The Asus Zenbook UX31 is Asus' first foray into theworld, offering a powerful Intel Core i7 processor wrapped up in a super-slim, sturdy aluminium shell.
Asus is undoubtedly hoping to challenge Apple's dominance of the ultra-light market by offering the UX31 for £999, undercutting the similarly speccedby £100.
The Zenbook UX31 is available now.
Design and build quality
The Zenbook UX31 is almost identical to its smaller sibling, the. They're both supremely thin, measuring only 17mm at the back and tapering down to a razor-sharp 3mm at the front, which is as slim as the MacBook Air.
The UX31, however, packs a 13.3-inch screen so its dimensions are made slightly bigger. With a width of only 325mm and a depth of 224mm, it'll happily slide into a small case without too much pushing and shoving. Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air is pretty much the same size so you can happily join in with the ultra-light crowd without feeling like a fool.
Both the 11 and 13-inch Zenbooks are machined from a single piece of aluminium, making them particularly sturdy. We grabbed the UX31 by its horns and gave it a good old squeeze. There was no flex in the chassis and it held up extremely well when we took it with us all over town for days on end. We also didn't find any bend in the lid when we opened and closed it, which helps it feel very secure and well put together.
The lid has a unique spun metal finish, which we're pretty keen on. It's a welcome change from the usual brushed metal effects found on many laptops and certainly better than plain plastic. The lid's also a slightly darker metal than the rest of the body, which adds an extra element of visual interest.
The 13.3-inch screen has a 1,600x900-pixel resolution that's sharp, clear and bright. That's the same high resolution found on the 13-inch MacBook Air. We loved how web pages and documents looked on that so we're chuffed that Asus has given us the same high quality.
Colours were handled well so if you're after a bit of BBC iPlayer and a few snatched moments with a good YouTube video it'll do the trick nicely. It didn't have the deepest black levels we've ever seen though -- especially when you have the brightness set to max -- so if you want a proper movie experience, you might want to hook it up to a big TV via the micro-HDMI port.
It's not just an HDMI port you'll find round the side; you'll also get a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, a mini display port and a micro-HDMI port. There's also an SD card reader, which is particularly handy for quickly pulling your holiday snaps off your camera.
It's also great to see USB 3.0 here. There's a Thunderbolt port on the MacBook Air for high-speed transfers, but it's mostly designed for hooking up an external monitor. Having USB 3.0 on the Zenbook allows for nippy transfers between your laptop and an external hard disk drive.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Zenbook's keyboard looks as classy and sleek as the rest of the body, with metal-effect keys set into a darker metal surround. The keys are isolated and are set a good distance apart so your fingers aren't too bunched up when you're typing. They're not set very high though so it can sometimes be a little difficult to differentiate between each key when touch-typing at speed.
The trackpad is a large, clickable slab, much like the one you'd find on the MacBook Air. It takes up all available space so it's particularly comfy if you spend a lot of your time scrolling around all over the place. It's definitely not the most responsive of trackpads we've ever used though and two finger scrolling often sent the page jumping wildly down with only the smallest of finger movements.
It supports other multi-touch gestures such as a handy three-finger swipe upwards to take you to a cascading wheel of open windows or a swipe down to show the desktop. It's not as smooth as the multi-touch gestures on the MacBook Air, but it's great to see companies putting in more effort than the standard two-finger scroll.