I’m not sugarcoating anything under the pretense of making this review clickbait. The ZenBook in more ways than one is a blatant ripoff of Apple’s Macbook design. Before you exit this review, think again. Is that really such a bad thing? One of the biggest icons in the tech industry, outfitted with a black turtleneck and jeans once said, “Good design follows, however, great design is FOLLOWED.” In a more typical sense, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and I really can’t blame Asus for the design since it’s functional. What Asus is trying to do here is appeal to an audience that loves the Macbook for what it is, but expects more in terms of productivity than what a Netbook offers. (Ahem. Ahem. Indirect jab at Apple) Guess what? The Zenbook 3 actually delivered on this premise in my time with the device and then some more! In this review I’ll mainly be appealing to the niche audience the ZenBook 3 is targeted at and draw parallels with the MacBook as much as I can. In essence, this will be a more of a comparison and a buying guide rather than a review.
So what makes the ZenBook appealing to the core consumer? Windows! I’m stepping into dangerous territory when I say this, but Windows 10 truly does offer more in terms of productivity and open-sourced-ness (if that’s a word) with 3rd party software pretty much a given. Windows by itself with all its bells and whistles is already a major deciding factor for a prospective MacBook customer who expects more for the price. Coupled with a much more capable i7 seventh-generation processor (Dual-core for you spec heads) as well as a speedy SSD, the ZenBook 3 smokes the MacBook in terms of browsing smoothness and file transfer speeds. One thing I did feel irritated with however is the single USB-C port. If Asus could cram an i7 and a decently sized keyboard in such a small body, I’m infinitely sure they could have included another 2 USB-C ports. It hurts that Asus couldn’t learn from the MacBook’s shortcomings in this regard. USB-C is the future and I really shouldn’t be complaining, but the number of dongles I need to use to insert an SD card is just a complete pain in the ass. In this regard however, only time can decide if Asus made the right decision not including a USB 3 port.
Let’s talk about everyday usage shall we?
This Ultrabook is extremely light and balanced when placed on my lap for extended periods of use. The entire chassis screams quality with an elegant brushed gold finish and a feeling of ruggedness that only aluminum offers. Microsoft’s touchpad interface is as accurate as ever while the keyswitches left a lot to be desired. Sure, it’s full sized, but the travel is decent at best and I still prefer the Butterfly switches on the MacBook. Back-lighting of the keys was another sour-grape due to the fact that the keys are unevenly lit. Maybe this was just a problem with the unit I was provided with as most other reviewers don’t complain in this regard.
Coming to the elephant in the room, the display. One word. FANTASTIC. Though the MacBook has a higher resolution portal with a teeny-weeny extra brightness, the color accuracy and matte-filter makes media consumption on the Zenbook a complete delight. Asus managed to include not one or two, but 4 speakers powered by Harman/Kardon which along with clever placement blows the MacBook out of the water in terms of sound quality and loudness. Audio through the 3.5 mm jack is balanced well with the in-built equaliser and seemingly outputs higher fidelity sound than the MacBook. Icing on the cake however is the presence of a speedy fingerprint scanner and a super-fast boot time that goes toe to toe in terms of speed with modern day smartphones. Great job here ASUS!
Go grab one then?
So, here we find ourselves in the final segment of this Frankenstein of a review and comparison. You’re probably wondering why I haven’t talked about battery life yet. Well there isn’t much to talk about except for the fact that physics is a b*&ch. You can’t possibly cram such impeccable hardware into a device with stable thermals (through the internal fan) and still expect it to have a big battery to match. To Asus’s credit, I will say that the battery life is better than I expected and fast-charging through USB-C sweetens the deal a little, yet still falls quite far behind what Apple has to offer. This is where the consumer’s perspective comes into play. Would you rather have a device that does almost everything better with spare steam left to do a bit more or a device that’s capable of much less and lasts twice as long? Think right and think hard for it’s your list of preferences that decides the winner here, not me. As far as my opinion is concerned, Asus has come a long way since the first ZenBook and this iteration truly leaves me excited for what’s to come from their stable in later years.
Special thanks to UltrabookReviews and Asus for the unit and product pictures which I sadly wasn’t able to get enough of in my limited time with the device.