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  • AssBall - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    You know what would be cool? A 17" ultrabook. You could get a nice big screen and a keyboard that is not all clusterjammed in there. I hate tiny laptop keyboards.

    Nice review Jarred. I don't think I will be picking up one of these ultra's anytime soon. Looking forward to the Samsung review though.
  • Malih - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    yes, I've been wondering why most thin laptops are limited to 13.3", would the extra space not be useful, or is it the limitation set by Intel, or is it because Apple don't make 15" MBA or is a 15" aluminum case cost too much to produce?

    17" might not be for everyone, but 14" or 15" are preferable for the masses, and with 15" you don't have to compete directly with Apple.
  • AssBall - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Maybe it is too expensive... I don't know. Plus the battery would be larger I suppose. It starts to get heavy and is no longer "ultra".

    I'd be very interested in a Llano based 17" Ultrabook with say a 128GB SSD, a more spread out keyboard, and a matte screen. Make the touch pad not suck too, please.

    Thanks Santa.
  • cobalt42 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Agree with both. If they used the extra keyboard space to make a nice cursor key cluster (arrow keys as well as home/end/pgup/pgdown and ins/del), they'd get my money. The others at that size either put a numeric keypad, or worse, nothing and just waste the extra space. Reply
  • AssBall - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Arrow keys and the home section, sometimes I wish they would toss it out because all of that stuff is on the number pad anyway. At least it is with my 12 year old WYSE keyboard. And then they could keep some space away from the standard qwerty section. I'd like that style of board. I don't much care for small function keys all crowded down either. Reply
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Strength becomes a bigger issue. If you keep the thickness the same, but increase the size to 17", the laptop would be enormously more delicate. More stress would be placed on it, if only because of the whole law-of-the-lever type thing. They'd have to make the 17" ultrabooks correspondingly thicker and more durable, and that would negate at least some of the advantage.

    A 15" ultrabook could be a lot more interesting, especially if they take advantage of a thinner bezel to fit the larger screen into a chassis that was only slightly larger than existing 13.3" ultrabooks.
  • Iketh - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    nah I don't think durability would be hard to figure out, tho achieving that durability would likely increase the cost a good bit Reply
  • wadcock2 - Saturday, April 07, 2012 - link

    ultrabook is define by Intel as a subnotebook with smaller size and weight. They are usually less than 6.5 lbs. They often have 7 -10 battery life (yea!). and are thin (< .7") to compete with Mac AirPro. There was one web page were the notebook had to fit into an 8.5"x11 interoffice mailing envelope. That also would require a smaller screen.

    I find that the 1366x768 pixel screens are too small to hole a whole video, photo or chart of today's web pages.

    Yes, I'd like a light weight 17" laptop with long battery life and high screen resolution. The nearly 10 lbs plus another 2-4 for the power adapter makes it heavy to carry around and heavy on my lap.
  • bji - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Apple is supposed to be coming out with a 15 inch macbook air late Q1 next year. I am waiting for this and it will buy one; it will replace my 7 year old Panasonic Toughbook Y2 that thus far has not had a competitor for light weight, screen size, and build quality in the 14 inch+ size range. Reply
  • niva - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Right on, 17" frame will probably allow them to squeeze in a decent GPU in there too, something better than the integrated intel HD chip. Possibly even room for a hard drive to add more storage overall.

    The big thing I'm taking away from this review is the terrible screens. I'm surprised that they are that bad compared to the Apple screens. As much as many of us hate Apple and bash on them in the comments they've always been good about their displays.

    Dell and Samsung are the companies who can buck this trend with terrible displays in these devices, lets hope it happens soon.
  • icrf - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I think the problem is thin laptops are designed to be portable, and 17" laptops of any thickness aren't nearly as portable. If you have a bag/case big enough for a 17" chassis there is usually plenty of room for something much thicker than an inch.

    Lighter weight, however, is good pretty much everywhere.
  • Sufo - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    Well there's always the razer blade... lol Reply
  • JojoKracko - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Yes, I'd also like a 15 or 17 inch ultrabook. But it would have to have a better screen than these come with.

