Help Me, LAPTOP: Should I Buy a MacBook or a ZenBook?

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If you're looking for a lightweight 13-inch laptop that's under $1,000, Asus and Apple both have intriguing options. Forum user miguelestevez is trying to choose between a ZenBook UX303UA and a MacBook Air 13-inch.

Both laptops have 13-inch screens, Core i5 CPUs and 8GB of RAM. However, the MacBook configuration he is considering has a 128GB SSD, while the ZenBook has twice that amount of storage.

macbook zenbook side labelWe strongly recommend that Miguel forget about the UX303UA, which is a discontinued model with an outdated CPU, and consider the Asus ZenBook UX330UA instead. It also has a 1920 x 1080 display, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, but it has a 7th Generation Core i5 processor instead of a 6th Gen one. You can get the UX330UA, our favorite laptop value, for $699.

But how does the UX330UA compare with a Core i5 MacBook Air? Let's take a look at some key differences between the two.

Design

The ZenBook and the MacBook Air are both very thin and light, but Asus' laptop is noticeably more compact. The UX330UA weighs just 2.7 pounds and is 0.5 inches thick at its thickest point, while the Air is 2.96 pounds and 0.68 inches thick.

Both systems have an attractive, silver aesthetic, but Apple's notebook has an all-aluminum unibody design and Asus has an aluminum lid, but a non-aluminum chassis.

Winner: ZenBook UX330UA. The MacBook has a more premium design, but the ZenBook is lighter.

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Display

The MacBook Air is stuck in the past with a 1440 x 900 resolution display, while the ZenBook UX330UA offers a full-HD, 1920 x 1080 panel. The ZenBook also covers an impressive 106 percent of the color gamut, while the last MacBook Air we tested (a 2015 model with the same screen you get today) covered just 66 percent of the gamut.

The MacBook Air does have a brighter display, hitting 334 nits on on our light meter, compared with 286 nits for the ZenBook.

Winner: ZenBook UX330UA has a sharper, more colorful screen.

Performance

We haven't tested the latest configuration of the MacBook Air, which updates the laptop's processor to a 7th Generation Core i5. However, we can say that the ZenBook UX330UA, which also has a 7th Gen Core i5 CPU, should offer similar performance in every area but one.

The MacBook Air uses PCIe Flash storage, which is much faster than the SATA SSD in the ZenBook UX330UA. The ZenBook's storage drive copied files at 159 megabytes per second on our transfer test, as compared to 358 MBps for the last-gen MacBook Air.

Winner: MacBook Air by a hair on the strength of its SSD.

Battery Life

The ZenBook UX330UA lasted a very strong 10 hours and 17 minutes on the LAPTOP battery test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. However, the last MacBook Air we tested blew it away by enduring for 14 hours.

Winner: MacBook Air

MORE: Longest Battery Life Laptops

Price

The MacBook Air starts at $999. For that price, you get it with a 128GB SSD, half the capacity the ZenBook comes with. If you want to step up to 256GB of storage on the Air, the price goes all the way up to $1,199. At $699, the ZenBook UX330UA is $300 below the base model Air and $500 less than a similarly configured Air.

Winner: ZenBook UX330UA is a lot cheaper.

The Bottom Line

While the MacBook Air has a slight edge in storage performance and in battery life, this is really no contest. The ZenBook UX330UA is a much better value, weighs less and has a far superior screen.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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6 comments
  • Jim Hamill Says:

    Very nice review. How do you like Lenovo laptops?

  • Marky Says:

    Get the Asus....put a good flavour of linux on it like CentOS 7....then u get a decent OS for cheaper than a rip off MAC....no brainer

  • Tom M Says:

    The macbook air has a 5th generation chip the update was a speed bump only on a 5th generation chip. No comparison!

  • Tim rays Says:

    But then you have to use Windows? you're right it isn't a contest

  • Mark dice Says:

    What about the added benefit a of Mac OS compared to windows OS like smooth performance, always works, less viruses and malware, great apps to chose from app store,higher resale value, great after sales support, higher build quality....

  • Matthew Says:

    Doesn't the latest Macbook Air use a 5th gen Core i5?

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