• Sleek and lightweight design
• Bold and vibrant display
• Lightning fast
• Long lasting battery life
• Novel cooling engine
• Loud and premium audio output
• Keyboard isn’t very user friendly
• Build quality is suspect
• Lacks enough connection ports
It doesn’t look like what it actually is. You might fall into an initial blow by the way it looks. The Asus ZenBook 3, which resembles Apple’s Macbook (2015) form factor, is actually not too different from it. Both the devices are tough contestants, however only a keen eye can make a clear cut distinction between the two. On one hand, we have Apple Macbook 12-inch released in the year 2015, while on the other, a recently announced ZenBook 3 from Asus. But, before we jump into a detailed comparison of the two machines, let’s look at what ZenBook 3 actually is and what all it packs inside that razor sharp sleek body.
As soon as I unboxed the Asus ZenBook 3, I was impressed by the way device looks. There are other similarly priced machines available in market, but these devices have a completely different form factor. Talking in detail about design, there is an Asus branding behind the display with concentric circles encircling it. The display panel has slim bezel around it that looks neat. The Asus ZenBook branding at the bottom of the screen also looks good. What adds to the beauty of ZenBook 3 is a gold coloured streak running from corner to corner around its display that makes it look premium.
Most of us use a laptop on a table, if the machine is lightweight then it must have a sticky base otherwise it might accidently lose the footing in a gentle shove. Asus ZenBook 3 has gummy base that holds the ground really well. And even if you shove it hard, the machine does not leave the ground.
According to Asus, the ZenBook 3 is crafted out of a tough aluminium chassis which is 50% stronger than most of the material used in making laptops. Well, the machine actually feels well-built, however one can easily observe creaking sounds that it makes when pressed accidentally.
An advice for those who use the laptops keeping on their lap, the ZenBook 3 may feel warm from the top rear side. It’s not very hot; however it can grab your attention instantly. The weight of the laptop is nearly 910 grams and feels lightweight even when used with a single hand, this makes it both thinner and lighter than the Apple MacBook. While at one place Apple MacBook comes with an aspect ratio of 16:10, Asus has used a different 16:9 screen ratio which also feels good.
The only factor which disappointed me the most is the number of available ports on the ZenBook 3. There are only 2 ports available on the ZenBook 3 out of which one is a 3.5mm headphone jack while the other one is a USB type-C port. You’ll have to carry the extension adaptor with you in any case you carry the machine with yourself, which influences the overall usability. Asus has also reversed the position of its ports, moving the charging/data USB-C port to the right and headset jack on the left.
If you have forgotten the distinctive spun metal finish on Asus devices, the design makes a return and you’ll also find a radial pattern concealing two of the laptop’s four speakers – the other two are located on the machine’s underside. Although the ZenBook 3 is made up of aluminium chassis, I still have doubts about the construction, as it’s very sleek, and even the slightest of shoves produce creaking sounds.
Before starting the Performance Section let’s look at some highlighting features of the Asus ZenBook 3.
- 2.7-3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-7500U
- 16GB of RAM
- 512GB PCIe SSD (SATA SSD on Core i5 model)
- 12.5-inch Full HD display
- Weight: 910g
- 12mm thick
- 1x USB-C and 3.5mm headset jack
- Fingerprint scanner
Starting with elucidating the performance of Asus ZenBook 3 in regular conditions, for a user that only uses the machine for minimalistic tasks like browsing, writing content on word, movies and enjoying some music. For all such tasks whether performed simultaneously or one by one, the ZenBook 3 gets the job done without breaking a sweat. However, now the question comes, what is the need of spending a huge amount on a machine just for doing petite tasks? Well, I must tell you specifically that this machine is not for everyone. The device is a flagship product and that is the reason why it’s priced so lofty, apart from price, the products against which it’s competing are also one of the best products of the PC industry. Lastly, the technology used in the ZenBook 3 is best in class at this time.
The Asus ZenBook 3 packs a top-end version of Intel core i7 processor. While other thin devices only pack a low grade M-series processor, Asus somehow managed to pack i-series chip inside the ultrabook. I mostly use the machine for photo editing on Adobe Photoshop along with internet browsing and writing content. And Asus ZenBook 3 took care of all of them without troubling me much. I guess the newly developed 3mm fan gets the functioning moving really well. While battery life is still an issue with most of the other machines, Asus claims that the ZenBook 3 offers a backup of up to 9 hours. Also, the quick charge technology can top off the battery nearly 60% in 49 minutes.
