on July 9, 2012
I have had this laptop for about 3 days now. I had been wanting the zenbook since the original UX31E had come out, but held back after the reviews about the keyboard and the touchpad.
The new display on the ux31a was an instant sell. Having used nothing but high resolution laptops, i had hung on to my trusty HP 6820p for 4+ years.
The reviews for UX31 are mostly on the mark, but strangely somehow still fail to point the one "true" issue.
Now moving on to something more useful..
1) The display is to die for. I spent an hour with the retina mac pro, while i didn't see both the screens side by side. I'm ecstatic that ASUS is finally pushing laptops to move up from the resolution backsliding going on for the last 5 years. You will not miss the retina display on a mac with this. Half the price is just a bonus.
2) It is _light_.
3) The biggest showstopper is the touchpad out of the box. Yes, i'm referring to the touchpad on ux31, not the older ux31e. Multi touch etc. etc. works well. (have two macs at home for comparison). The thing that just about ruins this little gem is the horrendous behavior of the touchpad when your palm brushes it during typing. There is no way you can really avoid this, and it is impossible to do any typing without the cursor moving and the tap to touch causing irritating behavior. (like prematurely sending an email, closing the email, clicking a background app into focus). How this went past anyone in any QA dept. is beyond me. It's that bad, just typing a 2 line sentence is near impossible. This was entirely preventable with just a bit more diligence by ASUS. This one problem is bad enough to warrant a return if it weren't the fix that later became available.
I upgraded the drivers to the THEN latest on the ux31a page on asus support. They didn't work any better. Update: ASUS has finally put an updated version that addresses the issue much better.
Initially i was concerned that I was out of luck and that this could be a trackpad hardware limitation. Thankfully a bit of investigation digging through the registry in the HKLM\CurrentControlSet\Services\ElanTech revealed a plethora of values that seeemed promising.
Further investigation led to a rather huge thread on this topic on the laptop support forums for the elan trackpads on Samsung laptops. A bit of spelunking revealed an updated driver (10.7.16.1). This one proved to be a winner. Not sure if it was the actual driver update, or the very significantly different configuration settings in the registry that made the difference, but at the end of the day the problem is mitigated nearly completely (and without disabling the trackpad while you are typing).
I think there is still some fine tuning to do with the relatively sensitive trackpad, but am a bit more at ease as I think it's just a matter of tweaking the settings just right. I think the elan folks will get it right with just a bit more time. I wish the control panel utility gave you more tuning options without having to figure it out on a trial and error approach with the registry variables. The newer version samsung is using has an 'advanced' tab which seems to be heading in this direction
This is my first ever review and I am only writing it because I really dig this laptop. I'd hate to have this not succeed due to the egregious trackpad palm detection issue. Asus's strength is clearly not software QA.
A few other observations that I haven't seen mentioned before.
4) The adapter when plugging into socket always seems to spark as it's plugged in. I haven't seen this from any other adapter, so am wondering about the reliability. It also seems to run a bit hot compared the mac one. This is just an observation, not an issue (i had no less than 5 adapters fail with the HP). Update: I was looking for additional adapters so I don't have to keep carrying the one around, they seem to extremely expensive online, ~$120. There are non ASUS brands available all the way down to $15, so will probably try one of those, I wonder what the difference is. I suspect it's to do with the charging logic / led indicator on the OEM one. I thought the charging controller was in the laptop and not the adapter, but not entirely sure about this now.
5) The keyboard is just fine, I saw some posts ranting about ux31 keyboard, and i don't know what they are talking about. It's pretty good, and i type reams.
6) There is bleeding of light at the bottom of the lcd, but it's a non issue and an observation i made only because I read about it on other reviews.
7) The keyboard backlighting is nice to have.. but again, don't think it's as big a deal as it's been made out to be when it was missing in ux31e.
8) The display hinge is just fine, it holds up well. If you suddenly lift it, then there might be a tad amount of sway. I think it's only because this laptop is so thin and light that people apply more g's. (I couldn't do that with my old laptop with both my hands if i wanted to because it was so heavy). It feels pretty sturdy compared to the luddite laptop i am used to.
9) I had tried win 8 for a short period on this laptop, seemed to work about the same. (Reverted to win 7 for work reasons after an hour or so).
10) The battery seems to last 6+ hours with just web browsing / email..
11) The wifi has been working well, no problems so far. The previous HP laptop I had would lose WIFI connection whenever the microwave went on for a minute. This one hasn't exhibited that problem.
12) The USB to Ethernet adapter is unfortunately 10/100, not Gigabit.. and for me it's a big deal. Copying around large VMs is the norm and this limitation is a rather big issue. The limitation seems to be from the PHY ASUS is sourcing from 'asix'? They seem to have a new USB3 to GBE part available, so I'm sure in future models this limitation will be addressed. I wonder why they didn't go with USB 2 to GBE phy as it seems to have been available for a while. It works well, counter intuitively its actually proving to be nicer to use the USB connection than the RJ45 jack.
