Asus Zenbook UX21 Ultrabook, The New Thin - HotHardware

Asus Zenbook UX21 Ultrabook, The New Thin

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At first glance, the UX21 has an almost sterile appearance.  Its brushed aluminum exterior could be mistaken for stainless steel.  Upon closer inspection, there are some design queues here that are decidedly Asus and a few that are perhaps embellished upon from others. Apple zealots will immediately point to its Macbook Air like traits but we'd offer those design similarities end at the simple dimensions of the system. In fact, the UX21 measures almost dead-nuts the same as the 11.6-inch MB Air.  It's just a hair deeper and a few ounces heavier. It also has a slightly more solid feel to it in our opinion, though that impression is perhaps subjective.
Image Gallery - Click for high res.


A little research into the specifications of the latest iteration of the 11-inch MacBook Air, shows very similar component configurations as well, including the 128GB SSD, 4GB of DDR3-1333 memory and the native resolution of its backlit LCD, at 1366x768. At the same MSRP of $1199, you also get the 1.8GHz dual-core Core i7, that powers the UX21.  Obviously, there are some extensive similarities here, at least from a specifications standpoint.  The UX21's display is a crisp and vibrant glossy panel that we'd offer has slightly less of a glare issue than the Air as well, perhaps because of its matte bezel.

The UX21's keyboard, layout-wise is almost identical to the Air, though it's clad in aluminum key caps, that we feel are more appealing.  The downside is that the UX21's keyboard is not backlit when required.  This feature would have offered near perfection, if there we just a bit more travel in the key caps when pressed as well. Regardless, a mostly comfortable typing experience is offered by the UX21, with a minimal learning curve.  Its oversized two button trackpad is also reasonably accurate and responsive.  No issues or complaints here for us.



In terms of ports, you get a pair of USB ports, one of the 2.0 and another of the higher speed 3.0 variety.  If you want to connect to a wired Ethernet line, however, you'll need to consume the USB 2.0 port with the included Asus Ethernet adapter, since fitting that functionality along the anorexic edges of the machine was out of the question.  At least you get the option with the UX21, however, along with its VGA output connector too.  These options are not available on Apple's 11-inch sliver notebook. And again, the Asus UX21 offers industry standard USB 3.0 connectivity, over the Thunderbolt IO port on the Air.
 
Image Gallery - Click for high res.

So the net-net here is, with the UX21 you get a bit more functionality and features, along with the design quality and platform specifications of the competitively priced Macbook Air, but in a Windows machine.  One more small add would have nailed it for the UX21; a simple SD card slot.  Asus' 13-inch Zenbook has one, but it's not available on the 11-inch model.
 

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It would be PERFECT if it had a backlit keyboard.... *sigh*

Could you guys review the Toshiba U300 ultrabook? It has a backlit keyboard :-D

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Put in a hot graphics card and then it would be perfect.

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Ultrabooks are not intended as a gaming platform, specification even excludes discrete graphics, though with the Ivy Bridge update the GMA should get about 30% performance boost along with the 20-30% CPU performance boost.

We should also see more power saving technology like Self Refreshing screens. So the GPU only wakes when screen content actually changes instead of constantly generating the same image over and over, among other power saving optimizations Intel will be introducing with 22nm chip production. Combined with the power savings from going 22nm, should boost the run times to more acceptable ranges. Not to mention lower system cost and that should start making Ultrabooks more appealing.

More traditional laptops will of course still be available and AMD will likely start offering their own version of Ultrabooks, they just can't call them Ultrabooks, sometime during 2012 when they start pushing their own 28nm ULV solutions.

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Yeah, what JDiaz said. :-D

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I have to agree. I mean these aren't supposed to be gaming machines, they're supposed to be general purpose laptops that are marginally powerful and have a slim form factor. I can see people using this to write documents, watch movies, and generally look stylish and the charts in the review shows that; it's hella powerful for what it is.

Also I love your ideas on power saving technology, you should give those ideas to all the major tech companies stat! The self-refreshing screen is something I would love to see that on a laptop in the near future.

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Really it depends on what the main usage aim is for the machine. The main aim for these is mobility and for that this one looks about perfect.

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I just wish Asus also like Dell would step up their game on the LCD panel used in these machines.

A good screen makes all the difference.

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$1000 for barely mediocre performance :/ Size and style really costs. I don't see myself recommending this to anyone who isn't bathing in money.

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Schmich, not sure which review you read but it must not have been ours. This machine offered way better than mediocre performance. In fact, it offered surprisingly good performance for its form-factor especially.

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I liked the video, and I like the Zenbook too.

If I had the cash, I would buy it. Smile

It really DOES look great, and the performance is completely acceptable too.

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