The ASUS ZenBook lineup has been renown for its slim and portable devices some of which even provide enough power to carry out CPU and GPU intensive tasks. The device at hand, the ZenBook UX303UB, is the living proof of that. About a year ago we had the chance to review the Broadwell-equipped model and despite some little drawbacks, we were quite impressed by the overall user experience.
Although the new UX303UB looks exactly like its predecessor, there are a few notable changes in the screen department and in the storage configurations. The changes are mostly good, though, but what’s really important is that the new version sticks to the same slim, premium and portable design while maintaining the same performance/price ratio as before. And that’s exactly the key selling point of this product. Nevertheless, we expect some design limitations coming along because fitting a full-sized GeForce 940M GPU and a Core i7-6500U CPU inside a 13.3-inch form factor with an absurdly thin design is not an easy job. Let’s see how that turns out in reality.
The notebook ships in a cool-looking box with all the usual user manuals, DVD with drivers, a cable tie, and an AC adapter for charging. There are also two dongles for LAN and VGA connectors since the ZenBook lacks both.
Design and construction
Weighing just a little over 1.4 kg and just 19.2 mm thin, the ASUS ZenBook easily holds an edge over most of its 13-inch competitors in terms of mobility and performance but it’s also a delight holding it. The new UX303 doesn’t seem to be all that different than its predecessor when it comes to design and build quality and we are quite frankly happy about that fact.
The lid can be linked to ASUS from a mile away as it features the usual design signature all ZenBooks have – concentric brushed aluminum surface with ASUS’ logo in the middle, which isn’t LED-illuminated. The aluminum plate seems sturdy enough to support some light to medium pressure and gives in relatively hard. When pressed on the back, ripples don’t appear on the LCD panel. Speaking of which, it’s surrounded by relatively thick upper and lower bezels while the side ones are thin enough not to distract you. On the upper bezel, you will also find an ambient sensor accompanied by the webcam. The whole lid is supported by a single hinge with linear travel so the device can be opened using one hand only. Despite the bit loose design of the hinge, we can say it feels sturdy enough not to cause any unnecessary wobbling. As for the bottom part, it consists of just one aluminum plate with some vent openings but you can read more about that in the next section.
The sides, as we already mentioned, are extremely thin measuring at just 19.2 mm but still hold the bare minimum of connectivity options. In fact, you will find other 13-inch devices with fewer ports, although the UX303UB misses the future-proof USB-C 3.1 connector. Also, the port distribution is comfortable and well-distributed – two USB 3.0 ports on the left along with the SD card reader whereas on the right, you will find the other USB 3.0 connector, HDMI, 3.5 mm audio jack and DC charging port. The mini Display Port also makes a nice appearance so you can benefit from two external monitors connected to the device.
As for the interior, it continues the same design language featuring aluminum but this time, it’s anodized opposed to the brushed plates on the outside. It’s hard to miss the big touchpad, which, by the way, feels a bit stiff when clicking but provides excellent sturdiness, responsiveness, and accuracy. It’s probably one of the best we’ve used on a 13-inch form factor. Unfortunately, we are left with some mixed feelings about the keyboard. While the keys are big enough, well-illuminated and evenly spaced in order to provide comfortable typing experience despite the small base, the travel feels a bit short. Sure, it will take some time adjusting to it but we would have definitely appreciated a slightly longer key travel.
In the end, the ASUS ZenBook UX303 is an all-aluminum portable and powerful 13-inch ultrabook with premium looks and feel and for some, it might seem like a good bargain because the entry-level configurations with Core i5-6200U cost a little bit more or the same as some 12-inch and 13-inch ultrabooks with Core m processors or without the extra discrete graphics. The few that come to mind are the Lenovo Yoga 900S and the recently reviewed ZenBook Flip UX360.
Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
The ZenBook UX303UB doesn’t have a maintenance hatch but the bottom plate comes off really easy. Just make sure you don’t bend the aluminum plate, though. You will also have to get rid of the screws hiding beneath the silicone legs as shown in the photo below.
Storage upgrade options – 2.5-inch drive and no M.2 slot
Unfortunately, the notebook uses only a 2.5-inch drive for storage and no M.2 SSD slot is available. That’s definitely a step backwards from its predecessor, which offered an mSATA as well.
|2.5-inch HDD||SKhynix 256GB SSD||Upgrade options|
The motherboard has an integrated 4GB chip and another slot for an upgrade. Our unit came with a 4GB SKhynix chip as shown in the photos below.
|Slot||SKhynix 4GB DDR3L-1600 RAM||Upgrade options|
There’s no need of further disassembly to access most of the replaceable hardware.
