ZenBook 3

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My primary notebook for the last four years has been the ASUS ZenBook UX31A, a fine system running an Intel Core i7 with 4gig of ram and a 256gig SSD.

However I’ve recently been playing around with some VM’s for Linux and Windows and the 4gig of ram had become a significant hurtle for it.  By the time the OS and the rest of my apps were up and running, I couldn’t load a VM with anything over about 764meg of ram.  That makes it challenging to do some things and so it was time to start looking for a new notebook.

My first instinct was to go straight to the Microsoft store and pick up a Surface 4 Pro, but as this was in April, Microsoft had not yet had their announcement of the new Surface Pro and I was not eager to pick up something I knew was about to be obsoleted.

The other issue with the Surface is of course the price, by the time you get an i7 with 16gig of ram you’re well over the $2k mark and you still have to pick up accessories to make it useful (like a doc and typecover).

With the announcement of the Surface Pro (2017), the other issue is the lack of a USB Type C port.  Microsoft can make all the excuses in the world as to why they didn’t include it, but it’s incredibly short sighted in my opinion.

Beyond that, the Surface Pro is really a tablet, which can be a good thing, but the majority of my work is more laptop oriented and so I decided to take a look around and see what else was out there.

Of course, I’ve been very happy with my ZenBook, so a quick stop at the ASUS website was required.  The ZenBook 3 was released last year and has the specs and size I wanted, however I have to admit the gold highlight kind of put me off of it.  It looks a little gaudy to me, but style is very subjective.

I checked out Dell and HP as well, but there’s a limited market for small, powerful notebooks and so in the end I picked up the ZenBook 3.

Hardware

You can go to the ASUS site and find all kinds of detail on the hardware, but really it doesn’t prepare you for just how small and light the unit really is.  My old Zenbook looks like a luggable from the 90’s in comparison.

It’s running an Intel Core i7, with 16gig ram and a 512gig SSD.  It’s fast and well built.

The display is crisp and bright, with a thin bezel that really fits a much larger screen inside or a smaller chassis than you would expect.  In practical terms the screen is almost as large as the 13.3 inch one from by old ZenBook but the laptop is much smaller.

The hardware is great, but there are a few things you should know before thinking about getting one of these laptops:

  1. Ports: With a laptop this small, ports are at a premium.  And by premium, I mean there are only two of them; 1 USB type C and 1 headphone jack.  That’s it.  It does come with an port expander, which is small and easily accomidated in any pocket in your case, but it is a concern.
  2. Keyboard: Getting the notebook this thin has had a tradeoff in the key travel.  It’s very shallow and takes a bit of use to get comfortable with.  It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but if your a key pounder it may be an issue for you.
  3. Keyboard: No left hand command button.  Well there is but it’s a fn+ctl combo.  I’ve actaully remapped the right ctl key to the command key as I use it quite a bit.
  4. Keyboard: The arrow keys have a slightly weird layout.  The left and right arrows are full sized but the up and down are only half sized.  Weird but not a big deal really.

Software

It’s running Windows 10 of course, but it does come with Windows 10 Pro so that’s a pleasant surprise.  Beyond that, there’s not much to say about the software.  There’s a little bit of bloatware on it that’s easily enough removed, but it’s not too bad overall.

Recommendation

So of course the question is, would I recommend it to someone?

In this case that’s a Yes and No answer.

If your looking for the smallest, lightest, fastest, most powerful notebook, then yes by all means.

However the rub comes with ASUS’s announcement of the ZenBook 3 Deluxe a few weeks ago.  It’s basically a 14″ version of the ZenBook 3 and if I’m honest I’d probably have giving it a serious look if it had been announced before I picked up the 3.

But you can’t wait forever so I’ll be quite happy with the ZenBook 3 for the time being.

Greg

Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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Greg

Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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