Screen and Speakers
The ASUS ZENBOOK is available with two screen sizes: 11.6 and 13.3 inches; ours is the latter. The display is one of the highlights of this notebook. Not only is the display bright and colorful; it has a very welcome high resolution of 1600×900 pixels. Nearly all other notebooks this size come with a mediocre 1366×768, which has just 72% of the space. A higher resolution screen like this one means less scrolling is necessary in web pages and documents since more is viewable on the screen at one time. A high resolution is a must for productivity.
Viewing angles on the display are typical for a TN-type panel; colors distort from unusual angles above and below but are satisfactory side-to-side. The only real downside of this display is the glossy surface, which creates reflections and can be annoying, depending on the environment.
ASUS contracted well-known audio company Bang & Olufsen to engineer a sound system for this notebook. The speakers are actually located in the hinge area of the notebook; sound is pushed out towards the screen and bass is transmitted through the keyboard area. The design works well – the speakers don’t have the characteristic tinniness of normal notebook speakers. There is noticeable bass and the speakers get appreciatively loud. They are more than adequate for listening to music in a quiet room. Overall it’s an impressive setup considering the size of this notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
This is an area where ASUS gets a running start but doesn’t quite cross the finish line. The good news is that the Chiclet-style keyboard has full-sized keys with a wonderfully smooth yet slightly grippy surface. Additionally there is zero flex and the keyboard is relatively quiet. The bad news is a lack of tactile feedback; this is a likely a casualty of the notebook being so thin. There is simply no room to make the keys taller. I initially found myself missing keystrokes; keys need to be 100% fully pressed to register where on a typical notebook keyboard you can get away with lightly tapping the keys. Typing speed and proficiency suffers as a result. On a final note, the keyboard lacks backlighting; I wouldn’t mention it except that the MacBook Air has it.
The oversized touchpad has a smooth surface. This is a clickpad; press down anywhere to produce a click. The amount of pressure needed for the clicks varies; it’s easier towards the bottom. The touchpad was a mess until I updated to the latest driver, which greatly improved accuracy. It’s still not as precise as it should be (say, compared to a MacBook); I eventually got used to it. Another complaint about the touchpad is that the clicks are too loud; they should be softer as to not annoy others.