on June 26, 2012
Truth be had, I've been pretty disappointed with ultrabook offerings so far - low resolution screens, terrible keyboards and below average power. With the UX31A and UX32VD series, Asus promised to change all of that, and, in my opinion, succeeded remarkably well.
1. Design/Aesthetics. This is a very pretty machine. It's lightweight, looks good and doesn't seem to smudge. Not much more that I can say here - it's pretty and sleek. I wish that it had a MacSafe power adapter instead of the right angled plug, but I guess we have patents to blame for that.
2. Keyboard. The keyboard on this machine is fantastic. I would put it in the same league as the MacBook Air's keyboard, which is to say that it is very very good. In comparison, I thought that the keyboard on the original Zenbook was terrible. It's not quite as nice as the keyboard on my Lenovo T430, but it is still really high quality, and probably the best ultrabook keyboard currently available (and backlit, too). Love it. Some people have mentioned keyboard flex - there is a tiny bit if you push down hard near the middle of the keyboard, but it's not something that I would have noticed if I wasn't looking for it.
3. Screen. The screen is excellent - beautiful colors, 1080p resolution. There was a bit of backlight bleeding, but it's only in a few places, and it's only noticeable if the screen is entirely black, so really not a big issue. When the screen is not purely black, you couldn't even find it if you were looking for it. By default, the display is running at 40Hz - not sure who was responsible for that decision - which made things look choppy. Setting it to 60Hz fixed that problem though.
4. Software. Includes standard PC bloatware, which is kind of annoying but it is easy enough to remove. Of particular note is the Asus Update Manager, which is supposed to pull updates from Asus' website, but in reality just crashes repeatedly (I booted my Zenbook the first time to Asus's update manager giving me a wonderful stack trace as it died). Other included software is of similar low quality - I'd recommend wiping the machine when you get it if you can. Also includes software for a touchscreen/pen - I'm not sure what that's about, since this machine has neither.
5. Touchpad. I hate touchpads. This one seems responsive and sleek, but I just switched to using a mouse and disabled it. YMMV. Edit: Played with the touchpad for a bit, and I have to admit, I kind of like it. It's not as usable (in my most humble opinion) as the nub on a Thinkpad, but it gets the job done. Some settings I found to make it nicer: Turn off tap to click, so that your mouse doesn't click randomly while you're typing. And turn off Inertial Scroll in the Elan -> Multi-Finger -> Scrolling setting. It's makes scrolling choppy for some reason. Unfortunately, multi-touch isn't as integrated into the operating system as it is with OS X, so I feel like we'll have to wait until Windows 8 to see the true power of this touchpad. In its current form, the touchpad works as advertised - it's responsive, smooth and very configurable.
6. Graphics. This machine has a dedicated graphics card, and while it's not the most beefy, it's certainly an improvement over the standard Intel 4000. Linux users note: This uses nVidia Optimus to switch between the integrated and dedicated graphics cards, which apparently doesn't have very good Linux support yet - so if you plan on running Linux on this, do some research first.
7. HDD. 500GB HDD. In 2012. Unacceptable. However...
8. Upgrades. This is why I bought this machine. You can put an extra 8GB of RAM in (in exchange for 2GB of the built in 4GB) for a total of 10GB of RAM. You can also swap out the HDD for an SSD, which is awesome - get one with a 7mm height though, or it won't fit.
Overall: If you are willing to upgrade the HDD and RAM, get this machine - you won't regret it. It's light, it has a beautiful screen, an excellent keyboard, it's very fast, and with the upgrades, it is the nicest laptop that I have ever owned. If you are not willing to upgrade, I would say that you should get a MacBook Air or the Zenbook UX31A (or the Sony Series Z if you are willing to spend more) instead - the SSD makes a huge performance improvement. I give it 4/5, because you have to spend a bit of time to clean up the garbage on it and install a better hard drive and more RAM, but once you do that, it is unmatched. Also, Microsoft is apparently going to offer a $15 upgrade to Windows 8 Professional, which is a great deal.
