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Asus Zenbook UX31 review

Is this the first real PC alternative to the MacBook Air?

Our Verdict

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 1600 x 900
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Power in spades Instant resume Long battery life Fast SSD Excellent sound

Against

  • Poor viewing angle Nasty trackpad buttons Derivative design No backlit keyboard

Asus zenbook ux31

The outward elegance of the Zenbook UX31 has certainly been matched by power on the inside. There are currently two different versions available, our test model has the Core i7 2677M Processor while there's also a Core i5 2467M Processor variant.

Our test version was running Windows 7 Home Premium, though the Asus spec sheet seems to suggest that Professional is also available should that be a requirement for you.

For those looking for a smaller laptop, there's an 11.6-inch UX21 version that costs £849. We'll be reviewing that separately as soon as we can get our hands on one.

You'll get 4GB or RAM with all 13-inch models, as well as a 128 or 256GB solid state drive (SSD). Our review model had a 128GB drive under the hood and, as we were using it a lot, we managed to fill most of that with apps and files in no time. This is a performance machine and you may find yourself wanting the larger capacity.

The isolation-style keyboard is front and centre inside the Zenbook with no additional clutter from the likes of hotkeys, volume controls, numeric keypads or even separate mouse buttons.

As the chassis is so thin, there's very little depth to each key. It must be said that, at first, this can be of-putting, especially if you're used to hammering out your emails – but before long typing on the Zenbook becomes second nature.

We did find the directional arrows and the enter key to be a little on the small side, but not enough to interfere with extended typing sessions.

There's also no backlight to the keyboard - as the MacBook Air and other competitors such as the Samsung 9 Series have this. A shame it's missing here.

Asus zenbook

Alongside the keyboard, Asus has included a large, central touchpad. We had doubts about the inbuilt buttons and lack of a textured surface at first, but these were soon laid to rest.

The response is swift and because of the larger size, it is possible to use your thumb on the touchpad without moving your hands from the typing position. Occasionally you might brush the touchpad when typing but this is a rare occurrence.

However, we really don't like the mouse buttons. The touch isn't very definite, while it can be quite hard to do selections or multiple presses. Things could be a lot better here.

Another noteworthy feature of the Zenbook is the external speaker running across the base of the 13.3-inch, 1,600 x 900 16:9 Super-TFT screen. Developed by Bang & Olufsen and called ICEpower, the speaker is monitored by in-built Asus techcalled SonicMaster to keepthe balance even.

The Zenbook will hit a reassuringly loud volume without disintegrating into either a tinny treble or a fuzzy bass. It sounded impressive both in our expansive office and at home in a fully furnished room.

For the record, there's also a 0.3 megapixel webcam for video conferencing or Skype.

The Zenbook weighs in at 1.4kg, exactly the same as the 13.1-inch Macbook Air. It's hardly noticeable when carried around for the day and, because of the svelte design; it won't take up too much space in your bag.

Thankfully Asus hasn't filled the Zenbook with too much add-on software, but there is an annoying Live Update engine that keeps on popping up messages from the taskbar, while there's also a battery life gadget (actually useful but it remains in your taskbar), as well as backup tools and a webcam app.

We're sure there are some people that think it's nice to have this kind of stuff, but we're not among them. Moreover, much of the software is simply unnecessary.

And then there's the graphics that appear when you turn the volume up, change the brightness or switch the power mode. To be honest, they're horribly ugly and we're simply not impressed.

It's a shame the same attention that was paid to the external design wasn't paid to the add-ons within the OS.

Tech Specs

Product TypeUltrabook
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 3000
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time7 Hour
Solid State Drive Capacity256 GB
HDMIYes
WebcamYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyZENBOOK UX31
Operating System Architecture64-bit
Processor Modeli5-2557M
Operating SystemWindows 7 Home Premium
Brand NameAsus
Processor Speed1.70 GHz
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size33.8 cm (13.3")
Screen Resolution1600 x 900
Standard Memory4 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.30 kg
Cache3 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
64-bit ProcessingYes
Chipset ManufacturerIntel
Chipset ModelQS67 Express
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Total Number of USB Ports2
Memory StandardDDR3-1333/PC3-10600
Height17 mm
Width325 mm
Depth223 mm
Screen ModeWSXGA
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Product SeriesUX31
ManufacturerASUS Computer International
Product ModelUX31E-DH53
Product NameZENBOOK UX31E-DH53 Ultrabook
Pointing Device TypeTouchPad
Product LineZENBOOK
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberUX31E-DH53
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://uk.asus.com
Marketing InformationIncredible Beauty

The ZENBOOK uses a precision-crafted design measuring only 3mm at the front and 9mm at the rear. The form features razor thin edges and a curved center section, which is both practical and attractive - while accommodating the powerful computing components within, this design also looks totally unique. It embodies beauty and strength in complete balance and harmony.

Incredible Speed

ASUS is proud to deliver the world's first ultrabook with SATA 6Gb/s solid state storage, making for an amazingly smooth and fast computing experience. Additionally, all ASUS ZENBOOK models ship with USB 3.0 as standard, multiplying the transfer rates of current USB 2.0 by as much as a factor of ten! Combined, SSD storage and USB 3.0 create incredible speed of data transfer rates.

Battery ChemistryLithium Polymer (Li-Polymer)
Package Contents
  • ZENBOOK UX31E-DH53 Ultrabook
  • Lithium Polymer Battery
  • AC Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year