13) The built in VGA adapter worked great when using a projector. Haven't tried out the HDMI out yet, need to go buy a micro HDMI cable.
14) Headphone out works fine, another reviewer mentioned an issue so tested it just in case.
Rating a 4, due to the trackpad runaround that's now resolved. Folks with trackpad issues should just get the latest version from ASUS or Samsung support site. I prefer the Samsung driver.
on June 26, 2012
I've owned probably 20 laptops in the past (my wife would probably say that's 17 more than I've needed). But to be honest, I've not loved any one of them. Each has come with some sort of compromise that kept it from fully meeting my expectations. Lightweight machines have been underpowered; small screens have had low resolution--leaving me yearning to plug into a full size LCD panel whenever I could; machines with fast CPUs burned my lap and had horrible battery life....and so on.
The Zenbook UX31A is the first computer I've owned that has everything I want: super light weight, solid build quality, fast performance, beautiful display, decent battery life, high performance SSD and (I am a touch typist) a keyboard with great tactile response. Using the UX31A is like driving a German car: everywhere you look, you notice the level of attention to detail in design, and you just know the designers really cared about the end-user experience and didn't simply set out to meet a specification as cheaply as possible.
Asus may have shot themselves in the foot, though: I'm so satisfied, I may not feel the urge to replace this computer for a long, long time.
What you'll love:
1. The full HD IPS display with matte finish is dreamy. Maybe you think 1920 x 1080 is too high a resolution for a 13" display? It's not! With text set to 125%, text is the "right" size, and the fonts are as smooth as a printed page--I can't see the individual pixels. The IPS makes for a screen that's readable at any angle--a godsend for me when the person in front leans their seat back in coach!
2. The keyboard is much improved from the last version, and has the exact feel of my MacBook (which to me is a good thing). The backlighting on the keyboard is a nice addition as well.
3. Instant on. After opening the lid, the computer is usable in around 1 second. Amazing.
4. The aluminum case is impossibly thin, making it super portable. Everyone who sees this machine can't believe it's a real, full Windows PC.
5. The DC power supply. I'm in love with a DC power supply? If you travel a lot like I do, then you understand. This isn't just a generic $2 item Asus sourced from eBay. It's an impossibly tiny power supply that weighs almost nothing and has an 8 foot cord that will reach from any conference room table all the way to a wall outlet. Yes, it's a small detail, but something I appreciate every time I use it.
6. Build quality. The solid metal case is completely rigid and exudes quality industrial design. A $1,000 product shouldn't feel like you got it in a box of cereal, and this one doesn't! Great job, Asus!
7. Bang & Olufsen audio. Remember when choosing a 13" laptop meant you live with a speaker originally designed for a wristwatch? Those days are over--watching video on this laptop is like watching it on your TV! Audio is loud, clear and has a full range of sound. You'll only use your headphones when you don't want to disturb others.
8. The included fabric envelope to carry the notebook is so good you'll actually use it! It's a heavy fabric envelope that I find superb for taking the notebook on short trips to the coffee shop or to a meeting where I only need to take some notes.
9. Runs Windows 8 (June Preview edition) perfectly. I scratch-loaded Windows 8, and while it takes some patience to get all the Windows 7 drivers and utilities installed on Windows 8, everything works beautifully.
What you may not love as much:
1. There's a downside to making a laptop that's thinner than legacy VGA, Ethernet and HDMI connectors--there's no room for them!! Instead, a Micro-HDMI and Mini-VGA connections are provided along with dongles that adapt to standard sized connectors. For wired Ethernet, a USB-to-Ethernet adapter is provided. Some ultrabooks are specifically made thicker expressly to include legacy connectors. For me, that's a little silly...an ultrabook should be as thin as possible! But if you disagree and don't like the idea of a dongle for making VGA connections, then you may want one of the thicker Ultrabooks instead.
2. The Zenbook doesn't have the longest battery life among all Ultrabooks. Maybe the thin case has a smaller battery than others? You'll probably get 5 hours or so of battery life on continuous usage. If you need another hour or two, there are ultrabooks can last longer. For me, I find that with the instant on enabled, I can go all day between charges...I just shut the lid when I'm not using the computer and open it when using it (similar to using an iPad).
3. The UX31A, like most Ultrabooks, has 4GB RAM soldered to the motherboard, and no way to upgrade RAM. I think this is really a shame, since I'd gladly have paid more to get more RAM as an insurance policy against what I might want to use the machine for in the future. However I find 4GB is enough for what I'm doing day-to-day, and I doubt most people using an Ultrabook for business scenarios will find they need more than 4GB RAM with Windows 8. However if you're editing video, this might not be the right machine for you.