After a week with this machine, some more thoughts:
Really liking the trackpad. Turning off tap to click is key - it is downright bizarre that the default has those settings on, I think that every reviewer complaint about the erratic touchpad is due to this setting being on. After turning it off, it's smooth, accurate and actually really nice to use. I upgraded to the Windows 8 Release Preview, and for a while I was wondering what the heck was going on when things were randomly being clicked and dragged around, before I realized that I had to disable tap to click again.
As for the keyboard - after working with it for a while now, I don't like it as much as the MacBook Air's. It's still a very good keyboard, but the keys are a bit flimsy feeling for my liking, and - very occasionally - a keypress gets missed. Not bad by any means, but it could have been better. If you are really looking for a great typing experience on an ultrabook, you may want to wait to check out the Lenovo X1 Carbon, which should be available in August. Again though, the keyboard is very usable - I'd put it as better than the Samsung Series 9, but worse than the MacBook Air - and both of those machines have very nice keyboards. On the upside, keyboard flex on the UX32VD is definitely a non-issue.
Also, Asus's included software is bizarrely bad. Don't even try to use it. It doesn't work, or it crashes, or it uses a ton of CPU, or it just looks plain ugly.
Finally, if you are planning on upgrading the RAM, see the comments on this review - I installed an 8GB 1600MHz stick, but it is only running at 1333MHz for some reason. This apparently has to do with the CAS latency of the onboard stick vs. the new one. I don't know how to get around this, that said, I wouldn't have noticed the difference if I didn't check the settings.
Still, very happy with it. I haven't put the battery through its paces, but unscientifically, it seems to last about 4 hours under high workload (writing code).
Anyway, knowing what I know now about this machine, I would be less hesitant to buy it than I initially was. It is very much an awesome computer.
Months later, after using this extensively, taking a star off. This laptop has since become my primary machine, and I use it for hours every day. Since I wrote the review, I've upgraded to Windows 8 which I actually find really nice. (As an aside - and this is NOT reflected in my rating - I found Linux (Ubuntu distro) support somewhat depressing. Some keyboard Fn shortcuts didn't work - in particular, brightness display - the battery life was under 2 hours, and sleep didn't work at all. YMMV, though - I run a VM now for my Linuxing).
Mostly I use this machine for writing code and basic internet stuff.
The machine is still speedy, and the screen is still beautiful - Asus deserves a ton of praise for that. Battery life is about what I thought it was - 4 hours on average under my normal usage, which isn't anything to write home about these days, but it's certainly more than adequate. I can even play modern games - usually I have to lower the graphics, but on medium settings and at 1600x900, most games run at a smooth 60fps, which is impressive.
Things that I don't like though are the little things. The keyboard isn't as great as I thought it was - I find that I miss keys, even when I clearly pressed them down. Again, it's not terrible, but Lenovo and Apple both do much better, and for a $1500 laptop I expect a lot. My hypothesis is that the keys click (both physically and audibly) slightly before the button press is registered, and as a soft touch typist, it causes me to release the key milliseconds too soon.
The touchpad is pretty bad too. The hardware itself is fine - it's accurate and spacious, but palm rejection is just too bad to be useable. So I use a wireless mouse instead.
And the software - oh the software. The wifi driver crashes every day or two, so I have to restart my laptop frequently. And when I put it to sleep by closing the lid, sometimes it doesn't go to sleep, so when I pull it out of my backpack it's too hot to hold and the battery is almost dead.
So overall, this is not a bad machine - it has some very excellent points, in particular the display - but my problem with it is that it's not the premium experience that I would get if I'd bought an Apple computer for the same price. The keyboard is mediocre, it doesn't always go to sleep, the built in software crashes, and the touchpad is unusable. And while I can deal with all of these things, I feel like I shouldn't have to, considering that I paid top dollar for this (and then some to upgrade it).
The end result is this: I'm going to buy a new laptop, probably this summer when Intel releases their new line of chips (Haswell). If Lenovo brings out a laptop with a nice screen (for example, an X1 Carbon with a 1080p display, or the Yoga 11S with at least 1600x900), it'll be a Lenovo, since their keyboards are unmatched. Otherwise, I'm going to switch to the evil empire and get a Mac.
on June 30, 2012
For specific details about the product I suggest reading other reviews from Amazon or other sites especially those done by Notebookcheck (here: [...]) or Anand (here: [...]). Keep in mind that Anand's review is for a different model of the same series, but many of the things are similar and there is some good info in there.
