It’s easy enough to design a rugged, stable notebook computer with plenty of processing power; witness the hundreds of models that are available. It’s much more difficult, however, to design a notebook computer that’s both powerful and beautiful to behold. Regardless of the difficulty level, on the baseball diamond of design, ASUS has knocked one out of the park with the release of its new Zenbook Series notebook computers.
Sure to get plenty of attention, the super sleek Zenbook notebooks feature all-aluminum enclosures with a concentric-circle design on the lid that produces an eye-catching halo of light. Two choices of screen size (11.6" and 13.3") dictate the physical dimensions of these notebooks, though both are a razor-thin 0.11" high at the front edge.
ASUS’ philosophy in designing the Zenbook was to fuse beauty, strength and stability in a thin, lightweight notebook with the sleek profile of a high-quality wristwatch. Even the aluminum underside of the notebook was given more attention to detail than most notebooks have on their upper surfaces.
Not just skin-deep, Zenbook beauty extends from the outer chassis to deep under the hood. Regardless of screen size, all Zenbooks feature 2nd generation Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors, 4GB of memory, SATA 3.0 solid-state storage, 802.11n Wi-Fi and a 0.3MP webcam. Other features include Bang & Olufsen ICEpower Audio, 83-key chiclet-style keyboard and multi-touch touchpad. An instant-on feature resumes operation in about two seconds, with standby times of up to ten days. Zenbooks also automatically save files in progress, when battery life dips below 5 percent, to prevent data loss.
Zenbooks include all the latest ports such as Bluetooth V4.0, HDMI, VGA and USB 3.0; USB Charger+ technology allows the powered USB 3.0 port to charge devices much faster than USB 2.0 ports can. None feature integrated optical drives, but you can always attach a USB optical drive when you need one. All Zenbooks come with 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium installed.
Let’s now sort through the different Zenbook models that are available. Two models (the UX21E-DH52 and UX21E-DH71) feature an 11.6" screen with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and native resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, powered by integrated Intel UMA graphics. Both feature a 128GB SATA III solid state drive with a maximum read speed of 500Mb/s and a maximum write speed of 300Mb/s. And both feature a battery that will provide more than five hours of run time.
The main difference between the two units is that the UX21E-DH52 is powered by a 1.60 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor, while the UX21E-DH71 is powered by a 1.80 GHz Intel Core i7-2677M processor. Ports include one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, one combination audio/microphone jack, one Micro HDMI and one Mini VGA. Neither has an integrated SD card slot, which might be something you insist upon having, and neither has a wired network port. Dimensions are 11.7" by 7.7" and 0.11" thick at the front edge and 0.67" thick in back, and they weigh less than 2.5 pounds (2.43 pounds, to be exact).
Three models (the UX31E-DH52, UX31E-DH53, and UX31E-DH72) feature a 13.3" display with a native resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels. But the UX31E-DH52 and UX31E-DH53 are powered by 1.70 GHz Intel Core i5-2557M processors, while the UX31E-DH72 is powered by a 1.80 GHz Intel Core i7-2677M processor. And the UX31E-DH52 features a 128GB SATA III solid state drive while the UX31E-DH53 and UX31E-DH72 feature a 256GB SATA III solid state drive. All three have an SD card slot and a battery that will provide more than seven hours of run time. Ports include one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, one combination audio/microphone jack, one Micro HDMI, one Mini VGA and an SD card slot. None have a wired network port. These larger units are 12.9" by 8.9" and 0.11" thick at the front edge and 0.71" thick in back, and they weigh 2.86 pounds.
It’s clear that ASUS doesn’t think many users would want to plug a Zenbook into a network because none of them feature wired network ports. They’re probably right, because you don’t need one of the sleekest, lightest notebooks in the world, only to shackle it to a network port. But at least they all have Wi-Fi, which is pretty much omnipresent these days.
The UX31E won PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice award for the ultrabook category, comparing it favorably to the MacBook Air and Acer Aspire S3. If the Zenbook can win such a prestigious award, there’s a real good chance that it will win you over, too.
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel i5||1.8GHz Intel i7||1.7GHz Intel i5||1.7GHz Intel i5||1.8GHz Intel i7|
|Hard Drive||128GB SSD||128GB SSD||128GB SSD||256GB SSD||256GB SSD|
|Ports||USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini- HDMI||USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini- HDMI||USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini- HDMI||USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini- HDMI||USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini- HDMI|
|Flash Media Slot||None||None||Secure Digital (SD)||Secure Digital (SD)||Secure Digital (SD)|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.0||Bluetooth 4.0||Bluetooth 4.0||Bluetooth 4.0||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Webcam||Yes, 0.3MP||Yes, 0.3MP||Yes, 0.3MP||Yes, 0.3MP||Yes, 0.3MP|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||11.7 x 0.67 x 7.7"||11.7 x 0.67 x 7.7"||12.9 x 0.78 x 8.9"||12.9 x 0.78 x 8.9"||12.9 x 0.78 x 8.9"|
|Weight||2.43 lb||2.43 lb||2.87 lb||2.87 lb||2.87 lb|