Asus ZenBook UX31

Much like the UX21, the ZenBook UX31 is a beautiful performer trapped in a cage of awful usability. We look forward to Asus' next revision, where it will no doubt refine the experience into a winning product.


6.5
CNET Rating
7.5
User Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


We weren't too impressed by the ZenBook UX21, the 11.6-inch Ultrabook from Asus. It was beautiful, it had a Sandforce SSD and it managed to pack in a Core i7, but the terrible touch pad, bad keyboard and limited viewing angles of the screen massively hampered its usability.

So is anything different with this 13-inch version? Well, it incorporates a 1600x900 screen, for one; a nice increase over the far-too-common 1366x768. We don't know at what stage low-resolution screens became cool, but it's nice to have something with a little more space. Maybe it's only size that allows for this, but viewing angles are superior to the UX21.

By pure virtue of having extra room to play with, it gains an SD card reader, extra battery capacity and reduced operating heat, offering uncomfortable heat instead of scalding. It otherwise contains what the UX21 does — one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0, micro VGA and HDMI ports and a headset jack.

Although we found the response a little better on the UX31's keyboard than the UX21, it still frequently dropped keys, and the Sentelic touch pad is as genuinely awful, as it has always been, mixing up multi-touch gestures to the point that you'll need to turn them all off.

Our review sample contained a Core i7 2677M @ 1.8GHz, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB Sandforce-powered drive. While the drive suffers in write speeds compared to its full-sized brothers, the speed is nothing to sneeze at:

If only all hard drives were this good.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

Performance

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


In this test, we're encoding a 720p XviD file to H.264, a primarily processor-bound task. The UX31 makes excellent representation in the Handbrake test. Considering the UX21 has the same specs, we can only assume it succumbed to heat, and throttled performance down.

iTunes encoding (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


Our iTunes test encodes two albums of AAC files to 224Kbps MP3s. It stresses both CPU and disk, allowing the SSD units to show their might against mechanical hard-drive competitors.

Photoshop CS5 benchmark (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


CNET Australia's Photoshop CS5 test applies many different filters to a series of RAW files, performs common tasks, such as layer creation, image rotation and resizing and then exports to the web. It hits all aspects of the system, and it's no surprise that the ZenBooks come out on top here.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


For our multimedia multitasking test, iTunes is set to encode to MP3 continuously, while a Handbrake encode is run in the background; the time taken is when the Handbrake encode stops. Designed to punish the system, every extra bit of performance here counts. Here, the UX31 trades barbs with the UX21, the difference between the included SSDs and likely heat management showing some interesting results.

Battery life (time)

  • Heavy battery test
  • Light battery test

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Interestingly, the Toshiba handles heavy loads on the battery better than the UX31, suggesting that it has superior power management. The Asus manages to claim the prize for light usage, though, making it likely that it has a higher-capacity battery.

Conclusion

Much like the UX21, the ZenBook UX31 is a beautiful performer trapped in a cage of awful usability. We look forward to Asus' next revision, where it will no doubt refine the experience into a winning product.



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JZS1981 posted a comment   
Australia

Im extremely curious as to why, CNET Australia always seems to differ in reviews of the same products, compared to their CNET San Francisco counterpart. I mean there are some differences in the products, per region specific hardware/software. But honestly, most, meaning 99 percent of the reviews here call products awful, when CNET calls them brilliant. I am not to sure if this is the point, or do you hold a specific bias towards certain products? The review of essentially the same Ultrabook, at http://www.cnet.com/laptops/asus-zenbook-ux31e-dh53/4505-3121_7-35033684.html?tag=contentMain;contentBody;3r, gives it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Perhaps the issue lies with the Australian consumers and retailers themselves. Who ever heard of buying something, and changing your mind, then not being able to return it? Well that how it works here, but worldwide you can buy anything and return anything in like new condition. Retailers here are under the impression they are always right, whereas elsewhere, the consumer is always right. And the latter is how it should be. Customer service needs a major revamp nationwide in Australia. And you need to get some reviewers that actually review an item in depth, and list pros and cons. Just saying that its" trapped in a cage of awful usability" says nothing. Details people. The Devil is in the details. I just wish that I could read a blog or review, or anything here in Oz and actually be entertained and get some useful info.
J

justagirl
8
Rating
 

justagirl posted a review   
Australia

Got this laptop a two months ago for university and I'm very happy. The most important benefits are the portability (super thin and light) and the really long battery life - I can save up to 8 hours easily using just MS Word and the Internet on low brightness. The sound system is amazing, better than any of my other laptops and even my desktop!

It does come with its downsides though. An annoying problem for me is the really shallow keyboard - when you're typing very fast notes in a lecture or when doing an assignment, you'll be expecting more than a few typos and unregistered keys. You'll need to type extra hard and in the centre of the keys. Another problem is the trackpad - multi-touch gestures are disappointing on this laptop and the mouse control is slower than other laptops. Attaching an external USB mouse helps a lot but may reduce the portability, and I have heard of an update from other reviewers if you want to check it out.

Overall, I love this laptop and other than the keyboard sensitivity and trackpad, it's absolutely perfect for a student. Ask me if you have any questions!

 

Ctoan. posted a comment   
Australia

Got this laptop today for university purposes, so light thin and portable, would recommend this to any student. the keyboard was the only issue for me, however like motormouth said you get used to it. I believe there is an update for the trackpad that fixes some of its problems, i didnt really use it before i updated it so im not sure how it as before but it works fine for me now. best of the ultrabooks so far in my opinion.

 

MotorMouth posted a comment   
Australia

I think the criticisms here are incredibly minor and blown out of all proportion. All trackpads are terrible and I don't know how anyone uses them. Any laptop without a mouse is a waste of time, so the less money spent on the trackpad, the better as far as I'm concerned. The keyboard is a little more of an issue but all it takes is a very minor modification to your typing style. It took me a day to get over the keyboard issue and, as a result, I find I now make far fewer typos than I used to.

The bottom line is that the Zenbooks ace all the performance tests. That is something you cannot fix, whereas a mouse and USB keyboard eliminate the only issues the machine has. To suggest that performance is less relevant than irrelevant things is absurd.

 

docker95 posted a comment   

Bought asus ux/31 stated upto 22days standby time,only getting 10 according to battery indicator and have used battery saving settings, any answers? docker95

docker95
7
Rating
 

"standby only 10 days not 22 as advertised"

docker95 posted a review   

Have just bought a ux/31 was told up to 22 days standby time, however only getting 10 days according to the battery indicator. Thats after putting the battery on light use. any answers?

 

trebor83 posted a comment   
Australia

So, yet another mediocre ULTRAbook, I don't think Apple are particularly concerned.

Still no word from Lenovo on the U300s or the other U series designs coming to Oz?

 

chrislee73 posted a comment   

 

chrislee73 posted a comment   

 

JacobG1 posted a comment   

Just got them in store today! they are absolutely amazing units! well constructed, stylish and powerful!


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User Reviews / Comments  Asus ZenBook UX31

  • JZS1981

    JZS1981

    "Im extremely curious as to why, CNET Australia always seems to differ in reviews of the same products, compared to their CNET San Francisco counterpart. I mean there are some differences in the pro..."

  • justagirl

    justagirl

    Rating8

    "Got this laptop a two months ago for university and I'm very happy. The most important benefits are the portability (super thin and light) and the really long battery life - I can save up to 8 hour..."

  • Ctoan.

    Ctoan.

    "Got this laptop today for university purposes, so light thin and portable, would recommend this to any student. the keyboard was the only issue for me, however like motormouth said you get used to..."

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