Asus Zenbook UX31E
The finest Ultrabook on the market?
Review I honestly thought it would take the industry a lot longer to start producing Windows Ultrabooks for under a grand that are this good. The Asus Zenbook is as flat and skinny and as light as a MacBook Air without trying to look like one, and is a darn sight better connected.
Smart notebook in size zero clothing: Asus Zenbook UX31E
The Zenbook comes in 11-inch and 13-inch versions: the UX31E tested here is the larger and more expensive of the two kitted out with a 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and sporting a 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-2677M CPU.
The case is built from what looks like two-tone brushed aluminium, the lid appearing darker than the base due to its circular rather than linear brushed finish. The press release describes this top-surface finish as “a concentric circle design that refracts a halo of light that excites the senses”. Oh lordy.
The refraction effect of the lid is supposed to ‘excite the senses’. I expect you’re feeling frisky just looking at this photo.
Similar to some other Ultrabooks – such as the recently reviewed Acer Aspire S3 – the Zenbook is gently wedge-shaped: the UX31E is about 17mm thick at the rear hinge and just 3mm at the front edge. The edges of the lid and base are flush on the sides and front, which naturally makes them appear sharp when the case is opened. They’re not sharp enough to cut you, but I can attest that they are sharp enough to scrape away the top surface of your fingernails, should you be so inclined.
Opening the case is a bit fiddly because there’s no clasp or catch, nor a recess to stick your thumb into, just a 0.5mm overlap to grip on to. However, with the Zenbook on a desktop, it’s possible to lift open the lid fully without the base tilting back – beautiful.
No kidding, this is an extraordinary piece of impossibly thin hardware design
The 13.3in, 1600 x 900 display is crisp and clear, even in its slightly dimmed ‘battery saving’ mode, and the bezel - whose grey plastic rather disrupts the brushed aluminium finish everywhere else - is untypically narrow at roughly 16mm on either side.
Next page: Visual basics
You get a larger, higher resolution screen and a better processor than in the Mac Air at the same price.
"Asus (to me) has a bit of a Cheap n' Cheerful reputation "
Possible confusion with Acer? Asus generally have the reputation of being in the middle range in terms of quality (not Apple but not budget either).
Would be interesting to get a straw poll of Reg readers.
Typing from an eee pc 901...
running Gentoo Linux, I have to ask:
did you try any linux distro on it?
(ubuntu is usually easier for a first check for drivers, h/w support, etc., PCLinuxOS is usually equally easy to run from a live CD-- and faster than ubuntu)
It would be nice to know if Linux runs ok.
Reg h/w reviews often include a paragraph or two reporting on this issue. It may be a little more difficult, since there is no optical drive, but an external one should be OK.
Please consider adding it to your standard review procedures, I think it would be appreciated by your readers.
As for ASUS reliability, etc.:
I have been using this small thing ever since I bought it, 3 years and a couple of months ago (Sep '08) for at least 8 hours every work day, usually continuing at home and on weekends (I usually ssh from it to my desktop machine from my home network) and, apart from some trouble now and then with the left touchpad button, it works extremely smoothly.
I consider it one of my best buys, and I bought it after reading the Reg review.
It may not be a lightning-fast machine, but (with the extra space provided by an external drive) it has compiled quite a few linux kernels, firefox, even OpenOffice, to name a few things.
Note the photos in the beginning of the article on page 1 and 2; very thin, with the wedge having no receeding base. Then witness the receeding base on page 3.
If one of your assessment critera is thinness, I'd ignore these photo's and view the model in the flesh first.
And *NOT* Mac OSX
Which is probably the biggest plus!