Asus Zenbook UX21 reviewed: hard to find anything wrong with this ultrabook
The Asus UX21 is one of the first ever ultrabooks to hit the market, in an attempt to overthrow the MacBook Airs’ supremacy and to pretty much change the computer market as we know it right now.
And even though Asus’ s beautiful 11-incher has gone for sale for just a few days, we have the first product reviews already available, including two very comprehensive ones, from Anandtech and Cnet.co.uk.
In the following lines we will try to quickly summarize the reviews already available and to find out the UX21’ s strong points, but also its weak points. Furthermore, we will try to determine if Asus’ s first attempt at this kind of revolutionary product can meet the standards of its pretty pretentious price tag and also how it can compare with its strongest direct competitor, the 11-inch Apple MacBook Air.
Design and build
Like all ultrabooks released or scheduled for a release in the following weeks, the UX21 is supposed to be slim, light and thin. Unlike some of the ultrabooks, however, Asus’ s 11-incher is also pretty original in terms of design and manages to not just be another cheap MacBook Air copy.
The aluminum unibody is sturdy and robust, yet elegant and smooth, while the chassis itself is pretty rigid. However, that is not a problem, because it helps the overall image of the ultrabook to be even stronger than it was supposed to.
In terms of weight, the UX21 is a winner, going for only 2.4 pounds, which is almost identical with MacBook Air’s weight, while the product dimensions are themselves pretty impressive. Asus’ s 11-incher is therefore only 0.7 inches thick and measures 11.7 and 7.7 inches in height and width.
Keyboard and touchpad
Probably the only small weak point of the Asus UX21 refers to the keyboard and touchpad, which are decent, but can’t compare with the ones featured on the MacBook Air.
The keyboard, therefore, while being pretty comfortable and well-sized, is not as accurate as you might want. Furthermore, the plastic keys feel a bit wobbly at times. Also, you can’t help but feel bad because Asus hasn’t made an effort and hasn’t made the keyboard backlit, as it is the case with the MacBook Air.
The touchpad is extremely large, sturdy, robust, but at the same time comfortable and smooth. The glass surface looks and feels great, but unfortunately there are a few quirks. For instance, you may encounter a few responsiveness issues, as well as a couple of problems with gesture recognition.
Screen, hardware and performance
The UX21 sports an 11.6-inch screen which is, in a word, perfect. The 1366 x 768 pixels resolution is high enough for great overall image quality, the colors are sharp, the brightness levels are great and the contrast is also more than decent.
In terms of performance, while it couldn’t be actually called a great gaming machine, Asus’ s ultrabook is fairly snappy and strong. The 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and the 4 GB of RAM make for a better system than that of the MacBook Air and you will probably notice a slight advantage in gaming, but also in surfing the web or running video content.
In terms of storage space, the UX21 is once again great, featuring a solid state disk with a 128 GB capacity. And aside from providing all the internal memory you will probably need, this will importantly increase your booting speeds, as well as boost your battery life.
Battery life, connectivity, ports and others
According to the Cnet test, the Asus UX 21’ s battery managed to go for only two hours and a half on a single charge. However, that is a very demanding test and you are going to be faced in reality with probably around four or five hours of autonomy based on regular use. That is above average and is around what the MacBook Air can do these days.
In terms of connectivity and ports, things are more than satisfactory yet again, with the UX21 featuring a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, a micro HDMI connector, as well as Wireless and Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility.
Let’s not forget to mention the stereo speakers as well, which are extremely competitive and offer an audio quality and clarity that is pretty rare at notebooks nowadays.
Pricing and availability
As we already mentioned, the UX21 has recently gone up for sale.
The base UX21 boosting a Core i5 processor, 4 GB of memory and a 128 GB SSD drive goes for $999, with shipping included inside the US.
If you need more power or extra storage space, the top version goes for $400 extra and offers a Cire i7 processor and 256 GB SSD, with the same amount of memory.
Both versions are pricey, but they are withing the limits imposed by the competition, including the Lenovo and Acer ultrabooks, but also the 11.6 inch MacBook Air. However, expect prices to drop in the next weeks or months as we get closer to Black Friday and the winter sales period, so better check the links above for the up-to-date price tags.
The Asus UX21 is clearly a great asset for the ultrabook niche, as well as for the entire current computer market. The 11-incher is extremely slim and lightweight, but also solid enough to look reliable.
The screen is great, the performance is well above average for an ultraportable of its kind and the battery life is more than satisfactory. There are a couple of problems with the keyboard and touchpad, but these aren’t that important and they are clearly not deal breakers.
All in all, the UX21 is undeniably great and Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air should fear for its current leadership position.
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