There’s a saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – but not for Asus. The ZenBook 3 is the Taiwanese electronics firm’s latest 12.5 inch MacBook-killing Ultrabook. It doesn’t just so much imitate as it does completely destroy Apple’s ultrathin laptop in specs and price.
Weighing in at a scant 2 pounds and 11.9mm (0.46-inches) thick, it’s both thinner and lighter than 0.51-inches (13.1mm) and 2.03 pounds (0.92kg) Apple MacBook. And while Apple had to sacrifice key travel and performance components to make its laptop as thin as possible, Asus says nay to all of that and goes with the full might of Intel Core i7 processors and a lower price to boot.
If you’ve seen a Rose Gold MacBook before, this particularly colored ZenBook should look awfully familiar. Both machines share an almost identical silhouette, that said there are some distinct differences if you look closely enough.
For one thing the ZenBook 3 is thinner, but it’s also a bit wider and not as deep thanks to its 16:9 screen ratio as opposed to the 16:10 Apple MacBook. Asus has also reversed the position of its ports, moving the charging/data USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port to the right and headset jack on the left.
The ZenBook’s distinctive spun metal finish makes a return and you’ll also find a radial pattern concealing two of the laptop’s four speakers – the other two are located on the machine’s underside.
The model 3 also takes Asus’ diamond cut chamfered edges to the nth degree. You’ll find the chamfered edge starts on the inside at the top of the screen lid, it rolls onto the outside as it makes its way to the hinge.
MacBook imitations aside, the ZenBook 3 is a sharp little Ultrabook. It features an all-metal body, but Asus used a specially blended form of aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, which it claims to be 40 percent stronger than the material used in other Ultrabooks.
Aesthetics aren’t what really set the ZenBook 3 apart, it’s hard core specs that do. Despite also being thinner and lighter than the ZenBook UX305, this ultra-slim system is a powerhouse starting with Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD for $999 (about £687, AU$1,379).
Users can also get a richly specced machine with an added Core i7 processor, 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM and an added fingerprint scanner built into the corner of the touchpad for $1,999 (about £1,374, AU$2,760).
While, other notebooks this thin have often gone with Intel Core M-series chips, Asus managed to get away with Core I-series CPUs thanks to integrating a newly developed 3mm fan. The 12.5-inch display has also been fitted with a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass 4 for extra durability, though, screen resolution is limited to Full HD only.
Asus claims users can expect nine hours of usage and they should be able to top off an empty machine back to 60% in 49 minutes thanks to fast charging through the USB-C port.
The Asus ZenBook 3 sounds like a winner on paper. How can you go wrong with Intel Core I-series power in a two-pound laptop? I’m chiefly wary of battery life and how much Asus really managed to squeeze into such a thin design and it’s something I look forward to finding out in my full review.
Additional reporting and photography by Lucy Wang