its higher pricing.

Is it worth the price and does ASUS deliver on its marketing pitch of a ‘premium’ mid-range smartphone? We find out in this, our review of the Asus Zenfone 3.

In this review, we’re focusing on the smaller Zenfone 3 ZE520KL variant, which has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The other one is ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL), which has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The two variants differ in size and memory departments only while packing in the same processor, camera and overall experience.Show More

Design

The ASUS ZenFone 3 is a refreshing change from the common, and increasingly boring, all-metal design of smartphones in the market.

The ZenFone 3 sports 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla Glass on the front and rear held by a metal frame. It’s stylish, sturdy (and can easily take random knocks on the glass), and quite attractive. The polished metal chamfers on the front and rear and the absence of antenna lines at the back are nice touches, and a testimony of the company’s focus on elegance here.

The compact size and the 7.69mm slim profile combined with the rounded edges makes it a delight to grip in the hand (How I miss smaller smartphones!). At 145 grams, it’s not the lightest smartphone out there, but is comfortable to hold. The all-glass design though means that it is a tad slippery, and I’d avoid holding it carelessly. Also, as one would imagine, it is a fingerprint magnet – the smudges being more prominent in the black variant I reviewed than in other colors I’d assume.

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Yet it’s not all hunky-dory. The capacitive navigation buttons below the display are not backlit. Sometimes you’d end up fumbling to find them in the dark, and although it becomes an impulsive thing after few days of usage, this is a poor design element in a smartphone at this price.

Most people complain about the protruding rear camera too. Yes, it does not sit flush with the back, but I really didn’t mind it much, and it doesn’t hurt the aesthetics of the device. ASUS claims that the sapphire lens on the ZenFone 3 provides protection from any type of scratch, which is a constant worry with a protruding camera bump, and it certainly seems to live up to Asus’ billing.

This time around, ASUS has shunned the utilitarian design of the older ZenFone smartphones and has upped the ante for the ZenFone 3. The glass and metal design looks striking and exudes style in all four color variants – Shimmer Gold, Moonlight White, Aqua Blue, and Sapphire Black. It impresses at first glance, and helps the Zenfone 3 stand out in what is becoming an ever-increasingly homogenous industry.

Display

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The 5.2-inch Full-HD IPS display on the ZenFone 3 is incredibly sharp and offers crisp visuals and good clarity. It’s vibrant, offers rich colors, and it is a treat to watch high-res videos or play games on it. The touch response too is smooth and fluid. The ZenFone 3 features high brightness level of 600nits and therefore sunlight legibility is pretty good. The viewing angles are great too, and the display supports touch recognition through gloves.

You can control the display settings with the built-in Splendid app that allows you to choose between Balance, Bluelight Filter, Vivid, and Customized color modes. The Bluelight Filter mode cuts out the blue light so that the display is easier on the eyes.

Performance

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 is powered by Snapdragon 625, a mid-level processor, and packs in 3GB of RAM in this variant. On the specifications sheet, that makes for a modest entry. Several smartphones in this segment offer flagship processors from Qualcomm bundled with up to 6GB of RAM. Also, some of the budget smartphones pack in similar internals for half the price.

Yet, how a smartphone performs is not always reflective of the internal specs. The ZenFone 3 performs like a breeze with no apparent lags in multitasking or navigating across the UI. Even while playing graphic-intensive games, there was hardly a performance issue or overheating and no dropped frames. Overall, the ZenFone 3 is zippy and smooth when used as a daily driver, and can give other devices with similar specs a run for their money.

The fingerprint sensor on the ZenFone 3 has a quick response and is quite good. In most cases, it recognizes fingerprints even with wet fingers on the first try. You can also tap and hold the fingerprint sensor to answer a call or double tap it to launch the camera (and take a photo with just a tap when the camera app is on).

Interestingly, one of the highlights of the Snapdragon 625 chipset is less power consumption compared to previous generation chipsets. The 2650mAh battery on the ZenFone 3 (3000mAh on the other variant) might just look average on paper, but combined with the SoC and software optimizations, the smartphone offers impressive battery life easily lasting me through the day on heavy usage.

