Slim, thin, lightweight, powerful and good looking. That’s what I look for in a laptop and that’s what I am hoping I got in the ASUS ZenBook UX31E. I move around a lot and heavy laptops with massive power cords just don’t cut it for me. But I also do a ton of development work and demos, so I need a powerful laptop too. This is why the thin Ultrabook’s appeal to me … I’m a tough customer who wants it all. You can find the full specs here on the ASUS UX31E site. I believe this is the same ASUS UX31E laptop on Amazon. Here is the summary:

  • i5 Intel core 2557M processor
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 13.3 16:9 HD+ LED Backlight (1600x900 res)
  • 128GB SATA3 Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Integrated 802.11 b/g/h wireless networking
  • Built in Bluetooth v4.0
  • 1.3 kg
  • I’m a happy owner of a Sony Vaio Z that is jam packed and has everything I need … but its also $3000+. But it is hardly affordable. I have shied away from Ultrabooks in the past  because it seemed that if I went for lightweight I got it, but I had to compromise way too much on performance or screen resolution or somewhere that it hurt too much. The latest wave of Ultrabooks calims to be different … better So I decided to give one a try. I just received the ASUS ZenBook UX31E and here are my initial impressions after unboxing it.

    Note: To be clear, I don’t expect this laptop which seems to price just above the $1000 threshold to compete in every facet with the Sony Vaio Z which costs 3x the price of the UX31E. It’s just nice to compare it to something similar in size.

    Someone at ASUS decided the design of the packaging is important … the box, the content, everything inside had a nice design. Here is the package on the outside …



    Inside the UX31E comes with 2 durable cases. One for the dongles and 1 for the UX31E itself. The case s made of a stylish and interesting material … one like I have not seen before for a computer. The case also has a magnetic flap and the UX31E slides into it.


    The UX31E comes with a dongle for a micro HDMI to VGA port and a USB to Ethernet port. These are nice to have as some lightweight laptops require these dongles, but do not come with them. I was glad to see there was no additional expense for them and they came with a case. Though I am a bit torn on dongles as I prefer to simply have these ports built into the machine.


    The power cord and block for the UX31E is much smaller than I thought it would be It oddly resembles another power block in my house (that of the ipad). If you can’t beat em, join em! This is a good thing … I prefer small power blocks. After all, what’s the point of a light weight laptop if you have to lug a huge power brick around. So this was an immediate win for me.


    From the first look I was impressed with how nice the UX31E looked. It is quite slim, shiny, and appealing. Here it is next to its case. Time will tell if the surface shows smudges or not, and I’ll report back after a few weeks of use. But it does look sharp.


    And here it is from the profile showing each side. Its thin at the hinge and really tapers off at the edge, very similar to the MacBook Air physical style.  As you can see, there are only a few ports on the machine itself. One side has a power port, 1 port for USB 3, 1 mini VGA port, and 1 micro HDMI port. The other side has a USB 2 port, a headphone jack, and a 4 in 1 card reader (SD/SDHC/SDCXC/MMC). 


    Here you can see the UX1E next to my Sony Vaio Z. The UX31E is thinner than the Z at its thinnest point, though it feels slightly heavier than the Z. I am guessing this is due to the construction material as the Z is all plastic and the UX31E is metal. Still, the UX31E is still very light and easily portable. The site says it is 1.3 kg (which I believe is 2.86lbs). I believe my Vaio Z is 2.5lbs. Subtle difference, but yet I do feel it.


    Notice too that the screen is slightly longer on the UX31E than the Vaio Z. Just a tad longer.


    The ASUS has a Bang and Olufsen audio system, which I am anxious to try out. One of the areas a lot of ultrabooks fail on is sound … so this would be great if it has quality sound. I’ll report back once I get a chance to test it out.


    The UX31E has a nice feel to it when it opens. It doesn’t feel floppy at all and its easy to tilt the screen to the desired angle without feeling its going to move back on you. The screen is reflective and sharp. I am mixed on these screens as they look awesome when clean and there is no overly bright light source like the sun. WP_000443

    The keyboard is sharp looking. I’ll reserve my judgment on the feedback and responsiveness it gives in a later review, once I have a chance to bang on it.


    It booted fast and right into Windows 7 Home Premium’s setup. I was on my home network within a few minutes and started setting up my essentials (like DropBox) Smile.

    The 128GB SSD drive is at a usable 111GB and comes with 30 of that used, which means I am left with a mere 81GB. I could use that up in a heartbeat and would spring for a 256GB SSD if you can afford it. There is what appears to be a 8GB recovery drive on the SSD which I may blow away to get back that space. Again, I’ll hold off on that for now though.

    That’s it for the unboxing … it took about 10 minutes to unbox it, take photos, boot it up, setup Windows 7, and reboot to a a fresh startup. Not bad! I’ll come back with a more in depth review of how it performs and holds up after a few weeks. I have to install Office, Visual Studio, and all my favorite tools yet. I plan to bring it to South Florida Code camp and possibly DevConnections and Orlando Code cam over the next month. All that travel and the heavy demos will give it a real run through.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe my readers will enjoy. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”