ASUS Zenbook 3 UX390UA Hands-on Review: Finally, A Real Macbook Air Killer

by John Nieves  August 10, 2016

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The term “Macbook Air” killer has been bandied about by Apple’s competitors ever since the firm from Cupertino outed their first ultra-thin notebook. But to be completely blunt, the “killers” turned out to be mere copycats, offering performance that came pretty close to Apple’s offering but never surpassing the original. That’s about to change with ASUS’ Zenbook 3.

ASUS Zenbook 3 UX390UA

  • Intel 7th generation Kaby Lake dual-core i5-7200U / i7-7500U processor
  • 8GB DDR3 1866 MHz or 16 GB DDR3 2133MHz of memory
  • 12.5-inch full HD IPS display, Gorilla Glass 4 protection, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 512GB of storage via M.2 SATA or PCie SSD
  • USB Type-C Connector
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Windows 10

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Initial impressions: thin, light and with plenty of power under the hood

ASUS’ Zenbook series of notebooks have always been incredibly thin, but the Zenbook 3 is probably the thinnest of the bunch. At just 11.9mm, it’s way thinner than most ultrabooks in the market today, though not as thin as HP’s incredibly skinny Spectre 13 model. Anyways, the notebook packs a 12.5-inch full HD IPS display, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4.

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The entire notebook has been carved from a block of aerospace grade aluminum, at least according to ASUS. The company’s trademark Zen-inspired spun-metal finish on the lid is the first thing you’ll notice on it, the second will probably be the gorgeous gold trim on the side.

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The overall footprint of the Zenbook 3 is ridiculously small, weighing less than a kilogram – 910 grams to be precise. Once you put it in your bag, you won’t notice that you’re carrying it at all, which is kind of amazing, considering the hardware beating inside of it, but we’ll get to that a little later.

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Like we mentioned earlier, the display is only full HD, but it packs Gorilla Glass 4 protection which isn’t a common sight in notebooks. The bezel is incredibly small, at just 7.6mm, which gives the display a 82% screen-to-body ratio, which is pretty impressive. The display has good color reproduction, easily readable under the sun and has wide viewing angles – things that are important in any good IPS-equipped notebook.

ASUS Zenbook 3 02

For a notebook as thin as the Zenbook 3, you’d expect the typing experience to be a little wonkey, since there’s not enough space for the keys to travel down, reducing clickyness and the overall tactile feel, and you’d be right. There’s really not much room for the keys to travel down, though the typing experience isn’t as bad as we expected it to be.

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The biggest flaw for the Zenbook 3 is that it uses a single USB Type-C port for connectivity, which means you’ll have to buy the optional adapter to increase your I/O ports or go with wireless accessories. There’s a fingerprint scanner integrated into the trackpad that makes it easier to secure your notebook.

ASUS Zenbook 3 11

Probably the most surprising aspect of the Zenbook 3 for us was how incredibly loud and well defined the sound from its speakers were. Sound quality from notebooks, especially ultrabooks, aren’t exactly the priority for many manufacturers but the Zenbook 3 isn’t your typical ultrabook. Inside its 11.9mm frame sits six, yes six, speakers – two on top, four on the bottom. That speaker setup is caapble of delivering clear, crisp sound, even at max volumes. There’s even a hint of bass in Lil’ Dicky’s $ave Dat Money video, which is incredible considering the overall size of the notebook.

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The Zenbook 3 is the world’s first notebook that has Intel’s brand spanking new, 7th generation processors, dubbed Kaby Lake. It’ll come in two variations – an i5-7200U and i7-7500U CPU – both dual core processors and either 8GB DDR3 1866 MHz or 16 GB DDR3 2133MHz memory. Obviously because of the size of the notebook you’ll have to stick with Intel’s built-in graphics, and storage comes in either 512GB of M.2 SATA or PCie SSDs.

ASUS Zenbook 3 04

During its short time with us the Zenbook 3 impressed us with its speed and its overall portability. The 7th generation Intel processor felt incredibly fast, though typing on the keyboard felt a little weird to be honest, but is workable – you just have to get used to it.

ASUS has pegged the price of the Zenbook 3 at $999, probably for the lower 7th generation i5 model. Unfortunately though we don’t know if that will be the final price of the notebook when it arrives here – we’ll just have to see in the next few weeks.

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    Considering it’s sporting the latest gen of intel, why use ddr3? Why not use ddr4? Some minor mistake also, Kobylake which is written on the specsheet

    it can;’t be a macbook killer if it just follows on the weaknesses of the macbook… the single usb type c port is just a bummer.