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

Aluminium Means Premium

Aluminium Means Premium

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.

The single metallic hinge of the Asus Zenbook UX31 is sturdy, but because it's fairly tight, it requires two hands to pry it open.

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.

The interior of the UX31 features magnesium alloy, as well as aluminum alloy which gives it an interesting contrast.

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.

Aluminum is one of the harder materials manufacturers can use to make their products feel solid (and expensive), as you can see from the interior of the UX31.

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 chiclet keys found on the UX31 have a luxurious metallic feel to them. Unfortunately they don't have enough travel for our liking. Some however, may prefer their keyboards to make less noise while typing.

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.

You can see that the large clickable trackpad takes up quite a bit of space, leaving no precious real estate unused and wasted.

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.

The UX31 is the first Ultrabook to reach us with a sharp 1600 x 900 pixels resolution screen, but we are sure it won't be the last.

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.

  • 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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