ASUS ZenBook and Eee Slate - Slim is In

Asus ZenBook and Eee Slate - Slim is In

The Next Wave of Notebooks

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.

The Asus ZenBook Series comes in two sizes. Both the 11-inch and 13.3-inch screen variants are similar in terms of looks.

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.

The whole point of an Ultrabook is that it's portable, and you'd likely be working under some bright sunlight if you were out and about. Most notebooks' displays can't be seen very well under this kind of light, but the ASUS ZenBook's 450 nits of brightness will solve that problem in a jiffy.

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.

The metallic chiclet keys are spaced fairly wide apart, but typing experience was similar to most other chiclet keyboards, which means it's fairly comfortable to use. It's also made of metal so that it feels cool to the touch, and robust.

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.

We love giant trackpads, and only because it is so much easier to navigate using one. The glass covered trackpad is also clickable, and features multi-touch capabilities.

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.

The ASUS ZenBook UX series is as small, if not smaller than the MacBook Air. You'd need a lot of design work to be able to fit so many parts in its form factor, just like the MacBook Air. If you're wondering how it fares in our benchmark tests, hold on tight as we await our review unit soon.

The speakers are found under the screen, and you can be sure these speakers sound good. Well, not as good as stand-alone speakers, but good for something this small and sleek.

And here, you can see why ASUS is proud of the audio produced by their notebook -- the Bang and Olufsen Ice-Power audio chip.

The ASUS ZenBook compares favorably against the MacBook Air. Both of them  are exceedingly thin, and much less than 20mm when closed.

The ASUS ZenBook has all the ports you may need, including a super speedy USB 3.0 port - something that Apple's notebooks don't yet sport.

They have a similar form factor, but the ASUS ZenBook has several design differences; most notably the color, followed by the circular swirl that on the lid.

The product's tagline is "love at first sight". Even the models seem to have fallen in love with how portable the ASUS ZenBook UX31 is.

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.

The Wacom digitizer allows the ASUS Eee Slate to switch smoothly from capacitive touch, to pen input. It also has an excellent response times, which means you writing will be more legible, and not look like chicken scratch.

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.

The ASUS Eee Slate is aimed at traveling executives, who need something portable, lightweight and able to take down notes. There are also multiple connectivity options, such as USB ports, card readers and the like.