Apple MacBook Air (2012) vs. ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A

In 2011, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air fought the ASUS Zenbook UX31 in a 13-round battle to determine which was the better ultraportable notebook. In that face-off, the Air beat out the UX31, seven rounds to four. A year later, both companies have released successors to their flagship lightweight machines, and ASUS has really improved its Ultrabook. In this face-off, we’re pitting the $1,199 Apple MacBook Air against the $1,499 ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A. Which slim and powerful laptop will reign supreme?

Design

Essentially unchanged since last year for both notebooks, both the Air and the UX31A retain their distinctive wedge shapes, which are both beautiful and functional. The one slight difference is that the UX31A’s lid is now a little bit darker, but still has a neat circular brushed metal pattern. Also, instead of silver keys on a black background, the UX31A now has black keys on a silver background, more Air-like than ever.

WINNER: UX31A. Yes, it copies Apple even more than before, but the Air’s design hasn’t really changed all that much since it was introduced four years ago, and is starting to feel slightly stale.

Ports


The only real change on the Air is that its two USB ports are now 3.0, as opposed to USB 2.0 from last year. Other than that, it still has a Thunderbolt and an SD card slot on the right, and a thinner Magsafe 2 power jack on the left, along with a headphone/mic port.

The UX31A also ditched the USB 2.0 port from last year in favor of a USB 3.0 port, bringing its total to two. A microHDMI, a mini VGA, and an SD card slot–the same as last year–round out its selection.

WINNER: ASUS UX31A. While we like that Apple upgraded to USB 3.0, so did Asus, who also includes multiple ways to connect to external monitors. Next year’s version better include Thunderbolt, though. 

Keyboard


ASUS made huge strides with the keyboard in the UX31A, as the keys–now plastic instead of metal–are much more comfortable, offer much more travel, and are now backlit. Typing on the UX31A was a pleasurable experience. On the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we averaged 51 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate.

Apple’s keyboard remains as good as ever. Though we averaged a lower 47 wpm with a 6 percent error rate, the keys themselves felt more comfortable, and were less noisy than the UX31A. Also, there’s less light leakage on the backlighting on the Air than the UX31A. 

WINNER: Draw. It’s fair to say that the UX31A’s keyboard is now on a par with the MacBook Air.

Touchpad


Much credit goes to ASUS for improving the trackpad on the UX31A; it’s miles better than on the previous version, and it’s still a spacious 4.1 x 2.8 inches. Most multitouch gestures worked smoothly, but only after we disabled some settings first. The 4.1 x 3-inch trackpad on the Air hasn’t changed, and that’s a good thing. Multitouch gestures, drag-and-drop were just as smooth and seamless as before.

WINNER: MacBook Air. Though the UX31A’s touchpad has improved markedly, we still needed to fiddle with it before it worked the way we wanted. The Air’s glass trackpad is still the best in the industry.

Display


Asus made the biggest strides here, bumping the resolution on the UX31A to 1920 x 1080, up from 1600 x 900 on the UX31. It also increased the average brightness, to 423 lux from 381. By comparison, the Air stayed the same, with a resolution of 1440 x 900, and an average lux of 268 lux.

In a side-by side comparison, we found the UX31A had more saturated colors. For instance, the leaves of a vineyard were a deeper green, and a rusted roof was less reddish than on the Air. Also, owing to its higher resolution, we could see more of the image on the UX31A when blown up to full size. Viewing angles were also slightly better on the UX31, as its screen was less reflective than the Air’s. 

WINNER: ASUS UX31A. Not only does the Zenbook Prime offer a higher resolution, but it’s far brighter, has more saturated colors, and is less reflective. If Apple had gone with a Retina display, this might have been different, but for now, the Asus Ultrabook has the better screen.

Speakers

Even though they’re hidden under the keyboard, the Air’s speakers make themselves known, in a big way. Whatever we played came through loudly, but accurately as well. The UX31A’s speakers, which use Bang & Olufsen’s ICEPower technology, also delivered accurate sound, but were much softer.  When we played Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Coldplay’s “Clocks” on both the Air and the UX31A at their top volume, the Air was more than twice as loud as the UX31A, and everything sounded much richer and fuller. 

WINNER: MacBook Air. While music and movies from both notebooks sounded excellent, the Air’s speakers were twice as loud as the UX31A.

Performance


Both notebooks feature Intel’s third-generation Ivy Bridge CPUs. The 2012 Air has a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i5-3427U processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage. The more expensive UX31A  we tested has a more powerful 1.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3517U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This difference showed up in the PCMark07 benchmark, where the UX31A notched a score of 4,989 to the Air’s 4,380 (which ran the test in Boot Camp).

However, the Air’s 128GB flash memory blazed through our file copy test, duplicating 5GB of multimedia at a rate of 159MBps, more than 100MBps faster than the UX31A (51 MBps).

On our Spreadsheet test, which times how long it takes to match 20,000 names with their addresses using OpenOffice, the UX31A took 4 minutes and 59 seconds, much faster than the Air, which took 6:47. For this test, we used OpenOffice in each notebook’s native OS.

