The ASUS ZenBook UX330UA-AH55 sports a stylish look, a super svelte build, a gorgeous display and the latest eighth generation ‘Kaby Lake-R’ processor. In a crowded field of ultraportables, it stands out for solid performance and good pricing.
PROS: Latest eighth generation processor. Sleek, modern design. Gorgeous Full HD display. Useful ports -Type C.
CONS: No Ethernet port.
In September of 2016, during a launch event at the floor of IFA in Berlin, Asus showcased a laptop that “solved a problem.” That was the ZenBook UX330UA-AH54, a svelte clamshell laptop, that’s easily the most attractive of the lot. Like most ultraportables, it shares more than just a passing resemblance to Apple’s MacBook Air. Now Asus has introduced an updated follow-up to our Editors’ Choice – from last year called the ASUS ZenBook UX331UA-AS51.
The new model iterates on its predecessor, adding an 8th-generation Intel Core processor, a fingerprint sensor, and USB Type-C support, among other goodies. But goodies aren’t what won awards for previous ZenBooks. They won because they brought solid performance and excellent quality to a price everyone can afford – the same, in this case. Is the UX330UA-AH55 another value champion?
The ZenBook UX330UA-AH55 is identical to the previous model, except for the feature set and other nitties. The specifications point towards a thin, svelte laptop, just half-inch thick – 0.5 by 12.7 by 8.7 inches (HWD). It’s also very light at 2.6 pounds. You’d never tell between the two by just looking at them without a specification sheet in front of you, and I doubt most people could tell the difference even with the specs drawn, when the two are placed side-by-side.
The backlit keyboard has square, chiclet-style keys, but there isn’t enough room on the right side of the deck even for a small number pad. All keys provide fairly shallow travel, but are ultimately comfortable to type on. The large silver touchpad right beneath the keyboard has integrated left- and right-click buttons, which are smooth and responsive.
If you need to carry it around, you can slide it into the Bonvince laptop backpack, which has nicely placed compartments for the power adapter, mouse and other peripherals. It has the same comfortable keyboard, carbon fiber keyboard deck, and one-piece touchpad.
Surrounded by half-inch bezel, the 13.3-inch non-touch screen is bright and crisp thanks to an LED-backlit matte panel with Full HD (1,920-by-1,080) resolution. The screen is further boosted by the IPS technology, alongside wide viewing angles (up to 178 degrees) and color gamut of 72%, making it an impressive panel that you can use for longer periods without eye strain.
Lately, 4K screens have become pretty much standard for high-end desktop-laptops like the Dell XPS 15, but the Full HD is still a safe for daily computing needs. However, if you’re into media creation, then a 4K panel is worth considering as they show more accurate colors. Even so, the display should be good enough for enthusiast-level digital photography and video.
To have a thinner chassis you must do with a few concessions. Just like its predecessor, it gets two full-size USB ports – one on each side. The full-sized HDMI port has also fallen, and in its place, you have a micro-HDMI port on the right side of the laptop.
Most folks will find the USB 3.1 Type-C connector useful, as it allows you power peripherals such as USB monitors and other storage gadgets independently. Also included are an SD card reader and a 3.5mm headset jack, although an Ethernet port is painfully missing. Wireless capabilities include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1.
The 8GB of memory and 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) are identical to what you get on the Acer Swift 7, the HP Spectre 13, the MacBook Pro, and the previous two versions of the XPS 13 Touch. The Asus ZenBook 3 comes with double the memory and storage, but the combo here seems to be the present sweet spot between price and usability for a midrange or high-end ultraportable.
It gives you enough RAM to keep a few apps as well as dozens of browser windows (including smoothly streaming music and video) open simultaneously, and sufficient storage space to house most of the programs you’ll use every day, as well as your projects or movies.
The ZenBook AH55 is among the first releases to sport the latest Kaby Lake-R processors, and based on the success of the previous Kaby Lake processors, we’re looking forward to even better performance. The system is equipped with a quad-core 1.6GHz (turbo up to 3.5GHz) Intel Core i5-8250U processor and 8GB of RAM, plus Intel graphics. Its predecessor was outfitted with a quad-core 2.5GHz Intel (Kaby Lake) Core i5-7200U processor and the same memory and graphics card.
The eighth-generation processor is the latest release and it does crunch number well with strong performance. It adds some much-needed performance, as well as quite a bit of extra battery life over its predecessor ‘Kaby Lake’, which was a sticking point of the previous ZenBook models. What’s truly impressive about this system is how ASUS managed to fit in an 8th-Gen processor and enough memory in such a tiny machine.
The processor spits speeds of between 1.6GHz and 3.1GHz, combined with 8GB memory its ready for most day-to-day computing needs. With a CPU Benchmark score of 7381 points, it sufficient for day-to-day peformance, but not enough to enable the ZenBook AH55 close-in on systems like the Apple MacBook, Dell XPS 13 Touch, and HP Spectre 13. Look at it, the MacBook Air with the same specs costs almost double, and you don’t get the Windows 10 experience.
On the Zenbook UX330UA-AH55 is the integrated HD graphics, typical to midrange ultraportables, which don’t provide much room for 3D gaming. The ZenBook’s Kaby Lake-R processor is ultimately higher than their predecessors, and together with a dual-channel RAM, its performance is almost at par with most dedicated lower mid-range graphics cards. In short, the UX330UA’s gaming capabilities are limited. At low resolution and low to medium quality settings, you can smoothly run games; especially true for games that do not tax the hardware so much. I tested it with hardware-hungry titles like the Witcher 3 and the frame rates were not anything close too good.
For midrange gaming, you might have to look at the ASUS VivoBook M580VD-EB54 which comes with a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 gaming graphic card, or better still the Acer Predator Helios 300 thanks to its potent NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5 graphic card. If we get nitty, the Zenbook AH54’s gaming performance is on par with Apple MacBook Air 13-inch and the Dell XPS 13 Touch, though with slightly negligible differences since none of the three can run high-end 3D games smoothly.
Battery life is spectacular. Thanks to its lithium ion battery pack, the Zenbook UX330UA lasted 11 hours and 43 minutes on our rundown test, eschewing the Dell XPS 15 Touch (9550) (5:56) and even the MacBook Pro 15-Inch Retina Display (2014) (8:55). It may weigh more than the svelte ultraportables, but it lasts nearly 6 hours longer than most competing laptops. This laptop can last a full work day, and then some.
The Bottom Line
The ASUS ZenBook UX330UA-AH55 fulfills its mission very well, standing out a as a sleek, versatile and travel-friendly laptop that performs admirably. The Full HD display looks excellent, making it very appealing even though it doesn’t come with touch support. You’ll turn heads with the ZenBook AH55’s stylish design, and there are a few machines I’d rather travel with more given the whole package.
Save for the newer 8th-Gen Kaby Lake-R processor, this year’s iteration mimics its predecessor, making it a shoo-in for college students and anyone who is always on the move. If you’d like to spend less for a speedy, well designed 13-inch ultraportable laptop with long battery life, the ASUS ZenBook UX330UA should be at the top of your list.