A while ago Asus unveiled the Zenbook 3 UX390UA and I’ve mentioned my initial impressions and expectations in this article.
In the meantime I’ve spent a few weeks with two different versions of this computer and I can now tell you what I actually think about it, where it shines and where it trails behind. You’ll read about my findings below, and if you have any other questions just get in touch in the comments section at the end of the post and I’ll try to answer them.
In very few words, there’s no other similar laptop out there, as this Zenbook looks amazing, is very well built and packs fast hardware in a tiny body, smaller and lighter than anything else with similar specs, at least as of late August 2016. However, some corners were cut, to a lesser or greater extent, in order to make this a real product, and as a result it only gets a small 12.5-inch screen, a small battery and it isn’t always able to deliver the best performance the platform is actually capable of. Yet, if you want an ultra-compact computer that works nearly flawlessly in everyday use, this must be on your list. Keep reading to find out why.
Before we jump to the actual review though, you must know that initially this article was a preview based on a pre-production version of the Zenbook 3 UX390UA with Intel Skylake hardware, but later on I updated it to a proper review after experiencing the Intel Kaby Lake configuration at work for a few more days, the device that is sold in stores as of early October under the name of Zenbook UX390UAK. Both the Skylake and the Kaby Lake models I tested were loaners from Asus and went back to them soon after the article was published.
The Zenbooks 3 is an ultra-compact laptop with premium features and traits
Specs as reviewed
|Asus Zenbook UX390UA / UX390UAK|
|Screen||12.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, non-touch, glossy|
|Processor||Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U CPU|
|Video||Intel HD 620|
|Memory||16 GB LPDDR3 2133 MHz (soldered)|
|Storage||512 M.2 NVMe SSD (80 mm)|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC (Intel AC 8260), Bluetooth 4.1, WiDi|
|Ports||1x USB 3.1 Type-C gen 1, mic/headphone|
|Operating system||Windows 10|
|Size||296 mm or 11.66” (w) x 191 mm or 7.51” (d) x 11.9 mm or 0.46” (h)|
|Weight||2.00 lbs (910 g)|
|Extras||backlit keyboard, VGA webcam, available in three colors: Rose Gold, Royal Blue or Quarts Gray, IO adapter included in the pack|
Design and first look
I’m pretty sure this is the best built Zenbook to date and also one of the best ultra-portables ever launched by any OEM, Apple included. Unlike most other options out there, it gets an unibody construction (the inner chassis is made from aluminum, not plastic) with very limited flex in the hood or the keyboard dock, only noticeable when pressing harder on these surfaces. The UX390 is also thin, very light and overall more compact than the vast majority of ultraportables available in stores these days, weighing less than a kilo.
The aesthetic lines on the other hand are an aspect you should judge yourselves. To put it bluntly, this little fellow looks like a Zenbook, with a slim profile and a pattern with concentric circles on the hood, however it gets a few Gold elements that I personally find a little kitschy: the Asus logo on the hood and the screen’s machined edges. You’ll be stuck with these regardless of the overall color option you’ll choose, as Asus offers this computer in either Rose Gold (our test version), Royal Blue or Quarts Gray, as you can see in the picture below.
The UX390 is available in three colors, all with Gold accents though
Update: I recently spent more time with the Royal Blue version of this laptop and it somehow managed to change the opinion I had from the Rose Gold model. I think it looks amazing and just different than all the other portable laptops. It shows smudges, so you’ll have to wipe it clean often, but otherwise I find it really beautiful, to the point where I don’t even mind those gold trims. I just feel they match quite well with the dark blue shade, although they still stand out a bit and I’m not that comfortable with this aspect.I’ve added some pics of the blue model below, but they don’t really make it justice, you should try to see this in person if you can.
Anyway, let’s get to the elephant in the room. It’s obvious Asus studied Apple’s Macbook when designing the Zenbook UX390UA, replicated it and tried to outmatch some of its particularities, both aesthetically and functionally. Personally, I don’t see the harm in that, the Macbook is an excellent computer in its niche and it’s nice to see another that can stand next to it in terms of size, weight and build quality, especially since this Zenbook is actually quite a different type of beast.
The UX390UA is built on a Core U hardware platform, and as a result is fan cooled. There are two air-intake meshes on the underbelly, towards the sides, and the hot air is blown through a grill behind the hinge. On the belly you’ll also find the four rubber feet, small yet grippy enough to keep this well in place on a desk, and two speakers cuts towards the front lip.
