Asus ZenBook UX310UA review

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PROS

  • Thin and light design
  • Good performance
  • SSD/hard disk combination
  • Very low starting price

CONS

  • Mediocre battery life
  • No Intel Iris Graphics
  • Less attractive and heavier than rivals

KEY FEATURES

  • 2.5-3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U with Hyper-Threading
  • 256GB SSD and 500GB hard disk
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • 13.3-inch 3,200×1,800-pixel screen
  • 1.45kg
  • Windows 10
  • Backlit keyboard
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3.5mm headset, 1x HDMI
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Base model starts at £500/$750
  • Manufacturer: Asus
  • Review Price: £800.00/$1200

WHAT IS THE ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA?

The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is a premium and stylish 13.3-inch Ultrabook that doesn’t break the bank. With a starting price of just £550/$825, this mid-range laptop comes with high-end features. These include a beautiful, thin and light metal-coated body, Intel Skylake processors, solid-state storage, a USB Type-C port and a backlit keyboard.

Navigating Asus’ confusing naming conventions isn’t easy: the new UX310UA is the direct successor to the UX303UA (we gave this laptop a 4/5 back in February 2016). There isn’t a whole lot new here, and it isn’t perfect, but for the money the Asus ZenBook UX310UA is one of the most tempting laptops I’ve reviewed in quite some time.

Its £800/$1200 price tag puts it in the same territory as the Lenovo IdeaPad 710S Trusted reviewed earlier this year, although the two offer slightly different experiences.

With the MacBook Air seemingly abandoned by Apple, the Windows Ultrabook market is starting to look more promising than ever.

ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA – BUYING INFORMATION

With a retail price of £799.99/$1199.99, my review model is the top-spec UX310UA featuring a i7-6500U dual-core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, 500GB secondary hard drive and a QHD+ resolution display. Considering the Dell XPS 13 costs £100/$150 more for the base i5 Full HD model, I’m really impressed with what you get for your money.

If you’re on a tighter budget, the entry-level UX310UA sports an i3-6100U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a Full HD display.

Here it’s worth comparing the specifications of the top-end Lenovo IdeaPad 710S: For the same money you get a larger and faster 256GB SSD, better integrated graphics and a slightly faster Core i7-6560U processor. The IdeaPad is also slightly lighter, but only gets a Full HD screen.

ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA – DESIGN AND BUILD

There’s no fancy touchscreen or 360-degree hinge here – this is a traditional clamshell laptop.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA 3

The UX301UA’s all-aluminium coating looks as premium as it feels. Weighing 1.45kg – that’s 550g lighter than the MacBook Pro 13 – and only 18mm thick, this is the ideal travel companion.

Asus’ famous spun-metal finish on the lid looks great, catching the light as you open it. If you’re not a fan of the grey colour on review, the ZenBook is available in bronze and grey metal too.

On the whole build quality is great, screen wobble is minimal, there’s very little flex in the metal body, and the keyboard depresses only slightly with a firm push.

If I have one complaint, it’s that the chunky bezels detract from the high-end aesthetic of the laptop. Next to a Dell XPS 13 and its “infinity-edge” bezels, the UX310UA looks a little dated. It’s a minor gripe but something I’d like to see addressed on future models.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA 1

As for ports, the UX310UA offers a peculiar combination of old and new. There are three USB ports, but only one of them is the faster USB 3.0 type. It’s odd to see two USB 2.0 ports on a 2016 laptop – although it isn’t much of an issue if you just use these to plug in mice, keyboards or other peripherals.

The good news is the UX310UA does offer one of the latest reversible USB 3.1 (Type-C) ports, which is a nice piece of future-proofing. Elsewhere there’s a full-size HDMI port, headphone and microphone combo port, card reader and DC power port. It’s hard to think of anything that’s missing here.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA

ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA – KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD

The full-sized chiclet-style keyboard on the UX310UA is above average. While the keys do feel a little spongier than I‘d like, they offer a good amount of travel; I was comfortable typing on the keyboard within seconds of using it for the first time. It’s fully backlit, too – a feature the UX303 lacked – which not only adds to the laptop’s premium aesthetic but makes it easier to use in the dark.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA 4

There’s a hint of flex in the keyboard if you press firmly toward the back-middle of the keyboard, but it isn’t something you’ll notice with normal use.

The big, glass trackpad feels great. The smooth surface has two built-in buttons integrated into the bottom of the trackpad. I found it slightly less responsive than I’d like out of the box, but increasing the cursor sensitivity by a notch in Windows easily resolved the issue.

ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA – SCREEN

You have the choice of Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) or 3,200 x 1,800-pixel display, depending on which model of the UX310UA you go for.

My review model sports the higher-resolution QHD+ panel, which looks terrific – but I’m not convinced that anyone needs it on a 13.3-inch laptop. You’ll definitely need to make use of Windows scaling (which actually works well in Windows 10) to make the text and icons comfortably usable.

While I appreciate the sharpness (276ppi), unless you put the screen right up to your eye it isn’t something you’ll ever notice. I also believe it has a significant impact on battery life, but we’ll talk more about that later.

