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Asus ZenBook S UX391UA review: A more comfortable premium ultraportable

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The Good The Asus ZenBook S UX391U is a well-built premium ultraportable that sets itself apart from the pack with a hinge design that tilts the body's back up for better cooling and more comfortable typing. Asus includes a sleeve and USB-C adapters for USB-A and HDMI.

The Bad While battery life is good, it's not as good as others in the category and it still runs hot despite the extra airflow the design provides.

The Bottom Line Subtly stylish and durable and with strong performance to back it up, the Asus ZenBook S UX391U is a fine ultraportable if you spend more time working in coffee shops than an office.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7

The Asus ZenBook S UX391U looks every bit the part of a premium ultraportable. Clad in deep blue or burgundy metal with rose gold edges, the 13.3-inch laptop is only 13mm thick (0.51 inch) and 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg). It's the right size if you spend more time working in tight spaces such as coffee shops and airport lounges than at a desk. 

Open it up and you'll notice the key design feature that separates it from most of the others in this category: The lid's hinge lifts the back of the keyboard up for a more comfortable typing angle. It also helps keep your legs and the laptop's eighth-gen Intel Core i7 processor from getting too hot. This isn't the first time this design's been done -- HP's latest 13-inch Envy laptop has a similar feature -- but it's still a cool touch. 

The current configuration in the US is priced at $1,499 and includes a 4K UHD-resolution touchscreen, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. In the UK, you'll currently find it with a Core i5 or i7, but with half the memory and storage, for £1,199 or £1,299, and in Australia it'll set you back AU$2,699 with a Core i7, 16GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. 

Asus ZenBook S UX391U
Sarah Tew/CNET

Asus ZenBook S UX391UA

Price as reviewed $1,499
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch, 3,840x2,160-pixel touchscreen
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U
Memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 128MB (shared) Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 512GB PCIe SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Windows 10 Professional (64-bit)

Those prices are competitive for the category, but models such as Dell's XPS 13, HP's Spectre and Acer's 14-inch Swift 7 offer designs that potentially make them better choices depending on your needs. Even Asus' own ZenBook 13 might be a better choice because of its discrete graphics. 

Rising above the competition

The biggest hurdle for the ZenBook S is that it has plenty of competition including from its stablemates at Asus, and with its ErgoLift hinge as the main design feature, it's not an easy recommendation. The Dell XPS 13, for example, is the world's smallest 13.3-inch laptop, comes in multiple configurations starting at less than $1,000 and is just a generally excellent laptop. The same goes for the HP Spectre, which along with being thin and light, has a unique privacy screen feature to give you more peace of mind while working in public. Then there's the regular 13-inch Asus ZenBook that looks similar -- minus the ErgoLift hinge -- but is less expensive and has better graphics performance.  

The hinge is definitely nice to have because, combined with the excellent backlit keyboard, it does make typing more comfortable. Also, since the bottom hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celcius) under load in my testing, it keeps the heat up off your lap and allows for better air circulation. 

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