A premium laptop does not have to break the bank. Just look at Asus’ ZenBook 13 UX333FA, which features a powerful 8th Gen Core i5 processor and an absurdly good battery life, all packaged in a stunning chassis for a very reasonable $849. That’s hundreds less than competing systems like the Dell XPS 13. However, there are some cons, including the schematic screen of this device, the short keyboard platform, and poor speakers. Despite this, the ZenBook 13 is a reliable premium laptop that is sold at a feasible price. Let’s have a look at what this ZenBook offers us in our Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA Review.
Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA Review – Design
The shiny, golden Asus logo in the middle of the hood of the ZenBook 13 is like a raindrop falling in the middle of a calm, royal blue aluminum ocean, creating a symmetrical ripple effect over the entire lid. It was fascinating – until I held it in my hands for a little longer than 5 minutes and noticed that it was forgiven from fingerprints. The lid of the ZenBook 13 extends along the hinge, so when I lifted the lid, the keyboard raised a tiny bit as if it were trying to greet me. The typeface of the keyboard and the edge of the hinge are lathe red in attractive rose gold.
I also found that the almost ringless screen is incredibly refreshing compared to those on laptops that refuse to cut down on the bottom edge. Although thin and light, the ZenBook 13 has room for a USB Type-A port and even an HDMI port. The left side contains a power connector, an HDMI 1.4 port, a USB 3.1 port, and a USB Type-C port, while the right side has a microSD card slot, a USB 2.0 port, and a headphone jack. Although it has a solid selection of ports, we regret that there is no Thunderbolt 3 on this chassis.
Keyboard and TouchPad
The keyboard of the ZenBook 13 felt active and snappy, but the tight spacing of the keys and the short length of the deck created an uncomfortable typing experience. For comparison, the distance between the keys of the ZenBook 13 was about 1.9 millimeters, while the distance from the XPS 13 was 2.2 mm between the keys. The key travel was also a bit on the shallow side, at 1.3 millimeters, but the keys required a strong force of 70 grams.
We prefer to tinker between 1.5 to 2.0 mm, and at least 60 g required force. The keyboard features simple white backlighting and a built-in digital numeric keypad on the touchpad that can be activated by holding the upper right corner of the pad. Although the 3.9 x 2.1-inch touchpad is too small for me to use comfortably, it was still responsive and soft to the touch. I had no problem using Windows 10 gestures such as three-weekly tab motion and two-finger scrolling.
Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA Review – Display
The 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080, glossy panel of the ZenBook 13 is colorful but on the weak side. As the titular character of John Wick: Chapter 3 climbed on the stairs of the main branch of the New York Public Library. The panel of the ZenBook 13 beautifully emphasized the bold blue and yellow light that illuminated the entrance ominously. And when Halle Berry appeared on the screen, I saw every layer of hair flow from her head. However, between the glossy screen and the dimmed screen, it was frustrating to see how John Wick killed people in a dark room (which is almost everywhere in the trailer).
The panel of the ZenBook 13 covered 115 percent of the sRGB spectrum, a score slightly below the average of laptops of 117 percent. While the Envy 13t (106 percent) and MacBook Air (109 percent) did better, the XPS 13 recovered 119 percent. With 225 nits, the ZenBook 13 is disappointingly weak compared to the 321-nit category average. The Envy 13t (248 nits) and MacBook Air (234 nits) do not reach the category average but are slightly brighter than the ZenBook. Meanwhile, the XPS 13 convinces them all with no less than 375 nits of clarity.
The Intel UHD 620 GPU of the ZenBook 13 scored 80,655 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphical benchmark, which fell below the 87,129 category average. With the same GPU, the Envy 13t and XPS 13 scored 77.685 and 88.473, respectively. In the field of real-world gaming, the ZenBook 13 hit 59 frames per second on the Dirt 3 benchmark, which is perfectly playable, but lower than the average of 74-fps premium laptops. The Envy 13t (48 fps) and the MacBook Air (22 fps) fell far behind the ZenBook, while the XPS 13 excelled with 88 fps.
The speakers of the ZenBook 13 filled my room with Jon Bellion’s “He is the same,” but it sounded empty and weightless. The opening vocals usually have a deeper tuned voice layered beneath them, but these speakers distorted the voice, and all I could hear was the lead. When the buzz of the chorus rose, it was superficial and lacked the necessary bass to make an impression. The electronic beats in the background were well balanced with the vocals. When I tried to match the speakers with the included AudioWizard app, the Music setting made the song sound more uniform, but also dramatically reduced the volume. The app also includes other presets, such as Movie, Recording, Gaming, and Speech, but no equalizer option.
Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA Review – Performance
Equipped with an Intel Core i5-8265U processor with 8 GB of RAM, the ZenBook 13 shredded through 40 Google Chrome tabs and three 1080p YouTube videos without even stuttering. On the overall performance test of Geekbench 4, the ZenBook 13 scored an impressive 15,110, on the average of 12,899 premium laptops and the scores of the Core i5-8210Y (7,871) of the MacBook Air and the Core i7-8565U (12,755) of the XPS 13.
The ZenBook 13 has collected 65,000 names and addresses in 1 minute and 35 seconds on our Excel test, a result that is only 4 seconds slower than the category average (1:31). The XPS 13 drove forwards at 1:10, while the Envy 13t (1:33) just missed the category average, and the MacBook Air stayed far behind at 3:26. Asus’ 256GB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in only 12 seconds, at a rate of 424 megabytes per second, which is not far removed from the category average of 525 MBP. The Envy 13t 256GB SSD managed only 212 MBps, and the 1TB SSD of the XPS 13 beat 565 MBps. The MacBook Air finally came out best, with its SSD of 256 GB that performs on an incredible 2,066 MBps.
Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA Review – Battery Life and Heat
The ZenBook 13 blew us away with its fantastic battery life. When we surfed the web continuously over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of clarity, the ZenBook 13 lasted no less than 11 hours and 28 minutes, causing the 8:33 premium laptop average to be crushed. In the meantime, the XPS 13 (7:50) and MacBook Air (9:32) lasted after the ZenBook.
The ZenBook 13 can get a little warm, but the heat is not a deal-breaker. After streaming a 15-minute HD video, the bottom reached 96 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just above our 95-degree comfort threshold. Meanwhile, the middle of the keyboard and touchpad measured 93 and 85 degrees, respectively. The lower middle hinge reached a maximum temperature of 103 degrees.
Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA Review – Conclusion
The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA shines with a combination of fast performance and an impressively long battery life. Not to mention, it is quite the beauty. However, the dimmed screen is an interaction, and we would like more space between the keys. If you want to spend a little extra, you can get the XPS 13 with similar specifications for $1,209; it offers a much brighter display, a full aluminum chassis, a wider keyboard play, and better graphics performance.
But overall, if you want one for the Best lightweight ultrabooks under $900, the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA is just for you.
Asus' ZenBook 13 offers great performance and long battery life for a very good price.
- Premium design
- Solid performance
- Great battery life
- Dim display
- Keyboard a bit cramped