Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 vs. Dell XPS 13

Battle of the best: How does the new XPS 13 compete with our favorite ZenBook?

asus zenbook 13 ux333fa
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

If you’re in the market for a 13-inch laptop, you’re in luck. There are so many good options, your biggest problem will be creating your shortlist.

In part, that’s because manufacturers like Dell and Asus have leveraged a number of component improvements and some engineering smarts to create really small laptops. Tiny bezels are number one on the list, and the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 and latest Dell XPS 13 are two beneficiaries. We pit these excellent little laptops against each other to see which one best earns your hard-earned cash.

Design

asus zenbook 13 ux333fa
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

To begin with, these are both great-looking laptops. The newest member of Asus’s ZenBook 13 300-series sports an upscale Royal Blue color scheme with gold trim (with a Slate Gray alternative) that stands out in a crowd without looking garish. Dell’s XPS 13 is another looker, with three of its own colors including a conservative black and silver, Rose Gold, and a new “Frost” that’s a lighter tone of silver than usual. There’s also a new webcam which moved back to the top bezel on the XPS 13, and a new easy “variable torque hinge” which makes the laptop easier to open with just one hand.

The ZenBook isn’t just beautiful, it’s also tough thanks to MIL-STD-810g military standard testing for robustness. The XPS 13 is no slouch in this department thanks to a range of materials including aluminum and carbon fiber. And these two diminutive machines are also equally small thanks to some of the tiniest bezels you’ll find on laptops today.  The XPS 13 does win out on thickness, though, at 0.47 inches versus 0.55 inches, while weight is equal at 2.7 pounds.

When it comes to which is better for inputting information, it’s another mixed bag. The ZenBook 13 has a fine keyboard with a precise mechanism but a weird layout and its very good Windows Precision touchpad is augmented by an LED inlay that offers up a nifty numeric keypad. The XPS 13’s keyboard is pulled over from the XPS 15 2-in-1 and is the same kind of magnetic levitation mechanism that’s very snappy and offers more travel than the earlier generation, and the touchpad is another good Windows Precision version without any kind of LED trickery. We’ll give the slightest win to Dell here for offering a touch display option.

Finally, connectivity reflects a different focus. The ZenBook 13 offers wider legacy support with USB-A, USB-C, and HDMI ports that save you the need to carry around a bunch of dongles. But the XPS doubles down on USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, and while that requires some dongles it also greatly enhanced the overall expandability of the machine. No external GPU enclosures for you, ZenBook.

Both are good-looking and well-built laptops, but the XPS 13 wins out for more options and more powerful connectivity.

Performance

Dell XPS 13 2019
Riley Young/Digital Trends

The ZenBook 13 is built around an 8th-generation Whiskey Lake quad-core CPU, the Core i5-8265U, that represents a great balance of performance and efficiency. It’s more than fast enough for the usual productivity tasks, and it sips power. The XPS 13 also utilizes the latest Intel CPUs, although you can upgrade to the Core i7-8565U for a little extra oomph. We tested the XPS 13 with a Core i7-8565U processor and found that it was plenty quick, beating last years model by about eight percent in both single and multicore Geekbench 4 performance.

Where the ZenBook 13 wins out is in the option (arriving later in January 2019) to opt for an entry-level discrete GPU, the Nvidia GeForce MX150. That’s not very fast by discrete graphics standards, but it would trounce the XPS 13’s integrated Intel GPU. Storage performance, on the other hand, is a virtual tie, with both laptops sporting fast PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs). In our testing, the ZenBook 13 netted a single-core score of 4,129, while the multi-core score is 13,903. That was as strong as most 13-inch laptops, and on par with the Dell XPS 13.

Display quality is another differentiator. While the ZenBook 13’s sole display option is a terrific Full HD panel with solid contrast, brightness, and color gamut and accuracy, the XPS 13 has it matched. But Dell also offers both touch and non-touch Full HD options and a luscious 4K screen with Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) support. Options are good, and the XPS 13 has them.

Both are great little laptops for productivity, but Dell’s wider display options rule the roost. We tested the 4K panel and while its contrast ratio doesn’t match the ZenBook 13 UX333, its gamma reading was high, leading for bright images and a total brightness of 472 nits.

Portability

asus zenbook 13 ux333fa
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

If it wasn’t already clear, neither of these laptops will weigh you down or take up much space in a backpack. And that’s awesome.

