Reviewing the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 - The thinnest ultrabook from ASUS

4 out of 5 stars

ZenBook UX390 is one of the most popular ultrabooks that were recently launched by ASUS. Many have shared their opinion about this device: some loved it, some said that it follows Apple's approach with the new MacBook, while others had negative reviews about it. We were very curious to test it for ourselves and form our own opinion about this ultrabook. After more than a week of daily use, here's our real-life experience with the ZenBook 3 UX390:

Unboxing the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390

We have received for testing an early version of this ultrabook, that was sent for testing to the press. It did not come in the final retail packaging that you will find in stores so we can't offer you pictures of the unboxing experience that you get when purchasing the ZenBook UX390. For this section of this review we can only use the official product pictures that were made available by ASUS.

Inside the box you will find the ASUS ZenBook UX390 ultrabook, the power adapter, a protective travel pouch, a USB-C mini-dock, the user guide and the warranty.

Depending on the color variant that you choose for this ultrabook, the color of the pouch you get also differs, to match your ultrabook. Above you can see the pouch you get for the rose gold variant while below you can see the pouch we got for the royal blue variant of the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390.

Let's see what you get in terms of hardware specifications from the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390:

Hardware specifications

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 is offered in two main hardware configurations and in three color variants. The top high-end version includes a dual-core Intel Core i7 7500U processor running at 2.7 GHz, a 512GB PCI-Express Gen3 SSD made by Toshiba and 16 GB of LPDDR3 2133MHz SDRAM memory.

The more affordable model includes a dual-core Intel Core i5 7200U processor running at 2.5 GHz, a 512GB SATA3 SSD drive and 8 or 16 GB of LPDDR3 2133MHz SDRAM memory, depending on the country where you buy it. Another difference between the two models is the fact that the Core i7 model comes with Windows 10 Pro installed while the Core i5 model has Windows 10. Both hardware versions include an integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 card.

The screen is a 12.5" LED backlit FHD display with an aspect ratio of 16:9, a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and a screen to body ration of 82%. The sound on this ultrabook is managed by a quad-speaker system, featuring Harman Kardon technology.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 features an illuminated chiclet keyboard, a high precision touchpad made by ASUS and an ELAN fingerprint reader, which you can see in the picture below.

In terms of network connectivity, we have an Intel dual-band wireless-AC8620 network card that's capable on network connections of up to 867 Mbps, using the 802.11ac networking standard. This card also offers support for the latest Bluetooth 4.2 standard. As for ports, we only have an audio jack on the left margin of the ultrabook and a USB 3.1 Type C port on the right margin.

This is very little for any user who wants to be productive and that's why ASUS has included a USB-C mini-dock in the standard package. This dock offers a USB 3.1 port, an HDMI port and a USB 3.1 Type C port that can be used only for charging the device.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 also has an integrated VGA webcam, that's capable of recording video with a maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second.

This ultrabook features a 6 Cells and 40 Whrs polymer battery and 45W power brick with fast charging that charges the battery up to 60% in about 50 minutes and up to 100% in around 2 hours. ASUS promises an autonomy of up to 9 hours, which is impressive for an ultrabook with such powerful hardware.

The ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 ultrabook is very small and light: it has 11.65 inches or 296 mm in width, 7.52 inches or 191.2 mm in depth and 0.46 inches or 11.9 mm in height. The total weight is of only 2 lbs or 910 grams, which is very little.

We mentioned earlier that there are three color variants available: rose gold, royal blue and quartz grey. You can see them all in the picture below. For this review, we tested the royal blue variant, that looks great. We also liked the looks of the quartz grey variant.

If you want to learn more about the official specification of this ultrabook, go to this page: ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390.

Using the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 ultrabook

The best thing about the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 is how small, thin and light it is. Carrying it is a pleasure and the included pouch does look stylish while also being also very useful. A nd the performance is very solid: the Intel Core i7 7500U processor, coupled with 16GB of RAM memory and a very fast SSD drive, will deliver the punch you need in all usage situations except gaming or video editing. You won't have any issues running all kinds of business apps, browsing the web, listening to music or watching HD videos. You can also run casual games from the Windows Store but you should stay away from games with advanced 3D graphics.

