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Customer Review

on October 15, 2011
At long last, PC users finally have a strong alternative to the Macbook Air in the ultrathin, ultralight category. The ASUS UX31 meets or exceeds the technical specifications of the base model 13" Macbook Air, while starting many hundreds of dollars less expensive. Kudos to ASUS for throwing in the VGA and ethernet dongles rather than nickel-and-dime-ing you like Apple with extra charges for these standard accessories. The included sleeve will do a fine job protecting the laptop, but it seems like rather cheap synthetic materials to me- can't complain at this price, though.

In particular, I was happy to see ASUS put a high-resolution 1600x900 13" display, unlike the recently announced Acer ultrabook which has a standard 1366x768 resolution. More time with Adobe Creative Suite will be needed for a final verdict, but the display seems high-quality enough for most consumers.

I found the keyboard to require a bit more pressure on keys to type with than the Macbook Air, resulting in some missed keystrokes, but that will probably change over time. Also, the trackpad does not have a high-quality feel to it- the front is split into two "clickable" regions, but the touchpad layer itself feels like a brittle, thin film of plastic that FEELS like it will break after a while- only time will tell.

Thank goodness for the other reviewer who mentioned downloading new drivers for the trackpad- the "Sentelic Finger Sensing Pad" has HORRIBLE response out of the box- often not recognizing taps and gestures, jumpy tracking, and choppy scrolling. I wouldn't have noticed since the Asus LiveUpdate utility did not report any new software. It turns out that the drivers on the support site are labeled as "Beta" and won't be automatically downloaded until they are considered "final". Do yourself a favor, though, and download them anyway. Still not as smooth and accurate as on the Macbook Air, but a big improvement.

To answer a comment on the previous review, this laptop uses WiFi/Bluetooth hardware from Atheros, not Intel, so WiDi is not supported. I've had some flakiness with the WiFi- not sure how good the reception is, as I'm very close (i.e. at the same desk) to the base station and often not getting more than 3/5 bars in the indicator.

Thankfully, the laptop comes without too much additional software. Trend Micro antivirus software is included, but I didn't activate it and simply downloaded the free Microsoft Security Essentials instead so it will be easily updated with Windows Update- oh, and be prepared for the usual many waves of Windows Updates to install, with one batch causing the laptop to freeze and hang after reboot for me, forcing a hard reset. Not a great first experience, but one I'll blame Microsoft for rather than ASUS. Finally, ASUS and Intel have a bunch of annoying gadgets installed to show you various battery and CPU status, but they seem easily uninstalled.

The one thing I'm confused about is the so-called "ASUS Instant On" feature. Honestly, I don't know what turning "Instant On" ON does other than change the default Start menu button from "Shutdown" to "Sleep". Sleep mode with automatic Hibernation when the battery gets low has already been part of Windows 7, so is it really doing something different that requires me to keep yet ANOTHER utility open and running all the time? Seems like just marketing- except if so, this marketing spin adds yet another cr@plet running on the desktop...?
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