Some of the fine details I appreciate on this computer are the fact that Asus went for a fairly slim screen bezel (not XPS like slim, but yet slimmer than most), the fact that you can easily lift up the screen with a single hand, the matte interior that feels durable or the audio system with four speakers (two of them front-facing and two on the belly, as mentioned above). On the other hand, there are certain aspects I wish Asus did not “borrow” from the Macbook, like the fact that the screen only leans back to only 135 degrees and gets a layer of glass on top of the panel, or the limited IO.
You’ll only find a headphone/mic jack and an USB Type C slot on this computer, plus two small status LEDs. And unlike the Macbook, the USB-C is on the left, which as a righty find rather annoying. But also unlike Apple, Asus includes an adapter with the Zenbook, that you can hook to the USB Type C port and expand the IO. It’s well made and includes an USB-C port, an USB 3.0 port and HDMI output. There’s also another dock you’ll be able to buy on the side with USB 3.1 Type-C, 2xUSB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, Card-reader, but this one is not yet available and I can’t yet tell you what it will retail for. Look it up if you’re reading this post later into 2016 or 2017.
The USB-C port is not Thunderbolt 3 compatible on either the Skylake or the Kaby Lake versions. There were some rumors of TB3 support, but I’m pretty sure they were fake. My Kaby Lake test unit lacked it, my specs sheets do not mention TB3 and neither does Asus in any of their presentation slides or the official site. So in conclusion, there’s no Thunderbolt 3 on this Zenbook.
To sum up this section, the Zenbook UX390UAK feels and looks a lot like the Apple Macbook, despite running Windows on a much more powerful hardware platform. In other words, Asus nailed it in terms of design and build quality, creating one of the most interesting ultraportables of this generation, at least for those of you that won’t mind its small 12.5-inch form-factor.
The Zenbook UX390UAK gets a 12.5-inch display, with a 1920 x 1080 px IPS panel and a sheet of protective Gorilla Glass 4 on top. This is not a touchscreen though, that’s why I personally am not a big fan of the glass implementation.
Some might argue it’s smart to have a strong layer of glass on top of the screen that’s going to make it stronger and protect the panel, but as someone who’s been using matte panels for many many years and never had a reliability problem, I find it superfluous. It’s true colors and texts look subjectively nicer on such a screen, as there’s none of the graininess you’re usually getting with matte screens, but at the same time you’ll have to live with reflections and glare.
As a result, I feel this Zenbook is not a computer you’ll be able to comfortably use outdoors or in strong light environments, due to the Gorilla Glass display, but also due to having a fairly dim panel. Asus advertises 300 nits of max-brightness for it, and we measured around 270 nits in our tests. That’s alright for most indoor scenarios, but it just won’t cut it in strong light, as you can see in some of the pictures below.
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO306D (B125HAN03.0);
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 76% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 270 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 760:1;
- White point: 7900 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.35 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 3.78 uncalibrated, 0.88 calibrated.
That aside though, I can’t really complain about the panel quality, especially once you calibrate it. The gamma and colors were skewed quite badly out of the box, but a calibration run did wonders and brought them to excellent accuracy levels. The improved ICC color profile is available for download over here.
Bottom point, if you plan to mostly keep this computer indoors, you’ll enjoy its screen. Outdoors though or even in a bright office, you’ll struggle, which can be a significant limitation. To put it frankly, a 300 nits panel is not good enough by today’s standards for a premium device that’s supposed to go anywhere with you. Both the Macbook and the Dell XPS 13 for instance offer brighter panels that go beyond 350 nits.
There’s the argument Asus went with this panel because a brighter one would have required more energy and would have taken a toll on battery life, which isn’t spectacular anyway. Perhaps, but I don’t think this stands, as I would have preferred to be able to actually use the computer whenever I wanted, even for a few hours, than not to be able to in some cases.
Keyboard and trackpad
On a more positive note, the Zenbook UX390UAK types surprisingly well considering its slim form factor. I’m really not a big fan of the Macbook’s keyboard with its limited travel keys and shallow feedback, and I actually had low expectations from this Asus notebook as well, but I was proven wrong.
