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First ultrabook on sale

First ultrabook on sale

The Asus UX31 looks sleek and shiny.

Ars Technica managed to get its hands on the first ultrabook to make it to market yesterday. According to the site, the $999 Asus Zenbook has an 11in screen, a Core i5 CPU and a weight of 2.43 pounds.

The ‘ultrabook’ is Intel’s latest attempt to develop a thin and light laptop concept that can compete with the MacBook Air in terms of style, sleekness and performance, while also offering decent value for money.

However, the basic 11in MacBook Air also costs $999, so the Zenbook is going to have its work cut out. Like the Air, Ars Technica says the Zenbook comes in 11in and 13in flavours, both of which can be configured with Core i5 and i7 processors. Unlike the Air, though, which comes with 2GB of RAM in its basic configuration, all the models of Zenbook will come with 4GB of memory as standard.

The basic 11in Zenbook also has a 128GB SSD, while the basic MacBook Air has a 64GB drive. Basically, in terms of specs, the vanilla Zenbook is more comparable to the $1,199 11in MacBook Air than the $999 model. Meanwhile, the 13in Zenbook is comparable in terms of specs with the two models of 13in MacBook Air, although there’s no information on pricing for 13in Zenbooks yet.

At least the Zenbook looks the part, with a ‘monoshell’ aluminium body, thin dimensions of 0.11in to 0.67 or 0.71in (depending on screen size) and a 1,366 x 768 11in screen or 1,600 x 900 13in screen.

Ars criticises the Zenbook for its battery life in standby mode, however, saying that the 11in and 13in Zenbooks last for up to seven and ten days respectively, while all MacBook Airs can last for up to 30 days on standby. On the plus side, at least the Zenbook has the ultrabook-standard ‘Instant On’ feature, which restores the laptop from a standby state in under two seconds.

Like what you see, or is the MacBook Air still the most desirable ultra-portable laptop? Let us know in the forum.

44 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
mongpong 14th October 2011, 16:50 Quote
It certainly looks the business. Always liked ASUS's styling.
jrs77 14th October 2011, 16:59 Quote
Wouldn't buy an ultrabook, if it's not drastically cheaper then the MBA.

When using the same hardware, MacOS X is having the advantage over Win7 due to the OS and hardware being heavily optimized on Apple-devices and that easily covers the $100 expense on the Macbook Air.
Snips 14th October 2011, 16:59 Quote
A shiny shiny thing that anyone can use without restrictions and compatible with everything kinda makes things easy. I may seriously take a look at this.
Snips 14th October 2011, 17:01 Quote
Can't agree with that jrs77. Try installing some of the most popular software used in any industry and more than likely, there isn't a Mac version.
Matticus 14th October 2011, 17:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
Can't agree with that jrs77. Try installing some of the most popular software used in any industry and more than likely, there isn't a Mac version.

Did you last use a Mac 10 years ago? Almost everything I use has a Mac version. The only exception being Visual Studio and sql management studio, but its hardly surprising that MS don't release these for Mac being that they use and create the .net framework. Could always use MonoDevelop if you really wanted to .net on a mac.

The Asus is a very nice looking machine and I would seriously consider it if I was in the market for an Ultrabook, but I can't see the resale value being close to that of an MBA, which is always worth considering. Higher initial cost can be easily offset by resale value so the total cost of ownership can sometimes be lower.
Tattysnuc 14th October 2011, 17:23 Quote
If you want a MBA, buy one. If you need Windows on it, run a VM, or dual boot. If you want a copy of an MBA, then buy this, but it needs to be priced competitively for the PC MArket - It ISNT an MBA. Do people seriously think people will pay MBA prices for PC hardware, without the customer asurance levels that Apple Offer?

There's a place in the market for this, but it needs to be priced right, and pricing it around the MBA price just makes me think that the MBA is a better buy.
Yemerich 14th October 2011, 17:41 Quote
^^ If you don't consider the hardware, then yes. Because storage at 64 (even 128) and RAM at 2GB is just too low.
Picarro 14th October 2011, 17:51 Quote
I would love an ultra book like this or the MBA, IF it had the nipple mouse. Why oh why do manufacturers disregard this epic pointing device? It's more precise than a touchpad, takes up less space, is less likely to **** up, can be used with damp fingers and most of all it isn't brushed accidentally when writing.

