ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe UX490UA Review

The ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe (UX490UA) is a beautiful and light device we couldn't wait to review. The larger brother of the Zenbook 3 has some big shoes to fill, since we loved the 12.5 inch edition but wished for a larger display and more ports, both of which the 3 Deluxe sport. We're in love with the form factor but there are a few issues that can't be overlooked, keep reading to find out more.
by Nicole on April 26, 2017
Positives
  • Stunning design
  • excellent build quality
  • Amazing Size for a 14-inch laptop
  • good keyboard and trackpad
  • top-tier specs and connectivity (with the included adapters)
  • good speakers
Negatives
  • average battery life
  • the fan is Loud & often turns on
  • bad webcam

Design

  • Stunning Design
  • Great Built Quality

Sexy is the only word that comes to mind when I talking about the design of the ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe. You wouldn’t think this compact, thin and light notebook sported such a large 14 inch display. The thin profile measures 12.9mm makes it 30% thinner than the Macbook and it’s only 1.1kg (2.4lbs) which makes this an easy device to carry around town.

Comparing the Zenbook 3 Deluxe to the smaller Zenbook 3, it has grown from 12.5 inches to 14 and only increased in thickness by only 1 mm and 300 grams. Overall, the dimensions are 329 x 210 x 12.9 mm. The bezels are the one area where the Zenbook is falling behind. They aren’t massive and have a very elegant edge to edge glass solution (meaning the glass goes right to the end of the frame, and there are no plastic bezels). However, by comparison, the 7.46mm bezels are thinner than their other more traditional notebooks but when up against the Dell XPS 13 or Lenovo Yoga 910, the Zenbook is much wider.

The Royal Blue with gold trim is very polished looking and really sets it apart in a sea of silver laptops. Before you give ASUS too many props for taking a design stand they also have a Quartz Grey version that lets you blend in with the boring masses.

The Zenbook entirely made out of aluminum and has unibody construction. Asus emphasizes the fact that space-grade aluminum is used, its meant to be 50% stronger than a standard aluminum alloy. The Zenbook does feel very strong and very well built though there is a small amount of flex in the lid and keyboard, but this is expected from such a thin laptop, but the construction is otherwise top notch.

The spun metal on the back is stunning when it catches the light, though it is a little bit of a fingerprint magnet. We also can’t stress enough just how nice the gold accents look on the side, logo and keys.

ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe UX490 Hardware

  • Solid Specifications
  • 3 Ports which is good for a device this size

This well-built premium notebook comes with competitive specifications, solid build quality and feels light weight in your hand.

The Zenbook has 2 x USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2 with Thunderbolt 3 which supports dual 4K UHD displays & 1 x USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 13 USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port. What is great about this set up is you can hook up two 4K monitors, an external graphics, and other Thunderbolt 3 peripherals. If you’re looking to have an office set up where you can easily bring your notebook to a coffee shop or on the road, the Zenbook 3 Deluxe is a good choice. What’s also very nice about the ports is that any of them can be used for charging, so you don’t have to unplug a dongle if you need to plug in.

Being so thin you’ll just have to accept that you’ll be living a Dongle lifestyle since they are pretty expensive we’re glad that ASUS has included 2 in the box, a USB 3.0 and HDMI. Personally, I do wish they had included an SD Card reader, as someone who shoots a lot of photos and video, I keep looking for a slot on the side. ASUS has also included a fantastic envelope case, from previous generations of notebooks I’ve owned from ASUS I can attest to their build and that they’ll age gracefully. ASUS also provides another small pouch to keep your dongles together, we’re not sure it’ll help you keep possession of them, but it is better than having them float around your bag aimlessly.

ASUS has also included a fantastic envelope case, from previous generations of notebooks I’ve owned from ASUS I can attest to their build and that they’ll age gracefully. ASUS also provides another small pouch to keep your dongles together, we’re not sure it’ll help you keep possession of them, but it is better than having them float around your bag aimlessly.

