ASUS just announced its first line of Ultrabook PCs under the new Zenbook brand at a press event in NYC. There are a total of five models in the Zenbook lineup ranging in price from $999 to $1499 and available in both 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch display configurations. Based on specs alone, the Zenbook lineup is very similar to Apple's 2011 MacBook Air. Dimensions are almost identical, although ASUS' 11 is a little heavier than Apple's while its 13 is a little lighter. The entire Zenbook lineup ships with 4GB of DDR3 memory and all of the systems use the same ULV Sandy Bridge parts that Apple uses in the MacBook Air. Battery capacities are identical to the Air models at 35Whr and 50Whr depending on the chassis size. ASUS does claim lower standby numbers than Apple (up to 10 days vs. up to 30 for the MBA), but that's likely an OS limitation. The Zenbooks typically give you a larger SSD than Apple (and 6Gbps on top of that) as well as a single USB 3.0 port to complement its USB 2.0 port. ASUS claims a 2 second resume time for all of the Zenbook models, presumably from a suspend-to-RAM state.

ASUS Zenbook Lineup
  UX21E-DH52 UX21E-DH71 UX31E-DH52 UX31E-DH53 UX31E-DH72
CPU i5-2467M i7-2677M i5-2557M i5-2557M i7-2677M
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Display 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 13.3-inch 1600 x 900
Memory 4GB DDR3
Storage 128GB 6Gbps SSD 256GB 6Gbps SSD
Wireless Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
Battery 35Whr (5+ Hours)
up to 7 day standby
50Whr (7+ Hours)
up to 10 day standby
Camera 0.3MP
Audio Bang and Olufsen ICEpower & ASUS SonicMaster Tech
I/O 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, 1x audio/mic, 1x microHDMI, 1x miniVGA 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x microHDMI, 1 x miniVGA, 1 x SD Card reader
Dimensions 11.7 x 7.7 x 0.11-0.67" 12.8 x 8.8 x 0.11-0.71"
Weight 2.43 lbs 2.86 lbs
USA MSRP $999 $1199 $1099 $1349 $1499

The first Zenbooks will be available for order in the US starting October 12th. I've included some head to head comparisons between the various Zenbook models and their MacBook Air counterparts below. For the most part the specs aren't all that different. I don't expect that there are a ton of users who cross-shop similarly priced Macs and PCs, the Zenbook simply looks like a good option for those users who want a MacBook Air but prefer Windows 7.

ASUS' 13-inch offerings do have a higher resolution display than their Apple counterparts (1600 x 900 vs 1440 x 900). We're still waiting to hear back on the panel technology used in the Zenbooks, but I would be surprised if it was anything more than plain-old-TN like the Macs. Compared to the upgraded MBAs however, ASUS' Zenbooks do offer higher clocked CPUs at the same price point.

ASUS Zenbook U31E vs. Apple 13-inch MacBook Air
  UX31E-DH52 UX31E-DH53 Base 13-inch MBA
CPU i5-2557M 1.7GHz/2C/3MB i5-2557M 1.7GHz/2C/3MB i5-2557M 1.7GHz/2C/3MB
Display 13.3-inch 1600 x 900 13.3-inch 1600 x 900 13.3-inch 1440 x 900
Memory 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3
Storage 128GB 6Gbps SSD 256GB 6Gbps SSD 128GB 3Gbps SSD
Wireless Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
Battery 50 Whr 50 Whr 50 Whr
Camera 0.3MP 0.3MP 0.3MP
I/O 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x microHDMI, 1 x miniVGA, 1 x SD Card reader 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x microHDMI, 1 x miniVGA, 1 x SD Card reader 2 x USB 2, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x Thunderbolt, 1 x SD Card reader
Dimensions 12.8 x 8.8 x 0.11-0.71" 12.8 x 8.8 x 0.11-0.71" 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.11-0.68"
Weight 2.86 lbs 2.86 lbs 2.96 lbs
MSRP $1099 $1349 $1299

 

ASUS Zenbook U31E vs. Apple 13-inch MacBook Air
  UX31E-DH72 Upgraded 13-inch MBA
CPU i7-2667M 1.8GHz/2C/4MB i5-2557M 1.7GHz/2C/3MB
Display 13.3-inch 1600 x 900 13.3-inch 1440 x 900
Memory 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3
Storage 256GB 6Gbps SSD 256GB 3Gbps SSD
Wireless Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
Battery 50 Whr 50 Whr
Camera 0.3MP 0.3MP
I/O 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x microHDMI, 1 x miniVGA, 1 x SD Card reader 2 x USB 2, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x Thunderbolt, 1 x SD Card reader
Dimensions 12.8 x 8.8 x 0.11-0.71" 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.11-0.68"
Weight 2.86 lbs 2.96 lbs
MSRP $1499 $1599

