Heat and Noise
The UX31’s system fan is sealed inside the chassis; it vents warm air towards the hinge. Warm air is wafted up the screen surface. The fan seems to be on about half the time; it is quiet and sounds like a rush of air. The notebook chassis remains about room temperature most of the time; under full benchmark load it tended to get warm on the left side. The chassis temperature did not approach levels that would make you think twice before putting it on your lap, fortunately. Overall the cooling solution works well.
The UX31 has an internal 50Wh polymer battery that is not user-replaceable; as a matter of fact, no parts of this notebook are. During our standard battery rundown test (Windows 7 Balanced power profile, 70% screen brightness, wireless active and refreshing a web page every 60 seconds), I measured six hours and 21 minutes of life. Expect to hit the six hour mark under normal usage conditions. This is a great time and on par with competitors, including the MacBook Air.
Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
The UX31 is one of the most refreshing PCs I’ve reviewed in a long time. The design and quality are truly outstanding; ASUS clearly went all-out. The sheer thinness and light weight of the notebook make you want to buy it as soon as it’s picked up. Another major highlight of the notebook is the excellent 1600×900 screen resolution which is remarkable for a 13.3-inch notebook. I was also impressed with the good sound quality and six hours of battery life.
The real downsides of the notebook concern the keyboard and touchpad; both take getting used to. The keyboard requires extra pressure; the keys must be 100% pressed otherwise keystrokes do not register. I mastered this after a few days. The touchpad needed a driver update before it became predictable, and even then it is not particularly accurate. I also wish the clicks were quieter. Other things to consider with this notebook are the lack of user-upgradeable parts (there are none) and scarcity of ports (that can be solved with adapters, however).
At $1,099 MSRP the ASUS ZENBOOK is a fine product and a tempting alternative to the more-expensive MacBook Air.
- Awesome design and quality
- Great high-resolution screen
- ~6 hours battery
- Great value
- So-so keyboard and touchpad
- No keyboard backlighting