    Fortunately there is some hope that the manufacturers are coming to their senses. The UX31A will have a 1080P Matte IPS screen.

    Now just create a 17 inch version with a numeric keypad (full width zero key please) and I'll be happy.
  • popej - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Thanks for review!

    Some doubts:
    - Does contrast measurements include ambient light reflection? If not, results could be far form real life experience. I'm afraid that flowed test leads to flowed design, where manufactures try to get best tests results instead of best usefulness.
    - Are battery life test comparable between units? I have doubts about Internet test. One of the tricks that Asus is using is to reduce CPU speed when on battery. This way battery last more but quality of work is reduced. I would prefer a test, where amount of work done is measured, not only time.
    - Can this notebooks be comfortably used outdoor? I would expect this possibility from a ultra portable device. But none of your test gives a clear answer.
  • Kepe - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Jarred mentions twice in this article that the Asus unit can be used outside thanks to its bright display. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    The ambient light will affect the perceived brightness from the display (brighter environment means you'll want the LCD backlight turned up), and perceived contrast with reflections will also be affected. For the test, we place a colorimeter on the display and measure the white level and black level; divide the two and that's your contrast. I'm not sure what would be flawed with that approach, though in practical use other variables (that can't really be tested) come into play.

    The battery life tests are all performed at equivalent settings. That means Power Saver profile (or Power4Gear Maximum Battery on the ASUS). Then we make sure maximum CPU speed is set to 100% while minimum speed is 5%. The displays are also calibrated to the same ~100 nits brightness, and we run a loop where the web pages are loaded every 60 seconds in a repeatable manner. For most Internet surfing, this is far more important than quantity of work completed -- you read a web page that loads in a couple seconds; rarely do you actually run a continuous load for surfing, particularly on a laptop that's running off its battery.

    On the other end of the spectrum, the H.264 playback is a continuous load of video decoding, so your real-world battery life will generally be more than that and less than the idle, but where you fall naturally depends on what you're doing.
  • popej - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Colorimeter measurements would be equivalent of using notebook in a dark room, where anti-glare coating has no relevance. I think that easy way to check practical contrast could be done with digital photography using picture raw data for analysis.

    I don't know Power4Gear but quick search in net indicate, that "Maximim battery" could mean underclocking CPU, thus no 100% speed. So there is no superior efficiency but simply different settings.
  • twotwotwo - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I'm with papaj on ambient light. You can't tell exactly what conditions users will work in, but these numbers are based on _zero_ ambient light, not the most common use case (though it is a real use case, e.g., watching a movie in a dark room). And it makes black levels very important to the contrast ratio and anti-glare not important at all.

    I get that it's kind of hard to factor reflections in and, frankly, you guys already do a ton of tests on a ton of systems. Also, initially you wouldn't have lots of other recent devices' numbers for comparison as you do for ambient-light-free contrast numbers. I didn't even know until today (via a DisplayMate comparison) that the reflection strength was something that was measured or that it varied so widely, but knowing it, I'm pretty curious about "real," everyday contrast numbers.

    Some kind of "indoor contrast ratio" figure would be interesting, using black and white levels on the current colorimeter figures + (reflection strength * a standard assumed level of light indoors). Even bare reflection strength numbers would be interesting, as I'm sure readers vary in what they think about display shininess. :)
  • twotwotwo - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Whoof, just peeked at the VESA standards for measuring reflectance. I'm amazed that anyone does any of those tests now. Reply
  • QChronoD - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I would like to see the contrast ratio of the Asus measured when its at ~100 nits as well. The 500 nits would be useful if one wanted to use the laptop outside, but I would guess that the vast majority of the time it would be used indoors. Would it be possible to measure the Asus' screen at the standard brightness? If nothing else, the black levels wouldn't be washed out, and it would probably look better. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    At 100 nits the UX31E has a white point of 93.39 and a black point of 0.44, giving a contrast of 212:1 -- basically it doesn't change. Reply
  • cobalt42 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the review.

