Sets new standards for Ultrabooks.
The original wave of Ultrabooks started appearing towards the second half of last year and although this “new” category of laptops looked really slick, there honestly wasn’t much else to differentiate them from the already-existing thin and light laptops.
One of the Ultrabooks that stood out- at least in terms of design was ASUS’ Zenbook UX21 and UX31. Today, we look at the follow to one of those model- dubbed as ASUS Zenbook Prime. Featuring an updated CPU and graphics engine as well as a full-HD IPS panel, does the UX31A have what it takes to really define a new category of notebooks? Lets find out.
Packaged in nice box with minimal design, the Zenbook Prime UX31A comes equipped with a power charger, a USB to LAN cable, a DSUB adapter and a carrying case besides the usual warranty information and a manual.
The power charger, like certain models of Macs has a light on it that is orange when charging and turns green when fully charged.
Design & Build Quality
The Zenbook Prime UX31A looks very much like it’s predecessor which in turn took its inspiration from the MacBook Air. That is not a bad thing at all as the unibody design is simple, functional and solid. In fact, I like it more than any other Ultrabook on the PC side of things. With dimensions of 13.3 x 8.9 x 0.44-0.66 inches and weighing less than 3lbs, the UX31 is reasonably light-weight as far as 13” notebooks are concerned. Some might find the edges quite sharp but that is a matter pf personal choice- I actually like that razer thin design very much.
On the left side you have a USB 3.0 port along with an SD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack while the right features another USB 3.0 port, the power port and mini ports for connecting HDMI and DSUB cables. Available in silver, gold and pink, we received the silver version which looks really slick.
Specs & Benchmarks
The review unit we received for the UX31A was the top-of-the-line model based on the new 22nm based Ivy Brdige family of Core CPUs. Our particualr unit came equipped with the Core i7 3517U CPU running at 1.9Ghz with the capability of going up all the way to 2.4GHz. Intel has also updated the integrated graphics core with Ivy Bridge CPUs and is calling it Intel HD Graphics 4000 series. Other than that, the UX31A came with 4GB RAM and a 240GB SSD.
The following table compares the performance of with the older model of the ASUS Zenbook to the newer one..
||ASUS ZenBook Prime UX31A
||ASUS ZenBook UX31
|PassMark GPU (3D)
As you can see, there is a pretty noticable improvment in CPU and GPU scores in PassMark although for some strange reason 3D Mark resulted in a lower score.
Screen, Mouse & Keyboard Usage
Undoubtedly, the defining feature of the UX31A is it’s screen- the 13.3” display is based on an IPS panel and offers a full-HD 1920×1080 matte display. I don’t think I have seen a better display on any notebook and the only one that comes close is the one found on the Sony Z series.
Now do keep in mind that the display on the UX31A is not for one with weak eyes as, at times, objects and text on screen can appear quite a bit on the smaller size but I don’t think that will be much of an issue as the target market for this laptop is the enthusiast that is well aware of that. The text appears razer crisp on screen and the rounded edges of windows or the Start Orb look like they’ve been carved out of a very fine knife.
Brightness levels are also excellent and so is the viewing angle. While most laptops have a good horizontal viewing angle, they fail miserably in vertical viewing angles but that is not the case with the Prime- it looks insanely beautiful from every angle. White levels are brilliant at anything above half the brightness and blacks look so good that sometime the line between the bezel and the screen starts to disappear.
One of the initial complains about the original Zenbook was the keyboard and how it offered very little throw- or the amount of depth you feel when pressing a key. ASUS has definitely sorted that out as I was pouding away on the UX31A’s keyboard without any issues whatsoever. The keys offer enough tactile to not miss out a letter while typing and being backlit, I was easily able use it in the dark.
What could use a bit of help is the trackpad. ASUS has chosen to equip the ZenBook Prime with a huge trackpad- ala MacBook Air style, however, Windows is generally operated with two mouse buttons instead of one of the Mac so often times I found myself clicking the right button when I wanted to click the left one. You’ll probably find yourself reaching out for the left button more often that just feeling natural about it.
One more thing worth noting is that I have yet to come across any Windows based laptop that offers as good of a scrolling experience as the Mac. The ZenBook Prime is no different and the two finger scrolling is clunky, slow not dependable. I don’t know if this is a Windows issue or not but this definiteyl spoils the experience of seamlessly flying through documents and web pages.
Battery life, Heat and Noise Levels
My second compalain about the ASUS ZenBook Ultra is the presence of a fan that can generally be heard loud and clear as soon as the machine is pushed into the slightest bit of load. This is sad as one of the features of an Ultrabook is how quiet it is. The only good thing I can say about the fan is that it works- the heat levels on the UX31A were on the lower side with the only time the machine feeling hot was when running graphics benchmarks.
Coming to the battery life, we’ve started using a new benchmark from Futuremark called Powermark that measures the battery life by looping four tests- web browsing, word processing, gaming and video processing. The test reported a battery life of 4:59 minutes.Keep in mind that battery life will differ based on your usage- if you tend to stay more on the browsing and word processing side then you should get a higher battery life but if you like to game or process videos then you will have a shorter battery life.
Priced at AED 6299, the ASUS Prime is definitely the Ultrabook that an enthusiast will be looking at. With it’s full-HD 1080p IPS panel, it offers a display unlike any other Ultrabook and combine that with the speedy Core i7 CPU and a decent battery life and you pretty much have a clear winner in the higher-end of Ultrabooks. The fan noise is a bit of a shame but that doesn’t stop me from awarding the UX31A with our Editor’s Choice award. If I was getting an Ultrabook- this would be it.