The UX303UA Zenbook Asus has put its competitors on notice. This uber stylish, powerful laptop has features galore and at a price point that makes it a great choice if you’re looking for a general purpose laptop with an exquisite video display
ASUS Zenbook UX303UA
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Meta: We take a closer look at the ASUS UX303UA and examine its capabilities and its target applications.
Zenbooks are one of Asus’s most popular range of notebooks and have somehow managed to outperform rivals in higher price brackets whilst retaining that understated trendy look we have come to expect of this line.
The UX303UA addition to the Zenbook line presents solid computing performance, exceptionally good display, good graphics, great sound, an understated but uber cool design in a sturdy casing and ergonomically sound keyboard layout.
Asus’ promotional blurb for this series focuses on its range of color options for the case which has been finished in spun-metal and its chic, elegant design. This is a range of laptops that centers on looking good, but what else do they offer?
With its Core i7 6500U processing power, 520 HD GPU, 12GB RAM and 256GB SSD, 13.3inch 1920×1080 HD screen this is a great laptop for general use, although falling short for use in the higher level gaming arena. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not capable in others areas that could serve you well at home or in the office.
Top Specs and Features
- Intel Core i5-6200U CPU clocked at 2.30 GHz;
- 256GB SSD hard drive and 8GB RAM;
- 13.3” display;
- Intel 520 Integrated Graphics;
- HDMI and USB ports, and Bluetooth 4.0;
- Weighs 3.4lbs;
- 8.8 x 12.7 x .8 inches dimensions
What The Experts Said On Its Release
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The UX303UA is an excellent laptop at the price point that also had some significant performance advantages over its competitors. If you put aside the cosmetics, the Asus hardware within the UX303UA is on par with the higher priced Dell (with its XPS 13) and Apple (with its MacBook Air 13 inch).
The top of the line model, running an Intel Skylake Core i7 processor with a 1TB memory option provides immense processing grunt and storage. This version came in around $1200 on release, with the i5 version around $800 USD, making it affordable for most.
Configuration options include the lower end i3 and i5 chipsets and a range of storage options up to an ultra-impressive 1TB hybrid hard disk, with the i7 chipset version being the most commonly promoted.
Performance of the Asus ZenbookA hybrid disk of up to 1TB makes working with bulky files, multi-tasking and video streaming much easier especially when coupled with the UX303 6Gbit/s SSD of up to 256GB. The 6th generation Intel Core i7 was at the time of release the latest version and a great choice for this laptop. Although the i3 and i5 alternatives perform very well, the i7 is the best choice if you have the extra dollars to spend.
Looking at the i5, it provided more than enough power for business and student use and allows you to open and browse multiple web windows without problems but does start to falter with HD videos. The system speed came in at around 6,000 which is pretty much the same as the Aspire 14, Dell XPS 13 and HP Envy 13t.
Video transfer rates were not as high as the XPS 13 at about 70 percent, but destroyed the Envy 13t at about double its speed. The Asus Zenbook displayed trouble-free performance and woke up quite quickly, with the instantaneous opening of installed programs.
Image via flickr
Because the UX303UA is fitted with an Intel HD 520 GPU integrated graphics chip you should not anticipate the greaest gaming experience. However, it will manage enough to keep you suitably entertained. This laptop can handle quite a few of the mid-range games and especially if you are prepared to tweak your graphics settings and lose a little quality.
As a benchmark, the Asus Zenbook could manage Cloud Gate, Sky Diver, and Fire Strike at around 30 fps and at around 1080p. Installation of a NVIDIA GeForce 940M graphics card will give you a lot more of what you are looking for. However, if you don’t have the i7 chip and the bigger end of the RAM and storage options because you won’t get the performance improvement you expected.
Graphics and Display
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Using the 3DMark benchmark, the UX303UA scored 63,849 compared with the XPS 13 of 49,394 and was well above the 41,788 average. This laptop offers a display that is full HD, 1920 x 1080 resolution and anti-glare coating, ensures colors that are bright and realistic.
The UX303 boasts a 178 degrees viewing angle, which even at its extreme maintains a great visual experience. The matte finish reduces glare effectively across all 178 degrees and it displays over 110 percent of the sRGB color spectrum – outperforming both the XPS 13 and the Aspire R 14.
Software on the Asus Zenbook UX303UA
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It seems to be standard these days for Windows laptops to come with a bucket load of bloatware, and there’s no exception on this one. The UX303UA comes with WinFlash, Netflix, Dropbox, Evernote, Asus Install, WebtStorage, USB Charger Plus and more. For the money, it would have been better to start with a clean slate and add the software that you needed.
Asus provides a 12-month warranty with the UX303UA when purchased new. You’ll also get a range of tech support options including by telephone and via the internet which is prompt and easy to follow.
Design and Build
The UX303UA sports a trendy design, as do most of the Zenbooks, with an updated range of colors and etched and patterned metal finishes. This model is of sturdier build and better quality than the lower end AsusTP200SA and even the higher end Lenovo Yoga 900.
