Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A review

12 Jul 2012

A gorgeous Ultrabook with a superb Full-HD display and plenty of stamina, but the price is simply far too high

Price when reviewed: 
1,526(£1,526 inc VAT)
4

The Asus Zenbook UX31E was the first laptop to nearly nail the Ultrabook formula. It buzzed with potential: it had the looks, the power, the stamina and, crucially, the price. Now, Asus has answered the criticisms levelled at its original Zenbook and rung the changes for its new model, the Zenbook Prime UX31A. With the addition of a gorgeous 13.3in Full HD screen, Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge technology and a backlit keyboard, it's gunning for the money-no-object Ultrabook crown.

From the outside, the Zenbook is just as pretty as it ever was. A dark swirl of metal spins across the lid, softening into a lighter brushed metal across the base, and the sharp, crisp lines of the Zenbook’s body are undeniably attractive. Weight-wise, the UX31A remains firmly in the featherweight camp, with its 1.4kg body light enough so you'll forget it’s in your bag. We’re fans of the compact wall-wart power supply, too – it adds a mere 200g to the overall weight.

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A - front

Thanks to the presence of an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU, however, the UX31A’s stamina is unlikely to leave you rushing to a mains socket on a particularly frequent basis. Dim the screen and turn off the wireless radio, and the UX31A will keep on going for 9hrs 5mins. Pile on the pressure, and the Core i7-3517U processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD relish the challenge. A result of 0.68 in our Real World Benchmarks puts the Asus just ahead of the Sandy Bridge Core i7 in the previous model, which scored 0.62.

Gaming performance still isn’t going to set the world on fire, but the Prime's Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU is far more capable than the previous generation. The 37fps average in our low detail Crysis test drops to 19fps at 1,600 x 900 and Medium detail settings, but this remains an impressive level of performance for such a dainty machine. Keep the resolution and detail settings to more modest levels, and this pint-sized portable will gladly deliver a basic level of gaming performance.

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A - rear

So the performance increases are subtle, but the display is impossible to ignore. The Zenbook Prime’s Full HD display knocks its predecessor for six, with an IPS panel delivering wide viewing angles and rich, saturated colours. Both brightness and contrast are far superior to the previous Zenbooks, and while the 166ppi density can’t match the 220ppi Retina display of Apple’s MacBook Pro, it still makes for stunningly crisp images.

Put to the test with our X-Rite colorimeter, the Full HD display really delivers: the 1,032:1 contrast ratio and a maximum brightness of 424cd/m[sup]2[/sup] are as good as laptop displays get, and the average Delta E of 3.1 indicates outstanding colour reproduction. If there’s a moan, it’s a minor one: the panel’s 6,185K colour temperature is some way off the 6,500K ideal, and lends images a warm, rosy tint.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,272
Price inc VAT £1,526
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 2
Performance 5

Physical specifications

Dimensions 327 x 226 x 21mm (WDH)
Weight 1.400kg
Travelling weight 1.6kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-3517U
Motherboard chipset Intel HM77
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 0

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000
Graphics card RAM N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 256GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/600
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Speaker location Front edge
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 9hr 5min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 37min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 37fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.68
Responsiveness score 0.73
Media score 0.75
Multitasking score 0.56

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A