The hinges are smooth, rather small, but quite firm. They keep the screen well in place and allow it to lean back to about 145 degrees. The screen is also not top heavy and doesn’t tilt the laptop on its back at the maximum angle

If you’re wondering about what’s upgradable, the RAM is soldered on which I always find disappointing. However, the SSD and the Wi-Fi chip are upgradeable, if you are keen, it’s not too difficult to crack open this Zenbook even though it does have a unibody design. The back is held in place by just 8 Torx T5 screws and easily comes off once those are out of the way.

Looking at the hardware, my biggest complaint is the 46 Wh battery inside. In the battery section, you’ll see the battery life scores are disappointing, which is understandable considering the small size of the battery paired with a 14inch display. The small battery also contributes to the light weight.

Asus Zenbook UX490UA Specifications

Screen 14.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, not touch
Processor Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U CPU (Core i5-7200U also an option)
Video Intel HD 620
Memory up to 16 GB of low-power DDR3 RAM operates at 2133 MHz
Storage up to 1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD (80 mm)
Connectivity Wireless AC (dual-band Intel AC 8260), Bluetooth 4.1
Ports 1x USB 3.1 gen 1, 2x Thunderbolt 3, mic/headphone
Baterry 46 Wh, 65Wh USB-C power adapter
Operating system Windows 10
Size 329 mm or 12.95” (w) x 210 mm or 8.27” (d) x 12.9 mm or 0.51” (h)
Weight 2.42 lbs (1.1 kg)
Extras backlit keyboard, HD camera, available in Royal Blue and Quartz Gray

Our review sample came with an Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U processor and Intel HD 620 graphics, 16 GB of RAM and an 1TB NVMe storage drive.

ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe UX490 Display

  • Not 2 or 4K panel but a good quality 1080p display
  • Maximum brightness could be higher & minimum brightness lower
  • Good Viewing Angles
  • Not touch enabled

The Zenbook 3 Deluxe has a 14 inch display which with a narrow glass edge to edge bezel that’s only 7.46mm on either side. The Display only has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 so it’s missing the high 2 or 4K resolution that we have on other similarly priced notebooks.

The screen is covered with protective glass, Corning Gorilla Glass 5, with a glossy finish. Despite the absence of the air gap, the display collects some amount of glare and reflections, so during the work day, you’d occasionally have to increase the brightness.

Display brightness goes from 15 to 276 CD/m2, even though this is quite low, when watching Netflix in the dark I couldn’t get the brightness low enough to be comfortable. As for the brightness in a brightly lit cafe Window, I wouldn’t have minded being able to turn it up one more level. The measured contrast is 1 to 860.

If you’d like to see some technical details about the Zenbook 3 Deluxe Screen we have run Spyder 4 Elite:

Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO383D (B140HAN03.8);
Coverage: 99% sRGB, 71% NTSC, 75% AdobeRGB;
Measured gamma: 2.2;
Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 293 cd/m2 on power;
Contrast at max brightness: 800:1;
White point: 7100 K;
Black on max brightness: 0.36 cd/m2;
Average DeltaE: 1.03 uncalibrated, 0.62 calibrated.

ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe UX490 Keyboard and Trackpad

  • Good Keyboard
  • Microsoft Precision Trackpad is excellent

The keyboard has nice large keys with good spacing, it took me a few hours to type with my usual speed and accuracy. It did take some getting used to the feedback and rather limited travel of about 1.2 mm. The keys are also properly spaced, offer a good amount of resistance (though I wouldn’t mind it if they provided about 15% more resistance. The keys are also backlit and you can choose from three level of brightness.

One issue with the layout is the power button that is integrated into the keyboard. This is standard on ASUS keyboards, but this time I found that hit it a few times and the notebook actually turned off. They keys are also a little loud when you’re typing, once when we were typing in a very quiet coffee shop, I got on a serious writing roll and someone looked over and shot me a dirty look. Clearly, my typing was fast and furious but also a too loud.

