Introduction and Specifications
The ZenBook 3 UX390UA is a 12.5-inch thin-and-light which offers a 1920x1080 IPS display, choice of 7th-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and a roomy 512GB PCIe SSD. It also features just a single USB Type-C port, eschewing additional I/O in the vein of recent Apple MacBooks (more on this trend later in the review). How does it stack up? I had the pleasure of using it for a few weeks and can offer my own usage impressions (along with those ever-popular benchmark numbers) to try answering that question.
A thin-and-light (a.k.a. ‘Ultrabook’) is certainly an attractive option when it comes to portability, and the ZenBook 3 certainly delivers with a slim 0.5-inch thickness and 2 lb weight from its aluminum frame. Another aspect of thin-and-light designs are the typically low-power processors, though the “U” series in Intel’s 7th-generation processor lineup still offer good performance numbers for portable machines. Looking at the spec sheet it is clear that ASUS paid attention to performance with this ZenBook, and we will see later on if a good balance has been struck between performance and battery life.
Our review unit was equipped with a Core i7-7500U processor, a 2-core/4-thread part with a 15W TDP and speeds ranging from 2.70 - 3.50 GHz, along with the above-mentioned 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. With an MSRP of $1599 for this configuration it faces some stiff competition from the likes of the Dell XPS line and recent Lenovo ThinkPad and Apple MacBook offerings, though it can of course be found for less than its MSRP (and this configuration currently sells on Amazon for about $1499). The ZenBook 3 certainly offers style if you are into blade-like aluminum designs, and, while not a touchscreen, nothing short of Gorilla Glass 4 was employed to protect the LCD display.
“ZenBook 3’s design took some serious engineering prowess and craftsmanship to realize. The ultra-thin 11.9mm profile meant we had to invent the world’s most compact laptop hinge — just 3mm high — to preserve its sleek lines. To fit in the full-size keyboard, we had to create a surround that’s just 2.1mm wide at the edges, and we designed the powerful four-speaker audio system in partnership with audiophile specialists Harman Kardon. ZenBook is renowned for its unique, stunning looks, and you’ll instantly recognize the iconic Zen-inspired spun-metal finish on ZenBook 3’s all-metal unibody enclosure — a finish that takes 40 painstaking steps to create. But we’ve added a beautiful twist, using a special 2-phase anodizing process to create stunning golden edge highlights. To complete this sophisticated new theme, we’ve added a unique gold ASUS logo and given the keyboard a matching gold backlight.”
An abundance of new processors
During its press conference at Computex 2017, Intel has officially announced the upcoming release of an entire new family of HEDT (high-end desktop) processors along with a new chipset and platform to power it. Though it has only been a year since Intel launched the Core i7-6950X, a Broadwell-E processor with 10-cores and 20-threads, it feels like it has been much longer than that. At the time Intel was accused of “sitting” on the market – offering only slight performance upgrades and raising prices on the segment with a flagship CPU cost of $1700. With can only be described as scathing press circuit, coupled with a revived and aggressive competitor in AMD and its Ryzen product line, Intel and its executive teams have decided it’s time to take enthusiasts and high end prosumer markets serious, once again.
Though the company doesn’t want to admit to anything publicly, it seems obvious that Intel feels threatened by the release of the Ryzen 7 product line. The Ryzen 7 1800X was launched at $499 and offered 8 cores and 16 threads of processing, competing well in most tests against the likes of the Intel Core i7-6900X that sold for over $1000. Adding to the pressure was the announcement at AMD’s Financial Analyst Day that a new brand of processors called Threadripper would be coming this summer, offering up to 16 cores and 32 threads of processing for that same high-end consumer market. Even without pricing, clocks or availability timeframes, it was clear that AMD was going to come after this HEDT market with a brand shift of its EPYC server processors, just like Intel does with Xeon.
The New Processors
Normally I would jump into the new platform, technologies and features added to the processors, or something like that before giving you the goods on the CPU specifications, but that’s not the mood we are in. Instead, let’s start with the table of nine (9!!) new products and work backwards.
|Core i9-7980XE||Core i9-7960X||Core i9-7940X||Core i9-7920X||Core i9-7900X||Core i7-7820X||Core i7-7800X||Core i7-7740X||Core i5-7640X|
|Architecture||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Kaby Lake-X||Kaby Lake-X|
|Base Clock||?||?||?||?||3.3 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.5 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz|
|Turbo Boost 2.0||?||?||?||?||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.5 GHz||4.2 GHz|
|Turbo Boost Max 3.0||?||?||?||?||4.5 GHz||4.5 GHz||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Cache||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||13.75MB||11MB||8.25MB||8MB||6MB|
|DDR4-2666 Dual Channel|
|TDP||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||140 watts||140 watts||140 watts||112 watts||112 watts|
There is a lot to take in here. The most interesting points are that Intel plans to one-up AMD Threadripper by offering an 18-core processor but it also wants to change the perception of the X299-class platform by offering lower price, lower core count CPUs like the quad-core, non-HyperThreaded Core i5-7640X. We also see the first ever branding of Core i9.
