Asus ZenBook UX330UA review: The Windows equivalent of the MacBook Air

Our Rating 
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With its superb display, excellent build quality and fast performance, the ZenBook UX330UA is a great Windows alternative to the MacBook Air

Wonderfully slim and light
Comfortable to use keyboard
Great display
Middling performance

I’ve seen my fair share of svelte clamshell laptops recently, but Asus’ latest ZenBook, the UX330UA, is easily the most attractive of the lot. Like many ultraportables, it shares more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s MacBook Air. Nevertheless, its 13.6mm aluminium chassis is truly gorgeous to behold, from its lightly textured casing to its stunning high-resolution display.

Admittedly, the UX330UA doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as its Apple rival – its keyboard tray showed a couple of signs of unwanted flex here and there – but it’s still a wonderfully elegant device that looks every bit like a premium laptop.

More importantly, it has the specs you’d expect from a high-end ultraportable. Unlike the Air, which still ships with one of Intel’s old 5th-generation Core i5 processors and just 4GB of RAM, the UX330UA comes with Intel’s 6th-generation dual-core 2.3GHz Core i5-6200U chip and a whopping 8GB of RAM.

Asus ZenBook UX330UA Harman Kardon

There’s also a more expensive UX330UA model retailing for around £1,000 that comes with a 6th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD – but for the purposes of this review, I’ll be looking at the entry-level Core i5 model.

Performance and battery life

Of course, with a device this lean you might expect its overall speed to be hampered somewhat by its lovely thin chassis. For the most part you’d be right, but the UX330UA’s Core i5-6200U still put in a pretty commendable performance when put to the test.

Running our meticulous 4K multimedia benchmarking tests, the ZenBook scored a total of 42. It sailed through our image- and video-editing sections, but asking it to do both tasks simultaneously saw a dramatic dive in performance. It still feels perfectly nippy in day-to-day use, but compare that to the MacBook Air’s overall score of 45 and it’s a little uninspiring.

Asus ZenBook UX330UA thermal exhaust

However, its on-board Intel HD Graphics 520 chip has more than enough juice for a spot of light gaming. I was able to get DiRT: Showdown running at a relatively smooth 42fps at 1,280 x 720 resolution on Medium graphics settings. Demanding 3D games such as Metro: Last Light are a no-go, but lighter titles such as Minecraft didn’t pose any problem at all on the default render distance. Whack up Minecraft’s render distance to the max 32 chunks, however, and you’ll notice frames starting to take a dip below the 20s.

The ZenBook UX330UA's battery life isn’t too bad, but there’s definitely room for improvement. It came in at 7hrs 18mins in our continuous video playback test with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2. That’s enough to last you a working day, but its closest Windows rivals go one better; the Dell XPS 13 managed 11hrs 30mins under the same conditions.

Buy the Asus ZenBook UX330UA now from PC World