Asus Zenbook Touch UX31A review
A deliciously pretty and expertly constructed Ultrabook, hampered only by a steep price and middling battery life
In a game of "spot the difference", you'd have trouble telling Asus' latest addition to its Zenbook range – the Zenbook Touch UX31A – apart from its predecessor, the Zenbook Prime UX31A. There's the same spiral of grey metal spinning around the Asus logo on the lid, settling into a brushed-metal finish across the base and keyboard, and it still looks every inch the high-end Ultrabook.
It feels every bit as beautifully constructed as the Prime, too. We could complain that the laptop's edges are a little sharp, particularly those along the front edge, or that it still looks like a clone of the Apple's MacBook Air 13in, but that would be nitpicking. The Zenbook Touch UX31A's 1.45kg chassis combines rigid build with attractive design in a way few of its rivals can manage.
The big news, however, is the addition of a touchscreen. Asus hasn't fiddled with the resolution or the panel type – there's still a top-notch Full HD IPS display beneath the glossy finish – but the Asus' 13.3in display now supports every prod, flick and swipe you send its way.
Thankfully, the image quality we raved about on the previous model hasn't gone astray. Images burst forth thanks to the panel's maximum brightness of 325cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and 956:1 contrast ratio, and it's colour-accurate. Not only does the panel cover the boldest hues in the sRGB gamut, it also produces a low average Delta E of 3.2.
The Zenbook Touch UX31A also boasts serious processing power. The 2GHz Intel Core i7-3537U CPU is an Ivy Bridge chip, but it's powerful enough to pull in front of most of its Haswell-powered peers, and achieved an impressive 0.71 in our Real World benchmarks. It's enough to make the Zenbook feel seriously fast in everyday use, and the 256GB SanDisk SSD does its bit, providing speedy sequential write speeds of 463MB/sec, write speeds of 379MB/sec and lightning-fast boot and application load times.
The Asus' ergonomics are solid. The layout of the keyboard is sensible and the spacing between its Scrabble-tile keys is just right. The square keycaps fall naturally under your fingers, and there's just enough resistance to each keystroke for them to feel substantial and responsive.
Below, the large, buttonless touchpad is just as responsive as the touchscreen when it comes to registering edge-swipes and gestures. Even the integrated mouse buttons function well, and don't require the trial-and-error right-clicking that many buttonless touchpads suffer from.
Due to the slimness of its chassis, the Touch UX31A doesn't possess an abundance of ports. There are two USB 3 ports on either edge, an SD card reader and a 3.5mm headset jack, but Asus has had to shrink the video outputs down to micro-HDMI and mini-D-SUB connections. To make amends, Asus includes a USB Gigabit Ethernet adapter and a full-sized D-SUB adapter in the box, and wireless connectivity stretches to dual-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.
In fact, there are only two areas in which the UX31A falls behind, the first of which is battery life. Even here, though, the Asus is far from awful: in our light-use benchmark it managed 7hrs 11mins, which isn't amazing but still perfectly respectable.
In the end, however, the main gripe we have with the Zenbook Touch UX31A is its price. It performs well in every category, and it's drop-dead gorgeous to boot, but at £1,500 it's simply too expensive to recommend. For our money, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 and Dell XPS 12 are by far better buys.
|Price ex VAT||£1,250|
|Price inc VAT||£1,500|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||3|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||326 x 224 x 21mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3537U|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Hard disk||Sandisk SSD|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad/Touchscreen|
|Hardware volume control?||yes|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.9mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||7hr 11min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||41fps|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.71|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|