In this article we will take a look at two of the hottest Ultrabooks on the market. Both feature a 13.3-inch screen and fast flash storage, but do the extra features of the ASUS Zenbook make it worth a few hundred dollars more? Which is the best Ultrabook for your money?
Ultrabooks – What’s the Point?
Ultrabooks are a result of the thinness craze that’s sweeping mobile electronics. The Ultrabook is considered another market segment; it’s a new category of mobile device. All of them are under one inch thin and feature six plus hours of battery life, a 128GB (or higher) Solid State Drive (SSD), Intel Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processors, and are generally not user-upgradeable. They’re also not designed to be one’s primary computer, but they have the performance needed to fill that role; think of these as very upscale netbooks.
You can read the full NotebookReview.com reviews of the Ultrabooks in this comparison here:
Let’s take a quick look at the specifications:
|ASUS Zenbook UX31||Toshiba Portege Z835|
|Battery Life||6 hours||6 hours|
|Weight||2.86 lbs.||2.4 lbs.|
|Dimensions||12.8 x 8.8 x 0.1~0.7 inches||12.4 x 8.9 x 0.63 inches|
|Screen||13.3″ 1600×900, glossy||13.3″ 1366×768, glossy|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2557M 1.7GHz||Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz|
|Storage||128GB SSD||128GB SSD|
|Warranty||2 years + first year accidental||1 year|
The differences highlighted in red indicate which one had the advantage. The Zenbook has the early lead specifications-wise; it has a higher-resolution display, slightly faster processor, has Bluetooth, and a noticeable better warranty. On the other hand, there is quite a disparity in the pricing; a $300 gap is nothing to sneeze at.
The design is the biggest difference between the ASUS Zenbook UX31 and the Toshiba Portege Z835 aside from price. ASUS let its design department off the leash and ended up with an extremely refined and classy looking chassis. It’s constructed entirely of aluminum and feels solid as, well, a block of aluminum. Toshiba on the other hand stayed conservative; its nondescript matte gray exterior offers little in the way of “look at me”. The Toshiba is constructed from magnesium alloy, which is lighter than aluminum but doesn’t feel as strong (or look as nice); the Z835’s build quality is by no means bad however. The UX31 weighs a tad more at 2.86 lbs. vs. the Z835’s 2.40 lbs.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is an area that no Ultrabook has mastered; the UX31’s keyboard is my least favorite due to a tremendous lack of tactile feedback; it’s hard to tell a keystroke registered. I had accuracy issues with the keyboard as well; the keys didn’t register unless pushed fully down. The Toshiba doesn’t fare much better in tactile feedback but I didn’t have accuracy issues. Backlighting is another big plus for the Z835; it’s not available on the UX31.
The touchpad is another area of concern for the UX31; it’s a clickpad, so press down anywhere to produce a click. It’s not as accurate as it could be (I had a lot of accuracy issues such as the cursor jumping until I upgraded to the latest driver) and makes loud clicking noises. The Z835 has a traditional touchpad with two buttons and it’s excellent, the best I have seen on an Ultrabook so far. Clickpads in my experience are more for show; just give us a traditional touchpad with two buttons, OK?
The Zenbook UX31 is one of the very few Ultrabooks to include a better-than-average screen; not only is it warm and colorful but it also has a much nicer 1600×900 resolution. The higher resolution allows two windows to be used side-by-side and means less scrolling in web pages. Nearly all consumer notebooks including the Z835 have a measly 1366×768, or about one-third less space than the UX31’s 1600×900.
A common complaint I have about both notebooks’ displays is the glossy surface, which has annoying reflections. Samsung is coming to market with ultrabooks that feature matte screens, but right now this laptop category mostly consists of glossy screens.
Other differences between the Ultrabooks are minor compared to what we’ve already looked at. The UX31 has better speakers but the Z835 includes a dedicated VGA port (an adapter is required with the UX31). The battery life is the same for both (roughly six hours of real-world use).
The Toshiba Portege Z835 takes the trophy; it continues to be the best all-around Ultrabook on the market and not just because of price; it simply does just about everything well. The ASUS Zenbook UX31 has a marvelous design and great screen but I can’t overlook a subpar keyboard and touchpad and much higher price. The Z835 gets everything done no-frills style and at a very attractive $799.99, or $300 less than the UX31.