Intel only provided detailed specifications up to the Core i9-7900X, a 10-core / 20-thread processor with a base clock of 3.3 GHz and a Turbo peak of 4.5 GHz using the new Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0. It sports 13.75MB of cache thanks to an updated cache configuration, includes 44 lanes of PCIe 3.0, an increase of 4 lanes over Broadwell-E, quad-channel DDR4 memory up to 2666 MHz and a 140 watt TDP. The new LGA2066 socket will be utilized. Pricing for this CPU is set at $999, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it is $700 less than the starting MSRP of the 10c/20t Core i7-6950X from one year ago; obviously a big plus. However, there is quite a ways UP the stack, with the 18c/36t Core i9-7980XE coming in at a cool $1999.
The next CPU down the stack is compelling as well. The Core i7-7820X is the new 8-core / 16-thread HEDT option from Intel, with similar clock speeds to the 10-core above it, save the higher base clock. It has 11MB of L3 cache, 28-lanes of PCI Express (4 higher than Broadwell-E) but has a $599 price tag. Compared to the 8-core 6900K, that is ~$400 lower, while the new Skylake-X part iteration includes a 700 MHz clock speed advantage. That’s huge, and is a direct attack on the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X that sells for $499 today and cut Intel off at the knees this March. In fact, the base clock of the Core i7-7820X is only 100 MHz lower than the maximum Turbo Boost clock of the Core i7-6900K!
Application Profiling Tells the Story
It should come as no surprise to anyone that has been paying attention the last two months that the latest AMD Ryzen processors and architecture are getting a lot of attention. Ryzen 7 launched with a $499 part that bested the Intel $1000 CPU at heavily threaded applications and Ryzen 5 launched with great value as well, positioning a 6-core/12-thread CPU against quad-core parts from the competition. But part of the story that permeated through both the Ryzen 7 and the Ryzen 5 processor launches was the situation surrounding gaming performance, in particular 1080p gaming, and the surprising delta that we see in some games.
Our team has done quite a bit of research and testing on this topic. This included a detailed look at the first asserted reason for the performance gap, the Windows 10 scheduler. Our summary there was that the scheduler was working as expected and that minimal difference was seen when moving between different power modes. We also talked directly with AMD to find out its then current stance on the results, backing up our claims on the scheduler and presented a better outlook for gaming going forward. When AMD wanted to test a new custom Windows 10 power profile to help improve performance in some cases, we took part in that too. In late March we saw the first gaming performance update occur courtesy of Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation where an engine update to utilize more threads resulted in as much as 31% average frame increase.
As a part of that dissection of the Windows 10 scheduler story, we also discovered interesting data about the CCX construction and how the two modules on the 1800X communicated. The result was significantly longer thread to thread latencies than we had seen in any platform before and it was because of the fabric implementation that AMD integrated with the Zen architecture.
This has led me down another hole recently, wondering if we could further compartmentalize the gaming performance of the Ryzen processors using memory latency. As I showed in my Ryzen 5 review, memory frequency and throughput directly correlates to gaming performance improvements, in the order of 14% in some cases. But what about looking solely at memory latency alone?
Subject: Mobile | May 2, 2017 - 11:33 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Windows 10 S, touchscreen, surface laptop, surface, microsoft, Intel, core i7, core i5
Microsoft has announced their new Surface Laptop, which notably leaked just yesterday, but the surprising part was not the hardware at all - however sleek and impressive it might be. Yes, it seems I spoke too soon with the Windows 10 S news, as this consumer (I assume) product is shipping with that new version of the OS which only allows apps to be installed from the Windows Store.
As to the hardware, it is milled from a block of aluminum (as shown in a very Apple-like video) and the heat pipes for the processor are milled into the bottom case to help make this so thin, but the laptop will undoubtedly feel warm to the touch during use (a fact which was mentioned on stage as a positive thing). The palmrest/keyboard is coated in a fabric material called Alcantara, rather than being bare metal and plastic. The combination of warmth (literally) and the fabric surface is supposed to make the new laptop feel very friendly, as the narrative went.
