The Zenbook is one of the new Intel-inspired "Ultrabooks" by ASUS. I was given one several months ago to review, and I've been using extensively for development. I've reviewed it from a first impressions standpoint, as well as a general breakdown. This time, my final review will be focused on the computer as a development machine.
I'm a .NET developer by trade, which means I use Visual Studio. Visual Studio is quite a heavy program. It has a very large memory footprint. Here's a shot of it, after it opened a fairly small solution.
Regardless, it hasn't been a problem to have two or three instances open at a time. I've also used Sql Server Management Studio in conjunction with Visual Studio, without any issues either. If this laptop can handle a .NET development environment, it can handle most.
I'd be remiss not to mention just how portable this laptop is. Some people might not consider that important for a development machine, but I do. I recently took a trip to a convention. I had to bring a laptop issued by my company rather than this one. That laptop had comparable specs, but it was massive and heavy. I had to have it on me even at the convention (I ended up having to log in and do some work). Carrying that thing around for eight hours a day for three days was miserable. I had a terrible pain in my shoulders by the end of the day. On the other hand, I've carried this one around all day, and barely noticed it. The difference between a few pounds is incredible. Also, the battery life on some of those laptops with huge screens is fairly short. What do you do if you can't find an outlet? Tell your boss that you can't get your work done? Having a laptop like this one with excellent battery life is a nice bonus. In short, I've never used a laptop that's combined this level of portability with power.
Now, there were a few small downsides as well. It's well speced, but not incredibly well. There's not enough RAM to run any heavy virtual machines. That's a shame, because that's often an important feature developers look for. They sell models with more, so it's not a major problem. It'll just cost a bit more to upgrade. And to go back to my ongoing concern: the keyboard. In my previous reviews I've noted that the keys sometimes fail to actuate, even though they feel and sound like they have. You have to type right in the middle of the keys to guarantee they actuate. It doesn't sound like a problem, but I've noticed it frequently. As I mentioned in my last review, it's gotten better with time. I've basically retrained myself to type correctly. But it's one of the few laptops I've actually had to do that for. The layout is a little screwy as well. The function keys are a bit left shifted compared to a full sized keyboard. So, for applications like Visual Studio that use them for major functionality, it's another "retrain yourself" issue.
To conclude, I'd have to recommend this laptop for anyone that wants a great portable development machine. You do have to sacrifice some power for the portability, but you have to weigh your desires. At least with this machine, you sacrifice far less than you would have had to in the past. I've carried it around, and used it for serious development, and it's been great. I was in the market for a new laptop before I got this opportunity, but now I'm not going to buy a new one. This is exactly what I needed.
Here's a shot of it running VS:
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