A viable alternative to the MacBook Air?
From the get go the ASUS Zenbook is out to steal the Apple MacBook Air’s flair, with sharp looks and glossy brushed metal finish. From the inside out, the Zenbook is a beauty to behold. The top lid has a spun metal finish, identical to the new Eee Pad Transformer Prime, while the rear and inside area (surrounding the trackpad) is hairline aluminum; not as shiny as the top.
To be sure the ASUS Zenbook is one of the sturdiest feeling laptop, not just ultrabook, I have held. The aluminum chassis is strong, with the screen feeling confident, unlike the slightly flimsy feel of the Portege Z830. Surprisingly it weighs only 1.3kgs, although everyone who held it claimed it was much heavier than the Toshiba Portege Z830, which itself weighs a mere 1.13kgs. Our test unit did come with a few scruffs and minor dents along the edges, proving that the Zenbook is more than capable of just minor falls.
The rear stands up at 9mm, tapering down to just 3mm on the front. While there’s nothing on the front, the right side houses the DC input, USB 3.0, mini-HDMI and mini-VGA ports. No HDMI port sadly. On the left we have the USB 2.0 port, headphones jack (no mic except the one built-in) and the memory card reader. Unlike most laptops that house the speakers on the front, the Zenbook houses its speakers at the far end.
The Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers are, without a doubt, one of the best speakers I have heard on a laptop, let alone an ultrabook. The sound actually gets channeled through the hinge itself as the speakers are built just at the top of the keyboard. At no point did the audio crack out on me while listening to lossless audio tracks. The sound certainly wasn’t tinny as I was expecting it to be, much better than the Aspire S3, Portege Z830 and the MacBook Air. It’s pretty decent for music and YouTube videos; movies will still require a pair of headphones for a good experience, though.