When my Huawei Matebook D turned out to be defective after one month of usage, I needed to get a new laptop. I decided to go for a different model so that I could write a review for this blog and after some searching, I decided to go with the ASUS UX333FN, for 820€.
As a reminder, these are the requirements for my laptop that I mostly use for university:
At 820€, this ASUS laptop is a tad more expensive than the Matebook I originally went for, so let's see if it's worth the extra money.
Before we dig in, yes, I bought an ASUS product despite my previous experiences with this brand. I decided to give it a go because I doubt that the same people that make ASUS motherboards are behind their laptops too, they're probably two completely separate branches. See? I'm a reasonable person!
The notebook comes in a pretty box full of goodies.
The first thing that caught my eye about this laptop is how small it is: at first I thought I was sent the wrong model and I had to double check, but no, it's 13.3 inches as I wanted, it just has very narrow bezels so it's overall smaller.
The body of the laptop is all metal, and I have to say I really like the aesthetics of it, the "police uniform blue" and gold is a great color combination, and I really appreciate that they didn't try to copy Apple with their design. Well done here.
The screen to body ratio on this laptop is an impressive 95%.
Here it is compared to an older 13.3 inch ultrabook, also from ASUS. As you can see, it's quite a bit smaller but the screen is the same size. It's about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Neat.
When the laptop is open, the back raises slightly to improve airflow. Something that it's going to need to cool that dedicated GPU.
On the left side, we have a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, a USB 3.1 Type C (no Thunderbolt and no charging though), a full size HDMI, and the usual ASUS barrel connector for charging. It would be nice if it could charge from that USB-C port, that's something I really liked about the Matebook.
On the right side, we have a MicroSD card reader, an inexplicable USB 2.0 port, a headphone/microphone jack, and LED indicators for power and charge.
On the bottom we have 4 rubber feet in the corners, a ventilation grill, and 2 down firing speakers.
The weight of the laptop is only 1.16kg, and with the lid closed it's 16.9mm thick so it's lightweight but not razor thin.
In the box we also have the usual ASUS 65 watts charger.
You also get a microfiber cloth for cleaning the laptop (the lid has the tendency to attract fingerprints).
There are some warranty papers
And what's this? A gigabit ethernet dongle included. That's rare. Thank you.
And last but not least, it also comes with a carrying case to protect it.
That's a pretty rich accessory bundle.
The overall build quality seems pretty good, excellent by ASUS' standards I'd say: there's no flex on the screen, very little flex on the keyboard, the body is all metal, the hinges are good, and overall it feels quite solid and premium.
All benchmarks were done with the laptop running on battery.
Cinebench gives us in idea of CPU performance in both multi thread and single thread scenarios.
The i5 8265U scored 472 points in multi thread (which is about 10% slower than the Ryzen 5 2500U), and an impressive 151 points in single thread (beating the shit out of the Ryzen 5 2500U by almost 60%). This confirms that Intel still has much better IPC than AMD, but it also shows that in multi thread, Ryzen boosts higher.
In general, I'd say the i5 8265U is better than the Ryzen 5 2500U in most tasks, especially gaming, thanks to its much better single thread performance.
This test gives us an idea of the speed of the SSD.
Since this is an NVMe drive, we got really good performance out of it. Not spectacular, but much better than SATA. The system is very snappy.
Since we have a dedicated GPU, let's see how good it is for gaming.
We tested Unigine Valley in both 720p Ultra and 1080p Ultra (using the Extreme HD preset). Clearly, this laptop is capable of decent 720p gaming, but 1080p may be a bit too much.
We also tested Unigine Superposition in 720p with the Low preset, and it gets through with a pretty good score of 6491, much higher than what Vega 8 scored on the Matebook.
The nVidia MX150 is very similar to a GT1030: it's based on Pascal, it has the same amount of cores, similar clock speeds, and the same VRAM; however, it has a lower TDP of 10 watts instead of 30 watts. This means that performance will be limited by power throttling so it's not quite as good as a GT1030. There is also a 25 watts version of the MX150, used on the Razer Stealth Blade which should have better performance (but I'm not buying an ugly gaming laptop to find out).
