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Customer Review

653 of 675 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Zenbook ships with different SSD and Touchpad variants. Getting a right combination is like winning the lottery., November 28, 2011
This review is from: ASUS UX31 13-Inch Laptop [2011 model] (Personal Computers)
I received the Zenbook a week ago and have the following to report, addressing most buyers concerns (including myself) when wanting to purchase the Zenbook:

I do hope you find it useful - please vote this up if you did, to inform prospective buyers. Thanks!

Physical outlook:
The Zenbook largely resembles the MacBook Air in terms of svelteness. Even the tapering of the chasis 17mm-3mm is the same as the MacBook. This is a good thing because the Zenbook looks better than the MacBook air. The edges look more clean cut, more industrial looking. Definitely something for the corporate board.

This is a hit and miss issue with many users. You either love it or hate it. I found the keyboard better than the MacBook because I could actually type faster on this laptop.
1. The keys have much lesser travel than the MacBook Air.
2. They are well spaced.

Some people were complaining about how unresponsive the keys would be. I had found that to be true when I first used the laptop, but adapted to the typing style, applying a little more pressure with each keystroke. Now I can type faster than I can with my iMac wireless keyboard!
It's just a matter of getting used to.

Poor Trackpad:
This is perhaps one of my most pertinent gripes about the Zenbook. The trackpad, like the keyboard is a matter of getting used to. Asus did a poor job in this aspect because they did not standardize the parts used in their Zenbook series. Some Zenbooks came with the Elan touchpad. Others came with the more inferior Sentallics branded touchpad. Both touchpads had different drivers - and performance. The sentallics version performed poorly even with updated drivers and felt like using a year 20000-esque trackpad. There was very poor control over the trackpad, it seemed to have a mind of it's own - especially when using multitouch gestures.

I managed to get the Elan trackpad, and my experience was not better off. When using two fingers on the trackpad in Opera (one finger on left click, the other to move the cursor around) the Zenbook did not recognize this even though my other finger was on the left click BUTTON. It kept recognizing this as a pinch and zoom, resizing the page I was browsing. This is irritating as I have to adapt to using the laptop with one finger. MacBook Airs don't even have a specific left click button and they don't accidentally recgnize my gestures as pinch to zoom. In this aspect, Asus has tragically failed in one of the key aspects of interaction with a laptop - the touchpad.

Slow SSD:
As with the trackpad, the Zenbook shipped with two 128GB SSD variants, the slower Sandisk u100 and the faster, more superior ADATA SANDFORCE. I received the Sandisk variant and I'm seriously having buyers remorse on the purchase. Major reviewers (engadget, anandtech, pocketlint, ars technica) somehow received the superior ADATA variants as their test units, and based their judgement on the drive they received. Most buyers purchase because of the positive reviews made by them. Their reviews would have been much different with the SANDISK SSD.

What Asus did was misleading, and very inappropriate. Advertising the faster ADATA SSD's then shipping other units with the lousier Sandisk units.

The benchmarks I done using Crystal Disk Mark showed the vast difference in speeds. Below:

Size Read Write
4K 16.92 12.49
512K 253.2 21.81******
1GB 460.2 247.1

ADATA (Data from
SIZE Read Write
4K 26.38 51.15
512K 374.7 131.7*****
1GB 429.6 132.8

As you can see, the speeds on the ADATA is easily 6 times faster on write speeds. The 1GB is similar but for day to day usage like surfing and microsoft office, the most commonly used size is below 512K. Thus, the ADATA offers a tremendous speed increase compared to the Sandisk.
As a consumer paying the same amount for a laptop, it is only fair that we receive what we expect. There should be no deviation from what Asus advertises and what we receive.

In this instance, getting a perfect Zenbook combination was like striking the lottery given the amount of permutations given. We only have a 1 in 4 chance of getting both the Elan touchpad and ADATA SSD.

Wireless Problem:
Many users were facing problems with their Wireless card receiving slow speeds. An updated driver would solve the problem. I did not experience the Wifi problem and the Zenbook worked fine out of the box.
I found that the weak wireless problem may be attributed to the Power Options settings. Goto power options -> change plan settings -> changed advanced power settings -> Wireless Adapter settings -> Power saving mode -> MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE.

Audio Hissing Sound:
Some users complained (in the UX21 reviews) that they heard very loud hissing sounds coming out of their earphone port with earphones. I did not hear it on my unit. Perhaps he received a lemon?

In conculsion:
Truth be said, I am not an Apple fan and was very happy to see such a good looking ultraportable that trumps the MacBook Air's air of sexiness. The zenbook is downright awesome to look at. The full aluminium chasis offers the kind of durability no other laptop can offer in it's class.

But with further comparison, the Apple ships with same compenents across the board. We appreciate this reliablility because we KNOW what components we are getting.

