LAS VEGAS: ASUS didn't have much of a presence at CES this year, but it did have one of its new laptops on display at the Intel stand, so we took no time in going over to have a good prod at it.
Named the Asus ZenBook 13, the Taiwanese firm's latest laptop is touted as a "revolutionary" Windows 10 laptop because it packs Nvidia graphics and Intel's 8th-gen Core chip into a thin chassis.
Here's our take of the ZenBook 13 after a quickie with it on the show floor.
Design and build
What has always made Asus' ZenBook devices stand out from many other laptops on the crowded gadget market is their ultra-slim, lightweight and high-end designs, making them superior to many other notebook devices out there. The ZenBook 13 is no exception, and builds on this successful design strategy with not only some seriously thin measurements but also an updated hinge design.
The machine is less than 14mm thick, which means while it's not the thinnest on the market, it's definitely up there. And it's not just slender, it's also extremely light. The Asus ZenBook 13 weighs in at a measly 985g. It's likely this was made possible thanks to Asus' aerospace-grade aluminium chassis design and an ultra-thin vapour-chamber cooling system, as seen in the Asus ZenBook Flip S, unveiled last year.
The 360-degree hinge design reminds us of Lenovo's Yoga devices which is pretty much an industry standard these days. Saying that, it works perfectly well, slipping easily between modes with the flick of a wrist.
Build quality is also a strong point for the Asus ZenBook 13, which is essential owing to its flexibility compared to other laptops on the market. Both the keyboard and the screen feel robust and sturdy despite the ZenBook's slim, lightweight construction. Twisting the display in opposite directions at both sides gave us no cause for concern, as it felt sturdy and maintained considerable resistance.
It's worth noting that the ZenBook 13 also features a fingerprint scanner, offering password-free login support courtesy of Microsoft's Windows Hello.
The ZenBook 13's Qwerty keyboard feels great to type on and was a pleasure to use in our short tests, though we'd have to try it out properly by constructing long documents or complex spreadsheets.
As for the trackpad, it seems to work well enough with no noticeable hiccups during testing.
The ZenBook 13 touts a rather impressive 13.3in display, which will be offered in Full HD or 4K UHD when it hits the market. Obviously, prices will be reflected in whichever you go for. In our hands-on, we got to check out the 4K model and as you can imagine, all images, whether movie clips, photographs web pages, looked brilliantly clear, sharp and vibrant. It includes multi-touch support for using Windows 10 with your fingers or a stylus - ideal if you're going to be using it more in tablet mode.
As you'd expect on such a high-resolution screen, pixels aren't visible, even on close inspection, and viewing angles are good. Moving images appear sharp and, on first tests, the touchscreen commands seem very fluid. We enjoyed using the touchscreen to skip between tabs and apps, for example. The brightness of the ZenBook 13 appears bright enough for general day-to-day use. However, it could be argued that the native 4K resolution on the ZenBook 13 is not necessary for a screen of this size, as a lower resolution would still give it plenty of screen real estate without making onscreen text appear too small.
But we aren't complaining at the high standard of the screen, as we can imagine movies look fantastic on it.
Our favourite aspect of the ZenBook's display has to be its 'NanoEdge' technology. Just like the Dell XPS 13, the NanoEdge tech sees the screen surrounded by extremely thin bezels measuring just 6.11mm on each side, offering an 80 per cent screen-to-body ratio, giving a more attractive and premium feel.
The Asus ZenBook 13 arrives equipped with Intel's eigth-generation quad-core Core i5 and i7 CPUs, up to 16GB RAM and up to 1TB PCIe SSD storage, running Windows 10 S. However, best of all, it also manages to squeeze in a discrete GPU in the form of Nvidia's GeForce MX150 with 2GB of VRAM. We were absolutely blown away by such high specs for such a tiny lightweight device.
Unfortunately, we didn't have long enough to test its performance capabilities during our brief hands-on time, but it seemed very responsive to commands, probably due to its impressively fast CPU, and we found that the device offered an all-around fluid experience and appeared very responsive to commands, including touch input.
The ZenBook 13 has also been specially-designed with a high-capacity lithium-polymer battery, touted as offering a massive 15 hours of battery life - which is great for a laptop of this size. We are looking forward to seeing how true these claims are when we review the ZenBook 13 over a longer period of time.
On the connectivity front, there's two USB-A 3.1 ports, one USB-C port, full-sized HDMI and a microSD card reader.
The Asus ZenBook 13 offers a fresh and innovative design in the Windows laptop market and, in our short experience with it, we found it fun to use with fast and responsive performance.
Asus hasn't yet provided pricing or availability for the ZenBook 13, beyond confirming that it will be available in the first half of 2018. Once it arrives on shelves, the all-metal chassis will be available in Royal Blue or Slate Grey, both which are said to offer a "luxurious crystal-like gloss coating". We, er, can't wait. µ
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