Asus has well and truly committed to the ultra-premium end of the laptop market, producing one of the most expensive Ultrabooks you can buy in the UK. A larger version of the ZenBook 3 I reviewed at the end of 2016, the Deluxe model increases screen size and improves connectivity.
For all its graces – and the ZenBook 3 Deluxe has many – its extremely high price will prove limiting for many, even after you factor in its svelte design as a key selling point.
Prices of the ZenBook 3 Deluxe start at £1200 for a Core i5 model, increasing to £1800 for the top-spec Core i7.
Design-wise, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is probably Asus’ finest work to date. The spun-metal lid, blue body and gold highlights come together to spectacular effect, especially in the right light. The overall finish will surely draw some admiring glances from colleagues wielding classic Dell Latitudes and the like.
It isn’t all about its paint-job, either. This device weighs in at a svelte 1.1kg and, when closed, has a depth of just 13mm. Despite its 14-inch form factor, the ultra-narrow “NanoEdge” screen bezel means the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is happily swallowed up by my 30-litre backpack to the extent that I’m not always 100% certain I’m carrying it. The supplied – and rather nice – sleeve will ensure you can keep your laptop pristine, even if it’s sitting besides numerous items in your bag.
The three data ports on this laptop might look identical, but they actually differ in function. All three are USB-C, but two of them also support up to 40Gbps data transfers and DisplayPort connections to desktop monitors using ThunderBolt 3. The third port supports USB 3.1 gen 2, which offers a maximum speed of 10Gbps.
Asus provides a pair of adapters in the box, in the form of a regular USB-A port for your legacy kit, along with an HDMI adapter for your current monitor.
Fit and finish is mostly good. I wasn’t a fan of the plastic-feeling wrist-rest that featured on the original ZenBook 3, and that complaint remains here. Perhaps Asus has made this choice to maintain the lightness of the device, but the plasticky sound it delivers when typing and the slight flex simply take away from what is otherwise a robust-feeling laptop. The metal lid, meanwhile, proves sturdy.
The keyboard is plenty big enough, with large chiclet keys that are easy to reach, and no layout oddities. Well, except for one: the power button sits flush with the rest of the keys in the top-right corner. It’s harder to press than the keys around it, but I did hit it on one occasion instead of the Delete key. Luckily, by default, it just puts the laptop to sleep, so I didn’t lose any work. It’s something I became accustomed to the more I used the device.
Sign up for the newsletter
Get news, competitions and special offers direct to your inbox
There’s gold/yellow key backlighting, and there are status lights for Airplane Mode and Caps Lock. The top row of F-keys double up as various shortcuts, including screen brightness and volume control, but there’s no room for media button functionality, which is a little disappointing.
The keyboard feels a little shallow and doesn’t offer the tactile delights of Apple’s Butterfly keys, nor the depth of Lenovo’s ThinkPads. It’s fine, just not exceptional.
The touchpad is Microsoft Precision-certified and supports all of Windows 10’s built-in gestures. But Precision doesn’t mean perfection, and I found the physical click sometimes caused the cursor to jump a few pixels across the screen. I also found it slow to respond to more subtle finger movements. While it certainly isn’t a bad touchpad, it’s far from the best that I’ve used.
Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe – Screen, audio and webcam
The screen might only be a Full HD panel, but what it lacks in pixels it makes up for in vibrancy, brightness and all-round experience. Even without digging out my calibration tool, it’s plainly obvious this is a quality screen, with deep, rich colours assisted by the glossy Gorilla Glass 5 coating. The thin bezel helps to draw your eyes into the screen, rounding off an excellent experience.
The screen covers a decent, if not exceptional, 82% of the sRGB colour gamut, but it doesn’t go out of its way to cover the photographer-friendly Adobe RGB gamut at all. It rises to an excellent 308 nits maximum brightness, and contrast is excellent at 1316:1, thanks to some very deep blacks.
The speakers are fine for such a thin laptop, and sound their best when the laptop is on a solid surface – such as a desk. On softer surfaces such as knees, audio is clear but lacks any depth. Don’t expect the clarity and depth of the MacBook Pro, however.
The webcam is dreadful, offering astonishingly fuzzy-looking images in even ideal lighting conditions. It’s barely acceptable for casual video chats, let alone proper business conference calls, and for what should be the ultimate executive laptop, this is fairly unforgivable.