Asus unveiled a lot of products at its Zenvolution event, a day before Computex 2016. Among them were the new phones in the form of Zenfone 3 series, a home-assistant robot called Zenbo which was also demoed on stage by Asus Chairman Jonney Shih to rapturous applause and the upgrade to the Transfomer series 2-in-1s.
But one product that really took a lot of the attendees by surprise was the Zenbook 3.
Now, you may ask, that seems like an iterative upgrade to last year’s Zenbook? Well, we’d say you are partly right, because with the Zenbook 3 Asus is gunning for the same user segment that is also considering Apple’s Macbook. But here’s the kicker – unlike the Macbook, the Zenbook 3 does not feature a Core m processor (like its own predecessor) but a relatively high end Intel Core i5/i7 parts.
Apart from this, the Zenbook 3 is also lighter (910 grams) and thinner (11.9-inch) than the Apple Macbook. Just for comparison’s sake, the Macbook is 920 grams and measures 13.2mm. Sure, the Macbook has been around for a while now, but so far there wasn’t any comparable Windows laptop. The design surely seems more than inspired from the Apple Macbook, even with regards to the number of USB Type C ports.
If there was one thing we did not like, then it was the presence of just a single USB Type C port. Specially considering this ultrabook comes with full desktop class graphics. Unless Asus is planning to bundle a boat load of accessories for free with the Zenbook 3, it still carries forth the same major flaw that has been there in the Macbook as well. We are still way too dependent on things such as an extra USB port for mouse and an SD card slot for transferring photos from your digital cameras (not all cameras out there are Wi-fi enabled) and so on.
Having said that, the Zenbook 3 looks quite elegant in terms of design. It comes in three colours – Royal Blue, Rose Gold and Quartz Grey – each of which has a golden coloured chamfering going around the edges. The keypad covers the entire horizontal length when you open the flap, and the speaker section is present just above the keyboard. The track pad which comes with a layer of glass, comes in two variants – one is a plain trackpad and the higher end one comes with a fingerprint scanner for one-touch login. The keypad was quite responsive and offers a decent amount of travel. Asus has also managed to put in a 3mm fan under the hood to ensure that the temperatures of the Intel Core processors remain under check.
The Zenbook 3 comes with a 12.5-inch display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 coating. The display isn’t touch-sensitive, but sports wonderfully thin bezels (just 7.6mm bezels on the sides) which ensures that the Zenbook 3 has a screen to body ratio of around 82 percent, which is the highest for any Asus laptop according to the Taiwanese company. The display looked sharp, although it is really reflective and the black bezel portion did attract some smudges.
On the inside, Asus has given you options depending on your needs. So you get an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB RAM and 256GB SSD for $999, an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB RAM and 512GB for $1499 and finally the top end Intel Core i7 model with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage for $1999. Those are some really impressive specs on an ultrabook that is as thin and light as the Zenbook 3. Asus hasn’t announced any release date for the Zenbook 3 yet, but with a starting price of $999 (approx Rs 68,000), at least on paper, Asus is offering a better value proposition than the current Apple Macbook.
However, the real life performance of the Zenbook 3, specially its heat management and the battery life performance is what will need to be carefully observed, before we can say anything for sure. Asus claims that its Zenbook 3 offers 9 hours of battery life and supports quick charge to let you charge around 60 percent of its battery in just 50 mins. That will need to be seen in a real life usage scenario.
For now, all we can say is that the Zenbook 3 looks the part of an Apple Macbook competitor. And if this leads to a trend as far as the Windows 10 laptops go, then it will surely, hopefully break the sort of pull an Apple Macbook has. We will have to wait and watch how the Zenbook 3 story unfolds till it hits the markets.