Hands-on with the Asus Zenbook UX Ultrabook

The two new Ultrabook models are the 11.6-inch UX21 and the 13.3-inch UX31, both part of the Zenbook series.

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The first wave of Ultrabooks has arrived.

At a press event in New York today, Asus Chairman Jonney Shih presented the final version of the UX Zenbook , the company's entry into the growing Ultrabook field . The two models are the 11.6-inch UX21 and the 13.3-inch UX31.

If these two slim laptops look familiar, it's because they, like other Ultrabooks from Acer, Toshiba, and Lenovo, are essentially Windows versions of the popular MacBook Air. Some, like the Acer Aspire S3 , are pitched as MacBook Air-style devices that cost a few hundred dollars less, while the Asus ( and Lenovo ) versions are around the same price as an Air, but offer more features and options.

Scott Stein/CNET

The 11-inch UX21 ranges in thickness from 0.11 inch at the front to 0.67 inch at the rear; the 13-inch UX31 is 0.11 inch at the front and 0.71 inch at the rear. Both have an instant-on feature that Asus says will cause the system to resume from sleep in about 2 seconds, with up to 10 days of standby time. The Zenbook laptops have solid-state hard drives and use low-voltage versions of Intel's Core i-series processors, including a Core i7 option in both the 11- and 13-inch models. Unlike the MacBook Air, the UX Zenbook offers USB 3.0.

We got a chance to play around with both the 11- and 13-inch versions, and we liked what we saw. In anecdotal testing, the system did indeed go to sleep and resume almost instantly, much like a MacBook does. The design looked and felt very upscale, with solid metal construction, but still very light. The very large touch pad jumped out against the otherwise petite frame, and the circular metallic swirl on the back of the lid at least helps the Zenbook stand out from other Ultrabooks, even if it's not necessarily more attractive than the matte-silver finish of a MacBook Air.

One odd issue we had was that the Zenbook, especially the 11-inch version, was hard to open if you weren't careful. The front lip is so thin, it took some concentration to get our fingers positioned correctly, and Asus Chairman Jonney Shih had the same exact problem when trying to open a demo unit on stage.

Asus is pricing the Zenbook as a premium product, and it certainly looks and feels that part. But with very similar Ultrabooks, such as the Acer Aspire S3, priced hundreds of dollars less, it may be a tough sell.

Scott Stein/CNET

The Asus UX Zenbook will be available to order starting October 12, and starts at $999. Below is a breakdown of the different configurations.

UX21E-DH52
  • $999
  • Intel Core i5-2467M
  • 11.6-inch display (1,366x768 pixels)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 128GB SSD

UX21E-DH71
  • $1,199
  • Intel Core i7-2677M
  • 11.6-inch display (1,366x768 pixels)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 128GB SSD

UX31E-DH52
  • $1,099
  • Intel Core i5-2557M
  • 13.3-inch display (1,600x900 pixels)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 128GB SSD

UX31E-DH53
  • $1,349
  • Intel Core i5-2557M
  • 13.3-inch display (1,600x900 pixels)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 256GB SSD

UX31E-DH72
  • $1,449
  • Intel Core i7-2677M
  • 13.3-inch display (1,600x900 pixels)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 256GB SSD
 

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