Overall, I think Asus took the best Ultrabook and made it even better. The last version (the "E" model) was, in my mind, the best small Windows notebook on the market...but fell just a little short of the elegant design of the MacBook Air. This new model, however, has moved the bar up insanely high for other Ultrabooks, and in my mind eliminated any reason why a Windows user would switch to a Mac to get superior hardware designs. I have a MacBook Pro...and this is the first time I can honestly say I like a Windows laptop more than a MacBook!
on June 21, 2012
Edit: My second laptop doesn't have any problems. I'm getting about 5 hours of battery life while doing light programming and listening to music on auto-brightness (there's a brightness sensor) which sets the display at about 60 percent brightness indoors.
I received this laptop a few hours ago and I'm going to give my first impressions on the device.
Build Quality and Design:
Apart from the different color on the keyboard and lack of hideous script font above the keyboard that was on the original zenbook, the Prime looks about the same. Since this is the 31A, it has a Aluminum Unibody design, and from messing around with various Macbook Air's this device seems to be just as well built. I like the front panel design over the Air but that's down to personal preference.
Being an $1000+ device I would expect a nice amount of goodies, and included is a VGA and Ethernet adapter. There is no micro-HDMI to HDMI adapter, but I find myself using VGA most of the time when giving presentations anyway, so I suppose that's not too bad of a loss. The Air (afaik) does not come with these adapters so that is a small plus. The adapters have their own little pouch to store separately. The combination synthetic leather/canvas sleeve that is included fits fairly snugly, though there is enough space to cram in an adapter if you need to. The AC adapter is about the same size as the Apple counterpart, which is good.
Being a UX31A the laptop packs a 1920x1080 Matte IPS panel. In a not-very-scientific test viewing angles (obviously) far exceed that of my desk TN panel, and brightness and contrast all seem to be much better. Granted, I'm comparing to a 23" Hanns LCD I paid $60 for. There was a comment earlier about the screen being dimmer than that of the previous gen, and I haven't tested it outside, but it seems to just fine for my purposes. The matte finish is also a plus. There is a bit of back light bleed on the bottom and right hand sides of the screen, but when watching a sample 1080p movie, it didn't bother me at all. I like the increased resolution on the device and it's a definite step up from traditional 1366x768 panels. Text is sometimes a bit small on the default size in chrome but that is easily remedied.
Thankfully, an ADATA XM11 128GB SSD is included. This is a Sandforce drive and I'm getting benchmark scores of 470/150 MB/s RW Sequential, 18/44 MB/s RW 4K random, 113/144 MB/S RW 4k Random 64QD, and access times of .155/.277 ms RW, for a total score of 462 in AS-SSD. This is comparable to my old Vertex 2 in my desktop, so no worries about disk performance here. The system boots boots in about 20 seconds and resumes quickly. It scores a 7.9 WEI in terms of disk performance, though that's not a the best indicator in general.
I haven't done anything intensive with the CPU yet but things seem to be holding up well with little slowdown. I also tried messing around in Diablo III on the integrated HD4000 graphics. I set the game to 1024x768, and everything else to minimum, and from a short session of Act III Inferno, the graphics performed okay, with some stutter and slowdown depending on how many effects were on the screen. If you want to do more than just casual gaming, go for the UX32VD with the GT620M graphics. After playing for a bit the fan kicked on and hot air began coming out of the vent located above the keyboard. The fan was not loud enough to hear over the speakers, which put out a decent amount of volume for the size of the laptop.
Asus touts the keyboard as being much improved over the previous generation, though I'm not sure if I notice that. I've tried out the original zenbook at stores a few times and this feels similar. I've typed this review on the keyboard without any problems, but it'll be clear to you that you are typing on a scissor-switch laptop keyboard. This also leads to me to the flaw in my item - the backlight. Two of the keys in the center refuse to light at all, regardless of the brightness level I set. Hence, it's going back to Amazon for an exchange. Pity. The trackpad is made by Elantech, which may make some people cringe, but for the most part, I haven't had a problem. I like to rest one hand on the left click button and right other to scroll, and there were no glitches I noticed in the last few hours. The only multi-touch feature I really use is two finger scrolling, which works well enough in Chrome. It's not as smooth as OSX is, but I would assume that is because of Windows 7, and will be improved in Windows 8.
If you're trying to decide between this and the Air, it mainly comes down to a few factors - OS, Screen Quality, Discrete Graphics, and support. If you have a rabid obsession with one OS over the other your choice should already be clear. If you value screen quality, both are solid choices - while the Air has a 1440x900 TN panel, it still looks good, though the viewing angles are likely not as wide, and the resolution obviously lower. Anandtech rates both this laptop and the Air well in screen quality. If you value discrete graphics, only the UX32 line offers you that. If you value support I would go with the Air, as nothing beats being able to go into a store and coming out with a fixed laptop.
