Asus DB51 review:

Asus DB51

One important aspect of this latest generation of Zenbook laptops is the jump to Intel's third-generation Core i-series processors. But not all the current Zenbooks have that, nor do they have similar storage or graphics hardware. The $1,299 UX32VD has a 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-3517U along with a 500GB HDD/24GB SSD combo drive, and Nvidia GeForce 620M graphics. The $779 UX32A has a previous-generation 1.4GHz Intel i3-2367M CPU, 320GB HDD/24GB SSD, and Intel HD 3000 graphics. Finally, this model, the $1,079 UX31A, has a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, 128GB SSD, and Intel HD 4000 graphics, plus a slightly thinner body.

Of those three, the UX32VD is the most expensive, but also much faster at running our benchmark tests, beating out the other two Zenbooks, but falling behind an Intel Core i5 MacBook Air. In everyday use, I found all three to be more than responsive enough for common computer tasks, from social networking, to working in Microsoft Office, to running Photoshop. That said, there's a significant performance gap between this and the UX32A, with its older Sandy Bridge CPU. That makes this Ivy Bridge Core i5 the perfect middle-of-the-road choice, and indeed, it's what you'll find in most midprice ultrabooks.

The default Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics in the UX32A ran our very forgiving Street Fighter IV test at the system's very high 1,920x1,080 resolution at 16.3 frames per second. That's not great, but knock it down to a lower resolution (such as 1,600x900) and you'll do OK in games like Street Fighter IV or Portal 2. If you're at all interested in better ultrabook gaming, the UX32VD is the Zenbook for you, as it has an Nvidia GeForce 620M GPU.

Juice box
Asus Zenbook UX31A Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 0.19
Sleep (10%) 0.28
Idle (25%) 4.66
Load (05%) 26.86
Raw kWh number 23.21
Annual power consumption cost $2.63

Annual power consumption cost

All three of the Asus Zenbook models we tested had solid battery life, to varying degrees. The UX31A ran for 6 hours and 16 minutes in our video-playback battery drain test. That's excellent, but still more than an hour behind a 13-inch MacBook Air. In comparison, the UX32A ran for 5 hours and 16 minutes -- decent if not spectacular. The UX32VD has higher-end components, but still ran for 5 hours and 13 minutes.

Asus offers a one-year mail-in warranty on each of these ultrabooks, which includes accidental damage protection, and a 30-day no-dead-pixel guarantee (which is rare). The Asus Web site can get a little confusing to navigate, but 24-7 phone support is available at 888-678-3688. The simplest way to find the Asus support section for your specific model is to ignore the frustrating pop-up navigation menus and simply type the model number into the support page search box.

The Asus Zenbook UX31A is the best-looking and most compact of the current batch of 13-inch Asus ultrabooks. Unfortunately, there are plenty of systems with the same components and reasonably similar designs for under $1,000, making this a tough sell from a value perspective.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Adata XM11 SSD

Asus Zenbook Prime UX32A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.4GHz Intel Core i3-2367M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Acer Aspire S5-391-9880
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Lite-On IT SSD (2x RAID 0)

Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 620M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch (Summer 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 1.8GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

What you'll pay

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