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ASUS Zenbook UX31 - Keeping it Zen
By Leo Boon Yeow - 17 Jan 2012

Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond

So we’re going to make it really easy for you readers to decide whether or not to get yourself an ASUS Zenbook UX31. It's really sexy, very robust, and it's an Ultrabook. Just in case you haven’t caught up on reading our Ultrabook guide, we pit the reference recommendations against the ASUS counterpart - Ultrabooks should ideally measure under 20mm in thickness (UX31 is 17mm), weigh under 1.5kg (UX31 is 1.3kg) and they're fast (instant resume with SSDs). Last but not least, they’re powerful (using a Core i7 or i5 CULV processor with integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics), which the Zenbook conforms to.

The UX31 is the poster-child for Ultrabooks at 2011's Consumer Electronics Show, and rightfully so. It embodies much of what Ultrabooks are supposed to be, and more.

The UX31 has all of the mentioned benefits that come with the Ultrabook moniker, and then some. Intel didn’t say that Ultrabooks have to use premium materials like aluminum, but ASUS did just that. Not to mention, the swirly brushed metal finish adorning the cover of the machine is a really eye catching element. And because of all that metal alloy used outside and insides the notebook, build quality is top-notch here. Looks-wise, the ASUS Zenbook UX31 is definitely on to something here. It might not appeal to everyone, but we’re fairly confident that it will appeal to most, especially those reading this review right now.

Then there’s the sharp 1600 x 900 pixels resolution screen that also isn't an Ultrabook requirement, but ASUS went a step above what the competition offers (which is valid at the point of writing this review). Most Ultrabooks come with a screen harboring the standard 1366 x 768 pixels resolution, so anything higher than that we’d see as a boon for the consumer.

ASUS chose to give consumers a machine with premium build, rather than just produce a product with rock-bottom pricing.

However, looks and additional luxuries aside, there are some issues what we’d like to highlight. First and foremost, is the disappointing glass, clickable trackpad (clickpad). The feel of its click is quite good, but the touch sensitivity found on our review unit was sluggish and unresponsive, though we reckon it could be fixed via software. However there were more serious issues reported on the web with its clickpad as mentioned earlier in the review. This is likely due to ASUS using two different suppliers for the clickpads, so make sure you test the clickpad on your unit thoroughly before you get a Zenbook. If all else fails, just pair the Zenbook with an excellent portable mice (which ASUS should consider bundling).

Another concern which we'd like to point out is one concerning the metallic chiclet keyboard. To keep the notebook thin, the keys were made to be really shallow. That in itself wouldn't be a problem, except that there wasn't any effort made to increase the keys' resistance for that very important tactile feel. The keys are so mushy that you'd hardly feel it while typing. Should you also share our feeling upon trying this Ultrabook, perhaps it would be wise to select another notebook that offers you a more favorable feel. Otherwise, it would simply be akin to typing on a soft keyboard on a tablet - which many of us do fine with anyway. The only good thing about the keyboard is that its housing is fairly strong, and introduces minimal flex.

The weakest links on an otherwise very strong product are the shallow keys and unresponsive trackpad. However consumers can get used to the shallow keys, while issues with the trackpad can be ironed out via driver upgrades or resorting to portable mice. How much you would be affected would greatly depend on how picky you are with these issues personally. So do try the notebook before parting with your cash.

In terms of performance, the ASUS Zenbook UX31 manages to keep up with most other Ultrabooks. Their components are more or less the same, with just the internal architecture introducing certain variables that affect overall performance. What we're more interested is the battery performance and portability aspects of an ultraportable notebook. Our tests show that the UX31 lags behind top Ultrabooks from competing brands, likely due to the higher resolution (power hungry) screen that it sports amongst other minor variables. It's not a major concern, but something which you need to bear in mind when getting yourself a super slim and portable machine like the ASUS Zenbook UX31 - especially if you're seeking for the very best in mobility. If it's any consolation, it's actually on par with an Apple MacBook Air running Windows 7 via Boot Camp.

The Asus Zenbook UX31 is a capable machine in all areas, however its battery life trails behind Ultrabooks from some brands. It's not a deal breaker, but for consumers who require ultra-long battery life, please take note.

So if you are able to look past the few flaws that we’ve pointed out, and are still lusting after one of the sexiest new Ultrabook model out in the market, please help yourself to the multiple variations available. The 11-inch UX21 comes with either a 64GB, 128GB or 256GB SSD configuration, while the 13-inch UX31 has 128GB and a 256GB variants. Prices start at S$1,398 (UX21, Core i3, 64GB), ending at S$1,998 (UX31, Core i7, 256GB). We’d recommend getting the highest configuration you can afford, because SSD size has some influence over performance.

The Asus Zenbook series features the 13-inch UX31, as well as a smaller variant, the 11-inch UX21 for consumers who'd prefer a more compact form-factor.

  • Design 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 8
  • Value 7.5
  • Mobility 8.5
The Good
Solid build
Good looks
Aluminum chassis
High resolution screen
The Bad
Wonky trackpad
Mushy keyboard
Sharp edges
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