Reviewed: ASUS UX433 Ultrabook

The ASUS UX433 is essentially a powerful 14″ Ultrabook in a 13″ form factor. It’s a worthy travel buddy with great aesthetics and solid performance.

ASUS have packaged together a compelling specification with their new UX433 Ultrabook. The 14nm Intel Whiskey-Lake-U Core i7-8565U CPU has 4 cores with 8 threads to handle demanding workloads. The CPU has a base clock of 1.8GHz but will boost up to 4.60GHz when needed and is rated at only 15W TDP. The i78565-U CPU also includes Intel 620 Graphics but the ZenBook UX433 also includes a discrete NVIDIA MX150 graphics processor. Our review unit also came with 16GB of 2133MHz DDR3 and a 512GB NVMe SSD for local storage. The UX433 is available in both Royal Blue and Icicle Silver (per our review unit.

The hero of the UX433 is the screen and it sure stands out with the 92% screen to body ratio. The frame is so small around the 14″ screen (2.9mm side bezels and 3.3mm lower bezel) that when you’re using the UX433, it feels like it’s ‘all screen’. I loved the viewing angle, colour reproduction and contrast ratio of the panel. 1920×1080 resolution looked clear and the screen served me well in productivity work, website browsing, document reading and also movies/content viewing where the contrast really impressed. The hinge design elevates the rear of the keyboard for a comfortable viewing/typing angle. 

System boot speeds were aided by the NVMe SSD and the login process is also lightning fast when you enable face recognition via the built in cameras. This works well in daylight or at night-time without any external light source. Face recognition is more than a gimmick – if you need to start up the UX433 and access something or make a note quickly, you can go from a shutdown state to logged in and ready to work in a few seconds. From a usability perspective this is really important and something that many users will appreciate.

ASUS list the backlit keyboard and numeric trackpad as key selling points and whilst they are good features, they’re probably not what I’d consider the best that the UX433 has to offer. I’ll talk more about these and the other features in the Testing section.

Who is it for?

The Asus ZenBook UX433 is built to travel. When the designers took on (and met) the challenge of cramming a 14” screen into a 13” form factor they gave us a premium ‘on the go’ ultrabook experience. At a little over 1kg, the UX433 is light and probably the lightest notebook I’ve ever carried around. Light but not fragile – the frame, keys, ports and trackpad all feel sturdy and Asus have the UX433 rated at the MIL STD 810G standard so the bells and whistles of the UX433 haven’t come at the expense of quality or durability.

Battery life expectations are set pretty high by ASUS, claiming 14 hours (under the right conditions). Whilst I felt the battery life was good, I didn’t find it to be anywhere near as good as the claim but I wasn’t being a complete miser with regard to disabling connectivity and running with the lowest brightness possible. The PCMARK 8 battery test rated the UX433’s battery at 3hours and 19 minutes. For real world use though I’d still be very happy with the battery life we saw which was typically between 5-7 hours of realistic low intensity use.

Specifications

Finish / ColorRoyal Blue, Icicle Silver
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro
(ASUS recommends Windows 10 Pro)

Windows 10 Home
ProcessorIntel® Core™ i7-8565U processor
1.8GHz quad-core with Turbo Boost (up to 4.6GHz) and 8MB cache

Intel® Core™ i5-8265U processor
1.6GHz quad-core with Turbo Boost (up to 3.9GHz) and 6MB cache
GraphicsNVIDIA® GeForce® MX150
2GB GDDR5 VRAM
Integrated Intel® UHD Graphics 620
Display14” LED-backlit FHD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 standard display
14” LED-backlit FHD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 anti-glare display
Four-sided frameless NanoEdge design with 92% screen-to-body ratio
2.9mm-thin side bezel and 3.3mm bottom bezel1
Wide 100% sRGB color gamut
178° wide-view technology
Memory 8GB / 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 onboard
Storage 1TB PCIe® 3.0 x4 SSD
512GB / 256GB PCIe® 3.0 x2 SSD
Interfaces 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C™ (up to 10Gbps)
1 x USB 3.1 Type-A (up to 10Gbps)
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x HDMI
1 x MicroSD card reader
Keyboard and TouchpadKeyboard
Full-size backlit, with 1.4mm key travel

Touchpad
Glass-covered with integrated NumberPad; intelligent palm-rejection
Precision Touchpad (PTP) technology supports up to four-finger smart gestures
AudioASUS SonicMaster stereo audio system with surround-sound; smart amplifier for maximum audio performance
Array microphone with Cortana and Alexa2 voice-recognition support
3.5mm headphone jack
Long-travel voice coils for improved low-frequency response
Certified by Harman Kardon
Camera
3D IR HD camera
Wireless ConnectivityWi-Fi
Dual-band 802.11ac gigabit-class Wi-Fi