WINNER: ASUS UX31A. While the Air has considerably faster Flash memory, the UX31A’s more powerful processor delivered better overall performance.

Boot/Wake times


The Air booted in just 12 seconds, five seconds faster than the 2011 version. The UX31A booted in just 23 seconds, which too is fast–the average ultraportable boots in 46 seconds–but it’s still nearly twice as long as the Air. However, both machines woke from sleep nearly instantly; the Air took about 2 seconds, and the UX31A took a little less than a second longer. 

WINNER: MacBook Air. While both machines were comparable when waking from sleep, it took less time for the Air to boot into its OS than the UX31A.

Graphics


While both machines also have the latest Intel Graphics HD 4000 GPUs, the Air edged out the Asus in most of our tests. On 3DMark11, the Air (Windows 7 running in Boot Camp) scored 624 to the UX31A’s 594. On the Cinebench 11.5 test, the Air scored 17.18 in Mac OS X, compared to the UX31A’s score of 15.52.


In “World of Warcraft,” which we ran in each notebook’s native OS, the Air averaged 30 frames per second in OS X with the settings on Ultra and the resolution set to 1440 x 900. Using these same graphics settings–but with the screen at 1366 x 768–the UX31A managed just 22 fps.

WINNER: MacBook Air. Since both systems have the same GPU, we’re led to believe that the Mac OS gave the Air the edge in this round.

Battery Life


During the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the Air lasted 8 hours and 10 minutes. That’s almost 90 minutes longer than the ultraportable category average, and well above the UX31A, which lasted 6:28.

WINNER: MacBook Air. Apple’s ultraportable lasted nearly an hour and a half longer than the UX31A.

Software

Currently, the Air ships with OS X Lion, but in July, it will be updated with Mountain Lion, which offers new features such as Notification Center, deeper iCloud integration with apps such as Messages and documents in the cloud, and the ability to share content via Facebook and Twitter from multiple apps.

The excellent iLife suite (iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand) is included, as well as FaceTime, Mail and the Mac App Store. The App Store stocks a ton of useful apps and games, which download directly to the iOS-like Launchpad for quick access.

The UX31A comes with the Asus Vibe Fun Center for accessing Music, Games and Books, Instant Connect for taking your notebook online via an Android smartphone and FaceLogon for logging on with facial recognition. However, we were less than thrilled with the incessant pop-ups for McAfee Internet Security and ASUS Webstorage, which provides 2GB of free space for one year.

WINNER: MacBook Air. Not only is its software suite more useful, it’s less annoying, too.

Support & Warranty

The MacBook Air comes with a limited 1-year warranty and an optional 3-year Apple Care warranty. Users can choose to have their computer serviced on the phone or in person at the Apple store Genius Bar. We ranked Apple No. 1 in our Tech Support Showdown and was also tops in our Best & Worst Brand Report.

ASUS covers the Zenbook Prime with a one-year warranty that includes parts, labor, and one instance of accidental coverage as well as 24/7 support. ASUS came in fifth in our our Tech Support Showdown and fifth in our Best & Worst Brands report.

WINNER: MacBook Air. It’s hard to beat Apple’s customer service.

Price/Value

The Air still commands a premium compared to most laptops, even Ultrabooks, but Apple dropped the starting price on its system. The Air that we used for this head-to-head costs $1,199, and comes with a 1.8-GHz Intel dual-core i5-3427U processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage. If you spend $400 more, you can get a 2-GHz Core i7 processor and 256GB of flash memory.

By comparison, the UX31A we tested costs $1,499, but has a 1.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3517U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 1080p display. However, the starting model, which costs $1,149, gets you a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and the 1080p display. 

WINNER: ASUS UX31. At the starting price, ASUS offers a higher resolution screen than Apple. 

Verdict

Last year, the MacBook Air Air won 7 rounds to 4 for the ASUS, and tied in the remaining two categories.  This year, Apple won 7 rounds, Asus won 5, and tied in one category. So ASUS has made progress, and it shows in the improvements the company has made. The UX31A’s keyboard and touchpad are miles better than last year’s model, and this machine’s 1080p display easily trumps that of the Air. There’s a reason why the Zenbook Prime is our Editors’ Choice Ultrabook.

Still, Apple’s Air offers a faster boot time,  better graphics performance, louder speakers and a more reliable touchpad. What tips this battle in the Air’s favor is its more than 8 hours of battery life, which allows Apple to repeat as champion in this head-to-head match. 

  Apple MacBook Air      ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A   
Design   X
Ports   X
Keyboard X X
Touchpad X  
Display   X
Speakers X  
Performance   X
Boot/Wake Times X  
Graphics X  
Battery Life X  
Software X  
Support & Warranty X  
Price/Value    X


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  1. Yup Says:

    Here’s 1 more category to compare the 2:
    Availability:
    The Macbook Air was available the 1st day apple announced it. The Zenbook Prime has been hyped by numerous sites – but the highend model (Win 7 Professional, i7 processor, 256 SSD) is still no where to be seen (which is extremly frustrating)…
    Winner – Macbook Air – considering that you STILL cannot buy the highend Zenbook Prime….

