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Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN review: An ultraportable laptop with a knack for gaming

Yes, you can scoop up a faster 8th-generation Intel quad-core ultraportable than the $1,000 Asus ZenBook 13, but good luck finding one with a discrete graphics core, perfect for Photoshop-minded professionals or casual gamers craving on-the-go Fortnite or Dota 2. A solid array of ports, a snappy keyboard and impressive battery life round out the enticing (if fingerprint-prone) package.

Asus ZenBook 13 specifications and price

We tested the $1,000 royal-blue version of the ZenBook 13, which comes with a 13.3-inch touch display, an 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U processor, discrete Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. A cheaper version of the ZenBook 13 with integrated graphics might be on tap in “a couple months,” according to an Asus rep.

The ZenBook 13’s most arresting feature has to be its glossy, gorgeous lid, etched with Asus’s telltale pattern of razor-thin—or, to be more precise, nano-thin—concentric circles, courtesy of a five-layer process the manufacturer calls “nanoimprint lithography.”

asus zenbook 13 ux331un lid Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The ”nanoimprint lithography” on the ZenBook’s lid is both gorgeous and fingerprint-prone.

The shiny result is certainly a sight to behold, never more so than when you first glimpse the pristine ZenBook sitting in its cardboard shipping box. Within a few days, though, the lid of my ZenBook 13 review unit was covered with fingerprints. I was able to buff the shiny finish back into shape, but fighting off the smudges turned out to be a losing battle.

Measuring 12.2 by 8.5 by 0.5 inches, the ZenBook 13 makes for an impressively slim machine given its discrete graphics core, and it feels reasonably light at about 2.7 pounds, or a little over three pounds if you include the seven-ounce power adapter.

Asus ZenBook 13 display

The ZenBook’s 13.3-inch 1920-by-1080 display looks sharp and vivid, with svelte 6.9mm bezels along the sides but somewhat thickers bezels along the screen’s top and bottom edges. Measuring about 282 nits (or candelas) at its highest brightness setting, the ZenBook 13’s display is reasonably bright, well above our minimum 250-nit standard for comfortable indoor viewing, if a tad dimmer than the 300-nit readings we’ve recorded on competing laptops.

Viewing angles on the ZenBook 13’s AHVA (a proprietary twist on IPS) screen were excellent, with the display dimming only slightly as I moved from side to side or above and below.

The ZenBook’s touch-enabled display easily handled my taps and swipes, and yes, there’s pen support, although you’ll have to pony up $50 for the optional ASUS active pen.

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