With the Asus UX31E, all the fuss about Ultrabooks starts to make sense. Its all-metal chassis, cut from a single sheet of aluminum, is undeniably handsome. And while this attractive metal wedge that’s just .71 inches at its thickest brings to mind the fine craftsmanship of a MacBook Air, it’s by no means a knockoff. The UX31E possesses a unique character that’s admirable in its own right. And at $1,050, it’s $250 less than its similarly spec’d Apple counterpart.
Silver inside and out, save for a black bezel around the screen and black backing to the keyboard, the UX31E sports a faintly etched pattern of concentric circles on its lid, while the deck is adorned with a pattern of brushed vertical lines, interrupted only by a spacious clickpad. While clickpads can be persnickety and frustrating to use, we didn’t have any issues with the pad on the UX31E. As for the keyboard, the size and spacing of the keys feels right, and although the key press is shallow, there’s a satisfying click at the end of each depression.
Another welcome feature of the UX31E is its 1600x900 screen resolution, besting the 1366x768 of the other screens in this roundup and the 1440x900 of the 13.3-inch MacBook Air. Like all the others, the UX31E’s screen is glossy; it produces a bright, vivid picture and holds up well off axis.
The two speakers embedded in the chassis are powered by Bang & Olufsen ICEpower tech and put out surprisingly full audio for a device of these dimensions.
Internally, the UX31E also impresses. Its Core i5-2557M proc is clocked at 1.7GHz, with a max Turbo frequency of 2.7GHz. Combine that with a SATA 6Gb/s SSD and you’ve got a machine that posts healthy gains over our zero-point in the benchmarks and some of the fastest scores in this roundup. To put it in perspective, the UX31E had sequential read and write speeds of 463MB/s and 341MB/s, respectively—pretty darn close to the spec’s max bandwidth. Sadly, the SSD is just 128GB.
The UX31E’s battery life surpassed five hours in our tests. It recharged to 50 percent in less than an hour, and reached a full charge in three. Booting to Windows took 23 seconds.
Asus throws in a tasteful, brown padded carrying case for the UX31E, as well as a matching pouch that holds two connector dongles: USB-to-Ethernet and Mini VGA-to-VGA. Yes, Mini VGA is built into the unit (who knew it even existed?), along with Mini HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, headphone, mic, and a media reader.
All told, the UX31E weighs in at three pounds, 2.1 ounces (or 8.3 ounces, if you add the power supply). If going toe-to-toe with Apple’s Air on both design and specs, while beating its price, is what it takes to achieve product hotness, then Asus has done it.