ASUS ZenBook 13 Review 2021: Intel Tiger Lake Processor and No-Charge Full Work Day in a Compact Design

By: Alex Chub | 16.12.2020, 13:39
ASUS ZenBook 13 Review 2021: Intel Tiger Lake Processor and No-Charge Full Work Day in a Compact Design

The ASUS ZenBook range of ultraportable laptops requires no introduction for a long time and the new ASUS ZenBook 13 is quite recognizable. But besides installing the current hardware inside, the manufacturer has slightly updated the appearance. It is still a fully metal body with distinctive concentric patterns on the lid, but the overall design was more restrained and stylish. A new 11th generation Intel Tiger Lake processor is very quick and energy efficient. With the integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics you really can play most popular games at a comfortable framerate. Moreover, there is a very handy keyboard with touchpad, an impressive battery life and an efficient cooling system. Among minor faults -  maybe not the best calibration of the display: normally ZenBooks have no issues with that. And the sound part: the absence of a 3.5mm jack is not the most convenient solution, even if you have an adapter. And the built-in speakers are weak: compact size requires compromises.

ASUS ZenBook 13 ASUS ZenBook 13
Ultra-compact laptop with 13.3-inch IPS-display, quad-core mobile 11-generation Intel Tiger Lake processor with integrated graphics Intel Iris Xe, 8 GB of RAM and Intel Optane 512 GB of memory. Highly recommended!
ASUS ZenBook 13

6 reasons to buy ASUS ZenBook 13:

  • High performance
  • Long battery life
  • Efficient cooling system
  • A good set of ports for its size
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
  • Compact, stylish and lightweight design

2 reasons not to buy ASUS ZenBook 13:

  • A better calibrated display is needed
  • Lack of a headphone jack and weak speakers

Detailed Overview

What's in the package?

The packaging of ASUS ZenBook 13 is a relatively small box of dark gray cardboard with some paperwork and a pen for carrying.It comes with a laptop, a compact 65W power supply with a Type-C connector, a carrying case, an adapter from Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack, and documentation.


ASUS ZenBook 13 UX325EA Specification

Display

13.3 inches, 1920x1080, IPS, anti-glare coating

Dimensions

304х203х13.9 mm

Weight

2.5 lbs / 1.11 kg

Operating system

Windows 10

Processor

Intel Core i7-1165G7, 4 cores, 8 threads, 1.2/2.8-4.7 GHz, 10nm Tiger Lake

RAM

8 ГБ LPDDR4X 4266 MHz

Graphics

Intel Iris Xe

Drive

Intel Optane H10 (32 GB + 512 GB, M.2 80 mm PCIe 3.0, 3D XPoint, QLC)

Connection

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 2,4 и 5 ГГц, Bluetooth 5.0

Ports

2 x Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C (up to 40 Gbps), USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (up to 5 Gbps), HDMI, MicroSD card reader

Camera

Camera with infrared sensor (Windows Hello)

Battery

Lithium polymer, 67Wh, 4 cells

Additional Features

NumberPad 2.0

Appearance and build

The updated range of ZenBook Ultrabooks has got a recognizable, but slightly modified design. ASUS ZenBook 13 is still all-metal, but the appearance has become more formal, if we compare it with the 2019 models. Instead of the bright blue with gold, we see now dark gray with silver. The recognizable concentric pattern around the logo on the top cover is still there, but it has shifted from the center a bit to the right.

The ASUS ZenBook 13 has wedge-shaped sides, which looks interesting. There are not many slots, but a couple of full-size slots are present, which is especially good considering the compact size of the laptop itself, and a full-width keyboard, physically limiting the space inside. On the left side there is a full-size HDMI and two Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C (up to 40Gbps) with Power Delivery support:

On the right you see a microSD card slot and a full-size USB 3.2 Gen 1 (up to 5 Gbps). Following smartphones, laptop manufacturers began to give up the standard audio jack. A controversial decision. Yes, there is an adapter in the kit, but we cannot say that it is very convenient.

The back end also has bevels. The top has the name of the product line and small rubber inserts on the sides. The manufacturer continues to use the ErgoLift design and they are engaged when you open the laptop. Below you can see the ventilation openings. At the front there isn't a cutout, but the top lid protrudes a bit and it is quite possible to hook it with your fingers to open the laptop. 

On the bottom of the laptop you’ll find four rectangular rubberized legs for stability on the table, cooling system air intake vents and stereo speakers, which are placed closer to the front end of the laptop.

The borders around the screen are very thin, especially on the sides, the screen occupies 88% of the entire surface of the lid. The screen has a slightly larger border at the top because of the usual positioning of the webcam, microphones, and also face-recognition infrared camera.

The laptop is very compact and lightweight: 304x203x13.9mm, 1.11kg. In terms of build quality and materials everything is cool, as always with ZenBook range. The metal covers are thick enough and almost no deflection, all parts fit excellent. In addition, the laptop is MIL-STD 810G military standard certified. This does not mean that you have to drop it or pour water on it. But it will be harder to "kill" it.

How easy is it to use the laptop?

The ASUS ZenBook 13 UX325EA uses the well known ErgoLift design, which we've seen in a large number of ASUS models over the past few years. The idea is simple: when you open the notebook, the back of the working surface lifts up slightly. This puts the keyboard at a bit of an angle and allows the cooling system to work better with the air intake under the laptop. Here, the hinges allow you to open the laptop to about 145°. The laptop can be opened with one hand easily.

