Our final ASUS IFA announcement for today is for their new Ultrabooks, which we’ve been waiting to see for a couple months now. I thought ASUS pretty much nailed it with their Ivy Bridge UX31A, with a good balance of style, battery life, and high-end features. The UX301 and UX302 look to take the core elements of the UX31A/UX32VD, the former of which earned an Editors’ Choice from us, and upgrade them the Haswell while tossing in some even better hardware and displays. Better than the 1080p IPS panel in the UX31A? It appears so (at least on some models).

The base display for either laptop is a 13.3” 1080p IPS touchscreen, so there’s no longer a 1366x768 “cheap” model muddying the waters. The UX301 takes things a step further and offers an upgrade to a 2560x1440 (WQHD) IPS panel, which should delight our readers that long for higher dpi displays. Of course, the display isn’t the only area to receive an upgrade.

At the core of the new Ultrabooks beats Intel’s Haswell heart, with some interesting twists. The UX301 is available with an i5-4200U or i7-4500U, which is standard fare, along with a third option: the i7-4558U. This is the famous 28W TDP Haswell chip that has a GT3 (40 EU) core, with the Iris Graphics 5100 providing performance that should be substantially higher than the GT2 15W Haswell SKUs. The UX302 skips the 28W Haswell CPU but instead includes a GeForce GT 730M 2GB dGPU to handle graphics duties. The GT 730M is basically the same as the GT 650M but with slightly lower clocks, so we can get at least some idea of the performance potential by looking at the ASUS UX51VZ; don’t expect the ability to max out graphics at playable frame rates, but medium to high detail at 1080p should be possible in many titles.

Moving on to the other areas, we get a few somewhat odd decisions. I’m guessing the RAM will be soldered onto the motherboard again, and the UX301 comes with either 4GB or 8GB while the UX302 will only be available in a 4GB form (possibly via an upgradable SO-DIMM). Storage on the UX301 will be pure SSD, up to 512GB RAID 0; on the UX302, we’ll get up to a 750GB HDD with a 16GB SSD cache. WiFi for both laptops is 802.11ac with Bluetooth 4.0, with two USB 3.0 ports on the UX301 and three USB 3.0 ports on the UX302. Both models also include mini-DisplayPort and micro-HDMI 1.4, with an SD card reader and 3.5mm headphone/mic jack. Interestingly, ASUS doesn’t mention battery life, but the 50Wh battery combined with Haswell should prove suitable to all-day (light) computing.

The UX301 measures 325mm x 226mm x 15.5mm and weighs 1.38kg (3.04 lbs) while the UX302 measures 325mm x 226mm x 17.2mm and weighs 1.5kg (3.3 lbs). The slightly thicker chassis and increased weight on the UX302 are the result of including a conventional hard drive, which is probably a good idea for users that want to play games on the system. ASUS doesn’t mention the form factor of the SSD or SSD cache, so I’m guessing the UX301 will use the same proprietary connector as the current UX31A while the SSD cache on the UX302 is likely to be soldered onto the motherboard. However, the use of a standard 2.5” HDD in the UX302 means upgrading to a pure SSD solution is easy enough to do, provided you’re willing to buy the hardware.

Besides all of the core components, ASUS did make some changes in the industrial design this round. The UX301 and UX302 have the same metallic “spun” metal on the cover, a trademark of the Zenbook line, but there’s now a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on top to provide increased resistance to scratching and other wear and tear. ASUS notes that “Gorilla Glass 3 has three times the scratch resistance of Gorilla Glass 2 and offers a 40% reduction in the number of highly visible scratches, with a 40% improvement in retained strength if a deep scratch does occur”, though I’m not sure how the high-gloss finish will handle fingerprints. Nevertheless, the new Ultrabooks look quite nice, and the “Moonstone White” and “Sapphire Blue” colors are a nice break from the black and silver that I’ve frankly seen too much of in recent years.

The new ASUS Ultrabooks should be shipping sometime in the next month or two, though pricing and availability are not yet finalized. I’m personally looking forward to both models, preferably with the i7-4558U in the UX301 with the WQHD display, but the UX302 is definitely worth a look as well. They’ll probably be in the $1000+ price range again, with fully loaded configurations hitting $1500 or more, but quality has a price.

Source: ASUS IFA Event

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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    Dunno about the glass -- don't drop it? As for the Crystalwell in a laptop, we have one coming (not an Ultrabook though). I'm curious to see what power use is like; in theory, the TDP includes everything -- iGPU, CPU, eDRAM, etc. -- so something like the UX302 with a 15W CPU and a 25-35W GPU is already in a higher power envelope. Cost is probably the biggest factor keeping Crystalwell out of most systems. Reply
  • willis936 - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    Looking at everything else about this system I don't think CPU SKU cost is a huge factor for high end ultrabooks. I think the issue is that crystalwell by default is a 45W TDP configuration. It's hard to power and cool that in a 3lb 13" form factor which is where the money is. Not many people are going to spend $1500 on a 5lb laptop anymore. Reply
  • fokka - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    cpu-cost will always be an important factor, even in a 2000$-machine, since the high end parts are always quite expensive for the performance benefit they bring, just look at i5 4670k vs. i7 4770k. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    That's why you throttle it when not plugged in, and it would be nice if there were a separate powered heatsink that attached to the laptop to handle the extra power.
    That's what I really want. A single laptop that just sips power when on the go, but can scale up when plugged in and ample cooling.
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Monday, September 30, 2013 - link

    That crystalwell is only available in a 45W part is Intel's mistake, as crystalwell itself adds very little to the TDP and so is perfectly suited to boost performance on low power SKUs. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    Don't drop it? Will do!
    The cost would go up, but you'd get a much more integrated, and dynamic, experience (especially for linux users).
    It's really too bad no one ran with the configurable tdp options, but it's still great to hear that a laptop is coming with crystalwell.
    Reply
  • baronmog - Wednesday, September 04, 2013 - link

    They look really nice. Too bad about the bleeding 16:9 displays, though. I'm actually seriously considering the 2013 MacBook Pro [1], when it's finally released, as the MacBooks seem to be the only things out there that offer 16:10 displays.

    [1] This is a huge departure, for me, as I can't stand Apple's "our way or no way" philosophy. Needless to say, I'll be installing Linux on the beast as soon as I get it.
    Reply
  • p1esk - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    I'm curious, are there specific things that annoy you in OSX terminal, which are not a problem in Linux? Reply
  • baronmog - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    The overall UI experience w/ OSX really grates on my nerves. The color choices, the hiding/obfuscation of configuration options that Apple deems "confusing," the always present (even when not relevant) menu bar at the top of the screen, Apple's not-invented-here issues, the list goes on. I grew up on Apple II and early Mac computers. Loved them. These days, about the only thing I like from Apple is some of their industrial design. My requirements for a GUI are that it be present when I want it, otherwise, it needs to get out of my way. Reply
  • Sugardaddy - Thursday, September 05, 2013 - link

    This is great news. I've been looking to replace my UX32VD with defective iSSD and the UX302 is coming out of the blue with better specs and looks than I dared hope.

    RE: Overclockability, the 620M in the UX32VD wasn't really overclockable as you could hit the 90°C limit even at stock, with turbo disabled, in shader-intensive games (even Mass Effect 1 counts there). You could get better (more balanced) performance by reducing the clock so it always turbos! Otherwise you'd have great FPS in easy scenes and then lose the turbo just when you have lots going on.

    But if they ship it with shitty DDR3, that can typically be overclocked a lot (+280MHz on my system, around 25%) which really helps boost performance. And in games like Torchlight which are light on shaders, you can boost the clock too.
    Reply

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