Bluetooth
Bluetooth® 5.0
Battery and PowerUp to 14 hours battery life3
50Wh 3-cell lithium-polymer battery
65W power adapter
(Output: 19V DC, 65W)
(Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz universal)
Weight and DimensionsHeight: 1.59cm (0.63 inches)
Width: 31.9cm (12.56 inches)
Depth: 19.9cm (7.83 inches)
Weight4:
With anti-glare display: Approx. 1.09kg
With standard display: Approx. 1.19kg
Included in the BoxZenBook 14 (UX433)
Protective sleeve
65W power adapter
Plug Type: ø4 (mm)
Included SoftwareASUS Battery Health Charging
ASUS Splendid
Quiet Fan
  1. The stated width of the side bezel is the distance between the edge of the non-active screen display area and the inside edge of the case . If the case width is included, the side bezel width is 4mm. The stated width of the bottom bezel is the distance between the edge of the non-active screen display area and the visible edge of the display when the laptop is opened to 90°. Measured based on standard (not anti-glare) display configuration.
  2. Amazon Alexa support varies according to country and territory. Please check with your local ASUS retailer for details.
  3. Battery life test configuration: Intel® Core™ i3-8145U, 8GB RAM, FHD display, 256GB PCIe® SSD. Battery tests conducted by ASUS in August 2018 using the MobileMark® 2014 Office Productivity scenario. Test settings: Wi-Fi enabled, display brightness set to 70%. Actual battery life may vary depending on product configuration, usage, operational conditions and power management settings. Battery life will decrease over the lifetime of the battery.
  4. Weight may vary according to product specifications.

Connectivity

Whilst I liked the 2xUSB type-A connectors, the single type-C and HDMI, I missed a mini Display Port or even a Thunderbolt 3. Whilst this isn’t a deal breaker, it’s worth noting that the lack of these connections may limit its useability for some people.

WiFi performance was on par with our WiFi workstation that has an external antenna. I tested the laptop beside the X399 ASRock Taichi workstation using both 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels in the next room from our WiFi access point and the file transfer results to an SSD share on the wired network were comparable and consistent.

Testing and Useability

In general, the UX433 is a dream to use. It’s snappy to open applications, boot and shutdown. The fan isn’t overly loud, the speakers are amazing for their size and the screen is one of the best 14″ panels I can recall seeing on a laptop. This machine did everything I needed it to and it did it without any issues at all. There were no driver issues, stability problems or causes for concern. The UX433 is a very capable and well built Ultrabook but there were also a couple of frustrations that I’ll touch on in this section.

The Screen

The 14″ 1920×1080 screen is rated at 100% sRGB colour gamut and has a wide viewing angle which means that you don’t have to be sitting square-on to see the screen. This is handy for when collaboration with other people is required but the downside is that if you plan to use the UX433 in an environment such as a café, airport lounge or aircraft/train/bus, your neighbour is likely to be able to more easily see whatever you are doing than if you were using an inferior screen. No points off for this one, just something to be mindful of.

Our review unit had some minor backlight bleed in one corner but was otherwise perfect and I can’t fault the performance of the screen. Productivity tasks were sharp at 100% scaling and native resolution, light isometric gaming was also fine (see gaming performance later) and movies were comfortable to watch with a more than adequate contrast ratio for darker scenes.

The Touchpad (as a numeric keypad)

Number pad on the touchpad is fiddly and whilst it looks good in theory, actually using it for any kind of data entry was an exercise in frustration. Any dragging of the finger when trying to hit a number resulted in movement of the mouse rather than activation of the number – and if you press too hard the touchpad takes the input as a left click. It’s a great idea but when entering benchmark results to a spreadsheet, I had to make significantly more corrections than when using a keyboard or a dedicated numeric keypad. The switching of modes was easy enough and the lighting effect when in numeric keypad mode worked a treat but actually using it to enter data isn’t something I’d use if I owned this laptop.

This is disappointing because the shared numeric keypad/touchpad concept is great and I hope that it can be improved in future iterations.

The Touchpad (as a touchpad)

The raised texture of the number pad on the touchpad was actually distracting when using it as a touchpad and I’d have preferred that ASUS didn’t implement this feature at all after my time testing it. When the number pad function is disabled, the trackpad numeric lighting turns off so it isn’t visually distracting.

Textural issues aside, the touchpad felt accurate, responsive and the pressure to click was spot on. The zones for left and right click were also perfect and I didn’t have any issues with gestures being recognised.

Backlit Keyboard

Backlit keys – they look sexy but when it came to using the keyboard, I typically just turned off the backlight so I could see the key caps clearly. White lettering on a silver key cap isn’t the most practical execution of a backlit keyboard and a white illuminated letter on a black key cap would be much better due to the contrast. I think the contrast would have been better if ASUS had used a blue backlight on the silver UX433’s keyboard.

