Asus' Zenbook UX21 and UX31 arrive October 12 (first look)

Asus' Zenbook UX21 and UX31 arrive October 12 (first look)

Summary: For $999 and offering similar specs as the $1199 MacBook Air, the 11" Asus UX21 Zenbook is definitely a MBA alternative. But will it be able to fend off Ultrabooks from Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba too?

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Asus launches Zenbook UX21 and UX31. Image by Gloria Sin

Asus' Zenbook UX21 and UX31 arrive October 12. Image by Gloria Sin

After revealing the timepiece-inspired UX21 Ultrabook at Computex back in May, Asus has been keeping its entrant into the new category of laptops relatively unwraps until today. In a glitzy media event at Guastavino's in New York City yesterday afternoon, Asus Chairman Jonney Shih officially launched not one but two Ultrabooks: the Zenbook UX21 and UX31.

Specs & Prices

Not only does the UX21 and UX31 offer different screen sizes -- the UX21 has a 11.6-inch display while the UX31 has a 13.3-inch screen -- they also feature different ports and parts that make it possible to bring a Zenbook home for $999 as Intel promised. But the fact that the $999 UX21 offers similar specs as the $1199 MacBook Air makes it a legitimate MBA alternative.

$999 Asus Zenbook UX21 (UX21E-­?DH52) specs:

  • Processor: Intel's second-generation Core i5 2467M (Ultra Low Voltage)
  • Display: 11.6“ HD (1366X768)
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Storage: 128 GB SSD
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth V4.0; Wi-Fi b/g/n
  • Audio: Stereo speakers designed with Bang and Olfusen ICEpower Technology
  • Ports and Connectors: 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x combo audio/mic, 1x micro-HDMI, 1x mini-VGA
  • OS: Windows Home Premium
  • Web Cam: 0.3-megapixel
  • Battery Life: 5-hours plus (35-watt-hour); standby up to 7 days
  • Dimensions: 11.7" x 7.7" x 0.11-­?0.67"
  • Weight: 2.43-pounds
  • Accessory: sleeve and USB-adaptor for Ethernet

If you're looking for a faster processor in an 11-inch chassis, you could get the $1199 UX21 (UX21E-­?DH71) that comes with the i7 2677M processor but has all the same specs as the $999 version.

The 13-inch UX31 is touch heavier and larger than the UX21, but it also means it has more room to include an internal SD Card reader and a larger solid state drive, which drives up the price tag for the three variants of this model.

$1499 Asus Zenbook UX31 (UX31E-­?DH72) specs:

  • Processor: Intel's second-generation Core i7 2677M (Ultra Low Voltage)
  • Display: 13.3“ HD (1600X900)
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth V4.0; Wi-Fi b/g/n
  • Audio: Stereo speakers designed with Bang and Olfusen ICEpower Technology
  • Ports and Connectors: 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x combo audio/mic, 1x micro-HDMI, 1x mini-VGA, 1x SD Card slot
  • OS: Windows Home Premium
  • Web Cam: 0.3-megapixel
  • Battery Life: 7-hours plus (50-watt-hour); standby up to 10 days
  • Dimensions: 12.8" x 8.8" x 0.11"-­?0.71"
  • Weight: 2.86-pounds
  • Accessory: sleeve and USB-adaptor for Ethernet

For $1099 (UX31E-­?DH52), you could get the larger 13-inch screen with the Intel Core i5 2557M chip and 128 GB SSD, rather than the high-end UX21. Or if you're looking for more internal storage, the $1349 UX31 (UX31E-­?DH53) comes with a 256 GB SSD and offers a $150 savings from most expensive UX31 variant.

Design

Both the UX21 and UX31 feature the same spun metal finish with an unique "concentric circle design" on the lid, with an ultra slim profile measuring just 0.11-inch at its thinnest point. At just 2.43-pounds for the UX21 and 2.86-pounds for the UX31, the UX21 is slightly heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air but the UX31 is lighter than both the 13-inch MBA and the Acer S3 Ultrabook.

Asus' Zenbook UX21 and UX31 arrive October 12. Image by Gloria Sin

The Zenbook comes equipped with a large touchpad that recognizes left and right mouse clicks when you tap within designated areas. Like most laptops these days, it offers a chiclet keyboard but with large enough keys that have just enough curve for all-day typing, even for those with large digits. Unfortunately, its power button in the same place as on the MacBook Air so I'd be worried about accidentally shutting down my machine when just trying to delete a word!

Asus' Zenbook UX21 and UX31 arrive October 12. Image by Gloria Sin

All the ports and connectors are along both sides, with a headphone/mic indicator light, micro-HDMI, USB port and the power plug on the right side, and a USB and headphone/mic jack, micro-VGA on the left (the UX31's SD Card slot is also on the left side).

Performance

Asus showed a number of benchmark scores at the press event that seems to have the Zenbook on top compared to other Ultrabooks ("Fruit brand" and "A Brand") in terms of its internal temperature, USB 3.0 speed, its SSD's reader and write speeds. It also demoed the Zenbook's 2-second, instant-on capability, which is probably less time than it takes you to get a drink from your mug while waiting for your computer to resume from sleep mode. But we'll reserve judgement until we can test out a review unit.

Without a doubt the Zenbook is a beautiful piece of technology, but most of the most interesting innovations of the laptop exist inside the machine. One of the most handy feature is that the Zenbook will automatically save files before the machine shuts down when you have less than 5-percent battery power left. After all, as Intel's Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sales and Marketing Group Tom Kilroy said, the Ultrabook is more about "uninterrupted performance" rather than mere form factor so Asus' Zenbook more than fits the bill.

Availability

Both the UX21 and UX31 go on sale in America today, October 12, which gives potential Ultrabook buyers some serious choice with the Acer's S3 Ultrabook also hitting this shelves this week. Lenovo and Toshiba fans will have to wait till November to compare with Ultrabooks from Asus, Acer and even Apple.

Personally, I love the look and price of the Zenbook but would prefer the extra power of a dedicated graphics card and convenience of an internal DVD drive that the Lenovo U400 offers. What about you?

[Source: Asus press release, Apple]

Updated @ 7:47am: Added a link to photo gallery of the UX21.

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4 comments
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  • RE: Asus' Zenbook UX21 and UX31 arrive October 12 (first look)

    I like them. Can't wait to see them ata physical store front. I think the ultrabooks would be the way to go but soon get merged withthe tablet devices where the screen would respond to touch.

    I have a laptop at work that is always tethered to the desk and always on the power so the only thing its saving is space on my crowded desk top area (as compared to a desktop tower).

    With an ultrabook I'd feel encouraged to handle it more and take it to meetings/living room/ airports/ games/ picnics/ shopping/ loo. Yeah I don't have much of a life. Lets move on.

    I would be intersted in knowing if this woudl support the Intel Wireless Display out of the box or would need some sort of an update (maye the wireles card).
    zd baron
  • RE: Asus' Zenbook UX21 and UX31 arrive October 12 (first look)

    I personally will be waiting until the ultrabooks with ivy bridge processor support come out next year as I already have a huge supply of computers. Already owning an alienware m17x r3 and a tablet,netbook (inspiron duo) running windows 8 dev preview i don't see a need for a new laptop til next year at the earliest (although i am excited about the ivy bridge series CPUs)
    Vidmaster12
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  • Asus UX31 Good enough for me

    Thanks for you sharing.

    I find some Asus UX31 review. it's show more detail and test performance >> www.ultrabookprice.net
    Natter Jang