I reviewed the first ZenBook 3 in early 2017, and aside from a few niggles, it was a superb Ultrabook. The ZenBook 3 Deluxe is a better version, and in its latest incarnation, it looks like something very special. On paper, at least.
The numbers never tell the full story, but what ASUS has delivered is a truly, brilliant Ultrabook. Here's why.
Reviewing the original ASUS ZenBook 3
Much of the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is similar to the first model. It's a little smaller and less powerful, but the design and many aspects are very much the same as on this Deluxe model.
So for a little bit of background, check out our review of the first ZenBook 3.
ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe tech specs as tested
|Category||ZenBook 3 Deluxe|
|Processor||Quad-core Intel Core i7-8550U
|Storage||512GB PCIe NVMe SSD|
|Graphics||Intel UHD 620|
|Display resolution||1080p non-touch
|Wireless||802.11ac Wi-Fi; IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n compatible|
|Ports||Twp Thunderbolt 3, USB-C 3.1, and 3.5mm headset jack|
|Dimensions||12.95 inches x 8.42 inches x 0.51 inches|
ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe hardware and design
The biggest external difference between the Deluxe and the regular ZenBook 3 is that it's bigger. The model I have is the same gorgeous blue and gold color scheme that you see in all the press photos. ASUS's trademark concentric circle design is on the lid, and it's impossible not to be impressed by the appearance of this laptop.
The increased size means not only a larger display but more ports. The original ZenBook 3 was hampered by only having a single USB-C connector, and even though ASUS includes a dongle in the box, the Deluxe also expands to three ports, two of which are Thunderbolt 3.
More space means more ports, more speakers and more power
The display on the deluxe increases to 14-inches though remains at 1080p without touch. But the added space also means there's a little more breathing room on either side of the keyboard. It's not cramped anymore, and you get a nice sized touchpad with an integrated fingerprint scanner for Windows Hello.
More space also means more speakers. The Harman Kardon tuned audio system now packs four speakers, two facing down and two facing up between the keyboard and the display. They sound pretty good, and when you're on the road binging some Netflix, they're perfect.
Inside is where things really start to impress. The latest refresh to the ZenBook 3 has a new quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). This is one fast Ultrabook.
ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe keyboard and display
The display on the Deluxe is up to 14-inches, over the 12.5-inches on the regular model, while maintaining 1080p resolution. It would have been easy to slap on a high-resolution display, but at this size, it's no deal breaker. Especially if it's a nice 1080p display, which this is. ASUS has been known to cut corners with some of its display panels, but the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is one of the nicest looking I've ever seen from the Taiwanese manufacturer.
It's covered in Gorilla Glass 5, and you don't have a matte, anti-glare finish, so you'll get a bit of reflection. Colors pop, and the viewing angles are top notch. But I would like it to be a little brighter when it's on its maximum setting, especially with a glossy display. The display also doesn't fold back very far.
Running the ZenBook 3 Deluxe through a colorimeter test with the Datacolor Spyder 5 Pro yields positive results. ASUS claims 100 percent sRGB coverage and my tests show that this panel is only 95 percent, but there could easily be variations in manufacturing. Calibration out of the box is also OK, a tad on the cool side, with the colorimeter adding back a touch of warmth that makes skin tones more natural looking.
I love the keyboard. The 1.2mm key travel is excellent, and the keys feel quite firm. There's no real flex around the keyboard area and no sign of any mushiness when typing.
The keyboard layout is perfect for a laptop of this size, too. Everything is where you'd expect to find it, and importantly, there's no weirdness with the cursor keys. Everything is backlit with adjustable lighting levels, or you can turn it off entirely.
The trackpad is both Precision and a dream to use. The surface is smooth, the trackpad is responsive and it has left and right click buttons. The trackpad is where you also find the fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello. It's fast and seems to be very accurate, failing only when a certain reviewer had part of his lunch on his hands.
ASUS ZenBook 3 performance
The performance is one of the most impressive parts of the ZenBook 3 Deluxe. Sure, it's bigger than the regular ZenBook 3 which gives more room for more stuff, but it's hardly a large laptop. Thanks to Intel's 8th Gen processors, you can now have a quad-core i7 in your ZenBook 3 Deluxe, and that's impressive.
WIthout dedicated graphics, of course, there's only so far you can go with it. Creators and gamers will still want to look elsewhere, but for the typical Ultrabook user, there's more than enough. You also get 16GB of RAM with that processor, and now a properly fast NVMe SSD. Besides the display, SSD speeds have been another area ASUS has a tendency to lag behind the competition. But not here.
The ZenBook 3 absolutely flies, with a fast CPU and SSD
Running through some benchmarks that's easy to see. Putting it through CrystalDiskMark to test the read and write capabilities of the SSD, we saw read speeds of 2,922 MBps and write speeds just under 1,500 MBps. On read, it outperforms the Samsung 960 Evo in my desktop PC, which is impressive.
The Geekbench 4 CPU test yields impressive results of 4,743 on single-core and 14,391 on multi-core. For multi-core, it actually comes out a little ahead of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and is on par with the Dell XPS 13 across the board.
The Geekbench 4 OpenGL GPU test yields a 22,870 score, which is naturally a lot lower than dedicated graphics, but still strong for an Intel integrated GPU.
What sadly doesn't perform particularly well on the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is the battery. It's only a 46Wh unit which in practice has only been good for six hours or so mixed usage in my testing. The original 12-inch ZenBook 3 had a 40Wh battery, so you're not really getting much extra with the added size at all.
It does at least charge over USB-C, so if you have a powerful enough portable battery pack you don't necessarily need to pack the charger, but a larger battery would have been icing on the cake.
ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe bottom line
The ZenBook 3 wasn't perfect, but it was very good. The ZenBook 3 Deluxe also isn't perfect, but it's exceptionally good. If it had a larger battery, it would be almost impossible to fault in any meaningful way. It's got a great display, a good keyboard, it's small but powerful, and it's not particularly expensive for an Ultrabook in this class.
- Superfast SSD.
- Great CPU performance.
- Gorgeous design.
- Nice looking display.
- Underwhelming battery life.
- Display could be brighter.
- Display hinge doesn't go back far enough.
The original ZenBook was more of a direct competitor to Apple's 12-inch MacBook than it was some of the leading Windows Ultrabooks, but the Deluxe deserves to be considered with the very best of them.