ASUS has refreshed their ZenBook line with a new addition: the ultralight ASUS ZENBOOK UX303UA-YS51 ultrabook. It’s a direct successor to the acclaimed UX303LA model, which I’ve covered in an earlier post, and although differences are small, some improvements are to be expected in key areas like battery life.
The ASUS ZENBOOK UX303UA-YS51 comes with an industry standard Intel Core i5-6200U dual core processor. Launched in late 2015, this CPU has a cache size of 3 megabytes, a frequency range between 2.3 GHz and 2.8 GHz and a thermal design power of 15 Watts – a standard processor for ultrabooks which delivers a healthy blend of performance and efficiency. Benchmark tests rate this CPU at just under 4000 points. You’ll be able to load 4K content and play it seamlessly, multitask various programs and run more advanced and resource intensive ones like the Adobe suite of specialized apps.
The ASUS also comes with 8 gigabytes of system memory. It’s unclear how the DDR3L memory sticks are installed, but if it’s anything like its predecessor the total amount could be doubled by the user by adding an additional 8 gigabyte stick. Mind you, the standard memory size will likely be plentiful for any needs you may have, so going up to 16 gigs may as well be overkill.
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Storage capacity hasn’t been improved with the new UX303UA-YS51 model. It still has 128 gigabytes of available space, which honestly isn’t that impressive for a premium ultrabook nowadays. You won’t be able to store music or video libraries on it, but you can using an external hard drive or using their own technology, the ASUS WebStorage cloud solution for about 30$/year. However, in spite of the limited storage space, the blazing fast SSD will make programs and Windows open in mere seconds, so there’s that.
The ASUS doesn’t have a dedicated video card, but instead comes with an integrated Intel HD graphics card. You’ll probably be able to play some online MMOs and older titles at decent settings, but any game newer than 2014 is likely off the list. However, 4K content is handled well thanks to Intel’s 6th generation CPU/GPU technology.
The ASUS ZENBOOK UX303UA-YS51 has a 13.3 inch glossy screen with an IPS display able to render a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (full HD). This display is overall better than wheat you’d get in similar priced models, having a contrast ratio of 770 to 1 and a wide range gamut. Furthermore, the vivid and rich colors aren’t washed out when changing the viewing angle due to the IPS technology. Be aware that the glossy screen will make it harder to use in bright sunshine conditions.
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ASUS has been generous when installing interface ports for the new ASUS ZENBOOK UX303UA-YS51:
- 3 x USB 3.0 ports
- 1 x HDMI-out
- 1 x mini Display port
- 1 x audio combo jack
- 1 x SD card reader
The ZenBook comes with an integrated 802.11ac wireless card with built-in Bluetooth 4.0 technology attached. No Ethernet options are available, but I don’t think that’s a problem for anyone interested in this ultrabook, since it’s designed to work on the go anyway.
The ASUS ZENBOOK UX303UA-YS51 has some interesting extras that I think are worth mentioning:
- Backlit keyboard – You’ll be able to type without making mistakes even in dimly lit spaces.
- Premium sound – Bang & Olufsen ICEpower and SonicMaster technology are combined to offer an impressive audio experience through deeper bass and crisper high notes.
- Slight redesign – ASUS have made small and discrete design changes to the ZenBook. They’ve managed to make it even more thin – only 0.7 inches – and kept the brushed aluminum casing design choice while changing the color scheme to a quiet brown accent.
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Portability and battery life
For a 13.3″ laptop with such specs, the ASUS can be considered lightweight, weighing just 3.2 pounds. It’s not the most easy to carry device, but I think it strikes a sweet spot of compromise between size, power and portability.
Battery life has slightly been improved since the previous model, now being able to hold a charge for up to 8 hours – better, yet not spectacular in my opinion. Sure, it will work unplugged for a whole work day’s worth, but for an ultrabook I would have liked to see that number soar to at least 10 hours. Still, not bad considering the hardware you get for the money – a bit under $800 at the time of this review
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Although some improvements have been made to the ZenBook, they aren’t big enough for me to consider it as a different laptop altogether. This refreshed model manages to keep up with the times and today’s needs and I think the slight and barely noticeable redesign choices are a testament to the wild success this series has enjoyed until now and will likely continue to do so.
It’s perfect for travelling professionals because of it’s mix of power and portability, great for home office users thanks to its flexibility and great price and good for college users who need more power and a timeless design from their devices.