2018 best value laptop in Australia (in my opinion)

Summary

I recently helped a mate buy a laptop (Jan 18) and I think that the Asus Zenbook UX330 provides great value. I’m writing this to help laptop buyers use value comparison in their purchases.

Usage

My mate’s requirements was Internet browsing with good performance running multiple office apps (eg Excel) at the same time.

He already shortlisted the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo X1, but wasn’t sure which one to buy?

For his usage, I think the 2 laptops that he picked are really good and would easily do the job. I think the Intel i5 CPU is sufficient, probably doesn’t need an i7.  I currently run an i5 (~ 2 years old) which handles a full programming environment well, so should be able to handle office apps.

Getting SSD hard drive is key to good performance and snappy start up times. I recommend 256 GB as minimun and don’t think 128 GB SSD cuts it (in my opinion).

How to do a value comparison?

  1. Get price / specs of the market leader
  2. Get the price / specs of shortlisted contenders
  3. Look for price / specs of suggested good value propositions
  4. Decide based on price / specs / build quality / reviews => hopefully, that’s the value proposition

I first started with the MacBook Air, a perceived leader in the field. It retails ~ $1,799 with i5, 8GB RAM, 256 GB SSD.

How does the Lenovo & Dell compare with the same specs?

Lenovo X1 retails ~ $1,709 with i5-7200U (7th Gen, Q3 16, Benchmark 4,667), 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 14” FHD 1920×1080

Dell XPS 13 retails ~ $1,599 with i5-8250U (8th Gen, Q3 17, Benchmark 7,517), 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 13.3” FHD 1920×1080

Both the Lenovo & Dell are cheaper than Apple for the same specs (to provide some sort of value).  But I think the Dell is better value than Lenovo:

  1. ~ $100 cheaper
  2. you get an 8th Gen i5, instead of 7th Gen i5 in Lenovo. The Benchmark of the 8th Gen i5 is 7,517 vs 4,667 (7th Gen i5) and the higher is better. Amazing how much the performance gains are 1 generation to the next.

What’s the review comparisons between XPS 13 vs X1?

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs Dell XPS 13

Note, in the reviews, the X1 had more powerful CPU, but for quotes above, XPS 13 has the more powerful CPU, so you can disregard the performance comparison in the review.

Have you ever considered buying a laptop from US?

In general, I’ve noticed that US have cheaper laptops with similar / better specs. The US power charger has a different adapter to Australia but that’s a minor issue.

Thinking about risk?

I think whats more important is to get international warranty, so if there are any issues, you can take to local Asus dealer.

How was my experience?

I actually bought an Asus Zenbook UX305 from US back in Jan 2016. I’ve used it for 2 years and have had no problems so really enjoyed the price saving.

How does Asus Zenbook bought from US compare?

Amazon US sells the Asus Zenbook UX330 which ships to Aus.

Asus Zenbook UX330 retails ~ USD$749 = AUD$952 (1USD = 1.27AUD), with i5-8250U (8th Gen, Q3 17, Benchmark 7,517), 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 13.3” FHD 1920×1080

Its a lot cheaper (much better value) with similar performance, though build quality is not as good as X1 or XPS 13. But because of much cheaper price / performance / value I think its worth considering.  Its build quality is pretty good too, I’ve used an Asus Zenbook for 2 years without issues.

What’s the review comparison of the Asus?

Review of Asus (best windows Ultrabook)

Following a similar value comparison approach, I bought my laptop back in 2016.
My specs: i5-5200U (5th Gen, Q1 15, Benchmark 3,495), 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 13.3” FHD 1920×1080

It was much cheaper than Dell XPS and Zenbook Aus. I got mine in the US converted to ~ AUD$1,184 when Aus retailers were selling ~ $1,600 (but only 128 GB SSD) and XPS 13 ~ $1,800 at the time.

Note how Asus UX330 (successor of UX305) is twice as fast with 8th Gen i5 (7,517 vs 3,495) for same price.

What about Aus import duty?

I think you have to pay Aus import duty if you spend > AUD$1.000.  In 2016 < AUD$1,000 you didn’t have to pay import duty. Need to check if this has changed.

What about impact from recent CPU bugs (Meltdown / Spectre)?

With Meltdown / Spectre bugs, the 8th Gen intel chips are impacted by the bug. So maybe its worth waiting a year or so for next gen chips to be built which is not impacted. But if you have to buy now, then that’s ok, just apply the operating system patches to keep you safe.

What’s my recommendation?

My recommendation is to get the Asus from US. Its really good value from price / performance point of view. Not as polished as XPS 13, but for price point is excellent value (in my opinion).

I’ve had no issues with mine so far and do not regret it. Its still going strong and my next upgrade will be another Asus (UX305 successor). But I’ll probably wait for next gen of intel chips not impacted by Meltdown / Spectre.

I’m still running a full development environment happily with 5th Gen i5 (2 yrs later). I run Ubuntu linux though, so startup times are very snappy and it runs really fast.  Same specs will probably run Windows a little slower, as Windows is more cumbersome.

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