If you are in the market for a gorgeous ultrabook and you are willing to spend no less than $1,500 for it, have a quick look at the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A which can be considered as one of the most important competitors for Apple’s MacBook Air. This model starts from $1,099 but the following hardware configuration adds $400 to the ultrabook’s final price tag. Before we get to that, we should mention that this is the successor of the company’s original ultrabook and it adopts a similar metal design which not only looks exceptional but it also offers the system a great build quality.
There haven’t been any major changes as far as the design is concerned and this is a good thing since the predecessor looks superb. It comes with a dark brushed metal lid that has a rather subtle circular pattern which on this model seems to be a little bit darker in comparison to what we’ve seen on the UX31 model. The bottom and the inside of this ultrabook feature a nice brushed aluminum finish which is lighter than the outside and adopts a vertical pattern.
It has virtually the same size as the model it replaces, measuring 13.3 x 8.9 x 0.44 – 0.66 inches and weighs three pounds, which makes it quite easy to put it into a backpack or a bag and carry it wherever you go. You might want to know that built into the display hinge is the speaker, just like on the previous model. Below the keyboard sits a generous touchpad which is a joy to use.
The keyboard has the same layout as before only this time the typing experience is considerably better due to the reason that the company has decided to ditch the silver layout in favor of black keys which have a significantly better travel so the typing feels extremely fluid. Another novelty would have to be the addition of a backlight for the keyboard so you’ll be able to find the keys easier in a dim room. The intensity of the backlight can be adjusted with the help of a function key combination. The only drawback would have to be that in order to control the brightness of the screen or the volume; you’ll have to execute the key combo as Asus did not reverse the function row.
Beneath this almost perfect keyboard is the Elan touchpad which measures 4.1 x 2.8 inches and provides a smooth navigation experience. Performing multitouch gestures is a pleasant thing to do, including pinch to zoom, three-finger flickering and others as well.
The Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A in the more expensive configuration comes with a 13-inch full HD display which means that it has an impressive native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. This display seems to be a little bit brighter in comparison to the previous model.
As far as the audio department is concerned, the UX31A comes with speakers which are powered by the ICEPower technology developed by premium brand Bang & Olufsen, managing to deliver crisp and clear-sounding audio, while the volume can get quite loud.
As you would expect from a slim ultrabook, the number of ports on this model is quite limited as on the left side you will only find a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, along with an SD card reader. The right spine is home for the mini VGA port, micro HDMI port, another USB 3.0 port and the power jack. It also comes with a decent 720p webcam which needs enough ambient light in order to perform satisfactory.
At the heart of this configuration of the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A is an impressive, Ivy Bridge third-gen Intel Core i7-3517U processor clocked at 1.90 GHz which works together with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, while for storage there’s a 256GB solid state drive. Thanks to these powerful components, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this ultrabook is capable of scoring almost 5,000 in a PCMark07 test, which is a lot more than what other models in this segment are capable of offering.
As most of you know, ultrabooks are not made for gaming but even so thanks to the recently introduced Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics chip, this new iteration of the Zenbook Prime is capable of doing some light and casual gaming as it is way more powerful than the Intel HD 3000 chip available on Intel’s Sandy Bridge-based processor. You are able to play World of Warcraft at a 720p resolution at 52 fps, while at a fullHD resolution the game is played at a decent 36 FPS with the quality settings at Good.
If you want more graphics muscles you might want to know that Asus will soon introduce another version of the Zenbook Prime which will come with a dedicated GPU from Nvidia, the GeForce GT 620M which will have 1GB of its own memory. That version will also get Nvidia’s Optimus technology which will turn off the discrete video card when this won’t be necessary in order to preserve precious battery.
If you don’t have the budget for this model, you might want to know that Asus is planning a more affordable version of the Zenbook which will wear the UX32 moniker. This model will have a base price of just $799 and it will come with a third-gen Intel Core i3 processor, a 720p display, as well as a 320GB Serial Ata hard drive with a 24GB solid state drive. This model will be a little bit thicker, but it will get a full-size HDMI port as well as an extra USB port.
The predecessor of this model came with a 50 Wh battery that provided enough juice for nearly 6 hours, while the new model lasts almost a half an hour more than the UX31, which is one of the best performances we’ve seen so far from an ultrabook. However, there are some models which outperform it, such as the HP Folio 13 which can run for no less than almost 8 hours.