ASUS ZenBook 3
If you’re interested in treating yourself to a shiny new laptop that is tough yet premium and includes some effortless authentication features, then you would be well advised to check out the new ASUS ZenBook 3.
With the security focus of this site we don’t generally spend a lot of time discussing aesthetics, but we have to get this out of the way up front: the design of the ZenBook 3 is breathtaking.
Constructed from strong 6013 aerospace grade aluminium and crafted with the distinctive spun-metal finish sported by the ZenBook series, this latest model also has a subtle anodized gold effect trim around its edges.
Weighing in at just 910g and only 11.9mm thick, the ZenBook 3 throws down the portability gauntlet against rival premium notebooks and is ideal for personal or business travel.
It also currently leads the charge in terms of technical specs, packing the 7th generation Intel Core I7 Kabylake processor, up to a whopping 16Gb of DDR3 RAM and a 512GB PCIe Gen 3 SSD.
So now we’ve got the introduction out of the way, lets pull together some of these features to consider the ZenBook 3 in terms of physical robustness.
First of all, why do we care about the fact that its constructed from aerospace grade aluminium? Unless you’re having a particularly bad day your notebook probably won’t be going airborne, so what are the benefits to computer construction?
The 6013 aluminium alloy in question is frequently used in aircraft fuselages, primarily for its resistance to corrosion and stress corrosion cracking. But in the computing domain the important point is it’s also around 50% stronger than the 6063 alloy commonly used in laptops.
For its HD screen the ZenBook 3 also features a thin (0.4mm) film of chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass 4, which should help protect it from day to day scratches and impacts. Rather than discuss the chemical strengthening process used to produce Gorilla Glass – and risk you hitting the back button in the process – we feel the following video involving testing of an ASUS Zenphone hammers the point home nicely:
So in short, the ZenBook 3 is of a very durable instruction, which we would argue an is an important point when considering laying down a hard-earned wad of greenbacks for a premium laptop.
One of the security features we particularly like is the presence of a fingerprint sensor built into the upper right-hand corner of the glass-coated trackpad.
Biometric authentication methods still aren’t hugely common on laptops yet and fingerprint authentication is a nice step towards making security less burdensome to users sick of having to type in a password every time they wander away from their desk for a minute or two.
Because the fingerprint reader is integrated with the Windows Hello biometric login feature you can sign in to your account with the mere touch of a digit.
Can fingerprint readers be hacked? Perhaps. As we’ve covered in previous articles there have been some examples of fingerprint scanners being spoofed by security researchers, using high-resolution photos of fingerprints and then printing them out using thick layers of silver conductive ink to create a workable substitute.
But the key point here is that even if a fingerprint reader can theoretically be bypassed through ingenuity and outrageous amounts of printer toner, use of biometrics is currently still comparatively more secure when sneaky use of tools like key-stroke loggers can make short work of a conventional password. It is partly for this reason that the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) alliance is keen to advance use of biometric authentication standards through use of technologies such as Windows Hello.
One of the best things about premium laptops is also be the worst thing: all that high-end hardware can warm things up rather quickly. Having a large whirring fan adding inordinate amounts of size to an otherwise sleek form factor is definitely not appealing, but at the same time nobody wants their trusty laptop going down with a case of heat exhaustion – and taking their data with it.
This point clearly hasn’t been lost on the design team at ASUS who have come up with an innovative means of moving cooling air around the ZenBook 3’s ultra-slim casing to make sure it doesn’t overheat, involving a compact (0.3mm) liquid-crystal polymer fan that drives air around a 3mm copper-alloy heat pipe system. Those who value working in peace without their laptop sounding like an out of control drone will also be pleased to hear that warm air is quietly expelled through vents fitted around the device hinges.
So here we have an elegant, super-light laptop thin enough to be stuffed in an envelope, with an extremely tough screen and market-leading biometric authentication. In our view this makes it ideal for the frequent traveller looking to keep their data safe but access it in style.
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