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Asus Zenbook UX303

11/19/2014 3:15:39 AM
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The Asus Zenbook series started out a few years ago as a line of ultrabooks - very portable thin-and-light notebooks.

Though the series has since expanded to include heavier models with 15-inch displays, the design is mostly unchanged. These laptops have rigid yet lightweight aluminium chassis. Their lids have the same striking pattern made up of concentric circles.

 

However, last year's Zenbook UX301 arguably went a bit overboard - it has Corning Gorilla glass on the lid and an illuminated Asus logo.

The latest model, the UX303, does not have the fancy glass and light. In fact, it looks similar to a 13-inch Zenbook from two years ago. It is slim and weighs 1.45kg.

Its specifications are also different. Chief among them is the 13-inch touchscreen, which now has an ultra-high 3,200 x 1,800-pixel resolution. The UX301 has a 2,560 x 1,440-pixel display.

However, the UX303 is actually not in the same class as the premium UX301, which was priced at $2,798. The newcomer costs $1,698 and it is soon evident where the cost savings come from.

First, the UX303 has a hybrid hard drive. This is a normal hard drive, but with a small cache of flash memory to improve the responsiveness of the system. On paper, it is inferior to the Raid-configured solid-state drive on the UX301.

As a result, the UX303 scored just 2,644 points in PCMark 7, a general system benchmark. Meanwhile, the UX301 scored more than 5,000 points. This performance chasm exists solely because of the choice of internal storage - both laptops use similar Haswell-based Intel Core i7 chips with 8GB of RAM.

With its high resolution, you would think the in-plane switching screen on the UX303 would be immune to criticism. But its colour accuracy seems off and images look rather dull. The screen could also be brighter.

The 3,200 x 1,800-pixel resolution comes with its own problems, such as minor display formatting issues due to incompatible apps.

While the UX303 has a mid-range GeForce GT 840M chip that provides decent performance, its screen resolution is not practical for games as it is simply too taxing on the graphics chip. But if you lower it to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels or below and ease up on the graphics setting, you will likely be able to run the latest games.

The backlit keyboard has decent key travel for a slim laptop. It is complemented by a large touchpad that makes it easy to execute multi-touch gestures.

The battery lasted around 4hr 10min, which is on the low side. The high-resolution screen and dedicated graphics chip could be the culprits for the drain.

TECH SPECS

Price: $1,698

Processor: Intel Core i7-4510U (2GHz)

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT 840M 2GB DDR3

RAM: 8GB

Screen: 13.3 inches, 3,200 x 1,800 pixels

Connectivity: 3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, SD card slot, combo audio jack

Battery: 50 watt-hour


RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 4/5

Performance: 3/5

Value for money: 4/5

Battery life: 3/5

Overall: 4/5

 
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