The ultrabook market just got more crowded with ASUS joining the party; the Taiwanese company officially jumped into the fray when it unveiled the super-thin Zenbook laptop here in Singapore on Tuesday.
The Zenbook sports a differentiating design with some remarkable innards while keeping the price relatively reasonable. But will this Windows 7 beauty stand up against its competition? We go hands-on to find out more!
Hardware & Design
The Zenbook’s form factor looks more or less identical to Apple’s MacBook Air: a sharp 0.11-inch edge on the front which slowly fattens at it slopes up to the 0.35-inch rear. It features a full-sized QWERTY keyboard that is pleasant to type on, and a large trackpad which supports multi-finger gestures.
But that’s about all the similarities there are in design.
While Apple went with a rough, brushed-metal exterior for the Air, the Zenbook is glossy and reflective. Its silver cover has a concentric circle design which radiates outwards from the centre, and is quite a pretty sight when it catches and reflects light.
The Zenbook’s base configuration for the 11.6-incher (1366 x 768) comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of solid state storage, and sells for S$1,398. In comparison, a comparable MacBook Air will demand your S$1,588.
If you decide to plunk down S$1,998 for the highest-end Zenbook, you’ll get a 13-inch screen (1,600 x 900), an Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB of RAM, 256GB of storage space and an additional SD card reader. In contrast, a comparable MacBook Air (with a lower-res screen, in fact) will go upwards of S$2,200.
ASUS has been trumpeting the superior audio tech found in its laptops for quite a while now, and the Zenbooks are no different. It carries Bang & Olufsen’s ICEpower brand, and the power of the music flowing from the Zenbook’s tiny speakers took us completely by surprise.
However, ASUS demonstrated the speakers with largely violin pieces, so we couldn’t get a sample of bass performance. Nevertheless, the sound quality is a far cry from the VAIO Z’s disappointing speakers.
First impressions wrap-up
Ultrabooks might have been slow to take off, but if the Zenbook is any indication, we haven’t seen anything yet. Beating Apple both at configuration and price, ASUS is giving traction to Intel’s ultrabook vision and providing for consumers a credible ultrathin alternative to the OS X universe.