Introducing the Asus UX310UA, a laptop that has gone striaght into second place in our best laptop roundup. This is a laptop that’s pretty much the same size, price and weight as Apple’s recently updated, and dearly loved MacBook Air.
And with the Air having being cast out as the, pardon the pun, bad apple of the laptop family, is Asus ready to wear the coveted Air crown?
Nearly, ever so nearly. A large diamond encrusted tiara would be more fitting.
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-7200U CPU @ 2.50GHz running 2.7GHz
Graphics: Intel(R) HD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB, DDR4, 2,133MHz. Expandable to 20GB
Screen: 13.3 inch, 3,200 x 1,800 QHD
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: 1 x COMBO audio jack, 1 x USB 3.1 TYPE C port, 1 x USB 3.0 port, 2 x USB 2.0 port, 1 x HDMI
Camera: HD Web Camera
Weight: 1.4kg / 3.09 pounds
Size: 32.3 cm x 22.3 cm x 1.84cm / 12.7 x 8.78 x 0.72 inches (W x D x H)
First up, the Asus Zenbook UX310UA, like its previous incarnation the UX303UA, is incredibly pretty, arguably better looking than Apple’s spurned masterpiece.
Marvel at the shining concentric circles emanating from the Asus logo on the lid, gasp at the smooth lines around the edge, and your wallet will be a little more plump thanks to the free carry case. That’d be an extra cost from Apple. So far so good.
Sizing it up to the competition, it’s mostly on par. It’s a little thicker than the Macbook Air which is 1.7cm, while this is 1.84cm and admittedly doesn’t have the tapered end.
Lenovo’s Ideapad 710S is similarly specced and thinner but has a poorer display. HP’s Spectre x360 is also slimmer but its starting price is £1,199 ($1,049, AU$2,299).
In order to keep the price low, Asus has increased the thickness, but kept the build quality high. A fair compromise we think.
Before you’ve even turned it on, the packaging is elegant. Unlike a lot of laptops, this one is worthy of an unboxing video.
Upon opening the lid, the simple message “In Search Of Incredible” is emblazoned on the inner lid, which is a nice touch. There’s a distinct lack of plastic and cable ties too. Of course the Macbook Air wins out power wise as it’s one of the few machines that still use the brilliant MagSafe charger, here though it’s a perfectly serviceable L-shaped plug.
Speaking of plugs, the Zenbook isn’t short of sockets. Along the left side you’ll find the aforementioned round charging socket, a USB 3.0, HDMI, USB C and headphone with integrated microphone socket.
On the right there are two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader and a couple of lights, one for the hard drive and the other that let you know that it’s actually on, or if the battery is charging.
It’s a pity that the two USBs on the right aren’t 3.0 like the one on the left, but it’s handy that there’s a USB C port included.
Incidentally the USB 3.0 port on the left supports USB Charger +, an Asus invention that charges external equipment quickly even while it’s off or hibernating. There’s bundled software included that’ll help manage the laptop’s battery when using this facility.
Screen and interface
As well as being a looker, the Asus Zenbook UX310UA also sports a fantastic screen. We were given the QHD 3,200 x 1,800 version to review, but it’s also available with a full HD 1920x1080 resolution screen as well.
And my word is it a glory to behold. Viewable from a wide range of angles (178 to be precise) and the Anti-Glare actually does what it’s meant to do.
There is very little edge burn when the screen’s entirely black and the colors are well-defined, deep and avoid looking garish. This screen could work for photographers on the move because of its wonderful color definition.
And, if we go back to the Macbook Air comparison, at the same price point you most definitely wouldn't be getting a Retina screen. If we have one criticism, the bezel is a little large, but it’s not too obtrusive.
At first we thought the keyboard wasn’t up to scratch, as typing causes a slightly disorientating bend in the center. However, the bend isn’t a detriment to the usability, as once we got used to it, it’s a perfectly functioning mechanism with low noise and reliable keys. But you may need give it time to adjust if you're used to rock-solid keyboards.
Similarly with the trackpad, it took a bit of setup and getting used to. The pinch zoom doesn’t really work, as it would often get set off while using two finger scrolling.
In the end we had to turn off the zoom and just use keyboard shortcuts. Not an ideal solution, but we prefer to be able to use two finger scroll and can do without pinch zoom. The pad itself feels a little slippery compared with others. But again, this is not a deal breaker and these niggles are fixable.