Review Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A

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The Zenbook Prime UX31A is a 13.3" Ultrabook running on third generation Intel Ivy Bridge ULV CPUs. Asus offers it with Intel Core 1.7GHz i5 and 1.9GHz i7 dual core CPUs, Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4 gigs of RAM soldered to the motherboard and 128 or 256 gig SSDs. We take a look at the Core i5 with the 128 gig SSD for this review (model UX31A-DB51). All Zenbook Prime models have a 1080p IPS display, SSD and backlit keyboard. Yes, even the Zenbook Prime UX21A 11.6" model has a 1080p display!

Design and Ergonomics

The 2.86 pound UX31A Zenbook Prime is a dead ringer for the first gen Zenbook UX31E, and that's a good thing since that machine was simply stunning looking and well made. The casing is metal and extremely rigid. The combo of a dark metal swirl lid and a brushed stainless steel hinge barrel and bottom look great. The laptop looks and feels like a high quality piece of tech that holds its own against the MacBook Air. Like the Air, it tapers and is 3mm thin at the front and 9mm at the rear.

The Zenbook Prime has two USB 3.0 ports (one charging), micro HDMI, mini VGA, 3.5mm audio and an SD card slot (SD cards stick out and aren't flush with the casing). Like the last Zenbook, Asus includes a USB Ethernet adapter and VGA adapter in the box and a brown ballistic nylon slip case for the dongles and another for the laptop.

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A


Keyboard and Trackpad

Asus has greatly improved the keyboard with much better tactile feel and key travel. Really. I spend lots of time writing and the original Zenbook keyboard annoyed me more each week. I've written 5 reviews on the Zenbook Prime keyboard and it has me smiling. It's not as tactilely delightful as the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo ThinkPad X230 keyboards, but my typing speeds and error rates were good. The keys are backlit and you can control backlight level via Fn keys or let the ambient light sensor handle it for you. Thanks to the rigid casing, there's virtually no keyboard flex, unlike the UX32VD.


1080p Display

The Zenbook Prime impresses before you open the lid thanks to the elegant industrial design and sturdy feel. Open it up and the matte 1920 x 1080 IPS display seals the deal. The matte panel is simply gorgeous: very bright, lovely balanced colors and high contrast. Text is very sharp and black levels are excellent. Asus didn't skimp here. The 360 nit panel is brighter than most notebooks on the market (disable the ambient light sensor if you really want to blast your retinas). The display will likely set the Zenbook Prime ahead of the competition for some time. Since this is an IPS panel, viewing angles are very wide, and there's no need to angle the display forward and back to find the sweet spot as with TN panels.


Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A

Review :



Horsepower, Intel HD 4000 Graphics and Performance

This is a classic Ultrabook, and that means dual core 17 watt Intel Core i5 and i7 ULV (ultra low voltage CPUs) that use less power and generate less heat than their full mobile counterparts used in standard size notebooks. That said, they're more than fast enough for everyday productivity work like web, email, MS Office and even moderate Photoshop work.

The machine has 4 gigs of DDR3 1600MHz RAM soldered to the motherboard, so no upgrades are possible. Look to the Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD for upgradable memory and hard drives. The Zenbook Prime UX31A is available with 128 and 256 gig SATA III SSD drives, and these are made by ADATA and Sandisk. There's no way of knowing which you'll get, since the "Sandforce" sticker that indicates the faster ADATA drive is on the inner box (the same was true with last year's UX31E). That said, the Sandisk drive is much improved over that used in the UX31E, and it no longer means a huge performance drop vs. the ADATA with a Sandforce controller. Our model from a local Microcenter had the ADATA 128 gig drive and the 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU.


Battery Life and Networking

The Zenbook Prime UX31A has a 50 watt Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. Like the last Zenbook, it comes with a small charger that looks like a gloss black version of the Macbook Air charger. In our tests with WiFi active and display brightness set to 40% (which is quite bright), the UX31A averaged 6 hours on a charge, which is average for an Ultrabook and good considering the machine is pushing extra pixels.


Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A

Conclusion

Do we like the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A? Oh yes, in fact we love it. It has superb build quality, one of the most elegant and attractive designs on the market and that 1080p IPS display will spoil you. The MacBook Air's display will be a let down, and even the super color-accurate Sony Vaio Z 1080p display will seem weak for viewing angles and brightness. The much more typing-friendly backlit keyboard, fast performance and dual USB 3.0 ports seal the deal.

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Price: Starting at $1,099 for the Core i5 with 128 gig SSD
Website: www.asus.com
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Specs:


  • Display: 13.3", 1920 x 1080 LED backlit IPS display. Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Micro HDMI and VGA ports (VGA via included adapter).
  • Battery: 50 watt/hour Lithium Ion polymer rechargeable, sealed inside.
  • Performance: 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U Processor (as tested) or 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U Processor. Intel HM76 Express chipset. 4 gigs DDR3 1600MHz RAM soldered on motherboard (not upgradable) and 128 or 256 gig SATA III SSD (ADATA or Sandisk brand).
  • Size: 12.75 x 8.75 x 0.67 (at thickest point) inches. Weight: 2.86 pounds.
  • Camera: 720p webcam.
  • Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio.
  • Networking: Integrated dual band Intel Advanced-N 6235 WiFi 802.11b/g/n with WiDi and Bluetooth 4.0.
  • Software: Windows 7 Home Premium. Various Asus utilities, Office 2012 Starter Edition, McAfee Anti-virus 30 day trial and Chrome web browser.
  • Expansion and Ports: 2 USB 3.0 ports (one charging), micro HDMI, 3.5mm combo audio, mini VGA with adapter, 10/100 Ethernet via included USB adapter. 1 SD card slot.

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