ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A - Same Design, Better Build

Launch SRP: S$2098

Specifications, Performance and Conclusion

The Prime Put To The Test

The Zenbook Prime is powered by an Intel Core i7-3517U processor clocked at 1.9GHz (turbo boost to 3GHz) coupled with Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 4GB DDR3 memory. For storage, it uses a whopping 256GB SSD, which gives users plenty of space while still having the ultra-fast throughput and seek times. The trade-off as we all know is that having a 256GB SSD means a higher asking price. Hopefully, with the pricing trend of SSDs, we’ll get to see much more affordable prices for higher capacity SSDs.

It is also interesting to see that ASUS stepped up the display capabilities for their Zenbook lineup as the Prime now comes with an option of either a 1600 x 900 or a 1920 x 1080 pixels IPS display panel. This is should be of high interest since there are only a handful of models out there that provides higher than the 'de facto' resolution (1366 x 768 pixels) for Ultrabooks.

Below is a comparison of the Zenbook Prime’s specifications, together with some contenders:

Ultrabooks Compared
Specifications / Ultrabook ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Acer Aspire S5
Samsung Series 9
Intel Ivy Bridge Reference notebook
Processor Intel Core i7-3517U (1.9GHz) Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7GHz) Intel Core i7-3517U (1.9GHz) Intel Core i5-3427U
(1.7GHz)
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000
Memory 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3  Up to 4GB DDR3
Display 13.3-inch 16:9 IPS FHD (1920 x 1080) 13.3-inch 
LED-backlit
(1366 x 768)
13.3-inch
LED-backlit
(1600 x 900)
13.3-inch 16:9 HD (1600 x 900) 
Storage 256GB SSD 256GB SSD  128GB SSD 256GB SSD
Dimensions 325 x 223 x 3 - 18mm 313.8 x 218.5 x 12.9mm  323 x 226 x 18mm  329 x 223 x 16mm
Weight 1.3kg 1.16kg 1.6kg  1.46kg

With the updated hardware the Zenbook Prime UX31A has over the Zenbook UX31, the Ivy Bridge-driven UX31A scored 3997 on PCMark 7, and 1201 on 3DMark 11. These scores when compared to the older Zenbook UX31 are higher, but this is expected since the Zenbook Prime UX31A is equipped with the latest hardware. For comparison, we took some of the closest Ultrabooks to the Zenbook Prime UX31A. The closest Ultrabooks we had benchmarks for were the Acer Aspire S5, Samsung Series 9 and we even threw in an Intel Ivy Bridge reference notebook for good measure. Below are the results:

 

Based from the benchmarks that we used, it can be seen that the third generation Intel Core i7 doesn't perform better than its Core i5 counterpart, apart from gaming aspects. More demanding tasks like graphics rendering or video transcoding could see better improvements, but from our experience, these differences are small. The Zenbook Prime UX31A does deliver Ultrabook performance that trumps non-SSD sporting notebooks, but it trails behind when compared to notebooks with superior SSDs.

On the whole, it wasn't on top of all our performance benchmarks, but any performance difference in the benchmarks would probably be unnoticeable for everyday use. From that perspective, one could probably opt to buy the third generation Intel Core i5-equipped Zenbook Prime UX31A to shave some costs as the differential spent for the better processor isn't quite worth it.

 

Battery Performance

Being an Ultrabook, the battery life of the system really matters since the Ultrabooks aim to tackle the issue of longer battery life, while still maintaining desirable computing power. To test the machine’s battery life, after completely charging the battery, we ran Powermark with with the machine's brightness and volume turned down to 50%. Connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) was also switched off.

The Zenbook Prime UX31A, lasted for a good 4 hours when running Powermark. This is particularly impressive because the benchmark puts the machine through a barrage of CPU intensive tasks which the notebook is expected to go through on a daily basis. It even fared slightly better than Intel's own reference Ivy Bridge Ultrabook.

On top of that, it should be noted that the review model that we used for this test has a full HD IPS panel which means that its resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels. Having a full HD panel means higher power consumption since it needs to light up more pixels and thus leading to greater power draw. This means that power management on the notebook is excellent, as you can see from the power consumption chart. Despite having a full HD display, power draw is almost on par with that of the 1600 x 900 pixels resolution Intel reference Ultrabook.

 

Portability Index

The portability index we have here, takes into consideration elements like battery life and mass of the machine. The ratio derived from the index is used as a gauge on how portable the machine is. The bigger the ratio, the more worthwhile it is for you to take it out of your home. Here, you can see that the UX31A does much better than than its competitors, largely thanks to its excellent battery life.

The UX31A is a commendable effort by ASUS, because they managed to squeeze a little bit more juice from its batteries, without the need for more battery capacity, which kept the weight of the machine at a respectable 1.3kg. However, a point to note about the ratio is that even though it's almost double that of the Acer Aspire S5, it doesn't mean it's twice as portable as the very thin and light Acer Aspire S5.

What it simply means, is that if you're looking for an Ultrabook that is extremely portable, yet has good battery life and performance, the ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A is a very good bet.

 

 

The Second Coming of the Zen

Ultra slim, ultra sexy, ultra powerful, and everything else about the notebook shouting ultra, the ASUS Zenbook Prime is definitely one of the top dogs in the 'pure' Ultrabook scene. ASUS has outdone itself again in both design and features for the second coming of its Zenbook. This updated Prime edition even rectified and vastly improved on the areas of weakness that the original Zenbook had, such as the bad keyboard and trackpad that marred its experience.

The Zenbook Prime might not be for everyone with a rather large price premium over other Ultrabooks. However with the intricate unique design and plethora of features (all-aluminum body, backlit keyboard, multi-touch clickpad, full HD screen, high-speed SSD, and a whole lot more), the Zenbook Prime should have what it takes to still convince you as a viable option for those looking for a genuine Ultrabook experience.


9.0
Design
9
Features
9.5
Performance
9
Value
8
Mobility
9
The Good
Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display
Good keyboard and clickpad
Good battery life
All-aluminum body
The Bad
Looks similar to cheaper UX32VD
Lack of micro-HDMI converter
Pricey