Traditional devices such as laptops and netbooks are under severe pressure as manufacturers roll out increasingly powerful smartphones and tablets.
Sales have been suffering and, in an attempt to keep portable x86-based devices relevant, Intel has teamed up with companies such as Asus to launch the Ultrabook category.
Asus has decided to brand its UX31E Ultrabook as a Zenbook in an attempt to differentiate itself from rivals Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba, which will all release devices before the year is out.
Beautifully crafted machine
At first glance, the Zenbook looks remarkably similar to the Apple MacBook Air in terms of design, and a closer look reveals that the specifications are similar.
The Zenbook has a solid metal chassis and a lovely aluminium finish, making this one of the best looking Windows-based laptops on the market. We think it looks every bit as good as the MacBook Air, and the metallic finish means it's not going to get as grubby as the Apple device.
The V-shaped design of the chassis means that the frame has a thickness of 3mm at the front and 9mm at the rear, and the laptop looks particularly impressive from the side.
However, a feature we don't like is the sealed back, which makes it impossible to swap out the battery on the move, something that travelling business users are likely to want to do.
We expected the full-body metal chassis to add significant weight, but the Zenbook tips the scales at a very reasonable 1.3kg, about 50g lighter than the 13in MacBook Air.
The 13.3in LED backlit display offers a maximum resolution of 1,600x900. Details are very crisp, but we did find icons and fonts a little on the small side. This could be a problem for some people and, since 1,600x900 is the optimal resolution, changing the resolution seems only to distort the picture quality.
The display is almost too bright when turned up full, especially in an office environment with overhead lighting. We found that the white background pierced our eyes when typing documents, for example, and needed to be toned down. It does work well in low-lit conditions, though.