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CNET First Look
Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH52Asus made an ultrabook that's just about as thin and stylish as a MacBook Air, but manages to be less expensive. Could that make it the perfect Apple-alternative Windows laptop? The Zenbook gets awfully close.
-I'm Scott Stein, senior editor at CNET.com and if you are a Windows user who has been envying the MacBook Air. There is no better time for you than the present because thanks to Intel's term Ultrabook. There are ton laptops that are now coming out that are thin, that are light and look a lot like the MacBook Air. On of the most notable and one of the most MacBook Air-like is the Asus Zenbook. Well, here it is in this nice little padded envelope. This actually comes with the ZenBook. Unlike MacBook Air, it has a little pouch that's kind of attractive and you open it up and sure enough, here is the aluminum ZenBook and it certainly looks like a MacBook Air in terms of its Unibody aluminum design. There's a little bit of a radial design here that eye catching light shimmering effect on the back lid and a little bit of a darker metal, brushed metal on the back. It's a lot of the same feel, a tiny bit thicker and a little bit heavier, but really comfortable and very sturdy to hold. In fact, the Asus ZenBook, the UX31, which is the 13-inch version comes in at a lower price than the MacBook Air, about $200 less for the same internal components. The UX31E-DH52, it's not very Zen-like name, but that's the name of this particular version, is 1099 and comes with a 128 gigabyte SSD drive and that matches what you're gonna see on the 1299 MacBook Air. So, it's a pretty good value. And into that, this comes with a USB 3.0 port and HDMI, although take note, there is a micro HDMI port. You're going to need a converter cable to be able to plug that into your TV, but it does have VGA dongle and an Ethernet dongle that connects with USB that comes in the box. The Zenbook is named probably to create a sense of Zen composure and simplicity in a laptop. This does have pretty fast boot time and a very fast weak up from sleep, about 2 seconds, which is very competitive with the McBook Air, But we didn't really find that keyboard or that track pad to be very Zen-like. In fact, we found ourselves missing a lot of key types when using this slightly mushy keyboard and the trackpad uses syntelics instead of synaptics, which means in our experience we found the trackpad to be a little more finicky and little hard to pull off multi touch commands with, but it is a very large track and equals the McBook Air in its size and its click ability, but if you're an AB [unk], you will appreciate the fact that this 13-inch screen has a 1600 x 900 resolution that's a lot more resolution for your pixel dollar than the 1366 x 768 that you're gonna see on most 13-inch laptops and the [unk] in design, speaker system and audio in this ZenBook laptop does live up to the height it sounds a lot better than similar ultraslim laptops that's not gonna blow you away like some super high end desktop replacement, but it's great for listening to music and to movies. If you wanna pay more for your ZenBook, you can pay as much as 1449, which is going to give a Core i7 processor and 256 gigabyte of storage that's still less than you would pay for the equivalent MacBook Air at its high end. Now, if you have great sound and nice screen resolution and you can give up a keyboard and trackpad that maybe are little bit disappointing and a battery life that is still okay, but doesn't perform as well as we found the MacBook Air to perform. Give this a try. This is close as you're gonna get to a MacBook Air without it being a MacBook Air. I'm Scott Stein and this is a look at the Asus ZenBook UX31E