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ASUS Zenbook UX31E-DH52 -- Detailed Review

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ASUS Zenbook UX31E-DH52

The Zenbook is one of the new Intel-inspired ďUltrabooks.Ē I was given one several weeks ago to review, and Iíve been using extensively. Iíll break this review into categories, to go more in depth about each aspect of this laptop. You can check out my first impressions review here, if youíd like. And look out for a more development-focused review in about a month.

Appearance

Itís the first thing you see, and you want it to pop. The Zenbook certainly does that. The brushed steel case looks great. The top can show fingerprint under the right light, but youíd have to be looking to notice. Plus it cleans off easily. The screen is bright and vibrant. The key caps on the keyboard have the same finish as the rest of the case. The speaker bar is built into the hinge, which is an attractive touch. Altogether, it makes for a very appealing package.

Build Quality

Iíve been impressed in this area as well. The entire computer just feels solid. The hinge is tight enough that it wonít move around or slip unless you push it. Iíve owned a laptop that had a loose hinge, and itís more annoying than it sounds. The hinge is the only moving part on the external of this laptop, so nothing rattles around or comes loose. Iíve used the laptop heavily for the last for weeks. Iíve been putting the laptop in my gym bag to bring with me to work, and itís held up quite nicely.

Hardware

Itís an impressive set of statistics for such a small laptop. It got an Intel Core i5 2557M processor and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM. Itís got a SanDisk U100 128GB SSD. Built in Bluetooth is a nice plus, but thatís really becoming common these days. USB 3 is an excellent inclusion. Iíve recently purchased a portable USB 3 hard drive, and I have to say, there is a very noticeable difference in transfer speed. Battery life is great. Iíve been leaving my charging cable at work, and just bringing the laptop home. It hasnít run dry yet, but I donít really push the computer that hard at home. The only thing I would honestly prefer to see better is the graphics hardware. Itís the Intel HD Graphics family hardware. For most applications, youíd never notice, but it would be a nice option to be able to play some games when youíre done with work for the day.

Ports

I think theyíve found a good balance between too few ports (like the MacBook Air), and too many, which would necessarily increase the size of the machine. It has 1 USB3, 1 USB2, a headphones jack, a power port, a mini-display port, and a mini-HDIM port. ASUS also included a USB-to-Ethernet adapter as well as a mini-DP-to-VGA adapter. A DVI adapter might have been a bit more useful, but more and more monitors are supporting Display Port directly these days.

Keyboard

As I mentioned in the previous review, Iím somewhat of a keyboard nerd. It sounds crazy, but people like me do exist. For a laptop keyboard, I have to say itís good. Better than most Iíve used. The MacBook Proís keyboard is better, but this is close. One issue Iíve had with it is that you have to hit the keys right in the middle for them to actuate. Iíve actually typed this review on the laptop, and I find I frequently have to go back and fix words where I missed a letter. This is most pronounced with the shift keys, since theyíre so long. If you hit it on the corner, itíll feel like youíve pushed it down, but it wonít actually register. Not a deal breaker, of course, but itís annoying. It has gotten better the more Iíve used it, so I guess that itís a ďtrain yourselfĒ issue. Still, could be better.

Trackpad

Well, itís another comparison with the MacBook, and just like the keyboard, itís almost as, but not quite as good as the Mac. Itís miles ahead of many other laptop trackpads, of course. The multitouch gestures are great. Unfortunately, the scrolling isnít as smooth, and the gestures donít register as easily. Again, far better than most other laptop trackpads Iíve used; it just doesnít quite stack up to its inspiration.

Software

As with any computer you didnít put together yourself, it comes with software installed by the manufacturer. This usually ranges from mildly useful to something approaching malware. ASUSís software isnít nearly as bad as malware, but there is quite a bit of it installed.

Some of it is useful, like Power4 Gear Hybrid (which lets you quickly switch between power profiles), and the ASUS Live Updater is handy. Some of it is little more than a gimmick. I thought Face Login would be pretty neat, and it is when it works. But it only seems to work in the same light as you took the initial picture, and since I did that at work, it wonít log me in at home. But since you can just type your password, itís all moot.

Overall, nothing to complain about specifically, only that it seems like a lot of OEM software.

Wrap up

All said and done, Iím impressed. Other than some minor complaints, the computer is excellent. Iíd recommend it to anyone looking for a small, portable, powerful laptop. Remember, Iíll be reviewing this laptop from the perspective of a developer in about a month.

2 Comments On This Entry

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The Architect 2.0 Icon

21 February 2012 - 06:21 PM
When comparing Windows trackpads to Macbook Pro trackpads, it helps to state whether you were using the MBP in BootCamp or in OS X. the performance delta is extremely significant.
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Curtis Rutland Icon

21 February 2012 - 07:49 PM
I'm comparing it to the OS X performance. That's smooth as butter. Unfortunately, the trackpad for this laptop is more comparable to the MBP in Boot Camp, maybe a bit worse (but with more gesture support, three finger gestures work). It's just not smooth. Functional, but not smooth.
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