After spending some time with the ASUS Zenbook we must saw that we are amazed with how responsive and fast this notebook feels and it looks gorgeous. ASUS has really stepped up the game when it comes to fit and finish of their products and the quality of the great workmanship is really starting to pay off. The ASUS Zenbook UX31E is amazingly thin and after traveling through the airport with one it is hard to want to use anything besides an Ultrabook now!
If you recall, in the introduction we noted that in order to be called an Ultrabook, notebook manufacturers had to follow a set of guidelines. One of those guidelines was that the system must be responsive and resume from hibernate in seven seconds or less. The key to the ASUS Zenbook is the SATA III 6Gbps SSD that is being used. In our Zenbook we discovered a SanDisk U100 SATA 3 128GB SSD that had pretty impressive data transfer rates. The ATTO benchmark showed the drive reaching 491 MB/s read and 311 MB/s write, which blows away the performance we have all become accustomed to with a typical notebook hard drive. The Intel Core i5-2557M 1.7 GHz processor is no slouch either, so the end result is a very robust platform that is easily up to the task for daily use. If you are shopping for an Ultrabook be sure to keep an eye out on what storage drive is being used as not all brands and models have an SSD inside and that does make a massive difference.
Battery life is pretty impressive on the ASUS Zenbook UX31E as it can last up to two weeks in standby and our testing showed that playing DVD quality movie from the SSD resulted in just under 4.5 hours of battery life under a real world usage scenario. This isn’t enough for all day use without charging, but it should be enough for most consumers. Battery life continues to improve as time goes on, so we are getting there. You have to keep in mind that with Ultrabooks you are going for a thin design and that really limits what you can do with the battery. ASUS managed to get a 6840mAh or 50Wh battery inside the Zenbook, which is pretty good.
The ASUS Zenbook isn’t a perfect solution though. The touchpad needs some work and since this Ultrabook has been out for nearly half a year, you can’t blame it on drivers or firmware issues any longer. We were very frustrated with the touchpad even after shutting off gestures and updating the firmware and drivers. The other are is the display panel. We love that ASUS went with the 13.3-inch display that has a screen resolution of 1600×900, but the black levels and overall contrast ratio left us wanting a little more for a device that costs over a grand. We also aren’t a fan of a glossy screen as it isn’t anti-reflective and sitting in rooms that have direct sunlight we did have some glare issues. That said, the display and touchpad are the weak points in the first generation Zenbook and we are hopeful that ASUS makes the needed adjustments in the next version.
The ASUS Zenbook UX31E-DH52 runs $999.99 shipped and for that price you get a very respectable system that can do everything the average person would want to run and more. We had no issues running intensive tasks like Photoshop CS6 Beta and Sony Vegas Pro 11 or something more common like streaming HD video content. When we used our Bluetooth mouse we had no gripes with the Zenbook and would easily recommend it, but the touchpad drove us nuts and we suggest trying one out at a local store before blindly buying one online. Yes, it bothered us that much, but we know that is also subjective.
Intel announced the Ultrabook concept last May, with the aim to create laptops that are light, thin, responsive and feature a long battery life. To kick off the movement Intel started a $300 million fund and it looks like it is working. Over the past 11 months there have been 21 Ultrabooks released to the market and the ASUS Zenbook has been one of the most popular due to the reasons we showed in this review. Intel recently said that more than 75 additional Ultrabooks are in development and slated to be launched this year. Since Ultrabook production is increasing, the prices are decreasing! Right now Intel Ultrabooks start at $799, but Intel expects that to be down to $699 by the end of the year. You also have Intel Ivy Bridge processors coming out later this month, which will help boost performance and more importantly battery life. It looks like Ultrabooks are here to stay and we can’t wait to see what the future holds as with Windows 8 coming out we might be seeing some touchscreens and hybrid designs coming out later this year.
Legit Bottom Line: The ASUS Zenbook UX31E is a beautiful Microsoft Windows powered Ultrabook that is sure to get the ultra portable crowd excited!