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ZenBook 3 Deluxe (UX490) Review: If Looks Could Kill

ASUS puts forth a premium UltraBook experience in a sleek package

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BY Rahil Bhagat - 18 Apr 2018

ZenBook 3 Deluxe (UX490) Review: If Looks Could Kill

Ultra-portable Windows laptops are getting thinner, lighter, and more powerful. This is thanks in no small part to quantum leaps in Intel’s U-series processors – literally putting the “U” in UltraBook.

So much so that UltraBooks now stand toe to toe with the MacBook in terms of performance and design. With Apple no longer having a stranglehold on the thin and light market, consumers are spoilt for choice.

Among a veritable deluge of solid UltraBooks, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe stands out as one of the prettiest. Let’s not judge a book by its cover though.

Read on to find out if there’s any substance behind its impeccable style.


ZenBook 3 Deluxe (UX490) Review: If Looks Could Kill

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

The ZenBook 3 Deluxe is agile in every sense of the word.

The variant I tested came equipped with the very best of Intel’s Kaby Lake U-series processors, the i7-7500U. The 2.7GHz dual-core chip and its integrated graphics solution will handle any load typical of an UltraBook.

The real star of the show though is the ZenBook’s 512GB NVME SSD. Read and write speeds are fast and give the device a leg up for more intensive tasks.

Speaking of intensity, thermal performance is decent. While some thin and light devices have gone fan-less to cut down on weight and noise, it’s comforting to know that ASUS has made cooling the processor a priority. You will not find the ZenBook 3 Deluxe throttling or getting overly hot. The presence of a fan also makes it a viable option for gaming when hooked up to an external graphics card.

The trade-off for its great cooling is obviously fan noise. It is noticeable, but the speakers do a great job of drowning it out completely. I’ll dive deeper into this later.

Overall, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is a solid performer.


ZenBook 3 Deluxe (UX490) Review: If Looks Could Kill

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

This is where the ZenBook 3 Deluxe shines – literally.

This thing is simply stunning to look. Its all-metal body sports a royal blue finish with gold accents. The gold backlighting on the keyboard is also a nice touch, and brings harmony to its overall aesthetics. While its bezels are nowhere as slim as the Dell XPS 13, it still boasts an impressive screen-to-body ratio by UltraBook standards – and is miles ahead of the MacBook.

As mentioned earlier, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is the embodiment of agility. Despite its beefy specs and features, it weighs just a touch over one kilogram. For a 14-inch laptop, its footprint and portability is competitive even against 13-inch models on the market. This is achieved through intelligent design decisions like forgoing USB type-A ports completely and reducing bezels to fit in a larger screen.

While the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is light, it’s no lightweight when it comes to build quality. The aerospace-grade aluminum alloy used in its construction boasts high tensile strength and gives it a premium feel in hand. Its hinge has the perfect amount of resistance based on my preference. It’s just light enough to open with one finger, but tight enough to keep it from feeling flimsy and opening accidentally.

My words don’t do the ZenBook 3 Deluxe justice. It is best to behold its splendor in person.  


The screen on the ZenBook 3 Deluxe can be a divisive subject.

I personally like the screen on the ZenBook 3 Deluxe. For a 1080P display, it has truly exceptional sharpness and color accuracy. It covers 110% of sRGB. Colors truly stand out and busier details have great clarity. Being an IPS panel, it also has great viewing angles.

Where it could do better though is brightness. It maxes out at a paltry 281 nits. I do not recommend using the ZenBook 3 Deluxe under daylight, lest you want to give your eyeballs a good workout. The lack of a touchscreen might irk some, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

Let’s get to the elephant in the room, the resolution. It is true that some thin-and-lights have higher resolution “retina” displays. I have to ask though: What are you going to do with it?

Without a dedicated graphics card, it is just a waste of battery in most cases. Further, the difference is hardly substantial on such a small form factor unless you have your eyes uncomfortably close to the screen. I’m of the opinion that a good color-accurate 1080P screen is optimal for laptops 15-inch and smaller. Bonus points if it has a high refresh rate as well.


ZenBook 3 Deluxe (UX490) Review: If Looks Could Kill

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

Do I hear thunder?

Port selection on the ASUS ZenBook 3 Deluxe is simple, yet elegant. You get 3 USB type-C ports and a headphone jack. That’s it. Two of the USB-Cs have full Thunderbolt 3 support, while the remaining one is typically connected to the power brick for fast charging. Needless to say, you can run external 4K displays and a graphics card simultaneously with the Thunderbolt 3 ports at your disposal. Throw in a set of Bluetooth peripherals and you have a pretty cool gaming setup.

While this is by no means revolutionary, what separates the ZenBook from the MacBook is that you get all the dongles you need right out of the box. The ZenBook 3 Deluxe ships with adapters for USB-C to USB-A and HDMI, as well as a neat protective sleeve.

The keyboard on the ZenBook 3 Deluxe is great for typing. The keys are well spaced out and have 1.2mm of travel. The touchpad is wonderful as well. It runs Windows precision drivers for gestures and handwriting support, and comes with an integrated fingerprint reader. Navigating through documents and browser windows was a breeze.

Where the ZenBook 3 Deluxe falls short is its webcam.  At this price point, one would expect a HD webcam. What you get instead is an abysmal 480P shooter. This is absolutely disappointing.


Do I hear thunder… again?

I dare say the ZenBook 3 Deluxe has the best speakers for its category. You get four Harman Kardon-branded speakers – a pair above the keyboard and a pair firing below the laptop.

There’s great clarity in the mids and highs, as well as a respectable amount of bass. They get surprisingly loud too. Overall, they are a treat to your ears and another strong selling point over the ZenBook’s competitors.


This could be what makes or breaks the ZenBook 3 Deluxe for most consumers.

Let me get right to the point, battery life could definitely use an improvement. You get about 6 to 7 hours with typical use – less than 4 hours with intense activity. While it’s still good for laptops in general, it is below average for laptops in this specific category.  

Calling it a full-day of use would be a stretch. You’ll be running dangerously low on power before you leave the office.

The whole point of the UltraBook is optimizing portability. Weighing barely a kilogram won’t mean a thing if you have to carry the power brick with you. It’s especially bad when you consider that the ZenBook runs a 1080P display.

The only small consolation you get is that the power brick is somewhat compact and will charge the laptop up to 60% in under an hour. I find that charging it while I’m out for lunch gives me the best mileage.

Should you buy it?

ZenBook 3 Deluxe (UX490) Review: If Looks Could Kill

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

While the ZenBook 3 Deluxe does have a few glaring flaws, it still has my recommendation. The webcam and battery life aren’t really deal-breakers for me. My work mainly comprises of writing and the occasional spreadsheet. The people I talk to on Skype aren’t too concerned about video quality either.

What really sells the ZenBook 3 Deluxe for me is how it titillates my senses. Needless to say, its looks are a real head-turner. The speakers give a great listening experience. It also feels great in your hand, whether you’re typing or carrying it. Very rarely do I describe quality that you can literally touch and feel.

It is priced competitively against the similarly specced Dell XPS 13 at just over SGD 2,300 – both are a bargain when you consider what a similar MacBook sells for. Specs aside, I would still go for the ASUS though due to its intelligent design and port selection.

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