Exception- The machine is not made for playing high end games. PCs that handle such complex tasks require a robust cooling system and a spacious compartment. Asus ZenBook 3 is not build for managing such applications. Tasks that require lesser endurance are handled really well by the ZenBook 3.
The close-to-close clone of MacBook packs better specifications than the MacBook. If we don’t judge Asus ZenBook 3 on the basis of operating system then the PC is one of the strongest contenders in the same price tag. But the ZenBook 3 also shares the weaknesses of MacBook, like the number of ports and a very shallow keyboard that’s conducive to long-form typing.
Most of the users that used the MacBook 12-inch loved the portability and overall ease of use of the device. Asus, on the other hand offers the same set of user experience but with a couple of caveats.
Starting with the touchpad first. Even if the ZenBook 3 packs nearly the same sized touchpad, it doesn’t come near to the user experience and multi-touch gesture integration found on MacBook. Although, it’s better than any other Windows device, there are still some advancements required in the touchpad. Also, the fingerprint sensor placement doesn’t make any sense. Asus could have placed it separately at one part of the device, rather than placing it on the touchpad itself.
Secondly, Apple focuses on battery life of the device, which gives it an advantage over the ZenBook 3. On papers only, the MacBook offers nearly 3.5hours of longer battery life than the ZenBook 3.
Most of the other premium devices offer touch controls. Not only that, the screen resolution is also high on these notebooks. Generally they hit a resolution of 2,560×1440 or higher, however the ZenBook 3 only comes with a Full HD 1920×1080 resolution. Well, even though the ZenBook 3 features a Full HD display, the screen is crisp and properly saturated; colors are sharp and look great.
Even if the MacBook comes with some of the awe-inspiring features, its M-series processor coupled with 8GB RAM makes it a feeble choice compared to the core series processor and 16GB of RAM found on ZenBook 3.
Well, it’s obvious that Apple always has a natural advantage when it comes to building around exclusive hardware and operating system synergy. That remains true, but Asus has managed to steal at least some part of it excluding the touchpad which is as predictable as the one found on any other Windows notebook.
The keyboard on Asus ZenBook 3 is backlit like the Apple’s, but is shallow with wide flat-topped keys that extends to the edge of the chassis. Keys aren’t super quiet, and also have a plastic feel in them. I tried using the keyboard without looking at it and found the typing quiet complicated. Keys aren’t placed at the expected positions which may take time getting accustomed to.
The Asus ZenBook 3 just like the Zenfone series smartphones from Asus pack with enough bloatware to grasp your attention, while some of it is useful, the remaining is only a trash.
All the benchmark scores displayed above depict that the ZenBook 3 packs some of the most high-end features available in the PC industry, however deliver just a little over the average performance. The results make it clear that the machine is made as a desktop battleship and neither as a gaming machine or as a workstation.
Microphone, Webcam and Audio
The microphone on ZenBook 3 catches sounds accurately and is good enough for video chats. Speakers are exceptionally loud considering the size of the machine and deliver loud, rich and sharp audio that enhances the overall movie experience. Webcam on the other hand produces dark images even in properly lit conditions. The unusually narrow field of view captures pixelated images that perturb the overall video conferencing experience.
Asus claims that the ZenBook 3 delivers a battery life of more than 9 hours which looks great. But, what’s more impressive is that the ZenBook 3 actually delivers more than 9 hours of battery life in normal use. As I told you before, I use a PC for photos, videos, browsing and writing content. And during a testing period of more than 10 days the machine offered me an amazing battery life of more than 9 hours.
Asus ZenBook 3 is one of the strongest competitors to the Apple MacBook. While on one hand MacBook offers you a better built quality offering a less powerful CPU setup, the ZenBook 3 is packed with a more powerful CPU underneath a delightfully chamfered design. The screen, design, speaker and battery life are one of the constructive factors in the ZenBook 3, however the limited number of ports does reduces the flexibility to a greater extent. Lastly, the ZenBook 3 actually offers you the kind of quality you expect from such a costly machine, and will not disappoint you in regular use.