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ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A - Same Design, Better Build
By Leo Boon Yeow & Martin James David - 18 Dec 2012
Launch SRP: S$2098

ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A - Same Looks, Better Feel

The Zen Prime

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.

Looking almost similar to its previous iteration, the Zenbook Prime UX31A sports updated components, including an all new full HD screen and keyboard design. We bet these two aspects are enough to draw your attention.

Design and Physique

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.

The unique aluminum finish and darker color of the Zenbook Prime's cover gives off a very nice premium distinction.

The power brick of the Zenbook Prime's charger is notable due to its similarity with the MacBook's power brick. To accompany it in a fashionable way, ASUS has included its very own stylish case that goes very well with the notebook sleeve provided.

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.

The Zenbook Prime's left side hosts a USB 3.0 port, headset port, and an SD card reader.

On the other hand, the right side  includes a micro-HDMI, mini-VGA and another USB 3.0 port.

Here are the included converters to provide the Zenbook Prime with a full sized VGA and Ethernet ports. They connect via micro-USB and USB respectively.

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.

The keyboard is illuminated this time and the user is able to control how strong the illumination is.

ASUS used a multi-touch clickpad for the Prime. The clickpad’s surface is quite large and tracking has improved much from the previous Zenbook iteration.

The speaker grill is located at the top of the keyboard and is attached to the hinge. This adds to the design uniqueness of the Prime.

  • 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
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