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Closest Windows attempt at the MacBook Air: Asus Zenbook, reviewed

The sleek, unibody Asus Zenbook takes on Apple's attractive metal Air, and does so at a lower price.

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the MacBook Air should be positively blushing right around now. A sudden onslaught of Ultrabooks--the Intel-coined term for thin, MacBook Air-esque Windows laptops with fast boot times and sleek, high-end designs--has hit just in time for the holidays, and one of the most highly hyped ones we've seen is the Asus Zenbook UX.

The product doesn't shy away from an Apple-like design whatsoever, and that's not such a bad thing. Who doesn't want a thin, unibody metal lightweight laptop that starts fast and has a great battery life?

The 13-inch Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH52 has a starting price of $1,099, which includes 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD drive. That's $200 less expensive than the equivalent MacBook Air. Smartly, the Zenbook gets that part right: when competing with a product as singularly well-known and highly rated as the MacBook Air, your product has to be either better or cheaper.

Cheaper, it is; as for better, I'd have to disagree. Excellent speakers, sleek design, and a high-resolution screen are accompanied by a finicky keyboard and touch pad, giving the ever-so-slightly-off sensation when working on the Zenbook. It feels like the opposite of the silky-smooth experience on a MacBook Air. Battery life is short of the Air's lofty numbers, too. Nearly five hours isn't shabby, but it's not industry-leading.

Those are somewhat minor issues for what's otherwise a very solid and impressive thin laptop, but at a price north of $1,000, these are issues anyone would pay attention to. The 13-inch Zenbook UX31 has more expensive in 256GB SSD and Core i7 configurations, climbing up to $1,449 at its highest price. If I were buying a Zenbook, I'd stick with our $1,099 review model and live with the limitations, glad that I had a MacBook Air-alike that saved me a few dollars along the way.

If your idea of an Ultrabook is a Windows version of a MacBook Air with a slightly lower price, then consider the Zenbook your product: just be forewarned that the keyboard, touch pad, and battery life are less impressive than the audio/visual bells and whistles.

Read the full review of the Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH52.