Latest Ultrabooks still fail to make it under $1000

ASUS Zenbooks launched in Australia, priced from $1399 to $1999

The Zenbook is super-thin and very stylish, yet it's also quite powerful. It packs Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors and 4GB of RAM, and solid state drives are standard across all models.

The Zenbook is super-thin and very stylish, yet it's also quite powerful. It packs Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors and 4GB of RAM, and solid state drives are standard across all models.

ASUS launched its much vaunted Zenbook in Sydney last night, releasing pricing for four models covering two sizes: 11.6in and 13.3in. Like the Acer Aspire S3 that we reviewed recently, the new Zenbooks come in well over $1000, with the cheapest model in the range, the 11in UX21E-RY004V, costing $1399 — $200 more than it does in the United States.

When Ultrabooks were first envisioned, $1000 price points were often talked about, but this has failed to materialise (so far). Most vendors will be offering their 'sweet spot' model in Australia at around $1499 — $50 more than the similarly-configured 13in MacBook Air. The new models from ASUS are sure to generate a buzz, even at this price point, mainly due to their classy metal build quality and smooth looks.

The ASUS Zenbook UX31E-RY009V is the model that we think will be the most popular among Aussie buyers. For $1499 you get a 13.3in Ultrabook with an Intel Core i5-2557M CPU, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 128GB solid state drive (SATA 3), single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (4.0), USB 3.0, USB 2.0, micro HDMI, mini VGA, an SD card slot and a combined headphone and microphone port.

All this stuff will come in a body that's 18mm thick (at its thickest point), 325mm wide and 223mm deep. It will only weigh 1.1kg and be perfect for carting to and from the office or lecture theatre. An Ethernet adapter will also be part of the package, as will a VGA webcam. ASUS claims a brightness rating of 450 nits for its LED-backlit screen, which means it will be a lot brighter than most other notebooks on the market, and it will have a slightly larger resolution that similarly-sized notebooks: 1600x900.

Other models in the Zenbook range include:

• CUX31E-RY010V: a 13in, 1600x900, Core i7-2677M model with 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD that costs $1999
• UX21E-RY008V: an 11in, 1366x768, Core i7-2677M model with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD that costs $1599
• UX21E-RY004V: an 11in, 1366x768, Core i5-2467M model with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD that costs $1399

ASUS rates the battery life for the 13in models at seven hours; the 11in models have a rating of five hours. ASUS also claims a standby time of 14 days.

From what we've seen so far in brief encounters with the Zenbooks, they appear to be very solidly build and well crafted. The higher-than-usual resolution screen on the 13in models is a draw card and we like that solid state drives are standard across the board. ASUS also reckons that the sound quality from these small laptops will be better than expected due to the rigidness of the chassis eliminating distortion. We're very much looking forward to testing these models.

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Elias Plastiras
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