Thankfully (in my opinion, anyway) the bizarre flexible hinge of the prior Surface laptop is gone in favor of a conventional one - and with it the air gap from he previous design. Among the features mentioned for this new Surface were its PixelSense screen, which is the “thinnest LCD touch panel ever in a laptop”, and a very impressive 14.5 hour battery life. The standby power consumption was described as effectively zero, which suggests that a suspend state of some kind is standard to prevent drain when not in use. rather than a low-power sleep.
Image via Thurrott.com
Microsoft stated that two versions (Intel Core i5 and Core i7) will be available for pre-order beginning today, with the Core i5 model starting at $999. (Pricing on the Core i7 version was not mentioned.)
Windows Central has posted specs for the new machines, reproduced below:
- Display: 13.5-inch Pixel Sense display, 10 point multi-touch
- Display Resolution: 2256 x 1504, at 201 ppi, Aspect Ratio: 3:2
- Software: Windows 10 S
- Processor: 7th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7
- Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
- Memory: 4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM
- Graphics: i5: Intel HD graphics 620, i7: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
- Front Camera: 720p, Windows Hello face authentication
- Speakers: Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium
- Ports: One full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, Headset jack, Surface Connect
- Sensors: Ambient light sensor
- Security: TPM chip for enterprise security
- Battery Life: 14.5 hours of use
- Pen: Surface Pen
- Weight: 2.76 lbs
- Dimensions: 12.13 inches x 8.78 inches x 0.57 inches
Image via Thurrott.com
I will briefly editorialize here to mention the Windows 10 S problem here. That limitation might make sense for education, if Microsoft is providing a suite of apps that make sense for a school, but consumers will undoubtedly want more flexibility from their own devices. This is less consumer-friendly than even the Starter Edition of Windows from the past, which limited the number of running applications but not their provenance.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 6, 2017 - 03:37 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: xeon, Thinkpad, quadro, P71, P51s, P51, nvidia, notebook, mobile workstation, Lenovo, kaby lake, core i7
Lenovo has announced a trio of new ThinkPad mobile workstations, featuring updated Intel 7th-generation Core (Kaby Lake) processors and NVIDIA Quadro graphics, and among these is the thinnest and lightest ThinkPad mobile workstation to date in the P51s.
"Engineered to deliver breakthrough levels of performance, reliability and long battery life, the ThinkPad P51s features a new chassis, designed to meet customer demands for a powerful but portable machine. Developed with engineers and professional designers in mind, this mobile workstation features Intel’s 7th generation Core i7 processors and the latest NVIDIA Quadro dedicated workstation graphics, as well as a 4K UHD IPS display with optional IR camera."
Lenovo says that the ThinkPad P51s is more than a half pound lighter than the previous generation (P50s), stating that "the P51s is the lightest and thinnest mobile workstation ever developed by ThinkPad" at 14.4 x 9.95 x 0.79 inches, and weight starting at 4.3 lbs.
Specs for the P51s include:
- Up to a 7th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor
- NVIDIA Quadro M520M Graphics
- Choice of standard or touchscreen FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, or 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS display
- Up to 32 GB DDR4 2133 RAM (2x SODIMM slots)
- Storage options including up to 1 TB (5400 rpm) HDD and 1 TB NVMe PCIe SSDs
- USB-C with Intel Thunderbolt 3
- 802.11ac and LTE-A wireless connectivity
Lenovo also announced the ThinkPad P51, which is slightly larger than the P51s, but brings the option of Intel Xeon E3-v6 processors (in addition to Kaby Lake Core i7 CPUs), Quadro M2200M graphics, faster 2400 MHz memory up to 64 GB (4x SODIMM slots), and up to a 4K IPS display with X-Rite Pantone color calibration.
Finally there is the new VR-ready P71 mobile workstation, which offers up to an NVIDIA Quadro P5000M GPU along with Oculus and HTC VR certification.
"Lenovo is also bringing virtual reality to life with the new ThinkPad P71. One of the most talked about technologies today, VR has the ability to bring a new visual perspective and immersive experience to our customers’ workflow. In our new P71, the NVIDIA Pascal-based Quadro GPUs offer a stunning level of performance never before seen in a mobile workstation, and it comes equipped with full Oculus and HTC certifications, along with NVIDIA’s VR-ready certification."
Pricing and availability is as follows:
- ThinkPad P51s, starting at $1049, March
- ThinkPad P51, starting at $1399, April
- ThinkPad P71, starting at $1849, April
Subject: Systems | October 26, 2016 - 04:31 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, GTX 980M, GTX 965M, desktop, DCI-P3, core i7, core i5, all-in-one, AIO, 4000x3500
Microsoft has announced their first all-in-one PC with the Surface Studio, and it looks like Apple has some serious competition on their hands in the high-end AIO workstation space. Outfitted with the highest resolution display this side of Cupertino, 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors, and discrete NVIDIA graphics, there is plenty of power for most users (though gamers will clearly be looking elsewhere). Make no mistake, this new AIO from Microsoft is not going to replace a standard desktop for most people due to the $2999+ price tag, but for creative professionals and other workstation users it is a compelling option.
