Since the introduction of the Ultrabook category, ASUS has branded its own Ultrabook lineup as Zenbooks. Of them, the sleekest of them is the Zenbook Prime UX31A. This eye-catching notebook adopts a 13-inch form factor, clad in a sleek aluminum body (just like its predecessor) and is coupled with updates to its screen and keyboard that would be most welcomed. We take a short break from the all the convertible/hybrid notebook variants to see how does this pure Ultrabook unit fare in our assessment. Also, since this notebook is mostly an updated edition of the original Zenbook UX31 that we've reviewed early in the year, we shall be keeping the review of this Zenbook Prime UX31A short and prim.
The Zenbook Prime has a premium feel due to its all-aluminum body which was also used on the previous Zenbook. The exterior of the Zenbook Prime features the "Zen" or circular pattern which gives this Ultrabook its unique look and feel. Light bouncing off the notebook's lid from any angle would reflect off it in radial pattern, which is a subtle, yet signature design of the ASUS Zenbooks and is definitely eye-catching compared to other Ultrabook designs.
Checking its left and right side profiles, we see that it almost has the same set of ports as the first Zenbook. However, the Zenbook Prime takes onboard two USB 3.0 ports, instead of a mix of a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0, in addition to a mic-in/headphone-out audio jack, SD card reader, micro-HDMI, and a mini-VGA connector.
We have no qualms with the port selection for the Zenbook Prime except for the included micro-HDMI port. Since ASUS did not include a micro-HDMI to a full sized HDMI converter, this can be quite a chore as obtaining a suitable converter isn't going to be cheap and it's not commonly available. ASUS should have included an additional converter in its package, but the problem mentioned would arise should the user misplace the converter. Given the sleek and tapered design of the Zenbook Prime, it is inevitable that some of the ports had to make sacrifices and the video outputs getting downsized is a better option than the more readily used USB ports.
Taking a look at the keyboard and trackpad of the Zenbook Prime reminds us of the previous Zenbook design, although the chiclet keyboard used for the Prime is of a darker color compared to the metallic finish of the original Zenbook. Fans of the Zenbook series will be glad to know that ASUS improved on the keyboard tremendously. The keys on the keyboard are not as shallow and now provide much more resistance for a very comfortable experience.
The tracking sensitivity of the clickable trackpad has also been improved immensely. This is particularly important because of the increased pixel density of the new full HD display. You'd need that sensitivity to get you from one corner to the next, without having to brush your fingers constantly against the clickpad.