Only Lenovo and HP hear my cries :(
stotea 14th October 2011, 18:03 Quote
Man, 11" screen... how do people use these things? I can barely tolerate my 15" laptop screen!
V3ctor 14th October 2011, 18:10 Quote
I wouldn't mind buying it, my T8300, HD Mobility 2600 is asking for a replacement. But before I'd buy this thing I would like to know the brand of the SSD, if it's Intel I'll buy, other brands... not so much...
r3loaded 14th October 2011, 18:24 Quote
Most likely it'll be something from Samsung or Intel, since manufacturers prefer them for reliability reasons. You won't see any consumer computer maker putting a Sandforce-based drive in their products (yet).
echeb 14th October 2011, 18:30 Quote
That price better be just introductory, there's no way they are going to shift a half decent amount at $1k especially when the previously mentioned resale value is added in. Give me a price in £, in 3 months down the line when there's competition from Dell, Lenovo and the like and I might reconsider but I'm predicting a flop numbers wise.

Shame because I think its quite a good idea.

Ps. I love it when my favourite hardware review site links to my favourite international tech news site. :)
PCBuilderSven 14th October 2011, 18:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tattysnuc
Do people seriously think people will pay MBA prices for PC hardware, without the customer asurance levels that Apple Offer?
What customer assurance levels? The ones saying that it's going to be completely crap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matticus
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips

Can't agree with that jrs77. Try installing some of the most popular software used in any industry and more than likely, there isn't a Mac version.
Did you last use a Mac 10 years ago? Almost everything I use has a Mac version.
Well, X Terminal (The Mac terminal just sucks - eventhough they baisicly just copied Linux they couldn't resist screwing it up) and (not that I'd recommened it on an ultrabook) baisicly every game in existance.
The_EXorcist 14th October 2011, 18:55 Quote
Yeah...Mac...Value for money... dont think they ever did that.
echeb 14th October 2011, 19:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by PCBuilderSven
What customer assurance levels? The ones saying that it's going to be completely crap?



Well, X Terminal (The Mac terminal just sucks - eventhough they baisicly just copied Linux they couldn't resist screwing it up) and (not that I'd recommened it on an ultrabook) baisicly every game in existance.

Come on, they've got Steam so credit where credits due.

I hate apple as much as the next guy who'c currently downloading Ubuntu 11.10 X64 but do we have to have a flame war every time one of their products or services are mentioned?
javaman 14th October 2011, 20:38 Quote
Who gives a f*** about "on standby" how does it compare fully loaded? Personally windows appeals over the macbook simply for light gaming and tbh I was dreading the thought that alienware had the best gaming notebook outthere *shutter*
Sloth 14th October 2011, 20:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yemerich
^^ If you don't consider the hardware, then yes. Because storage at 64 (even 128) and RAM at 2GB is just too low.
This is a pretty major consideration, imo. I question whether having a more streamlined OS can overcome the performance advantages of these specs. I'd also like to point out that dual booting isn't an option on a stock 11" MBA as you're going to be hard pressed to fit two operating systems on a 64GB hard drive.

It'd probably be going too far to say the Zenbook is the "better" choice but it's safe to say that it's a good option for a lot of user's needs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by echeb
Come on, they've got Steam so credit where credits due.
Not entirely, they have SteamPlay which, at least for the time being, falls far short of the full Steam library. There's also some difference in the quality of OpenGL's rendering compared to DirectX. However, good luck doing much gaming on either machine in the first place.
Quote:
Originally Posted by javaman
Who gives a f*** about "on standby" how does it compare fully loaded?
This part confused me as well. Who is actually going to leave their notebook in standby for longer than a week straight without simply plugging it into a charger or turning it off? What would really push my decision between the two is how the operating battery life compares to the specs. If the MBA can last for significantly longer like it does in standby it might gets some points back.
leslie 14th October 2011, 21:46 Quote
I like the look, the shape and the size, I won't like the keyboard.
WHY is it so expensive though? Seriously!