At night or in poor lighting conditions, it was as simple as just fn+F7 to illuminate the backlight so this isn’t a reason not to buy the UX433, just something to be aware of. A view from further back from the unit in natural light (as you would use the laptop) presents as below with the keys much more visible with backlighting disabled.

In low light conditions (below), the backlight makes all the difference so it isn’t necessarily a major issue but owners will need to be familiar with the hot key to adjust the keyboard lighting.

The keyboard is good to type on with a comfortable rear elevation thanks to the monitor hinge design and I didn’t notice that I was miss-hitting the keys any more or less than other 14″ Ultrabook keyboards. The key travel and tactile experience was comfortable and well-balanced – the keys aren’t loud either so typing is unlikely to bother anyone sitting near you whilst you’re working.

MicroSD Card Reader

Unfortunately, the MicroSD card reader isn’t quick either as the Crystal Disk Mark result below shows the speed from the built in reader.

The result below shows the improvement when the same card is read via an external USB 2.0 MicroSD card reader. It’s disappointing that the built in memory card reader is so much slower than a $10 external adaptor from eBay.

The Webcam

ASUS implemented a HD webcam which worked well for video conferencing through Skype.

The facial recognition was brilliant, working in both normal lighting conditions, low light and even no-light thanks to the IR capabilities. Whilst I don’t use this feature usually for logging into a PC or laptop, I enjoyed being able to open the UX433, power it up and be looking at my desktop within a few seconds. The boot time was typically less than 5 seconds and the resume time from a sleep state was essentially instant.

Audio

I can’t remember ever being impressed by laptop speakers – until now. The Harman/Kardon speakers are a great touch of class and delivered impressive sound for their size.

The location across the top of the keyboard is perfect and the sound emanates from the UX433 in a natural way. The rose gold tint to the speaker grill also looks a little ‘fancy’. Larger desktop speakers or headphones are always better but I could easily (and did) watch content on the UX433 without feeling the need to connect a bluetooth speaker when on the go.

Internal Storage

I tested the SSD with Crystal Disk Mark and saw speeds of 1038 MB/s read and 1110 MB/s wrtite per the screen shot below. Whilst this is just one screenshot, it’s consistent with what I saw on multiple runs. Our review unit shipped with a 512GB Western Digital NVMe SSD
(Western Digital PC SN520 NVMe SSD).

Access speeds and storage performance were lightning fast at all times and the UX433 felt very snappy and responsive throughout the entire testing period.

How good is the i7-8565U Whiskey Lake-U CPU?

Single core performance of the UX433 was on par with desktop CPUs and faster than I’d expect for low powered desktop CPUs. Multicore performance was also impressive for a laptop.

Single threaded performance in both Cinebench and SuperPi holds its own against desktop processors. Cinebench results were better than I’d expected in single core performance with 154cb points. The i7 showed the performance benefits of hyperthreading technology with a multi-core CPU score of 642cb points. It is worth noting that these scores are the initial scores and they did drop off under repeated runs due to thermal build up and throttling. The UX433 is an Ultrabook, not a workstation/desktop replacement laptop so these workloads are not aligned with the intended purpose of the product but they do demonstrate the ‘sprint’ capability of the Core i7-8565U CPU.

Single-threaded SuperPi 32M iterations was completed in just 8 minutes and 52.4 seconds.

The AIDA64 cache and memory benchmark was also impressive for such a compact piece of kit with the results below. If you’re looking to upgrade, compare the results in this section to your current laptop, Ultrabook or even PC to get a feeling for the difference you can expect. Most of these benchmark utilities are either free or have a functional free version.

PCMARK 10 scored as follows:

  • Total 3,688
  • Essentials 7,582
  • Productivity 6,369
  • Digital Content Creation 2,820

Graphics Performance

For movies, isometric games and general photo work, the MX150 graphics processor is adequate. This laptop is never going to play games to the satisfaction of even the average PC gamer and will probably fall short for even a casual gamer, but that’s not what the UX433 was built to do.

For graphics benchmarks, the most relevant benchmarks were Fire Strike and Sky Diver.

 Fire StrikeSky Diver
Score2,5528,065
Graphics Score2,8609,064
Physics Score5,8414,765
Combined Score96310,252

The Fire Strike performance was pretty ordinary but again, this is not a gaming laptop.

I’ve had a few requests about CS:GO, Fortnight and Sims 4 in the past so I tried them on the ASUS ZenBook UX433 with the following results. Sims 4 was a pleasant surprise but the shooter titles were a laggy mess as expected for the MX150 which isn’t built to play these titles. If you want to play even semi-demanding games, look for a laptop with a GTX1050 GPU or better.