    I just wanted to say I appreciate that you show a nice, direct picture of the keyboard layout and include some discussion of dedicated home/end/pageup/pagedown/insert/delete keys. That's the main thing keeping me away from MBAs, and these two don't get it quite right either. (Yes, I use those keys constantly. Chording is not acceptable when there's plenty of space on the keyboard for dedicated keys. And is that a power button KEY on the Asus? How often do you need to hit the power button that you need to waste an entire key for it? Insane.) The Toshiba Z830 has a good key layout, but too many other things wrong with it like the ridiculously low resolution.
  • tim851 - Friday, December 30, 2011 - link

    I HATE it, when they place a dedicated row of Home/End/... buttons next to the keyboard. I tend to hit the Delete and Enter keys on the right edge and if that row is present, I will oftentimes hit one of its keys alongside the one I mesnt to press.

    That's why I find I have little choice when it comes to 13" laptops, because most of them have that dreaded row of keys.

    Please, leave the few that don't, alone!
  • ccd1 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Santa brought me an early Christmas gift of the Dell 15z. Santa had read the review here and ordered the 15z with only two upgrades, the 1080 display and a 256k SSD. Based on my brief use of this PC, I have these thoughts.

    Ultrabooks have the potential to expand portability to include larger machines. True portability stops at 14" right now, IMHO. It would be really nice to see a 15" ultrabook. The 15z kind of gets there, but not quite. A thinner, lighter 15z would definitely be more portable.

    All of these machines need a really good docking station, ideally a combo laptop cooler and docking station. To have these machines double as desktops, would want one plug for the peripherals and be done with it. Right now I have my machine connected to a big display, keyboard, mouse, laptop cooler, mic, and HDD backup. The idea of plugging and unplugging all these peripherals to move the machine around is a real damper on portability. Love to have a docking station that plugs into the USB 3.0 port and be done with it.
  • r3loaded - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    It's funny to note that the Asus Transformer Prime (practically the stylistic tablet equivalent of the Zenbook) has a far superior display compared to these ultrabooks that cost more than double. I hope Apple can push the industry forward instead of letting them race to the bottom on displays. Reply
  • ibtar - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Pretty sure we've already hit rock bottom as far as LCD quality goes, at least in laptops. Only place to go from here is up, but who knows when that'll happen. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Coming from a Travelmate 8172, my next notebook needs to look similar to:
    - 2 core CPU between 1.5 and 2.5GHz (4 threads optional)
    - integrated GPU to play HL2-ish titles at native resolution and medium settings
    - 128GB SSD (performance on par with first SF-Generation or better) (mSATA SSD + 2.5" HDD optimum)
    - 4 GB RAM (8 GB optional)
    - matte 12.1" to 13.3" LCD with 1600x900 (good brightness appreciated, contrast and color replication secondary)
    - weight below 1.5kg
    - thickness anything under 3cm, length and width as the display allows plus medium bezel
    - no ODD
    - trackpad area separated from rest of the chassis, keyboard keys as big as possible for the chassis
    - 60Wh battery fully replaceable by the end user
    - Intel WLAN adapter with 300+Mb/s, 2.4GHz/5GHz dualband (3G not needed)
    - 2xUSB 3.0, 2xUSB 2.0, 1 Gb Ethernet and/or Thunderbolt

    Price can be between 800€-1200€, depending on actual components.

    What I will not buy anymore: 1366x768 in anything above 11.6", glossy LCD, anything without either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt.
  • Snotling - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    not ever again (unless its a smart phnoe) Reply
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    "NOT going under 900p"


    Any product at all when I see 1368x768 I immediately tune out. So tired of that low res as a standard.