If you're set on Windows or want a 1080P IPS Panel, no other ultrabook touches the Zenbook prime right now. Sony has a similarly-specced laptop out, which has a GT640LE and 1600x900 screen, but that is much heavier and thicker. This is an expensive device, no doubt, so if you can give up some screen quality and are okay with slightly slower integrated graphics, you should consider a previous gen ultrabook.
on June 20, 2012
I ordered this Zenbook Prime UX31A-DB51 ultrabook from Amazon and received it promptly and in perfect condition this week. The i5 proc (newer "ivy bridge" model) has plenty of power for my use (and for almost any average use), and for what I'm using this for, I also don't need more than 128GB of storage, so I decided to go with this model instead of the DB72, which has the i7 proc and 256 SSD. I had been waiting for this upgraded Zenbook to come out for a little while, and Amazon was the 1st place I found that had it available, and I have usually had very good experiences purchasing through Amazon, so the negligible difference in price between Amazon's price and the suggested retail price wasn't an issue. So far, this is everything I thought it would be and I absolutely love it. In my opinion, the display is extremely nice, HD 1080p, and the screen is low-glare, so it looks great and is easy on the eyesight. In addition to the newer model proc, the screen is another nice upgrade from the previous Zenbook. The keyboard is perfect and comfortable (and backlit, which the previous Zenbook was lacking). It's very light and portable, fits in my purse with the included envelope-type sleeve, which is a pretty decent cover, at least until I find a sleeve or case I like better.
After researching many different models and manufacturers, the only other "ultrabook" that I considered before purchasing the Zenbook Prime was the Macbook Air. I'm not an Apple product hater, but I honestly just prefer a Windows machine, so this ultrabook was the clear winner for me, and I couldn't be happier with it so far. I could go on and on comparing the two machines, and describing the technical specs of this Zenbook Prime, but there are so many technical reviews out there that already do that very well (and I think Apple/Mac vs. PC/Windows thing that I constantly see on forums everywhere is so boring it's ridiculous!!!!), so I'm just giving my initial personal experience and opinions about this product that I purchased in this review. It is awesome! It's lived up to all the critical acclaim and all of my expectations of it so far.
on October 15, 2012
UPDATES: SO, I just sent my 3rd (my THIRD!) Zenbook Prime back to Amazon. I've sent back enough by now that Amazon will no longer permit me to just send it back and overnight a replacement. They actually just told me they're going to refund my money because they figure future replacements would probably also be faulty too. That's how bad it is with this thing. Not sure what I'm going to do next, but I may give the Thinkpad X1 Carbon a whirl. It's really a shame, because for the brief window that my Zenbook did work, it was basically the perfect computer. This is, hands down, a 5-star product - IF it worked. But apparently, it just straight-up doesn't. I really, really want to just order another one, because I'd be so happy if I actually got one that f$*@ing worked, but I honestly believe that I might have to order ten of these things to have a shot at one working product.
Doesn't that make this whole line a lemon? Right? I mean, I've never seen anything like this - a laptop that you can potentially go through a half dozen of without ever getting one that functions properly. I've also never had Amazon tell me that, in effect, the product is so hopeless they're just going to give my money back without even attempting another replacement. I wanted to love this laptop. I really did. I still do. But I just can't keep ordering it over and over again when I have so little faith that I'll ever find one that works. This whole thing is a travesty. I never imagined Asus would allow such across-the-board hardware failure in one of their products. My god.
ORIGINAL REVIEW (written during the brief time that the original item actually worked):
I did a great deal of research when I was shopping for my new computer. I knew I wanted an ultrabook and wanted a Windows machine. That, right there, narrowed it down to the Asus Zenbook Prime, the Samsung Series 9, and the forthcoming Thinkpad X1 Carbon. Even though the shortcomings of the Zenbook Prime are very thoroughly documented and, some say, crippling to the user experience, I took the plunge. I am here to tell you I adore this computer and have zero regrets.
First, a very general overview of performance: The thing is fast. Very fast. I am not going to split hairs by comparing it directly in measurables to its primary competitor, the better-respected Series 9, but suffice to say that they're comparable. The 9 is faster booting and faster recovering from sleep, and not by a small margin, percentage-wise, but the Zenbook is so fast to boot and recover I frankly couldn't care less. You are into Windows almost instantly upon pressing the power button.
The main selling point of this particular machine is its 1920x1080 screen. It does not disappoint. I am not a fan of LCD technology, even the most advanced IPS offerings: my TV is a Pioneer plasma and my phone has a Super AMOLED+ display. Needless to say, I am spoiled in that regard. However, I can say with confidence that the Zenbook Prime's FHD IPS LCD display is not only gorgeous in its own right, it's probably the best LCD computer monitor I've ever SEEN. Black levels are excellent, colors are shockingly accurate and vibrant, and the level of detail it's capable of presenting is genuinely stunning. The only display on the market superior to this one is Apple's Retina, which, at an even higher resolution and with even better black levels and color gamut, is superior in all regards on paper. But I should note that I've used both and, frankly, the differences are imperceptible in real-world use. My only complaint is that the resolution on this screen is so high, it's impossible to comfortably view most content at 100% size levels. The computer comes pre-loaded with Windows already set to 125%, which works. After that, you'll want to set your preferences in Chrome, IE9, or Firefox, do default all Web pages also to 125%, otherwise you'll find yourself zooming in on literally everything you see. Be aware that some programs don't support different zoom levels right now: like Google Talk, which I ultimately just had to replace with Trillian, because the text was so impossible to read in Google Talk and Trillian would let me make the whole thing bigger.
In terms of general real-world performance, this computer leaves nothing wanting. The Core i7 processor is more than adept to do basically anything, you can expand the RAM from 4 GB to 10 GB by inserting a new SODIMM, leaving you with more ram than you'll probably need at any point in this laptop's life. The SSD is adequately sized but comes preloaded with, no joke, probably 60 gigabytes of bloatware. I wasn't able to get rid of much of it just by removing programs; not sure what's eating up all the space. However, when Windows 8 officially launches, I plan to do a fresh install and hopefully reclaim a chunk of that space. The SSD is, itself, a standard size - so you can swap it out with a bigger, faster one if you're so inclined. I stuck with the 128 GB model with the intention of eventually buying a 512 GB aftermarket drive.
Finally, I'd like to clear up some bad misconceptions about this computer:
1) THE TRACKPAD IS NOT A PROBLEM. Seriously. This is not a bad trackpad. Don't get me wrong - it's not GOOD, either. But if you look around online you'll see plenty of user reviews and professional reviews basically declaring this unit an unusable paperweight because of the horrifyingly dysfunctional trackpad. Yes, when you open the box, the trackpad is horrible. But then all you do is go to ASUS's website, download the updated driver, and download the Beta of ASUS Gesture, and the trackpad is 80% better right there. If you're still not happy with how it works, nothing is stopping you from poopping over to Samsung's website, downloading the Synaptics drivers and installing them to your Zenbook. This will cause the trackpad to behave like any other Synaptics device, which, for the record, is not without its own flaws. I'm happy enough with ASUS's new drivers that I have stuck with them and, actually, the gesture controls are robust and slick. It supports two- and three-finger touch for cycling up and down windows, between programs and pages, and rotating images. Very slick. I will complain that sometimes the amount of pressure and movement required to get the cursor to go where you expect it to is unpredictable, and that the reaction on-screen is not always what you want, but I have never met a trackpad that didn't present you with similar issues from time to time. The point is, this trackpad is by no means precise and helpful, but it is not worse than par for the course, either. It should not prevent you from buying this laptop, that's for sure.
2) The other main criticism I've heard of this device is that it's killed by a bargain-basement SSD drive. I can't claim to be an expert on SSD performance, but there is nothing about the user experience here that would suggest that the OEM SSD is holding this thing back significantly. I may change my opinion when I eventually upgrade it to an after-market model that meets beefy performance benchmarks, if that creates a noticeable improvement. But for now - it's an SSD. It blows away any 7200 RPM drive ever, of course, and that's what we're all pretty much used to. Again, like with the trackpad, people have made this sound like a deal-breaker, ad it just flat-out is not. It's fine. Maybe you find yourself wanting to replace it with something faster; that's fine. It's replaceable. But nothing about it has suggested to me that I'll want to.
3) Finally, there IS light-bleed at the bottom and side edges of the screen. There's quite a bit of it, actually, and it's eminently noticeable when you start Windows and see the black Windows-logo splash screen. However, it is literally totally unnoticeable in basically every other usage scenario. It only comes out when the outside edges of the screen are completely black and there is very little picture information populating the rest of the screen. Even watching letterboxed movies, it's there, but it's barely noticeable against the backdrop of this panel's gorgeous reproduction of HD video.
Some people inevitably come back to the thinking: you know, it's so expensive, and it does have some problems - why wouldn't I just buy a MacBook Air? That is a perfectly valid choice. Indeed, the MacBook Air has NONE of the shortcomings that this laptop does, and the prices are very comparable. But can you get a MacBook Air with a Core i7 for this price? No. Can you get a MacBook Air with the Retina display at all? No. Here, you can have an i7 and a borderline indistinguishable equivalent to a Retina display in a 13.3" ultrabook for very close to the base MacBook Air price. For someone like me, who prefers Windows, that is a no-brainer.
on September 21, 2012
So this laptop can apparently come with two different types of hard drives (both 256 gig ssds). If you buy this laptop, you will either get the Sandisk U100 or the ADATA MX11. An uninformed consumer probably wouldn't know or care what the difference between these two drives are, but they should!
The Sandisk U100 has the worst write speeds of current SSDs. The Zenbook prime I ordered was horribly slow at transferring files because of this. When I took the laptop back to the retailer, I requested an exchange for one with the ADATA MX11 hard drive. I was told by the retailer that there is no way to tell which hard drive you will get without opening the retail packaging. Note that opening the retail packaging renders the product used.
I feel Asus should put the hard drive brand on the outside of the box so that consumers can make a proper informed decision. The ADATA MX11 outperforms the Sandisk U100 in every way and this can be seen in performance tests when comparing the two.
I would not recommend anyone purchase this at this time. At least until Asus is more forthcoming about which SSD they are putting in this Zenbook.
Well I must say this has been a pretty horrible experience, and I'm never buying an Asus product again.
The screws on the laptop keep falling out. I am now missing 2 of them and the only way to get them replaced is to ship it to Asus. I any afford to do that as I need to have a computer for school and work.
The hard drive performance is painfully slow, and of course Asus won't replace the drive.
My best advice to anyone thinking of purchasing this device or any Asus product is to avoid at all costs.
on June 28, 2012
Primary complaint: backlight bleed. Near the edges of the screen are patches that are brighter with washed-out color. This is almost impossible to spot unless the screen is completely black and the backlight is on, but is then quite noticeable and can be distracting. Amazon very helpfully and promptly replaced my first unit and while the replacement is marginally better, the problem is still visible. This is particularly a shame since the display is otherwise one of this notebook's best qualities.
But I'm enjoying it so much I'm likely to keep it anyway. This is no netbook. The screen has as many pixels as you could hope for from something that fits on your lap (MacBook Pros notwithstanding), the keyboard is complete and uncramped, and it's *snappy* (TF2 runs beautifully at 90 fps). And yet the lightness and battery life means this is a very mobile device. It even comes with a cute cloth envelope to carry it in, if you're into that sort of thing.
So many nice touches:
- The display contrast is stunning. In a dimly-lit room, almost painful at full brightness, which leaves enough range that I can use this outside in the shade on a bright, sunny day.
- At 165 pixels per inch, even antialiased text is crisp, and white expanses are smooth.
- No confusing grid of status lights. The power status light (green for charging, amber for charging) is on the power connecter, where it's easily visible when in use, it's meaning obvious, and isn't visible at all when not plugged in. Wifi status is by the wifi toggle fn key, power light on the power key (plus another on the right edge so you can see it blink when suspended with the screen closed).
- Booting and resuming from suspend are pleasantly quick.
- There is sometimes some fan noise, but even while I was using the notebook the fan often shut off completely.
- People complained about the keyboard on earlier zenbooks -- I have nothing to complain about on the feel or travel of this one.
- My initial charge gave me a full 5 hours of light wifi use, even in linux.
- I miss having separate page-up/page-down buttons. It seems like the case is big enough that they could have fit them in, but I suppose I'll get used to using the fn key.
- When sitting back from the keyboard, the points of light backlighting the keyboard are visible in a sparkly, distracting way.
- I don't like the feel or sound of the touchpad buttons. They feel a bit wobbly, and sound hollow when you click. But I expect not to use them much as two- and three-finger gestures are fully supported in Windows and Linux.
- Out of the box only 72.4GB of the 128GB SDD are free. There's nothing like starting your use of a new computer by taking out the garbage.
- In Windows while I'm typing, the touchpad is susceptible to interpreting the palm of my hand as a mouse movement or click. There's a control panel with settings that seem meant address this, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work well. In linux I'm pretty happy with: synclient PalmDetect=1 PalmMinZ=1 PalmMinWidth=4
Ubuntu 12.04 (Linux) works well. Some notes:
- Make sure you install the 64-bit version of Ubuntu in order to get EFI support
- After initial install the computer would sometimes lock hard, requiring holding the power button for 6 seconds to reboot -- this seemed to happen most when scrolling rapidly so I suspect an X or GPU problem. I haven't tested very thoroughly yet, but since upgrading to kernel 3.4.0-030400-generic and intel xorg driver 2.19.0 I haven't seen this problem again.
- Touchpad clicking acts weird -- can't drag while holding the left button, right-click is taken as a left-click. But as I said above I don't really like the feel of the buttons so I'll be using the well-supported gestures instead.
- Use <ESC> during ASUS splash screen to bring up the EFI boot menu to boot off your installation USB device.
- The way Ubuntu installed grub, the grub menu items for Windows didn't work. Use the EFI boot menu mentioned above instead.
- Lots of things work well without any tweaking: camera, speakers, mic, USB/ethernet dongle, suspend/resume, wifi, bluetooth
- Some things do not: keyboard and screen backlight fn keys
on June 26, 2012
[Original review with updates]
If you're looking for a laptop that fits the description of the title I wrote above, this is it!
I've had this laptop for about 4 days now and after playing around with it and adjusting the settings to my liking, I'm in love with this machine!
The display, is fantastic. The matte screen + the resolution makes this a wonderful choice for watching movies or working outdoors. Everything is very responsive and runs extremely smoothly and quiet for the most part. The instant on is an awesome feature as well. I never realized how much I would need something like this until I got this laptop. Now I can't imagine going back to my old one with its slow restart and resuming speed.
I never owned the previous Zenbook UX31e so I can't compare, but from what I've heard, the Zenbook Prime UX31a has fixed some of the keyboard issues that people were complaining about with the older model. I don't know if it's true since I haven't tried typing on the older model, but I have no problems typing on this.
With that said, I just wanted to address a couple of issues that people have been mentioning on various sites on the web.
1. Backlight bleeding [updated] - If you're extremely lucky, you'll get a unit with hardly noticeable backlight bleeding. My first unit that I had to send back due to problems with wifi was great, but the unit I received after that had terrible backlight bleeding. My sister has also ordered the same ultrabook and she has had terrible bleeding on hers too. ASUS needs apply better quality control to their products and figure out a way to fix this it seems. However, if you're not going to be watching movies with dark screens or do things like photo editing, you'll probably have no issues with the backlight bleeding for you won't see it, if you aren't looking for it! For those who will be watching movies in the dark (unless you have your brightness setting on low or you're running off the battery saving power plan) you'll definitely see the bleeding that can distract. If you get a screen with little bleeding, KEEP IT! Don't exchange it in hopes that you'll get a PERFECT screen with absolutely no bleeding because you won't. I totally regret sending my first unit back, but I had to with the wifi issue which seemed to be a hardware issue.
2. Fan noise - this seems to be a hit and miss for people as well. So far, mine has been relatively quiet. However between yesterday and today the fan was running for long periods of times at full speed. I looked into the resources list and found out that the bluetooth device manager was acting up for no reason, so once I killed that, the laptop has gone back to being almost silent again. I'm in a quiet room right now and I can't hear it at all. So if you think the fan is acting up for no reason, go into your task manager and look through the resources list.
UPDATE - My sister received a unit with a fan noise issue that some on the web have been describing. Her fan was spinning at max speed, extremely loudly for 5-15 second periods every minute for no reason at all. If you're experiencing this issue, send it back. It is not something that should be happening.
3. Keyboard Flex - this issue seems to be more reported among UX32VD purchasers, but just in case people were wondering, I cannot get the keyboard to flex at all on my UX31A unless I'm intentionally pushing down with a lot of force, which would probably end up breaking the laptop before you experience the amount of flexing people have been worried about.
So if you're looking for a light, extremely portable machine that still packs enough power to carry out your everyday tasks and a bit more with a great screen that's matte (which will cut out glare associated with glossy displays) you just can't get any better than this ultrabook. However, if you're looking for a laptop you can replace parts with, such as upgrading the RAM and such, but still want the look and feel of this model, check out the Zenbook Prime UX32VD.
P.S. I got the ADATA Sandforce SSD as well. It seems so far everyone who has received this model at least has gotten the ADATA rather than the Sandisk unlike previous generation Zenbooks.
[6/28/2012 UPDATE - I started noticing a wi-fi issue. I noticed that it started getting slower and slower at connecting to the internet. I would have to wait an extra 20 seconds or so for the wi-fi to connect after I revived it from standby (this is 20 seconds after windows had all loaded up). Not something I noticed when I had first gotten it. Then today, we changed our internet service provider. The Zenbook Prime struggled very hard to connect when the 2 other laptops in our house connected with no problem. Once it managed to connect, the connection was so slow, I couldn't even load a google search. I tried to restore everything to the factory condition just to see if that would help with anything in case the driver settings somehow got messed with (although highly unlikely), but then it got stuck on and endless cycle of restarting and shutting down with no way to stop it unless I force shut it down. It was absolutely bizarre.
As this is a new laptop, it shouldn't be having issues like this to start with, so it's going back. I still love this thing though, so I'll be ordering the same model again and hope that the new one will have the fantastic no bleed screen + perfectly lit up keys + no dead pixels like my current one, but without the wi-fi issue and the endless rebooting! Will update when I get the new one.
[6/30/2012 UPDATE - Just got my new one today as Amazon is amazing with their customer service and overnighted the replacement to me! Anyways, this one had the other wifi issue that people had been talking about in the later reviews here and on the UX31A-AB71 page. The wifi connection arrived disabled to start with, and I had to manually go into the driver settings to enable it. Once that was enabled, I was able to connect but the connection was extremely slow and the wifi dropped off and on. The wireless adapter seems to be unstable when using N setting on routers.
Thanks to user 'foot attack' who pointed out this work around the connectivity issues with N-routers, I was able to get it working with my other router. If your router is on the N mode, change it to the G mode through your router settings and see if that works. I tried setting up the internet connection with my other router with the N enabled and noticed that the connectivity issue was only solved once I switched back to G through the router settings. Quite annoying, I hope ASUS will be able to fix this soon with a new update as N-routers are pretty much the standard these days.
So far so good on the replacement laptop minus the N wifi connection issue. The only thing driving me insane right now is my space bar is squeaky! Hopefully it'll stop squeaking on its own, or I guess I'll have to try putting some oil under it to see if it helps. Oh, also, the trackpad/touchpad on this replacement seems much easier to physically click on than my previous one, which I had to press on really firmly to get the click to register.
P.S. There is backlight bleeding this time on the new unit while my previous unit had a perfect screen :( , but you only see it on dark screens so oh wells, doesn't matter.
Nevermind, turned up the brightness setting and tried watching a movie on it. The bleeding is really really bad. It totally distracted from the movie whenever the scene was a bit dark. I could have dealt with little backlight bleeding, but not this.
I loved almost all features about this laptop except for the sensitivity of the touchpad and the backlight bleeding (Out of the 4 units my sister and I've had between us for this laptop, only one had little backlight bleeding that didn't distract. Rest of the units had pretty bad bleeding with other issues on top of it. ASUS needs to take into the issue of quality control with this model for we've experienced random issues on top of major backlight bleeding. However besides those two factors, this notebook is definitely one of my favorites I've ever owned. It's quiet, responds instantly, and the display is amazing (when not watching a movie with dark screens in a dark room), and looks ultra sleek and feels extremely well made.
However, I've gotten tired of trying to receive the perfect unit, so I've sent my second unit back for a refund and will probably wait until later on in the future to repurchase. My sister, however, is a bit more patient than I am, and is waiting for a new unit.
on June 29, 2012
Update3: My newer unit even had wireless problems after awhile. It wasn't really an n-router problem because I disabled n-mode and was still having trouble connecting to regular g or b. My new one also had horrible backlight bleeding. It turns out that I got fed up of this laptop after reading the cons so I just returned it for now. I may get the UX31A-DB51 again, but for now I am laptop-less. I just feel like Asus has not put enough time into ensuring that users get the optimal experience. It shouldn't take 3 Zenbooks for a user to not experience wireless problems or have a good trackpad or something.
Update2: Got my new Zenbook. It also had Wireless problems, but they weren't as bad as my old one. I was able to fix these problems by tweaking my router settings. Everything is great now. Anyways, for the sake of testing out this keyboard, I might as well finish this review.
- Amazing 1080p display
- Great Bang & Olufsen sound
- Looks very nice
- Backlit keyboard
- Fast Ivy Bridge processor
- Very fast startup times
- Great Amazon warranty - replaced in 1 day
- Excellently packed + sleeve given
- Very light and portable
- Wireless problems. If you have an n-router, you WILL need to tweak out your settings
- Comes with a lot of bloatware
- Battery life is just "okay"
- Touchpad needs to be tweaked in the settings before it is usable
- Colors on display are a little saturated
- The Fn key needs to be used to access volume and brightness control by pressing Fn+F-key combo. I think it would be a lot more useful if those volume and brightness keys were able to be pressed without Fn, and Fn would be used only to access the actions of the F-keys. I'm making it sound complicated, but I basically mean the opposite of what it is now.
- Asus tech support is pretty much useless. They assume you're some amateur with computers. You're better off just returning your Zenbook to Amazon if you think you have a major problem because they give you free 1-day shipping anyways.
Update: After trying many things to try and fix my network issues, I have decided just to get a replacement. Amazon is coming to pick mine up tomorrow and will give me a new one. I will update about my new Zenbook once it comes.
Just got my product. I love the 1080p display, the Bang & Olufsen sound, super speedy ADATA SSD, and basically everything about it. However, I have experienced a MAJOR problem that just makes this product annoying for me. I've had issues connecting to my Wireless Internet ever since I got the laptop. It was the first thing I noticed and did not leave a good impression. When I click connect to my network, the Zenbook takes ages to connect and usually stops at "Limited access" or "No network access". After several attempts, it *sometimes* connects to the internet. I know for a fact that it isn't a problem with my internet because the 3 other laptops that I have connect to the network easily. I also tried tethering the Mobile Network from my phone onto the laptop via WiFi and it wouldn't work. I've been trying to fix this and I'm going to call Asus to try to fix this problem. Hopefully it isn't a hardware issue and I won't have to return it. Asides from this problem, the laptop is great and I'm excited to use it. I'll let you guys know what happens.
on November 22, 2012
I've been waiting for this computer for months.
I read that this was the fault-free incarnation of the UX31E, which in itself was absolutely great.
So - I got my machine in the beginning on August 2012.
From day one - non-stop problems.
At first, problems with the Wi-Fi which kept disconnecting, or refusing to reconnect after sleeping.
Than there was the gigantic mouse pad that no matter what I did kept interrupting me typing and throwing me from one end of the screen to the other.
But you know what, I could live with all this if not for the keyboard breaking after 2 months of use. Some of the keys just stopped responding.
Now I know, shit happens. Just go to the nearest Asus shop and they'll fix it, right? WRONG!!
My machine has been lying in the shop for 1.5 months. They don't tell me when it'll be fixed. They don't respond at all to my online complaints and attempts to understand why it takes for a new machine 2 months to break and why ASUS can't fix it/replace it/refund it.
Bottom line - I have a paper-weight that cost me 1,200 Euros with a manufacturer that refuses to take responsibility.
Bottom line - stay away!!
Even if your machine is ok, the service is non-existent. Be warned!!