All the time you hear of the so called Mac tax, and yet when the industry tries to beat Apple at their own game on an Apple original design, they can't beat them. Get with it people!

BTW, the Toshiba 13in looks a bit better spec-wise than this Asus model for the same or similar price.
http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2011/09/toshiba-embarks-on-intels-ultrabook-quest-with-13-inch-z830.ars
Quote:
Originally Posted by stotea
Man, 11" screen... how do people use these things? I can barely tolerate my 15" laptop screen!
Stop using a notebook as a desktop, especially ultra portables, where the focus is on.... Portability.
I carry a 13in with me to every jobsite, and I would prefer an 11 or 12 due to weight and size.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matticus
Did you last use a Mac 10 years ago? Almost everything
While I agree, it's not what it was 10 years ago, it's not what you claim either.

The real estate industry in the U.S. is almost entirely web based today, only only last year did they finally get anything other than Internet Exploder to work on it. It's not just that industry either, I work with several, and about half have Windows or I.E. specific items they need. It's not many, but it only takes one to throw a wrench in the works.

I also still regularly see printers with no actual Mac support, or they only work with very specific versions, you can often get them working, but it's a hack job. The last Mac brought in took me about an hour to finally get the office's laser printer to work on it. I also see a lot of Bluetooth adapters and wireless cards that have no Mac support either.

I like Mac, but you can't tell me they enjoy the same level of support, it's not even close. Close doesn't cut it when you have to tell the owner that their $20k printer or the website that they use day in, day out, won't work with their shiny new Mac.
yakyb 14th October 2011, 23:16 Quote
wow 2 posts to become a mac vs windows debate.

besides im waiting for this

http://www.pcworld.com/article/239936/windows_8_tablet_hands_on.html
Raijin 14th October 2011, 23:57 Quote
I will consider getting it just because it's in competition with Apple, I hate the Apple OS, I'm a PC and proud lol.
Sloth 15th October 2011, 00:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by yakyb
wow 2 posts to become a mac vs windows debate.

besides im waiting for this

http://www.pcworld.com/article/239936/windows_8_tablet_hands_on.html
The Zenbook is a direct competitor for the Macbook Air. The Zenbook comes with Windows 7 installed and the Macbook Air comes with OS X. A critical part of comparing these two competing products is comparing the impacts of their respective operating systems. If you want to label everything as "Mac vs. Windows" then feel free, the rest of us will be enjoying our ability two compare two products, one which happens to be made by Apple and running OSX and another which happens to be made by ASUS and runs Windows 7, while trying to ignore posts like the one above.
SpAceman 15th October 2011, 01:32 Quote
Looks like the thickness of USB is limiting how thin they can make it....
StoneyMahoney 15th October 2011, 17:13 Quote
Macs vs PCs in a nutshell:

1) In hardware terms, you get what you pay for and there are no cheap Macs.

2) PC software covers rather more tasks than that which is available for Macs but Macs do niches. PCs for the accountancy and banking tools, Macs for graphics design and media work.

3) PCs have Active Directory and are favoured by large, complex business. Macs have Open Directory for simpler administration in smaller businesses.

4) PCs take longer to prep and have "model quirks" inherent to their flexibility and hardware interoperability standards. Macs are commodity hardware with limited expansion and forced technological progression.

5) Mac OS currently has far fewer security threats than Windows but it's only a matter of time (if the doomsayers/security analysts* are right) - *delete as appropriate in 2015.

6) Windows has DirectX and all gaming GFX cards are optimized for it. OS X... er... has Steamplay.

And that's about it. They're different platforms for different people with different tastes. End of argument. (Please?)
kenco_uk 15th October 2011, 23:16 Quote
With a MBA though you could have OSX and Win7.
With Asus' offering you only have Win7 with the possibility of a bit of faffing to get osx86/hackintosh up and running.
Nexxo 16th October 2011, 00:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raijin
I will consider getting it just because it's in competition with Apple, I hate the Apple OS, I'm a PC and proud lol.

