The Bottom Line
Sep 6 2012 - For anyone looking to get an ultrabook with a high quality display, it is tough to top when ASUS has to offer with the Zenbook Prime UX31A. The IPS panel offers great color and a resolution capable of 1080p video support. Performance is also quite strong but the storage performance is a bit below what the competition does have to offer. While ASUS has improved the keyboard significantly, the same cannot be said for the trackpad which is one of the most erratic I have tested. Overall, it is a nice improvement to a premium class ultrabook.
- Excellent High Resolution Display
- Strong Performance
- Stylish And Sturdy Aluminum Chassis
- Erratic Trackpad Behaviour
- SSD Performance Slower Than Similar Priced Systems
- Intel Core i7-3517U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 256GB Solid State Drive
- 13.3" WUXGA (1920x1080) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, HDMI, 6-in-1 Card Reader
- 12.9" x 8.9" x .72" @ 2.9 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter
Review - ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A-DB71
Sep 6 2012 - ASUS took their original Zenbook UX31 and made a number of updates and improvements for their Zenbook Prime UX31A. On the outside, it has the same overall feel and look of the original but underneath are some significant changes. For instance, it now uses the Intel Core i7-3517U dual core processor which is based on the new Ivy Bridge design. This gives it improved performance in addition to better efficiency. It is still matched up with 4GB of DDR3 which gives it a smooth overall experience with Windows but will struggle when heavily multitasking. The processor is even capable of demanding tasks like desktop video editing but it still falls short of a traditional desktop system.
The storage system remains unchanged other than a move from a standard 128GB to 256GB solid state drive. This provides it with a lot more overall storage space but the performance isn't all that much faster. In fact, boot times were just under thirty seconds which is a bit slower than some other Windows based ultrabooks and certainly much slower than the Apple MacBook Air 13 or the Acer Aspire S5 with its RAID setup of SSD drives. Both take under twenty seconds to boot. In addition to this, the Zenbook Prime moves form a single USB 3.0 port to two of the high speed peripheral ports which should make it even easier to hook up high speed external storage if you need additional space.
The big change for the Zenbook Prime UX31A though is the display. It offers a very good 13.3-inch IPS based panel that gives it some superb color and excellent viewing angles. In addition, it offers a full 1920x1080 native resolution allowing it to support full 1080p high definition video. The only downside is that he text is very small in applications which can be difficult for some with lesser eyesight. The display also comes with a matte finish instead of the traditional glossy that really helps it outdoors and in challenge indoor light. Like the majority of ultrabooks, the system relies on the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that is built into the processor. This definite is an improvement over the past HD 3000 models in terms of 3D performance but it certainly isn't something that can be used for more than casual PC gaming at low resolutions and detail levels and generally only in older games. What it does offer is even better video transcoding ability when using Quick Sync compatible programs.
The other big change for the Zenbook Prime UX31A is the keyboard. Past Zenbook models did not come equipped with backlighting. This version corrects that oversight but it also provides the keys with a greater level of travel. This gives it an improved overall feel and accuracy than the past version. The downside here is that the trackpad still has much of the same problems as the past model. Accuracy is certainly an issue especially when used with multitouch gestures. Many will opt to use an external mouse with the system.
ASUS continues to use a 50WHr capacity internal battery pack for the Zenbook Prime UX31A just like with the Zenbook. With the new Ivy Bridge internals, battery life should be improved over the past model. In digital video playback testing, the laptop as able to achieve five and a half hours before going into standby mode. This is a good hour better than the Zenbook UX31 but still short from the six hours achieved with the MacBook Air 13 or the HP Folio 13.
With its $1499 price tag, the ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A certainly carries a premium price tag. The primary competition at this price point are Acer's Aspire S5, Apple's MacBook Air 13 and Samsung's Series 9. Each of these systems can be found for less although the MacBook Air is comparable when the processor and SSD are upgraded to similar specs. Storage performance on all three are better than the Zenbook Prime and both Apple and Acer are thinner. Only Apple comes close in terms of display quality but it has lower resolution.