Home > Laptop Comparisons> Asus Zenbook UX301LA vs. Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus Comparison Smackdown
Asus Zenbook UX301 vs. Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus Comparison Smackdown
Where to Buy (Asus Zenbook UX301)
Where to Buy (Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus)
Posted January 18, 2014 by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
The Asus Zenbook UX301, formerly known as the Zenbook Infinity, and the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus are two of the best Ultrabooks money can buy. And believe me, they cost plenty! Both bring class-leading fit, finish and materials, Intel 4th generation Haswell CPUs and extremely high resolution 13.3" touch screens to the fight. If you want the best of the best and have the money to spend, how do you decide?
Design and Ergonomics
Both machines are put together perfectly with no unsightly seems, creaks or warps. They say BWM and Rolex, but in the language of computers. In my opinion, Samsung's now 2 year old design is still one of the most elegant and unique with dusky curved metal surfaces and the abrupt (in a good way) cut off sides that show contrasting silver finish as if you you're looking at bare metal machined to perfect smoothness. The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus has an all metal casing that's extremely rigid, and it's hard to imagine anything harming it, despite the very slim design.
Asus fights back with an updated Zenbook design, already one that became synonymous with high end Ultrabook. Though a bit less unique and also MacBook Air derivative, Asus has jazzed it up with a dark blue Gorilla Glass 3 lid and a soft touch, ceramic-like Gorilla Glass 3 keyboard deck. The bottom is metal. The entire machine is finished in dark blue and it simply looks striking. Gorilla Glass 3 is of course very hard to scratch and it's shatter resistant, but hey, you'll never have to worry about the ATIV Book 9 Plus shattering, will you? On the other hand, the Asus resists scratches better.
Both weigh just over 3 lbs. and are slim and highly portable machines. Both have two internal fans that are quiet and not harsh sounding.
Winner: tie. Beauty and preferred materials are in the eye of the beholder.
Performance and Horsepower
Things get a little muddy here since Asus makes and sells more computers and lines, like the Zenbook UX31LA and Zenbook UX302 for those who strictly want standard Ultrabook U series 15 watt ULV CPUs. In fact, the UX302LA is a good choice if you want the sexy blue Gorilla Glass lid for a more manageable $999 (minus the ultra high res display and 28 watt CPU). The UX302LG has low level dedicated graphics (a rarity among Ultrabooks), but it's not currently sold in the US and it's pricy too. Samsung's ATIV Book 9 platform is their one and only high end Ultrabook offering, and Samsung sells just two variants.
Samsung offers a $1,399 "low end" or most commonly sold model with the usual 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, 4 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD. There is no comparable model in the UX301LA line. The base $1,699 to $1,799 Asus UX301LA has more in common with more expensive Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus config. The $1,799 Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus has the usual 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U, 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 gig SSD you'd expect to see as the higher end option. Asus' base model has a 1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 gig SSD in RAID 0 for improved speed.
More interesting, and more expensive is the UX301 model we have in for review and comparison. This is the heart of the Zenbook UX301, which Asus first showed off as the Zenbook Infinity. Its street price is $1,909 to $1,999 and it has a different class of CPU and GPU inside. It runs on the 28 watt, 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-4558U with Intel Iris 5100 graphics, just like the highest configuration 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display. But it's in the shape and size of a MacBook Air! This CPU and GPU combo is on average 20% faster than the standard U series CPUs used in the Samsung, and it makes for a boost of up to 10 fps when gaming. Nice! So far, Asus is the only one offering a 13.3" Ultrabook with this CPU and Iris 5100 graphics. If you want 512 gigs of SSD storage, also RAID 0, Asus sells a $2,199 that upgrades storage to that capacity.
||Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus (Core i5-4200U)
||Asus Zenbook UX301 (Core i7-4558U)
|Geekbench 3 (single/multi core)
|Cinebench R15 CPU test
|wPrime (lower is better)
Winner: Asus Zenbook UX301LA for unusually high performance in a 13" Ultrabook.
Super High Resolution Displays
Both models are equipped with an insane number of pixels for a 13.3" panel. The Asus uses the Sharp IGZO panel running at 2560 x 1440. Much was made of this power efficient yet bright panel, so Samsung's engineers fought back by developing their own even higher resolution 3200 x 1800 panel! Honestly, in terms of pixel density, they're both plenty high enough and I can't say the Samsung looks noticeably sharper. Of course, Windows 8's desktop mode's just OK scaling doesn't help. But on the Metro side where everything is scaled beautifully, we'd be hard pressed to say you could tell the resolutions apart in terms of clarity. Photoshop jockeys may appreciate the added pixels though.
The Asus is brighter, thanks to the IGZO technology that finds a way around the problem of higher pixel densities reducing brightness. It's a very bright display and I've only wanted to use it at max brightness when sitting outdoors in daylight. The Samsung has good brightness and I do tend to run it at 70% to 100% brightness indoors, while the Asus is equally bright at 50%. Neither of our units had problems with light bleed or uneven backlighting.
Both have wide color gamut and good contrast with pleasing black levels and whites that look white. The Asus was calibrated very poorly out of the box (too cool with a pronounced green-blue tint that reduced apparent contrast) while the Samsung was closer to proper. Both manufacturers provide their own sets of display modes for movie watching, standard mode and more. If you buy the Asus, calibrate it using Windows calibration or better yet, a colorimeter like our Spyder 4 Pro unit. The Asus manages the best color gamut we've seen on a Windows Ultrabook with 98% of sRGB and 79% of Adobe RGB. The Samsung is close with 95% of sRGB and 75% of Adobe RGB.
The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus loses a point for mustardy yellows when the machine isn't plugged into a power outlet. Yes, it's noticeable. Samsung quietly released a fix for this (you can find the link in our full review of the ATIV Book 9 Plus). But they didn't publicize this or set it to install via Samsung Update. It fixes the yellow issue, at the expense of 30 minutes of battery life (apparently, driving the display yellows requires more power with Samsung's panel technology).
Winner: This is a close call! The Asus and its Sharp IGZO panel get the win for better brightness and its ability to display all colors properly with lower power consumption. The Samsung does put up a good fight with even higher resolution and less black on white pixel shift when scrolling.