Asus Zenbook UX301LA review
Cast from sheets of glass and metal, the Zenbook UX301LA is an attention-grabbing beauty – the only thing wrong is the price
Review Date: 20 Dec 2013
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £1,250 (£1,500 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Glass isn’t the most obvious choice when it comes to crafting an Ultrabook, but Asus has thrown caution to the wind with the Zenbook UX301LA. Stepping in at the top of the Zenbook range, the UX301LA sandwiches its 13.3in touchscreen between two plates of Gorilla Glass and partners a top-flight Haswell CPU with not one but two SSDs. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?
Purpose-built to induce irrational, credit card-crushing desire, the Zenbook UX301LA sashays into view with its glass-clad lid shimmering in a deep, lustrous indigo blue.
The bottom half is formed from metal brushed to a silky, matte sheen, and the squared-off top half contrasts with the softer, more gently tapered curves of the base. Despite the makeover, it’s still unmistakably a Zenbook: concentric circles ripple outwards from the gleaming, silver Asus logo on the lid.
The Asus’ 1.44kg glass and metal chassis is beautifully constructed. There’s barely a millimetre or two of flex in the base, and although the lid is more pliant, the Gorilla Glass promises to do its best to protect the Full HD display from harm. Rubber feet on the underside prevent the Zenbook UX301LA from sliding around on the desk and, in a neat piece of design, the offset hinge raises the rear of the laptop when the lid is opened, tilting the keyboard forwards slightly.
Inside, Asus has partnered a potent Haswell CPU, the 1.8GHz Core i7-4500U, with 8GB of RAM and a pair of 128GB SSDs lashed together in a striped RAID0 array. It’s this RAID array that makes the Asus feel particularly fleet of foot, with heavyweight applications such as Adobe Photoshop bounding into view in seconds.
Remarkably, the Asus’ mSATA SSDs aren’t far behind the lightning-quick PCI Express SSD of the Apple MacBook Air: with a sequential read speed of 798MB/sec and a write speed of 523MB/sec in the AS SSD benchmark, the Asus’ storage is incredibly quick.
The Core i7 CPU provides a fine balance of speedy application performance and long-lasting battery life. In our Real World Benchmarks, the Zenbook UX301LA achieved a solid overall result of 0.67, which is performance enough for any application. Despite such a rapid turn of speed, the Asus has huge reserves of stamina, thanks to a 50Wh battery: it lasted 13hrs 25mins in our light-use battery test.
Admittedly, that’s with brightness dimmed down to 75cd/m2 and Wi-Fi off, so it won’t last as long in everyday use. Nonetheless, it puts this sleek Ultrabook out in front of its rivals, including the Dell XPS 12, which lasted 12hrs 41mins, and the MacBook Air, which lasted 11hrs 43mins.
Are you sure it's 2x128GB SSD?
The model being sold in Finland for roughly the same price (i.e. slightly higher as usual because of our higher VAT and smaller market) has two times 256GB SSDs. It also has what is possibly a faster processor ( Intel i7-4558U 2,8 GHz Dual-Core).
B-512-GB-SS for your Finnish-speaking readers.
The price is still "rather high" but at least with 512GB you no longer need to compare it directly with models from other companies mxing out at 1 x 256GB.
By MikeW2 on 4 Jan 2014
Probably the best compact high performance laptop available.
I'll start by clarifying that I bought a different version of the Zenbook UX301LA. Unlike the one reviewew, mine came with a Haswell i7-4558, 8 GB of RAM and 2x128GB SDD. I also bought it in the US, where to conversion rate meant I paid just £1250, rather than the frankly silly £1800 such a model would cost in the UK.
The build quality is superb, the screen is stunning, and the keyboard and trackpad are a joy to use. I use the laptop for a variety of tasks, including running VM, and light gaming (on titles such as skyrim). The performance of such a light and compact device is unmatched by its similarly sized peers. You'd really need to move upto a quad-core mobile CPU with discrete graphics to best what you get with this machine.
Given the relatively 'low' price I paid for it, it's an unparalleled bargain. Paying so more for it in the UK is a bitter pill to swallow, and I think unjustifiable. Which is a shame, as the machine really is one of a kind.
By JGreene on 31 Jan 2014
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