What We Think
The Zenbook is just as beautiful as its name suggests and fortunately the love affair continues from there. It does have a few little niggles, but is the most complete and most attractive of Intel’s ultrabooks currently.
The word Zenbook certainly creates an admirable impression and fortunately this Ultrabook’s physical first impressions are also very solid. The ASUS is one of the latest machines to take on the MacBook Air and there can be no doubt it certainly takes quirks from the Apple device.
Though it costs a little less than the equivalent 13.3inch Apple model, it’s around the same weight at 1.4kg and around the same width and is 17mm at its thickest point, though tapers down to a fantastic 3mm at its slimmest. It’s a well powered, device that those wanting that towering mix of power and portability should consider to be among front runners in the ultrabook field.
This is certainly nothing but true in style terms and the brushed, concentric styled aluminium chassis of the Zenbook is beautiful. It’s also not just about the bare aesthetics and it’s a strong body, with plenty going for its unibody construction.
It just shakes in under the recommended 1.4kg, dictated by Intel for its Ultrabook platform, though in comparison to some of the lighter machines of this ilk, such as the Toshiba Z830 is probably better built. In our opinion, it’s also the most beautiful and its simple appearance translates to its keyboard, which comes without the often needless function keys and volume controls.
It’s an isolated style keyboard, which looks very attractive on the inner fascia, aside from the fact it has no backlights, which can be a little constricting if you wish to work at night. We also found the keys a little shallow, which is understandable considering the width of this laptop, but still a little irksome. The power button is also situated where the ESC button is on many machines and so many users may be taken by surprise when the whole rig shuts down at the press of a button. The ASUS has an Air style all in one touchpad, as with most other Ultra books. Unfortunately, like most of its brethren it can be a little confusing and the two buttons can be a tad hard to find at times, meaning the cursor hops across the screen, which raises blood pressure levels.
Fortunately, the display on the ASUS is fantastic, it’s a 1600x900p display and the best of all the new breed of portable devices. It offers great definition and also shadow detail for movies and is perfect for those who want a little more from their screen. It can be a little glossy and reflective, as with all TFT displays, but is among the best in the field.
Unlike many of the other devices, such as the Acer S3, it can also really pump out the tunes. The Bang and Olufsen ICEPower speakers are loud and also without distortion at high levels and really impress for such a small setup. Of course, the machine has a camera – a 1.3mp offering that does the job for video calling. It also comes with Face recognition, though this can be a little unsuccessful from time to time and is a little gimmicky. Luckily, ASUS have added enough of the necessities in the aesthetic, screen and power stakes to ensure such things are merely slight oversights.
Like all Ultrabooks, the ASUS Zenbook is adequately taken care of in the power stakes and comes with both i5 and i7 processor options. The device we used was the latter and also had 4gb of RAM alongside a 128GB SSD.
Intel’s i5 2467m processor is an 1.6 GHz chip and comes with both the Intel TurboBoost up to 2.3GHz feature as well as Hyperthreading – both of which mean it has adequate power for any office, or almost any every day task you can think of.
It doesn’t come with an external GPU and has Intel’s built in HD 3000 Graphics for help in this direction, meaning its perfect for HD video, but give it a version of Call of Duty 4 and you’ll watch it splutter in pain. It also comes with Instant On and so awakes from sleep in under 2 seconds an can start up in under 10 seconds – one of the great benefits of such machines.
Connectivity is average enough and it has one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0, as well as a SD, mini HDMI, mini DisplayPort, Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi. It also comes with a USB Ethernet connector, which is great, aside from the fact it eats up half of the ports on the ASUS, which can be an irritation.
Our battery tests determined the ASUS among the best of all Ultrabooks for battery life and when used for everyday activities it manages 6 hours quite easily. In the BatteryEater 05 test it still managed just over 190 minutes, which is quite admirable considering it is beat with heavy duty use for as long as it can stand it. Battery is integrated and so can’t be swapped, so fortunately, it’s quite good in this area and on par with the MacBook.
All in all, the ASUS is probably the best of all the Intel Ultrabooks of the Windows 7 generation currently. It is better than the MacBook Air in a number of areas, including screen and audio and level with it in a number of others, such as pace and battery power. It’s also aesthetically a very attractive and well built machine.
On the downside there are a few little niggles in the touch pad and keyboard area and perhaps it doesn’t have the prestige the Apple machine has. However, it’s the best of the Ultrabooks and we’d say a worthy contender for those who don’t want to go down the Apple Inc route.