I HIGHLY suggest you read this review before buying. I am going to go over main points that I think everyone should be aware of before buying.
Disclaimer: For me this is a 5 star machine after the upgrades. I rate it 3 stars based on how it came from Asus. If you don't want to upgrade the hardware or don't feel comfortable opening the laptop, I would suggest getting either a UX31A or something like a Samsung Series 9.
1. Only buy this computer if you are willing to upgrade the HDD to an SSD. SSD prices are falling rapidly and you can even get a 240GB SATA III drive for $210 now if you shop around (this is end of June, 2012). Make sure you get an SSD that is branded as a "notebook upgrade kit", because they have a smaller form factor than standard SSDs, with a height of 7mm. As long as you get a 7mm drive, it will fit in this notebook. Keep in mind you will need a T5 torx bit and small phillips screwdrivers to replace the drive.
2. Upgrading the RAM is also a really good idea. 2GB are integrated into the mainboard, and there is only one DIMM. The 4GB the laptop comes with is not very future-proof, so I would recommend picking up an 8GB stick of DDR3-1600 (like this Corsair piece, model number CMSX8GX3M1A1600C10). You can pick it up now for only $57. This will bring the total RAM to 10GB, which is more than pretty much every other ultrabook out there.
3. You will need to install Windows without a DVD once you install your new SSD. If you use a USB drive you may get an error in the setup which says something like "Windows was unable to load CD/DVD drivers, please insert disc media and try again". What is actually happening is that because all three of the USB ports on this laptop are USB 3.0, the Windows 7 install disc files don't have native support. You simply need to go to the Asus product page downloads section, and download the USB 3.0 drivers for the 64-bit version of Windows. Extract the driver folder to the USB stick with the Windows install files and try again. The problem should be fixed.
4. The screen has backlight bleed when showing pure blacks. When there are any images on the screen at all it is not noticable, and turning down the brightness helps a lot as well. Other than the bleed, the screen is beautiful especially in terms of its negative vertical viewing angle (from below). It doesn't have any discoloration and is very nice looking.
5. If you elect not to swap out the drive for an SSD, it comes in a weird kind of partition set up. The model I got had a 186GB boot partition, a 254GB "Data" Partition with no files on it, and 32GB of SSD cache which is not accessible from My Computer, but shows up as a different drive in disk manager. The drive is also very slow despite the SSD cache. But it won't appear to be so to someone who has never used an SSD before.
6. Bloatware. While there is not that much, you are forced to agree to install the Bing toolbar before setting up windows, and there is some creative media suite, craploads of asus tools, something that looks like asus tried to make their own app store, macaffee antivirus pre-installed (trial) and more. More reason to upgrade to an SSD and clean install windows.
7. The power button. Asus elected to make their power button an actual key, putting it where Delete normally would go, in the top right. Now when I heard this, I was a little skeptical and thought that I might try to hit delete when using word or something, and accidentally shut off my computer with one missed key-press. I was happy to find the solution that Asus came up with when I booted into windows. First of all, the power button is much stiffer and requires more pressure to press than all of the other keys on the keyboard. Second of all, just pressing the key within windows does nothing. If you want to turn off or sleep mode the computer, you hold it for about 1 second, and an on-screen display (from Asus) appears with clickable options to either shut down, sleep, do nothing, etc. You won't run into any sudden shut downs with this new placement of the power button, but you might take a bit to re-learn where the delete key is (directly to the left of the on button).
8. Keyboard and trackpad. The keyboard is very nice for a laptop, and functions/feels almost identical to the Macbook Pro/Air keyboards as many have said. It is backlit with user-adjustable brightness levels (3 levels, and off) via the function key. The trackpad is nice, but nothing to brag about. It is a good size, smooth, and easy to use. It's everything you'd want with nothing extra. If you get in the habit of tapping to click instead of actually clicking the trackpad down I think you will be much happier with it.
