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Customer Review

150 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid ultrabook, June 21, 2012
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This review is from: ASUS UX31 13-Inch Laptop [2012 model] (Personal Computers)
Edit: My second laptop doesn't have any problems. I'm getting about 5 hours of battery life while doing light programming and listening to music on auto-brightness (there's a brightness sensor) which sets the display at about 60 percent brightness indoors.

I received this laptop a few hours ago and I'm going to give my first impressions on the device.

Build Quality and Design:
Apart from the different color on the keyboard and lack of hideous script font above the keyboard that was on the original zenbook, the Prime looks about the same. Since this is the 31A, it has a Aluminum Unibody design, and from messing around with various Macbook Air's this device seems to be just as well built. I like the front panel design over the Air but that's down to personal preference.

Being an $1000+ device I would expect a nice amount of goodies, and included is a VGA and Ethernet adapter. There is no micro-HDMI to HDMI adapter, but I find myself using VGA most of the time when giving presentations anyway, so I suppose that's not too bad of a loss. The Air (afaik) does not come with these adapters so that is a small plus. The adapters have their own little pouch to store separately. The combination synthetic leather/canvas sleeve that is included fits fairly snugly, though there is enough space to cram in an adapter if you need to. The AC adapter is about the same size as the Apple counterpart, which is good.

Screen Quality:
Being a UX31A the laptop packs a 1920x1080 Matte IPS panel. In a not-very-scientific test viewing angles (obviously) far exceed that of my desk TN panel, and brightness and contrast all seem to be much better. Granted, I'm comparing to a 23" Hanns LCD I paid $60 for. There was a comment earlier about the screen being dimmer than that of the previous gen, and I haven't tested it outside, but it seems to just fine for my purposes. The matte finish is also a plus. There is a bit of back light bleed on the bottom and right hand sides of the screen, but when watching a sample 1080p movie, it didn't bother me at all. I like the increased resolution on the device and it's a definite step up from traditional 1366x768 panels. Text is sometimes a bit small on the default size in chrome but that is easily remedied.

Thankfully, an ADATA XM11 128GB SSD is included. This is a Sandforce drive and I'm getting benchmark scores of 470/150 MB/s RW Sequential, 18/44 MB/s RW 4K random, 113/144 MB/S RW 4k Random 64QD, and access times of .155/.277 ms RW, for a total score of 462 in AS-SSD. This is comparable to my old Vertex 2 in my desktop, so no worries about disk performance here. The system boots boots in about 20 seconds and resumes quickly. It scores a 7.9 WEI in terms of disk performance, though that's not a the best indicator in general.
I haven't done anything intensive with the CPU yet but things seem to be holding up well with little slowdown. I also tried messing around in Diablo III on the integrated HD4000 graphics. I set the game to 1024x768, and everything else to minimum, and from a short session of Act III Inferno, the graphics performed okay, with some stutter and slowdown depending on how many effects were on the screen. If you want to do more than just casual gaming, go for the UX32VD with the GT620M graphics. After playing for a bit the fan kicked on and hot air began coming out of the vent located above the keyboard. The fan was not loud enough to hear over the speakers, which put out a decent amount of volume for the size of the laptop.

Asus touts the keyboard as being much improved over the previous generation, though I'm not sure if I notice that. I've tried out the original zenbook at stores a few times and this feels similar. I've typed this review on the keyboard without any problems, but it'll be clear to you that you are typing on a scissor-switch laptop keyboard. This also leads to me to the flaw in my item - the backlight. Two of the keys in the center refuse to light at all, regardless of the brightness level I set. Hence, it's going back to Amazon for an exchange. Pity. The trackpad is made by Elantech, which may make some people cringe, but for the most part, I haven't had a problem. I like to rest one hand on the left click button and right other to scroll, and there were no glitches I noticed in the last few hours. The only multi-touch feature I really use is two finger scrolling, which works well enough in Chrome. It's not as smooth as OSX is, but I would assume that is because of Windows 7, and will be improved in Windows 8.

If you're trying to decide between this and the Air, it mainly comes down to a few factors - OS, Screen Quality, Discrete Graphics, and support. If you have a rabid obsession with one OS over the other your choice should already be clear. If you value screen quality, both are solid choices - while the Air has a 1440x900 TN panel, it still looks good, though the viewing angles are likely not as wide, and the resolution obviously lower. Anandtech rates both this laptop and the Air well in screen quality. If you value discrete graphics, only the UX32 line offers you that. If you value support I would go with the Air, as nothing beats being able to go into a store and coming out with a fixed laptop.

If you're set on Windows or want a 1080P IPS Panel, no other ultrabook touches the Zenbook prime right now. Sony has a similarly-specced laptop out, which has a GT640LE and 1600x900 screen, but that is much heavier and thicker. This is an expensive device, no doubt, so if you can give up some screen quality and are okay with slightly slower integrated graphics, you should consider a previous gen ultrabook.
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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 21, 2012 10:15:42 PM PDT
Are the keyboards made for the US? i.e. dollar symbol ($) instead of the pound. Also, did you buy it straight from Amazon or one of the resellers?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2012 5:17:10 AM PDT
Eric says:
It's a standard U.S. keyboard, bought it directly from Amazon. Heard reports from some UX31A-DB71 purchasers getting a UK plug, but none of that happened to me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2012 10:10:37 AM PDT
Thank you!

Posted on Jun 26, 2012 10:52:00 AM PDT
R. Karmakar says:
Hi can you please give an estimate about the battery life you are getting out of this? I am planning to get one - but want to get an idea of the battery life beforehand. Thanks for your help.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 12:19:29 PM PDT
Eric says:
I set the screen to automatic brightness and I get about 5 hours doing some programming work.

Posted on Jun 26, 2012 12:26:11 PM PDT
Conway says:
Thanks for the review. As a programmer do you find the extra pixel density makes a difference in terms of eye-tiredness after a long session?

I keep going back and forth between this and Air and the deciding factor will be the screen. Unfortunately I can't just walk into a store yet and make the comparison myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 1:10:31 PM PDT
Eric says:
I don't think the pixel density makes much difference for me in terms of programming, I set the scaling in windows to 125% so things look similarly sized. But, some programs don't handle scaling too well and have small text. The resolution helps out a lot when playing movies, much sharper. The IPS panel is the big upgrade for me, much better contrast and color over most other TN panel laptops.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 2:21:29 PM PDT
Conway says:
Thanks for the response. I have to imagine the contrast does help with reading any text. Do you also own and MBA? If you were set them side by side, would there be a noticeable difference in the screen?


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 4:10:22 PM PDT
Eric says:
Off of the top of my head the screen on the Asus looks a bit better because of the higher resolution. I would wager that viewing angles are better as well. The air has a nice screen either way.

Posted on Jun 28, 2012 1:18:54 PM PDT
You say that your UX31A-DB51 has a Sandforce SSD but another reviewer says they got a Sandisk. Do you happen to know if this is just like the UX31E situation where it was completely random whether you got the Sandforce or the Sandisk?
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