Hardware

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 packs a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor clocked at 2GHz with an integrated Adreno 506 GPU. Since it performs quite well, one would be less inclined to go for the higher spec’d variant (4GB RAM versus 3GB RAM) unless there is a preference for larger display. There’s 32GB of internal storage, with about 23.5GB was available out of the box, and there’s also support for microSD cards of up to 2TB for expansion. ASUS is also offering 100GB of free cloud storage space for two years, in collaboration with Google.

The ZenFone 3 sports a hybrid SIM slot that can take in a Nano SIM along with a Micro SIM or a microSD card. While both SIMs support 3G/4G, only one can connect to 3G/4G networks at a time. If you prefer lot of storage and use two SIMs every day or while travelling, you might want to go for the 64GB variant. For most people though, 32GB is good enough, and of course, if you use only one SIM, you can always expand storage via microSD card.

Camera

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ASUS pitches the camera on the ZenFone 3 as one of the highlights of the smartphone. While the optics are solid on paper, the real magic – or the lack of it – obviously lies in the software processing the data from the camera sensor. That’s the company’s PixelMaster 3.0 at play.

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The 16-megapixel rear camera has an f/2.0 aperture and packs in 6P Largan lens, and focuses on the subject really quick. According to ASUS, the TriTech auto-focus technology on the ZenFone 3 combines laser, phase detection, and continuous autofocus allowing the device to focus in just 0.03 seconds in all conditions. There’s also Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) as well as Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) which are quite handy while shooting videos and still shots in difficult light conditions.

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Outdoors, the rear camera on the ZenFone 3 of course performs great. Consistently. The colors are vibrant, and the photos include a great amount of detail and accuracy. The color reproduction too is excellent whether it’s the landscapes or the close-up shots. However, in low-light conditions while most of the shots are quite decent, often some noise would creep in and there would be a loss of detail. Although, I often managed to get blur-free shots in poor light conditions, validating the ZenFone 3’s camera creds.

In fact, it’s the 8-megapixel front camera on the ZenFone 3 that surprised me with the sharp and detailed selfies that I took, even in low light conditions or when indoors.

The camera app on the ZenFone 3 packs in a lot of options and camera modes to choose from. There’s also a manual mode for tinkering with the DSLR-like camera settings as well as a low light mode that enhances light sensitivity for clearer and brighter low-light shots. With the Super Resolution mode, you can take composite images at up to 4X resolution, and then wonder why would you need it. Not from a review perspective, but I ended up using the GIF animation mode a lot for random fun GIFs converted from a series of captured images. Maybe that’s why there was a delay in publishing the review!

For better or worse, the camera on the ZenFone 3 builds on the precedent set by the earlier generations of ZenFone. It’s not perfect, and serious photographers would find few limitations here and there, but for most regular as well as power users, it works great.

Software

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The ASUS ZenFone 3 runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box with the new version of the company’s proprietary ZenUI 3.0 on top of it.

Right up, that’s a good thing. The older versions of ZenUI were plagued with bloatware and gimmicky UI elements that marred the overall user experience. The latest version is a complete makeover, and offers a clean UI with subtle animations. There are several nifty utilities, but there’s still a plethora of ASUS-branded apps that I’ve hardly seen anyone using really. Unfortunately, only a few of these can be uninstalled and while you can disable most others, they still occupy storage space on your phone.

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ZenUI 3.0 features an app drawer, and there’s a built-in search functionality. You can swipe down the screen and search the Web or your apps and contacts, and view your frequently used apps. There’s an all-new Theme Store from which users can download free as well as paid themes, wallpapers, icons, and ringtones to customize their smartphone.

One of the neat features of the ZenUI is ZenMotion which allows configuring a variety of touch and motion gestures like double tap to wake or flipping the phone when you get an incoming call to enable silent mode. It also allows you to enable the one-handed mode that shrinks the display to one corner of the screen for easy, one-handed usage when you’re on the move.

Of course, the most useful app from the entire ZenUI suite is the Mobile Manager. With slick animations and intuitive UI, the app offers quick ways to free RAM and storage space, and manage apps as well as app permissions. It’s a sort of one-stop destination for managing your phone’s performance.

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For gamers, ZenUI offers Game Genie which pops up automatically when you start playing a game and allows you to record your gameplay and broadcast it live on YouTube or Twitch, search for tips, and boost gaming performance. It’s a neat, little addition that gamers would appreciate.

The latest version of ZenUI on the ZenFone 3 is fluid and aims to offer stock Android-like experience while adding additional functionalities. And, it succeeds in doing that. But the excess of bloatware is disappointing, and shows that the company has learnt nothing from similar criticism in the past.

