Ultrabooks tend to be better made and have more elegant designs than everyday laptops. Asus pulled out the stops building the Zenbook UX301.
Like most Ultrabooks it’s well engineered and nice looking. The metal lid has a distinct purple tint and a spiral pattern. There’s an Asus logo that lights up MacBook-style when the Zenbook is in use.
That’s no accident. The MacBook Air is clearly Asus’ reference point. The Zenbook aspires to be the nearest Windows equivalent to an Air. It gets close.
High resolution Zenbook
The Zenbook UX301 has a 13 inch 2560 x 1440 pixel screen. This makes it one of the highest resolution Ultrabooks on the market. It is an ideal device for working with photos, video or other creative tools that need high-resolution.
While high-resolution is a good thing, it’s not without problems. The way Windows works means text often displays in tiny sizes. The good news is you can view two documents side-by-side. That’s great for editing. The bad news is I ended up straining my eyes squinting at the tiny type.
In theory Windows 8.1 allows you to scale type, icons and other screen items. Scaling doesn’t work with all applications.
Touch screen good at times
This is troubling because the Zenbook UX301 has a touch screen. Some touch buttons and links are tiny.
In practice I found myself touching the screen only when using the Windows Modern interface and apps. The touchpad is better when working in the more familiar Windows desktop.
Laptop makers face a trade-off between raw computing power and battery life. Apple keeps MacBook Air lights on longer by reining-in the processor and other settings.
Asus takes the other approach with the Zenbook UX301. You get three or four hours of use. In return the Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of Ram and graphics coprocessor chew through tough tasks at a nifty pace.
This is a good machine for running big spreadsheets. Storage is fast too, speeding data intensive work.
Zenbook UX301 verdict
At $2499, the Zenbook UX301 isn’t cheap. On the other hand it is roughly the same price as a similarly configured MacBook Air.
One niggle is the power supply. Asus packs a bulky charger, which needs an extra adaptor to fit in New Zealand power sockets. This isn’t well balanced, so the charger pack tends to drop out, disconnecting the device. On one occasion this left me with fully discharged batteries at an awkward moment.
Despite the shortcomings, the Zenbook UX301 is a good Ultrabook for anyone needing desktop processing grunt and graphics power in a portable. If you just want Windows grunt and portability, the Surface Pro 3 could be a better bet. If you prefer the same thing in a more traditional package, the Zenbook should fit the bill.