Asus Zenbook UX301 is a skinny, glass-topped beast of a laptop (hands-on)

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/ Updated: 12 September 2013, 3:33 pm AEST

BERLIN -- You're a smart young professional, flitting between your fancy office and your home in Milan. You have a first-class flight booked and you've got some work to do. What laptop could possibly look as good as you do in the first-class lounge but still packs enough power to let you work?

Asus thinks it has the answer in the form of the Zenbook UX301. Continuing the evolution of its ultrabook range, the 301 packs in the latest Intel processors and an ultra-high-definition display, topping it off with a gorgeous glass lid.

Asus hasn't confirmed pricing yet, but don't expect it to come cheap. It's due to go on sale toward November, so keep your eyes fixed on CNET nearer the time for more info.

Design
Even by looking, there's no question that this is a premium machine. The entire top of the laptop has been covered in Gorilla Glass 3 -- a special tempered glass that's highly resistant to scratches. Beneath the glass is a spun finish that gives it its delightful circular pattern.

At 15.5mm thick, it's not the skinniest laptop on the market, but you'd have to be in a really bad mood to call it fat. Its 1.38kg weight isn't too hefty to stop you carrying it anywhere either.

The sleek design continues beneath the lid too. The wrist rest and keyboard tray are also covered with glass, but it's been given a matte finish that feels nice to touch. Asus reckons it's resistant to fingerprints, but I'll reserve judgment on that until I've had a play after eating some cake.

Features
The 13.3-inch display can be configured to have either a regular full-HD panel, or boosted to a whopping 2,560x1,440 pixels. If you're seriously into your photo editing, then it might be worth splashing out on the extra resolution, although Asus hasn't yet detailed pricing. You can bet your life's savings, though, that there will be a somewhat hefty premium on the higher-res display.

In my brief hands-on time, the screen looked bright and very bold, but I wasn't seeing it under our usual test conditions, so I'll leave my verdict for the review. It's of course touch-enabled, allowing you to swipe your way around the Windows 8 interface.

The processor can be configured from an Intel Core i5 processor to a top-end Intel Core i7 chip. All the processors used are Intel's latest fourth-generation versions, which boast improved battery life -- another claim we'll be putting to the test.

Hands-on
While Asus says the Zenbook weighs about 2.2 pounds, but -- and maybe this is an effect of its large wide body -- it felt a lot lighter when I picked it up.

Like when you go to pick up a box you expect to be really heavy, but it's actually empty and you end up accidentally throwing it over your head. Yeah, like that.

The 2,560x1,440 screen packed in the pixels and looked extremely sharp, but I was disappointed it wasn't brighter. Asus says the screen tops out at 300 candelas per square meter and I believe them. That's not necessarily dull, but it was low enough for me to notice.

The keyboard felt even wider than normal and I never got that cramped feeling I usually get when using laptops.

Outlook
With its slick, glass design and high-end components, the Asus Zenbook UX301 looks to be a great choice if style and portability are paramount to you. You will of course need to have recently struck oil in order to pay what will undoubtedly be a rather large price tag.

Look for the very slick laptop to hit in November starting at $1,799 for the Core-i5 model and $1,999 for the higher end Core-i7 number.

Editors' note: This story was first published on September 4, 2013, and has been updated with additional information.

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Where to Buy

Asus Zenbook UX301

Part Number: UX301LA-DH51T
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

  • Operating System Windows 8 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 8 GB
  • Color blue
  • Weight 2.6 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 5100
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (4th Gen) 4200U / 1.6 GHz