All in all this laptop can be what you make of it. Having the dedicated GPU makes it a very nice ultrabook for light gaming and more powerful media applications. Also it provides a full-sized HDMI out, and good connectivity (3 x USB, card reader, micro-vga, headphone/mic combo jack, etc). The HDD will appear abysmal to anyone who is coming from SSDs. It will appear normal to those of you who have yet to experience the awesomeness of SSDs :D ... If you want to upgrade to an SSD, fresh windows, and larger RAM, this is the best PORTABLE PC laptop available right now bar none in my opinion. But if you want to keep the pre-installed Asus windows installation, HDD, and 4GB ram, then it is a very nice PC, but for the price point I only give it 3 stars.
If you have any questions at all please feel free to comment and I'll try to get back to you!
on June 23, 2012
As the other reviews have mentioned, this model has a gorgeous display. After calibrating the screen it looked even better. There's nothing like a good IPS display! It has a slight matte finish, but is still very sharp and bright.
With the original configuration, Windows was using 2.8GBs of RAM. I recommend you either uninstall some of the Asus add-ons or do as I did and take advantage of the ability to upgrade the RAM. I purchased a Patriot 8GB RAM module from Amazon that bumps the unit up to 10GB's.
The keyboard is OK. I'm not a big fan of the chiclet style keyboard.
The touchpad is large and does get in the way when you're typing. It's very easy for your palm to touch it while typing, sending you cursor off to a random location. However, you can turn it off by using the Fn key.
I'm using it with a bluetooth mouse, with the touchpad disabled. I like using bluetooth for the wireless mouse becuase there's no USB dongle sticking out.
The battery life is very average. Maybe 3 hours or so of constant usage is all I seem to get. Though, I am not using the battery saver profile. So, I'm pretty sure it's possible to stretch it out a bit more.
Coming out of sleep mode it is very fast. I have it set to sleep when I close the lid. This laptop comes out of sleep mode in the time it take to raise the lid! What's that, maybe 2 seconds? Fantastic. That's where the hybrid drive really pays off. With all my software loaded, including an anti-virus progam, it takes about 35 seconds to boot up.
The build quality is very good. The design and look is beautiful. I haven't noticed any particulary loud fan noise. If I push the laptop hard, the fans will come on with a whooshing sound. But, nothing terrible. During normal use (Word, Excel, browsing the web) it is silent.
I do wish the power button wasn't just a regular looking keyboard button in the upper right. To easy to press it, as it sits right next to the DEL button.
on July 7, 2012
I have had this laptop for a little over a week, and I must say that I am impressed. After having bought and returned the original UX31 because of its keyboard issues, it seems like Asus really listened to its customers and made all of the right improvements.
The most obvious improvements over the UX31 are the keyboard and the screen. The keyboard is now island-style and backlit. I think feedback is great; it reminds me a lot of my old MacBook Pro. The screen, at least to me, appears to be in a league of its own. With a 1080p IPS panel, it is bright and incredibly sharp. Real estate space is fantastic and viewing angles are superb. And it's even got a matte finish, so glare is minimized. Kudos to Asus for these great design changes.
Additionally, Asus upgraded the CPU in this model from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge and added a dedicated Nvidia 620M GPU. I have to admit that I'm not a gamer, so I don't expect to take advantage of the graphics chip. In fact, I probably would have preferred that Asus provided a (cheaper) version of this laptop without the GPU (but without the soldered components -- see below). Also, the Sandy Bridge processor was totally capable for browsing the web, watching HD video online, and performing office tasks. Still, assuming battery life doesn't take too much of a hit (and it doesn't really seem like it has), I guess that more power is better than less.
Two things that really didn't change since the last version are the sound and the battery, and I consider this a good thing. Sound quality from the speakers is excellent -- loud and clear, probably among the best I have heard on a laptop. Battery life also seems to be totally acceptable. It's not the best I've ever seen, but I still get like 6-7 hours under normal use, which is adequate for my needs. Also, the power brick appears to be the same. It's square and looks a lot like the Apple brick, except it's black. One good thing though is that it only has two prongs, so you don't need to carry around a 3-prong-to-2-prong adapter.
