Luckily, I've got the perfect solution for you: the Asus Zenbook UX330UA (available at Amazon). Though there are faster laptops out there and cheaper ones on the shelf at any big box store, the UX330UA is just right for most buyers. The processor is fast, the battery lasts all day, the keyboard is great, the included features are impressive for the price, and the design draws from the most premium laptops on the market—without actually costing a premium.
The UX330UA starts at a little over $750, but is usually available for $699. Compare it to just about any other laptop in its price range and you're getting more for your money—often much more. And though there are some laptops that we like more overall, they all cost more overall.
No matter how you slice it, the Asus UX330UA is one of the best values money can buy in 2017.
The Asus ZenBook UX330UA is a mid-range model that offers a 13.3-inch display, an aluminum-alloy unibody chassis, a wide array of current and future ports, and processor options starting with an Intel Core i5. Though the UX330UA was initially available in a few configs when it launched, the version we have reviewed appears to be the only current one. Here are the specs from Asus:
Screen: 13.3-inch Full HD (non-touchscreen)
Processor: Intel Core i5-7200U (7th Gen)
Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 (Integrated)
Power: 57Wh Battery
Storage: 256GB m.2 SSD
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Ports: 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 3.0 x2, USB-C Gen 1, micro HDMI, SDXC
Dimensions: 12.7x8.7x0.5 in, 2.6lbs
For a $700 machine, the base level Asus UX330UA offers almost everything I'd want in a mid-range laptop. The metal body is lightweight and sturdy, the 7th-gen i5 isn't cutting edge (8th-gen chips are rolling out now) but it's plenty fast, the battery is large and lasts all day through basic tasks, and a Full HD screen is just fine in my book since it usually means you get a longer battery life.
The port selection here is a bit odd. Nearly everything on my wish-list is covered: standard USB, a full-size SD card reader, HDMI, and USB-C. But it's not all perfect: the HDMI is only micro HDMI, which is annoying and less useful unless you keep a dongle with you; having both USB-C and USB-A is great since USB-C is far from ubiquitous, but it's a Gen 1 USB-C port so you can't charge through it; the USB-C port also doesn't support Thunderbolt 3, and data transfer tops out at 5Gb per second.
The design is as sturdy as it is eye-catching
As with most Zenbooks, the UX330UA features an aluminum-alloy chassis with a concentric brushed texture on top. It's an eye-catching design detail, but the Zenbook's quality extends through the whole design. It has a little bit of flex to it, but far less than similarly priced machines that are mostly made of plastic.
The ZenBook does feel a tad heavier than some of the sleekest laptops we've tested lately, but at 2.6lbs it's still significantly lighter than a competing model like the new Dell Inspiron 13 7000. The fit and finish of the laptop is otherwise quite good, and there's just enough tension in the lid that opening and closing with one hand is easy enough—though it'd be easier if there were a notch in the screen.
The one area where the design is lacking is the screen. We'll touch on this more in the "What We Don't Like" section below, but the lack of a touchscreen or a 2-in-1 display will be a negative to people who like those features in other Windows laptops.
The battery lasts all day long and then some
In our intensive battery benchmark test, the ZenBook excelled. It lasted just over four hours, which is well above average. If you're just watching videos or browsing the web, you can expect to get well over an 8-hour workday on one charge.
Charging the ZenBook doesn't take too long, though it charges through a dedicated charging port and not through the USB-C port as some newer laptops do. It's very, very far from a dealbreaker, but as newer laptops and phones use USB-C, the ability to carry a single charger for multiple devices will become more common; on the UX330UA you'll always need to carry the charger, though it's quite small.
The keyboard is a joy to type on
A good keyboard is like a roof on a house—if you don't think about it, it's doing its job. The last thing you want to really think about when using a laptop is the keyboard. It should just work. And yet, we've seen numerous laptop makers screw this up lately, with poorly placed shift keys, keys that barely budge, or keys that pop off after just a few months of use.
