Opening the (very sturdy) lid of the notebook wasn’t too difficult, but it requires both of your hands to pry it open. This means that the single long hinge is tight enough to keep it closed when you need it. However there are some Ultrabooks out in the market that are designed to only require one hand to open, a small convenience which unfortunately isn't featured on the UX31.
Once you've gotten the lid open, a bright, brushed metal interior greets you. The shade of silver on the interior is slightly darker than the darkest shade found on the lid, but is still pleasing to the eyes nonetheless. Only the keyboard housing and screen bezel is not made of the same material, and gives contrast to the brightness of the metallic interior.
We’re unable to ascertain the exact material used to make the keyboard housing and screen bezel, but it looks very much like the magnesium alloy we have seen on other machines. With the rest of the machine mostly made from aluminum alloy, the notebook is firm and rigid throughout.
The keyboard, the component that interacts with the user the most, is one of the most important beneficiaries of that good build quality. Too many times we’ve seen keyboards that flex an inappropriate amount, which makes for a very muted and unsatisfying typing experience. You won't find that on the UX31, largely thanks to the metallic housing on which the keyboard sits in.
The only concern we have with the keys is that they're extremely shallow. We know that inevitably, such a design is needed to keep the thickness of the machine to a minimum. However we’ve seen other machines with shallow keyboards that come with a fair bit of resistance to counter the key travel limitation.
Another unofficial feature which some of the better Ultrabooks come with is the large, clickable trackpad. It isn’t a feature which you would find on all Ultrabooks, but those that come with it, usually give users a very good tracking experience (especially when it is made of smooth textured glass). On the UX31, the click of the trackpad feels solid enough, but the rigidity increases the closer you reach the corners, causing you to press harder than you’d like.
The main issue we have with the trackpad however, isn't with the physical aspects. Our test unit's trackpad sensitivity was quite weak; much weaker than any trackpad we’ve used for a very long while. A quick search online revealed that other users encountered similar problems. Some have even reported that the mouse cursor jumps randomly when in use. Thankfully we didn’t encounter this issue with our unit, but it would be worth your while to try it out and see if it irritates you prior to your purchase.
But of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. The one factor that makes everything seem trivial is its 1600 x 900 pixels resolution screen. So far, ASUS is the only Ultrabook vendor to-date that has decided to give consumers a higher quality screen. It won’t be immediately obvious to most consumers, but if you look hard enough, you will notice that images look sharper, while text is easier to read too.
Another comforting trait we've noticed on Ultrabooks so far, have been the decent speaker quality that manufacturers have managed to cram into the tiny machines. As casual multimedia notebooks, there really isn’t any excuse not to provide the consumer with the best speakers that an Ultrabook’s thin profile will allow. As for the UX31’s speakers, we found that they are fairly loud and clear, which means they’re good enough for most generic multimedia needs.