updated 03:20 pm EDT, Tue October 11, 2011
ASUS Zenbook UX models ship October 12
ASUS at its New York City event formally brought over its UX ultrabooks to the US. Now called Zenbooks, the 11.6-inch UX21 and 13.3-inch UX31 are fundamentally similar to the ones sold abroad and have very portable dimensions not unlike the MacBook Air both are based on. The two are no more than 0.67 inches thick and weigh either 2.4 pounds (UX21) or 2.9 pounds (UX31) through their brushed aluminum designs and uses of solid-state drives.
The two also have similar low-voltage processors, ranging from the 1.6GHz Core i5 through to the 1.8GHz Core i7, and get similar battery lives of five hours on the 11.6-inch system and seven hours for the 13.3-inch system.
ASUS is competing mostly on extra features for the price. Both the UX21 and UX31 start off with a 128GB SSD, not the 64GB of Apple's base system, and all have 4GB of RAM from the start. They carry a relatively high-powered Bang & Olufsen speaker set. Every model has one each of USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, micro HDMI, and mini VGA; the UX31 has extra room for an SD card slot.
Although launching a day later than Acer's Aspire S3, the Zenbooks are arriving faster and will be available tomorrow, October 12. ASUS has just matched Apple's base price at $999 for the 11.6-inch system and starts off the 13.3-inch model for less, at $1,099. These models start with 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz Core i5 chips respectively, but either can be upgraded to a Core i7 version at $1,199 and $1,449. The UX31 is the only one with an option of a 256GB drive.
By shipping first, ASUS claims the title of first in the US to try and provide a direct equivalent to the modern MacBook Air in the US. Intel named the ultrabook category and conceived of it as a way both to encourage the move from netbooks to more lucrative ultraportables as well as a way of minimizing the damage done to the PC business by the iPad by providing much of the same experience, such as instant responsiveness and light weight, to traditional computers.