The keyboard layout of the laptop is very nice. Let's remind, this is a 13-inch ultra-compact model, but the keyboard takes up the entire width of the body. Thanks to this, the size of the buttons is absolutely standard, and the layout is the same that we have seen before in larger models: a standard ultrabook with an additional column of buttons on the right. It contains Home, Page Up, Page Down, End and the second Fn. Our sample has some non-standard features, but they are not present in commercial laptops: the sample came from Britain and the layout is corresponding. Otherwise, everything is standard: the top row is reduced in height and ends with a Power LED button. The arrow buttons are also reduced in height. In general, the keyboard does not take long to get used to it, it is immediately comfortable.

As said above, the buttons themselves are of standard size, as well as the distance between the buttons. The stroke is 1.4 mm, the buttons feel pleasantly soft. The backlight is white, with several levels.

The touchpad is large and combined with the NumberPad 2.0 touchpad. There are two touch buttons placed in the corners of the touchpad to turn it on and adjust the brightness. In practice, there are no accidental triggers. The touchpad itself is very handy, with good coating and an excellent level of sensitivity.

How good is the screen?

The laptop has a 13.3-inch IPS display with 1920x1080 resolution and a matte anti-glare coating. Judging by the information on the official website, no 4K and/or sensor options are planned. But the top specs will have a panel with a maximum brightness of 450 cd/m2 and power consumption of 1 watt. We got the junior configuration with maximum brightness of 300 cd/m2. Visually, the screen is not bad: the brightness level is enough, viewing angles are maximum, the picture is pleasant.

According to the measurement results, the maximum brightness of the display is 288.651 cd/m2. The black field brightness is 0.281 cd/m2 and the static contrast ratio is 1027:1. The color range of the display is close to the sRGB color range, but the color reproduction is not the most accurate. There is a slight lack of red and an excess of blue, as a result, the picture goes a bit into cold shades. In the laptop settings there is a color temperature setting, so you can adjust it. However, typically ZenBook used to have better calibration.

Performance, battery life, and sound?

The most interesting thing is inside the laptop. Just recently, Intel introduced the 11th generation of mobile processors of the Tiger Lake family. They are produced by 10-nm SuperFin process, use cores based on Willow Cove architecture and powerful updated Iris Xe graphics. Tiger Lake is a next step in the 10nm Ice Lake processor family, with some improvements for higher power efficiency and frequencies. The ASUS ZenBook 13 under test has an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor. It includes four cores, supports multi-threaded computing (HyperThreading) eight threads. The base frequency can range from 1.2 to 2.8GHz depending on the TDP (ranging from 12 to 28W). Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.7GHz for single core and 4.2GHz for all cores. The new Intel Iris Xe integrated booster is responsible for the graphics, which includes 96 execution units, and the maximum frequency can reach 1300 MHz. According to Intel, the new booster is not inferior (and in some cases superior) to NVIDIA MX line solutions and allows you to play all modern games with a nice level of FPS. The RAM in our configuration is 8 GB LPDDR4X 4266 MHz, working in dual channel mode, it is soldered on the board. There are configurations with 16 and 32 GB, which are more reasonable at the moment. Other interesting features include support for Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 and two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports up to 40Gbps.

The laptop shows a very impressive performance in synthetic tests, taking into account the ultraportable form factor, of course. And in most tests it beats quite successful AMD Ryzen 4700U.

The laptop features an Intel Optane+477GBSSD drive. According to the available data, it is an Intel Optane H10 (32GB + 512GB, M.2 80mm PCIe 3.0, 3D XPoint, QLC). Intel's official website guarantees up to 2300 MB/s read performance and up to 1300 MB/s write performance.

In reality, the speed is approximately the same as the claimed, in the error margin:

The laptop has no stability and overheating issues. At peak loads, the processor can heat up to 70° at first, and after adapting the CO to the load, it stays at 60°. Of course, no trotting is observed. Under such loads the operation of the cooling system is heard, but no more: it can hardly be called an annoying noise, in office conditions it does not draw any attention. In real conditions with a small load the CO is not audible.

The new Intel Iris Xe graphics turned out to be very effective indeed. DOOM 2016 on high settings works with a frame rate of 30-40 FPS, in Elite Dangerous the frame rate does not fall below 40 FPS, and in Hitman - not below 30. So yes, it is true that on the new Intel Iris Xe you can play most modern games quite comfortably and the performance is higher than the current GeForce MX solutions.

For the laptop's battery life a 4-cell battery of 67 Watt*h is responsible, promising up to 15 hours of work. In the top configurations with 1 Watt screen, this figure is 18 hours. In real life, ASUS ZenBook 13 managed about 9 hours in office mode: brightness just below average, constant Wi-Fi connection, working with documents, browser and some Photoshop. So the laptop is quite capable of making it through a working day without recharging. At the same time, it supports fast charging up to 60% in 49 minutes. Another useful little thing: you can recharge from a power bank.

The audio system is represented by two speakers. You should not expect miracles with such compact dimensions: you will not be able to arrange a disco, but it should be enough to watch a movie somewhere in a small hotel room. As for the adapter with ESS DAC inside, it produces very good quality sound to the headphones.

Summary

Three things to know about ASUS ZenBook 13:

  • ASUS ZenBook 13 UX325EA is powered by a new 11th generation Intel Tiger Lake processor with some pretty powerful Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics.
  • The laptop body is very compact and lightweight, made entirely of metal.
  • Can run a full working day without recharging.

ASUS ZenBook 13 ASUS ZenBook 13
Ultra-compact laptop with 13.3-inch IPS-display, quad-core mobile 11-generation Intel Tiger Lake processor with integrated graphics Intel Iris Xe, 8 GB of RAM and Intel Optane 512 GB of memory. Highly recommended!
ASUS ZenBook 13

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