    One good thing you gotta give Apple, is the retina display. To me its overkill for a phone, but if it can help to usher in the end of 1368x768 laptops then I applaud them. Thank you Apple!
  • nphewitt - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Apple uses MagSafe connectors, not MagLock. Kleenex vs Tissue, whatever. Just putting it out there. Reply
  • Malih - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    thank you, the article is good, but reading the text MagLock really bugs me Reply
  • Shadowmage - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    If you don't mind a 12.5" laptop: the Lenovo X220. After discounts, it regularly sells for <$800, even under $700 at times. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I know... and Lenovo still won't send us one. :p Reply
  • OwnedKThxBye - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Stopped reading after the second paragraph. Maybe the title should be changed to Acer Aspire S3 vs. ASUS UX31E VS MBA? Reply
  • cserwin - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Ha, well... then he'd have to put the MBA display measurs in the charts. Reply
  • Toshio - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Same here, never had read such a biased article in Anandtech before. Anand should have written this one. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I've picked up and played with a MacBook Air, specifically to see where the "ultrabook before they were called ultrabooks" sits. If you can't understand what Apple did right, I'm sorry, but to not mention it when discussing other similar PCs is silly. What would Anand have done differently? Not compared it with the MBA? Reply
  • Toshio - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    No. Anand (being a Mac lover himself) wouldn't have trashed ultrabooks favoring MBA at the very beginning of the article.

    Also, windows on a MBA as main OS? you must be kidding. MBA is great if you like OSX, else go shop elsewhere. This is not about Windows vs. OSX, this is about writing a balanced article for people looking for their next Windows laptop.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I've used both, and I disagree. Apple has the build quality of the ASUS, better display quality than any of the others, a backlit keyboard, and a typing experience that's slightly better in my opinion than the others as well. However, to say I "trashed" ultrabooks is a stretch; I said "you could do a lot worse than simply buying a MacBook Air" and that's entirely true. Worse display for sure, worse build quality on several, worse aesthetics, and worse keyboards. You can also do better: better pricing, higher resolution (only on the ASUS), and USB 3.0 are all available.

    OS X be damned, if money isn't a major concern I would buy a MacBook Air in place of most of these ultrabooks. You don't buy an ultrabook because you're looking for a budget class of hardware; you buy one because you're after a good computing experience. MacBook Air provides that, and hence it's the mark that the ultrabooks really have to beat. They don't do that, just as Anand pointed out in the UX21E review. To quote: "the display in the MBA alone is reason to opt for it over the Zenbook, even for Windows use."

    As I mention in the conclusion, out of the current crop of ultrabooks my pick is the ASUS UX31E. It's the best construction out of the options, but it's not perfect. You're taking on paragraph at the beginning (i.e. the introduction) and trying to extrapolate to the rest of the review. Read the whole page, take off your preconceptions of what I'm trying to say, and see what I actually say. For thin and light ultraportables, the current ultrabooks are impressive but they don't beat Apple in every area. You will have to compromise somewhere, and you have to compromise by going with ultrabooks in the first place (no discrete GPU means no gaming), but that's something for the individual to decide.
  • Toshio - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    For many of us, running windows on a MBA is not an option (wrong keyboard layout, trackpad, DRIVERS!, etc.). I've been using a Samsung series 9 for more than a year now so I'm sure there ARE real alternatives for a laptop with a forced OS while still having a backlit kbd, USB 3.0, SD, HDMI, Ethernet, etc.

  • Toshio - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Anyway, I'm very sorry if I was harsh in the earlier posts, didn't really mean to. Perhaps it's my bad experience with other sites being so biased towards their main sponsors (not only Apple). Thanks for for your patience whatsoever. Reply
  • Paedric - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I'm not a big Apple fan (to say the least), but no one can deny that they are the leader in this market for now (if we forget the OS).

    It would be stupid not to compare those units with the Apple one, because reviews means practically nothing on their own. You have to compare products to see which one is better.

    It's the same situation in the tablet market, the Ipad 2 is the leader. Doing a review of an Android device that is only compared to other Android tablets would be really narrow minded.
  • pdjblum - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Ditto that. Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Sorry if it were mentioned, but what is the resolution for the Asus display? All I read is contrast ratio, and the line
    "Asus chose the former" which was alluding to the high resolution brighter display vs lower resolution higher contrast...

    But I didn't see you mention the resolution. I did see you mention it for the Macbook Air.

