Asus is not the first name that comes to your mind when thinking of laptops and this is exactly what they are trying to change with their Zenbook series. Asus had come up with Zenbook UX305F last year which most of you might remember as the “MacBook Air killer”. It might not have killed the MacBook but it certainly brought great respect to Asus as a laptop manufacturer. The UX305F was lightweight, powerful and inexpensive compared to its competition. But its USP, however, was its slimness. That changes with the Zenbook UX303UB series of laptops. This particular series of Zenbooks is meant to provide you with much more power with a minor increase in thickness.

 

Both the models of Zenbook series have just received an update to Intel’s sixth-generation Core i and Core m processors, and the UX303 also gets Nvidia’s current-gen graphics.

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We got a short time to spend with the Zenbook UX303UB and this is how it fared:

Body and Design – Zenbook UX303UB

While the Zenbook UX303UB is not as slim as the UX305F, it is still a highly portable laptop. The metal body Zenbook UX303UB weighs at a meager 1.45kg and is just about 20mm thick. Asus floats the Zenbook UX303UB in 2 main colors namely, Smoky Brown and Icicle Gold. We got our hands on the latter for review which can be a bit in-your-face if you are used to using a laptop of a more subtle color. The lid of the Zenbook UX303UB has the concentric circle pattern which is a trademark of Asus. The finish is completely smooth and you do not feel these circles when touching the lid.

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Coming to the build quality, we have no complaints! The Zenbook UX303UB is built solidly and you can lift the lid with one finger while the base stays put on the ground. This is something even high-end laptops are unable to achieve. The hinges feel great and the screen does not flex. There is a lot of bezel space along the screen of the Zenbook UX303UB and you can see some ripples on the screen when you press here. But nothing worth being concerned about.

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The Zenbook UX303UB has two USB 3.0 ports and a much-needed SD card slot on the left side.

2x USB 3.0 PORTS AND SD CARD SLOT
2x USB 3.0 PORTS AND SD CARD SLOT

and on the right side you have a USB 3.0 port, HDMI port, Mini-DisplayPort, a 3.5mm audio socket, and DC power inlet for charging.

1x USB 3.0, Mini DISPLAY PORT, HDMI PORT, charging supply and
1x USB 3.0, Mini DISPLAY PORT, HDMI PORT and charging supply and 3.5mm audio socket

So many ports on a slim laptop like the Zenbook UX303UB are nothing short of impressive. But it does not stop here, Asus earns some brownie points as they have included 2 accessories in the package. These are a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, and one Mini-DP-to-VGA adapter.

 

The Speakers are from Bang and Olufsen and are situated on the left and right edge respectively. These are downward firing so they would sound better on a flat reflective surface like a desk to an uneven and absorbing surface like one’s bed.

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As one opens the lid of the Zenbook UX303UB, they can notice that the keyboard is nice and spacious with keys spaced out keeping in mind optimal usage of the characteristic. The trackpad has an exceptionally large surface area and is a joy to use. The power button is situated at the top right side of the keyboard and at times can be hit by chance. But you soon get used to the using the Zenbook UX303UB. The keyboard on this laptop is backlit and that is much appreciated. You can set the intensity of the backlit as per need from the 3 choices given.

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The box also contains a cloth, a microfiber cloth, a velcro tie and the connection accessories we mentioned before. Asus also throws in a sleek sleeve to carry your Zenbook UX303UB in.

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We really liked the attention that has been given to giving the right accessories to this laptop. The charger of the Zenbook UX303UB has a square brick, which is a bit unusual. The sleeve which is included in the box does not have space for any other accessory to be put alongside.

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Specifications and Hardware – Zenbook UX303UB

We think it is important to note that while Asus may be selling the same notebook in other parts of the world, the specs of the India variant can vary as Asus tries to make the price competitive for Indian markets by downgrading some of the features. A few of the features have been snipped off here and there from the international version. The 3200 x 1800p screen and SSD are some of these things.

Even with these small trims, the Zenbook UX303UB Indian version is nowhere a disappointment! The Zenbook UX303UB that we got came with a sixth-generation Intel Core-i5 6200U, which has two physical cores running at 2.3Ghz which can be clocked up to 2.8GHz using turbo boost. There’s 8GB of RAM on Zenbook UX303UB which we got for review and this can be expanded to 12GB.

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Now, from the cousin of the MacBook Air Killer, we would expect some specs worth flaunting. The storage on the Zenbook UX303UB is certainly not one of those features. The Zenbook UX303UB Indian variant that we got came with a huge 1TB of storage which is good in terms of space but with the tech world progressing, we would have liked the Zenbook UX303UB to have an SSD, that would have made it future proof to some extent.

