ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490 in-Depth Review – That Really Thin Laptop
ASUS is a name synonymous with high-quality computing products. Over the years the brand have positioned itself to be one of the most prominent pc brands in the world. That did not come as a surprise though with the sort of products they have produced during their time. But that also means that every product that comes out of their factory doors are expected to be as good as they can be. So far, they have been successful, or rather their products have always performed above expectations.
The ASUS ZenBook series started out in 2011 and it was considered to be the beginning of the Ultrabook madness. Before the ZenBook, plenty of the Windows laptop out there are thick, heavy. It became a competitor to what the Apple MacBook air too – super thin, ultra light, and ultra-portable laptops. It became an alternative to the Mac too – users who want a MacBook air form of laptops have a Windows alternative now.
The ASUS ZenBook 3 series is the latest of ASUS’ highly popular line of ultrabooks. The ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490 that you are looking at over here is the cream of the crop – the range topper. It is currently the thinnest ZenBook you can get for your money. It comes with a whole slew of things that makes it look like a multimedia powerhouse. It also comes with a fingerprint sensor for quick access back to your work. Its battery is quoted to last so long that you can pretty much set up anywhere and not worry about running out of juice while working. Even when you do, it is 2 hours on the plug and you are ready to go. It looks so good that everyone around your meeting room will die of jealousy. Well, at least that was what was being advertised anyway.
So, the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe then. Is it any good? Is it worth all that hype? Heck, is it worth spending well over MYR8,0000 for this piece of hardware? Only one thing to do; read on.
As usual we start by looking at the exterior of the device; the visuals. Before anything, we should tell you that this piece of kit comes in a different colour too other than the Royal Blue one you see here. It comes in Quartz Grey too; no blacks for you industrialists. Both colour options do come with some gold/yellow highlights at the rim of the display panel and keyboard lettering. This is to let you know that you are in fact holding the Deluxe version of the latest and greatest from ASUS ZenBook stables.
Now, what do we think of its looks? We do think that this is a great looking piece of slate. As we pull it out of the box, it just shines at you. The blue penetrates your pupils and your soul. It looks beautiful. It looks sleek, playful, and professional at the same time. It looked like a well crafted suit sharp enough for a wine and dine type of evening, right after that the suit still fits a night out for dance parties.
It also looks so tight, so compact that you did not realise that it is actually a 14-inch laptop. It looks so slim that you can even mistake it as a page divider. It looks so precisely built with highly calibrated robots in a hermetically sealed lab you call its factory. Its swirl motive in around the ASUS logo on the top cover is reminiscent of the first of ASUS ZenBooks. It represents the simplistic Zen approach that ASUS has always believed in. It resembles a calming sand pit that you constantly change according to your mood. The circular swirls even made the ZenBook look unique. It adds simplicity and feature to the ultra-portable notebook. It adds to the character.
As you open it and turn it on, the hinges feels soft but yet gives you a sense of solidness about it. The backlit island keys with yellow gold lettering greets you as you turn it on. Everything about the ZenBook 3 Deluxe exudes class; incomparable class. It looked like it was made to the highest standards with zero tolerances to defects. The smooth aluminium body reminds you of the precision of an aircraft. The fingerprint sensor is noticeable but hardly a bother like so many other ultra books that comes with one. Its positioning on the mouse pad makes perfect sense as to not spoil the smooth line of the aluminium case.
The display greets you at Full HD 1080p resolution. This is probably one of my complaints about the design of this precisely engineered machine; the bezels are a little too thick for my liking. There are plenty of small form factor laptops like the ZenBook 3 Deluxe that comes with near borderless displays which adds to the drama. It gives the illusion of size as well if you think about it. It automatically feels like a bigger screen than what it is. Not the ZenBook 3 Deluxe though. The display actually feels small with the amount of bezel around the display. At the same time though it gives even more illusion that this laptop is smaller than it is. It makes the laptop look more portable than ever, which is true anyway. It does not feel overwhelming or too large to handle – it is just right.
In essence though, just like any other ultra-portable notebooks the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe is designed to be as simple as possible. It is designed with the thought of ultimate portability. So obviously you do not get plenty of things like a full USB-A port, or CD-ROM, and such. But you gain plenty more in terms of looks – anything this these days look sexy anyway. You gain plenty more on lightness, no fuss travels and simplicity in use. It is a premium device anyway so it has to look the part anyway with the gold accents and the gold lettering on the island keyboard.
