Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH53 Review
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One of the most beautiful 13-inch laptops launched last year is this Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH53, a model that tries to steal some of the clients who are in the market for an Apple MacBook Air. This is an ultrabook that borrows a lot of design cues from Apple which can only be a good thing since it comes with an extremely thin unibody metal body that manages to be very light.
It manages to looks just as premium as the more expensive systems like the Series 9 from Samsung. It is also $200 more affordable than the aforementioned MacBook Air from Apple, without having to make any compromises to the list of features and hardware specifications. It isn’t better than Apple’s product but you do get a sleek design, great speakers and a high-res display. The downside would have to be the troubling keyboard and touchpad which might not be to your liking. The battery life isn’t bad but the one in the MacBook is better.
The following configuration of this Zenbook from Asus will set you back about $1,100. At the heart of the 13-inch ultrabook is a second generation Intel Core i5-2557M processor clocked at 1.70 GHz. It comes with 4GB of DDR3 memory running at a frequency of 1,333 MHz, while for storage it packs a 128GB solid state drive (SSD) which although is very fast, it might be too small for some users. The chipset in this model is an Intel QS67 while the graphics department is covered by the integrated Intel HD 3000 that borrows its memory from the available RAM of the system.
The ultrabook is running on Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit edition) and has the following physical dimensions: 12.8 x 8.8 x 0.1 – 0.7 inches (W x D x H). It tips the scales at just 3.1 pounds while the AC adapter adds another 0.4 pounds to the overall weight. The Zenbook is manufactured from unibody aluminum, much like Apple’s MacBook Air, and adopts a darker gloss finish for the back lid while the overall heft will make you think that this is steel or magnesium. On the back you will notice radial metal lines which give to the system an industrial-design look. Open the ultrabook and you will see that the metal surfaces have been brushed in a vertical pattern which is subtle. The bottom is brushed metal and it’s interrupted by the four black rubber feet and the rear speaker grill.
The Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH53 has a magnetic hinge while the rather narrow lip might be hard for some people to catch it and pull apart. Once you manage to open the ultrabook, you’ll get to see a crisp and clean design of the interior that features a very large touchpad and the unencumbered keyboard that has been installed near the screen.
Let’s talk more about the keyboard and mention that it consists of square keys that are flat and have been raised a little bit. The main problem with the keyboard is that from time to time it fails to register the key you press, plus we also consider that the keys are too shallow. The top row doubles as the control for brightness and volume, while the power button has been installed on the far right. Another downside of this keyboard is the absence of backlighting.
The touchpad comes from Sentelic so it’s not the usual Synaptics version. The bad news is that although it offers multitouch gestures, performing these is not as smooth as they are with a Synaptics touchpad.
It has been fitted with a 13.3-inch glossy glass display which has been framed in a bezel which even though it is not edge-to-edge, it will look more than familiar to those that have used a MacBook Air. This screen has a native resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels which is considerably more than the standard of laptops of up to 15 inches, systems that come with a 1,366 x 768-pixel display. A higher resolution means that you’re able to fit in more text and more documents, without putting a big strain on your eyes. The brightness of the screen is very good but we can’t say the same thing about the viewing angles or the color reproduction.
Located under the laptop, the Bang & Olufson-designed speakers sound very good, while their quality and resonance is considerably better than what you’ll find in an average laptop. There’s also a webcam on board but its maximum resolution is only a disappointing 640 x 480 pixels.
Let’s talk about the ports and connectivity goodies offered by the Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH53. For video it comes with mini VGA and micro HDMI ports, while in the audio area you get a headphone and microphone combo jack. Data is covered by one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port and an SD card reader, while for connectivity it packs Bluetooth, an Ethernet port and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Even though we are dealing with a small laptop, Asus managed to squeeze the ports which you need the most, including HDMI and USB 3.0. Since we’re dealing with an ultrabook, there isn’t an optical drive on board.
The UX31 is the bigger cousin of the 11-inch UX21 which we’ve reviewed a few months ago, and is available in three configurations. The one in this review is the most affordable one, while at $1,349 you can get the ultrabook with a 256GB SSD. If you are willing to spend more, you can fit the system with a speedier Core i7 processor but this is going to set you back $1,449.
The integrated battery of this Zenbook from Asus can last for about 4 hours and 45 minutes during a demanding video playback test. The performance is not that bad but we’ve seen better, like the battery life offered by the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s and the Acer Aspire S3. For a significantly longer battery, opt for the Toshiba Portege or the aforementioned Apple MacBook Air as both systems are able to last for more than seven hours in the same test.