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Asus Zenbook UX31 Review
Ultrabooks are slowly, but surely getting into the notebook segment, as they are emphasizing more on the key aspect of a laptop, i.e. ‘portability’, than previous gen notebooks. However, as this segment is still in its nascent stages, Ultrabooks are selling at ‘ultra’ high prices. Asus has announced the launch of its latest Ultrabook, the Zenbook UX31. We put it through its paces in our labs and let’s have a look at how it fares.
13.3 inch screen with a 1600 x 900 res!!
Design and Build Quality
The UX31 looks quite stunning with the all metal finish. It’s thin, tapering, stylish and can be easily mistaken for a laptop sleeve. The exterior sports a similar concentric circle design as the Transformer Prime. There’s a tiny rubber casing that runs across the full length of the flap. The matte silver around the keyboard adds to the look and the entire laptop is practically fingerprint free. There’s ample handrest below the keyboard and very little elevation, so it’s comfortable for long hours of typing, but we’ll delve further into that in our performance section.
It’s extremely thin and only the most important ports have been included. The right consists of the power slot, the USB 3.0, the micro HDMI slot and the mini VGA slot, whereas the SD card reader, second USB slot and the headphone jack are located to the left. The heat sink is located at the back. We have mixed feelings about the build of the Zenbook, though. The power slot is extremely delicate and wobbly when the charger is connected. So much so, that a slight push or nudge might just break the connector or the port. The hinge, however, is surprisingly sturdy and the only time it does feel a bit loose is when you turn the flap to its max position. The area around the LCD has been reinforced well with the aluminium casing, but the LCD itself does feel a little cheap and the panel doesn’t seem to be of the best quality.
The connectivity ports on the side
In terms of design, the Zenbook clearly holds its own in this huge market full of similar looking laptops. However, build quality could have been better.
The 13.3 inch UX31 Zenbook has quite a high resolution of 1600 x 900 and is powered by an Intel Core i7 – 2677M CPU running at a frequency of 1.8GHz. There’s 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Intel’s integrated HD Graphics card 3000 onboard. All this is kept together by the 64 bit Windows 7 Home basic operating system. The UX31 comes with the latest Bluetooth Radio 4.0 + HS, Wi-Fi b/g/n, a webcam and Bang and Olufsen ICE power speakers.
Hinge is sturdy
The laptop comes pre-installed with various utility software - a virtual camera app, a secure delete application, a power management utility, a driver update app and a Live Update software. You wouldn't find yourself using them, too often, still they’re pretty good in terms of functionality.
Speaking about portability, the bundled adapter is quite miniscule and compact, unlike the bulkier ones we see often. Also, Asus has acknowledged that users might require a LAN port or a VGA port over a period of time, and have bundled them along with the Ultrabook. It’s basically a USB to LAN port and a USB to VGA port, so all those complaints about Ultrabooks missing some crucial ports have been put to rest.
Boot up times are exceptionally quick, at an average of sixteen seconds, so you’ll be started off with your work within no time. The brightness levels of the laptop are brilliant, infact they’re almost blinding even if you’re in a low light environment. Naturally, they do have a direct impact on your battery life, so it’s best that the laptop functions at fifty percent brightness, because it’s not too hard on the eyes, and does not consume too much of the battery. The Bang and Olufsen ICEpower speakers flex their muscles when you’ll play media content on the UX31. They’re quite loud and will cater well for personal usage.
Keyboard leaves a lot to be desired
The trackpad is the biggest flaw of this notebook. The keys are normal-sized, but the feedback is extremely poor. More often that not, key presses weren’t registered and as compared to most other laptops, we just couldn’t type quickly on the keyboard without making errors. That said, probably it could be just an issue with our test unit, but the trackpad did leave a lot to be desired. The trackpad isn’t as bad as the keyboard, but it isn’t one of the smoothest ones, either. It borders a little on the erratic side and maneuvering using the trackpad isn’t exactly quick. Also, it’s placed bang in the centre, so you’ll have to be careful to not accidentally register touches, while typing.
Looks like the T. Prime from top
The biggest problem with ultra thin laptops is heating. However, the Zenbook does a brilliant job at managing that and the brilliant heat dissipation ensures that the laptop doesn't get too hot when you’re using it. We put the laptop through a couple of synthetic tests and the SSD clearly flexes its muscles. We’ve compared it to the Lenovo U300s Ultrabook we reviewed earlier and we compared the scores in the chart below.
A good performer
The Zenbook UX31 comes with a powerful 50Whrs non-removable battery. In our Battery Eater Pro test, the notebook cranked out 3 hours and 40 minutes of non-stop usage with performance and brightness settings maxed out, which is definitely an impressive feat. Under normal usage, you will easily be able to double that to around six and a half hours.
The Zenbook UX31
The Zenbook UX31 is priced at Rs. 89,999 (MRP). For those on-the-go; a powerful battery coupled with portability is always a brilliant feature to have in your laptop and the Zenbook does exactly that. However, the biggest drawback the UX31 has is the glitchy keyboard and trackpad. If you’re paying big bucks for a notebook, you’d pretty much get at least a decent keyboard. In comparison to the Lenovo U300s, this one definitely has better looks and performance. But, simply for the want of a better keyboard and trackpad, we would recommend the U300s over the Zenbook UX31.