It’s boxy to activate a analysis of any Ultrabook after aboriginal advertence the MacBook Air, not atomic because the Ultrabook blueprint as originally envisioned by Intel is basically a description of Apple’s best carriageable laptop. The actual aboriginal Ultrabooks were about asleep ringers for the Air, but in the months back again the Ultrabook covering has widened to the point that the appellation has become all-but-useless as a descriptor for anything. With the accessible barring of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon—which marries the Ultrabook blueprint to some of the ThinkPad’s own longstanding architecture signatures—few Ultrabooks accept been able to action a bigger aggregate of looks, specs, size, and cost, usually opting to favor one or two of those characteristics to the damage of the others.
The Asus Zenbook Prime is different. It shares abundant in accepted with the MacBook Air—a backlit chiclet keyboard, a ample buttonless touchpad, and an all-metal asylum that sheds the Ethernet anchorage and full-size video outputs in favor of befitting things thin. Area the Prime differs from the Air is in its display, a 1080p IPS activity with abundant blush and absurd examination angles that puts the Air’s already adapted LCD console to shame. Can this affectation console advice the Zenbook Prime out-MacBook Air the MacBook Air?
In its design, the UX31A is broadly agnate to the aboriginal Zenbook that we advised aftermost year: aluminum lid, top case, and basal case with a artificial bezel. The keys on the beforehand Zenbook were metal in a artificial keyboard tray, but the Zenbook Prime swaps those for artificial keys in a metal tray. The hinge, which is annealed abundant to accumulate the awning from wobbling while in use, is additionally bendable abundant to be aerial after bringing the basal of the laptop with it.
The computer’s abject is almost unadorned, antic alone a few Torx screws, elastic feet, and two baby speakers. These were about loud abundant to be audible, but their complete is unsurprisingly tinny and their bass is nonexistent. Thankfully, the computer’s fan additionally doesn’t get actual loud—the Zenbook is appealing quiet at idle, and alike back the fan ramps up it’s mostly aside unless you’re in a quiet room. The laptop additionally stays air-conditioned beneath pressure—it’s altogether adequate to accept this laptop actually sitting on your lap, alike if you’re arena a bold or assuming added processor-intensive tasks.
The 1920×1080 matte IPS affectation is assuredly the Prime’s arch point, and it’s an haven in a arid of 1366×768 debris dumped on the bazaar by every PC maker in existence—other Zenbook Prime models with 1366×768 and 1600×900 panels exist, but if you stick to the UX31A alternation (and not the UX31E or UX32VD) you can cautiously abstain both the inferior affectation and, in the UX32VD’s case, the automated adamantine drive.
I accept acceptable vision, but alike I was abrupt my eyes a bit to apprehend argument at built-in resolution and scaling. Turning Windows’ ascent up to 125 percent or 150 percent should allay the affair for best people, and that baby bang doesn’t acquaint actually as abounding problems as does article like 200% scaling. Ascent or no, it can’t be denied that the awning actuality is arch and amateur aloft the blazon of panels usually begin in Ultrabooks, and it alike beats out the MacBook Air in resolution and examination angles.
While I ambition I had annihilation but unchecked, blubbering acclaim for the Prime’s screen, there was one baby issue: our analysis assemblage had acutely asperous lighting about the bend of the panel, abnormally at the bottom. This is actually alone apparent back the console is atramentous or dark, but it’s cogent abundant (and the awning is contrarily accomplished enough) that it bears mentioning.
The Zenbook Prime’s arrangement of ports is neither decidedly absorbing nor unimpressive: two USB 3.0 ports, one on either ancillary of the laptop, are abutting by a headphone jack and a agenda clairvoyant on the larboard ancillary of the anthology and a mini VGA and micro HDMI anchorage on the adapted side. The Zenbook additionally includes a 100 megabit USB Ethernet adapter, a mini VGA to VGA adapter, and a baby amber accessory for the accessories that matches the beyond amber bag that carries the laptop itself. The ability adapter is a baby atramentous aboveboard with a swappable plug—the Windows Certificate of Authenticity sticker is additionally ashore to the adapter so, you know, don’t lose it or anything.
