The Asus Zenbook has impressed us time and again, first with the Zenbook ultrabook, and then with the Windows 8 version, the Zenbook Prime. Little did we know that waiting in the wings was an even larger and more powerful UX51VZ ready to vie for our affections.
The design and overall build of the Zenbook range is familiar across the board, namely strikingly modern and stylish, and first rate, respectively. The all aluminium body, with a subtle circular zen garden motif, once again graces the notebook’s cover, along with an all silver interior, amidst which rests a black, backlit chiclet keyboard.
Indeed, the ultrabook actually looks bigger, or more correctly, more expansive than its true size suggests, due to the fact that the notebook is so cleanly designed. At 2.1 kg, it may not be the lightest ultrabook out there, but nor is it burdensome to carry.
One familiar site across the Zenbook range is this subtle circular motif on the cover, which brings to mind a Zen garden, and the all-aluminum frame, which is as solid as it looks.
Putting on a performance
Suffice to say, this Windows 8 Zenbook looks and feels like a premium machine, and it performs like one too. This is thanks to some high end specs, including an Intel Core i7 (3632QM) processor clocked at 2.1 GHz, a generous 8 GB of DDR3 memory and an Nvidia GT650 graphics card, with 2 GB of dedicated memory handling graphic tasks.
What this means is that we would have no hesitation throwing some more demanding tasks at it than just web browsing, basic productivity tasks and the like. Instead, the machine seems well capable of handling some serious image crunching as well and a good round of PC gaming when the mood strikes.
Only enforcing this is the 15.6" screen, which looks, in a word, fantastic. More specifically, it offers some very good brightness, sharpness and saturation across the board, not so much of a surprise considering it boasts a resolution of 1920 x 1080. We also really liked seeing some commendable viewing angles, which should make sharing a movie with a significant other on the machine a feasible prospect.
This was only further augmented by the superb – and very loud – sound that is on offer here. Indeed, part of the reason for this is the excellent Bang and Olufsen speakers, that had some satisfying reverberation pounding through the frame.
Also in the box is the compact SonicMaster external woofer, for even more oomph. This made playing games and movies on the ultrabook a treat; with the machine seeming to fill in nicely as a portable entertainment centre when you are on the move or temporarily calling a hotel room your abode.
A generous, full sized keyboard, with numpad, makes this ultrabook feel particularly roomy.
Much like on previous Zenbooks, we enjoyed using this one’s keyboard. The keys offered a little extra depth (always welcome) but no less springiness and responsiveness than we are used to. Backlighting was bright and spreads an even glow across the keyboard, while the nicely sized trackpad was responsive from one end to another.
While it was set quite closely to the surface of the palmrests, we were glad to notice that the trackpad does have a bit of a subtly different texture, making it easier to find with one’s fingers in a dark room. Also onboard is a full numpad, while screen and keyboard brightness, along with wireless connectivity, are accessed with the aid of function keys.
Important bits and pieces
Storage wise, onboard is a 128 GB SSD, while on the port side, there is a neatly compacted Ethernet port as well as a HDMI one, an SD card reader and three USB 3.0 ports distributed across the left and right hand side of the machine. It appears that the old USB 2.0 option has finally being given its pink slip and encouraged to slowly shuffle off the production line.
To the point
Much like we have come to appreciate previous Zenbooks, this one is no exception in that regard. Indeed, it gave us a hard time finding anything to complain about features-wise, although, enjoying it permanently comes with the steep price tag of R22 400.