The ASUS ZENBOOK UX31A: Where slim and sleek gets pricey…

The ASUS ZENBOOK UX31A.
The ASUS ZENBOOK UX31A.

Let me be honest from the start: Before I got this PC for review, I had not used an ultrabook, only heard about them from those who had been lucky to have and use one previously marveling about their capabilities.

Then in mid October, I was called (don’t ask by whom) and asked if I’d be interested in being provided with the ASUS ZENBOOK UX31A for review and I responded with a big “YES.”

So in the evening, we meet and I’m handed a small slim case, with the ultrabook. From here, I’m amazed at how small the PC is considering that it can fit in the case, which is itself small as it is.

Let us now go through the specs of the ZENBOOK UX31A:

 Specs Sheet

Model ASUS ZENBOOK™ UX31A
CPU  Intel® Core™ i7-3517U
Intel® Core™ i5-3317U
Operating System Windows 8
Windows 8 Pro
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
Z-height 3mm at the front; 9mm at the rear
Main Memory DDR3 1600MHz 4GB (on board)
Screen 300nits 11.6″ 16:9 HD+ (1600×900)
Instant on Always resume in 2 seconds
USB charger+ Y
I/O port 1 x mini VGA port
2 x USB 3.0 port
1 x micro HDMI 1.4 (1080p support)
1 x audio jack combo
1 x SD card reader
USB3.0 2 Ports
SSD Generation Up to SATAIII SSD 256G
BT Bluetooth 4.0
Battery 50W (7+hrs)
Mic Integrated digital microphone
Keyboard 268 illuminated chiclet keyboard
Camera HD 720p CMOS module
Audio Bang & Olufsen ICEpower® SonicMaster
Optical Drive N/A
Weight 1.3kg

The ZENBOOK UX31A is powered by the Intel Core i7 processor and is – like the name Ultrabook indicates – ultra-slim at just 3mm in the front and 9mm from the rear.

The PC features a 13.3-inch full HD display with touch-screen capabilities, enabling one to use it with a keyboard and mouse as well as without. It comes with a 220GB hard disk and weighs only 1.3kg, making it very portable.

I am informed that it has not yet hit the Kenyan market but when it does, it is set to retail at around Kshs 189,000 (that is some US $ 2197), “being the premium product that it is.”

Now, let’s go “deeper” into the PC and find out whether it’s worth the price, as that cash is enough to purchase (not lease) up to 5 acres of land in some parts of this country, including in my home constituency of Ugenya.

The write-up from the manufacturer states that the PC is “full HD Ultrabook combining beauty and sound.”

And I must agree with the first part of the description concerning beauty – for truth be said, the PC is a work of art.

But when it comes to sound, well…I have to digress. This is because the Bang & Olufsen speakers – whose logo is displayed just next to the keyboard – have been placed face-down on the right and left edges of PC, leading to a sound quality that I must say it disappointingly weak for a machine this beautiful. The sound output however gets better when the machine is connected to external speakers or earphones.

Why the manufacturer decided to have only 2 USB slots for the PC is something I fail to understand (or maybe it’s the standard for Ultrabooks?). I would have been happier if it had at least 3 slots – one for my external drive; the other for the data modem and the third for the mouse. Because now with only two USB slots, I always have to keep interchanging and replacing the mouse and external hard drive when I need to look at a file in the external hard drive. Not very convenient and user-friendly…

The other issue I have with the PC is its adapter’s tendency to heat after continuous use, something that made me wonder whether the problem was with my power connection. Anyway, this is a small matter as the PC can go for over 4 hours without being plugged in…meaning you don’t need to deal with the hot adapter the whole time. Just make sure it’s fully charged and you’re good to go.

Overall, I’d say that the ZENBOOK UX31A is definitely a PC for the mobile exec who needs an incredibly portable device to carry to various meetings for presentations or just for non-cost conscious users who have had enough with bulky notebooks. Cos at that price point, sleek and slim definitely comes at a cost…

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