The Asus Zenbook UX31 is one of the first ultrabook models to hit the street. The ultrabook is Intel's initiative to bring super-light and slim but powerful ultraportable laptops with good battery life to market. Think of them as Windows MacBook Air machines that will sell for a bit more than Intel's hoped-for $1,000 price point. The UX31 is a 13.3" notebook that starts at $1,099 ($200 less than the MacBook Air), and there's an 11.6" UX21 model as well.
The machine is simply a work of art and it's made of aluminum. The lid has a darker swirled pattern that contrasts with the lighter brushed aluminum bottom section. The display bezel has a ceramic coating to resist fingerprints. It's beyond solid and every bit as thin as the MacBook Air. It tapers from 9mm (0.35 inches to almost nothing at the front. The unibody design is rigid but light, and the notebook weighs just 2.86 pounds. That doesn't mean you lose performance; the ultrabook mantra is performance in a slim design. It also means instant-resume using Intel technology, very fast boot times and an SSD drive.
The Asus Zenbook UX31 runs on a ULV second gen Sandy Bridge Core i5 CPU, and there's a Core i7 option. The i5-2557M runs at 1.7GHz and the Core i7-2677M runs at 1.8GHz (both support Turbo Boost). The machine has 4 gigs of RAM soldered on the motherboard and it's available with a 128 gig or 256 gig SSD drive connected via SATA III. The Zenbooks use Intel HD 300 integrated graphics.
The laptop has a 13.3", 1600 x 900 pixel display-- very nice. It's a 450 nit brightness panel that's viewable outdoors, and it's glossy. The sealed Lithium Ion Polymer battery is good for 6 hours on a charge.
Ports include one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 sleep and charge port, a 3.5mm headset/mic combo port, an SD card slot, micro HDMI and mini VGA. Asus includes a mini VGA to VGA dongle in the box along with a USB Ethernet adapter and a slip case. Audio is courtesy of Bang & Olufsen IcePower, and it's phenomenal.
Early reviews of the pre-release Zenbook lamented the sometimes wonky capacitive trackpad. In yet another case of "release it now and fix it later", Asus now has a firmware update and a driver update that tame the wild trackpad and turn it into a very serviceable beast. It's now very easy to control the cursor and multi-touch gestures for scrolling and zooming work well. If you buy a Zenbook, visit Asus' site to download the firmware because their auto-update utility doesn't push it.
Do we really like the Zenbook? Yes we do. So far, it's at the top of the ultrabook heap, beating the Acer S3's slower performance and plastic casing, and even the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S on processing power and slimness. The Zenbook also wins for display resolution vs. these two. In fact, it even beats the MacBook Air for panel resolution.