It’s been a few months since I began reviewing ASUS’ Zenbook UX31 based on day-to-day use, and it’s time to wrap the process up with a third and final post. The original plan for this series of reviews was that I’d write three posts about the Zenbook, finishing with one that summarized my experience using it regularly for a few months.
Unfortunately, the trouble I had with its keyboard sabotaged that plan. If you haven’t been following along, a month with the Zenbook’s keyboard was all I could endure. However, almost every other aspect of the UX31 put it solidly in the running as a successor to my MacBook Air.
Rather than ending on that sour note about the keyboard, this last post in the series will cover a few things that the Zenbook did well. So well, I’ll be looking for these features in whichever Ultrabook™ ultimately does replace my MacBook Air.
Life’s too short to wait on a computer
I mentioned this in my last post in this series, but the Zenbook’s resume-from-sleep delay is the shortest I’ve ever experienced. I always thought my MacBook Air was pretty quick on that front, but it feels impossibly sluggish after using the Zenbook for a month.
Resume speed sounds like a trivial feature, but I think it’s similar to how a machine’s physical fit and finish affects how you perceive that machine’s innards even though they’re unrelated. When I open the lid on my laptop, I’m doing that because I want to use the thing right away. Repeatedly poking around at the touchpad to determine whether I’m looking at a glorified splash screen façade or working OS makes me feel like this guy sometimes:
I hope that I can ultimately find an Ultrabook™ that satisfies my other requirements (read: a keyboard that works) while still including the Zenbook’s impressively quick resume time.
When I’m mobile, my phone is my lifeline and its battery is the power source I care most about keeping charged. It’s irritating if my laptop runs out of juice, but I’m dead in the water without my phone.
In fact, if you’ve been to a conference with me in the past few years, you might have seen me sitting in an afternoon session, laptop barely cracked open, screen dimmed, charging my phone. Of course, that’s an inefficient way to transfer power from one battery to the other since most of the power flowing out of the laptop’s battery is wasted running the laptop itself in that scenario.
So, I was pleasantly surprised by the UX31’s USB Charger+ feature.
With USB Charger+ enabled, the Zenbook will charge USB devices even while the laptop is in sleep mode, hibernated, or shut down. You can even set a threshold for exactly how much of the Zenbook’s battery capacity will passively transfer, so you don’t accidentally run the laptop’s battery dead in the process.
While I didn’t use my Zenbook long enough to make heavy use of USB Charger+, I’m sure that I would use it regularly if my next laptop had a similar feature.
The MacBook’s unibody aluminum case was part of the reason that I originally purchased my Air. Certainly, conventional wisdom dictates that Apple’s laptops set the standard for quality construction, right?
On the contrary, I was surprised to find that the Zenbook felt even more solid than my Air. In particular, the relatively flexible top of the Air’s lid has always bothered me. It feels like you’re pressing the case right into the back of the LCD if you squeeze it there to pick it up.
Handling a laptop with a creaky, flexible case is one of my pet peeves, so the Zenbook’s rock-solid construction was one of my favorite things about it. Even its slightly heavier heft, though a detriment when comparing specs on paper, was just the right amount to make it feel robust without being heavy enough to comfortably hold from a front edge or corner.
Great built-in audio
I mentioned this in my last post too, but the Bang & Olufsen internal sound system in the UX31 is impressive. I can’t remember ever regularly listening to music on any of my previous laptops’ speakers, but found myself doing that often during my month with the Zenbook when I was using it in private.
A laptop’s speakers definitely aren’t as important as the display, touchpad, or keyboard, but the laptop’s built-in audio system will be something I pay attention to in the future. If I can find a MacBook Air successor that does have internal sound comparable to the Zenbook’s, I’ll be happy about that.
Don’t feed the lawyers
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.”
Of course, there were other aspects where the Zenbook performed well. The Core i5 processor, high resolution display, and responsive touchpad were all welcome features, for example. However, the preceding four features were where the UX31 truly distinguished itself, and I hope that I can eventually find an Ultrabook™ that incorporates those features and the niceties that the Zenbook lacked.
What do you think?
In closing, I’m curious if you found this experiment helpful. I know I can’t be alone in wanting to find a Windows-friendly laptop that has great design and quality construction, so I do hope that you found my review of the Zenbook interesting and relevant.
If I get the opportunity to do this again with a different laptop, would you be interested in reading another series of posts about that hardware? Are there any new laptops that you’re particularly interested in seeing reviewed?