Great Bang For Your Buck

An affordable and competitively specc-ed notebook for the road.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

An affordable and competitively specc-ed notebook for the road.


The first thing you’ll notice about the ZenBook 13 UX331U is its lid. Most ZenBooks feature a finish that quite clearly gives away their aluminum construction, but the UX331U looks like it’s topped by a sheet of glass.

However, this is actually a specially treated metal surface, the result of a fancy-sounding process called nanoimprint lithography. But while it sounds great on paper, this finish is an absolute fingerprint magnet. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to hold up very well under daily use either as I’ve somehow managed to scuff it up a little already.

Still, the UX331U is a 13.3-inch notebook with a discrete GPU, defying conventional expectations for this class of laptops. It’s not the first to offer this, but what makes it impressive is how thin and light it is.

The UX331U’s aluminum body weighs a mere 1.12kg and measures 13.9mm thick, which makes it one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks you can get with discrete graphics. Don’t get too excited yet though, because the GPU that’s used is a more modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 and not a beefier GeForce GTX 1050 Ti.

That said, this does provide a decent performance boost, and it’s still a lot more powerful than your averageultrabook with integrated graphics.

The backlit keyboard is quite pleasant to type on as well. It offers a 1.4mm travel distance, and each key offers good feedback, for a laptop keyboard. I also required next to no time to adapt to the keyboard and was able to type at a fairly good pace right off the bat, which is more than I can say for many laptop keyboards.

The Harman/Kardoncertified stereo speakers point toward the bottom, and they’re actually surprisingly loud and clear. The high frequencies can sound a tad shrill at high volumes, but I was otherwise pretty satisfied.

When it comes to wired connections though, this ZenBook has a total of two USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A, one USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C, and a full-sized HDMI port. There’s a microSD card slot on the right as well, although I’d much preferred to have seen a proper SD card reader in its place.

One final point to address is the notebook’s cooling. When you shove a discrete GPU into a notebook that’s this thin and compact, you’re probably worried about whether it can deal with the additional heat output. Fortunately, the UX331U does quite well in this area and there were no signs of throttling. It passed a 40-loop run of 3DMark’s Fire Strike stress test with flying colors, with peak GPU and CPU temperatures of 58°C and 55°C respectively.

My Reading Room
The USB-C port doesn’t support
Thunderbolt 3.
The USB-C port doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3.
13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel IPS
Intel Core i7-8550U
(1.8GHz, 8MB L3 cache)
16GB LPDDR3 2,133MHz RAM
By Koh Wanzi Pictures Asus,123RF