Hands-on review: We take a look at the new ZenBook 3 Deluxe, unveiled at CES 2017.
Bigger isn’t always better, but with the ZenBook 3 Deluxe, a bit of extra size and weight will make all the difference.
This 14-inch device is, spec for spec, very similar to the ZenBook 3 I reviewed last year, but takes some of that model's biggest problems, including unpredictable battery life, a lack of ports and a slightly strange keyboard, and solves them.
The UX490UA comes equipped with a 14-inch Full HD display surrounded by a relatively thin bezel. It’s basically a stretched-out ZenBook 3 with the same curved corners, sharp edges, spun-metal finish and gold trim of its smaller sibling. This is no bad thing; this design scales really well. It’s still super-light, weighing in at just 1.1kg with a thickness of just 13mm. It’s seriously impressive for a device of this size.
Video: Hands-on with the Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe
There are more ports than the ZenBook 3 as well. There are a total of three USB-C connectors, all of which can be used for charging. Two of the ports support ThunderBolt 3 for connecting high-performance displays and storage, while the third is a plain USB 3.1 connector. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack, but no SD card slot.
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The backlit keyboard has a slightly deeper 1.2mm of travel, which I think makes a big difference to the typing feel. I instantly felt more comfortable with it than I did with the ZenBook 3 and didn’t find myself making too many typos in my brief hands-on time. The touchpad, meanwhile, feels fine and responsive and the useful fingerprint scanner on the top-right corner makes a welcome return.
There are four separate speakers inside the ZenBook 3 Deluxe. Considering how impressive the audio on the original ZenBook 3 was, I’m optimistic these will be even better.
Some might be disappointed by the screen’s Full HD resolution. I feel your pain, although there’s nothing wrong with the display here. Its glossy GorillaGlass looks great, and colours pop in the same way they did on the ZenBook 3. Asus says it’ll cover 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, which will be great for photographers and people who enjoy vibrant colours.
The internal components are very similar to the ZenBook 3's. You’ll get a choice of Intel Core i5-7200U or i7-7500U processors, both of which are dual-core and well suited to photo editing and moderate office work. They’re paired with 16GB of DDR4 memory running at 2,133MHz, super-fast PCIe SSDs up to 1TB in capacity. There’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 as well.
The 46Wh battery is said to last for up to 10 hours, but given that its capacity is only 2Wh more than the ZenBook 3, has the same internal components and has a bigger screen, I think this will be optimistic. The saving grace could be that the processor has more room to breathe, meaning the cooling system will consume a little less energy, but this will only come to bear in my benchmarks when I get one in for a proper review. Watch this space.
Shipping for around £1,600 including VAT (proper UK price to be confirmed), the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is fabulously expensive, overtaking the base-model MacBook Pro and just undercutting the Touch Bar edition. With that big spend you get one of the thinnest 14-inch laptops on the block, along with excellent dual-core performance.
You don’t get the pro-quality screen, faultless build or extra ThunderBolt port of the Touch Bar MacBook Pro, though, so there are compromises here. I’ll assess how the two compare when I get one in for a full review.