The battery unit is rated at 50Wh.
The Wi-Fi module is Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265.
Since the notebook is a thin 13-incher with a discrete GPU, it’s only logical to cram inside two fans for cooling. In this system, the cooling design consists of two heat sinks connected with heat pipes and one small and one big fan pushing the hot air out the back of the machine.
The notebook features a 13.3-inch IPS screen manufactured by InnoLux with model number N133HSE-EA3 with matte finish packing a Full HD (1920×1080) resolution making up for 166 ppi pixel density and 0.153 x 0.153 mm pixel pitch. The screen can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 50 cm.
The notebook has excellent viewing angles.
We got som record-breaking results from the display tests as the panel reached 428 cd/m2 maximum brightness and 414 cd/m2 as average across the surface. That’s comparable to some smartphones, which tend to have more than 400 cd/m2 for better visibility outdoors. Also, the maximum deviation is low – just 10% and the color temperature is really close to the optimal – 6750K. The contrast ratio is 1100:1, which is typical for an IPS panel.
The maximum dE2000 color deviation is just 2.3 in the upper left corner of the screen but that’s a good result as well because values above 4.0 are unwanted.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
You can see in the image below that the dis[lay covers 90% of the sRGB gamut – showed in the yellow dotted triangle.
Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.
We adjusted the luminance to match 140 cd/m2 and also to reach an optimal white point (D65) and gamma in sRGB mode.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the Office & Web Design profile.
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the Gaming & Movie Nights profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
Gaming capabilities (Response time)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 19 ms. That’s surprisingly good result for an IPS panel.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse Width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our specialized article on PWM.
And unfortunately, the display flickers at extremely low frequency (200 Hz) and will most probably affect users with sensitive eyes.
Blue light emissions
Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our specialized article on Blue Light.
You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SDP) graph.
The notebook has an excellent and super bright IPS panel suitable not only for general office work and browsing but for multimedia purposes as well. It’s also good enough for outdoor use due to its extremely bright backlight. Color reproduction is good even without calibrating but there are some things that need to be adjusted like gamma and the ability of the screen to reproduce nuances in the dark areas of an image. Luckily, our Office/Web design profiles and Gaming/Movie nights profile aim to fix that.
The only serious drawback, in this case, would be the use of aggressive PWM across all brightness levels. And here’s where our Health-Guard profile helps. It will reduce the negative blue light emissions and eliminate the aggressive PWM.
Buy our profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for ASUS ZenBook UX303UB configurations with 13.3″ InnoLux N133HSE-EA3 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS, which can be found on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cgBxDV
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about the profiles HERE.
In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.
Office work / Web design
If your field is office work or web design, or you just want your monitor's color set to be as accurate as possible for the Internet color space, this profile will prove to be useful.
Gaming or Movie nights
We developed this profile especially for occasions on which you spend a lot of time in front of your monitor with some games or watching movies – it will be easier for you to discern fine nuances in the dark.
This profile reduces the negative impact of pulsation and the blue spectrum, securing your eyes and body. You still get a pitch-perfect color image, albeit slightly warmer.
The notebook has quality stereo loudspeakers with high maximum volume and little to no distortions at low frequencies while the high ones sound crisp and clear.
The specs sheet applies for the reviewed unit only and may differ from yours.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-6500U (2-core, 2.50 – 3.10 GHz, 4MB cache)|
|RAM||8GB (2x 4096MB) DDR3L-1600|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce 940M (2GB DDR3)|
|HDD/SSD||256GB SATA SSD|
|Display||13.3-inch Full HD (1920×1080) IPS, matte|
|Connectivity||Intel® 802.11ac (2×2) Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth® 4.2 Combo|
|Thickness||19.2 mm (0.76″)|
|Weight||1.45 kg (3.2 lbs)|
The notebook came with pre-installed Windows 10 (64-bit) but if you wish to perform a clean install without the bloatware that comes with the notebook, we suggest you download the latest driver from ASUS’ official website.