 

ASUS Zenbook U21E vs. Apple 11-inch MacBook Air
  UX21E-DH52 Base 11-inch MBA
CPU i5-2467M 1.6GHz/2C/3MB i5-2467M 1.6GHz/2C/3MB
Display 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 11.6-inch 1366 x 768
Memory 4GB DDR3 2GB DDR3
Storage 128GB 6Gbps SSD 64GB 3Gbps SSD
Wireless Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
Battery 35 Whr 35Whr
Camera 0.3MP 0.3MP
I/O 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x microHDMI, 1 x miniVGA 2 x USB 2, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x Thunderbolt
Dimensions 11.7 x 7.7 x 0.11-0.67" 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.11-0.68"
Weight 2.43 lbs 2.38 lbs
MSRP $999 $999

 

ASUS Zenbook U21E vs. Apple 11-inch MacBook Air
  EX21E-DH71 Upgraded 11-inch MBA
CPU i7-2667M 1.8GHz/2C/4MB i5-2467M 1.6GHz/2C/3MB
Display 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 11.6-inch 1366 x 768
Memory 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3
Storage 128GB 6Gbps SSD 128GB 3Gbps SSD
Wireless Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
Battery 35 Whr 35Whr
Camera 0.3MP 0.3MP
I/O 1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x microHDMI, 1 x miniVGA 2 x USB 2, 1 x audio/mic, 1 x Thunderbolt
Dimensions 11.7 x 7.7 x 0.11-0.67" 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.11-0.68"
Weight 2.43 lbs 2.38 lbs
MSRP $1199 $1199

 

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  • michael2k - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    Any bets on whether Apple is working on a 15" MacBook Air? Reply
  • Solandri - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - link

    Within the next 2-3 refreshes I would think. My prediction is that this is the medium-term evolution of the notebook. Apple called it right. But it's not the long-term evolution.

    Long term, I think we're going to see the CPU and storage move to our phones, much like the Atrix. Notebooks will just be a dummy keyboard and display which interfaces with your phone (wired or wirelessly). Tablets will be the same, just without the keyboard. (Flexible OLED screens are going to become important for this reason - you can roll up a large display to carry it in a pen-sized container in your shirt pocket.)

    Full-size laptops will still exist for people who need the extra oomph. But within 10 years your phone's CPU and memory should be sufficient for 99% of people's portable computing needs, if not all their computing needs.
    Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - link

    "Long term, I think we're going to see the CPU and storage move to our phones, much like the Atrix. "

    CPU and storage keep getting cheaper. I see no value whatsoever in using fewer of them, coupled by slow and power hungry links. Far more intelligent is to have dozens of them, with software gluing them together so they all work seamlessly.
    This is, of course, what iCloud is about...

    Doubtless there are markets (maybe some businesses, maybe the 3rd world) where some combo of phone plus cheap keyboard is considered an acceptable laptop; just like there were people willing to buy netbooks that sucked as laptops --- but cost $300.
    However Apple is in the "laptops that kick ass" market, not in the "laptops that barely function, but cost buggerall" market.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, October 14, 2011 - link

    I don't think mobile Ivy Bridge will be out in time for their next refresh, so they might give us something else to buy then, ie ODD-less thin 15-17' laptops. Reply
  • chrone - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    the only question remains to be answered, how good the lcd panel quality is. i hope it's an ips panel. :) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    I will be shocked if they go IPS, but that would be awesome. Mostly, I just hope they're not using crappy low-contrast displays, but the 1600x900 resolution suggests that they will be good quality. The 11" panel on the other hand could be good, or it could be garbage. :-\ Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - link

    when did good 1600x900 panels start showing up? I was under the impression that they were universally junk. Reply
  • Solandri - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - link

    The panel on the previous gen Sony VPC-Z is a pretty good 13.1" 1600x900. It's a TN, but has good viewing angles, and very good contrast (its blacks are nearly as good as having the screen turned off). Reply
  • chrone - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - link

    that;s too bad, since mac is already advanced with good quality lcd panel :) Reply
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - link

    I think everyone hopes this but that is highly unlikely since in laptops their are only a hand full of IPS displays in fairly expensive workstation laptops from HP, and Dell Reply

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