Downward firing speakers on the side
Downward firing speakers on the side

The Zenbook UX303UB also has an HD webcam for video calling/chatting and 2GB Nvidia GeForce 940M Graphics engine.

You get a 1920 x 1080p full HD display on this laptop which is really good for a 13-inch laptop. There is no touch input (personally never liked that anyways) and the added plus is that the screen is matte. Hence, the reflection of light is cut to a minimum. In terms of wireless connectivity, the Zenbook UX303UB integrates Wi-Fi b/g/n/AC and Bluetooth 4.0.

 

Software – Zenbook UX303UB

The Zenbook UX303UB comes with 64-bit Windows 10 Home. There are a few preloaded programs which demand to be acknowledged. These are Microsoft Office trial, McAfee LiveSafe, and Dropbox. Be ready for a lot of pop-ups from the last two programs on that list! On the Zenbook UX303UB, you also have Asus’s own Web storage and Live Update tools which display alerts seldom. There is a preloaded program called Smart Gesture which can replicate Windows control panel for touchpad controls. This feature also lets you connect to an Android app which can allow you to use a smartphone as a wireless trackpad.

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There are a bunch of other apps which come pre-loaded on the Zenbook UX303UB. These include WPS Office, Evernote, Flipboard, Twitter, TripAdvisor, Cyberlink PowerDirector and PhotoDirector, Gameloft Games Store, WildTangent Games, and Asus’ Giftbox storefront.

 

For some untold reason, Windows 10 on the Zenbook UX303UB was set to 150 % UI scaling by default. This makes everything look a bit out of place and funny and can cause trouble with some older software. We easily scaled it back to 100% but we felt that the ideal scaling on this laptop would be 125%.

Performance – Zenbook UX303UB

This is the USP of the Zenbook UX303UB and we were quite happy to say that it lived up to our expectations. The sound was good and the screen was evenly lit throughout our tests. The keyboard has an optimized layout and it was an absolute delight using this laptop for extensive typing. The trackpad is quite spacious and responsive but the left and right click, if clicked near the center, tend to make your cursor jump a few inches, this was the only problem we faced with the usability of the Zenbook UX303UB.

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When it comes to hardware, Zenbook UX303UB is clearly a premium device. It is worthy to note that the Zenbook UX303UB has the same GPU as the gaming laptops like HP Omen and Acer Aspire V3-574G-77X8. The CPU of the Zenbook UX303UB is a 6th Gen i5 processor which we felt is more than good enough for daily usage.

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We ran some tests and were quite satisfied with the performance of the Zenbook UX303UB. The first test that we ran was PCMark’s Home and Work tests, on which we got a score of 2581 and 2598 points respectively. Then the POVRay trace time gave a time of 7 minutes, 27 seconds. Also, the Cinebench score for the Zenbook UX303UB came to 287 which clearly shows a good CPU performance.  made up for that nicely, showing strong CPU performance.

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Not to miss out on the Zenbook UX303UB ‘s discreet GPU we ran the 3DMark Fire Strike which surprisingly gave us 1371 points overall and Fire Strike Extreme earned the laptop a score of 692. We also ran the Unigine Valley test, which ran at an Avg. of 16.9fps at 1920x1080p with the settings been set at “High” and AA turned off. This means games which are slightly older would do great on this laptop.

 

We could clearly hear the fans of the Zenbook UX303UB being fired up when the laptop was being put to tests. Also, the area beneath the keyboard, under our wrists also appeared to get a little warm, but nothing too concerning. Otherwise, the Zenbook UX303UB was cool and fluidic mostly. On a fully charged battery, the UX303UB showed a battery life of over 7 hours which on such a powerful system is really good. Casual working and surfing would allow the battery to last this long. However if more stressful work is being done we would suggest you stay plugged in.

The ZENBOOK UX303UB is approx. as thin as a Tic Tac box
The ZENBOOK UX303UB is approx. as thin as a Tic Tac box

Pros

  • Thin and light
  • Lots of connectivity options
  • Great performance
  • Matte screen
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • No SSD
  • Many pre-installed programs

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Verdict – Zenbook UX303UB

The USP of the UX303UB is the power that it gives while still being quite portable and thin not to mention with great aesthetics and an amazing keyboard. The laptop looks and feels fantastic to use even for the long duration of hours. If your budget is around Rs 70,000 and your requirements are that of a powerful laptop which is extremely portable and stylish, the Zenbook UX303UB is hands down the laptop that you need.

Price (MRP): Rs. 71,490 (approx)

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
8.5
Display
8
Performance
8
Battery Life
8
Value for money
7.5
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When not geeking over tech related stuff, found trekking in the mountains with his trusted Canon by his side.