What I do like is the IPS panel, which is bright and offers wide viewing angles. Whether you’re watching a Netflix movie, YouTube video or just browsing the web, the display is nice to look at. Asus’ quoted 500:1 contrast ratio is lower than average, and means blacks are less inky and whites are a tad duller than you might expect given the type of panel used. For the price, though, the screen is adequate.

On the plus side, the solid 375cd/m2 maximum brightness combined with the matte panel makes it easy to use the UX310UA when you’re out and about. I found the display remained readable even in direct sunlight (hard to find during the Autumn in the UK).

ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA – PERFORMANCE

Performance will vary depending on which version of the UX310UA you buy. The entry-level i3-6100U with 4GB of RAM will be good enough for office work, web browsing and video streaming. But if you need to do more demanding photo and video editing – or even light gaming – the higher end, 2.5-3.1GHz dual-core (with Hyper-Threading) Intel Core i7-6500U model with 8GB of RAM will be better suited.

Windows 10 feels fast and responsive thanks to the SSD, included in all versions of the UX310UA. You can opt for a larger SSD with an additional hard disk drive in higher-spec models, but the inclusion of a 128GB SSD in the entry-level £550 model is great to see and makes a huge difference in real-world performance.

In the AS SSD benchmark, the 256GB M.2 SSD scored a read speed of 491MB/s and a write speed of 312MB/s. The write speed is slightly faster than the SSD in the Lenovo IdeaPad 710S, but the read speed is substantially slower than Lenovo’s 1,290MB/s. Read speed is crucial to the system feeling sprightly to use, and while I had no issues with the Asus’ performance, the Lenovo is undeniably faster.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA 4

On my top-spec review model, editing a 1080p video in Adobe Premiere Pro and touching up photos in Adobe Lightroom was smooth and showed no sign of slowdown or stutter. Render times will be longer than with proper quad-core processors, but you’ll be paying a lot more for that performance. Gaming is a mixed bag – make no mistake that Ultrabooks, including the UX310UA, aren’t meant for anything more than light gaming.

The integrated Intel HD 520 graphics chip, which features in the i3, i5 and i7 processors, is powerful enough to run older games – such as Source engine-powered games such as Left for Dead 2 and Team Fortress 2. But modern games were barely playable, even at very low settings. For example, Fallout 4 – even at the lowest settings and 720p resolution – struggled to achieve 30 frames per second.

Less demanding games such as Minecraft, or even DOTA at lower settings, will be more than playable though. Just make sure you drop the resolution to 1,280 x 720 to significantly improve the frame rate in games.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA 2

ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA – BATTERY LIFE

Battery life is decidedly average on the UX310UA. After watching a two-hour Netflix movie, with power-saving mode enabled and brightness set to 50%, the UX310UA was left with just 55% battery. So you’d be lucky to get more than four hours of video playback.

With general use I found I got about six hours of battery from the UX310UA, which is actually spot on with Asus’ quoted battery life from the three-cell 48Wh battery. You should be able to get through a full working day if you lower the brightness a touch, but it certainly isn’t a match for the XPS 13 or MacBook Pro.

However, this is my experience with the QHD+ resolution model of the U310UA. I haven’t tested the Full HD version, but I’d expect battery life to be better.

This is one key area where the Lenovo IdeaPad 710S beats the Asus; in that review we found we could just about get through a working day, and is worth bearing in mind.

ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA – AUDIO

The UX310UA’s speakers have been designed in collaboration with Harmon Kardon and use Asus’ own SonicMaster technology.

In reality, the speakers are decent – but nothing to write home about. For the odd YouTube video they’re definitely good enough, but for anything else the lack of bass will be apparent (par for the course with Ultrabooks). However, since the speakers are positioned on the bottom of the laptop facing downwards, they’ll resonate off a hard surface and improve the bass. Still, a good pair of headphones is definitely your best bet.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA 1

SHOULD I BUY THE ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA?

Asus has priced the UX310UA very competitively, which makes this Ultrabook easy to recommend. Starting from just £550/$825 you get a super-thin and light laptop with a bright screen, solid keyboard and a good range of ports. There’s nothing else that comes close to offering a premium Ultrabook experience in this price range.

The Dell XPS 13 is more attractive, offers better battery life and the latest Intel Kaby Lake processors, but the equivalent model is £300/$450 more expensive than the top-spec UX310UA so many people will be priced out of the market.

I’d recommend the Intel Core i5/8GB/Full HD model of the UX310UA to get the best bang for buck, but even the entry-level Core i3 will be capable enough for most users.

The aforementioned Lenovo IdeaPad 710S is a great alternative, especially if you’re going to be doing graphics or video work; the better integrated Intel Iris Graphics will be a big help in those cases, as will its slightly longer battery life.

VERDICT

It isn’t perfect, but the ZenBook UX310UA is a great-value choice for those looking for a portable and stylish laptop. Although there isn’t a whole lot new compared to its predecessor, little touches provide a more refined and premium experience.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/dpccya)

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