But battery life matters, too, and we’re going to call these two a tie. We tested the XPS 13 with its 4K display, and battery life was, as expected, unimpressive at 7 hours for web browsing and video playback. Given the battery capacity and components, we’d expect the XPS 13 Full HD longevity to be close the ZenBook 13’s. That is, both will likely get you through most of a working day on a charge.

When it comes to portability, you can’t go wrong with either of these laptops.

The XPS 13 wins this one, but not by as much as you might think

Dell XPS 13 2019 review (9380)
Riley Young/Digital Trends

The ZenBook 13 doesn’t win any of our comparison sections, but it’s also very nicely priced. Spending just $850 nets you a Core i5-8265U, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, which is plenty for the price.

The Dell XPS 13 starts at $900 with a Core i5, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, and pricing goes up from there. It’s $1,210, for example, when matching the ZenBook 13’s Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.

Yes, you’ll spend more money on the Dell XPS 13, but it’s worth it. The ZenBook 13 is a great notebook for a budget shopper, but the Dell is a better laptop overall, period.

Computing

Monzo will launch its banking app in the U.S., but it may be a hard sell

Monzo, a popular mobile banking app from the U.K., will launch this summer in the United States, but its plan for a slow release and an initially feature-light banking app may be a hard sell for its prospective U.S. customers.
Computing

15-inch laptops come with extra power, but which of these wields it better?

HP's latest "gem-cut" Spectre x360 15 adds powerful components to make it the fastest 2-in-1 we've ever tested. Can it take on the equally fast and incredibly svelte Dell XPS 15?
Computing

HP's Spectre x360 is a better 2-in-1 than Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 is a clamshell

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 is a refresh of Microsoft's clamshell option, an oddity given Microsoft's creation of the modern 2-in-1. The HP Spectre x360 13 is, therefore, an interesting comparison.
Computing

Need more pixels? These 4K laptops have the eye-popping visuals you crave

If you're looking for the best 4K laptops, you need to find one that has powerful internal hardware, and doesn't scrimp on weight and battery life. All of these 4K notebooks are great options, but which one is the right one for you?
Computing

These two budget laptops have discrete graphics and thin designs. Which is best?

The Asus ZenBook 14 is a tiny-bezel version of a 14-inch laptop, while the Acer Swift 3 offers affordability and discrete graphics. Which is the better choice for your hard-earned dollars?
Computing

Apple just registered seven new MacBooks, but what are they? Let’s speculate

When Apple registers new devices, that usually means they’re only weeks away from being released. The company has just registered seven new devices -- but are they Airs, Pros or something else entirely?
Photography

The Loupedeck Plus custom keyboard will make you feel like a pro video editor

With recently added support for Final Cut Pro X, the Loupedeck Plus improves speed and accuracy for video editors. With a collection of customizable buttons and dials, the Loupedeck can almost completely replace a mouse and keyboard setup.
Deals

Amazon cuts prices on Microsoft Surface Pro 6 and Surface Go

The Microsoft Surface series is an excellent alternative to other tablets if you're a dedicated Windows user, and the superb Surface Pro 6 (our favorite 2-in-1) and its cheaper sibling, the Surface Go, are both on sale right now.
Deals

Amazon sale drops deals on Microsoft Surface laptops

Despite an increasingly crowded market, the sleek Microsoft Surface laptops have left their mark. Both the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Book 2 are discounted on Amazon right now, too, with deals that can save you up to $300.
Computing

If you need your laptop to be large, these ones are most in charge

Whether you're in the market for a mobile workstation or a gaming behemoth, there's probably something in the 15-inch form factor that can fit the bill. Here, we've rounded up the best 15-inch laptops available.
Computing

AMD’s Ryzen one-two punch will end with a 64-core Threadripper in 2019

AMD's Threadripper may be set to deliver the killing blow to Intel in Q4 2019, with a rumor suggesting a new Zen 2-based Threadripper line is coming down the pipe with a top chip that has as many as 64 cores.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Deals

Amazon deal drops prices on Asus VivoBook laptops and 2-in-1s

Asus is one of the premier PC brands cranking out Windows ultrabooks today with its sleek VivoBook series, and these Amazon deals let you score one for $700 or less. Read on to find out what we love about these laptops and how you can save.
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Leaked date and what you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a month away, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.