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Review: Asus Zenbook Prime

When Taiwanese electronics company Asus announced the launch of the Windows 8 line of Ultrabooks just last year October, critics, much so from the US – not knowing what to expect – predicted chaos from Asus. Well the Zenbook touch landed on our desks a few weeks ago and what a piece of metal it is.

The Looks.

While the Zenbook looks and feels light, the all metal chassis actually gives the machine a rather shaped-up, beasty look of which translates to the performance of the Zenbook of which I highly salute Asus for. Many might argue that the Zenbook touch is just a glorified version of its predecessor; the Zenbook.

Of course it is and by this I do not only mean because of the touch capable surface, but Asus somehow managed to craft this UX31A Touch more illuminated. As soon as we unwrapped the UA31A, we were greeted by a rather textured brown Asus branded laptop sleeve and another pouch-sized sleeve for the free peripherals; an Ethernet adapter and VGA to VGA adapter.

Open a new world.

Once you’ve found you’re way around the textured sleeves and is done admiring the metal chassis, you can escape to another world by simply lifting the famously thin frame of the 13.3-inch capacitive touchscreen and be wowed by the backlit keyboard. This keyboard, unlike on other Zebooks is no more recessed and is as comfortable as ever. One quickly gets used to the keyboard in a jiffy all thanks to its positioned style and space between tabs.

There always has to be a downside, the bad stuff we do not want from such an amazing device (so far). Unfortunately the touchpad is no breeze, we had quite a few problems executing typical windows 8 gestures like swiping up in order to bring the charms bar proved to be a bit sticky which led to us having to press or express a gesture more than twice for it to register.

Performance and Drive.

At only R20,199. the UX31A specifications are those of you were to find on a high-end laptop. Along the right hedge, you’ll find a USB 3.0 port. the power port, display port and micro-HDMI connection. While the left side boasts of a 3.0 USB port, headphone jack and an SD card slot. All of the above components are powered by a 1.9 GHz Core 1.7-3517U processor with 4GB RAM, a ADATA made 256GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 4000. The proof of this ‘pudding’ comes to life when you first turn the Zenbook on, from our test. it takes a mere 8 seconds for you to start it up and another 4 seconds to resume working from stand-by mode.

As we’ve noted in some of our laptop reviews running on Windows 8, its a shame that the tiled platform is not kind on the battery. Asus rated the UX31A for 7 hours of battery life but excuse us, maybe that when the Zenbook is idle or not being used at all? Our test of the device connected to a active Wireless network (Wi-Fi), running a few apps including Office 365 suite and 45 minutes of online gaming resulted in it lasting in just under 5 hours. That’s 50W for you.

Unlike the Toshiba Satellite U845, this beast proved to seamless when switching between numerous apps and the internet running as well. Running the soon to be launched Aircraft II: Heart of the Swarm proved to be rather sluggish, is it the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that doesn’t have the mettle for serious gaming or is StarCraft that well designed? Makes you wonder. Then again, ultrabooks were not made for gamers in mind, nonetheless one can expect superb graphic performance.

Sight and Sound.

The UX31A has one of the most responsive touch displays running on Windows 8 we’ve tested so far. Playing along with every command we would swipe on the 13.3-inch capacitive touchscreen. To put the high-res 1,920 x 1.080 IPS display to the test, we opted for a couple of Fringe episodes and boy-oh-boy did it deliver; dialogue came through loud and clear, same applied to streaming the trailer to the last installment of The Hangover on YouTube.

This beast has very wide viewing angles, with a downside to the finish. The glossy finish comes quite attractive when the display is on idle or off, but unfortunately it does not eliminate all glare, one has to at least spend an entire moment searching for a reflcetion-free position.

Running It.

Asus has taken all the worry away when it comes to software issue, bugs and minor fixes by releasing all their W8 running devices standard with a one-year warrant which covers accidental damage, parts and labour also with a 24/7 telephone support. The UX31A Touch comes standard with a trial of McAfree anti-virus software, Skype. the Nest organiser and Quicktime. Of course, Microsoft would never leave Solitaire and a refreshed version of ‘Paint’ as FreshPaint behind and new favourite; Taptiles.

Asus’ bold move to introduce the Zenbook Prime line of ultrabooks to the market is a good thing that only keeps getting better. The smooth, interactive touch display is there to convince you that Windows 8 is here to stay, and does a darn good job at it. The attractive all-metal design is a perfect tease to whats hidden when the UX31A starts performing. The Zebook Prime Touch is arguably the best W8 ultrabook we’ve tested thus far.

*Thats was quick, Pricing has been amended compared to the previous R3,999 stated. The actual price of R20,199 is correct above.

Papi Mabele
Tech enthusiast at heart. Lover of all things digital. Papi is the founder of SA Vibe and has been sharing his love for gadgetry since 2010. Papi sees no need for wearable tech in his busy schedule and considers the Xbox One as non existant. He may come across as bias at times, and still holds a grudge at BlackBerry for creating the 8520.