So what else do you get with well over MYR8,000? First of, you get the latest 7th Generation Intel Core i7 technology (as tested) with it. There is also an i5 variant. It comes with and integrated discreet graphics processor as well so it still can be a multimedia powerhouse. It comes with a Full HD 1080p display measuring at 14″ protected with Gorilla Glass 5 to ensure that your display looks sharp five years down the road. It comes with 3 USB Type-C ports as well. All of them works as charging ports too so you need not worry about tangling yourself or the laptop with wires. Full specs below.
|Processor||Intel® Core™ i5-7200U 2.5GHz (TurboBoost up to 3.10GHz)||Intel® Core™ i7-7500U processor 2.7GHz (TurboBoost up to 3.50GHz)|
|RAM||8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 onboard||16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 onboard|
|Hard Disk||256GB||512GB/1TB SSD|
|Graphics Processing Unit
|Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620||Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620|
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel)
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel)
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home||Windows 10 Home|
|Battery||46Wh 4-cell lithium-polymer battery||46Wh 4-cell lithium-polymer battery|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac,
|Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac,
|Camera||Widescreen Infrared HD 720p with Digital Microphone||Widescreen Infrared HD 720p with Digital Microphone|
The ultra book form factor is, in itself its selling point. It is lighter than most tablet/laptops out there. Of course the convertible form factor does offer some interesting combination of usage. The ultra book though focuses on ultimate portability and pocketability. It focuses on ultra long-lasting battery as well for maximum productivity on-the-go. It seems like the perfect recipe for digital nomads as well.
At 1.29cm, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe that is tested here is definitely one of the thinnest laptops in the market. Do not be fooled by its thickness, or lack of it though. The laptop still packs a punch with the i7 and long-lasting battery. It even packs four speakers (we thought it was six because there were six speaker outlets) that is tuned by Harman Kardon. Ultimate portability also comes with three USB Type-C ports. Two of which supports Thunderbolt speeds and displays up to 4K resolution. One of them supports charging as well but transfer speed of a regular USB port.
The keyboards sure does look pretty but are they any good? The full-sized keyboard on the ZenBook 3 Deluxe has a 1.2mm key travel which may not sound like plenty. In keyboard terms though 1.2mm of travel is quite a bit especially when you consider the lack of thickness from the ultra book. The feedback that you get from the keys are a little on the solid side though, It does not feel at all rubbery and soft; but then again that is the texture of the individual keys on the keyboard anyway. The keyboard itself feels comfortable enough to type for a very long time. In fact, this review is typed and edited entirely on the ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490 we had. The keys are all quite large so it is nearly impossible for you to misspell or miss a key when you type. It isn’t so large that typing on it is a stretch though (I know what I’m talking about, I have puny hands).
Its mousepad is quite large and placed centrally below the keyboard. It comes with fingerprint security sensor that is lodged at the top right corner of the mousepad. The large mousepad makes navigating through Windows 10 a breeze. Its the standard pinch to zoom, two finger scroll type of mousepad too so it is not like you have to relearn how to use it. Personally I would like the two finger scroll function to be slightly faster but that is just nitpicking. The fingerprint sensor is something I personally appreciate. It is accurate all the time and its pretty much mindless. Its placement could be rather awkward but at the same time really intuitive. I thought placing the fingerprint sensor on the corner of the mousepad made sense as you are not taking up your palm rest real estate which might make it a little less comfortable when you type. The mousepad area itself is large enough anyway that the fingerprint sensor does not feel intrusive. Also, the first part of the laptop you touch when you open it is the mousepad anyway so it only make sense that you reach the fingerprint sensor on the mousepad first rather than other place. It was a feature I personally got used to in a heartbeat (I barely remember the password for me to enter the ultrabook though).
Then its actually party piece, the quad-speakers ASUS SonicMaster certified by Harman Kardon. To start with, it actually gets pretty loud at 100% volume. To simplify it for non-audiophiles, even at 100% volume there are no additional noise or noticeable cracks to the audio. For audiophiles, you will be delighted with this piece of kit though. Music from the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe comes out crisp, clear, and loud. Bass could use a little bit more power but at the same time it is near impossible to fit a sub-woofer into less-than-an-inch space (to be specific in inches, thickness is at 0.51-inch). The quad-speakers are powerful enough to deliver an impressive performance in a small room though. If you prefer a more personal listening experience you could plug in your headphones too. If it is good enough for music, movies will not be a problem. The quad-speakers does have a Surround Sound effect processor to aid in that full multimedia immersion. It is truly a big sound coming from a small package – pretty impressive to me. Of course, you cannot miss out Windows’ Cortana assistant built-in the ultrabook. There are also array mics implemented on both sides of the HD webcam for Cortana. Keep in mind your audio experience depends on the quality of the audio file itself and the quality of the video you have.
This test unit came with Windows 10 Home and 16GB of RAM while storage is a 1TB SSD which makes everything silky smooth. The only bummer here is that despite the Intel HD Graphics integrated processor that comes with Intel’s 7th Generation Core i7 a proper graphic processing unit (GPU) card would be a nice inclusion. The Intel dedicated graphics makes up more than enough though for most multimedia tasks though. You still can run Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom without too much of a hiccup of course. Anything more graphic intensive would not sit well with the ZenBook.
As mentioned earlier as well this comes with 3 USB Type-C ports that has thunderbolt capabilities on two of those. Despite the flexibility of being able to charge the ultrabook from any of the port provided you would have to be sure to bring an adapter with you at all times. The lack of a full sized USB port does make it slightly inconvenient especially with the general thumb drives that is still standard today. ASUS does provide a USB Type-C to USB adapter in-the-box alongside the USB Type-C to HDMI adapter though so that made it much simpler. But having only three multipurpose ports can be a little restrictive at times though.