  • Romberry - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    1600 x 900 Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    As with all Anandtech laptop reviews, I go straight to the display resolution section. If it says 1366x768, I don't read another word. Next article please. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    You might want to look at the ASUS then, as it's 1600x900. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Please discuss docking options, especially for a whole workstation with two monitors, wired ethernet, several usb devices, and external speakers. Can it all be done over one usb 3.0 port? Reply
  • ccd1 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Targus is coming out (or has come out) with a USB 3.0 docking station. The device is a little pricey ($179). Also, the reviews of their USB 2.0 docking station were mixed. Might be a nice device for Anandtech to review. Reply
  • Solandri - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    What's special about the Portege Z830 which lets its i3 rise up and spank the i5s and i7s at that particular benchmark? Reply
  • Hector2 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I think Intel has it right with the move to Ultrabooks, but these early SandyBridge-based models without Touch aren't what I'm looking for --- though much better than the old non-Ultrabook form factor.

    I'll get my Win 8 Ultrabook when there's one with a nice medium size, Touch screen model with Ivy Bridge inside, that has only an external wireless keyboard (no physical keyboard buttons on the UB itself), with wireless mouse and a Thunderbolt or Lightpeak connection for an external Monitor, when desired.

    This would serve as a nice, portable Touch tablet when I'm mobile but also able to use as a full blown i7 Core PC workstation for work plugged into nice keyboard, nice mouse and my 24" LCD monitor

    It'll happen. Just a question now of when
  • Paedric - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Ivy Bridge really seems interesting, as it combines reduced power consumption with better integrated graphics.
    I think the CPU is already powerful enough for what it has to do, with only graphics lacking.
    It will also be the second generation of ultrabooks, so a lot of "newbie" errors should be fixed.

    I'm not sold on Win 8 and touch though.
    I think it's the role of tablet to be able to change to notebook, not the other way around, the Asus Transformer is the perfect example of this.
  • Nexing - Wednesday, December 28, 2011 - link

    Plenty of people wants to have a powerful, portable, battery lasting -at least for daily duties-, price competitive... sleek laptop.
    These ultrabooks do come close, except for the terrible omission of Intel's "Ivy bridge" 22nm CPU, which means that whatever CPU this ultrabook, (or any other released up to May 2012) comes with... will bear the almost obsolete 32nm "Sandy Bridge" CPU technology. Which means that this whole early ultrabook generation will not be battery efficient enough(4 hrs vs Ivy's 8-10 hrs of real usage, or will not run cool enough (not to be used at bed, on a coach, on your legs, etc).

    Very different story to the REALLY new ultrabook laptops to be released somewhen after 2012 Q2 that will come with Ivy Bridge CPUs...

    And to worse matters, those who actually buy one of these pre-Ivy Bridge Ubooks will never be able to upgrade into the coming 22nm tech, just because Intel said so (it is technically feasible and the norm for actually , confirmed to be upgradeable Sandy Bridge desktops)... So good luck with the niche & soon-to-be-obsolete 2011/Q1 2012 Ubooks,
  • seapeople - Saturday, January 14, 2012 - link

    First of all, there is no Ivy Bridge, and if you want a computer within the next ~HALF YEAR then you'll have to buy one with poor old inefficient Sandy Bridge.

    Second of all, there's no way Ivy Bridge is going to increase battery life by 2.5x over Sandy Bridge. Just because it's a new architecture does not mean it will blow us away; Arrandale ULV laptops gave almost no benefit over Core 2 Duo ULV in terms of battery life, and actually decreased battery life in many cases (albeit with a fair performance increase, but not mind blowing).