"Expanding the Surface family, Surface Studio is a new class of device that transforms from a workstation into a powerful digital canvas, unlocking a more natural and immersive way to create on the thinnest LCD monitor ever built.1 With a stunning ultra-HD 4.5K screen, Surface Studio delivers 63 percent more pixels than a state-of-the-art 4K TV. Surface Studio works beautifully with pen, touch and Surface Dial — a new input device designed for the creative process that lets you use two hands on the screen to compose and create in all new ways."
The star of the show is the 28-inch PixelSense display, which boasts a massive 4500x3000 resolution for a pixel density of 192 ppi, and the taller 3:2 aspect ratio will be welcomed by some users as well. Microsoft is using 10-bit panels for this premium AIO offering, and color reproduction should be outstanding with the Surface Studio thanks to "individually color calibrated" displays. Another advantage for creative customers is the display's multi-touch capability and 1024 pressure-level Surface Pen, which makes this a very nice option for digital artists - especially at 28 inches/192 ppi.
Touchscreen desktops need display placement flexibility to be useful, and here Microsoft has a "zero gravity" hinge to allow for easy movement. The design looks stable thanks to a pair of arms connecting the display to the base, and this lower half is what actually houses the PC components. What's inside? Here's a look at the official specs:
- Screen: 28” PixelSense™ Display
- Resolution: 4500 x 3000 (192 PPI)
- Color settings: Adobe sRGB and DCI-P3, individually color calibrated
- Touch: 10 point multi-touch
- Aspect Ratio: 3:2
- Supports Pen enabled and Zero Gravity Hinge
- Processor: 6th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 or i7
- Memory: 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB RAM
- i5 Intel 8GB: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory
- i7 Intel 16GB: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory
- i7 Intel 32GB: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 980M 4GB GDDR5 memory
- Rapid Hybrid Drive options: 1TB or 2TB
- Connections & expansions:
- 4 x USB 3.0 (one high power port)
- Full-size SD ™ card reader (SDXC) compatible
- Mini DisplayPort
- Headset jack
- Compatible with Surface Dial on-screen interaction*
- 1 Gigabit Ethernet port
- Cameras, video and audio:
- Windows Hello1 face sign-in camera
- 5.0 MP camera with 1080p HD video (front)
- Autofocus camera with 1080p HD video (rear)
- Dual microphones
- Stereo 2.1 speakers with Dolby® Audio™ Premium
- 3.5 mm headphone jack
- Wi-Fi: 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking, IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n compatible
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
- Xbox Wireless built-in
- TPM chip for enterprise security
- Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello2 face sign-in
- Warranty: 1-year limited hardware warranty
- Display: 637.35 mm x 438.90 mm x 12.5 mm (25.1” x 17.3” x 0.5”)
- Base: 250.00 mm x 220.00 mm x 32.2 mm (9.8” x 8.7” x 1.3”)
- Product weight: 9.56 kg max (21 lbs max)
The Surface Studio is currently available for pre-order at Microsoft.com with prices ranging from $2999 to $4199, depending on configuration.
Subject: Processors | June 3, 2016 - 04:55 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: X99, video, Intel, i7-6950X, core i7, Core, Broadwell-E, Broadwell
You have seen our take on the impressively powerful and extremely expensive i7-6950X but of course we were not the only ones to test out Intel's new top of the line processor. Hardware Canucks focused on the difference between the ~$1700 i7-6950X and the ~$1100 i7-6900K. From synthetic benchmarks such as AIDA through gaming at 720p and 1080p, they tested the two processors against each other to see when it would make sense to spend the extra money on the new Broadwell-E chip. Check out what they thought of the chip overall as well as the scenarios where they felt it would be full utilized.
"10 cores, 20 threads, over $1700; Intel's Broadwell-E i7-6950X delivers obscene performance at an eye-watering price. Then there's the i7-6900K which boasts all the same niceties in a more affordable package."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Core I7 6950X Extreme Edition Broadwell-E CPU Review @ OCC
- Intel i7-6900K @ Hardwareheaven
- Intel i7-6950X @ Overclockers.com
- Intel Core i7 6950X @ Kitguru
- AMD Athlon X4 845 CPU Review @ Neoseeker
- AMD A10-7860K 65W APU @ techPowerUp
- AMD A10-7890K APU Review @ Neoseeker
It has been nearly two years since the release of the Haswell-E platform, which began with the launch of the Core i7-5960X processor. Back then, the introduction of an 8-core consumer processor was the primary selling point; along with the new X99 chipset and DDR4 memory support. At the time, I heralded the processor as “easily the fastest consumer processor we have ever had in our hands” and “nearly impossible to beat.” So what has changed over the course of 24 months?