There was one thing that I personally dearly miss on this ultra book though; an SD card slot. It could be used to either expand storage or just to transfer files. It may not be too big of a bother to ASUS’ target market though, the MicroSD slot is one of those slots that was rarely used by the sort of professionals that the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is targeted to anyway. Webcam comes in the form of an HD 720p unit that records video at; well, 720p. It is pretty much standard and through our use of the PC, there is nothing to shout about anyway. It works as it is intended to during conference calls through Skype and what not.
ASUS boasts a 9 hour battery life on the 46Wh 4-cell non-removable battery packed into the ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490U. The reality though is quite far from that quote. Most of our usage reflects at most 6 hours of battery life, given we have more than 10 – 20 tabs open on our chosen browser, Mozilla FireFox. We do play plenty of music too from Spotify so that could affect battery life too.
The ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490 comes with a 14-inch Full HD 1080p resolution display. It comes with ASUS Splendid, ASUS Eye Care and ASUS Tru2Life Video to optimise the display to whatever image or video you look at. Looking at the display for extended periods of time should be fine too with the ASUS Eye Care technology. The Eye Care technology is technically supposed to reduce the blue-light emitted by the LED-backlit display by 30%. In practice, we didn’t notice much difference compared to plenty of displays in a glance. After using the PC for a while though we do notice that there is less eye fatigue after using the ZenBook for a few hours (as long as the battery allowed us to).
The colour reproduction on the 1080p display though is highly accurate thanks to the 100% sRGB colour gamut calibrated display. You do not get 75Hz of refresh rate though, you make do with 60Hz but at the same time you would not notice the difference anyway. Put two-and-two together, you are looking at some a gorgeous display. Colours pop and images look natural all the time without being over- or undersaturated. Using Adobe’s Lightroom is a breeze as colours come out as they are intended (obviously the sort of cameras you use plays a part too). Movies look as good as they can be (again, depending on the quality of the clip you have) with the Full HD display.
Of course, for the sort of money you are paying for this nifty computer, you would expect a 4K display. In that department I could agree but at the same time 4K displays take up plenty more power from a device that is already this thin and light. You also have to consider how temperature would affect user experience in that case; the ZenBook 3 Deluxe can get pretty hot at times (depending on activity), but not too hot that you cannot handle it.
So, is the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490 For Me?
The ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490 is something else entirely. It is one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest ultra books out there. At 1.1kg it is not exactly heavy either. It quick charging capabilities is great but its battery life is even better than that. Sure we have not gotten 9 hours out of it. But it does last plenty longer than a lot of other notebook PCs in the market. It’s so slim that it will fit anywhere in your bag so you do not actually need a special laptop bag for it. Even if you do get a specific bag, there is ample room for other sort of documents. It performs well all the time, sure you cannot possibly ask it to run the full suite of Adobe Creative Cloud apps outright. It does work though for the likes of Lightroom and Photoshop; especially you need to do a quick edit on site. Typing documents on this thing is a breeze, the keyboard is impressively comfortable for what its worth. It is a full-sized keyboard too so it’s not like you are cramping up your fingers to type.
If you ask me, I really do like this laptop – it is something that I could recommend. Except for a few quirks on the part of the ZenBook 3 Deluxe. It does have a dedicated GPU but nowhere near powerful enough to either run your games or you video processing tool. But it works as a multimedia powerhouse so that could still be forgivable. We hoped that the ZenBook 3 Deluxe would have come with a dedicated GPU from the likes of NVidia. The Intel HD Graphics GPU still packs a good punch though to run Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop if you really need it.
It also does not have a 4K display which was technically a very minor issue. Full HD on most displays now are quite sufficient and 4K can be an overkill. There is not enough 4K contents to go around yet anyway so 1080p is plenty adequate for any PCs at this form factor. Plus if you are looking to extract every ounce of your battery, you would want a slightly lower resolution anyway. But at the price that you might be paying for the ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490 (MYR8,299) you do expect something closer to a 4K resolution.
You do get compensated by a large 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM. You even get a fingerprint sensor with that. Of course, you do get the better i7 processor with this one. With all that, this is a near perfect computing solution for what we call Digital Nomads. These are New Age employees who work off-site most of the time and are always on the go. For them, portability could play a large factor in their lives and work. The ZenBook 3 Deluxe, with its 14-inch display could very well be the definition of ultimate portability.
If you do have about MYR8,299 lying around somewhere and do not know what to do with it you have an answer today. There are of course other options out there for that kind of money. The thing is when your eyes meet the ASUS, it almost feels like everything could be justified. At this stage you may not find anything that (In my opinion) as pretty looking, as well sounding, as light, or as slim and portable as this one. This may not be the perfect solution, but as an all-rounder; this is a very good one. We still do think that it is on the expensive side though.