    Third, if you think current Ultrabooks with Optimus and/or integrated graphics run too hot to be used on your lap, you are insane.
  • Pessimism - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I'd suggest adding the MBA display data to your graphs since you heavily compare these systems to it and complain about the overall lack of display quality. Since Joe Public thinks Apple products can do no wrong and are made out of unicorn horns and fairy dust, lets see some hard data. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Added. Obviously we don't have the performance results for the MBA on most tests, but the LCD results are at least something we can easily compare. Reply
  • Pessimism - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Thanks! Hopefully with enough direct numeric comparisons in reviews we can convince PC makers to stop using horrible, horrible panels. Reply
  • Deelron - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Occasionally Joe Public isn't wrong. Reply
  • UrQuan3 - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    "but seriously: first IPS panel in a 13.3” laptop for under $1000 gets an Editor’s Choice award (as long as the rest of the laptop doesn’t completely suck)."

    That might be my favorite quote from this site. I hope some vendors are reading. I've been wanting and sRGB under 14" laptop for a decade. Settled for a Samsung 9 for now. Far from perfect, but it'll do for now.
  • jasondunn - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I purchased a UX31 in October. I wanted it so badly I paid $68 to get next-day shipping because I was traveling and wanted it before I left. There are many things that are excellent about the UX31: I was impressed with the screen, the performance, the speed of sleep resume and boot, etc. But there's a *giant* problem with this laptop: the keyboard requires a heavy-handed style of typing. I type quite quickly, and apparently I type too "light" for the UX31.

    I've owned and used well over a dozen different laptops over the past decade, and the UX31 is the first where I found typing to be a disaster. I don't use that word lightly: I'd venture that 25% of all keystrokes were dropped. That means every single word I typed longer than a few characters would have errors it it. I contacted Asus support, they had me install a software update, and nothing changed. I went to a local Microsoft store and used the UX31 display had exactly the same problem. If I slowed down and typed with more force, I got 100% accuracy. I don't believe I had a defective UX31 - I think this is simply the awful keyboard that Asus put in it.

    I should add that I found Asus' tech support to be quite lacking and would be very wary of dealing with them again.

    So my advice is this: make sure you're able to test the keyboard in person before putting down $1000+ to buy it. I regret my purchase and had to settle for a $1349 in-store credit rather than getting my money back.
  • twotwotwo - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    I had the same experience with the Eee Pad Transformer dock. I was surprised, because it looked a lot like the Eee 10" netbook keyboard, whose keys take very little pressure (in fact, between the small size and the light touch, you tend to get extra keystrokes on the netbook). I half suspect ASUS of angling for reviewer points for "feeling solid" when they made their more recent keyboards only work if you smack the keys. :)

    (I think ASUS did great overall. Software updates came out quickly, docking's nice, good price, etc., etc. But those keys: not so great.)

    So--dear ASUS, premium means never having to smack the keyboard to type. Best wishes, two AnandTech commenters.
  • snuuggles - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I suspect I am the (or one of the) people Jarred mentioned having returned my UX31 because of the keyboard. I had exactly the same issue you are having, and it was basically unusable to me--I simply couldn't do my work on the machine!

    Quick question, I found that pressing the bottom left corner of the enter key didn't register. This was repeatable and not because I was hitting it "too quickly", I could press the key all the way down and hold it with no response... can you replicate this? I'm guessing that this type of issue could become less and less of an issue as the keys "loosen up", but who knows, it could become *more* frequent!

    I gave Jarred a hard time about recommending the UX31 in the holiday special, I was a little harsh, but I think my criticism stands: this is a mechanically flawed keyboard, and I'm not really sure how you can "look past" this issue and recommend it based on all it's other (great) features.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    If I push on the very corner of the enter (and I mean the *very* corner), it won't register, but even an eighth of an inch in and it works fine. I will agree that the keyboard requires a bit more of a firm touch than on other laptops I've used, but it didn't bother me much. The Acer keyboard behaved similarly in my experience -- if you're a light typist, you'll miss key presses on occasion with either one. I'm sure other people will be fine with it, and some will probably even like it -- we've had people say they like Acer's floating island keys for example. I've seen the UX31E at Best Buy, so if you're picky about keyboards but are still considering the Zenbook, see if you can find some local store where you can try one out in person. Of course, that's my advice on most laptops if you're a discerning users. :-) Reply
  • twotwotwo - Saturday, December 24, 2011 - link