We aren't playing the lottery Asus, and this Zenbook certainly isn't my idea of a $1000 lottery ticket.
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Showing 1-10 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 30, 2011 10:46:39 AM PST
"But with further comparison, the Apple ships with same compenents across the board. We appreciate this reliablility because we KNOW what components we are getting. "
the air uses different SSDs and screen panels

Posted on Dec 1, 2011 12:50:50 PM PST
K. Winter says:
I agree with the touchpad, I have the Sentallics version and it has a mind of it's own even after updating the drivers. I read you can delete the Sentallics drivers and use windows drivers supposedly that works better but you loose the multi-touch gestures, haven't tried that yet myself but I plan to. On your SSD complaint, even a slow SSD is much faster than a traditional hard drive so I doubt you can actually notice the speed in real world applications. Additionally, you might check your power settings. I noticed the default ASUS power settings crippled the processor and most everything else in my Zenbook UX31E to save battery power. Maybe there is a setting in power options that will help you.

Posted on Jan 1, 2012 6:29:04 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 1, 2012 6:29:29 PM PST]

Posted on Jan 10, 2012 6:48:13 PM PST
How do you find out which SSD and trackpad you have?

Posted on Jan 17, 2012 4:44:53 AM PST
E. Minor says:
This review was extremely helpful and reflects lots of knowledge of laptops in general and the Zenbook, in particular.

Turns out I got lucky on the hard drive - Adata - but was not fortunate enough to get the Elan touchpad. Oh, well.

Thanks for the suggested wireless tweak. It appears to work. Asus' auto update offered the new wireless driver as a critical update soon after first turning on the machine. Prior to that, I had a connection but wondered if it could be sustained. The driver update definitely eliminated that concern for me.

Posted on Jan 24, 2012 1:33:31 PM PST
Jerry Loyd says:
We had the same experience with the disk drives: the display model showed a WEI of 7.9, we bought two devices from two sources and both had the slower SSD at 5.9 - a significant difference. I agree that this is not a good way for ASUS to build their brand. They should offer to recall all machines with the slower drives. The drive speed is not insignificant. I feel cheated.

Thanks to this review, at least I understand what happened, and won't waste time trying to boost the disk performance.

Posted on Feb 4, 2012 8:00:47 PM PST
Crosswire says:
No way, I love my macbook air, but I got it with the Toshiba SSD , I really cant make out any difference, but there are tests that show the Toshiba SSD is inferior to the Samsung one.. and Apple happily ships them out anyway!

Posted on Feb 14, 2012 5:09:46 PM PST
AP says:
Agree on all points. Is there any way of making sure which Zenbook (sub)model you are getting? Or perhaps I should just wait for the next generation or dell's new xps 13z line

Posted on Feb 22, 2012 10:46:19 AM PST
Sean D Rice says:
Very thorough review, nicely done; however, I do think your 2 star rating is a bit unfair. Asus has confirmed they only use the Elan touchpads on all UX31 models from now on, and with all driver/BIOS updates it actually works quite well (IMO). As far as the SSD goes, although the Crystal Disk Mark test shows far slower write speeds for the SanDisk, the real world results are still blazing fast in comparison to a standard HDD. Also, the sequential write speeds for the SanDisk are MUCH higher than the Adata. I haven't been able to confirm if Asus still ships with both SSDs, and if they do than that surely is a serious gripe. However, in my experience the SanDisk is still incredibly fast and the differences in speed wouldn't even be noticed by the common PC user. I researched this PC for months before buying it, and to be honest I would have probably bought it sooner had I not read this 2 star review. But I finally pulled the trigger and have been absolutely blown away by it. I guess my point is while it is a bit concerning Asus initially shipped out different variants of the UX31 models, they have since only been using one type of trackpad and the real world differences in SSD speeds is nearly negligible for most everyday users. Not trying to criticize your review (which was very good), just trying to inform others who are interested in this PC.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 29, 2012 10:14:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 29, 2012 10:16:21 PM PST
AP says:
From a few weeks of use, I've definitely noticed the bottleneck due to the SanDisk SSD. Granted, the bootup time is infinitesimal compared to any HDD. My system will lock up often. Right now, I am copying several GB of mp3's, from a USB3 stick. Normal speed is 120MB/s read, but I am getting 1-2MB/s. Not a typo -- there are serious performance issues with this drive. It is tolerable with a fresh OS install. But install your standard programs and the system will often grind to a halt every few minutes. My particular workflow may be disk-intensive, but an SSD should be able to handle it. A Sandforce-driven SSD would definitely perform better.

But, as the OP poignantly states, the crux of the matter is that there is no guarantee of what product you are getting. It'd be one thing if ASUS offered two different models. Then if one wanted higher sequential writes as Sean says, they could go with the SanDisk.

But ASUS / Amazon makes the choice for us. I think this is gross negligence at best. I just got a Dell XPS 15z on 21-day assurance... We'll see if the performance is worth losing the slim and sleek Zenbook. It's a shame -- if ASUS had a reliable model with Elan touchpad + ADATA SSD, I'd definitely forgo dedicated graphics + faster processor for the form factor of the Zenbook.

But as Sean says, those of you who don't run an intensive workload might not need the true performance of an Sandforce SSD. If you can settle for just quicker boot time, and quicker performance under light load, the ASUS Zenbook UX31-DH52 might be perfect for your needs.

Myself, I will second the OP's two-star review on all counts.
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