Make no mistake. This is the season of the Ultrabook. If you're not convinced, just sit tight and wait for wave after wave of Ultrabooks to hit the market. We've already had the Acer Aspire S3, and the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s pass by our labs, and the ASUS ZenBook UX31 will be coming to us pretty soon. So for now, in order to satisfy your Ultrabook cravings, we'll show you what you can expect from the ASUS ZenBook series.
Why series? Well that's because there are multiple variations of the ZenBook Ultrabooks - all of which revolve around two screen sizes of 11 inches, and 13 inches. Then we have the choice of either a Core i5 (2467M) or Core i7 (2677M) processors, while the Core i3 version isn't available in Singapore for now. The last decision you'd have to make to create your ideal Ultrabook, is choosing the SSD size.
If you'd have followed our previous Ultrabook reviews, you'd know that the size of the SSD partly determines the performance potential. Bigger capacities equates to higher I/O throughput, so we'd suggest that you get the biggest SSD you can afford. While that's easier said than done because of astronomical price premiums for large capacity SSD varieties, you would be glad to know that apart from benchmark numbers, you would generally not perceive much differences between various SSD equipped systems. They are already a good degree speedier than traditional hard drives.
In other hardware aspects, everything about the 13-inch ASUS ZenBook is pretty much in-line with Intel's Ultrabook base requirements. You've got ultra-slim form factor, large trackpad, the SSD, 4GB of RAM, and a powerful ultra-low voltage processor (except it doesn't cost less than US$1000). What sets the ZenBook apart from its competitors, are in the components that ASUS saw fit to integrate in the notebook.
Just like the very brightly lit Samsung Series 9, the UX31's screen is a 'blindingly' bright 450 nits. Add to that the much higher resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels (which no other Ultrabook in the market has right now), and you've gotten yourself a screen you can't take your eyes away from. However do take note that having a bright screen will eat away at your battery life.
During our hands-on session, we've also manhandled the keyboard and trackpad (clickpad), and we walked away with the feeling that ASUS has a winner on their hands. The chiclet keys are fully metallic, cool to the touch and feel extremely sturdy. The only issue we had with it was that the housing on which the keys are sitting on, isn't metal like the rest of the machine. However, much to our relief, it doesn't introduce noticeable flex that would ruin your typing experience. In fact, the keys are fairly bouncy, and produce a melodic, metallic clicketty-clack which makes it a pleasure to use.
And you can't have a real Ultrabook without a giant trackpad, one of the most important, but understated features of an Ultrabook. The glass trackpad (or clickpad now that it's clickable), is reponsive enough, and depresses down enough for a solid tactile feeling. For a further review of how the clickpad works in real-life scenarios, you'd have to keep your eyes peeled for our review article when we get some to give it a real good run-in.
For those of you who are interested in getting one of the machines that we have mentioned, the ASUS ZenBooks are on sale today, on November 9th 2011. The price ranges from S$1498, to $1998 for the highest specced machine. That makes it slightly cheaper than a MacBook Air, with similar hardware components, as well as a brighter and sharper screen.
Next, we'd like to briefly mention the ASUS Eee Slate (S$1699), a 12-inch (1280 x 800 pixels), Windows 7 based tablet targeted at corporate users. The Eee Slate isn't anything spectacular on its own, but what it can do for you is what makes it interesting. This humongous tablet boasts robust security features, not unlike the Lenovo ThinkPad Android tablet that we've reported earlier on.
And like the ThinkPad tablet, it features a digitizer (or stylus) that allows you to write and draw flawlessly. However, unlike the stylus of the PDA era, this digitizer switches flawlessly from touch to pen, thanks to the Wacom technology behind it. Its palm detection is also close to perfect, meaning that unintended touches won't be registered while you are writing your heart out.