A New Class of Laptop, ASUS UX31 Ultrabook…

Launched at Computex 2011 the UX31 is part of a new UX Series of laptops from ASUS, also released along side the UX31 was it’s smaller brother the UX21 -11.6 inch screen-. Intels new generation chipset and CPU have allowed power usage and temperatures to drop, essential for this new generation of laptop.

The UX31 and Ultrabook reference design certainly do pack a lot of technology into a sleek and compact design, Intel has tried to make an industry standard model better than the MacBook Air and have generally managed to do just that. The UX31 presented at Computex included a Core i7-2637M –Sandy Bridge CPU– running at 1.7GHz, half the speed of the desktop equivalent. According to ASUS online options will include the cheaper Core i5 as well as the Core i7 CPU as seen in the demonstration models. 4GB of DDR3 Ram is standard along with the SanDisk U100 SATA III SSD, starting at 64GB, options for sizes up to 256GB will also be available. The UX31’s impressive 13.3 inch LED backlight screen boasts 1600×900 resolution, solving the most annoying characteristics of Netbooks, slow speed and low resolution screens. Intel’s anaemic integrated graphics is built into the CPU -keeping power usage down-, which it does very well but at the cost of graphics performance which is still a tad slow, in the same ballpark as most Netbooks. Still there is enough power here to run a second monitor or TV, watch movies and generally plod around as we do.

Ports line the left and right sides of the laptop, with the back of the unit being occupied by the screens industrial looking hinge and vents. Along the left side of the Ultrabook are a USB 2 port, head phone jack and SD Card slot. The right side houses power, USB 3 port, Micro HDMI and mini Display Port video connectors. Intel has done impressively well with the number of ports its integrated into the Ultrabook, remembering this sexy beast is only 3mm thick at the front and 17mm at its thickest.

The aluminium unibody design along with the chiclet style keyboard and glass track pad give us the impression ASUS is trying to impress. The rear hinge enhances the industrial one piece machined look. The front of the laptop starts at a slim tapered front 3mm thick edge, or rather thin edge. Even at its thickest point, the 17mm rear is still super slim, un-naturally looking thin almost. At 1.3kg total weight this is the super-model of the laptop world.

ASUS is touting its new “Instant On” technology as being able to wake the Ultrabook up in under 2 seconds and stay in sleep made for up to a week. This is an impressive feat, evidence of both the SanDisk’s SSDs speed and power of the long life Lithium Polymer battery. ASUS claims a running time of 7 hours under normal usage.

No price has been announced for the UX31, all estimates are putting it at between $1,000 and $1,600 USD. For the Ultrabook to have a serious impact on the notebook market they are going to need to become a lot cheaper. The UX31 would be an unbelievable laptop in the $600 to $1,000 dollar market.

“Ultrabook takes the best technologies and marries them with sleeker designs and extraordinarily long battery life for a new kind of computing experience,” said Peter Hortensius, Lenovo’s Product Group president. “This new type of personal computing aligns with our continual focus on engineering innovative laptop solutions that push the boundaries on mobility.”

Ultrabooks are a new class of laptop marketed by Intel and produced by the usual suspects, laptop manufacturers like ASUS. An Ultrabook is defined as being less than 20mm thick with the power of a mid to high-end laptop. A number of size categories from small to crazy compact have been defined by Intel, with each receiving it’s own specification and bill of materials. Intel has already put a sizeable amount of resources -cash- into making Ultrabooks the next big thing. A $300million dollar fund was established on August 10, the fund was setup to help accelerate the industry adoption of the Ultrabook specifications. The specification itself is yet to released to the public, only the manufacturers of the laptops have them. Manufacturers are reporting multiple versions / renderings of each generation.

Intel is pushing the Ultrabook as the same size as a netbook but as powerful as a notebook. Getting the price right is going to be essential for the success of Ultrabooks. The netbook proved that buyers were willing to sacrifice power for price, let’s see if Intel can meet the market half way and price the CPU and chipset right. There is currently a battle going on behind the scenes with the manufacturers trying to get lower prices out of Intel. ASUS are well known for being fearsome negotiation skills and we are all the winners in this little boardroom stoush.

Intel and ASUS have worked very closely to make the UX31 the best laptop it can be. They dared to dream, a laptop powerful enough to have no limitations and convenient enough to take anywhere. They say who dares wins and Intel and ASUS have indeed produced an extremely powerful laptop in a sleek and sexy exterior, but will they win? The Apple MacBook Air is obviously the main competitor for the UX31, the Air is available for as little as $999 USD, that’s pretty tough competition. The ASUS UX31 will be one of the first Ultrabooks to hit the market in September, while the model demonstrated was the high-end model that would naturally be expensive lets hope ASUS can produce a cheaper version, cheap enough for people to take notice. An everyman version of their comic super hero Ultrabook.

Buddha’s Brother out…