updated 11:35 am EDT, Mon March 12, 2012
ASUS UX21A and UX31A to be drop-in upgrades
(Update: speed changes) ASUS' rumored major ultrabook upgrades were given their first real details through leaks on Monday. The Zenbook UX21A and UX31A models identified by The Verge would be direct replacements for the existing 11.6- and 13.3-inch UX21 and UX31, respectively, but with an option for a 1080p, IPS-based display on either model. Their conventional 1366x768 (UX21) and 1600x900 (UX31) displays would still come standard.
The processors would make the leap to Ivy Bridge, although here the sources' tips appeared partly off. It mentioned three processors, one of which was included in Intel's accidental roadmap reveal, but clocked them at unusual speeds, claiming that they would start off with a 1.8GHz Core i3 and ramp up to 2.4GHz Core i5 and 2.8GHz Core i7 parts. Intel's own details are incomplete, but the fastest low voltage processor expected to ship, the Core i7-3667U, would top out at 2GHz.
Update: After checking on the story, the clock speeds are now understood to be more plausible. The 2.4GHz and 2.8GHz clock speeds would be the Turbo Boost speeds, not sustained performance. The 1.8GHz Core i3 would run at that speed regularly but wouldn't have Turbo Boost.
They would add WiDi streaming as well as a backlit, "seamless chiclet" keyboard.
RAM wouldn't change, at 2GB or 4GB soldered into the design, but using low-power DDR3 would theoretically improve battery life. ASUS is still expecting a MacBook Air-like five hours for the UX21A and six to seven for the UX31A. Storage would be familiar and stop at a 256GB solid-state drive, although ASUS may push for a 512GB option.
The upgrades would price either UX model above its Apple equivalent, at about $1,050 for a UX21A without the 1080p screen and $1,100 for the UX31A. ASUS might ship the new Zenbooks as soon as Ivy Bridge arrives, which could be the end of April.
ASUS was one of the first to leap on the ultrabook concept, which was born out of Intel's desire to have Windows PC builders follow Apple's lead and make very thin and light but still fast notebooks. The Zenbook line is believed to trail well behind the MacBook Air in sales but to still be among the few relatively successful early ultrabook designers.