The Asus Zenbook was synonymous with high end Ultrabook a few years back when competition was slim. The Zenbook line has evolved and held its own while maintaining the elegant looks, metal casing and ever improving displays and internals. But Asus faces massive competition now that Dell, HP, Acer, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba has compelling Ultrabooks with Intel Haswell 4th gen CPUs. So their flagship Asus Zenbook UX301 (formerly called Zenbook Infinity) goes for broke, and you just might be broke if you buy one.
While some Ultrabooks go for a classy chassis and the usual Ultrabook ULV internals or an upgraded display in an OK package, Asus gives us a triple play of drop dead great looks, an ultra high res touch screen and something better than the usual Ultrabook CPUs. The 13.3" Zenbook UX301LA we look at here runs on a different class of CPU, the 28 watt Intel Core i7-4558U clocked at 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost to 3.3Ghz. It's mated with Intel Iris 5100 graphics for a noticeable boost over the usual Intel HD 4400 graphics used in other Haswell Ultrabooks. The usual Core i5-4200U and Core i7-4500U used in other Ultrabooks are 15 watt platforms with considerably less headroom for performance. So the UX301 nets you approximately 20% more performance. In a 3 lb., 0.6" Zenbook, that's an impressive achievement. Think of it as the equivalent of the latest MacBook Pro 13" Retina crammed into the body of a 13" MacBook Air. Other goodies include 8 gigs of DDR3L RAM and a 256 gig SSD configured in RAID 0 for faster performance.
The design and lines are classic Zenbook with a tapered profile and metal casing. Asus dresses it up with deep blue Gorilla Glass 3 on the lid, and it looks stunning. The palm rest is ceramic finish Gorilla Glass 3, with a silky feel reminiscent of glass trackpads. Like the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus and the (admitted aging) MacBook Air, it's a design with fit and finish that's intended to create desire.
The 2560 x 1440 Sharp IGZO display is superb with wide color gamut that matches or bests the 13" Retina, Sony Vaio Pro 13 and Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus. IGZO allows for brighter panels despite the pixel density increase, and this is the brightest Ultra HD display we've seen on a 13.3" laptop. And no, there's no light bleed.
The machine has dual band Intel 7260-AC WiFi 802.11ac, a good multi-touch trackpad and a backlit keyboard. It has 2 USB 3.0 ports, micro HDMI (adapter to full size HDMI included), a mini DisplayPort and SD card slot. Asus also includes a USB Ethernet adapter and a slip case. The bad news? All this goodness comes at a steep price. This UX301LA-DH71T configuration lists for $1,999.
Here's our Asus Zenbook UX301 video review. Our full written review will follow soon.
This thing sounds amazing, but I find it hard to shell out money for prettiness - maybe I'm too practical but can't help thinking that it's on the side I wont look at until I shatter it then it'll make me mad. seriously a beautiful machine!
I think perhaps even more compelling than the looks is the performance. With the higher power and faster internals, this performs like the 13" Retina MackBook Pro, but in an Ultrabook casing. Puts it closer to justifying the price. Then there's the 2560 x 1440 Sharp IGZO display that you're also paying for.
For those who want the looks and glass lid without the high sticker price, there's the UX302LA with a standard Core i5 Ultrabook CPU and a full HD rather than ultra HD display.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview