Asus Zenbook Prime ultrabook review

Reviews James Hunt Feb 11, 2013

A decent but pricey contender

Asus has cultivated a reputation for high-quality, well-priced hardware almost across the board, and its early Asus Zenbook UX21 was one of the few to truly stick it to Apple's Macbook Air - so naturally, we were particularly interested to see what the latest incarnation of their Ultrabooks could do. In this case, we looked at the Zenbook Prime UX31A, which was refreshed only a few months ago.

The UX31A is one of the Zenbook's new premium models, and it does look the part, with well-designed and stylish casing. There's a clear influence from the likes of the Macbook Air, but that's to be expected at this end of the market. It's sturdy but sleek, with a hinge that's stiff but not sticky.

Specs-wise, it's similarly up there, with an Ivy Bridge Core i7-3517U CPU and 4GB or RAM. Intel HD 4000 graphics are adequate for most uses, and the 13.3" 1080p IPS screen is a particular highlight. It contains the standard 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD you'd expect the best Ultrabooks to have, as well as two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and VGA-out.

One of the trumpeted features are the ICEpower speakers, which were created in collaboration between Asus and Bang & Olufsen. As it turns out, they're not as good as Asus would have you believe. They're just as tinny and weak as most laptop speakers are. Asus also packs its factory installations full of multimedia-themed bloatware, which is upsetting.

The 9mm thickness is certainly impressively thin, and at 1.2kg it's hard to imagine a full-size notebook ever getting lighter, but given that it costs £1500, you should reasonably expect impressive at the very least. The six-hour battery life is reasonable, but it doesn't quite meet the standards you'd expect of such a costly device.

The fact is, while there's a lot to like about the Zenbook Prime UX31A, it's not good enough to justify the price. If it were £400-£500 cheaper, we'd jump at one. But it isn't, so we don't.

Details:

• CPU: Core i7-3517U
• SSD Size: 256GB
• Screen: 13.3" full HD
• Weight: 1.2kg
• Thickness: 9mm
• Price: £1,499.99

Scores:

Power: 8/10
Value: 5/10
Overall: 6/10