Today Intel is launching Broadwell-E, the follow up to Haswell-E, and things look very much the same as they did before. There are definitely a couple of changes worth noting and discussing, including the move to a 10-core processor option as well as Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, which is significantly more interesting than its marketing name implies. Intel is sticking with the X99 platform (good for users that might want to upgrade), though the cost of these new processors is more than slightly disappointing based on trends elsewhere in the market.
This review of the new Core i7-6950X 10-core Broadwell-E processor is going to be quick, and to the point: what changes, what is the performance, how does it overclock, and what will it cost you?
Subject: Processors | December 28, 2015 - 07:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: skylake-u, Skylake, mobile cpu, Intel, desktop cpu, core i7, core i5, core i3, Broadwell
As reported by CPU World Intel has added a total of eight new processors to the 5th-gen “Broadwell” and 6th-gen “Skylake” CPU lineups, with new mobile and desktop models appearing in Intel’s price lists. The models include Core and Celeron, and range from dual core (five with Hyper-Threading) to a new quad-core i5:
Chart of new Intel models from CPU-World
“Intel today added 8 new Broadwell- and Skylake-based microprocessors to the official price list. New CPUs have unusual model numbers, like i5-6402P and i5-5200DU, which indicates that they may have different feature-set than the mainstream line of desktop and mobile CPUs. Intel also introduced today Celeron 3855U and 3955U ultra-low voltage models.”
It is unclear if the desktop models (Core i3-6098P, Core i5-6402P) listed with enter the retail channel, or if they are destined for OEM applications. The report points out these models have a P suffix “that was used to signify the lack of integrated GPU in older generations of Core i3/i5 products. There is a good chance that it still means just that”.
It comes after 8, but before 10
As the week of Intel’s Developer Forum (IDF) begins, you can expect to see a lot of information about Intel’s 6th Generation Core architecture, codenamed Skylake, finally revealed. When I posted my review of the Core i7-6700K, the first product based on that architecture to be released in any capacity, I was surprised that Intel was willing to ship product without the normal amount of background information for media and developers. Rather than give us the details and then ship product, which has happened for essentially every consumer product release I have been a part of, Intel did the reverse: ship a consumer friendly CPU and then promise to tell us how it all works later in the month at IDF.
Today I came across a document posted on Intel’s website that dives into very specific detail on the new Gen9 graphics and compute architecture of Skylake. Details on the Core architecture changes are not present, and instead we are given details on how the traditional GPU portion of the SoC has changed. To be clear: I haven’t had any formal briefing from Intel on this topic or anything surrounding the architecture of Skylake or the new Gen9 graphics system but I wanted to share the details we found available. I am sure we’ll learn more this week as IDF progresses so I will update this story where necessary.
What Intel calls Processor Graphics is what we used to call simply integrated graphics for the longest time. The purpose and role of processor graphics has changed drastically over the years and it is now not only responsible for 3D graphics rendering but compute, media and display capabilities of the Intel Skylake SoC (when discrete add-in graphics is not used). The architecture document used to source this story focuses on Gen9 graphics, the compute architecture utilized in the latest Skylake CPUs. The Intel HD Graphics 530 on the Core i7-6700K / Core i5-6600K is the first product released and announced using Gen9 graphics and is also the first to adopt Intel’s new 3-digit naming scheme.
This die shot of the Core i7-6700K shows the increased size and prominence of the Gen9 graphics in the overall SoC design. Containing four traditional x86 CPU cores and 1 “slice” implementation of Gen9 graphics (with three visible sub-slices we’ll describe below), this is not likely to be the highest performing iteration of the latest Intel HD Graphics technology.
Like the Intel processors before it, the Skylake design utilizes a ring bus architecture to connect the different components of the SoC. This bi-directional interconnect has a 32-byte wide data bus and connects to multiple “agents” on the CPU. Each individual CPU core is considered its own agent while the Gen9 compute architecture is considered one complete agent. The system agent bundles the DRAM memory, the display controller, PCI Express and other I/O interface that communicate with the rest of the PC. Any off-chip memory requests and transactions occur through this bus while on-chip data transfers tend to be handled differently.