In spite of the sturdier build, it’s extremely lightweight and feels similar to the 13 inch MacBook Air. This makes it extremely portable and very easy to carry around for work and travel, if that’s what you’d prefer.
Design is a personal choice but Asus has tried to market this as ‘elegantly understated’ which they certainly achieved. Thickness is 19mm, which is a little thicker than the MacBook Air or the Dell XPS, but as we said earlier, it is a sturdy unit and that most certainly accounts for the difference.
Touchpad and Keyboard
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Asus has put a deal of work into the ergonomics of the UX303UA including keys with travel at 1.5mm. You can notice the difference this makes in the way that the keys move and rebound beneath your fingertips. For those who do a lot of typing at a reasonable speed, this will not only be noticeable but will save your fingers, wrists and carpal tunnels from a good deal of strain over the long-term.
The touch sensors also are quite sensitive resulting in excellent precision for those tasks performed with the fingers, such as drawing and screen commands. The actuators are 3mm less than the industry standard of 9mm giving a much more reactive and realistically tactile touchscreen experience.
Layout and location of non-letter keys are well thought out, with arrows and such being located where you should be constantly accidentally striking them when reaching for letters. The keyboard itself is backlit ‘Chiclet’ style with a 13.3-inch touchscreen and aluminum palm rest.
The backlighting is useful, as is the auto function that adjusts the lighting according to your surrounds through its ambient-light sensor technology. Its dimensions are 12.7 x 8.8 x .8 inches which is appropriately small.
Communication, Connectivity and Sound
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The built-in Wi-Fi capabilities are top notch, providing 802.11ac Wi-Fi at 867Mbit/s which ensures that you will connect quicker and with more range than previously possible. Bluetooth 4 means for better inter-device communications at a lower energy demand.
There’s a webcam on board for you to make Skype calls for personal and business use, but it’s not at the highest quality at 1.2 megapixels. For those in need of something more serious, you might want to purchase an external accessory.
Built-in connectivity has been well considered and catered for, with a couple of USB 3.0 ports and an SD card sit on the left side. On the right, you’ll get the headphone/microphone jack, an HDSM port, one more USB 3.0, a power port and a mini display port.
Given that USB 3.0 ports are around 10 times faster than the USB 2 they only really shine in a laptop with the processor and memory to make full use of that speed. This means the UX303UA will excel in this area.
Despite the hype of the fitted Bang and Olufsen sound system and the ASUS SonicMaster technology (from the ASUS Golden Ear team) and Audio Wizard, the UX303UA falls short, sounding like many other laptops.
Heat and Battery Options
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The underside of the UX303UA hit around 91 degrees F after running an HD video for 15 minutes, which means you can easily watch things on your lap if you needed to. The rest of the unit including the keyboard area was cooler and the fan made minimal noise, even when working to cool those temperatures down.
The polymer battery is encased within a sealed unit and is 3 cell of 50 wH capacity. Asus applies what it calls ‘Super Hybrid Engine 11’ to its power system for the UX303UA claiming up to 7 hours battery life on a single charge. This can be further extended by 25 percent when using the aforementioned technology.
Of course, this is predominately on power light tasks. When you put it into video streaming mode or gaming, the battery life drops to around six hours with the screen brightness at 50 percent. It performs well in comparison with most laptops in its price point, although the DELL XPS13 can get you up to 11 hours of use on a single charge.
Overall Pros and Cons of the Asus UX303UA
To figure out if this laptop is going to be enough to meet all of your requirements, a quick overview of its good and bad points is the best way to find out. Check out the pros and cons that the Asus UX303UA has to offer and whether it’s right for you:
Stylish and sleek;
Great performance on basic tasks;
Ergonomically sound keyboard;
Long battery life;
Bloatware is annoying;
Audio could do with an upgrade;
Slightly heavier than competitors;
The Asus Zenbook can offer a lot of things, but if you are after a purpose-built high-level gaming machine then this is not the laptop for you.While it will manage many of the low to middle demand games, and even more with some tweaking, it is not going to meet the demands of the high-end games and particularly those yet to arrive on the shelves.
As a very good, general-purpose workhorse that looks like a show pony, this is a strong contender for your money. With its Skylake processors, top shelf hybrid 1TB hard disk and an SSD up to 256GB SATA 6Gbit/s it is an impressive performer across many applications. Most end user groups including business people and students would find it more than capable.
Coupled with its amazing screen, this is also a great option for streaming and watching videos. Although the sound quality from the speakers isn’t premium, a decent set of headphones or external speaker accessories will certainly elevate the viewing experience.
There are options out there in and around the UX303UA price point, so it might be worthwile to shop around. Some are lighter and more compact but might not offer everything this does in power and style, so it’s really a personal preference. For the gamer looking for their next powerful device though, the Asus Zenbook won’t be it.