Yes, the keys have limited travel, but they still drop 0.8 mm and deliver surprisingly good response, to the point where I was able to type thousands of words effortlessly with little accommodation time and only a small amount of typos, although a little more than my average. In fact I can say that after using this Zenbook for the last days I enjoy typing on it more than on my XPS 13, whose keys are deeper but mushier, so if you’re OK with short-stroke keyboards you’ll probably find the one on this Zenbooks at least good enough. The keys are also fairly quiet, with the exception of the space key that has a voice of its own, but I learned to ignore it over time.
BTW, the keys on the UX390 are rectangular, measuring 17 x 14 mm, so even those of you with larger hands shouldn’t have a problem with them. The keyboard is of course backlit and there are three intensity levels to choose from. As a note, there’s a small LED on the Power Button (integrated withing the keyboard as the top right key) that remains active all the time, which you might find annoying when watching movies in a dark room, and the keyboard’s back-lightning spreads to the speaker meshes on top of the keys on both of my test units.
These aside, The Rose Gold version of this laptop gets rose-gold keys on the rose-gold background, so they have little to no contrast, which corroborated with the golden writing on the key means you’ll have a hard time actually finding certain keys in certain conditions (medium light, backlighning on). I expect the same for the Silver version, yet the visibility is pretty great on the blue version, where the dark-blue keys contrast well with the gold writing.
The trackpad sits beneath the keyboard, centered on the laptop’s width and not on the space key. It’s smooth and feels nice to touch, but it felt rather plasticy to me, despite the fact that is actually made of glass. Technically, it’s an Elan surface dressed as a Microsoft Certified Touchpad with very few customization options, but it actually performed well in most cases and I didn’t find the urge to tweak anything in the settings.
The experience still leaves something to desire, as the cursor would occasionally jump to corners, as the surface would mistake a light tap for a very quick swipe. The click buttons are also somewhat stiff and get a short travel, plus if you’re one of those users who rest an index finger on the touchpad, be aware that the cursor can get jumpy in this scenario as well, at least that was the case with my test units.
The final UX390UAK units will also get a fingerprint reader integrated within the trackpad, in the top-right corner. I can’t tell for now whether all configurations will include this sensor or only the higher-end versions, but I did test it on my Kaby Lake configuration and it works quite well for logging in with Windows Hello. I’m seeing more and more fingerprint-readers on laptops lately, after they grew popular on phones, and that’s actually something I’d like to have on my next computer so I wouldn’t have to enter my password each time I open it up.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
The UX390 is scheduled to retail with Skylake Core i5-7200U and Core i7-7500U processors. I initially reviewed a Skylake Core i7-6500U platform and then tested the Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U model and most of what I’m sharing in the next two sections is based on the impressions left by this latter version, the one similar to what you’re getting in stores.
When it comes to hardware, you should also know that this laptop includes up to 16 GB of LPDDR3 memory and a single M.2 NVMe SSD stick for storage. Everything but the SSD is soldered on the motherboard, but the storage can be replaced with compatible 80 mm sticks. I expect the base configurations to ship with M.2 SATA SSDs, so you might want to get inside and replace those with a faster option.
Getting inside is quite easy, there are 10 Torx T5 screws on the back that you need to take care of and then the metallic bottom pops-out. The SSD comes with a thermal pad attached on my review unit, with a role in dissipating heat onto the aluminum back plate. You should probably put a pad on the new SSD as well, if you decide to replace it, there’s a guide about that here.
These aside, there are two parts we should discuss here: daily performance and performance under serious load.
With everyday use, this thing flies. I had no issues running any type of video content, editing documents, browsing with 15-20 tabs at once with a Youtube clip running in the background or multitasking between these. I also didn’t encounter any stuttering or freezes. My test unit did came with the Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and the NVMe storage, which all help with the performance, but I’m sure the Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM will handle daily tasks just fine as well, and those of you a little more patient than I won’t probably mind a SATA SSD either. So what I’m saying is that you don’t really need a top configuration for daily chores and the mid-range one will do just fine too.
Still, keep in mind there’s a fair amount of bloatware preinstalled on this computer, rather annoying for a premium option, so you should take care of it or better yet, just do a clean Windows install, it’s only going to take you about 30 minutes.
Now, if you’re going to opt for the Core i7 processor on this Zenbook you’ll probably push it through some demanding chores, like some photo/video editing, programming software and so on, and this is where the issue of throttling comes into play.