As I suggested above, I bought this model as opposed to the UX31A specifically because this model has some user-replaceable components, like RAM and hard disk. Apparently the trade-off was that this model doesn't have the same unibody design as the UX31A, but to be honest, I can't tell too much of a difference. It still weighs like 3.2 pounds, and build quality doesn't seem to be an issue. Also, while some people might gripe that Asus didn't include more memory and a larger SSD from the get-go, truth be told, it would probably have made the computer a lot more expensive. For less than $150, I was able to upgrade the memory to 10GB and install a fast 128GB SSD. I also appreciate the fact that, since these components are user-replaceable, it will be a relatively cheap fix if something goes wrong later on. The same can't be said for models with all soldered RAM and hard disks, like the UX31A or the MacBook Air.
Some users complained about the fan and the trackpad. I, however, haven't had any problems with either of these. As I said, I'm not a heavy gamer, but for me the unit is practically silent most of the time. Also, I don't really have any complaints about the trackpad. It is large and smooth, which I appreciate. Also, multi-finger gestures -- specifically two-finger tap, two-finger scroll, and three-finger swipe -- all work great! That is a nice improvement for PCs, which typically have inferior track pads.
Connectivity options seem to be okay. There are 3 USB 3.0 ports, a mini VGA port, an SD Card slot, and an HDMI port. My only complaint is that the SD Card sticks out about half way, so you can't just leave it in the computer all the time. I think this is a pretty stupid design flaw. Why not just make the card totally recessed, like in almost every other laptop out there?
That said, my quibble is minor. This is a really nice computer and I am happy to have bought it. Finally, I don't think I have any regrets about migrating from my laptop to an ultrabook.
on July 30, 2012
Others seemed to have no difficulty with the SSD/mem upgrade but for me it was a several day process. I first thought I'd clone to my 256GB Samsung 830 SSD. However, the only one of several clone programs I used that actually completed without an error was Clonezilla, and even then the clone didn't work. Norton Ghost, which came with he SSD, did not work. I even tried cloning after I swapped drives, but to no avail. One person on a BBS posted no trouble cloning to a same size 512GB Samsung SSD, but I didn't see that comment until after I purchased the 256 GB. I recommend you forget cloning.
Next I thought I'd make a bootable flash USB windows disc. The only successfully bootable USB flash drive I initially succeeded in making (that actually booted) was Clonezilla. There were no errors on the Win7 USB flash install, it just would never boot. I later discovered the problem. I assumed that since holding "F2" brought up the BIOS and boot options, that's all I needed to do. In fact, holding "Esc" (as printed in the manual) brings up a different selective boot menu BIOS screen that actually works to boot USB flash drives. Now I keep a tiny Win7 bootable flash microSD on my key chain with all the drivers and software I need for a complete reinstall.
Once discovering that boot menu, I've had no trouble with the 3 USB 3.0 ports. In particular, the Logitech unifying receiver and Performance MX mouse work fine, as does the Verizon Pantech UML290 LTE modem, although you will need to manually install drivers for both, rather than relying on Windows to find them upon device insertion.
Then I had some difficulty getting the Samsung external DVD burner to burn bootable discs. None of the backups of the original UX32VD HD, nor the recovery disc worked. After some effort, I was able to burn a DVD of the downloadable Win7 disc (make sure it is the same version that matches your Win7 license from ASUS). So do yourself a favor, and only work on a clean Windows install right from the start.
Then there were problems installing the drivers (available for download from the ASUS web site). I never could get the TPM Infineon ("Trusted Platform Module could not be found") or Azurewave Bluetooth software ("No Bluetooth device was detected") to install. The Intel Bluetooth software does work fine, though. The Intel RST install took about a half day in itself. I suspect most of you won't even bother with it. If you do, do it early as it requires creating and formatting a partition from the command line using the diskpart command. I used the free version of EaseUS Partition Master to partition my single system volume without bothering with a backup. Follow these instructions ([...]). Presumably you could place the 10240 MB partition on the motherboard's 24GB flash drive, but I've read the Sandisk 24GB flash is slower than most SSDs.
Then I spent considerable time trying to tweak my graphics. The factory install gave a Windows Experience Index of 5.9. So it was disconcerting to see the index drop to 4.6 once I had upgraded the RAM to 10GB and installed an SSD. On the new install, the HD rating is 7.9/7.9 and the memory rating is 7.1/7.9. The 4.6 is the graphics rating. I managed to adjust performance settings (mostly in the Intel, not Nvidia, settings) to get the rating up only to 5.1. I did a post-reconfigure NovaBench test giving a GPU rating of 164 fps for their 3D test, which was lackluster on their comparison sheet, but I imagine the comparisons include high-end desktop workstations. However, for some reason, after installing the Intel RST (Rapid Start Technology) driver, the Microsoft rating was back up to 5.9, and NovaBench up to 183 fps (673 aggregate NovaBench score). I have no idea why RST would have this effect. Perhaps I made some other small tweak that I don't remember.
