The dimensions, 13.3in screen and build quality of the UX31E are spectacular, and so is the design. Bring on the Ultrabooks!
The 13.3in ASUS Zenbook UX31E-RY009V is the mid-range Ultrabook from ASUS. The Taiwanese maker has given its Ultrabooks the "Zenbook" moniker and has impressed everyone with the bare metal look of these razor-thin laptops. Their machined, unibody alloy construction makes the ASUS Ultrabooks probably the most attractive thin and lights ever.
This variant of the UX31E comes with an Intel Core i5 processor and a 128GB solid state drive (there is also a version with a Core i7 processor and a 256GB drive). It has a good $1,499 as well. And price - along with performance - is a key element in the ingredients that make an Ultrabook different from ultraportables that have gone before.
The essence of Ultrabooks is that they bring you the performance you normally get from a big, full-sized notebook or desktop PC but via an impossibly slim, light and relatively affordable package. Previously, ultraportable notebooks typically came with low-voltage processors that were significantly less powerful than those in full-size notebooks. You got lots of portability and battery life but took a heavy hit on performance. And if you wanted a really powerful ultraportable, you had to shell out thousands for prohibitively expensive executive thin-and-light machines.
Things have now changed. To earn the "Ultrabook" tag from Intel, these new-generation notebooks need to meet a number of Intel requirements, which range from slimness and weight to battery life and fast resume times. Ultrabooks have so many advantages over standard notebooks many believe they will inevitably become the blueprint for all notebooks once laptop makers figure out how to make them as cheap as the bread and butter 15.6kg bruisers that make up the bulk of notebook sales in this country.
Powering the UX31E is a low-voltage 2nd Gen Intel Core i5-2557M (1.7GHz), a mid-range processor designed to handle productivity applications and more demanding programs with ease. Add a healthy 4GB of RAM and the performance benefits of a super-speedy SSD drive and the system’s overall performance will more than match that of a basic, full-sized notebook with a full-power (ie. not low-voltage) processor and a mechanical drive.
One great feature of the UX31E is the 13.3in screen’s unusually high resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels. That’s higher than the 1,366 x 768 resolution in most bigger 15.6in notebooks and ensures that although you are working with only 13.3in you won’t find yourself missing a bigger notebook. We were also impressed with the sound, which was strong and sharp, unusual for any notebook, let alone one as thin as an Ultrabook. ASUS says it enlisted Bang & Olufsen to refine the sound system of its Ultrabooks.
The limited storage of SSDs is probably the biggest compromise that Ultrabooks make when compared to a full-sized notebook. Most Ultrabooks have SSDs with a capacity of 128GB or 256GB, which is significantly less than the 500GB plus you get on your average big notebook, but the SSDs are thinner, lighter, more reliable, and importantly, much faster than mechanical drives. In short, they help make the dimensions and high performance of Ultrabooks possible. The UX31E's 128GB SSD won't give you a lot of room once Windows and your key apps have taken their share, but there should be be enough left to store essential documents and data.
Another compromise of Ultrabooks is that they don't give you as many ports as full-size notebooks. The UX31E has just two USB ports (one USB 3.0) plus a micro-HDMI and a mini-VGA port, SD card reader and headphone jack, but given its thin unibody, this is to be expected.
In all, a superb new-generation laptop: ultra-thin, ultra-slim and with performance comparable to that of bigger bulkier laptops, and all with lashings of style! Its superb 13.3in 1,600 x 900 res screen is big enough to make you not miss the larger display of a 15.6in laptop, and the Core i5/128GB combo mean it's relatively affordable compared to prohibitively expensive powerful ultraportables of the past.
This notebook is pretty good in terms of specifications and price. It's not the best we've seen, but it's not bad either.