The Zenbook UX390U has 12.5" display, with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, an IPS panel and Gorilla Glass 4 on top. The display is great when used indoors and in business environments, which is how most customers will use it. However, if you take it outdoors, you won't enjoy great visibility. Also, the fact that it is not a touchscreen, might be an issue for some. We are big fans of touch in Windows and we missed using this type of input.

Typing on the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 is a pleasant experience, after a period of accommodation. You won't have issues typing large documents and your hands won't get tired easily. The backlight is very useful in low light environments and many users will appreciate it. However, I do have one minor complaint regarding the positioning of the Shut Down button, near the Delete key, on the top-right corner of the keyboard. I ended up pressing this button many times instead of the Delete key.

The upside is that you won't easily shut down your ultrabook, when you press this button instead of Delete. This is because ASUS programmed this button to register long presses instead of short, quick ones, like those you perform when typing, which is great. The trackpad is also easy to use, as well as precise. A cool feature is that it can also act like a touchpad so that you can write on it and have the ASUS Touchpad Handwriting driver recognize your handwriting, so that you can insert it into your documents.

The only downside of the trackpad is the fact that it also includes the fingerprint reader on its top-right corner. At times, you will hit the fingerprint reader when you want to move the cursor to the top-right corner of the screen, which is inconvenient. Speaking of the fingerprinter reader - it does its job well at registering and recognizing your fingerprint and you can use it in conjunction with Windows Hello to quickly sign in into your computer.

The speakers are of very good quality for an ultrabook. The sound is loud and clear, perfect for those who are unsatisfied with the general sound quality on laptops and ultrabooks. However, at maximum levels, it can become too loud and a bit distorted, so you might want to lower the volume instead of keeping it at 100%. Overall, you will definitely enjoy the speakers on the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 when watching movies or listening to music.

The heat generated by this ultrabook is within normal limits for a device of its type. The cooling system does its job well and, even when the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 was under maximum load, the processor was cooled, on average, to 154 degrees Fahrenheit or 68 degrees Celsius. On the outside, you feel a lot less heat than the processor does. However, under maximum load, the top-right side of the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 can heat up to 113-122 degrees Fahrenheit or 45-50 degrees Celsius. This is the area where you plug in the power cable and where the processor is placed.

The webcam on the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 is of very low quality, which is very disappointing for a premium device. You can use it for video conferencing but you will not be seen very clearly at a maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels and 30 frames per second. Luckily, the sound quality is good so you will hear yourself well in conference calls.

Overall, I was very pleased with using the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 ultrabook, with one important exception: its lack of ports. While USB Type C is clearly the future, not having at least one USB 3.0 port available is a pain. You have to carry the USB-C mini-dock with you at all times and that's a hassle. Also, for the a device this elegant and good looking, the USB-C mini-dock is just ugly. Also, it is not very portable. From time to time, you do have to use a USB memory stick or you have to connect your ultrabook to a projector that doesn't offer support for Miracast so you have to use HDMI.

Another common situation for business users is when they have to work while travelling: they connect a USB modem from their company's telecom provider, connect to the internet and to their company's VPN. Most times, while traveling, they work using the ultrabook on their lap and the USB-C mini-dock is uncomfortable to use that way. You have to have a table in order to use it comfortably. It is a shame that connectivity was sacrificed for the ultimate thinness. In the end, it made this ultrabook less portable than it could have been, if it were thick enough to include at least a USB port.

When it comes to autonomy, things are not as great as you might expect: in the end, great performance always lowers the battery life you get. ASUS promises an autonomy of up to 9 hours. However, in our testing, we obtained somewhere between 4 and 6 hours, depending on how we were using it. Luckily, the fast charging does its job well and you give the battery some juice in just a couple of minutes of charging. If you are interested in lengthier autonomy, you will be best served by the model with the Intel Core i5 7200U processor, which uses less power.

Go to the next page of this review to learn more about the performance offered by this ultrabook in popular benchmarks, as well as our final verdict.