A full reboot or recovery from hibernation takes 20 sec (maybe a couple seconds longer without RST). But recovery from sleep (which allegedly maintains days of battery life) instantaneously shows the login screen (with RST installed). And once logged in, the desktop and open apps instantaneously appear and are ready to use.
Battery life appears to be about 4-5 hours of continuous web surfing and partially dimmed display, as a rough estimate. Audio max volume isn't too impressive, but quality is good.
The LED bleed from the bottom of the display is troubling, but only definitely visible on a black screen. I haven't yet tested uniformity with the Datacolor Spyder.
Once reconfigured, this device exceeds expectations. I like the keyboard, touchpad, and location of the power button.
1. Time/frustration of configuring it correctly.
2. LED bleed.
PROS (of reconfigured model):
1. Display, during normal use.
3. Size & weight.
4. Full HDMI port, and number of USB ports.
5. Good software for preventing inadvertent use of large touchpad when typing.
6. Backlit keyboard with quiet type and solid crisp feel.
on July 23, 2012
There are plenty of reviews here that are spot-on, so I will try not to duplicate their efforts. Basically, spend some extra money for an SSD that's no more than 7mm thick, and CL11 RAM.
The first thing I did when I received my Zenbook Prime was break out my trusty DVD-Writer and launch the AI Recovery Burner software and create the recovery discs. I then swapped the old spinning rust and RAM modules, and proceeded to restore the installation from those DVDs.
Some "power users" would complain that this would give you an installation rife with awful Asus bloatware; to which I counter that it's much easier to uninstall the cruft you don't want (*ahem* McAfee) than to hunt down 37 drivers and programs required to operate this machine's various hotkeys and other features. As a result, I have had very few issues that many people have had with the fan noise and WiFi controls. For me, the Asus Facelogon works well, and I find the on-screen display to be visually appealing.
I've also had no issues with backlight bleed, uneven frame, or keyboard flex. The Prime gets quite warm, but that's because it's an nVidia GPU and Core i7 all wrapped in a diminutive aluminum frame. The display has fantastic contrast and resolution, the backlit keyboard feels as nice as the Apple Aluminum chiclet keyboard, and overall system responsiveness is without delay. I am not a heavy gamer, but I do enjoy a round of Painkiller and Portal 2 every once in awhile, and while not the most demanding games, I can play them on my Zenbook Prime at full resolution and effects turned on with no issue.
I mostly use my laptop for audio production, and the built-in "Bang & Olufsen ICEpower" audio really is nothing more than a Realtek HD Audio chip with a little nicer pre-amp on the speakers and headphone jack (which accepts 3-striped cellphone style headphones with microphones built-in). It does an admirable job and doesn't choke the CPU too much.
My only outstanding issues with my Zenbook Prime is the trackpad; while it works very well with the latest Elantech drivers (not the newer Asus SmartGesture drivers), the drivers can't fix the louder-than-normal clicking. Also, the keyboard subtracts several keys (volume, multimedia, pgup/pgdn, etc) and supplements them with Fn key combinations; which is pretty sorry for some basic navigation keys.
All in all, for my needs, the Zenbook Prime is a fantastic notebook, and with a few upgrades, it's nearly perfect and a good $800 less than a Retina Display Macbook Pro.
on July 2, 2012
Do yourself a favor. Upgrade the sluggish 500GB 5400 RPM drive to an SSD and 2GB removable RAM to an 8GB SODIMM, you'll lose the dual channel, but the increase in speed is substantial.
With these two upgrades, along with a clean install to debloat, you're a running the fastest ultrabook available.
on July 21, 2012
I've been intrigued by ultrabooks since they were first released, but as someone who likes to keep my pictures, videos, and music on one device, I couldn't justify the smaller storage of an ultrabook's SSD. Also, after using an ultraportable laptop for the past few years, missed the ability to play games. The UX32VD is the best choice to meet my needs at the moment, being upgradeable, having a hard drive and a dedicated graphics card without sacrificing ports.