This shouldn’t be a surprise as this laptop is very thin and the cooling solution implemented is miniaturized as a result, which means that Asus does not allow the CPU-package to reach very high temperatures and keeps them under control by throttling the CPU and GPU speeds fairly aggressively. That’s not visible in daily tasks, but it is visible right away in prolonged high loads, like when running benchmarks or games.
I’ve added some benchmark results below, they’re about the same of what a Core i7-6500U implementation scores, although the throttling does have an impact in GPU and in multitasking CPU tests. In other words, the Core i7-7500U can do better on a larger computer with better cooling.
- 3DMark 11: P1612;
- 3DMark 13: Cloud Gate –4851, Sky Driver – 2867, Fire Strike – 686;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2347;
- Cinebench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 3611, Multi-core: 7643;
- Cinebench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 4252, Multi-core: 7995, Computer score: 19867;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 30.71 fps, CPU 3.56 pts, CPU Single Core 1.63 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 38.54 fps, CPU 312 cb, CPU Single Core 143 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 113.44 fps, Pass 2 – 20.24 fps.
In benchmarks and games the CPU runs at top speeds for a little while, and then its frequency gradually drops once certain temperatures are reached (there’s an example in the pic below that shows the x264 HD Benchmark results, if you compare the first run with the next ones).
You’ll find more details if you’ll dig through the next pictureS, yet take them with a small grain of salt, because even our Kaby Lake test model wasn’t a final retail unit, so things might actually be a little different on those, although I don’t expect significant changes over what we’ve tested.
Bottom point, if you plan to get the Zenbook 3 UX390 for everyday activities and occasional use of more demanding apps, like Photoshop, Premiere or even games, you’ll probably be fine with it. I’ve tested a few games BTW and the results are listed below.
They’re really not bad, pretty close to what Core i7 Skylake ultraportables like the Zenbook UX305UA can deliver, despite the obvious CPU and GPU throttling, so older or simpler games should run fairly well on this laptop.
|Need for Speed: Most Wanted||21 fps|
|Grid Autosport||32 fps|
|Tomb Raider||30 fps|
|Bioshock Infinite||20 fps|
Still, if you want a small notebook that can squeeze the most of that Core i7-7500U with continuous loads, then you’ll probably be more satisfied with some of the slightly “larger” options out there, like the Kaby Lake Dell XPS 13 9360 or the Razer Blade Stealth, among others.
A final aspect I would like to mention here regards the IO adapter included in the pack. You can hook up the laptop to the wall-socket through this adapter if you also plan to use the USB or HDMI ports at the same time, however performance under load is very poor in this case (see the pic in the Battery section down below) and even performance with daily multitasking will suffer. In fact, it was poorer than the performance measured on battery in our tests, so there’s a fair chance something was wrong with our adapter. Could be a more widespread issue though, so you’d better test it on your unit.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
There’s a fan inside the Zenbook UX390UA, a very compact one with thin blades, but a fan nonetheless. It was very active on the Skylake model I initially tested, yet on the Kaby Lake version it is actually surprisingly quiet, especially since I had the Core i7 configuration on hands. Still, the fan is active most of the time, shutting down only when performing very basic activities like listening to music, reading or editing a text in Word, yet when active on its lower speeds it is barely inaudible even in a perfectly quiet room. And that means you’re not going to hear it when watching a movie or browsing with some music playing in the back.
Keep in mind I’m very sensitive to fan noise, as I’m used to my XPS 13 that remains passively cooled with daily use, so I do expect a similar behavior from all high-end ultraportables. Asus are notoriously bad at managing their fan profiles, as you can see from our articles on the Zenbook UX305UA, UX330UA or the UX360UA, all plagued by what I consider to be too aggressive fans. But they actually did a good job with this Zenbook UX390, especially since the expectations should be a little different when you get a Core U platform.
Noise aside, the UX390 runs quite cool, cooler than my Core i5 XPS 13 in similar conditions. Check our the numbers below.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
Based on these measurements, this Zenbook is lapable with daily use, with the bottom reaching temperatures of up to 37-40 degrees Celsius once you multitask, and lower while watching videos, editing documents or performing any other light activity.
The fan inside is going to spin faster and louder once you get into heavy browsing or gaming, while the case will get warmer and even hot in certain spots. Still, it only reaches around 45 Celsius, while most other ultraportables with bulkier bodies actually reach higher temperatures in similar conditions. They don’t throttle as aggressively though, so in conclusion, as I already mentioned in the previous chapter, the Zenbook UX390UA regulates its temperatures under load by capping the performance.
