Windows 8 Ultrabook Review: Asus Zenbook UX31

For those that don’t know, I am actually a pretty big Asus fan, having used their motherboards in almost every custom desktop machine I’ve ever made/owned. While Asus isn’t always the best quality brand out there, it is often a fair mix of quality and price that win me over.

That being said, I try to never let my personal opinions of a brand get in the way of objectively looking at any piece of hardware for review.

For example, I had negative opinions of the Kupa tablet (recently shown at CES and reviewed here) but at closer look I realized that despite the brand being a bit of an unknown, their were some amazingly unexpected specs for such a model.

So being as neutral as possible going in to this, I am at the same time going to try and give my honest opinion. So what did I think of the Asus Zenbook UX31?

First, let’s take a look at the system specs:

  • 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M Processor
  • 13.3” display with a 1600×900 resolution
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • Intel HD graphics
  • 802.11 b/g/n WIFI
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Touchpad Size 4.1×2.75
  • 2 USB Ports
  • 4-in-1 card reader
  • headphone jack
  • mini-VGA
  • Micro-HDMI
  • Dimensions: 13.3×8.9.0.73-inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds

Okay, now that we’ve had a brief look under the hood, it’s time to take a look at the outer appearance and feel of Asus’s Zenbook UX31.

Look And Feel

While the first thing that comes to mind with Ultrabooks is likely “MacBook Air Imitations”, I have really tried to see past that. My problem is that not all brands try to give us something above and beyond what Apple already has introduced. Many choose to stick to somewhat similar specs and overly similar designs.

While the UX31 does add a bit of its own flair to the mix, it is still probably the most Air-looking of all the Ultrabooks I’ve taken a look at so far.

The unit is all-metal, spacious, minimalistic, and in many ways screams “Me too!”, when compared against Apple’s Macbook Air.

At the same time, the UX31 is a bit lighter than the Air…. though marginally at 2.9 pounds versus 2.96.

I want to make it clear that Asus did put a lot of work and tears into the design, it feels sturdy and not at all a ‘cheap’ clone. Honestly though, it is somewhat of a clone nonetheless, at least on the surface.

Battery Life

The Ux31 does manage a battery life of 5 hours and 41 minutes, which puts it right at par with Apple’s baby. Though if you want to nitpick, it actually has about 10 minutes more battery power per charge.

Overall, it’s not too bad at all for a Ultrabook.

A Look At The Display

The UX31’s display does push the envelope a little with a great 1600×900 resolution, wonderful 1080p playback without skipping a beat, and honestly very impressive viewing angels. This is honestly the one category where I can confidently say that the Asus Zenbook holds its own against Apple and even exceeds it.

Hardware Performance

Without good hardware, I honestly couldn’t care a less how pretty the screen is or how nice the design looks. When I use my PC I am trying to get things done, and waiting, hoping, and praying that things will load smoothly never goes over well with me.

So how does the UX31 hold up here?

The entry-level configuration sports a 1.7GHz Core i5-2557M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SDD drive. These aren’t bad specs by any means and actually goes a little above what the Apple Macbook Air is capable of.

Still, with running tasks like 1080p video, you will notice a speed up of the fan and the unit itself getting a bit hot… not exactly unexpected though.

In PCMark Vantage, for instance, it managed an impressive score of 10,218, compared with 9,484 for the Air. So the Air is behind, but not by much at all.

While this isn’t going to be the ‘ultimate gaming machine’, you should already know better than to expect that kind of performance out of an ultrabook. Still, for basic gaming, editing, browsing, and Internet use… it holds up quite well.

Summing It All Up..

I told you that I wouldn’t let my personal tastes get in the way, and I meant it. In the end, I feel that although Asus isn’t a bad brand the UX31 just seems a bit too Air-like for my own personal tastes.

That being said, if you want an Air but don’t want to pay such high costs, this thing undercuts Apple’s price by $200 and overall will offer a very similar (though OSX-free) experience to the Air, if not a slightly zipper performance overall.

The Asus Zenbook UX31 can be yours for $1099 at Amazon.

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