Beautiful design; Vivid display; Comfortable keyboard
Blurry, low-res webcam; Shorter-than-average battery life
The Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490UA is a gorgeous, premium notebook with a great keyboard, but its battery doesn’t last as long as competitors’.
The Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe is a $1,699 ultraportable with enough style to walk the red carpet. The metallic blue-and-gold laptop is slim, sleek and stunning, wowing everyone I showed it to. The 14-inch Ultrabook also benefits from a vivid display and a comfortable keyboard. But if you get close to this stunner, you can start to see a few of the seams, including below-average battery life and a weak webcam. However, if you can live with a couple of shortcomings, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe will be a high-end laptop you’ll be proud to carry.
Dare I say it? Asus has out-designed Apple. The ZenBook 3 Deluxe is better looking than the MacBook Pro.
The ZenBook 3 Deluxe takes its design cues from its little brother, the original ZenBook 3, and I have no qualms with that It’s one of the most beautiful premium laptops on the market. The aluminum navy-blue lid uses Asus’ trademark concentric circles with a golden logo. Along the edge of the lid, you’ll find a gold accent.
Lifting the lid reveals the 14-inch, 1080p display and more navy blue. Specifically, the keyboard is blue with gold lettering (and gold-tinted backlighting), while the deck and touchpad are coated in that same beautiful blue. It’s subtle enough to be professional, but still attractive enough to turn heads.
The ZenBook 3 Deluxe feels incredible to hold. The aluminum body is extremely strong and, despite its relative thinness, showed absolutely no give in the chassis no matter how I held it. It’s what you’d expect from a premium Ultrabook.
At 2.7 pounds and 13 x 8.4 x 0.5 inches, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is both thinner and lighter than most of the competition, though it has a slightly larger footprint thanks to its 14-inch display. In comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is 3 pounds and 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, and the Dell XPS 13 is 2.7 pounds and 12 x 7.9 x 0.6 inches. Only the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is lighter, at 2.5 pounds, but it’s thicker, at 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches.
It’s subtle enough to be professional, but still attractive enough to turn heads.
Like the MacBook Pro, the ZenBook 3 skimps on the ports in order to slim down. On its left side are a headphone jack and a USB Type-C port (you’ll use this for charging), while the right side has two Thunderbolt 3 ports for use with external monitors, graphics amps or other accessories.
For your legacy accessories, Asus includes USB 3.0 and HDMI adapters in the box so you can live your best #donglelife without spending extra. Apple charges $19 for a USB-C-to-USB adapter and $69 for its multiport adapter (HDMI, USB and USB Type-C).
The 14-inch, 1080p display on the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is sharp and vivid but not as bright as some competitors’ screens. When I watched a 1080p trailer for Black Panther, the Dora Milaje’s red dresses immediately caught my attention, and I could make out every crack in a car’s windshield after T’Challa pounced on it.
The ZenBook’s screen covers an excellent 110 percent of the sRGB color gamut, surpassing the ultraportable average (100 percent), the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (104 percent) and the XPS 13 (94 percent) but falling short of the MacBook Pro’s even more colorful 123 percent.
However, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe has the most accurate colors. The panel has a Delta-E score of 0.2 (0 is best), matching the MacBook Pro and beating the average (2.5), the XPS 13 (1.3) and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (4.4).
At an average of 281 nits, the ZenBook 3’s panel is brighter than the X1 Carbon’s (275 nits) but dimmer than the 293-nit category average. But others have it beat in the luminosity department with the XPS 13 measuring 302 nits and the MacBook Pro hitting a superbright 458 nits.
Keyboard and Touchpad
For a low-travel keyboard, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is surprisingly comfortable. The keys have just 1.3 millimeters of vertical travel, but the 74 grams of actuation required to press them down keep you from bottoming out. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I reached 114 words per minute, which is at the high end of my usual range, with an error rate just under my usual 2 percent.
It’s a noticeable difference from the original ZenBook 3, which had just 0.8 millimeters of travel and isn’t as comfortable.
The 4.1 x 2.8-inch touchpad is spacious and, more importantly, accurate. Every gesture I tried, including swiping three fingers down to reveal the desktop and tapping four fingers to show the Action Center, worked flawlessly. The one real issue I have with the touchpad is that Asus chose to put the fingerprint reader in the top-right-hand corner. While I love being able to log in with a Windows Hello fingerprint reader, I hate that it makes a small part of the touchpad unusable for actually moving the pointer.