  • Sims 4 – High at 1080p is playable and despite some frame drops when zooming in to see the detail, it’s a good result for a laptop that isn’t made for gaming. Frame rates varied from 30FPS to 55FPS and typical frame rates were in the 40-45FPS range.
  • Fortnight at medium settings 1280×720. Grabby and laggy with inconsistent frame rates. Technically it runs but it isn’t pretty and is a recipe for rage-quitting.
  • CS:GO runs but even on low settings isn’t what I’d consider playable. Frame rates regularly dropped to sub 20FPS when things got busy.

Some isometric 2D games like Age of Empires II HD edition, Project Zomboid, Forts and other indie titles will run fine, making the UX433 suitable for work and a little play as long as you are realistic about the capabilities of the graphics processor.

Movies/Media Viewing

Movies were fine and I had no complaints at all in the content consumption department. For road warriors or students, the UX433 delivers enough in the graphics department for some after-hours entertainment but the MX150 graphics processor is only marginally better than the integrated Intel graphics for the most part.

Battery Life

I ran PCMark8 in a loop using a typical office work load and saw 3 hours and 19 minutes of battery life with the default Windows power settings. You could tweak the settings a little and get longer but in terms of expectations, 5-7 hours is a realistic expectation with a reasonable brightness level. Battery life is highly variable depending on factors such as any connected USB devices, Bluetooth and WiFi connections, screen brightness and the type of applications you are running.

Overall Build Quality

I couldn’t fault the build quality at all. The ZenBook UX433 felt rigid and strong whilst not being too heavy. It was well backed and protected for its journey to us in the retail box. When holding the unit, it feels cold and solid. The hinge also feels well engineered and not the least bit fragile. For anyone who has ‘durability’ as their top priority in an Ultrabook, I’d be strongly recommending this one.

The gallery below shows the retail packaging – I’ve used a pair of sunglasses in the open box shot to help with the scale – the 13″ form factor has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

The UX433 can get hot underneath after enduring sustained load but is generally lukewarm when used in a typical ultrabook manner for productivity, note taking, content consumption or web browsing.

The power adaptor is very small and light which won’t hurt your carry-on allowance or require you to upsize your satchel to carry a power pack. As someone who tries to avoid carrying the power adapter for my current Ultrabook, this was a real winner for me.

Pricing

There are different variants and at the time of writing, Scorptec have the i5 version of our review unit for $1699AUD and the i7-8565U version as reviewed for $1999.

Final thoughts

There are two elements that I don’t particularly like about the UX433 so I’ll get those out of the way first because there is still a lot to like about this laptop. The odd multifunction numeric keypad/touchpad and the white keyboard backlight on the silver key caps (for the Icicle Silver edition of the UX433) both impact the practicality of an otherwise extremely compelling Ultrabook. The Royal Blue edition appears to have a much better contrast on the key caps and would be my choice if buying one.

Whilst the MicroSD card reader is incredibly slow for a built-in card reader, there is a USB port for USB thumb drives and the MicroSD port speed is unlikely to impact many users, it’s something I could live with.

Aside from the above gripes, I found that the more I used the UX433, the more I liked it and I could quite happily use one for recording testing results, writing reviews, emails, etc. and doing general office based tasks. It’s very portable, light and the battery life is what I’ve come to expect from an ultrabook. Despite the PCMark8 loop draining the battery in a little over 3 hours, in real life, I wasn’t caught short with the battery running out and the power adapter is very compact so most people shouldn’t have any issues carrying it around.

The UX433 is a well-engineered, compact Ultrabook with gorgeous aesthetics and solid build quality. I thoroughly enjoyed typing on it and using the ZenBook UX433 for office productivity work. From an entertainment perspective, movies, YouTube and having music running in the background was also good for a laptop with the Harman/Kardon audio delivering the best Ultrabook audio experience I’ve heard to date.

The speedy SSD and Windows Hello facial recognition worked a treat and made it much faster to get going as I took the ZenBook in and out of sleep mode – this is important as I was able to spend more time making notes and being productive due to less time waiting for the log in process to happen every time I used it.

On balance it’s a great Ultrabook with a sturdy design, compact form factor, fast performance and a stunning screen. The keyboard is great to type on and felt better than most laptop keyboards I’ve used. 

Anyone looking for a new small but reliable laptop should be considering the ZenBook UX433 – it has a couple of quirks but overall the machine performs very well, features a brilliant screen and has amazing build quality. The UX433 also looks great and has decent speakers which can be important for people in presentation/sales roles who want to make a good impression.

 

  ASUS ZenBook UX433 Ultrabook
 

PROS

Very snappy performance and storage speeds
14″ screen in a 13″ form factor
Comfortable and quiet keyboard 
Sturdy build quality
Attractive aesthetic

CONS

– The numeric keypad execution on the touchpad is disappointing
– Silver keys with a white backlight can be hard to see in some lighting conditions (not an issue for the Royal Blue model)
Awards

 

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