To our surprise, the ultrabook just blew every other notebook out there out of the water when it comes to battery life. The laptop scored record-breaking results in the web browsing test and has considerably above average video playback runtime. That’s quite interesting because the laptop features a 50Wh battery supporting a Full HD IPS screen and a Core i7-6500U processor that usually handles all the CPU and GPU tasks when browsing or playing a movie. We’ve seen this setup numerous times with even bigger battery pack but the ZenBook UX303UB still managed to get on top even against much more expensive ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, against similarly priced HP Spectre 13.
As usual, we ran the tests using the same conditions as always – Wi-Fi turned on, Windows battery saving feature enabled and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
Record-breaking web browsing time – 750 minutes (12 hours and 30 minutes).
Watching a movie
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Much shorter video playback runtime but still comes on top of most competitors – 550 minutes (9 hours and 10 minutes).
For accurate simulation, we used the Metro Last Light benchmark running on loop with graphic settings set to minimum.
This test got the most of the battery since it’s the most demanding one – 183 (3 hours and 3 minutes).
CPU – Intel Core i7-6500U
Intel Core i7-6500U is part of the Skylake generation processors and it’s entitled to the ULV lineup (ultra-low voltage) with 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. It has two cores that support Hyper-Threading technology resulting in up to 4 threads. The chip is a direct successor to the Core i7-5500U Broadwell CPU expecting slightly better performance with emphasis on the power efficiency features.
The CPU is clocked at 2.5 GHz and can go up to 3.1 GHz for one active core or 3.0 GHz for two active cores. Also, the silicon includes an Intel HD Graphics 520 iGPU that sports 24 Execution Units ticking at 300 MHz and can go up to 1.05 GHz. The whole SoC supports DDR4-2133/DDR3L-1600 memory in a dual-channel array. So the whole chip is rated at 15W TDP including the memory controller and the integrated graphics thus making it suitable for 11-inch notebooks or bigger. It also supports the cTDP down feature and the OEM can lower the TDP to 7.5W.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-6500u/
Results are from the Cinebench 11 test (higher the score, the better)
|ASUS ZenBook UX303LN Intel Core i7-4510U (2-cores, 2.00 - 3.10 GHz)||2.99||-10.75%|
|Acer Aspire S 13 Intel Core i7-6500U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||3.54||+5.67%|
|ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA Intel Core m5-6Y54 (2-cores, 1.1 - 2.7 GHz)||2.34||-30.15%|
Results are from the NovaBench CPU test (higher the score, the better)
|ASUS ZenBook UX303LN Intel Core i7-4510U (2-cores, 2.00 - 3.10 GHz)||401||-14.32%|
|Acer Aspire S 13 Intel Core i7-6500U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||416||-11.11%|
|ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA Intel Core m5-6Y54 (2-cores, 1.1 - 2.7 GHz)||397||-15.17%|
Results are from the Photoshop test (lower the score, the better)
|ASUS ZenBook UX303LN Intel Core i7-4510U (2-cores, 2.00 - 3.10 GHz)||19.90||+4.63%|
|Acer Aspire S 13 Intel Core i7-6500U (2-cores, 2.5 - 3.1 GHz)||17.68||-7.05%|
|ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA Intel Core m5-6Y54 (2-cores, 1.1 - 2.7 GHz)||25.78||+35.54%|
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-6500U reached 5.923 million moves per second. By comparison, one of the most powerful PCs, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
GPU – NVIDIA GeForce 940M (2GB DDR3)
The GeForce 940M is a direct successor to last year’s 840M and it’s placed in the mid-range class. It is commonly used as a multimedia GPU and light gaming. It’s very similar to its predecessor GeForce 840M, but it’s clocked slightly higher. GeForce 940M is Maxwell-based and uses GM108 chip.
NVIDIA GeForce 940M is built by means of a 28nm manufacturing process and has 384 shader units, 24 TMUs and 8 ROPs (64-bit interface). It can be found in modifications with 2GB or 4GB DDR3 memory.