The trackpad is glass made by Elan, with Microsoft Precision certification and drivers, which offer a fanatic range of gestures and shortcuts, but it leaves little room for tweaks. It’s out of character for ASUS trackpad not to need some tweaking to get working smoothly. The Zenbook keyboard worked very well, there were no issues with unregistered swipes or a jumpy cursor (which plagued the original Zenbook 3). The physical clicks of the trackpad had a perfect amount of resistance and were even across the entire surface. Meaning, the front right wasn’t looser or bouncier than the back left section of the trackpad. Keyboards which exhibit this from the start, tend not to age well.

There is also an integrated fingerprint reader on the top right corner of the Trackpad. Currently, we’ve had no issues with the fingerprint sensor, we are cautiously optimistic that the issues that plagued it’s the Zenbook 3. Like it’s little brother it doesn’t feature Windows Hello Facial Recognition, which requires a depth sensing camera. If you’re lived with this it’s hard to live without, but the fingerprint is a good substitute.

Sound

If you’re looking for a notebook for watching movies the Zenbook 3 Deluxe is a great option. The volume is loud enough and there is a good amount of bass. However, it acceptably good, by comparison to the smaller Zenbook 3 it falls short. The Deluxe lacks the bass that made our heads turn and had us immediately reaching for the volume button to turn it down. The speakers are fine, but on a larger unit, I definitely expected more.

The four speakers are branded by Harman Kardon. Two of these speakers are placed on top of the keyboard and the other two on the bottom.

ASUS includes an Audio Wizard app in which you can select different audio profiles, selecting Music or Music mode made a bit of difference. It is a shame that it doesn’t automatically detect and adjust the mode based on what is playing.

Software

Sporting the latest version of Microsoft Window 10 the Zenbook comes with a typical amount of ASUS bloatware. If you don’t know what that mean, this is system is far from barebones when you get it. When you first start using the Zenbook, ASUS starts off by you the option to download a few apps to get you started. I did find a few useful and went ahead and got myself VLC Player, SodaBox (a PDF reader) and Dropbox all of which I will use regularly.

ASUS Live Update does mar your initial time with the notebook, it gets you to restart several times. I was unclear what it was updating, but after doing some research it looks like I’ll be keeping it. Usually, I usually just rely on Windows Updater to keep my copy of Windows up to date, but ASUS live takes c care of additional updates like the BIOS and driver updates for things like the trackpad. ASUS should make clear why they have offered up this additional program that I met with a healthy dose of skepticism.

McAfee Anti-Virus comes pre-installed, we’re not a fan, we find it slows down the system. Over the past year, we’ve actually just been using Windows defender and of course a very healthy dose of common sense exercising “think before you click”.

OneDrive also appears preloaded and we are very happy about that, it’s a very sophisticated piece of software that does a great job of acting seamlessly to save your files to the cloud.

Web Camera

  • Poor Quality

Making video calls with friends is pretty standard these days, that ASUS only included a 0.3MP camera is as shocking as the camera quality itself. In a well-lit room, this was the best I could do. It’s bad, it’s not clear, my face looks very disfigured if you’re in a long-distance relationship with anyone or have friends that live overseas that you regularly talk to, the camera quality in flat out unacceptable. I would end up propping my phone up against the screen and using the front facing camera on my phone, VGA at 30fps just is not good enough, especially on an HD display.

Performance

  • Fan is very loud & turns on frequently
  • Can handle more intense applications like gaming or the adobe creative suite
  • Heat was not an issue, using it on my lap it was never uncomfortably hot

Zenbook 3 Deluxe powering 2 4K monitors

This notebook performs well in daily tasks and even in more demanding chores like Photoshop and gaming. Thunderbolt 3 allows you to hook up two 4k monitors because Thunderbolt 3 is capable of 40GBPS data transfer and the Core i7-7500U which can boost up to 3.5Ghz for short periods should you need the extra performance.

The ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe comes with high-end specifications up to a core i7 with up to 16GB of RAM which is soldered on so no upgrading it after the fact. The CPU is U-Series which means that it’s got a high focus on providing longer battery life. If you were looking to pick up this notebook for graphic design, it wouldn’t be my top choice.  We were able to perform graphically intense tasks no problem but the fan noise requires you to wear headphones and listen to music all the time. Export times are also longer than I’d like but if editing and photo processing are my main objectives, getting a machine with a GPU would be key. Having said that I had no problem editing the video and photos for this review on directly on the Zenbook 3 Deluxe.

3DMark Cloudgate – 4389
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme – 46854
3DMark Sky Diver – 2164
PCMark 8 Home Accelerated – 3005
PCMark 8 Work Accelerated – 4293

Geekbench Single Core – 4266
Geekbench Multicore – 8096
Geekbench Open CL Score – 9599

Crystal Disk Mark 4k (read) – 52.38MB/s
Crystal Disk Mark 4k (write) – 137.5MB/s
Crystal Disk Mark 4kQD32 (read) – 509.3
Crystal Disk Mark 4kQD32 (write) – 411.9

A 0.3 mm liquid crystal polymer fan impeller quickly moves air away from the processor towards a copper pipe. This draws heat away from the processor. This setup does a great job in keeping the unit cool, but it’s at a very high cost of being quite noisy.  When unplugged on battery power the fan kicks in very often, about 75% of the time.

ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe UX490 Battery Life

  • Larger Battery should have been included for a 14 inch display

Under the hood we have a 46Wh battery which is only 6Wh bigger than the 12.5 inch Zenbook 3, this is not a big enough jump in capacity if you’re going to increase the display size to 14 inch.

We get a full charge in 1:45min but we are disappointed in the overall battery life. We’re seeing between 5-6 hours which is not quite enough for me to make it through a day around town. With average use using Chrome or Edge for web surfing, messenger, one-hour long tv show using the speakers & 25min of Photoshop with the display brightness at 50% and the keyboard brightness on the lowest setting I saw 5:15min of use. This is a far cry from the claim of 10 hours, especially because the PCMark 8 battery score gave it 4:24 hours on a single charge.

Price

  • Competitive apart from only sporting an HD display

The ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe (UX490UA) starts at $1,699 it’s expensive, but if you compare it to the Macbook, it starts at $1299 with the high end offering a better processor at $1699, it’s nowhere near what the Zenbook brings to the table.

I expect the base model to come with a Core i5-7200U processor, 8 GB of RAM and at this price point, probably a 512 GB SSD. Higher end configurations will get the Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and up to 1 TB of storage space.

If you look at the Lenovo Yogo 910 which sports similar specs but has a 4K display and the highend specs with a 1TB SSD & 16GB of RAM we’re looking at 2,399, the base unit price is competitive at $1,699. However, we were consistently seeing 9 hours of battery life with the Yoga 910.

Pricing isn’t yet confirmed for the Zenbook 3 Deluxe, we’re basing our assessment on the Suggested Retail Price at launch.

Rating
Design / 9
Camera / 5
Sound / 8.5
Performance / 8
Battery Life / 7
Software / 7.5
Price / 8
Editor's Choice / 9
Hardware / 8.5
Display / 7.5
ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe UX490

The ASUS Zenbook 3 Deluxe (UX490) is a beautiful well-built machine, fast hardware, a fantastic trackpad, great keyboard and even sporting 3 USB Type C ports. The fact that we've also got Thunderbolt 3 support means this a device suitable for business professionals or anyone wanting to have a desk set up that can easily transform into a road machine. We're not convinced this would be a good choice for those looking to use it for heavy lifting = while on the go, the fan is loud and often on while running on battery power. We are let down by the very average battery life especially since the smaller version does perform better. We're a fan of the notebook and would be happy if it was my daily driver, but are more likely to open up our wallets for the Zenbook 3 over the Deluxe.

7.8
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