Whatever is on your list of qualities for a top ultrabook, chances are the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T11 has it. Stylish, thin design? Check.
Touch-enabled full HD display? Check. Terrific battery life? Check. Although it isn’t entirely free of faults its paucity of storage capacity springs to mind the Zenbook Prime Touch’s good easily outweighs the bad.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
The first thing that you’ll notice when you pull the UX31A-BHI5T from its included fabric sleeve is its undeniably beautiful design. Its svelte brushed aluminum case measures 0.7 by 12.8 by 8.8 inches (HWD) and, at only 3.2 pounds, it’s among the lightest touch-enabled ultrabooks we’ve seen. With its impressively sleek and stylish body, the UX31A-BHI5T fits within your bag just as easily as two or three magazines.
The UX31A-BHI5T’s 13.3-inch display with built-in In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel is a sight to behold, its stellar color reproduction and wide viewing angles handily complementing its class-leading fall HD (1,920-by-1,080o) resolution. The screen is indisputably superior to the 1,366-by-768-resolution displays found on most similar ultrabooks, such as Samsung NP540U3C-A01UB and Dell 15Z-5523. Furthermore, the display’s capacitive touch functionality is nicely responsive, so pinching, zooming, scrolling, and Windows 8-specific functions (like opening the Charms menu or swiping through active apps) are smooth. The UX31A-BHl5T’s Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers deliver crisp audio, and although the maximum volume lacks the necessary oomph to make the windows rattle, it is really an understandable limitation in the tinny-sounding realm of ultrabooks.
The chiclet-style keyboard makes for a fairly comfortable typing experience. For this type of narrow system, it largely succeeds in sidestepping the shallow key travel that often plagues ultrabooks. Furthermore, it is brightly backlit and does not exhibit any noticeable flexing, so the end result is an all-around good keyboard. The smooth and responsive touchpad provides a good amount of tactile feedback and sports left- and right-click buttons that don’t exhibit any clackiness you might find unappealing.
As is often the case with ultrabooks, port choice on the UX31A-BHI5T is limited. The left part on the system houses a USB 3.0 port, a 2-in-i card reader (SD and MMC), and a headphone jack. The right part, at the same time, sports a different USB 3.0 port, a micro HDMI interface, and a mini VGA port, the latter that can be equipped with the included mini VGA-to-VGA dongle. The UX31A-BHI5T comes equipped with Intel’s Wireless Display technology (WiDi 2.0), so you can stream HD video from your system to any television outfitted with an adapter, like the $99 Netgear Push2TV.
The UX31A-BHl5T’s 128GB SSD maybe too small for some, especially considering only 90.4GB of it is available. Thankfully, it ships with a minimal amount of preloaded software: Microsoft Office Starter 2010, a trial version of Trend Micro A/V, some proprietary programs (including ASUS Software Suite and ASUS PowerWiz), and not much else. Asus covers the UX31A-BHI5T11 with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
Consequently, it yielded performance similar to its peers’ on our benchmark tests—though its speedy SSD helped it maintain a slight edge. Its PCMark 7 score of 4,510 trumped the competition’s, except for the Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light (CT14-A2), which scored 4,819. The UX31A-BHI5T’s CineBench R11.5 score of 2.40, meanwhile, was equal to that of the Vizio CT14-A2 and the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51, and was bettered by the Samsung NP540U3C-A01UB (2.41) and, to a greater extent, the Asus UX32VD-DB71 (3.58).
The UX31A-BHI5T also has the chops to tackle moderately intense media creation jobs. It finished our Handbrake video encoding test in 1 minute 29 seconds, the same time as the Dell 15Z-5523 and a mere second behind the front-running Vizio CT14-A2 (1:28). Similarly, the 5 minutes 31 seconds it took to complete our Photoshop CS6 test was roughly on par with the times we saw from the Dell 15Z-5523 (5:33) and the Vizio CT14-A2 (5:29).
When it came to 3D rendering, the UX31A-BHI5T showcased an unrivaled sure-footedness. Its 3DMark 11 scores (1,160 on the Entry preset, 216 points on Extreme) landed at the top of the pile, with the Asus S400CA-UH51 (1,101 and 187, respectively) and Vizio CT14-A2 (1,152 and 208) close behind. Just don’t get your hopes up for high-end gaming: The UX31A-BHI5TS integrated graphics didn’t have the gusto to break the 30-frames-per-second (fps) playability barrier on our gaming tests.
One area where the UX31A-BHI5T held a clear advantage over its peers is battery life. Its nonremovable 50Wh battery lasted an impressive 6 hours 38 minutes on our battery rundown test, or almost an hour more than the runner-up HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 41-1100 (5:48). With other systems clocking in at under 5 hours—like the Asus S400CA-UH51 (4:18) and Vizio CT14-A4 (4:30)—the UX3iA-BHl5T’s outstanding battery life becomes all the more apparent and attractive.
The Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T isn’t the excellent ultrabook. Its minimal storage capacity and so-so port selection are obvious shortcomings. Even with these flaws, it comes close to delivering a superlative Windows 8 experience. Its amazing, touch-enabled screen, incredibly thin design, and excellent battery lifespan, make it worth serious consideration. Throw in an $1,100 price tag on par with its competitors’, and it becomes a no-brainer. The UX31A-BHI5T justifiably replaces the Zenbook Prime UX32VD-DB71 as our Editors’ Choice high-end ultrabook.