When it comes to connectivity, there’s Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.1 and WiDi on this computer, plus wired LAN through the included adapter. The wireless performance is really solid. I haven’t encountered any drops or issues whatsoever, the speeds are fast near the router and both the signal strength and speeds remain solid even at 30+ feet and 2 walls in between in my bunker house with thick walls, where many other laptops have failed in the past. Overall, top notch performance here.
When it comes to the audio solution, there are four speakers on this laptop, two placed on the belly and two behind those grills on top of the keyboard, but the experience with these preview products left me with mixed feelings. On one side they can be very loud, up to 96 dB at max volume at head level in my tests, on the other they distort once you pump up the volume past 70% with the Music profile selected in the Audio Wizard app.
Still, you’ll probably keep them at around 30-50% of their volume in most cases, which is still around 80-88 dB at head level, as the volume progression is not linear, and at this point they actually sound richer and clearer than what most other portable laptops are offering. I do feel the Dell XPS 13 and the Apple Macbook offer better speakers though.
One other aspect I’ll mention here is the webcam, which is utter crap. No really, CRAP! Just like the Macbook, this Zenbook gets a VGA camera which does a really poor job at capturing images in any scenario. The microphones on the other hand are decent, but even so you’ll probably refrain yourself from video-calling on this laptop, unless you don’t have an alternative.
There’s a 40 Wh battery on the Zenbook UX390UA, which is small for a computer motorized by an Intel Core i7 processor, and as a result you’re not going to get countless hours of use out of this one. Check out the results below.
- 6.5 W (~6 h of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5 W (~8 h min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 3.8 W (~10 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.8 W (~8 h 20 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12 W (~3 h 15 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
The screen’s brightness was set at around 120 nits for these tests, which is my standard for indoor use. But if you plan to use the computer in brighter environments, expect it to last less on each charge.
Still, despite the small battery and despite having a Core i7 configuration for our tests, this Kaby Lake Zenbook UX390 was very efficient, especially when dealing with video content, as otherwise it gets hungry with serious multitasking. That’s why at the end of the day I’m not going to deduct many points for the battery life, which is actually above average in most cases.
A small laptop comes with a small battery, so don’t expect much in terms of battery life from the Zenbook 3
Asus bundles the laptop with a 45W power brick with integrated and non-retractable prongs, which charges the battery in around 2 hours via the USB Type-C port, yet there’s also fast-charging (up to 60% in 50 minutes) implemented.
One thing to add is that this laptop charges a little faster if you stick the charger in directly then when going through the adapter included in the pack as an intermediary. The difference is small, yet it’s something to consider when trying to juice up the battery fast.
Price and availability
While I only have limited info on the prices and configurations of the Zenbook UX390UA at the time of this article, I do know for sure this is not going to be a cheap laptop. On the other hand, all configurations will include a protective sleeve with a faux-suede interior and an IO adapter with full-size ports (USB 3.0, USB 3.1 and HDMI).
The UX390UA should start at $999 in the US for a Core i5-7200U processor, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB SSD, but my advice is to go for a configuration with at least 8 GB of RAM, since the memory in not upgradeable. That should sell for around $$1100 to $1200, probably with a 256 GB SATA SSD. Higher end configurations will include up to 16 GB of RAM, up to 1 TB of SSD storage and a Core i7-7500U processor, and can get to $1500-$2000.
More details on the available configurations and up-to-date prices at the time you’re reading this are available via this link.
There’s no other laptop with Core U hardware in such a compact and light body as of this Zenbook, but there are a few others that come close and can be considered as alternatives.
While the Zenbook 3 is pretty much unique in its small niche, there are a few other options you can consider, including the Dell XPS 13
Construction wise, the closest match is the Apple Macbook, the Zenbook’s look-alike. It’s just as small and light, but is a fanless computer built on a Skylake Core M hardware, so is not as powerful as the UX390, yet at the same time runs completely quiet. That aside, it offers a smaller and brighter display, a pretty crappy keyboard imo and a superior trackpad. It also lasts somewhat longer on a charge with daily use, but that’s not really relevant since it’s not as snappy in multitasking as the UX390.
