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

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

    3.00 / 5

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.

Would you buy this?

Specifications and performance

On the inside, the Zenbook has an Intel Core i7-2677M CPU, which is a low-voltage CPU that runs at 1.8GHz and has two cores plus Hyper-Threading. It also comes with 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 256GB solid state drive and it makes use of Intel HD 3000 graphics. In our Blender 3D rendering test, it recorded a result of 47sec, while in the iTunes MP3 encoding test it got a time of 1min 4sec. In our DVD-to-Xvid transcoding test, a time of 1hr 6min was recorded. Its 3DMark06 score was 3644.

These are all expected results that compare favourably against other low-voltage laptops that we've seen recently, such as the Acer TravelMate 8481G and the Acer Aspire S3. The Core i7 with its 1.8GHz frequency and 4MB of cache memory supplies a tidy bump in performance over the Core i5 CPU in those laptops, but it also increases the weight of the laptop to 1.4kg as it requires a little extra cooling. The Core i5 version of the UX31 has a manufacturer-stated weight of 1.1kg. At this point we will state that the UX31 does actually feel a little too heavy for what it is.

The 256GB solid state drive proved to be quite fast in CrystalDiskMark, where it recorded superb rates of 450 megabytes per second (MBps) for reading and 241.4MBps for writing. In our own file copy tests, the drive recorded a more modest 36.55MBps.

Basically though, the Zenbook UX31 is great for everyday office work, Web browsing and even multimedia tasks. It's not well suited to tasks that require a lot of processing, such as file conversions, but it will nevertheless be able to accomplish these tasks, too. it's a laptop that definitely offers plenty of performance for its thin and relatively light nature. Another thing to note is that it offers a fast boot up time of around 20sec, and it also comes out of sleep mode in under 2sec.

Battery life

The battery life of the Zenbook UX31 proved to be quite good in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. It recorded a time of 3hr 38min in this test, which may not seem all that good, but it compares favourably against other 13.3in models we've seen, especially when you consider that the ASUS has a Core i7 CPU, and also a 450 nit screen, which is brighter than most laptops and therefore sucks down a little more juice.

When we used the laptop at low brightness for Web browsing and document creation, we got around six hours worth of usage before having to find an outlet. Of course, how much life you get will depend on how you use the laptop, but overall we are happy with this unit's battery performance.

During our tests, the Zenbook reverted to the Power4Gear battery saving scheme each time we rebooted it, ignoring the fact that we chose to use maximum performance. This was a little frustrating, but it's probably a power scheme that you should use if you want to get the most out of this laptop while on the road. We like the little widget on the desktop that shows you an approximation of how much battery life and standby time remains.

Conclusion

There's no doubt that the ASUS Zenbook UX31 is a stylish and solid laptop that should appeal to those of you who want good performance out of a thin-and-light unit. However, we feel that it has been rushed to market and that its user friendliness suffers as a result. Its input devices are not very good, it doesn't have a backlit keyboard, we found it uncomfortable to type on and we had to fiddle with drivers to get things working properly out of the box. This is disappointing, especially considering all the hype behind this product.

We don't have any issues with its performance, which we found to be quite good thanks to the Core i7 CPU and fast solid state drive, but if you're considering a Zenbook, we think that you can get away just fine by opting for the cheaper Core i5 version, especially if all you'll be doing is working on office documents and Web-based tasks.

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