Other reviewers have given a good overview of the laptop's hardware. I think the keyboard is good and the trackpad is fine, especially with tap-to-click turned off. Neither feel like they get in the way of using the computer. The battery life isn't incredible. You'll get something around four hours, depending on what you are doing. The screen is as amazing as everyone says. The color is fantastic, the viewing angles are great, and there is practically no reflection. While not as thin as other ultrabooks, it's still a very thin and light machine.
It is important to note that this laptop is not just the Zenbook Prime UX31 with different internals. The case is different, and is not a unibody. Despite this, there's really no flex in the case, and holding the laptop by a corner doesn't fee like you'll break it. The advantage of the clamshell case is that you can open it, giving you access to one memory slot as well as the HDD. This also gives space for a very useful array of ports.
I didn't use the included software before reformatting the hard drive, so I can't comment on that. If you do plan to reformat and reinstall Windows, be sure to have the USB 3.0 driver on the hard drive before you do, as Windows 7 install discs don't support 3.0 by default.
I was disappointed with the 4 GB of RAM included. Despite the fast Ivy Bridge processor, even web browsing was noticeably sluggish. Based on suggestions here, I installed the Corsair Vengeance Laptop Memory Module 8 GB (1x8 GB) DDR3 1600MHz CL10 PC3 12800 (CMSX8GX3M1A1600C10). This solved the minor performance issues, and now the machine runs great. For reference, the Windows Experience Index scores are as follows:
Memory (RAM) 5.9 (7.1 after upgrading the RAM)
Gaming Graphics 6.3
Primary Hard Disk 5.9
Others have mentioned that the Primary Hard Disk score goes to 7.9 after installing an SSD.
If you are thinking of upgrading this computer, you need a T5 Torx screwdriver. Be careful with this, as the large number of tiny screws and the very small bit means you'll likely end up with a stripped screwdriver or screws. If you are doing this by hand, you may only be able to open the case once or twice, so plan your upgrades carefully.
The dedicated graphics card in this machine may be entry-level, but it is quite capable of playing modern games. Even before upgrading the RAM, it ran Tribes: Ascend very smoothly on Medium settings. After upgrading the RAM, it runs Tribes, Diablo 3, and Portal 2 smoothly at 1080p resolution on Medium, or at lower resolutions on High. This obviously isn't a gaming rig, but is much better at playing games than I expected. With an SSD, it's possible that you could run most games on High at 1080p.
The industrial design of this laptop is generally very good. Despite the way it looks in the picture, the laptop is made of one color of aluminum. The screen bezel, lid and base are the same color, with black keys. If you remove all of the stickers, it looks even better. A very minor issue with the design is the amount of text printed on the case. Below the arrow keys is printed "Audio by Bang & Olufsen ICEpower", and each port is labeled with what it does, so the HDMI port says "HDMI", and each USB port has the USB logo printed next to it. These are strange additions to an otherwise very clean design.
If you are looking for a practical ultrabook with lots of storage, an incredible screen, the ability to run games, and the possibility to upgrade, this is what you want.
on June 27, 2012
Design: The design is very sleek and simple very light.
Processor: This comes with an i7 1.9 GHz processor not 1.7 as listed by amazon. The keyboard is nice very tactile.
Display: This display is phenomenal although certain programs do not scale well with the hi res display but pictures and movies look beautiful. I guess I'm the fortunate one that is not getting any light bleeding on the display so that is always a plus.
RAM: I wish it came with 8GB of ram but if you think about it. If they had given it 8GB they could have just charged you an extra hundred or so for it while you can upgrade it yourself for 56 dollars.
Storage: I do admit the 500GB HDD is rather slow even on initial boot up. But it is easily upgradeable to an SSD.
in this youtube review they show you how to take an ordinary ssd and make it a 7mm (which is what it requires) again they could have installed it for you and charged an extra 3-500 for a 256GB SSD when you can do it yourself for half the cost.
