Asus Zenbook UX302 packages both power and design for hefty price tag

With the ever evolving PC landscape out there, the choice between a laptop, tablet, or a snap-apart hybrid PC can be a difficult one, depending on your needs. With the new Asus Zenbook, the touch screen capabilities of a tablet have come to a laptop, providing the best of both worlds without sacrificing hardware power.

On the surface, the Zenbook takes a lot of cues from Apple. In fact, swap out the Asus logo for Apple’s on the grey version, and it’s a dead ringer for a MacBook Air. This is actually a benefit to Asus, as laptop interfaces have been playing catch-up to Apple for years. Asus has taken strides to give the consumer a computer that feels great and could potentially win back Mac users who abandoned PCs long ago.

The Zenbook features a Intel i7-4500U running at 1.80 GHz, but thanks to Intel Turbo Boost can go up to 2.40 GHz. For graphics, the onboard Intel processor provides most of the horsepower – but for 3D processing, the NVIDIA GeForce 730M is also inside. The sample machine also provided two hard drives – 185 GB SSD for the OS, and a 258 GB SSD for extra storage. Combined with 8 GB of RAM, and you’ve got a pretty solid computer.

Asus takes advantage of Windows 8's touch screen UI.
Asus takes advantage of Windows 8’s touch screen UI.

One of the main features marketed for the Zenbook is that it is touch screen capable. While it is an interesting idea in theory to have a touch screen on a laptop, in practice it doesn’t really enhance the overall experience. It does make sense to have it though – Windows 8 is designed for tablets, and using the Live Tile interface with a mouse isn’t nearly as easy. Although, once you’re on the classic mode desktop, the touch screen is virtually useless. If you’re looking for a touch screen experience, you’re better off getting a tablet or hybrid.

The keyboard and trackpad are a pleasure to use. Taking cues from Apple, the overall typing experience is identical to a MacBook. Everything from the backlit keyboard to the lowered keys feel great. It’s actually surprising it’s taken this long for a PC manufacturer to make this a reality. I did have things go haywire every once in a while with the trackpad, but that may have just been a result of not knowing all the swipe options.

In terms of connectivity, the Zenbook features 3 USB 3.0 ports, SD card reader, HDMI, and Mini DV. With no ethernet port, it strictly relies on bluetooth and wireless.

For my review, I decided to give a few programs a test run- Photoshop Creative Cloud, South Park Stick of Truth, Fifa 14, and NBA 2K14. All programs ran flawlessly, and with the games I was able to play on the highest graphic settings with barely any noticeable frame rate drops. Connecting my XBOX 360 controller and playing Stick of Truth was identical to the console experience.

Overall, the Asus Zenbook is a pretty solid Ultrabook with enough horsepower and design sensibilities to seriously give Apple a run for its money. While the touch screen is an interesting perk, it usability is  a novelty at best, but definitely doesn’t hurt.

The only drawback for consumers could be the the price tag – $1,799 – $400 more than a Macbook Pro. For the die hard Windows user, this is the closest they’re going to get to the “Mac experience” without having to switch to OSX.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Randolph Burlton
Randolph Burlton
I do my own thing.

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