Asus ZenBook UX31 review

The ultra-portable laptop market has been all but sewn up by the MacBook Air, but Intel's new Ultrabook specification could turn things around for Windows users. Tom Morgan takes a closer look at the first Ultrabook, Asus' Zenbook.

The Zenbook's resemblance to the MacBook Air extends even to the integrated rubber feet which stops the laptop from sliding a

The Zenbook's resemblance to the MacBook Air extends even to the integrated rubber feet which stops the laptop from sliding around on your desk.

The solid state disk has other benefits besides aiding application performance the UX31 boots into Windows in an incredibly quick 20 seconds and resumes from sleep mode in less than two, making it perfect for working on the go. You shouldn't find yourself running out of battery on most journeys as the UX31 managed a respectable seven hours in our light use test, however we've seen other laptops last much longer.

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Since Asus is aiming the Zenbook primarily at consumers rather than businesses, it comes with the Home Premium version of Windows 7 preinstalled rather than Professional, and doesn't have a lot of security features either. There's no fingerprint reader, and while the integrated webcam above the display is useful for video conferencing, there's no facial recognition software. The BIOS is equally limiting, with no control over the I/O ports, although administrators will at least be able to password protect it.

So what's our verdict?

Verdict

There's no doubt that the Zenbook looks and feels great and has the advantage of a high-resolution screen. It's no MacBook Air-killer though. Its battery doesn't last as long as the Air's and the keyboard and touchpad can be frustrating to use. Even if you're tied to Windows, there are better alternatives such as Toshiba's similarly price 1.5kg Portégé R830 which has far superior battery life. The Zenbook will only appeal to those that want a Windows ultraportable that looks like a MacBook Air and are willing to put up with the Zenbook's flaws to get one. While it's possible Ultrabooks from other manufacturers will do a better job, it'll be tough as the MacBook Air isn't just a collection of components but a result of tight integration between hardware and software. We'll have to wait and see.

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Processor: Intel Core i7-2677M 1.8GHz Memory: 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM Graphics: Intel HD Graphics integrated Hard disk: 128GB SSD Display: 13.3in 1,600x900, LED-backlit screen Features: 0.3 megapixel webcam, integrated microphone Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 Ports: 1 x USB, 1 x USB3, 1 x 3-in-one card reader, 1 x mini-VGA, 1 x micro-HDMI, 1x 3.5mm audio combination jack Dimensions: 325x224x17mm (WxDxH) Weight: 1.3kg Warranty: 1 year RTB warranty OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Part code: UX31E-RY012V BENCHMARK RESULTS Image editing 73 Video encoding 40 Multiple apps 43 Overall 47 Light usage battery life – 7h 06m POWER CONSUMPTION Sleep 1W Idle 17W Active 38W

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