I'm glad you're not as shallow as those Apple fanboys. :D
Prestidigitweeze 16th October 2011, 02:21 Quote
I say let consumer beta-testers try the initial models at the initial prices. The modern Air wasn't built in a year or day, and even ultralights haven't hit their stride just yet. Samsung's Series 3 solved many of the problems raised by Series 9; however sleek and black the 9 might have been, the flagship still needs perfecting.

The Zenbook, like the 9, looks delicious, but hapless users will be left to discover the quirks of its curves.

When the Ivy Bridge takes root in next spring's Air, I might buy the 2011 model for less and configured with decent amounts of space and RAM. Or, if Samsung gets it right, I might pick up a remixed UL with one of their matte screens.

I've yet to use an Asus that didn't disappoint overall. I'm a fan of their processors and tweaks but never feel at home with their screens and keyboards.
javaman 17th October 2011, 10:19 Quote
Didn't intel have to subsidise these to get manufacturers to make them? @999 I'm surprised by that means there is not a lot of margin in macs. The highest cost is likely to be the development of a low powered chipset as well as the different boards to aqueeze them on. The cost of small and hopefully quality screens is fairly high too. All 13" are £100 dear than an equivalent spec'd 14" which are £30 dearer than an equivalent 15". Since netbooks also use 11" and the focus was on cheap, not many are very high quality. Maybe cost of developing those knocked price up a bit more.
maverik-sg1 17th October 2011, 12:41 Quote
MAC and PC's - it's a personal choice as both offer specific reasons to buy, there's no clear winner - I choose PC's because it has more software and more games available to it and in terms of cost, equivalent or better specc'd products are available for less in the PC market plac versus MAC.

I love ultrabooks, but of course no thread is complete without the obligatory:

But can it play Crysis at med/high settings in it's native resolution?
countstex 17th October 2011, 12:46 Quote
I've kind of lost the need for a laptop. Have the desktops when at home for work/heave gaming. The rest of the time, sat on the sofa our out of the house the android smartphone and android tablet get me everything I need from a portable device. A lot depends on your lifesyle though I guess.
Denis_iii 17th October 2011, 13:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by echeb
That price better be just introductory, there's no way they are going to shift a half decent amount at $1k especially when the previously mentioned resale value is added in. Give me a price in £, in 3 months down the line when there's competition from Dell, Lenovo and the like and I might reconsider but I'm predicting a flop numbers wise.

Shame because I think its quite a good idea.

Ps. I love it when my favourite hardware review site links to my favourite international tech news site. :)

$1000 in US = £1500 in UK following Asus price hike logic.
Its what they did with the Asus G73JH series so don't see them doing different here.

I imported by Asus G73JH-A1 from the US, total price was under £999. If had purchased locally would have cost me around £1800+.
hexx 17th October 2011, 13:37 Quote
hehe, so here we go, copy of MBA, wouldn't buy this over MBA - never ever
kent thomsen 17th October 2011, 18:48 Quote
It looks good. I would choose it over MBA because I'm a Linux-user
kent thomsen 17th October 2011, 18:51 Quote
And actually I only think the difference between Mac and PC is, that PC has games and the hardware, and Mac has the build quality and the best OS. Even better than Linux.
hexx 17th October 2011, 18:57 Quote
does it have thunderbolt? thunderbolt is brilliant. I like the idea of having a laptop for portability and big screen with external RAID box via thunderbolt at home.
hexx 17th October 2011, 19:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kent thomsen
And actually I only think the difference between Mac and PC is, that PC has games and the hardware, and Mac has the build quality and the best OS. Even better than Linux.

yes and no. you have steam on mac and you have onlive on mac - that's how i play games if i don't play on ps3
kent thomsen 17th October 2011, 19:18 Quote
@hexx

Ok, I must admit, that I'm not 100% familiar with Macs, and I just find it great, if solutions to "the gaming issue" with them has shown up.

