The computing space has seen some very interesting transitions over the last few years, with plenty of new form-factors making their way into the market. We’ve seen tablets become mainstream and then become inconsequential, laptops turn to hybrid and the introduction of a new class of laptops called ultrabooks.
Asus has been at the helm of creating some very interesting ultrabooks under the Zenbook moniker. The newest addition to the family is the Zenbook 3 (EX390) that boasts of some very impressive talk points, which we put to the test.
Specs: 12.5″ IPS FHD display | i7 7500U processor | 16GB RAM | 512GB storage | WIN10/802.11ac | BT 4.0 | BAG+Mini Dock/2Y | 910 grams
Price: Rs 1,47,990
The Zenbook 3 has several things going well for it. The minute it comes out of the box, the Ultrabook feels very premium with its full metal build. The edges are double anodized with a gold trim, making the Ultrabook hard to miss even at a passing glance.
The ultra-thin bezel and clean edge peg this portable machine well into the realm of elegance. What’s more impressive that within the 11.3 mm shell of the Zenbook 3 you will find the latest offering from Intel.
Our review unit came with the 7th generation Kaby Lake processor (i7 7500) clocked at 2.7GHz paired with 16GB of DDR3 RAM. It utilises Windows Hello to log you in or you could use an optional fingerprint sensor to do that.
Besides being able to handle daily tasks such as presentations, word files and browsing the web with ease, the Zenbook 3’s powerful configuration is also able to handle multimedia tasks without a hitch. We successfully managed to open and edit a 14GB Lightroom catalogue, along with exporting 600 high resolution RAW files into JPG images in a little under an hour.
We were also able to edit a 3GB Photoshop file in Photoshop without any major lag or crashes. The IPS panel was a boon for photo editing not just because of its colour accuracy, but also thanks to its low reflectance making it a good screen to use in bright light.
In case you’re wondering, we were even able to play Call of Duty Advanced Warfare on this machine, but only on low settings. It’s still something though.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Zenbook 3 is its ultra-slim form factor and the fact that the machine weighs in at just 910 grams. Those looking for a powerful machine to lug around without feeling the weight are going to love the Zenbook 3. Over the course of two weeks that we had the machine, there were moments when we thought that our sling bag was empty, while in fact, it did contain the ultrabook along with its charger and dock.
What’s not good?
Unfortunately, the power-packed package that is the Zenbook 3 isn’t without its downfalls. One of the biggest annoyances is the fact that Asus have removed all ports from the Zenbook 3 and outfitted it with a singular USB-C port instead which is where the charger plugs in. You could use the supplied dongle to add a USB 3 port, an HDMI port and another USB-C port, but the dongle feels grossly inadequate.
The larger Universal dock (needs to be purchased separately) is equipped with 2 USB 3 ports along with HDMI, VGA and even Ethernet and is a little more practical. It would have been nice if Asus has bundled this adapter instead of the one we find in the box right now.
While the USB-C port offers its own set of challengers for power-users, those whose sole purpose of a portable machine is to be able to work on their documents and presentations might face a slight issue with the keyboard.
In order to maintain a slim profile, the keys of the Zenbook 3 have very little travel, often feeling like you may have not pressed a key. The spacing is too little as well, making it difficult to type without making mistakes.
However, if you’re running heavy tasks on the machine, you’re going to have a harder time with the right side of the keyboard which gets heated up after a point. The Zenbook 3 touched 41 degrees Celsius on the right side while it was exporting photos in Lightroom and that’s a high number.
In comparison to the Macbook, the Asus Zenbook 3 UX390 manages to pack a marginally bigger screen, a newer and more powerful processor along with double the RAM all in a sleek, elegant body that is thinner and lighter than the Apple offering. There’s no doubt that Asus has built a very beautiful machine with specs that would seem like overkill for the daily “mail-browse-movie” usage experience.
Photographers should be able to also get quick proofs out thanks to the powerful i7 processor, however that’s pretty much where the performance tops out. Unfortunately, the lack of discrete graphics seems to render the presence of a core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM moot. It’s a machine that will not stutter mid-presentations or while playing back Full HD films, however, you may be hassled for connectivity thanks to the solitary USB-C port.
Factor in the price tag of Rs 1,47,990 and you’re going to be hard pressed to figure out if you absolutely must have a compact form-factor with the powerful CPU-RAM combination that is slightly crippled by the lack of a GPU. There’s no denying the Zenbook 3 is a gorgeous and powerful machine, however the price-point puts it square in the league of people who are willing to spend whatever money to get something compact, light and extremely powerful.