Price: To be announced
Available at all leading retailers from January
Asus has taken a leaf out of Apple’s book and come up with a slimline laptop that’s packed with power.The Asus Zenbook UX21 is a powerful but thin and light notebook in the Intel-specified Ultrabook series. At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s an Air as the Zenbook borrows the slim, tapering metal design from Apple, although the aluminium Zenbook, while light at 1.1kg, is sturdier than the flimsy-feeling Air.
Squeezed inside is a Sandybridge Core i5 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, which means the laptop boots quickly, but also resumes speedily from sleep. It springs back to life immediately after putting the lid down.
There is no separate graphics chip, so while you’ll be fine with watching video, this isn’t a gaming machine; and anyway, as is increasingly the case, there’s no optical drive. There are some thoughtful touches: the power brick is fairly light (although the cable is a little short) and the box contains a surprisingly nice slip pouch as well as a mini-HDMI cable and a USB-to-ethernet adaptor, which in turn have a little pouch of their own.
There are two USB ports, one of which is the faster USB 3.0 standard that has an additional trick up its sleeve in the form of USB Charger which charges USB devices a bit faster than normal.
Battery life is good, it claims five hours of ordinary use, with a standby time of a week. Another plus point is the audio — Bang Olufsen has its branding on the chassis, and speakers, which sit between the screen and the keyboard and sounds surprisingly rich for a laptop. I’m a touch-typist and I liked the keyboard with its chiclet keys and its firm, springy touch, though I found I had to hit the keys harder than I expected, especially the space bar. The keyboard isn’t backlit — if that detail is important to you. Under normal load, this machine also runs surprisingly quiet and cool.
I’d liked to have seen Windows Professional or Ultimate rather than Home Premium. You can’t join an Active Directory domain with this version of Windows, which means your IT supremo might not let you use it for work stuff. Also, there is no option to upgrade any of the specs when you buy it.
That becomes more of an issue on machines with just one small SSD than it has been on computers with giant HDDS as rubbishy software eats up limited space.
I wouldn’t choose this as my main computer. There’s not enough storage space, people with bigger hands might find the keyboard cramped and it’s a bit pricey as a second machine.
However, the design, weight and thoughtfulness of the whole package do justify the price. This is a seriously nice laptop that despite some niggles, is a pleasure to use.