The Apple Macbook also starts at $1299 (cheaper online though, with Broadwell configurations selling for under $1000) for a Core m3 configuration with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of PCIe SSD storage, so it’s a pricey option.
The HP EliteBook Folio G1 is a close Windows alternative for the Macbook, also built on fanless Core M hardware. It’s available with either a matte panel or a touchscreen, is solid built and light (around 1 kilo), gets a 38 Wh battery and a pretty good backlit keyboard. Unlike the Macbook though, a decent configuration with a Core m5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 128/256 GB of storage and the non-touch display can be found for $1000 to $1100. Follow this link for more details.
- Apple MacBook
- HP EliteBook Folio
- HP Spectre
If you’re willing to sacrifice portability to a small extent and rather focus on performance, then you’ll have to look at Core U notebooks.
The HP Spectre is an option to consider, a slim laptop that weighs around 2.5 lbs. It also gets a pretty large footprint though, as you can tell by the bezel around its 13.3 inch screen, and personally I’d rather have a small footprint than a thin profile. Also, despite being larger, The Spectre still gets a small 38 Wh battery and actually runs hotter than the Zenbook UX390UA under load, with certain spots on the case reaching 50 degrees Celsius. The HP Spectre starts start at around $1050 for a Core i5-6200U processor, 8 GB of RAM, a FHD non-touch display and 256 GB of NVMe storage, so is a little more affordable than the Zenbook UX390UAK, at least at launch. Follow this link for more details.
I’d also have the Dell XPS 13 on the list. Yes, it’s heavier at 2.7 lbs, and a little larger, yet it packs a 13.3-inch screen in a very compact body and the increase in screen-estate is actually going to matter in daily use. The XPS also gets a full set of ports, a 60 Wh battery on the Kaby Lake model and performs quite well under load, with little to not throttling, so I feel the hit in portability is justified by what you’re getting in return. Follow this link for more details.
Other options are the LG Gram 13 and a few other thin and very light ultraportables covered in this article.
When we draw the line, I think the Zenbook UX390UA is an excellent ultraportable, but it’s necessarily the best pick for everyone looking for a thin and light computer these days, and here’s why.
First of all, it gets a small screen, which might not suffice for daily use. I’ve been using a 12.5-incher for many years in the past, but after switching to a 13-incher I wouldn’t go back, and even so I think the sweet spot for productivity is around the 14-inch mark.
Second, its dim panel make it difficult to use in bright environments or outdoors, and I find this limitation problematic on a computer that’s supposed to go with me everywhere. Personally, I don’t even use the laptop outside that often, but when I don’t want to struggle.
Third, and what’s actually MY biggest nit with the laptop is the fact that the screen doesn’t lean back past 135 degrees. I lean my laptop on my thighs while on the sofa or in bed and almost never use it at the desk, that’s why the screen on my laptop of choice needs to go back to at least 150 degrees, preferably all the way back to 180.
Fourth, there’s the performance matter. This Zenbook handles everyday tasks buttery smooth, yet when pushed with games and demanding applications the implications of having a Core U hardware in such a compact body will show of.
And then there’s also the average daily-use battery life, as there was no space inside for a big one, the limited IO and even the price, although I don’t think these are necessarily deal-breakers.
These are pretty much the compromises you have to make when going for the Zenbook UX390UAK, so if you’re not able to cope with them, then this laptop is probably not for you.
But who is it for then? Well, for those of you who greatly value portability and aesthetics, and simply want a computer able to handle daily chores flawlessly. For them my recommendation would be to go for a Core i5 configuration, it will be fast enough for your needs and will run a little cooler and more efficient than the Core i7. Still, if you’ll want the 16 GB of RAM you’ll probably have to get the i7 anyway, due to the pre-defined configurations Asus throws at the market.
The Zenbook UX390UA is a great ultraportable, but I feel only a few people would find this the best fit for their needs
So at the end of the day, the Zenbook UX390UAK is a great computer and pretty much unique on the market. If it fits your requirements, you’ll be happy with it, but I can’t stop feeling that the reality is most of you looking for an ultraportable would probably get a better return of your money in some of the slightly larger options out there. Check out our list of the best ultraportables available in stores these days for suggestions.
With that in mind we’ll wrap up this review of the Asus Zenbook UX390UAK here. Let me know what you think about it and get in touch in the comments section if you have any questions or anything to add to the article, I’m around to reply.
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