Slim, light, portable, good-looking and powerful notebook anyone? Maybe the Asus UX31 is what you need. It isn’t inexpensive, but it’s a notebook that makes fatter offerings seem decidedly old-fashioned.
What is an Ultrabook?
The Asus UX31 is part of a new genre of notebooks called Ultrabooks. Ultrabooks are an Intel-funded initiative designed to deliver top-notch specifications and performance in a sleek shell that can rival the popular MacBook Air.
Asus was quick to sign up as an Ultrabook manufacturer when Intel went public with the concept, so it isn’t surprising that the company has been quickest to market with Ultrabooks. It has delivered two so far, the UX21 and the UX31.
The UX31′s outer shell is amazing. Its all-metal silver casing looks good and is tough too. The chassis is also super-thin, measuring 17mm deep at the back and a mere 3mm at the front. On the desk it has a footprint of 325x223cm. It weighs just 1.3kg, and is very easy to carry around in one hand or slide into a bag.
There’s a downside to the all-metal chassis, in that the base is a solid sheet. You can’t get to the hard drive, RAM slot or any other component, but as most people don’t go in for upgrading these kinds of parts it’s probably not a huge issue. Being unable to get to the battery might be more of an issue, as some people do like to have a spare second battery.
The lack of an optical drive might also prove a problem for many people – and the fact that there are only two USB ports isn’t ideal. Still, one of them is the latest ‘SuperSpeed’ USB 3.0, which allows files to be transferred at a theoretical maximum of 4.8Gbit/s. There are mini HDMI and mini VGA connectors too, and our review sample came with a VGA adaptor to a full sized connector but no HDMI adaptor. We also got a USB to Ethernet adaptor as there’s no dedicated Ethernet connector on board. A SD card slot and headphones socket round off the ports and connectors list.
With an Intel Core i7 2577M processor and 4GB of RAM we didn’t feel that the Asus UX31 was underpowered for any of the everyday computing tasks we gave it. The 128GB SSD might prove a little too small for many, though.
The screen is fantastic. Its 1600×900-pixel resolution is above what we’d expect from a 13.3in screen, and it provides a very welcome level of detail. The trackpad felt good under the fingers, but we weren’t blown away by the keyboard. The key travel is very shallow and we found we often failed to register keys while typing. Over time, we may have got used to it.
- Superb chassis design; fast processor; good screen.
- Lacklustre keyboard; no way to access access battery.
It is hard not to like the Asus UX31 for its superb chassis design and top-notch processor. And while the screen is good, we felt a little bit let down by the keyboard, and we'd have liked a larger storage drive.