Zenbooks are a premium laptop line of ASUS. They were released around four years ago, and since then, response from the crowd has been mainly positive. And why not, Zenbooks include high end components in neat-looking bodies, making them useful for professionals and people who demand performance. Some people even compare these things to MacBooks, and the resemblance is indeed quite similar. So how would their new model, the ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-DS51T, work for power users and other people requiring more than a budget laptop can offer? Its 13.3″ Full HD display and quick SSD surely look nice, but that’s not all you need to know…
Is the laptop fast enough?
Intel Core i5-5200U is a new Broadwell-based processor in the 5th generation series of Intel CPUs. Being a low voltage model, it features two logical cores with 2.2GHz clock frequency. Intel also crammed turbo feature in this chip which ups the clock speed to 2.7GHz. It makes sense to compare this model to the previous i5-4200U, and benchmarks (like the well known CPU Mark) says the i5-5200U is ~10% faster than its predecessor. In reality, this CPU has very sufficient performance for all the everyday computing plus various specialized software – such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro and virtual machines.
ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-DS51T features 8GB DDR3L 1600MHz memory. The distribution is unique, half is soldered and another 4GB is installed as a stick. In another words, you can upgrade the 4GB stick to a bigger one. Since laptop RAM modules are currently capped at 8GB, you can have a maximum 12GB memory on this model.
The storage option is a 128GB SSD, meaning lots of performance but little space. Many people feel the urge to upgrade such a drive, and it’s possible here too. The current SSD is a half length mSATA one, so feel free to replace it with a drive with similar measurements. It looks like ASUS is officially stating the upgrade is not possible, but from what I can tell, they’re wrong.
Does it have a premium screen?
ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-DS51T comes with a quality glossy display. It’s 13.3″ diagonal, placing this product straight in the ultrabook category. Panel type is IPS, resolution is high 1920×1080, more than enough on this small screen. It is a touch display, although the hinges don’t let you to flip the screen more than ~180 degrees. So it’s not a 2-in-1 machine, just a standard notebook.
How’s gaming on it?
ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-DS51T can be used for most things, but gaming is not really its strongest side. The laptop lacks a proper gaming card, relying on the slower & integrated Intel HD 5500 graphics chip. You’ll be able to play most games, but you need to reduce details and resolution to get playable frames on heavier titles. GTA 5, for example, would receive ~20 FPS if played on medium settings and 1366×768. Fifa 15 and Counter-Strike: Go, on the other hand, would run smooth even on high details.
I believe ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-DS51T has all the connections an ultrabook owner would need. There are three USB 3.0 ports to plug in your peripherals to. Connecting a monitor is also possible, the notebook features full-sized HDMI and miniDP outputs.
Wireless networking capabilities are strong thanks to the 802.11 A/C WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 adapter. There’s no standard RJ-45 port available, but USB adapter can be used for that.
The laptop is small and the inside is cramped, there’s no space for internal optical drive. That’s often true with these smaller notebooks, so feel free to connect an external USB DVD drive if you want to read or write discs.
Other features you might find worthwhile are SD/SDHC card reader and an HD webcam with microphone.
Anything else to keep in mind?
ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-DS51T weighs little, just 3.2 pounds. Combined with the compact 13.3″ display you’ll find this unit very pleasant to travel with. Its 3-cell battery lasts up to 8 hours, people have been reporting 5-6 hours on maximum screen brightness and moderate loads. If you dim the screen a bit and just browse the web, you’ll probably reach very close to the advertised 8 hours. The battery should also be user replaceable even though ASUS support states otherwise.
The keyboard features backlit keys (one color). Numpad is not available on the right side, there’s no space for that.
Summing it up
ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-DS51T is a high-end notebook, almost in the same series than cheapest MacBooks. And that’s not only about performance – the design also looks professional, just like somebody keen on having a good looking laptop would appreciate. Using this thing for most applications and heavier software is not a problem, the 5th generation low energy i5-5200U processor is rather strong one (although not as fast as many power hungry chips from the previous generation). Having a solid-state drive contributes to great performance, but at 128GB its storage is very limited. However, upgrading the drive – or memory – for bigger one seem to be easy on this machine. Aside from the small hard drive I can’t see too many negatives here. If you have the financial means, this kind of powerful and stylish laptop might be a very good choice for you.