From The Editors Technology

Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN Review: The Good, The Bad and The Mediocre

What makes the ZenBook special is the fact that it runs a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX150 chip in a very light and portable package, although it may not be the thinnest laptop out there; obviously, there are thinner ultrabooks than this.

However, while keeping it relatively slim, Asus has given the laptop enough room to allow for a proper thermal solution because of the presence of a decent GPU (graphics processing unit) inside.

Let’s go through a few things that are good about this laptop and then touch upon some of the points that are not so good, or mediocre.

To start with, for a device that’s priced at $1,000, you’d expect it to have a good build quality, and the ZenBook does deliver on that count. The screen may have a little more flex compared to its predecessor, but apart from that, the build quality is excellent.

Another thing that’s commendable about this laptop is its trackpad – one of the better ones seen from the house of Asus. It’s made of glass with a fantastic, super smooth feel to it. It probably doesn’t get better than this on a Windows laptop.

It is also equipped with a fingerprint sensor on the side, especially handy for those who use Windows Hello to log in.

The 13.3-inch screen is really bright at 300 nits, with impressive color accuracy and viewing angles. However, the hinge leaves a bit to be desired; a stiffer hinge would have been ideal. Also, it’s just got a little bit more play than one would like.

The SATA SSD (solid state drive) inside is a little on the slower side but can be replaced with an NVMedrive, and that’s about all you can replace inside the ZenBook. This effectively means that you are stuck with the 8GB of RAM it comes with.

What’s surprising about this Asus device is the fact that in spite of a battery that is only 50-watt-hours, it boasts a better battery-life than devices with 60-watt-hour batteries with similar screen sizes. Asus has, probably, managed to achieve this through software optimization.

The Harmon-Kardon speakers also sound pretty good, with clarity, decent range, and good volume. Personally, the scribe would have preferred the speakers at the top instead of the bottom, but overall it’s a good-sounding system.

The VGA webcam, though, is pretty much run-of-the-mill, reminiscent of the one on the 12- inch MacBook. So, if you are a frequent webcam user, you will be better off getting an external one because this thing is just below ordinary.

Now, let’s talk about the feature that makes this laptop particularly special – the GPU.

As mentioned earlier, the ZenBook 13 runs a Nvidia MX150, which is a very impressive card indeed. It may not be the most powerful GPU, and it doesn’t really require crazy heatsinks or fans.

However, it does push out pretty decent frame rates in games, allowing you to comfortably play any popular game as long as you are okay with lower graphics quality – a bit maybe.

Now, if you are someone who plays GTA 5 with, say, 20 mods running, then this is certainly not the system for you.

The fans on this thing are completely silent and don’t even come on unless you are working on some really intensive stuff; that’s when the fans kick in, but even then they don’t get too loud. It’s when you are playing games that they get quite noisy.

But, that’s not really a bad thing because don’t forget, we are talking about a device that puts out a decent amount of heat and if it’s not getting pushed out quick enough, you are bound to encounter problems.

Also, there is no notable thermal throttling on this laptop when you are playing games, which is good. However, some throttling is evident when you run some stress tests on the laptop, which is not likely to happen in most people’s usage scenarios. The throttling is, probably, confined to stress tests, but it’s there, all the same.

And depending on what you do and how demanding your tasks are, it may or may not be an issue, but if you really need some really intensive CPU or GPU stuff, then this probably not the best laptop for you.

Now, here are some of the things that are not so good about the ZenBook 13.

Firstly, it’s the port options; while it does have a USB-C port, it uses a regular barrel port for charging and you can’t help but get the feeling that Asus has missed out here because USB charging on a device like this would have been awesome.

Plus, the laptop does not support Thunderbolt 3 on that USB-C port, and here again, the company seems to have missed out. Perhaps, it keeps the cost from spiraling out of control, but it would have been nice.

Another thing you are likely to find annoying is the glass-like top surface, which is prone to get smudgy with fingerprints and even makes the laptop look kind of shoddy and cheap.

One last thing that’s not so good about the new Asus book – and this a big one – is the keyboard. It may have a decent layout but the keystrokes are relatively soft and not very comfortable to work with, at least initially. Given time, most people can learn to live with it.

Overall, it’s a good laptop and should be a great fit for most users.
So, if you have been looking for a laptop that’s thin and light; that doesn’t cost too much; and can play some games, with a decent battery life, then the new Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN could be the one for you.

Asus Zenbook 13 UX331 series specs.

  • Price: $999
  • CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
  • Display size resolution: 13.3-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel touch display
  • Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz
  • Graphics: 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 Graphics
  • Networking: 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
  • Storage: 256GB M.2 SATA III SSD

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