I haven’t been afraid to share with my readers that the Ultrabook has the ability to breathe tremendous life into the PC market and moreover reduce the enthusiasm for Apple products which tend to be sleeker and seem to look more like art than they do traditional computing devices.
There are a number of Ultrabooks on the market but I believe one of the best has to be the Asus Zenbook because the computer not only look better than the others on the market, the specs are quite solid and better than most.
Just before a road trip to Boston I got a hold of the ASUS Zenbook UX31E-DH72 and while in the car I treated this laptop as if it was my extremely powerful Dell Precision 4500 device – an eight-core monster of a computer with a Core i7 Q840 1.87 GHz processor and 8 GB of RAM and the Asus performed better or just as well in most every way.
First off the Dell has an extra battery connected to it and in real life I can get about 6-7 hours out of the machine on a bright screen setting. In exchange for this processing power and battery life I get to lug around a 15 inch laptop which weighs in with its extra battery at a whopping 9 pounds. Without the extra battery we are still talking 6 pounds and 13 ounces. The power cord adds another 1 pound and 7 ounces. And it comes with a Windows Experience Index of 5.9.
Contrast this to the Asus which also has an Core i7 processor – a 3677M running at 1.8 GHz and a Windows Experience Index of 5.7. The Dell gives off heat in massive quantities and if you leave it on by accident and place it your laptop bag for an hour you swear the bag is about to catch fire when you open it.
The Ultrabook for the most part is cool. It boots instantly and is comfortable on your lap and the power cord is only slightly larger and a bit heavier than an iPad charger.
While riding in the car for many hours I was able to blog and work as if I was at my office. I didn’t detect any flaws. The 13.3 inch screen is smaller than I am used to on a laptop but bigger than a tablet so it wasn’t as big of a shock as I thought it would be. Interestingly Digium founder Mark Spencer told me years back that a smaller laptop is a pleasure to use and although it took me many years to listen – he is right.
If you want a smaller version still of this Ultrabook it also comes in a 11.6 inch variety with a screen resolution of 1366x768.
The applications I used most for testing were web browsers as well as Remote Desktop and Microsoft Word. The screen resolution is much better than the smaller model at 1600x900 and at this resolution some web pages were tough to read causing me to increase the size of the text using the Control Plus combination. Even though the computer is small, it still has lots of connectivity options such as Bluetooth 4.0, a USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port, audio jack, microHDMI, miniVGA and an SD card reader.
The company says battery life is greater than seven hours and while using WiFi heavily and on a fairly bright screen setting I got about 5.5-6 hours in my usage of the past few days.
This Asus also has a SATAIII SSD which is 256GB in size and it is much faster than a spinning hard disk. When you open the lid from sleep mode the machine comes back in a second. Turning on the machine from shutdown allows you to get to the Windows logon in 16 seconds based on my testing.
And the screen gets very bright – even with bright sunlight on it I was able to work without effort and moreover my leg didn’t feel like it was being seared by the laptop which gave off once again – almost no heat. Then there is the sound – it is incredible, designed by Bang & Olufsen ICEpower – it may be the best I have ever heard come from a laptop. But still, the bass level is not really there so don’t think you can replace your home stereo with an Ultrabook – at least not yet.
Complaints I have heard from others are that the power cord going into the device and screen are flimsy. Neither is true. This is a solid device. Moreover, every aspect of this computer has a parallel in the Apple world. The box is just like an Apple box. The manuals, the brown sleeve for the computer and cords – all could have been designed by Apple.
And yes, it is thin – 3mm at the front and just 9 mm at the rear. It is so thin in fact it is sharp in the front at the edges. Not gash your wrists sharp but uncomfortable if you press against them.
The downside to the laptop is the Chiclit keyboard which doesn’t have the travel of a traditional keyboard because there is no space for travel due to the thinness of this computer. So after hours of typing you will feel more fatigue on your fingers than with a desktop keyboard for example.
The wow factor is there – many people are blown away with how good it looks – my wife thinks it will be worth her while when they make it in white though. Ah the power of Apple marketing. Others in my office have already started calling it Rich's toy - which to me shows the Zenbook has crossed the chasm like Apple from computing device to consumer electronics must-have gadget. And it is worth reiterating once again, this is a serious business device with serious speed and capacity - its looks are deceiving.
And the design of this Ultrabook more than makes up for its lack of white color – it has a spun metallic top which looks more like a fine watch than a PC. And that is the goal the company was trying to achieve. Boy did it ever.
Another compliant I read online was too many applications were loaded on the Zenbook – there is one which allows cloud storage and another which allows face logins. I have been trying the face login system for a few days on the less secure setting and it is good – I have had problems with it working under certain lighting conditions and all I have to do is add those conditions into the database and it then has no problems recognizing me. This is a really solid software addition to an already good product.
At Amazon this machine costs $1,450 which is a good price for an executive computer but then again Asus doesn’t have the name of Sony or Apple. The company’s website is a blend of high-end design with poor grammar. In other words the Zenbook is a really solid computer but the company has roots as a netbook maker and is trying to move upmarket.
In my opinion the Zenbook has moved forward dramatically from the company’s other products and reputation but the company's outward messaging needs to be upgraded as well.
I recommend the Zenbook wholeheartedly – I have used it as the device I carry under my arm instead of the iPad all day and it has made me infinitely more productive. And yes, it is a solid competitor to the MacBook Air.