Another thing that I need to point out is how good nVidia drivers are. Anything you want to play, old or new, it works. That's why for me, choosing nVidia is almost a no brainer (#shillalert): it's the only choice I have if I want to play old games and not just new ones.
On paper, Vega Mobile is pretty good, however, the drivers are atrociously bad: new games suffer from low performance and old games often don't run at all. While this ASUS laptop runs Crysis in 720p on Very High at 60fps, Vega can't even run the game, it crashes immediately. The same goes for many other games, including one of my favorites, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, which has been broken on AMD since 2013. AMD needs to get their head out of their ass and fix their drivers if they want to compete again. I will not buy an AMD GPU until I can play what I like on it, old or new.
The keyboard is decent. It's a rubber dome, chiclet keyboard, with normal travel keys, and 3 brightness levels for backlight. It flexes a little bit if you type very hard, but it's nowhere near as bad as the older ASUS ultrabooks. The general feel and performance is not quite as good as the Matebook though.
I did a typing test and got 76 WPM on it, but I made more mistakes than I usually do because a few keystrokes were not registered properly (you get tactile feedback but it doesn't actually register, or it registers it twice), not something that I would expect from something in this price range. Key stabilization could be better.
I'd say it's a clear win for the Matebook over this laptop, but it's not garbage, it's usable and it only bothers keyboard snobs like myself.
A mildly annoying thing is that the Italian layout is ANSI instead of the standard ISO which is common in Europe. Whoever thought this was a good idea is a cheap bastard, because the letter ù is placed where the top of the enter key usually is, and the enter key is enlarged where the letter ù normally is, causing me to accidentally press enter and send a message every time I instinctively type the letter ù (for instance, every time I type più, which is more in Italian). Pure. Evil.
Oh, and the cherry on top of the cake: the Function keys and the F keys are swapped and it can't be changed in the BIOS.
The trackpad is alright: maybe a little bit small, but it's precise enough. The only thing worth noting here is that it tends to glitch when my fingers are very dry, and I do unfortunately have very dry skin.
If you long press the top right corner of the trackpad, you can also turn it into a numpad. Not really useful but hey, why not.
The 13.3 inch 1080p IPS matte display is good but not exceptional.
The image is crisp, it's a proper RGB display and not pentile, and it can be used at 96DPI without the text being too small.
Backlight is normal, not super bright, and viewing angles are typical of an IPS display. No PWM flicker is visible, even at lower brightness levels.
In my opinion, the colors are a bit undersaturated. It's hard to capture on camera, but here it is compared to my desktop's AOC IPS display. You can clearly see that the red is much better on my desktop.
The display also has a tiny bit of backlight bleeding, visible on uniform backgrounds. It's usually not visible.
According to Windows (but it's not mentioned anywhere on the ASUS website) this screen is HDR capable. Windows says it can stream HDR video in full screen (but not games, meh). It requires battery power though.
I tried playing an HDR movie in MPC-HC and I didn't see anything special, so if this is an HDR display, it's probably barely HDR 400. It doesn't seem to have local dimming. Again, ASUS doesn't mention it on the product page so I'm just guessing.
The screen is not a touchscreen, and no touch version is available.
The 720p webcam is pretty good, and it also has Windows Hello support (IR) in case you use it. Here's a picutre I took with it.
The stereo down firing "Harman/Kardon" speakers sound decent, not a lot of bass but not tinny. Definitely usable. Max volume is quite high without a lot of distortion.
Battery life is good but nothing special.
The battery capacity is 50086mWh, not replaceable.
With normal use it lasts 6-8 hours, but it doesn't do more than 1.5 hours in game.
Generally speaking, this is a silent laptop. The fan only kicks in when doing something intense, and it's completely fanless if you're just watching some movie or doing web browsing.
The laptop is generally cool to touch, and even while stressing it, it doesn't get uncomfortably warm, as you can see in this picture.
Internally, the maximum temperatures registered while testing were around 80-85 degrees on both the CPU and GPU, while playing Crysis.
On a final note, the laptop does have a little bit of coil whine. It's very low and I was unable to record it, and I only hear it when USB devices are plugged in. Weird.
I give this laptop 7.6/10.