Specifications

Operating System Android 6.0 Marshmallow with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
Display 5.2-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) super IPS+ | 2.5D contoured Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon Octa-Core 625 2.0GHz | Adreno 506 GPU
RAM 3 GB
Internal Storage 32 GB; expandable up to 2TB with microSD card
Battery 2650mAh
Rear Camera 16 MP PixelMaster 3.0 camera | f/2.0 aperture | Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) | Dual-LED real tone flash
Front Camera 8MP | f/2.0 aperture | 84˚ field of view
Dimesions 146.87 x 73.98 x 7.69 mm
Weight 144 grams

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Pricing and final thoughts

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At $320 (₹21,999) in India, the ASUS ZenFone 3 is not cheap. The higher spec’d variant is in fact priced at roughly $409 (₹27,999) which is very similar to the OnePlus 3. Yet, there are a lot of things going for the ZenFone 3. One, ASUS serves broader audience by virtue of being available both online and offline and secondly, it looks so damn good.

It’s a reliable daily driver and doesn’t break a sweat while pushing for performance or gaming. The camera is very good, and the battery life is exemplary.

It looks modest on the specifications sheet, but it’s a mistake to judge the ZenFone 3 purely on its specs list

. Once you take it for a spin, it impresses, even if we wish the price could’ve been a little lower. In fact, the lower spec’d variant, because it performs very well, offers more value for money and is the recommended buy, as long as you’re happy with the smaller display.

Asus isn’t officially selling the regular Zenfone 3 in the US but it is already available via a marketplace seller on Amazon if you’d rather have the regular Zenfone 3 over the more illustrious (and higher priced) Zenfone 3 Deluxe. What do you think of the Asus Zenfone 3 and do you plan to buy one? Let us know your views in the comments below!

18
Nov

The best Wi-Fi Range extender


By David Murphy

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After spending 140 total hours researching Wi-Fi extenders and testing more than 20, we recommend the TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450 for most people who need to boost their Wi-Fi signal to part of a house or apartment. Though the RE450 costs around $100 at this writing, it’s worth that price, as it offers the best combination of range, speed, portability, and physical connections of any extender we tested.

Why you should (or shouldn’t) buy this

Before you invest in a Wi-Fi extender, first you should make sure your router is near the center of your living space and out in the open if possible, not hidden in a closet or behind a desk. If you’ve used the same wireless router for years, consider upgrading to a better one, such as our pick for the best Wi-Fi router. If you still can’t get a signal where you need it, running an Ethernet cable directly from your router to a Wi-Fi access point or a router set up as one will get you much better performance than a Wi-Fi extender. But if you can’t run Ethernet and parts of your home or apartment still don’t get a good Wi-Fi signal, a wireless extender can help.

How we picked and tested

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We tested the final 13 contenders after looking at 39 extenders. Photo: David Murphy

A good extender, like a modern router, should support both the older, more crowded 2.4 GHz band and the newer, faster 5 GHz band. You also need a dual-band extender to avoid the performance hit of connecting to your devices on the same band as the one for connecting to your router. An extender should also support at least two spatial streams (also called data streams) on each band. We looked at any N600 or AC1200-plus extenders from major manufacturers that met these criteria, had good reviews (if any), and weren’t too expensive.

To test the 13 final contenders, we set up one of the fastest routers we’ve tested, Netgear’s R8500, in one corner of a 2,577-square-foot, single-story house, with the extender in the next room, to minimize the effects of the router’s performance on the extender’s benchmarks and to test the range of the extenders’ signals.

We connected each extender to the router’s 5 GHz Wi-Fi signal. For the tests, we connected an Asus ZenBook UX305LA (which uses two-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi) to each extender from two locations—one obstructed and one unobstructed—both 43 feet away from the extender.

We tested the extenders using iPerf3, a network monitoring and measuring tool, to evaluate data transfers between a desktop PC (connected to the router via Gigabit Ethernet) and our test laptop. Each iPerf3 test attempted to transfer as much data as possible from the test laptop to the desktop PC (via a single TCP connection). We let 15 seconds elapse before recording the average transfer speed across 60 one-second intervals, and ran each test for each extender, on each band, at each test location. To learn more about our testing plan, read our full guide.

