Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A review and specification

Complate Specification Minggu, 15 Juli 2012
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A review and specification :
The Asus Zenbook UX31E was the first laptop to nearly nail the Ultrabook formula. It buzzed with potential: it had the looks, the power, the stamina and, crucially, the price. Now, Asus has answered the criticisms levelled at its original Zenbook and rung the changes for its new model, the Zenbook Prime UX31A. With the addition of a gorgeous 13.3in Full HD screen, Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge technology and a backlit keyboard, it's gunning for the money-no-object Ultrabook crown.
From the outside, the Zenbook is just as pretty as it ever was. A dark swirl of metal spins across the lid, softening into a lighter brushed metal across the base, and the sharp, crisp lines of the Zenbook’s body are undeniably attractive. Weight-wise, the UX31A remains firmly in the featherweight camp, with its 1.4kg body light enough so you'll forget it’s in your bag. We’re fans of the compact wall-wart power supply, too – it adds a mere 200g to the overall weight.
Thanks to the presence of an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU, however, the UX31A’s stamina is unlikely to leave you rushing to a mains socket on a particularly frequent basis. Dim the screen and turn off the wireless radio, and the UX31A will keep on going for 9hrs 5mins. Pile on the pressure, and the Core i7-3517U processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD relish the challenge. A result of 0.68 in our Real World Benchmarks puts the Asus just ahead of the Sandy Bridge Core i7 in the previous model, which scored 0.62.
Gaming performance still isn’t going to set the world on fire, but the Prime's Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU is far more capable than the previous generation. The 37fps average in our low detail Crysis test drops to 19fps at 1,600 x 900 and Medium detail settings, but this remains an impressive level of performance for such a dainty machine. Keep the resolution and detail settings to more modest levels, and this pint-sized portable will gladly deliver a basic level of gaming performance.
So the performance increases are subtle, but the display is impossible to ignore. The Zenbook Prime’s Full HD display knocks its predecessor for six, with an IPS panel delivering wide viewing angles and rich, saturated colours. Both brightness and contrast are far superior to the previous Zenbooks, and while the 166ppi density can’t match the 220ppi Retina display of Apple’s MacBook Pro, it still makes for stunningly crisp images.
Put to the test with our X-Rite colorimeter, the Full HD display really delivers: the 1,032:1 contrast ratio and a maximum brightness of 424cd/m2 are as good as laptop displays get, and the average Delta E of 3.1 indicates outstanding colour reproduction. If there’s a moan, it’s a minor one: the panel’s 6,185K colour temperature is some way off the 6,500K ideal, and lends images a warm, rosy tint.
Stop gawping at the pixel-packed display, and you’ll note one of the other improvements Asus has brought to the Zenbook Prime: a backlit keyboard. It’s certainly a handy feature to have, but we’re more pleased to find that the Prime’s keyboard has improved on its predecessor in more essential ways. Each key gives welcome resistance at the beginning of the stroke, and softens into a cushioned stop as you press home. It isn’t the very best we’ve used, but it’s spacious and comfortable enough to not cause any problems in day-to-day use.
The touchpad was a huge stumbling block with the original design, and it seems as if Asus has ironed out the worst of the issues. Multitouch gestures work more reliably, and the overall experience is less infuriating than before. It isn’t perfect, however. We still had the occasional trouble when clicking and dragging items across the screen, and we’re not too keen on the pad placement either. Our palms regularly grabbed the cursor and nudged it down the page while we were typing, leaving us reaching for the keyboard shortcut to disable the touchpad.
Connectivity is another of the Zenbook Prime’s weaknesses. The slim, wedge design simply doesn’t leave much room for ports and connectors. Asus has squeezed in one USB 3 port on each edge, an SD card reader and a headphone output. If you want Gigabit Ethernet or D-SUB connections, you’ll just have to make sure you don’t forget the supplied dongles. Still, the dual-band 802.11n wireless makes some amends, and there’s Bluetooth 4 as well.
The elephant in the room, however, is the Zenbook Prime’s asking price. At the time of writing, we couldn’t find the UX31A for less than £1,526, and some high-street retailers were asking as much as £1,849. This isn’t just more expensive than its predecessor – the £999 UX31E – it’s also more expensive than every other Ultrabook on the market, and both of Apple’s MacBook Airs.
The burning question is whether the larger SSD, Full HD display and backlit keyboard are enough to justify the added expense; we’re not convinced they are. For this money we don’t expect improvements, we expect a nigh-on perfect product and the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A is some way from achieving that.
Be in no doubt, the Asus remains a great all-round Ultrabook. The Full HD display is as good as they come, the design is simply gorgeous, and both performance and battery life are without fault. The issue is with the competition: with rival models also delivering solid all-round performance, if not the pixel-perfect display, for hundreds of pounds less, the Zenbook Prime UX31A looks to have priced itself out of the market before it's even got off the ground.

Details
Part Code UX31A-R4003V
Review Date 12 Jul 2012
Price ex VAT £1,272
Price inc VAT £1,526
Overall rating 4 stars out of 6
Features & Design 5 stars out of 6
Value for Money 2 stars out of 6
Performance 5 stars out of 6
Physical specifications
Dimensions 327 x 226 x 21mm (WDH)
Weight 1.400kg
Travelling weight 1.6kg
Processor and memory
Processor Intel Core i7-3517U
Motherboard chipset Intel HM77
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 0
Screen and video
Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000
Graphics card RAM N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0
Drives
Capacity 256GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/600
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0
Networking
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes
Other Features
Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Speaker location Front edge
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no
Operating system and software
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A
Battery and performance tests
Battery life, light use 9hr 5min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 37min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 37fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.68
Responsiveness score 0.73
Media score 0.75
Multitasking score 0.56
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