Fresh Out of CES 2017: Asus’s Newest Darling, the ZenBook 3 Deluxe VS the MacBook Pro Bros.

By: Consuelo Azuaje

This year’s CES offered dozens of new laptops and desktops, and among them there was one that particularly caught our eye: the Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe—a laptop as sleek as it is powerful.

Although the ZB3 Del is an ultra-lightweight, like its predecessor the ZenBook UX330UA, the ZB3 Del is just hair lighter at 2.42 lbs versus the UX330UA’s 2.64 lbs. The ZB3 Del’s intended competition, however, isn’t its previous iteration, but the 2016 MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro comes in two sizes, the 13” and the 15”. (The 15” model automatically comes with a nifty “Touch Bar” feature, but more on that later.) Regardless of which one you go with, however, MacBook Pro is still going to be heavier. (The 13” weighs 3.02 lbs, and the 15” 4.02 lbs.) The MacBook is nearly equally thin at ~0.6” thickness—both models.

This time around, the Asus team expanded the ZenBook’s display screen from 13.3” to 14” by narrowing it’s already narrow bezel. With a 13.3” display, the 13” MacBook Pro doesn’t measure up to the ZB3 Del in this regard, but the 15” model sports a 15.4” display that exceeds the ZB3 Del.

Outfitted with a zippy Core i7-7500U processor, a 1 TB solid-state processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 3 USB-C ports (2 with Thunderbolt 3 support), the ZB3 Del. pound-for-pound surpasses the previous generation and even has much better connectivity. Compared to the the ZB3 Del., the 13” MacBook Pro has a less powerful processor (Core i7-5500U), a fewer number of USB-C ports (just one), and half as much RAM (8 GB’s worth). The 15” MacBook Pro, however, touts a comparable—probably superior—processor, more USB-C ports (4, to be exact), an equal amount of RAM, and greater SSD capacity (2 TB). In other words, the ZB3 Del falls somewhere in between the MacBook Pro 13” and 15” models in terms of performance. It’s a powerful machine, but not unmatchable.

For users that really care about high-resolution, the ZB3 Del falls behind both MacBook Pro models. The ZB3 Del features 1920 by 1080 pixels, whereas even the MacBook Pro 13” offers more with 2560 by 1600 pixels; the 15” offers 2880 by 1800 pixels.

The keyboard segment of the competition is a bit more subjective. First introduced in their 12” MacBooks, Apple keyboards use the “butterfly” mechanism versus the traditional “scissor” mechanism. Although Apple claimed it makes for a more precise, less “wobbly” typing experience, it took a lot of users a lot of getting used to. In true-Apple fashion, the MacBook Pro keyboard has shallow key travel (0.55 mm, apparently). Shallow key travel is largely a matter of taste, too. Shallow key travel is a hot topic of controversy among Apple users. There’s an unexpected but soon-missed sort of satisfaction to be had from punching your “Enter” key after finishing a long project that simply doesn’t exist when your keyboard has shallow key travel. Put simply, it forces you to type more gently, and after years of typing one way, having to adjust can be annoying. To be fair, Apple has since tweaked their shallow-travel, butterfly keyboards since their first release and received more positive reviews.

On the other hand, the ZB3 Del features a traditional keyboard with 1.2 mm key travel. Both have full size keyboards, and both keyboards are fully backlit. Also: both offer some sort of fingerprint-recognition feature. Whereas the ZB3 Del. features Touch Pad Handwriting app that allows users to (while holding the Fn key) to use their touch pad as a literal notepad that will pick up on their handwriting and transcribe it to the screen, the MacBook Pros offer touch-sensitive strip above their keyboard, which they call a “Touchbar” and which functions as a navigation tool. And reviewers love the Touchbar. They rave about how widely customizable and functional it is.

When it comes to choosing between the ZB3 Del and one of the MacBook Pros, take price into account. The ZB3 Del costs $1,699; the MacBook Pros, 13” and 15”, cost $1499 and $2399, respectively. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.