Our pick

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The TP-Link RE450 will eat up most of your wall socket when you plug it in—the price you pay for great Wi-Fi range. Photo: David Murphy

The TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450 is the best wireless extender for most people because it offers incredible performance at long range and supports the fastest wireless speeds of any device you’re likely to own, even if you have a MacBook Pro. It was the only extender that hit triple-digit speeds on our easier long-range 5 GHz test, and its long-range 2.4 GHz performance was better than that of everything else we tested. This model is simple to set up, and it has a few useful features within its easy-to-navigate user interface.

The biggest issue with the RE450 is its size. It’s huge. If you plug it into a wall outlet, bigger devices (like a power strip) likely won’t have room.

Even so, in each of our tests, the RE450 had not just the best performance of any of the extenders in the group, but also the best price-to-performance ratio (aside from our slower, cheaper budget pick). You spend about as much for the RE450 as you would for our best Wi-Fi router pick, but you get proportionate speed and range—the most of any extender we’ve recently tested.

For home offices and entertainment centers

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Linksys’s RE6500 isn’t as convenient as a wall-plug extender, but it has more Gigabit Ethernet ports and doesn’t take up much space on a coffee table or shelf. Photo: David Murphy

If our pick is sold out or unavailable, or if you have a lot of wired devices that need access to your home network, the Linksys AC1200 Max Wi-Fi Range Extender RE6500 is an excellent alternative. In our tests it gave us around three-fourths the speed of our primary pick; of all the wireless-ac extenders we recently tested, however, it had the second-fastest average speeds and the second-best price-to-performance ratio. In addition, it won’t block an extra wall outlet, it has three more Gigabit Ethernet ports than our pick, and its user interface is more helpful for people with less networking experience. Read more in our full guide.

The low-cost, last-gen alternative

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The Asus RP-N53 is a tiny, wireless-n extender with a signal-strength LED indicator plus another LED on the back that works as a night-light. Photo: David Murphy

If you just need Wi-Fi in a far-flung area, don’t care about 802.11ac, and don’t want to spend a lot of money, get the Asus RP-N53 Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Range Extender. This wall-plug 802.11n extender is notably small, but it offers better performance and features than other extenders in its price range, including an easy-to-use Web configuration screen, music-streaming capabilities, and the ability to function as a night-light. To learn more, see our full guide.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

30
Oct

The bottom line: Our quick verdict on the ASUS ZenBook 3


ASUS’s latest ultraportable the ZenBook 3 is often compared to Apple’s 12-inch MacBook. And can you blame people? The laptop is even thinner and lighter than Apple’s two-pound wonder, but just as fast and with longer battery life. And it comes with a mini dock in the box, adding precisely the sort of ports you’d be missing on the MacBook (and would only have access to if you paid extra for an adapter). On paper, then, it’s precisely the computer Windows-using travelers have been looking for.

Depending on your needs, that may still be the case, but in practice we found the ZenBook 3 isn’t everything we hoped it would be. In particular, we found the keyboard and trackpad uncomfortable to use, and we had some concerns about the build quality too. It’s possible you’ll disagree with us there, but you owe it to yourself to get some hands-on time with the machine at a local store before buying, if at all possible.

6
Oct

ASUS’ Zenfone 3 and its Snapdragon 821 arrive this month


If you want the fastest Android phone in the US, you can pre-order Google’s Pixel phone starting at $649, and get it around October 20th. There is another option, though — ASUS will release its 5.7-inch Deluxe Special Edition ZenFone 3 smartphone with the same Snapdragon 821 processor in the US for $799 by the end of the month. Both have metal unibodies, but the ASUS is the flashier of the two.

For many, the ability to get Android updates first on Google’s Pixel devices or use the Daydream headset will be a deciding factor. But the ZenFone 3 does have a few things going for it — it has 6GB of RAM instead of 4GB, 256GB of (expandable) UFS II storage (instead of 128GB max on the Pixel) and is the first device with Sony’s new Exmore IMX318 23-megapixel front camera sensor. Both have 1080p screens, but the 5.5-inch Pixel XL sports a Quad HD display and significantly higher $869 price tag.

If both of those options are too rich, ASUS has tamer variants of the ZenFone 3, including the Deluxe 5.7-inch 4GB model with a mere Snapdragon 820 for a very decent $499. The 5.5-inch Deluxe sports a mid-range Snapdragon 625 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a $399 price tag.

