Run down the laundry list of what makes a great ultrabook, and chances are the Windows 8-equipped Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T11 ($1,199 list) has it: Stylish, thin design? Check. Touch-enabled full HD display? Check. Great battery life? Check. And so on. While it isn’t entirely free of faults—its paucity of storage capacity spring to mind—the good easily outweighs the bad. It’s the high-end ultrabook to beat.
Design and Features
The first thing that you’ll notice when you pull the UX31A-BHI5T out of the included fabric sleeve is its undeniably attractive design. Its svelte brushed aluminum chassis measures 0.7 by 12.8 by 8.8 inches (HWD) and, at only 3.20 pounds, it’s among the lightest touch-enabled ultrabooks that we’ve seen, including the Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch NP540U3C-A01UB (3.83 pounds) and the Dell Inspiron 15z-5523 (5.19 pounds). With its impressively compact body, the UX31A-BHI5T fits into your bag just as easily as two or three magazines.
The UX31A-BHI5T’s 13.3-inch display is, quite literally, a site to behold. With a full HD resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 and built-in IPS (in plane switching) panel, the display’s stellar color reproduction and wide viewing angles handily complement its class-leading 1080p resolution. Taken as a whole, the UX31A-BHI5T’s display is indisputably superior to that of the 1,366-by-768 resolution displays found in most comparable ultrabooks, like the Samsung NP540U3C-A01UB and Dell 15z-5523. Moreover, the display’s capacitive touch functionality is pleasantly responsive, so pinching, zooming, scrolling, and Windows 8-specific functions—like bringing up the Charms menu or swiping through open apps—can be pulled off smoothly. The UX31A-BHI5T’s Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speaker do a good job delivering crisp audio, and although its maximum volume lacks the oomph to make the windows rattle, this is an understandable limitation in the tinny-sounding realm of ultrabooks.
The chiclet-styled keyboard makes for a fairly comfortable typing experience. For such a thin system, it largely succeeds in sidestepping the shallow key travel that often plagues ultrabooks. Moreover, it’s brightly backlit and doesn’t exhibit any noticeable flexing, so the end result is all-around good keyboard. The system’s smooth and responsive touchpad provides a good amount of tactile feedback and sports left- and right-click buttons that don’t exhibit any unappealing clackiness.
As if often the case with ultrabooks, port selection on the UX31A-BHI5T is limited. The left side of the system houses a USB 3.0 port, a 2-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC), and a headphone jack. The right side, meanwhile, sports another USB 3.0 port, a micro HDMI port, and a mini VGA port, the latter of which can be outfitted with the included mini VGA to VGA dongle. The micro-HDMI port is puzzling, as the similarly sized former high end ultrabook Editor’s Choice Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD-DB71 has a full-sized HDMI port. The UX31A-BHI5T comes equipped with Intel’s Wireless Display technology (WiDi 2.0), so you can stream HD video from your system to any television outfitted with an adapter, like the Netgear Push2TV ($99 list).
The UX31A-BHI5T’s 128GB SSD may be too small for some, since only 90.4GB of it is can be used. Thankfully, it ships with a minimal amount of preloaded software. Aside from Office Starter 2010, a trial version of Trend Micro A/V, and some proprietary programs (ASUS Software Suite, ASUS PowerWiz, and so on), extraneous software is kept to a minimum. Asus covers the UX31A-BHI5T11 with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
Like the rest of its class—save for the Asus UX32VD-DB71—the UX31A-BHI5T packs a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. Consequently, it yielded very similar performance to its peers on our benchmark tests. Thanks to its speedy SSD, though, the UX31A-BHI5T was able to maintain a slight edge. Its PCMark7 score of 4,510 points trumped the rest of its class, save for the Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light (CT14-A2) (4,819 points). Its Cinebench R11.5 score of 2.40 points, meanwhile, was equal to that of the Vizio CT14-A2 and Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 and was bested by the class-leading SamsungNP540U3C-A01UB (2.41 points) by a razor-thin margin and, to a greater extent, the Asus UX32VD-DB71 (3.58 points).
The UX31A-BHI5T also has the chops to tackle moderately intense media creation tasks. It completed our Handbrake video-encoding test in 1 minute 29 seconds, the same as the Dell 15z-5523 (1:29) and a mere second behind the front-running Vizio CT14-A2 (1:28). Similarly, the 5 minute and 31 seconds it took to complete our Photoshop CS6 test was roughly on par with the Dell 15z-5523 (5:33) and only two seconds short of the Vizio CT14-A2 (5:29).
When it came to 3D rendering, the UX31A-BHI5T showcased an unrivaled surefootedness. Its 3DMark11 scores (1,160 points in Entry-level settings; 216 points in Extreme settings) landed at the top of the pile, with the Asus S400CA-UH51 (1,101 and 187 points, respectively) and Vizio CT14-A2 (1,152 points and 208 points, respectively) trailing closely behind. Don’t get your hopes up for high-end gaming, though. The UX31A-BHI5T’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 didn’t have the gusto to break the 30 frames per second (fps) playability barrier on our gaming benchmark tests.
A major area where the UX31A-BHI5T held a clear advantage over its peers is battery life. Its non-removable 50Whr battery lasted an impressive 6 hours 38 minutes on our battery rundown test, or nearly an hour longer than the runner-up HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 (5:48). With other systems clocking in at under five hours—like the Asus S400CA-UH51 (4:18) and Vizio CT14-A4 (4:30)—the UX31A-BHI5T’s great battery life becomes all the more apparent.
The Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T isn’t the perfect ultrabook. Its limited storage capacity and so-so port selection are obvious shortcomings. Even with these flaws, though, it comes close to delivering a superlative Windows 8 experience. Its brilliant, touch-enabled screen, incredibly thin design, and great battery life, make it worthy of serious consideration. Throw in the fact that its $1,100 price tag is on par with its competitors, and it becomes a no-brainer. This is the ultrabook to beat, and it justifiably replaces the Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD-DB71 as our Editors’ Choice award for high-end ultrabooks.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T
Compare the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T with several other laptops side by side.
More laptop reviews:
|Processor Name||Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Processor Speed||1.7 GHz|
|Screen Size||13.3 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||128 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc