ASUS unveiled its new ultrabook, the UX 21/31 or “Zenbook,” at an event in New York yesterday. The smallest 11-inch version of the Windows 7 computer has an Intel Core i5 processor, weighs 2.43 pounds, and is priced at $999. The Zenbook has beaten all the other manufacturers to market, as it is the first ultrabook available starting today. The Zenbooks are brushed aluminum unibody—er, “monoshell,” as ASUS puts it. The bladelike notebooks are 0.11 inches thick at the front and 0.67 or 0.71 inches thick at the back for the 11-inch and 13-inch versions, respectively—nigh-identical dimensions to the MacBook Air. The 11-inch version of the Zenbook doesn’t have the wide-and-squat screen the 11-inch Air does, but has the same 1366x768 native resolution; the 13-inch Zenbook’s screen is 1600x900.
Each notebook comes with one USB 3.0 port in addition to one USB 2.0, microHDMI out, and a miniVGA display connector, with USB-to-Ethernet and miniVGA-to-VGA adapters included in the box. The 13-inch model also has a built-in SD card reader. 4GB of RAM is standard in all models, and both sizes can be configured with either Intel Core i5 or i7 processors (1.6GHz Core i5‐2467M for the 11-inch, 1.7GHz Core i5‐2557M for the 13-inch, and 1.8GHz Core i7-2677M for both). The base 11-inch model has a 128GB SSD, and the most pricey versions of the 13-inch can be configured with a 256GB SSD.
A 0.3-megapixel camera is centered above the screen, and the battery life is rated at 5 hours for the 11-inch model and 7 hours for the 13-inch model. ASUS is also touting the “instant-on” capability of the Zenbook, which brings up the desktop in less than two seconds when it is opened. Standby time is where the Zenbook falls far short of the rival it is targeting in every other way—the 11-inch gets up to 7 days, and the 13-inch up to 10 days (all MacBook Airs get up to 30).During our hands-on time, the Zenbook felt very solid—not a creaky hinge or flexing part to be found. We could open the notebook without the entire thing tipping backwards, unlike some versions of the MacBook Air. The aluminum keys are small and spaced unusually wide by black plastic, a design we didn’t find very appealing to type on.
The unified design of the trackpad felt unusual, though its click was responsive and deep enough. The viewing angles on the screen were not great and had some distortion off to either side, and the screen as a whole was sharp, but its colors a bit dull.
The entry-level 11-inch model of ASUS’s Zenbook is priced at $999, and the line tops out at $1,449 for a 13-inch model with a Core i7 processor, and 256GB SSD. The entire line is available starting today. It's a thin and light Windows ultrabook; here's hoping it can fulfill the rest of Peter Bright's wishes.