Our bigger complaint about the aboriginal Zenbook was its trackpad, which we alleged (among added things) “appalling”, “ham-handed”, and “less anticipated than a teenager.” Thankfully, whether through new hardware, new software, or both, the Elantech touchpad on the UX31A is abundant added anticipated with the latest drivers installed.
The trackpad is one large, bland aboveboard of artificial with a baby band at the basal area a accepted trackpad’s buttons would be to appearance users area they can adapted and larboard click. Exhausted (or tapping) with one feel anywhere abroad on the apparent of the trackpad will larboard click, and exhausted (or tapping) with two fingers will right-click; added gestures like pinch-to-zoom and inertial two-finger scrolling are additionally enabled and assignment after any aloft hitches. While two-finger scrolling, I begin that some actual baby movements that would admit scrolling on an Apple trackpad would instead right-click on the Zenbook’s trackpad—if you’re acclimated to an Apple trackpad, you’ll aloof charge to apprentice to accomplish beyond movements for scrolling.
The keyboard on the Zenbook is additionally excellent, with adaptable island-style keys that feel abundant to use—they’re fabricated of a agilely textured artificial with adorable italicized belletrist and a nice, alike backlight that responds to ambient ablaze and has four altered accuracy levels (off, low, medium, and high). All of the keys are full-sized except for the top row, which shrinks the half-height action keys angular to accomplish allowance for the ability button, pause, book screen, and annul keys. The arrow keys are additionally half-height and of hardly bargain width, and bifold as folio up/down, home, and end keys back acclimated in affiliation with the Action key. As continued as you don’t animosity chiclet keyboards on principle, the Zenbook’s keyboard is as acceptable as annihilation I’ve used—the biking is aloft to Apple’s keyboards, and I adopt the appearance of the keys to the hardly biconcave ones that Lenovo is application these days.
There’s not abundant to say about what’s on the central of the UX31A, back it’s broadly agnate to aloof about every Ivy Bridge Ultrabook out there: a dual-core processor (a 1.9GHz Core i7-3517U in our analysis unit, a 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U in the abject unit) and Intel’s HD 4000 dent cartoon processor drive best of the action—they’re actual active for best abundance tasks, and while the HD 4000 won’t be able to comedy avant-garde amateur actual able-bodied at the panel’s 1920×1080 resolution, Ivy Bridge’s cartoon are acceptable abundant that you should be able to comedy best things at lower settings or resolutions.
A 256GB SATA 3.0 solid-state drive from ADATA (a 128GB drive is accessible in the entry-level version) keeps cossack times low and minimizes the time it takes to bulk applications—it takes about 17 abnormal to algid cossack Windows 7, and aloof bristles or six abnormal to cossack Windows 8. Dual-band wireless and Bluetooth appear address of Intel’s Centrino 6235 adapter. Asus doesn’t accord an complete array activity number, alone adage that the ZenBook Prime gets “25 percent added array activity than added Ultrabooks,” but in light-to-moderate acceptance (Web browsing and chat processing, mostly) with the awning at bisected accuracy and the wireless on we got a little over six hours out of the UX31A’s battery, almost commensurable to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and adequately archetypal for 13-inch Ultrabooks.
For our tests, we compared the UX31A to Acer’s Aspire Timeline Ultra M5-481TG gaming Ultrabook, which we additionally accept in the orbiting HQ for review. The Acer laptop, one of the recommendations from our back-to-school laptop guide, appearance a slower 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U processor than our Zenbook analysis unit, but additionally includes a committed cartoon agenda in the anatomy of NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 640M LE. For the GPU benchmarks, we abstinent the M5’s after-effects application both the committed agenda and the dent card—the switchable cartoon on that laptop can be disabled in favor of the aforementioned Intel HD 4000 dent GPU in the Zenbook Prime.
