ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook

ASUS Zenbook UX31 review: This Ultrabook has the looks and specs, but it's not big on user comfort

ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook
  • ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook
  • ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook
  • ASUS Zenbook UX31 (CUX31E-RY010V) Ultrabook
  • Expert Rating

    3.00 / 5

Pros

  • Thin design
  • 1600x900 resolution
  • 256GB SSD and Core i7 CPU

Cons

  • Input devices not great
  • User friendliness not great
  • Keyboard not backlit

Bottom Line

With so much going for it as far as size, build and looks are concerned, it's a shame that the Zenbook UX31 offers a below average user experience. Its input peripherals aren't great, it feels uncomfortable to use and we had to install drivers to get things working properly. technically, it's a good laptop, but it could have been so much better when it comes to user friendliness. We'd probably sit this one out and wait to see what the next models offer.

Would you buy this?

User friendliness

We found the keyboard on the Zenbook U31 to be decent, but far from great. Its keys rest in a chiclet style and they feel solid against the chassis. They are perhaps a little too solid for our liking and we ended up making lots of typing errors because we didn't hit some keys hard enough. In future models, we would like them to feel a little softer and to possess a little more travel; on a laptop this thin, that might be hard to implement. What definitely needs to be implemented is a backlight system. Like the Acer Aspire S3, the Zenbook was rushed to market without one and we think this is a large drawback.

A couple of other things annoyed us about the keyboard. Mainly, the position of the power button in the top-right corner (like the MacBook Air), which we pressed many times thinking it was the Delete key. ASUS suspected people would be doing that a lot so each time it's pressed a little pop-up comes up asking if you really meant to press it. The other annoyance was a slightly squeaky down arrow key, which got on our nerves, especially while navigating documents line by line in a quiet room. The touchad sometimes got in the way while typing, but when the ASUS SmartSense setting was enabled in the touchpad's driver, unintentional movement was detected and the pointer never deviated from where it was supposed to be.

The pointing device on the Zenbook is from Sentelic and it was a source of frustration for us when we initially started testing this unit. The pointer either lagged or jumped and was infuriatingly inaccurate, especially when trying to hit small targets. On a screen with a 1600x900 resolution, which is larger than the typical fare of 1366x768, this was unacceptable. We had to update the drivers and tinker a lot with the settings to make it better, but we never did get completely comfortable with it. It would be great if ASUS ships future models of the Zenbook with a Synaptics pad instead.

With a size of 104x71mm, the touchpad is huge. The reason for this is that the left- and right-click buttons are placed underneath the pad and the pad clicks onto them. It's a similar design to the Aspire S3, but unlike that laptop, the extra pad space over the top of the buttons is not usable. This can be annoying when you're attempting to move the pointer or perform a gesture as there is no physical barrier to let you know that your fingers are about to go 'out of bounds'. Incidentally, we never could get three-finger swipes to work in Firefox.

Getting connected to our wireless network proved to be a frustrating experience the first time, too. We experienced frequent drop-outs throughout our initial tests until we were able to update the Atheros (AR9485WB) wireless adapter's driver. To do this we plugged in the USB-based Ethernet adapter that ships with the unit and connected the laptop directly to our router. After updating the driver, we experienced constant connectivity. However, the laptop still proved to be problematic when it came to networking — it kept dropping off the network every 20min or so.

These usability issues were frustrating for us and we think that if the average user experiences them they will be put off. Not to mention users who might not have the technical nous to seek and install drivers for the problematic components of this laptop. We hope that other shipping versions of the Zenbook UX31 at least have the latest drivers installed from the factory and that everything works well straight out of the box.

Next page: Specifications, performance, battery life, conclusion

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