Keyboard:The keyboard is a little difficult to type on because of the smaller size and I am noticing the touchpad moving while I type which can get pretty annoying. The keyboard flexing isn't even an issue because that is situational and when will you ever push that hard down on the center of your keyboard pretty unrealistic in my opinion.
GPU: At first I thought this would be a wimpy graphics card that wouldn't be able to do that much. The GT620m is pretty decent. I can play League of Legends at max settings and I can play D3 at medium settings with 1920x1080 so its not that bad.
The bloatware is kind of a pain in the ass but that is to be expected with all PC's I am very satisfied with my purchase.
I hope this review helps.
After a few days using this, I would say that this was worth my money. The keyboard flexing was not even noticeable to me when typing. I disabled the power button from doing anything just in case I accidently pushed the power button and it would put my computer to sleep. The sound is very clear and crisp and relatively loud for its size. Under medium load it runs at around 60C after several hours of use (internally according to core temp). It plays d3 on medium settings just fine and LoL at max settings fine. Average battery life is about 4 hours.
Ram: I have not upgraded to the 8GB of ram yet but running just 4GB right now its alright but there is usually only 1GB of free ram for me. So I highly reccomend upgrading the ram or turning off some of the background processes
Display: The 1080p display is very bright and sharp and is great for using during the day time. But for me when the sun goes down and I'm using lamps for light the screen puts alot of strain on my eyes. I downloaded f.lux on it and it turns later in the evening and now my eyes do not feel strained anymore.
Trackpad: The touchpad is a bit finicky, and others have said to turn off tap to click. I personally like tap to click because that is what I used all the time on my Dell Studio 1555. So what I did was lowered the detection radius to the smallest value available in the touchpad settings and that did the trick for me. I love the integration that they put in the touchpad such as using 3 finger swipe to "show desktop" and "3d aero flip" very much similar to the mac.
HDD vs SSD: I did notice that the HDD kind of bogs down this system and I have not yet upgraded to the ssd but it isn't terrible its just slower than an ssd which is expected.
on September 12, 2012
I'm very happy with this machine. It has seen about two months service so far. On travel I use it essentially as I would a desktop replacement class laptop, but it weighs only three pounds and is very quiet even at high CPU load, provided you don't get the GPU engaged. The HDD/SSD combination suits my needs, so I don't need to consider an upgrade there. If you're frequently replacing large amounts of data in secondary memory as I do in my work, an HDD is a better choice. Three USB 3.0 ports are good and plenty, if you get yourself a Bluetooth mouse. Since I have a lot of eSATA external HDDs I got a Newertechnology eSATA adapter, and it works rock solid. I upgraded the OS to Windows Ultimate because I need the language support, and installed an 8GB Corsair memory upgrade to run the memory up to 10GB. Of course I updated drivers.
The display on this thing is absolutely to die for. If you run Win7 screen at 125% you find an acceptable balance between real estate and legibility. The keyboard and touch-pad seem fine to me, but then about the only gesture I ever use is "tap to click". The enclosure is much more handsome to my eye than an Air, open or closed.
Before I pulled the trigger I read a lot of review FUD about the two-piece enclosure and somewhat greater flex in the keyboard area. After getting it in my hands finally, the machine seems physically plenty solid and rigid to me. Yes, there is some display bleeding near the edges, visible only when the screen is active but run with a dead black image. I only ever see this when booting. The one issue I've got with the ASUS hardware/BIOS so far is that it seems to want a little extra fussing in order to recognize a bootable volume on a USB drive, when you boot with the "Escape" key held down. Moving the drive to a different port, or inserting the drive under Win 7 and doing "restart" instead of "shutdown" seems to help.
I never expect to take on a new machine without spending some time on OS configuration issues. That's a small chore given all the applications I need to load and configure for my work. If you pay attention to CPU load and do a little monitoring, you may find a couple of OS services you would like to disable. That done, I am more than happy with the performance, given being short of the full SSD treatment and having moved back from dual ported memory in order to bump memory size. The OS boots to the password prompt in 26 seconds. Yes, a full quad i7 as on Sony Vaio Z would be nice, but then I'd have to put up with much more noisy breathing.
This machine was last month named PC Magazine Editor's Choice for "High End Ultrabook." It will be interesting to see how long that sticks; the competition in this segment is fast and furious.