ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook

ASUS Zenbook UX31 review: This Ultrabook has the looks and specs, but it's not big on user comfort

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ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook
  • ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook
  • ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook
  • ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook

Pros

  • Thin design
  • 1600x900 resolution
  • 256GB SSD and Core i7 CPU

Cons

  • Input devices not great
  • User friendliness not great
  • Keyboard not backlit

Bottom Line

With so much going for it as far as size, build and looks are concerned, it's a shame that the Zenbook UX31 offers a below average user experience. Its input peripherals aren't great, it feels uncomfortable to use and we had to install drivers to get things working properly. technically, it's a good laptop, but it could have been so much better when it comes to user friendliness. We'd probably sit this one out and wait to see what the next models offer.

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The ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) is a 13.3in Ultrabook that holds tremendous appeal, not only because of its looks, but also because of its specifications. It features an Intel Core i7 CPU and a 256GB solid state drive, and it comes with USB 3.0, Ethernet and HDMI (albeit in micro form). However, it's a laptop that has a few issues when it comes to user-friendliness and we're not sure that it's a great unit for those of you who will spend a lot of time typing on it. Furthermore, our out-of-box experience was one of frustration as we had to contend with driver updates to get a couple of the laptop's key components working properly.

ASUS Zenbook unboxingUltrabook specs compared

Design and build quality

The Asus Zenbook UX31 has a style that's not all it's own — when you see its profile, the first thing you think of is a MacBook Air. When you open its lid and peer at the keyboard, you also get taken back to Appleland. However, it does attempt to offer a little more of its own character: it has a wonderful 'spin' pattern on its lid and a brushed palm rest. There is a combination air vent and speaker grille along the spine of the chassis and we have to say, the Zenbook supplies better audio output from its speakers than any other ultraportable laptop that we've reviewed to date. The speakers still produce distortion at high volume levels, but overall, you can definitely enjoy listening to music through this laptop's speakers.

The profile of the Zenbook UX31 is around 18mm thick at the rear and it tapers towards the front, where it troubles the measuring tape at just 3mm. That is with the lid closed. When you open the lid, the front of the laptop is only 1mm thick and it's also square. This is a problem when typing because the chassis just digs into your wrists and makes things painful. It's especially so if you use it low in your lap or on a relatively high desk. This review was typed while this reviewer was sitting on the couch. While only three paragraphs deep, this reviewers wrists already sported lines from the edge of the chassis, much like a face temporarily embossed with marks from an uncomfortable pillow case. If you type with your wrists slightly raised, then the chassis won't be bothersome, but we'd love to see ASUS work its design magic on some rounded edges for future models of this Ultrabook.

Metal construction makes the Zenbook rigid. It displays some flex when you forcibly bend its chassis, but it will easily withstand the rigours of everyday travel and the occasional knock. Survival is aided by the lack of a spinning hard drive, with the only moving part in this ultraportable laptop being its extraction fan. This fan gets a little loud when the system is under a full load, but we didn't find it annoying at all. The chassis can get noticeably warm after long periods of usage, and depending on the tasks you are performing and how hard the laptop is working, this heat can become uncomfortable. Furthermore, the aluminium chassis acts as a heat sink of sorts and heat can be felt along the sides of the keyboard and on the right palm rest. But during regular Web surfing and light document creation tasks, it should remain comfortably cool.

The screen is also rigid and balanced against the chassis in such a way that allows the lid to be opened with one hand without the chassis lifting up off the table. However, the hinges don't do a great job of holding the screen in place when it's tilted approximately two thirds of the way back. There is a point where the screen just drops back on its own when the laptop is moved and this can be frustrating when you're trying to get the viewing just right. After all, the glossy screen may be very bright (it has a rating of 450 nits), but its vertical viewing angles are similar to most other mainstream laptops on the market — they are very narrow.

We're not sure if it's by design or not, but the ports on the sides of the Zenbook UX31 (two USB ports and a power port) maintain loose connections. When charging the laptop, the adapter's plug wriggled around a lot and popped out quite easily. We had to be mindful of it when moving the laptop. Luckily, there is an indicator light on the plug that's green when it's not plugged in and charging the laptop, and amber when it's plugged in and charging the laptop. USB cables and thumb drives also sat very loosely, but we didn't have any problems with lost connections, just problems with our peace of mind.

Next page: User friendliness

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