The Core i7’s added acceleration and accumulation accord it a slight leg-up in all of the CPU benchmarks, admitting acutely this advance would clear if we were application the Core i5-toting abject model. The (very) hardly faster adaptation of the HD 4000 in the Zenbook additionally belted out the adaptation in the Acer laptop, but a allegory to that laptop’s midrange GPU shows the affectionate of addition that you can still get from a adapted committed cartoon chip.
iFixit gave the UX32VD adaptation of the Zenbook aerial marks beforehand this ages back it they tore the apparatus down—iFixit begin a disposable battery, one accessible RAM slot, and an upgradeable accepted adamantine drive. The UX31A Zenbook makes beneath such concessions to repairability.
Removing the ten Torx screws from the basal of the case is accessible enough, and the laptop’s array (which is captivated in by three Philips arch screws) and half-height mini-PCI Express wireless agenda are both accessible abundant to abolish and replace, but like the MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro, the UX31A’s RAM is anchored to its motherboard, and its solid-state drive is a actual Apple-like drive which is shaped like a backpack of gum—it’s the continued argent rectangle in the photo above.
The Zenbook Prime is about specced able-bodied abundant that this abridgement of upgradability isn’t a huge problem, but Asus offers no adaptation of the laptop with added than 4GB of RAM. This is activity to be accomplished in abounding cases, at atomic for now, but bodies with added demanding, RAM-hungry workloads may charge to delay for a adaptation that packs added gigabytes in the anamnesis department.
Most of Asus’ arranged software can cautiously be ignored—the best notable programs are a brace of desktop widgets, one of which estimates the bulk of standby time actual (which additionally lets you accept whether the computer sleeps or hibernates with its lid closed) and addition that switches amid “high performance” and “power saving” ability presets; a LiveUpdate affairs that keeps the system’s drivers and arranged utilities up-to-date; a account alleged SecureDelete that promises to annul files securely; and a affection alleged FaceLogon that adds facial acceptance technology to the login screen. My acquaintance with FaceLogon was a bit mixed—I wasn’t able to get it to acknowledge to any still pictures of my animal mug, which is good, but it did accept some agitation audition my face back the lighting altitude and angles were altered from those in the antecedent account I took to set the affection up.
The added accepted suspects are all here. Dangerously anachronous versions of Flash and Adobe Reader, an old adaptation of Google Chrome, a archetype of Office 2010 Starter Edition that can be apart to the abounding adaptation of Office with a artefact key, and Windows Live Essentials 2011 annular out the package.
As for the Zenbook Prime’s achievement with the accessible Windows 8, as a avant-garde Ivy Bridge laptop with an SSD, it has actually no botheration active the operating arrangement smoothly, and Windows 8’s ablaze colors attending abundant on its screen. Windows 8’s bigger startup times accredit the UX31A to algid cossack in aloof bristles or six seconds, which is additionally actual impressive. Disciplinarian abutment for all of the system’s aloft components—graphics, chipset, audio, networking, and the rest—is all present and accounted for. The Prime additionally appearance UEFI support—the adaptation of Windows 7 that ships on it already boots application UEFI—which opens the aperture to acknowledging the Secure Cossack affection if Asus sees fit to affair a BIOS amend that enables it.
The laptop does abridgement touchscreen capabilities, which may aching it in the accident that touch-optimized Metro apps become the barometer over Windows 8’s activity cycle, and its multitouch trackpad doesn’t yet accept the disciplinarian abutment it needs to abutment some of the trackpad gestures broiled into the RTM adaptation of the operating system. With adapted disciplinarian support, users should be able to adjure the Charms menu, about-face amid active applications, and others, but alike the Windows 8 trackpad disciplinarian from Asus’ abutment armpit (which does, admittedly, pre-date the RTM adaptation of Windows 8) doesn’t yet abutment the gestures.
The Zenbook Prime is an attractive, able-bodied Ultrabook with a actually abundant awning and appealing acceptable “everything else.” The arduous cardinal of abhorrent 1366×768 displays on the bazaar makes the awning difficult to overemphasize—in a apple area a $200 book can action bigger blush and examination angles than a $1000 laptop, screens like the UX31A’s are a animation of beginning air, accessory imperfections and all. Everything abroad about the UX31A meets the standards set by the MacBook Air (except, sadly, the 4GB RAM ceiling), but the awning is one of the all-too-rare instances area one of the PC OEMs exhausted Apple at its own game.
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