ASUS Zenbook UX301/UX302 (preview)

The new Zenbook is now available with a 2560x1440-pixel panel, RAID 0 storage

ASUS has revamped its much-admired Zenbook Ultrabook, making some physical tweaks as well as offering some more high-end specs. Gone is the all-metal finish that adorned the previous model; you'll now find Gorilla Glass 3 on the lid, which provides not only a different texture and different colour options, but also scratch resistance and a glossy sheen.

The 13.3in Zenbook is a premium Ultrabook — and perhaps as premium as it gets for consumer Ultrabook models. Pricing starts from $1999, and that's for a model that has a Full HD resolution and IPS screen technology. Like all of the latest Ultrabooks, its screen also has touch capability (with up to 10 simultaneous inputs).

The unit is commanded by a fourth generation Intel Core CPU (either Core i5 or Core i7 depending on the model you choose), and memory up to 8GB is available in the top model. Graphics are handled mainly by the Intel CPU (you get Intel HD 5100 or Intel HD 4400 depending on the model you choose), but there is an option for NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M graphics with 2GB of video RAM.

As for storage, the new Zenbook doesn't use the faster PCIe based storage technology of the Sony VAIO Pro 13, for example, but it does have an option for a RAID 0 array to be installed (using two 256GB SSDs). This should allow it to hit similar speed peaks as the Sony in sequential write operations. You also have the option to get it with a 750GB hard drive that's boosted by a 16GB SSD cache.

On the connectivity side of things, the new Zenbook offers plenty: you get two or three USB 3.0 ports (depending on the model), Mini DisplayPort, HDMI (or Micro-HDMI depending on the model), and a full-sized SD card slot is also present. Importantly, the Zenbook features integrated 802.11ac Wi-FI, and Bluetooth 4.0.

ASUS claims that the new Zenbook is 14 per cent thinner than the previous generation, and that it's also lighter (1.2kg), though, again, this depends on the model you choose (the maximum weight is listed as being 1.45kg). We've already mentioned that the lid consists of Gorilla Glass 3, but there is metal on the base, and the palm rest is constructed out of a glass ceramic material. We had a very brief hands-on time with the unit at its Sydney launch, and the model we held did feel very light and easy to handle with one hand — we think the best way to describe it is 'airy'. The backlit keyboard felt decent to our fingers, as did the touchpad (though Zenbooks haven't traditionally offered the best touchpads), and the screen looked good.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in the Zenbook this time around is the screen offering. The top model (UX301) is available with a screen resolution of 2560x1440, but you will have to pay a substantial amount for it. How much it will cost we're not quite sure of yet, but since the Full HD model (UX302) is said to have a starting price of $1999, we can guess a price tag of at least $2500.

ASUS Zenbook UX301 specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-4200U or Core i7-4558U
Memory: 4GB or 8GB DDR3L (1600MHz)
Graphics: Intel HD 5100
Storage: Up to 2x 256GB SSDs
Display: 2560x1400 or 1920x1080 IPS panel
Connectivity: Mini DisplayPort; 2 x USB 3.0; Micro-HDMI 1.4; 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo port; SD card reader
Wireless: 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0
Audio: Bang & Olufsen ICE Power Stereo speakers with ASUS SonicMaster audio technology; Internal array mic
Battery: 50 Watt-hour lithium polymer
Dimensions: 325x226x15.5mm
Weight: 1.2kg
Operating system: Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro

ASUS Zenbook UX302 specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-4200U or Core i7-4500U
Memory: 4GB or 8GB DDR3L (1600MHz)
Graphics: Intel HD 5100
Storage: Up to 750GB hard drive with 16GB SSD cache
Display: 1920x1080 IPS panel
Connectivity: Mini DisplayPort; 3 x USB 3.0; HDMI 1.4; 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo port; SD card reader
Wireless: 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0
Audio: Bang & Olufsen ICE Power Stereo speakers with ASUS SonicMaster audio technology; Internal array mic
Battery: 50 Watt-hour lithium polymer
Dimensions: 325x226x17.2mm
Weight: 1.45kg
Operating system:

ASUS Zenbook UX301 images

ASUS said that the new Zenbooks would be available in Australia either in November or early December.

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Elias Plastiras

Elias Plastiras

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