In 2018 it's a rapid race to see which manufacturer can deliver a laptop with the least bezel. And Asus isn't mucking around when it comes to the ZenBook series, with the late 2018 model sporting a 95 per cent screen-to-body ratio.
Well, ok, it is mucking around a bit because it was only back in January 2018, at CES, that was saw the last ZenBook 13. And, based on the one we're early doors writing about here, just seven months later, that earlier one is already done and dusted. Talk about short shelf life, eh?
Available in 13 (UX333), 14 (UX433) and 15-inch (UX533) sizes, the new ZenBook line-up is certainly more trim than before, but is it any good? Here's our first impressions.
Design & Display
- 13, 14 and 15-inch models with 95% screen-to-body ratio thanks to 'NanoEdge' display
- 2x USB 3.1, 1x USB 3.1, 1x HDMI, 1x microSD card, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
- Backlit keyboard; trackpad doubles-up as a backlit 'NumberPad'
- 302 x 189 x 16.9mm dimensions; 1.1kgs (13-inch model only)
- Harman Kardon speakers
The 13-inch Asus ZenBook has a much smaller footprint than the outgoing model. Indeed, with the new model sat atop the old for picture purposes, the older model looks more like a 15-incher in scale.
That's the benefit of cutting those bezel sizes back. And the ZenBook does really benefit from this slight edge, which Asus calls a NanoEdge display, to give it full marketing kudos. The screen is said to be a lower power consumption format than before, too, to help aid battery life.
The bezel hasn't gone entirely, though, with infrared sensors still present to allow for Windows Hello login. How long before laptops add a 'notch' like current smartphones, we wonder?
In terms of connectivity, the ZenBook 13 isn't so ridiculously thin that it can't fit the goods in. In addition to two full-size USB ports there's a USB-C, plus a separate charger - which is always handy rather than being forced to switch cables over when charging. There's even an HDMI, microSD card slot (not full size, boo) and 3.5mm headphone jack.
A new feature for the 2018 ZenBook is apparent on its trackpad too. It functions as a standard trackpad, sure, but hit the little button to the top right corner and it imposes a number pad - savvily called NumberPad by Asus, get in there marketeers! - which can be used to quickly tap away numbers. Possible perfection for Excel magicians.
The keyboard is no shabby effort either, with decent key depression - none of this zero click 'butterfly' stuff - and a soft backlight to help you see those digits in the dark. Interestingly, the hinge design of the latest ZenBook also angles the laptop into a slightly angled and more comfortable position the more the clamshell is opened: so closed it's perfectly flat, but angled back fully the keyboard sits in a more slanted, ergonomic position.
Hardware & Battery Life
- 8th Gen Intel Core i processors, i7-8565U / i5-8265U options, 8/16GB RAM
- Nvidia GeForce MX150, 2GB GDDR5 VRAM discrete graphics
- 50Wh battery with up to 14 hours life per charge claimed
- 1TB/512GB/256GB PCIe SSD storage options
Under the hood the latest Asus ZenBook includes 8th Gen Intel Core i processors, available in Core i5 and Core i7 flavours with either 8GB or 16GB RAM (and that's the same irrelevant of 13, 14, or 15-inch models).
Interestingly, Asus has squeezed in Nvidia GeForce MX150 discrete graphics, which will please more enthusiastic gamers and those using creative applications.
We've only dabbled in using the ZenBook 13 for a short period of time, so can't comment on how any applications run at present, nor how long battery life will hold out. According to Asus, however, the 13-inch model's battery should see it live for up to 14 hours per charge.
The Asus ZenBook 13 is a fresh look at how bezel light and footprint friendly a laptop can be. It arrives a bit too soon after the last one, though, which is somewhat perplexing. And there's no word on pricing just yet, which is crucial for a laptop of this type.