ASUS also confirmed the final price and availability for the ZenWatch 3. As a reminder, that’s a stainless steel Android Wear watch that can be recharged to 60 percent in just 15 minutes — it’ll run $229 and arrive at the beginning of November. Meanwhile, the ZenPad 3S 10, a middling 10-inch, 2,048 x 1,536 tablet with an Octacore MediaTek CPU and 4GB of RAM also comes in early November for $299. All devices and pre-orders are available at the ASUS store.

6
Oct

ASUS ZenBook 3 review: A powerful MacBook competitor with issues


Apple’s tiny MacBook was a revelation when it debuted last year. It was thinner and lighter than most ultraportables on the market, and its refined design brought over some cues from Apple’s mobile hardware. So it was only a matter of time before a PC maker took a swing at a similar design. Enter the ASUS ZenBook 3, a minuscule machine that promises to be just as portable as the MacBook while packing in much faster hardware. But while ASUS has proved it can sell powerful machines for far less than the competition, it’s less experienced when it comes to delivering truly premium hardware. The ZenBook 3, while attractive on the surface, is a reminder that ASUS still has a lot to learn.

Hardware

ASUS ZenBook 3 Review

At first glance, the Zenbook 3 screams luxury. Its aluminum alloy case is smooth and sleek, and it measures an impressive 11.9mm at its thickest point. I particularly liked the deep shade of blue and the gold accents, which are classy in a subtle way. ASUS’s ZenBook line is unquestionably “Apple-inspired,” with an emphasis on thin profiles and all-metal cases. But the ZenBook 3’s design in particular looks like a mixture of the MacBook and the 11-inch MacBook Air, right down to the small notch below the trackpad and the look of the speakers above the keyboard. That’s one way to evoke a premium feel, I guess. But it would have been nice to see some actual innovation, as with HP’s sexy new Spectre.

With a 12.5-inch display, ASUS managed to outdo the MacBook by half an inch. But Apple’s laptop boasts a higher-resolution 2,304 x 1,440 display, as compared with 1080p on the ZenBook. At least it’s a good-looking display, though; it’s bright enough for outdoor use, while colors appear vibrant and mostly accurate. Though it’s not a touchscreen display (that’s to be expected with such a thin laptop), ASUS covered it in Gorilla Glass 4 for extra protection. After testing out plenty of touchscreen Windows laptops over the past few years, though, I’m surprised by how much I missed that feature here.

While the two-pound ZenBook 3 feels light and sturdy at first, it wasn’t long before I started noticing flaws. Applying a bit of pressure around the laptop’s keyboard leads to some seriously disturbing creaking noises, as if the seams around the bottom of the case are rubbing against each other. It’s not something you might ever do to your laptop, but this also doesn’t bode well for long-term durability. If a bit of force from my hands can disturb the case’s integrity, how can I ever trust it in a book bag with other heavy items?

Then there’s the keyboard and trackpad, which present a different set of issues. The ZenBook 3’s buttons have more travel than those on the relatively flat MacBook, but the feedback you get when pressing them is mushy and insubstantial. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a heavy typer, but I was never able to get into a decent typing flow. While I eventually got used to the wonky feedback, I still get more typos with this machine compared with every other laptop keyboard I’ve tested recently. Honestly, even though the MacBook’s keyboard isn’t ideal either, I still prefer it to the ZenBook 3’s.

The trackpad, while large and relatively smooth, is a chore to use. It requires a lot of pressure to register clicks, which isn’t great when you’re trying to balance an ultralight notebook on your lap. It would often get confused with left and right clicks, and on several occasions I had to press down multiple times for it to register anything. Tapping the trackpad to select things isn’t great either, as it often moves the pointer off your target. And for some reason, ASUS thought it was a good idea to put its fingerprint sensor right on the trackpad. That effectively renders the top-right portion of the trackpad a dead zone most of the time.

At least the fingerprint sensor works well; it usually gets me to the desktop in less than a second. On several occasions, I received warnings about Windows Hello being disabled because of too many fingerprint login attempts, even after I was just waking it up from sleep mode. I’m not sure why those errors occurred, but it makes me think that Windows Hello is somehow trying to identify fingerprints even when the ZenBook’s lid is shut. (And that could be tied to the flexing issue as well.)

