ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Review - Execution Matters
User Interface, Display And Audio Quality
Ultrabook keyboards are rarely great, and the Zenbook is not an exception. It lacks key travel, which makes the typing experience a bit vague and frustrating at times. With that said, there’s a lot of ultrabooks on the market today with keyboards that are terrible. The Zenbook Prime is not one of them.
The layout provides many of the positives. It’s conventional and offers large keys all around. Important keys like Backspace, which are sometimes truncated on small laptops, are given room to expand.
Backlighting is standard. There’s three brightness settings (not including off) which can be controlled via keyboard function keys. Backlight quality isn’t stellar, but the inclusion of brightness options automatically makes the Zenbook Prime better than most competitors.
I was surprised to find (given complaints I've heard from others) that the touchpad on my review unit was good. I found the texture a bit vague but the surface was large and integrated left/right mouse buttons did not require excessive force to activate. Multi-touch scrolling proved very smooth, while zoom was also decent. The touchpad did a good job of detecting right-clicks via a two-finger press.
Display And Audio Quality
I was dismayed to find that the first review unit I received had some rather severe backlight issues. Most UX31A laptops will have visible backlight leading durings boot screens, however, this should go away when in the Windows operating system. Most of the backlight bleed did, but one very noticeable spot in the lower right hand corner persisted. It was extremely visible during movies.
ASUS apologized and replaced the unit swiftly. The second try is much better than the first, but there’s still four tiny spots which bleed through (visible in the image above). I really think ASUS should be able to do better than this, but it appears to be a semi-common issue with the Zenbook Prime.
The display is otherwise outstanding. Black levels are robust, which leads to excellent perceived contrast. Viewing angles are excellent and maximum brightness is more than sufficient to make the surface viewable in a bright room or even outdoors. This is assisted by a semi-glossy coat which obscure reflections significantly.
And then there’s the resolution. I thought 1080p in a display this small would be a problem, but the laptop is configured with the UI scaled to accommodate it. I had absolutely no problem finding icons and text readable. In fact, text sometimes seemed more readable than on a display with a lower resolution because it’s rendered more smoothly.
Audio quality may not be as important as the display, but ASUS hasn’t cheaped out. The provided audio is reasonably loud and manages to be clear when playing most music. It’s above average for an ultrabook. I recommend external speakers for real media enjoyment, but the provided audio is adequate for watching YouTube or playing a game.