940M’s TDP is 33 watts and is mostly used in mainstream laptops. It supports GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA and GeForce Experience.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this GPU: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-940m/
Results are from the 3DMark Cloud Gate (G) test (higher the score, the better)
|ASUS ZenBook UX303LN NVIDIA GeForce 840M (2GB DDR3)||8034||-4.39%|
|Acer Aspire S 13 Intel HD Graphics 520||7226||-14.01%|
|ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA Intel HD Graphics 515||4333||-48.44%|
Results are from the 3DMark Fire Strike (G) test (higher the score, the better)
|ASUS ZenBook UX303LN NVIDIA GeForce 840M (2GB DDR3)||1498||-2.22%|
|Acer Aspire S 13 Intel HD Graphics 520||878||-42.69%|
|ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA Intel HD Graphics 515||437||-71.48%|
Results are from the 3DMark (Sky Diver) test (higher the score, the better)
|ASUS ZenBook UX303LN NVIDIA GeForce 840M (2GB DDR3)||4985||+1.07%|
|Acer Aspire S 13 Intel HD Graphics 520||3327||-32.54%|
|ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA Intel HD Graphics 515||2106||-57.3%|
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 test (higher the score, the better)
|ASUS ZenBook UX303LN NVIDIA GeForce 840M (2GB DDR3)||427||-1.84%|
|Acer Aspire S 13 Intel HD Graphics 520||272||-37.47%|
|ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA Intel HD Graphics 515||102||-76.55%|
|CS:GO||HD (1366×768). Low (Check settings)||HD (1366×768), Medium (Check settings)||HD (1366×768), Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||71 fps||61 fps||51 fps|
|F1 2015||HD (1366×768), Low (Check settings)||HD (1366×768), Medium (Check settings)||HD (1366×768), Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||36 fps||28 fps||19 fps|
|Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5)||HD (1366×768), Low (Check settings)||HD (1366×768), Medium (Check settings)||HD (1366×768), Max (Check settings)|
|Average FPS||49 fps||21 fps||– fps|
The stress tests that we perform on our notebooks don’t really represent real-life usage since the general user can’t reach 100% CPU + 100% GPU load for longer periods of time but it’s still a good way to assess the overall stability of the machine and its cooling system in the long run.
We started off with 100% CPU load for an hour and shortly after we began – in a 10 to 15 minutes or so – the CPU’s frequency started to drop slowly and kept stable at 2.6 GHz, which is still in the Turbo Boost range but lower than what most notebooks with the same processor achieve – 3.0 GHz with two active cores. Temperatures were relatively low for an ultrabook, though.
When we turned on the GPU torture test as well, the CPU started throttling a bit at 2.4 GHz and the GPU got pretty hot (87 °C) but that’s normal due to the demanding hardware and slim chassis. Unfortunately, this backs up the results from the benchmark tests, which indicate poor CPU utilization. The laptop can’t use the full potential of the chip.
The interior got a little warm during these extreme conditions but nothing to worry about because despite the aluminum finish – metal disperse heat easier – the palm rest area remained relatively cool. The only hot part was at the top center of the keyboard.
Quite typical for ASUS’ ZenBook series, the UX303UB offers unique user experience and features that can rarely be seen in ultrabooks of this size. However, the device still leaves some room for improvement spec-wise. Firstly, the absence of an M.2 SSD slot, which would have made much more sense than the only available 2.5-inch drive. We would like to remind you that the old UX303LN laptop had the mSATA and 2.5-inch drive slot on board so it was only logical to upgrade the mSATA slot to an M.2 one. Secondly, the system can’t harness the CPU’s and GPU’s full potential. The benchmarks and stress tests show that both chips can’t perform to their fullest but it’s still enough to support some gaming on the go, which is still pretty impressive given the form factor. And finally, the presence of aggressive PWM might come as a deal-breaker to some users with sensitive eyes. But despite the screen flickering, the quality of the presented IPS panel is excellent providing vivid colors, record-breaking maximum luminance, and high contrast ratio. Luckily, you can use one of our Health-Guard profiles, which aim to eliminate the negative impact from the blue light emissions and kill the PWM.
Anyway, anything other than the PWM and hardware utilization is nearly perfect. The keyboard and touchpad are nice, the weight and size of the machine are typical for a high-end ultrabook and the build quality is impeccable with all-aluminum chassis for extra rigidity and premium feel. On top of that, the battery life is just amazing without leaving much to the competition in this regard.
You can find some of the available configurations here: http://amzn.to/2cMxcWz
- Impeccable build quality, thin and light chassis
- Decent keyboard, large and comfortable touchpad
- Packs poweful hardware given the form factor, some light gaming on the go is possible
- Extremely bright and vivid IPS display
- Oustanding battery life
- Can’t use the full potential of the hardware (CPU and GPU)
- The screen uses aggressive PWM from 0 to 99% brightness
- Doesn’t support M.2 SSDs, only 2.5-inch SATA drives