Review: Asus Zenbook UX31E
The Asus Zenbook UX31 Ultrabook is the closest thing we’ve seen to a MacBook Air, that isn’t a MacBook Air.
Product type: Ultrabook
Editors rating: User rating:
RRP incl GST: $1,799
- Same thickness as MacBook Air
- Intel Core i5-2557M CPU, 4GB RAM
- Includes USB to Ethernet adapter
- Good battery life under heavy use
Poor touchpad performance is the greatest let-down to this ultraportable ultra-achiever.
Let’s get the standard Ultrabook comparison out of the way first: physically the Asus Zenbook UX31 is the closest thing we’ve seen to a MacBook Air, that isn’t a MacBook Air. It’s the first ultrabook we’ve seen match the Air’s signature ‘wedge’ design, tapering down from 17mm thick at its rear hinge to just 3mm thick at the front edge.
Construction feels particularly solid; when closed, the brushed-aluminium body doesn’t torque or deform easily. Even when open, the screen can’t be twisted too far out of shape and doesn’t exhibit any creaking or obvious weakness. Of all the unexpected side effects to the emergence of ultrabooks, the ready availablity of sturdy all-metal laptops in the $1000-$2000 price range has got to be one of the best.
The Zenbook’s 13.3-inch display offers a nice improvement over the regular 1366 x 768 pixels found on most laptops, at 1600 x 900. That’s 37% more screen real-estate to play with; great for image editing, spreadsheets and other screen-hungry work. On the downside, colour reproduction is not fantastic and at higher brightness levels, there’s a definite ‘washing out’ of colours on screen.
The keyboard is comfortable enough, with no odd key placements or exceptions to the norm. Besides the shallow key travel as found on all thin laptops, high-speed touch typists are likely to get up to speed pretty quickly.
The touchpad is large, with the whole surface (buttons included) usable for pointing. Left and right click are separated by a thin vertical line, and the pad itself is flush with the laptop’s wrist-rest. It’s a nice visual design, but I found the touchpad sluggish and inaccurate. Gestures such as two-finger scrolling and pinch-zoom only worked some of the time, limiting their usefulness.
Our review Zenbook ran atop a second-generation Intel Core i5-2557M processor, included 4GB of RAM and offered 128GB of SSD storage. Wireless connectivity was 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and the latest Bluetooth 4.0. Wired is limited to a pair of USB ports: one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0. If you need wired networking, a USB 2.0 to 10/100Mbps Ethernet adapter is included in the box.
External displays can be connected by micro HDMI or ‘Mini VGA’, the latter of which requires an included adapter to connect to a normal VGA cable. While VGA is a useful legacy connector, using the same space to provide a full-sized HDMI port would have likely proven more useful to a greater proportion of users.
Performance was particularly good for the form factor with CPU-, RAM- and storage-dependent benchmarks scoring among the best we’ve recently recorded for ultra-portables. Graphical performance is also impressive compared to other laptops also based on Intel’s on-CPU Sandy Bridge graphics, but weak compared to models with dedicated graphics solutions. Despite its high performance in all other areas, the Zenbook is not a 3D gamer’s or animator’s laptop.
You might expect that performance to have a negative effect on battery life; surprisingly, that’s not the case. Compared to the HP Folio 13 (opposite), our Zenbook showed an average of 64% higher performance across the nine benchmarks we ran, but only 10% (32 minutes) lower battery life at 4 hours 40 minutes. This is impressive battery capacity indeed, and it should be noted that we achieved that result with all of Asus’ fancy power-saving software turned off.
At $1,799, the Asus Zenbook offers performance, battery life, and a size and weight that can truly compete with Apple’s MacBook Air. It’s the most promising Ultrabook we’ve seen thus far, and would nab a five-star PC World Platinum Award if not for the poor touchpad response.
Posted by Anonymous at 14:54:11 on April 30, 2012
Posted by Anonymous at 4:20:10 on March 13, 2012
Posted by Gatchan at 18:52:54 on March 12, 2012
Cons: horribe keyboard, horrible trackpad, bad screen
I loved the looks of the machine from the outset and I trave a lot so I thought this was a great replacement for my previous 3-year old notebook. 1 Stars
However I should have tested it first.
It is defiately the worst keyboard I ever used. I thought that after 1 month I would be used to it and typing would improve, but alas that is not the case. My typing now seems like a toddler's typing as every second word is missing some letters - the keyboard simply does not work properly - you have to type at a snail's pace and do single finger typing and hit every key nicely precicely in the middle - horrible.
Apart from the unusability of the keyboard the printing on the keyboard has now come off some of the keys - after 1 month!!!
The track pad is as horrible - I thought it was again something I would get used to but unfortunately it remains horrible. At the office I now resorted to switch off the trackpad and use an external mouse. The trackpad has to be switched of else it register movements and the cursor jumps all over the place.
If anyone reading thinks this guy is just not comfortable key netebook keyboards and trackpads - that is not the case. That was also my initial reaction when I read the reviews. I have been using computers since the invention of the ZX81 and have been using notebooks as a daily device for 17 years. People used to awe when I used my trackpad as I am so efficient with it and never needed a mouse - until now.... Yes it is that bad.
The screen is ok. It is unfortunately not anti-glare and has bad reflection. I am constaintly having eyesore - simply due to the reflection (of normal light in an office environment.) The resolution is so~so. Eventhough it is 1600 x 900, the 900-vertical is too low. When editing documents on MS-Word I have to scroll-up and down all the tie or reduce the size so that a whole page fits in, but then teh document is so small it cant be read. The same applies to editing/viewing Excel documents.
(Why was the screen not made bigger? - the frame around it is huge - such a waste of space).
The performance of the machine is ok. I had minimal issue with Windows, except when a week ago I mentioned to a collegue that at least the machine is stable it automatically rebooted a minute later...
The start-up and down is fast and that is great.
However the machine's wireless is untable and unpredictable. It switched to power-saving mode and then loose etwork connectivity - the only way to get it to reconnect is to switch it back to performance mode. This is silly as it defeates the purpose completely. (All of this with the router 50cm away from the machine.....)
It is a pity that the machina has only 2 USB ports, and especially that when wanting to use a network card you have to sacrifice once port.
As I am always using an external mouse it means one USB port is always occupied. Because the SSD disk is small it means I carry aroud an external USB disk all the time (sort of defeats the purpose of having a small notebook) which occupies the other USB port.
ASUS opted for a non-conventional power-adaptor and power-plug which means if you forget yours you are screwed. (Due to my own forgetfullness I had to drive back home twice to go and fetch it) - the battery wont last for a full day at the office - only about 4 hours.
It could have been a great machine, but unfortunately the keyboard, trackpad and screen ruins the experience.
Posted by Anonymous at 18:20:49 on June 5, 2012
Your gadgets could be harming the environment - and you
NAS vs cloud
Save yourself cash with network storage
Get fit with tech kit
The different ways technology can help you get fit