I'd hope the same happens for Linux one day, I have Win 7 and Kubuntu in dual-boot, simply because I like to play a little CoD every now and then.
hexx 17th October 2011, 19:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kent thomsen
@hexx

Ok, I must admit, that I'm not 100% familiar with Macs, and I just find it great, if solutions to "the gaming issue" with them has shown up.

I'd hope the same happens for Linux one day, I have Win 7 and Kubuntu in dual-boot, simply because I like to play a little CoD every now and then.

I think they should launch onlive for Linux, when you think about it it just streams games to your computer, that's why i love that idea, you can play really good games on a laptop or netbook (friend plays on asus eee). Not sure if Steam will be ported to Linux, hopefully it will as there are a lot of similarities between Linux and Mac OS, in the end they're both based on Unix.
kent thomsen 17th October 2011, 19:26 Quote
Yeah, that would be nice! Itś exactly like you say: It's just a stream, so any platform should be able to adapt it.

Gaming on a Mac must be great, they have spectacular good screens.
hexx 17th October 2011, 19:27 Quote
I used to have Quad gaming PC, and then it was transformed to Hackintosh to try out Mac OS. I found myself using win less and less as I was playing on console and all soft I need was on Mac too w/o all those win related annoyances. So I bought MacBook Pro, sold gaming rig and problem solved. Have a portable computer which is hooked (when at home) on my TV and I play either on PS3 or on OnLive on Mac.
kent thomsen 17th October 2011, 19:31 Quote
I think a lot of folks experience the same as we did: The more you try something else, the less you tend to fire up windows...
hexx 17th October 2011, 19:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kent thomsen
I think a lot of folks experience the same as we did: The more you try something else, the less you tend to fire up windows...

LOL!!! You nailed it!!!
Grimloon 17th October 2011, 22:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kent thomsen
Gaming on a Mac must be great, they have spectacular good screens.

Hmm, I'm inclined to dispute that as they have a couple of flaws - glossy screens and the wrong aspect ratio. The gloss bit is the main sticking point, the displays may be nice enough but matte just works better where you have any light source hitting the screen (window behind me both at home and work).

Saying that though, I reckon I'd prefer a Macbook Air over this one. I'm neither a fruit factory fanboi nor a wintard (although Windows is my primary OS in various incarnations as well as the one I support) but it does look to me like Asus have made some of the same mistakes as Apple do (<rant>polish the outer shell to a mirror finish if you like but make the display non reflective, not the other way round FFS! Most of us want to see what we're working on, not our own faces. If we want to see ourselves we use this device known as "a mirror"!</rant>) as well as some entirely new ones of their own (have you seriously looked at that keyboard? *shudder*) and they appear to have failed dismally where the battery life is concerned.

TL,DR: The aesthetics and battery life on the Macbook Air are better, still a shiny screen and the keyboard earns a "WTF?" all on its own. Spec is nice enough but doesn't overcome the other issues. On a scale of "Ugh!" to "Want!" this one only rates a "meh" (the Macbook Air gets a "Shiny!" and the Razer Blade gets "How much was it for a kidney again? I have one spare!")
Kilmoor 18th October 2011, 11:15 Quote
...but can it run CRYSIS?


Ok, kidding, but seriously- if it could run a de-tuned EVE client at 1600x900 I'd be grabbing my coat and heading for the door to get one now.
Sloth 18th October 2011, 22:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenco_uk
With a MBA though you could have OSX and Win7.
With Asus' offering you only have Win7 with the possibility of a bit of faffing to get osx86/hackintosh up and running.
You have the possibility out of the box, yes, but there are also disadvantages which then have to be weighed when actually implementing such a setup. Primarily, the cost of buying a copy of Windows must be considered. Secondly, hard drive space must be considered. A base model 11" MBA only comes with 64GB of storage space*, running two operating systems will limit your amount of free space, quite possibilty below the amount needed for a given user's applications. The increased cost and lessened storage capacity may still be worth it for some users, but it should be remembered when considering what to buy.


*Upgrading the 11" MBA to 128GB of storage also means upgrading to 4GB of RAM. This can be had for an additional $200 but changes the performance and requires even more consideration of what is "worth it".
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