"You could spend more on another laptop, but the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA is all you need."
Attractive, yet distinctive design
Excellent 1080p screen
Strong all-round performance
Long battery life
Great value for money
Strange keyboard layout
Dell's XPS 13 has taken our top spot among laptops in recent years, but a strong competitor has always been in the shade. The Asus ZenBook 13 300 series. The ZenBook 13 is not quite as beautiful as the XPS 13, but it offers excellent performance and practical portability throughout. His handicraft appearance was his only weakness.
The new Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 directly corrects this sore point. It's sleeker, more compact, and has the stunning blue-and-gold look that Asus has featured on earlier, more expensive laptops like the ZenBook 3.
Even the installations of the new machine are impressive. You'll find a Core i5-8265U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive for just $ 850. Is this the laptop that can finally dethrone the Dell XPS 13?
As already mentioned, the ZenBook 13 UX333 has a unique blue and gold color scheme, which was first introduced in the Asus ZenBook 3, a first-class laptop line that Asus launched in 2017. It absolutely stands out from the crowd, but it's not that bright. You'll be shy if you flog it at a meeting. A darker slate gray model is available, but the more common royal blue is our favorite.
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
Otherwise, this ZenBook 13 is the image of a modern laptop. It's slim at 0.55 inches thick and light at around 2.7 pounds. The display has thin bezels, which was particularly lacking in previous models, and the housing is made of durable metal that feels luxurious in the hand. We also like the "concentric circle" that is etched over the lid. It's subtle, but adds texture to an otherwise flat plate made of matte metal.
The Asus ZenBook 13 stands out from the crowd, but it is not bright.
Does it hit the XPS 13? Not quite. The Dell laptop looks and feels better, thanks in particular to the soft, carbon-fiber-woven look of the interior. Nevertheless, the new ZenBook 13 comes much closer to the previous models and even defeats affordable favorites like the Huawei MateBook X.
Connectivity isn't bad either. You get two USB-A ports, a 2.0 and a 3.1 port and a USB-C 3.1 port. Video is provided via HDMI and audio support is offered via a combined headphone / microphone jack. There aren't many options, but it's perfectly adequate for a 13-inch laptop. Wireless support includes 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0.
Thunderbolt 3 is the only connectivity option that is particularly lacking. This is excusable given the modest price of the Zenbook 13. Even expensive laptops occasionally neglect it, and budget models rarely include it.
A good keyboard that makes strange decisions
Let's start with the good news. Asus' ZenBook 13 UX333FA does not sacrifice the keyboard path to achieve its slim profile. The keyboard feels great and is comparable to the Dell XPS 13. In comparison, Apple's MacBook Air feels like a block of wood.
It's a good first impression, but there is a problem. Asus made the strange decision to stuff (almost) large arrow keys in the lower right corner. This means that the right shift and control keys must be smaller. It's frustrating.
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
It's getting weirder. The on / off switch is located on the keyboard right next to the Delete key and above the backspace key. We spent the first three hours putting the ZenBook 13 UX333FA to sleep, swearing, and turning it on again. Finally, we learned the layout and stopped making this mistake, but it remains a strange decision that can cause problems if you frequently use other computers with a more conventional layout.
The touchpad works well enough, but is tight. The Dell XPS 13, the Apple MacBook Air, the Huawei MateBook X, the Razer Blade Stealth and many other competitors offer space. However, the ZenBook has a party trick. Touching the top right corner illuminates the virtual number pad so that you can make up your accounting. It works to blow through numbers, but we accidentally activated it several times, so we're not sure if it's worth the effort.
This screen is incredible
Laptop displays have come a long way in the past few years, but we didn't count on the screen of the Asus ZenBook 13. Just, um. Impressive.
The contrast ratio is a key number. It came around 1350: 1, which is great for a laptop and exceeds everything we've seen since the Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UA. These include the new Apple MacBook Air, the Lenovo Yoga C930, the Surface Pro 6 and even the ThinkPad X1 Extreme with a 4K display. Name what you want. Asus' ZenBook 13 UX333FA, which sells for $ 850, surpasses it.
