Wow, this thing is LIGHT. If you’re in the market for a power portable that won’t feel heavy in your bag, this is pretty much where it’s at. Weighing in at just 985g, the ZenBook 13 (UX331UAL) is significantly lighter than many rivals and still features latest-gen specs.
It’s almost equivalent in weight to the ever-so-slightly lighter Apple MacBook, although you’re getting a 13-inch display instead of a 12-inch one with the Zenbook.
Asus launched Zenbook 13 at CES 2018 and it slots in as another option alongside Asus’ other thin and lights in the Zenbook range, including Zenbook Flip and Pro.
It’s important to consider this laptop alongside other Zenbooks since other options exist which may better suit your needs (if you wanted a 4K display, for example).
Zenbook 13 design
- Matte-finish design
- Not as thin as some, but it doesn’t matter
- Usual super Zenbook keyboard
Despite the latest Zenbook featuring an all-metal chassis, the only disappointment is the matte finish you see here.
When we’re used to shiny Zenbooks it’s a bit too understated and doesn’t scream premium (some may say that’s an advantage).
It also had attracted fingerprint grease when we saw it at CES. OK, so you won’t have hundreds of people at a sweaty tech show potentially picking your laptop up but the point is that we’d imagine it will be hard to keep pristine.
Mind you, it’s worth remembering that the ultimate design goal was weight (as well as premium specs). Some finishes would have surely meant more weight.
We’re not that keen on the matt black though, that’s for sure.
Even though the design is feather-light, the thickness is similar to other Zenbooks at 13.9mm but it is thicker than many rivals like the 12mm-thick Dell XPS 13.
It’s certainly nothing like as thin as Acer’s new Swift 7 which checks in under 9mm. That model can’t hold a candle to the Zenbook 13’s weight loss though as it’s around 1.2kg. Weight certainly matters a lot more than thickness, so we’ll award that face-off to the Zenbook.
The keyboard is of a very good quality as you’d expect from a Zenbook. They’re certainly less clicky than the newer generation Mac laptopkeyboards which can seem a little noisy. It’s still backlit, too.
It’s interesting to note that this is as far back as the screen goes. That’s not a problem, but some may be looking for the fold-flat options offered by 2-in-1s.
Zenbook 13 specs
- Latest-gen low-power Intel Core i7
- Up to 1TB PCIe SSD
- Up to 16GB of memory
It’s unusual that something so lightweight doesn’t compromise too much in terms of specs.
OK, so you’re not getting the very height of performance (the processor is a frugal, ultra low-power variant) and there are no dedicated Nvidiagraphics as there are on the Zenbook Pro, but you do get a latest-gen Intel Core i7 and up to 16GB of memory and super-fast 1TB PCIe SSD.
The model we’ve photographed here featured 8GB of RAM and the Intel Core i7-8550U, clocked at 1.8GHz. The quad-core chip is one of Intel’s latest ultra-low power chips from the Kaby Lake R series (marketed as 8th generation Core).
Consider that you’re getting the best Intel can offer you for in a thin and light; battery life is cited by Asus at 15 hours, which is quite remarkable and we look forward to finding out what that actually means in terms of real-world battery life.
The extra thickness has enabled Asus to retain some ports that others have eschewed in their thin and light laptops – there’s a full-size HDMI port, for example as well as a USB-A port either side. Sadly there’s only a single USB-C port; ideally you’d have one of those each side instead. High end laptops should now be prioritising USB-C.
As part of that, it’s a shame this Zenbook doesn’t have USB-C charging. Instead there’s a proprietary Asus charger. Again, it’s time this changed.
There’s also a microSD card slot, too. We’d always prefer to see full-size SD because that’s what’s used in cameras, but they’re becoming rare.
You also don’t get a 4K option for the 13-inch screen (again, unlike other Zenbooks). The screen is Full HD, which is bettered by many premium laptops.
Again though, the goal here is portability and the audience is undoubtedly mobile workers who are probably editing documents and sending emails.
The Zenbook 13 does have Harman Kardon-enhanced audio, though it was very hard to make a judgement on it in the busy CES showroom. We look forward to reviewing the laptop in due course.
Asus is yet to talk about ZenBook 13 pricing but has confirmed the release date will be the first half of this year. It won’t be cheap, but some models will probably clock in a bit less than the Acer Swift 7’s £1,500/$1,995.
You won’t believe quite how light this thing is until you pick it up. Few compromises have been made, too, which is impressive. We’re not that keen on the matte finish, but we understand that many will find it nicely understated.
The only other negatives are the Full HD display and the lack of USB-C charging, but these are minor quibbles.
Frankly, if you’re after an ultraportable for mobile working it has to be worth consideration – it certainly takes the fight to Dell, Acer and Lenovo.