You might have noticed one other nod to the MacBook: The ZenBook 3’s only ports are a single USB-C socket and a 3.5mm headphone jack. At least ASUS was kind enough to bundle in a USB-C mini-dock, which includes an HDMI port, a traditional USB connection and another USB-C socket. Unfortunately, you can use the dock’s USB-C port only for charging, which will make life difficult if you want to connect a USB-C device and an external monitor at the same time.

Performance and battery life

ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,448 3,911 E2,791 / P1,560 3,013 1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s
HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,046 3,747 E2,790 / P1,630 / X375 3,810 1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Huawei MateBook (1.1 GHz Core M3, Intel HD 515) 3,592 2,867 E1,490 / P887 2,454 538 MB/s / 268 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (1.2 GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515) 4,951 3,433 E1,866 / P1,112 2,462 545 MB/s / 298 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,368 3,448

E2,707 / P1,581

3,161 556 MB/s / 511 MB/s

What’s truly impressive about the ZenBook 3 is that ASUS has managed to fit in seventh-generation Intel Core processors and gobs of memory in such a tiny case. Our review unit came with a Core i7-7500U, which offers speeds between 2.7GHz and 2.9GHz, and 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 2,133MHz. ASUS says it worked with Intel to achieve that memory speed, which is faster than any other ultraportable on the market. It even exceeds the maximum 1,866MHz RAM speeds Intel officially supports for its latest chips.

The MacBook, on the other hand, is still stuck with slow Core m3 and m5 CPUs and a maximum of 8GB of RAM. Apple might refresh it soon, now that the seventh-gen Intel CPUs are available, but for the time being, ASUS wins the spec battle.

The ZenBook 3 felt just as zippy as other high-end ultraportables. It didn’t skip a beat during my typical workflow, which involves having several browsers open with dozens of tabs each, plus Slack, Spotify and Photoshop. And thanks to the video-decoding capabilities in Intel’s new processors, the CPU usage managed to stay below 20 percent when I streamed 4K video from YouTube. Basically, you’re not sacrificing any performance here.

Battery life

ASUS ZenBook 3
9:45
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics)
13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)
11:34
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics)
11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)
11:23
iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2015)
10:47
HP Spectre x360 15t
10:17
Chromebook Pixel (2015)
10:01
Lenovo Yoga 900
9:36
Apple MacBook (2016)
8:45
Samsung Notebook 9
8:16
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
7:36
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
7:15
HP Spectre 13
7:07
Huawei MateBook
6:35
Razer Blade Stealth
5:48
Dell XPS 15 (2016)
5:25 (7:40 with the mobile charger)

When it comes to real-world battery life, the ZenBook 3 also outshines some recent ultraportables I’ve seen, like the Huawei MateBook and the Lenovo X1 Yoga with OLED. It typically lasted an entire workday, and sometimes it even had juice left over by the time I got home. In our typical battery test, which involves looping an HD video until the power dies, it lasted around nine hours and 45 minutes. Given that Intel is stressing video decoding with its new chips, though, that figure might not be directly comparable to other ultraportables. I’ll be testing the ZenBook 3 with other battery benchmarks soon and will report back with the results.

Configuration options and the competition

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You have two choices with the ZenBook: the $1,099 model with a Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of RAM and 25GB of storage; or the more powerful $1,599 version with a Core i5-7500U chip, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The latter model was the one I tested, so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to achieve the kind of performance reflected in our benchmarks.

Apple’s MacBook, which is really the only direct competitor, starts at $1,299, with a significantly slower Core M3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Bumping up to $1,599 gets you a Core M5 and more storage, but you’ll still be stuck with 8GB of RAM.

If you can live with something slightly heavier, then you’ve got a wealth of ultraportable options to choose from, including HP’s revamped Spectre 13 (2.45 pounds), the fantastic Dell XPS 13 (2.6 pounds), and even Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4. All of those machines will likely get upgraded soon with Intel’s seventh-gen CPUs, so it might be worth waiting a bit (or snap up one of last year’s models if they’re on sale).

Wrap-up

Ultimately, with the ZenBook 3, ASUS did what it does best: pack in plenty of powerful hardware for a cheaper price than the competition. But the company’s inexperience at crafting truly high-end machines shows, with some truly worrying durability and usability issues. I give ASUS credit for building such a thin and powerful device, but what does that matter if the keyboard and trackpad are a pain to use?

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