Unfortunately, it’s also one of those displays that suffer from significant visual degradation depending upon your viewing angle. Push the screen back a little and it goes dark; hinge it forwards and it goes pale; turn the Zenbook side to side and the display becomes difficult to read.
The provision of separate micro HDMI and VGA ports is a really good idea for the wandering presenter.
With the screen and my eyes in optimal position, the display looked great but this is not a computer that I’d find comfortable to share a presentation on with a huddle of people.
The keyboard is pretty good, though. Its metallic-looking keycaps do nothing for me style-wise but I enjoyed using the keyboard even though it can be difficult to read the symbols on the top row of Fn keys when the room is dimly lit. It’s possible to turn Wi-Fi on and off, adjust screen brightness, switch between displays, adjust audio volume and drop into Sleep mode directly from these Fn keys.
Top notch trackpad and a decent keyboard to boot
In front of the keyboard is a well-sized (roughly 10x7cm) trackpad with big, clearly defined left- and right-click areas and a perfectly smooth surface. It supports basic two-finger multitouch gestures such as for scrolling and for swiping between programs, and it supports gentle touch-taps instead of clicks without having to disable the click areas. I found the trackpad very easy to use - indeed, it was one of the best I have tried on a Windows notebook.
I have complained in the past about noisy notebooks. The Zenbook is, unless you place your ear directly against the underside, silent. Bliss. It’s also a modest consumer of mains energy, sucking up around 15W on a fast recharge, 27-30W while in use and recharging at the same time, dropping to about 20W when fully charged. This perhaps helps explain why I was unable to get the Zenbook to heat up. No matter what I did, it remained steadfastly cool underneath.
PCMark 7 Results
Longer bars are better
PCMark 7 Battery Life Results
Battery life in minutes
Longer bars are better
Clearly, one thing the Zenbook is really good at is power management. Register Hardware’s insane battery life torture test squeezed 135 minutes at full blast from a 100 per cent recharge before the automatic hibernation kicked in. More realistically, in battery-saving mode, I was getting something more like four hours of continuous use before I even started thinking about looking for the mains cable.
Next page: Fired up
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!