Personally, when I think of desirable ultrabooks/thin, light and powerful laptops running Windows 10, I always think of devices like a spec-ed out Dell XPS 13, a ThinkPad X1 Carbon, or the high-end Lenovo Yoga convertibles.
As a low-key hipster (I’d say self-proclaimed but that’s so mainstream), I probably wouldn’t have considered the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe. Why? I’m not too sure, but these devices never seemed particularly desirable to me.
Maybe it’s the paintjob, or the name, or the design, but something just didn’t click. And I guess it is a little unfair for me to do so because I never actually used one as a daily driver for any extended period of time. Well, all of that changed recently when I got the chance to review this new laptop from ASUS — one of the most high-end laptops I’ve ever had the chance to touch.
I say one of because it’s kinda hard to beat the one that cost more than my car.
Nevertheless, I spent quality time with the ZenBook 3 Deluxe, pushing it through the tasks my workload demands — like opening a bazillion Chrome tabs and occasionally cropping some photos in Irfanview — and have now formed an opinion about this particular device.
ASUS’ ZenBook 3 Deluxe is a powerhouse laptop that sits pretty much at the top of the company’s ultrabook range. It’s got an Intel Core i7-7500U processor, 16GB of RAM and a whopping 1TB of PCIe SSD storage goodness. It wouldn’t surprise you, then, to find out that the laptop was a stellar performer.
It boots practically instantly. The first time I fired it up, I tapped the power button and glanced away for a second to look at my phone because I thought it vibrated (because millennial), and when I shifted my gaze back, the device was ready to go. On my typical workload, I really couldn’t do much to push this laptop to its limits and it simply chewed up everything I threw at it like it was nothing.
While I will admit my typical workload doesn’t involve too many intensive tasks (like 3D rendering, gaming, etc.), I do spend most of my work life in front of a laptop and I carry one around with me to every event/trade show I attend. That means I have a pretty solid checklist of what I need from a laptop that I believe can be applied to any mobile elite.
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On the top of that checklist is portability and it’s hard to fault the ZenBook 3 Deluxe here. It’s very light (1.1kg) and super thin (12.9mm) which means it takes a big load off my shoulders when I have to attend events with all my gear.
The ZenBook 3 Deluxe is also built like an expensive laptop should be. This thing just oozes premium and it’s just a treat to carry around. But beyond just the laptop’s body and case, one thing that often gets overlooked is the hinge and I’m happy to report that the ZenBook 3 Deluxe’s hinge is nearly perfect. You can open it with one finger, yet it’s sturdy enough to not flail around too much. Top marks here.
I also have to add that they must have done a good job with the finish because at the end of my review period, there wasn’t a single chip or scratch on my unit. Usually, there’ll be noticeable imperfections by now but this paint job held up.
However, even the best built laptops would only be good-looking paper weights if they weren’t practical or nice to use daily. The good news here is that, as a whole, using this device was a pretty good experience. Its keyboard is pretty nice to type on (though, the caps lock key is a little longer than I’d like) and it’s also got a great trackpad that uses Windows Precision drivers.
I was particularly impressed with the fingerprint scanner because it worked better on this laptop than on any other laptop I’ve ever used.
Its screen is also fairly competent. The 14-inch non-touch panel — though only pushing a Full HD resolution — has good viewing angles, is visible outdoors, and is colour accurate to my eye. Would I have liked to see a 1440p display with touch on a device this expensive? Sure, but the display was solid enough that I wasn’t yearning for a better screen.
That being said, there are two rather big things that would definitely turn mobile elites off this laptop.
First, the device’s palm rest gets uncomfortably hot when you use this device for extended periods of time. It’s quite the bummer because for most thin-and-lights, the heat is usually focused in the area near the hinge — furthest from where your hands are. Because the palm rest gets hot, I can’t type on it for a long time without getting sweaty palms.
Second, this laptop doesn’t have the best battery life. With my usage — lots of Chrome, Spotify, some light photo editing — I only managed to get about 4-5 hours of battery life on a single charge. This means, it won’t get you through the day, and when you’re making ultra-portable devices, forcing a user to stay tethered to a wall socket really sucks. I guess this blow is softened a little by the awesome fast-charging via USB C (about 70% in 50 mins), but I’d rather have all-day battery life (10 hrs+) instead of really fast charging any day of the week.
There are also some smaller negatives like the absence of media controls and the fact that it’s fully USB C (2X Thunderbolt 3), which forces you to embrace dongle life. But, none of these are nearly as consequential as the sweaty palm phenomenon and disappointing battery life.
Coming in at RM8,299, it also costs a lot of money. However, you are getting some of the best hardware in the market right now. While I personally think that the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe is a stellar performer, and one that hits most of the right notes for an ultra-portable laptop, the reality is that this kind of performance and experience comes with a price.
Is the price, plus the trade offs, worth the excellent performance? I think that’s something only you can decide.