    I forget that grown-ups might be reading while I snark. :) For the record, if the UX31's KB is like the original Transformer's, I wouldn't actually recommend someone avoid it just 'cause of that. Yes, checking seems reasonable. Reply
  • Toughbook - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    It's about time someone started to offer some brighter displays. In this day and time of technology it baffles me as too why they are all stuck on the 200-250 NIT rating. I am so spoiled by my 1100 NIT display that when I have to do some work on a 200 NIT machine I feel like I can hardly see it. Being able to have a port replicator would be nice a well on these. Another feature I use almost daily. Drop it in and your done.

    With all that being said... We still must remember what these machines are designed for. Ultra portability. It's like wanting more leg room or trunk space in a 2 seat sports car. Something has got to give.

    I can't seem to under stand what Jarred means by the Windows sticker on the power brick? I'm am totally missing something here....

    Great review Jarred, keep up the good work.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    The power brick has the Windows Certificate of Authenticity (with the license key) on it. Usually those are on the bottom of the laptop or under the battery; obviously the latter isn't an option, but moving it onto the power brick doesn't really make a lot of sense to me. Reply
  • geotwn - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Reading Anandtech for years I wonder why the Thinkpad X220 review is missing for long time. IMHO the IPS models beat all of the light-weight notebook hand down in terms of screen quality - it ought to be the standard to compete against if we are serious about display, but it does not get reviewed or even mentioned. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Because Lenovo won't send us one; it's as simple as that. Reply
  • twotwotwo - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - link

    Via Gizmodo, I saw a detailed tablet display comparison today (search for "Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out" to find two different comparisons). They argue the raw contrast ratio is "Only relevant for low ambient light, which is seldom the case for mobile devices," and they measure the intensity of mirror-like and other reflections from the screen. Only the Galaxy Tab, iPad 2 and (to my surprise) Nook Tablet came out under 11% mirror reflections.

    I knew something bugged me about raw contrast numbers and this is it: backlight bleed is often less of a problem than reflections. Would be interesting to see, if not a detailed mirror-reflection test like that site does, at least contrast measurements that factor in reflections under whatever "indoor" and "outdoor" ambient-light levels you define.

    Know lots of work goes into the measurements and it's not easy to just throw another figure in. Does seem like factoring in how much reflection you'll be seeing could potentially lead to more useful numbers.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    This is why I point out the high maximum brightness of the ASUS -- that makes up for most reflections (unless you're looking at a dark scene/image/movie). Of course, in direct sunlight it's probably still not enough (I'd say 1200 nits would be needed for such use), but it's brighter and more usable outside than 99% of laptops. Reply
  • djpavcy - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link


    Can you comment further on the touchpad of the UX31? You seem to like it, but Anand in his original review of the UX21 found it to be horrible. For that matter, so do I: I own a UX31 (the 256GB/core i-5 version) and the touchpad is bordering on useless: crappy cursor control, random and erratic shifts of the cursor, etc.

    My suspicion is that the touchpad on Anand's review sample and on my laptop are ones made by Sentelic but the one in yours is made by Elan which seems to be much better. Do you know anything about this? Is it a luck of the draw whether you will get a sentelic or an Elan touchpad or is it model dependent?
  • snuuggles - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I owned the same model, and had an equally horrible time with the touchpad. I can't confirm the manufacturer, as I've already returned the unit based on this issue, and more importantly, what I suspect is a flawed keyboard design (though since some people seem to be ok with it, I'll admit it *could* be that I had a bad unit).

    But the touchpad was, indeed, horrible.

    PS I followed up by purchasing a 13" MBA and installing win7. It was awesome, and I would have kept *that* except within the 2 week refund window I heard that there would be a huge number of ultrabooks introduced at CES this jan.

