Asus Zenbook UX21 Ultrabook, The New Thin

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Design and Layout

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.
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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.
 
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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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