March 15, 2021

Best small laptop under $1,000

Asus ZenBook 13 (2020) review: This small laptop makes a big impression

Available with both 11th- and 10th-gen Intel chips, this is one classy laptop for less than $1,000.

asus-zenbook-13-2020

The Asus ZenBook 13 is a classic coffeehouse laptop. Stylish, but not necessarily showy, the 13.3-inch ultraportable has the perfect footprint for squeezing onto a tiny table and still leaves room for your frappuccino. You’ll get 12-plus hours of battery life — depending on your configuration and what you’re doing, naturally — and plenty of performance to make quick work of daily office or school tasks. Plus, like many of Asus‘ laptops, the ZenBook adds a few gadgety extras to hopefully make your life easier while you’re out and about. A nice laptop sleeve is thrown in for good measure too — and all for less than $1,000.

8.5

Asus ZenBook 13 (2020)

LIKE

  • Attractive, lightweight body
  • Good performance and battery life for its size

DON’T LIKE

  • No built-in headphone jack
  • Memory is soldered on

ASUS ZENBOOK 13 (2020)

Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA-AH77Asus ZenBook 13 UX325JA-XB51
Price as reviewed$999$799
Display size/resolution13.3-inch 1,920×1,080 display13.3-inch 1,920×1,080 display
Processor2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G71GHz Intel Core i5-1035G7
Memory16GB LPDDR4X 4,266MHz dual-channel (soldered)8GB LPDDR4X 3,200MHz dual-channel (soldered)
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics
Storage1TB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD256GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD
Ports2x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, USB-A (3.2 Gen 1), HDMI 1.4, MicroSD card reader2x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, USB-A (3.2 Gen 1), HDMI 1.4, MicroSD card reader
NetworkingIntel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.0
Operating systemWindows 10 Pro (2004)Windows 10 Pro (2004)
Weight2.4 pounds (1.1 kilograms)2.4 pounds (1.1 kilograms)

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX325 originally appeared in July but was recently refreshed following Intel’s announcement of its 11th-gen Core processors and Iris Xe graphics. The models from earlier in the year with 10th-gen CPUs are still available, though, and are essentially the same as the 11th-gen versions except for the processors and an upgrade from Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 4. Buying the newer 11th-gen model will get you some future-proofing, but it also comes with a slightly higher price tag.

If you’re not on a strict budget, I would suggest going up to the newer 11th-gen configurations. The newer CPUs definitely deliver better performance overall compared to their 10th-gen counterparts, as do the integrated Iris Xe graphics, leaving you more headroom for basic GPU tasks and even casual gaming. And the 11th-gen Core i7 ran for two hours longer than the 10th-gen Core i5 ZenBook 13 I tested; The 11th-gen configuration reached 12 hours, 13 minutes on our streaming video test.

asus-zenbook-13-2020-05
Asus’ NumberPad 2.0 puts a full number pad on your touchpad.

All the little extras

Aside from just being a nice-looking small, lightweight 13.3-inch laptop, the ZenBook 13 has a few added features that make it more interesting than your average ultraportable. Instead of the typical standard webcam, Asus squeezed an IR camera along with its webcam into the thin bezel above the display so you can sign in to Windows 10 with facial recognition. The video from the 720p webcam itself is just OK, though, but there is at least a shortcut on the F10 key to block the camera entirely.

Also, Asus includes its NumberPad 2.0 feature in the touchpad. Press an icon in the top right of the pad and it turns on a full number pad. The software is smart enough to know the difference between using it as a number pad or touchpad so you don’t have to constantly turn it on and off. Another icon in the top left of the pad lets you adjust the brightness and, if you tap it and swipe into the touchpad, it will launch the calculator app on your screen.

asus-zenbook-13-2020-04
Asus includes a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter.

One more thing that makes using it a bit better: Asus designed the hinge to lift the rear of the laptop up so the keyboard is at a more ergonomic typing angle. It also helps keep it cooler.

One of the few potential downsides of the ZenBook 13 is that Asus sacrificed a 3.5mm audio jack to fit the other ports on this laptop. If you haven’t moved on to using a Bluetooth headset (or a good USB-C wired headset) this could be a bit of a headache. Especially right now with so many more people using video chat for work and school. Asus does include a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter, but it’s just one more thing you’ll have to keep track of. Generally speaking, you’ll want to use headphones, too, because the speakers, well, they’ll do in a pinch. That’s par for the course with such a thin laptop, though.

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The ZenBook 13’s full-HD display gets reasonably bright on the 11th-gen model and the matte finish mitigates reflections.

Also, both of the laptop’s USB-C ports are on the left side. Since the laptop charges via USB-C, it would be more convenient to have them split up, one on each side. That way if you are in a coffee shop, there’s less of a chance you’ll be struggling to reach an outlet to recharge.

Overall, I really like the Asus ZenBook 13. It’s small, lightweight body makes it a good everyday carry as does its battery life. The NumberPad 2.0 and IR webcam add some gadgety appeal. And it’s priced right for what you get.

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