Asus Zenbook UX303LN Review

It’s Back

Earlier in the year, we got the chance to review the Asus UX301, a premium portable computer that falls in the “ultrabook” category, by showcasing impressive power and a slim profile at a premium price; well over $1400 depending on where you bought it. Now as autumn arrives, Asus has already tweaked their UX301 with the UX303LN, and in many respects, it’s identical to its predecessor, right down to being an ultrabook that’s better suited to work and social media than it is to play. Or at least, videogame play.

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A first impression of the UX303LN makes one thing abundantly clear; this thing is not fooling around in the looks department. Its brushed aluminum exterior and clean, soft lines make it the perfect prop for beautiful people to stare at intensely during crucial investigation sequences in a movie or television show. The thing is clearly designed to be looked at. It’s also designed to be worked on. It lives up to its ultrabook classification with a 13.3” touchscreen, an Intel i7 4510U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a GeForce 840M graphics card and 2 GB of video RAM. It sports a dual storage system with a 100 GB solid state drive for the OS, and another 121 GB of usable storage space on the other hard disc drive. All of it comes wrapped in the expected Windows 8 operating system. This is a computer with the modern day in mind, and as such it has the usual niceties like a web cam, HDMI and USB inputs built in, there’s no Ethernet input, so it’s wireless all the way unless you buy a separate USB Ethernet adapter. It also sports a Bang & Olufson “ICEpower” speaker set up, but considering how small and tinny any speaker is going to be on an ultrabook, this is more a brand name bragging right than an actual useful feature. The battery has an average life span of 4-6 hours depending on usage. The big differences between the UX303LN and its predecessor, the UX301 are the screen, which is a 3200 x 1800 touch screen, so things will definitely look crisper and sharper in the text and video viewing department, although graphic designers should be aware that the color calibration is pretty off on this screen; yellows in particular are not accurately rendered.

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The price point of the Asus UX303LN is set for working professionals (or students/trust fund babies with affluent parents) to have a fashionable piece of tech to work on that will look good in both a professional and casual setting. It’s got the speed, memory and sharp enough display that, for ordinary office work, social media and more low level graphics/editing work, the UX303LN is a robust tool that will get the job done while still fitting easily into most bags, satchels or other small carrying cases.  Where the UX303LN absolutely fails is as a hardcore gaming device.

This is problematic when being reviewed at a gaming outlet, and it’s the same problem that the predecessor, the UX301 had. While the UX303LN will handle simple web games, indie games and older PC games from several years back, it absolutely cannot handle more resource intensive, modern games. Certain games that are scalable, such as EA’s The Sims 4 will run well enough at appropriately gimped settings, but even older games such as The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings bring the UX303LN to an absolute standstill when played on ultra settings. It was a similar problem with UX301 being brought to its knees by games like Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty.

So with the UX303LN, the important thing to remember is that this is a work device, not a play device. For more casual or non-graphics intensive games, it’ll play just fine. But if you want to play the latest PC games on the go, then you should consider the other Asus line, the Republic of Gamers laptops, or go with Alienware. Those machines will play any game you throw at them without a hiccup. The Zenbook, while providing you with hours of reliable work, social media, and online streaming, will not be so satisfactory for a hardcore PC player. This is definitely your computer if you want to look good at a café or boardroom meeting, but you’ll be the laughing stock of the tournament if you try to play Call of Duty on it.