Something so tiny shouldn’t be able to have such powerful speakers, but the ZenBook 3 Deluxe’s set of four pack in the sound. When I listened to Yellowcard’s “Two Weeks From Twenty,” the audio from the speakers instantly filled our midsize conference room with clear vocals, drums and guitars. And although I could make out the bass, it wasn’t as powerful as I would have liked. Moving to Movie Mode or Gaming Mode in the ICEpower AudioWizard pumped out a bit more bass, but it put some echoes in the vocals.
With the ZenBook 3 Deluxe’s 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-7500U CPU, 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD, it’s no surprise that the computer is one hell of a multitasker. I had 40 tabs open in Chrome (one of which was streaming a 1080p episode of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”) and didn’t notice any lag.
Asus’ laptop notched a score of 7,901 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, handily beating the ultraportable average (6,709) and the XPS 13 (7,287; Intel Core i7-7500U). Both the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (8,571; Core i7-7600U) and the MacBook Pro (9,213; Core i5-7267U) had superior scores.
A device this tiny shouldn’t be able to have such powerful speakers.
The ZenBook 3 Deluxe copied 4.97GB of files in just 6 seconds, for a transfer rate of 848 megabytes per second. That’s speedier than the ultraportable-category average (220 MBps) and the MacBook Pro (727 MBps). The XPS 13 (339.3 MBps) and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (242 MBps) were sluggish by comparison.
It took 3 minutes and 34 seconds for the ZenBook 3 Deluxe to pair 20,000 names and addresses in our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro test. That’s quicker than the category average (5:43) and the XPS 13 (3:44) but slower than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (3:22).
Ultraportables like the ZenBook 3 Deluxe aren’t graphics powerhouses. Asus’ notebook, with its integrated Intel HD Graphics 620, achieved a score of 74,490 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark. That’s higher than the average (57,308), as well as the scores from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (68,062; Intel HD Graphics 620) and the Dell XPS 13 (62,754; Intel HD Graphics 5500). You might be able to handle some basic photo editing on these, but you won’t be playing any intense video games.
It seems that to get the ZenBook so thin and so light, Asus had to skimp on the battery. It lasted just 6 hours and 52 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which browses the web continuously over Wi-Fi.
The ultraportable average is 8:22, but the competition endured even longer. The MacBook Pro survived for 8:40, and the XPS 13 ran for 9:11 with a touch screen and a crazy 13:49 with a standard 1080p display. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon kept going for an impressive 12:21.
This is ridiculous. In its $1,700 flagship productivity device, Asus included a lowly 480p webcam. For shame. There are budget laptops that offer at least 720p.
In a photo I shot in our labs, the colors were accurate, but the image was blurry. The stripes in my shirt were faded, and my hair looked like a big plastic bag placed on top of my head. My beard looked like a very neat kindergartner drew it on with a crayon.
In our testing, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe stayed nice and cool. After we streamed HD video from YouTube for 15 minutes, the bottom of the laptop reached 81 degrees Fahrenheit, the center of the keyboard measured 78 degrees and the touchpad was 74 degrees. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees to be comfortable.
Software and Warranty
I have to hand it to Asus here: The company is not cluttering Windows 10 with all kinds of crap. Besides some audio software and a digital manual, the ZenBook is free of third-party software.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any bloatware. It just comes with the standard set of apps, most of which come on every Windows 10 PC: Candy Crush Soda Saga, Royal Revolt 2, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Sling, and March of Empire: War of Lords, to name a few.
Asus sells the ZenBook 3 Deluxe with a one-year warranty.
The Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490UA is an incredibly slim laptop with breathtaking looks, a vivid display and a comfortable keyboard. On the surface, it’s easy to fall in love with this comely clamshell. The biggest ding to the device is its poor battery life, coming in under 7 hours in our tests. At least you can use an external webcam to replace the poor, low-res one that comes built in, but you shouldn’t have to do that on a $1,700 machine. If you can handle a thicker laptop, consider the Dell XPS 13, which is still our favorite notebook. It lasts longer on a charge, and offers strong performance and a wide variety of ports. Although you can get it starting at $800, I’d recommend starting at the $1,000 or $1,350 configurations for better specs. If you were looking at dropping $1,700 on the ZenBook 3, that’s a deal. But if you’re going for style points, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe earns top marks. Whether you’re at work, the office or home, someone’s going to notice your laptop.