The keyboard on the Asus ZenBook UX330U is just about ideal. The keys themselves feel a bit plasticky, but they have just enough travel, resistance, and separation that they should work well for most people.
It has just the right blend of must-have features
Laptops are in a bit of a transition period right now, with new tech like USB-C rolling out slowly. A laptop like the MacBook Pro with four USB-C ports that can all charge the laptop seems great, until you have to print a doc quickly and you realize you have no way to hook up a thumb drive without a dongle.
The Asus balances this nicely by offering a selection of new and old ports alike, as well as an HDMI slot (albeit the rare micro HDMI that you'll need a dongle to use most of the time), and an SD card reader. While not everyone will find all of these slots useful, the ZenBook has a little bit of something for everyone.
On the inside, the UX330UA hits the nail on the head with a main configuration that is powerful, efficient, affordable, but only cuts corners in places most people won't care about. The base model's 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD are the minimum we think most people should get, and the Core i5 has for years been the best blend of power and battery life for most people. Even the 13.3-inch 1080p screen is a great choice, offering "good enough" performance for most people.
The trackpad isn't ideal
Trackpads are just about the trickiest thing for a laptop manufacturer to design. Even Apple has had some missteps lately with its top-end MacBook Pros. Though Asus has added in a nice little fingerprint sensor into the trackpad, it's otherwise less than ideal. It's a bit jumpy and inconsistent, though after a few weeks of use (and a few tweaks in the menu) you'll hardly notice.
No touchscreen will turn some buyers off
Most people I know don't need a touchscreen on their laptop. But it's the kind of thing that you may fall in love with once you have it, especially if you are a student or have to write a lot of notes down. The Asus doesn't have a touchscreen at all, and there's no option to upgrade to one. This may help with battery life and the screen isn't as glossy (two common complaints with touchscreens), but for some buyers it'll be a turn-off.
The bezels around the screen are huge
Display manufacturers have gotten very good in the last few years at shrinking the dead space around screens, called bezels. As a result we've been able to get laptops like the Dell XPS 13, which includes a 13-inch screen in a chassis that would, in the past, have been only big enough to hold a 12-inch screen.
The ZenBook, much like Apple's MacBook Air, apparently hasn't gotten the memo that bezels are on the way out. There are huge ones surrounding the ZenBook's screen on all sides. It's not obnoxious, but slimmer bezels would've meant either a smaller laptop or a larger screen, which would've been even better.
Yes—it's one of the best all-around values under $1,000
If you're looking for a laptop and you have a budget under $800, it's hard to not go for the Asus ZenBook UX330UA. For that kind of money you can definitely find laptops that are a little bit nicer or have a little bit more to offer, but the UX330UA hits just the right notes for a stunningly low price of just $700 on sale.
The trackpad takes a little getting used to and there are a few tiny tweaks we wish Asus has been able to make, but otherwise it's hard to imagine a better laptop for the money at this price point. It has a fast processor, it's got all-day battery life, the screen is just good enough for all but the most demanding work, the keyboard feels great, and even the parts we really don't like—such as the use of a micro HDMI port—are minor nuisances at worst.
If you want a slightly nicer fit and finish the closest competitor is probably the new Dell Inspiron 13 7000. Though the Inspiron line isn't as flashy as Dell's flagship XPS 13, the Inspiron 13 7000 also offers a sleek metal chassis and an attractive design. As with most Dell laptops you can customize it to the bones, but a comparable model with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a newer 8th-gen i5 will run you about $779, though you can jump to a touchscreen model for $50 more usually. The 8th-gen chips promise big performance enhancements with quad core processors, but we won't know by how much until we test them.
As the current crop of 7th-gen laptops gives way to newer 8th-gen models there may be a few laptops that drop down to match the UX330UA, but we have a hard time imagining anything but a refurbished model beating it out. It's that well-priced, and any budget-conscious buyer should feel confident that they are stretching their money as far as it'll go with the ZenBook UX330UA.
Meet the tester
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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