That's not all. The laptop also delivers an average color error of just 1.68. A lower number is better here. The ZenBook 13 UX333FA isn't the best in class – the MacBook Air, for example, has an average error of 0.98 – but it's certainly pretty good. You also get 77 percent of the Adobe RGB color gamut, which in turn goes hand in hand with top performers like the MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13.
The screen looks good. It offers deep, dark shadows with vivid colors.
All of this means one thing; The screen looks good. It offers deep, dark shadows with vivid colors. Even though the 1080p resolution doesn't sound like much in 2018, it remains the best choice for a 13-inch laptop. It's sharp enough to look good, and doesn't have the battery life associated with 4K.
There is a vulnerability. Brightness. The maximum luminance of 265 nits is lower than that of all competitors, but the screen is glossy. Glare can be a problem, and you'll need to move the screen to fight it. We saw the same flaw on previous inexpensive Zenbook models, but most had glare-free coatings that made their lean brightness less noticeable.
It is fast as you expect
Asus has packed the latest Intel hardware into the ZenBook 13 UX333FA. The Intel Core i5-8265U is the star of the show. A quad-core chip with a maximum clock speed of 3.9 GHz, which is impressive on paper and delivers predictably strong test results in tests.
We will see. Geekbench 4 has a single core score of 4,129 and a multi-core score of 13,903. These numbers don't differ much from those of the earlier Core i5-8250U, but they're about as strong as a 13-inch laptop. We will not complain.
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
Handbrake is a little cheaper. In this test, which uses the handbrake software to transcode a 4K trailer from h.264 to h.265, the ZenBook 13 UX333FA does the job in four minutes and 20 seconds. That's 10 seconds faster than the XPS 13 with a Core i5-8250U and 30 seconds faster than the Acer Aspire 5. It's a little difference, but it's there.
There is more good news from the hard drive. It is a solid-state NVMe-based drive that offers read speeds of 1,094 megabytes per second and write speeds of 963 MB / s in a sequential test. It doesn't set any records, but is good overall and is close to the top of what we would expect in an affordable price range. Most laptops in the $ 800 price range, including the previous Zenbook 13 UX331, have a SATA-based drive. Machines equipped in this way have difficulties in exceeding the read or write speed above 500 MB / s.
But no, it cannot be a game
However, the new Intel processor doesn't change the graphics performance. It is still Intel HUD 620 graphics. This means that the performance is only sufficient for older 3D titles and even then at lower settings.
If anything, the Asus ZenBook 13 is a bit slower than an ordinary system with UHD 620 graphics. Not that it matters. Even the Razer Blade Stealth has not yet managed to integrate real gaming performance into a portable 13-inch laptop.
But yes, it will take the whole day
There is a 50 watt-hour battery in the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA. It's not a massive battery, but it's not small, and this laptop is well configured to take advantage of it. You will be surprised how much time you can spend outside of a charger.
Even the Basemark benchmark, the most demanding battery life we run, lasted almost five hours on the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA. A lighter load, e.g. For example, watching a 1080p video extends the lifespan by just over 13 hours. This is a strong result that outperforms the Apple MacBook Air and even the Dell XPS 13, though the latter comes close.
Our time with the laptop impressed us as the numbers suggest. We sent the ZenBook 13 on several day trips, and it took a long time without the battery running out at the end of the day. Even frequent flyers should find this laptop a wonderful travel companion.
The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA is an excellent laptop. The price of $ 850 is a little higher than previous models, and that's a shame, but it offers you a system with many strengths and few weaknesses. This is the laptop that most people need.
Is there a better alternative?
The XPS 13 from Dell is a better laptop, but also considerably more expensive for similar hardware. Not everyone will think that its improvements, such as better keyboard layout and design, are worth the price.
Most other alternatives don't stack up. The Acer Aspire 5 and the Lenovo Yoga 730 come up short in several areas. Apple's MacBook Air is also inadequate, especially in terms of processor performance – but it's more expensive.
How long it will take?
This laptop should easily last five years. It has the latest mobile Intel hardware, a solid case, a fast hard drive and a great display. There is even a wide range of connectivity. Asus only grants a one-year warranty on the laptop. However, this goes without saying for laptops. You get the same guarantee even if you spend thousands more.
Should you buy it
Yes. The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA remains the gold standard among affordable laptops.