    I just stuck an old SSD in my current laptop and am waiting till spring.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I know Anand didn't like the UX21 he initially reviewed, but I had no problem with the UX31 touchpad. As I noted in the review, our sample is using Elan hardware/drivers, so if some are using Sentellic that would be a serious problem. Frankly, the worst touchpads I can recall using had Sentellic hardware. Reply
  • SirKronan - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    "We’ve got excellent 10.1” IPS panels now shipping in $400 tablets; why can’t we get a similar panel in 13.3” trim in a $1200 laptop? I’m probably preaching to the choir, but seriously: first IPS panel in a 13.3” laptop for under $1000 gets an Editor’s Choice award (as long as the rest of the laptop doesn’t completely suck)."

    I couldn't agree more. It makes no sense. They'd certainly look a lot more attractive sitting on display in the store with a good LCD. I guarantee that's one of the main reasons Apple's laptops grab so much attention from passers-by. Their screens are bright, contrasty, and display a good range of colors. If you set the Asus or Acer next to the Macbooks, along with their $1000 Ultrabook price tags, they won't look nearly as impressive. Performance and battery life are fine and dandy, but like you said, would it REALLY be soooo dang hard to put in a good screen at that price point?
  • Toughbook - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    What is so frustrating is that if Apple can do it, why can't the others? It's not like Apple makes a damn thing, it's all 3rd party work. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    The power plug looks similar to my Acer one and I disagree that it is inferior to the old 2 cables with one PSU in the middle design. Those things always gave me trouble because I never had a good place to stuff the PSU, it would sometimes hang or be on the edge of something and fall down. It also has more connections to get loose and is more unwieldy in my experience (harder to store when on the go). :-) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    My problem is the cable ends up being shorter, and the plug takes up more of your electrical outlet real estate. Not everyone will mind, but I certainly wouldn't call it an improvement over standard laptop power bricks. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    You keep mentioning how great the MBA is compared to these in some areas, but you fail to mention any negative aspects of it, which distorts the picture quite a lot. I realize this is an article about 2 ultrabooks, but then either don't mention the MBA at all or include it fully.
    And if you say that the MBA can also run Windows, show it in the graphs as well.

    The way you do it seems like just a promotion for Apple tbh.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I linked our MBA review; unfortunately, I haven't had nearly as much time with a MacBook Air, and we didn't run all of our Windows tests on the MBA13 I don't think, but it's still mostly comparable. The one issue with MBA under Windows is that the keyboard keys are "mislabeled". I personally wouldn't buy an ultrabook or a MacBook Air -- the Dell XPS 15z is probable the best overall laptop for my personal usage habits -- but for those in the market I'd at least look at all the ultrabook style devices before plunking down money on one of them. Reply
  • vision33r - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Today's world of $299-499 13-15" notebooks. People in general have gotten used to seeing Dell and HPs for under $500. While these are ultrabooks, people in general still have problem buying a $1000 Windows notebook unless it's a premium brand like Sony or Apple.

    What will end up happening is these will drop down to $699 and some parts getting cheapen and quality goes down. The Alienware m11x is the perfect example, the quality gotten worst with the m11x R3 versions because the price went down.
  • dszc - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    Jarred, Thanks for a great review.

    And thanks for continuing to preach the need for good IPS, non-glare display panels that are actually useful in the environments where laptops are used (traveling where there is little or no control over the ambient lighting).

    I'm a pro photographer and I need something portable and useful on an airplane seatback tray (therefore 13-14" max) with battery life that can last a transatlantic flight.

    Another thing that is critical is that with these fairly fast notebooks, you need a way to get data into and out of them. And that REQUIRES at least 2 USB 3.0 ports (and/or eSATA) and a Gbit ethernet port.

    Of course the last and maybe most important consideration is feel and quality of user input. Keyboard and touchpad.
    I just got a U46E-BAL6. It is a fantastic and fast computer. BUT it has the worst touchpad I have ever used, and the screen is poor to mediocre. I would have RATHER paid $100-200 more for a good IPS display, a state-of-the-art touchpad, and two USB3.0 ports.

    Some manufacturer needs to step out on a limb, and make something really good that will properly do the work that people who will buy these things need to do. THey need to think about how these things will actually be used.

    Thanks again for encouraging progress in the right direction.

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