Light and great value for money

Besides its sleek look, Asus' new ZenBook 13 has a fingerprint sensor for ease of access and a long battery life

Built with magnesium alloy, Asus' new ZenBook 13 (UX331UAL) comes with plenty of storage.
Built with magnesium alloy, Asus' new ZenBook 13 (UX331UAL) comes with plenty of storage.

Asus is the latest PC-maker to launch a sub-1kg ultrabook.

Its new ZenBook 13 (UX331UAL) weighs 985g, joining the likes of the Acer Swift 5 and the LG gram 14 in this exclusive club.

Like its rivals, the ZenBook achieves this feat with a magnesium alloy chassis. Asus says it is the first ZenBook to be constructed with this material instead of the usual aluminium.

Asus also says that the ZenBook 13 has passed the MIL-STD-810G military standard for reliability and durability.

However, it should be noted that this standard is very broad and includes tests for humidity, temperature, dust and shock. It does not necessarily mean that the ZenBook would survive a drop from a desk.

On the contrary, my experience with laptops built with magnesium alloy is that they feel softer and are less stiff than aluminium.


  • PRICE: $1,698

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5-8250U (1.6GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 620

    RAM: 8GB DDR3

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, HDMI, microSD card reader, audio jack

    BATTERY: 50 watt-hour


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5




    OVERALL: 4/5

For instance, both the lid and the base of the ZenBook flex slightly when pressure is applied.

This may seem alarming, but magnesium is just as durable as aluminium, if not more so.

Design-wise, the ZenBook looks like most ultrabooks with rounded corners and a sleek profile.

The distinctive concentric circles that adorn the lid of Asus ZenBooks are missing on this newer matt version.

However, I prefer its understated look, though the bottom seems to be easily smudged with fingerprints.

I like that the lid can be opened with one hand.

The screen itself has the thin borders one expects of a modern laptop, though the top bezel is thick enough to fit a Web camera.

The in-plane switching display looks good even from the sides, while its 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen resolution is typical of a 13.3-inch model. It is also not a touchscreen, which helps to shave a few grams off its weight.

Its touchpad is relatively large, which is good since it supports Windows gestures such as swiping with three fingers to switch apps or show the desktop. But I did find it a bit too smooth - it verges on slippery, which took me a while to adapt to.

I am pleased that it has a fingerprint sensor, having gotten used to it on my smartphone. It is so convenient not to have to type my lengthy password to log in.

Given its slim dimensions, the ZenBook unsurprisingly has few ports. It does have the important ones, such as an HDMI output as well as two full-size USB ports. It even has a single USB Type-C port, though it does not support the fast Thunderbolt 3 standard.

With a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), it should probably take users some time to run out of storage space. In which case, the ZenBook has a microSD card reader for supplementary storage.

The SSD uses the PCIe interface which has faster transfer speeds than the usual Sata interface. It is probably why the ZenBook, despite its mid-tier Intel Core i5 chip, manages to outperform the LG gram 15 - with a more powerful Intel Core i7 processor - in my testing. The ZenBook scores 3,566 in the PCMark 10 benchmark compared with the LG ultrabook's 3,346.

Its battery life is also very impressive. Asus equipped the ZenBook with a fairly large 50 watt-hour battery. The end result: a nine-hour uptime in our video-loop battery test.

At $1,698, the ZenBook is cheaper than most premium ultrabooks despite having similar features and performance.

Of course, it could do with more RAM and a faster processor may be helpful, but it is still good value for money.

• Verdict: A lightweight notebook with excellent battery life, the new ZenBook 13 offers great value.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2018, with the headline 'Light and great value for money'. Subscribe