  2. Chris Says:

    Great article / review. Thanks.

  3. KPOM Says:

    I’m not sure why the mini-VGA and micro-HDMI ports on the ASUS trump the Thunderbolt port on the MacBook Air. Both require adapters to connect to VGA or HDMI ports, and the Thunderbolt port allows the addition of Gigabit Ethernet or Firewire to the MacBook Air (and relatively cheaply at $29/each). Does ASUS include the adapters in the box? If so, I could see a point, but still would award at least a draw.

  4. KW Says:

    On the warranty thing, I’d have to check the actual coverage but if, “ASUS covers the Zenbook Prime with a one-year warranty that includes parts, labor, and one instance of accidental coverage as well as 24/7 support” means that you could drop the machine, break the display, and have it repaired under warranty (even once) I think that beats the MBA warranty by a lot. Have to question MBA winning in warranty.

  5. eric Says:

    I didn’t even need to read the article to know that the MBA was going to win. How predictable… So let me get this straight. Asus wins on design, keyboard (I fail to see how averaging 4 more words and 5% less error equates to a tie, comfort is debatable, I HATE THE FN key placement on all Macs!!!!!), display, performance, price/value and it loses out… I get that the MBA has better battery, touchpad, graphics, boot times (wake is same). Speakers? sure MBA wins but honestly they both suck. Software… debatable. After I read about the retina display on the Pro I would think that you guys would have the same kind of hard on for a display that is much better than the MBA’s.

  6. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Hi Eric,

    You make some good points. I think Air having about an hour an a half longer battery was the major deciding factor but we totally agree that the screen on the Prime is better and that alone could sway some to get the Prime instead. The touchpad on the Prime, while better than the previous model, was also just a tad more finicky and required more work for us to tweak the settings just right. As we said at the end of this face-off. The Prime is our top Ultrabook, which is saying a lot because there are a ton now. But the Air is the best overall ultraportable–and not by a wide margin.

  7. Adam Says:

    Interesting review, but there are some pretty fatal flaws. Namely, the assumption that you’re using Windows. The startup time largely is OS dependent, and thus is an apples to oranges comparison. With Linux Mint my Zenbook prime loads in under 10 seconds.

    The graphics comparison is also misleading given that you can buy a Prime with discrete graphics, which is not true for the Air.

    I like the Air a lot, but the display for me was an absolute dealbreaker. If the Air had a retina display I would have considered it, but without it, no thanks.

    Finally to the comment that said you cannot get a Zenbook Prime anywhere, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Firstly, I’m typing on one. I got it from Amazon, and their seller had plenty in stock. Secondly, I saw one at the Microsoft Store (ordered online to avoid paying tax).

  8. Adam Says:

    Finally, a comparison of the standard warranties shows that Apple’s is much more “limited.” I really don’t get how you guys chose the Air on this category. Because Apple left you with a more warm and fuzzy feeling? Frankly, the ASUS warranty covers more.

  9. Adam Says:

    There seems to be even another flaw with this review. In particular, I was unable to replicate the claimed 51 mbps write speed in the article on my Zenbook Prime when I booted with Windows. Checking the hardware, mine came with the ADATA XM11 128 GB model.

    I used CrystalDiskMark3.0.1 and performed the benchmarks on 4000 MB for the sequential (the largest size the software offers — 5 GB was unavailable). Anyway, the sequential write speed was 151.3 mbps, not 51 mbps, which is (barring Windows doing something absolutely crazy in not writing a 5 GB media file sequentially) effectively the number you reported. The 512 KB random write was still high, 146.9 mbps, still not close to your 51.

    Test summary: (type — read mbps — write mbps)
    Sequential — 390.4 — 151.3
    Random 512K — 339.7 — 146.9
    Random 4K — 17.57 — 52.60
    Random 4K QD32 — 104.2 — 141.1

    I’d attach the image of the results if I could submit an attachment, but I cannot. In short, Mark, I think you need to check your numbers on this one, and/or redo the test. Also report the SSD you’re model has, for both the Air and the ASUS, to state precisely what you’re comparing.

  10. ET Says:

    Once again a great comparison. However I can’t go over the fact that the technical specs on the machines are completely different!!!

    The MacBook Air: 1.8-GHz Intel Core i5-3427U processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage

    The Zenbook: 1.9-GHz Intel Core i7-3517U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD

    I myself am undecided yet I like both machines however will probably go for the Zenbook because I plan using it for work and unfortunately from my experience Windows is the main player in the world of business.

    Yet I’d like to see a comparison of 2 equally powerful machines otherwise this comparison makes no sense. From this all i can see is that Zenbook made no progress because its still worse then a cheaper Mac.

  11. jo Says:

    to all you guys specs on zenbook are better, if you max out an air, you can get way better specs. and also, though the specs are better on the zenbook, the MacBook air can still beat it in lots of things even though the specs are worse

  12. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Thanks for your comment Adam. We’ll be re-testing the SSD on the ASUS today and will post the results.

  13. Tim Says:

    Adam…I am not sure you know what model is being compared here. I know you can’t get it because I have called newegg, tigerdirect, amazon, and a couple of randoms( most say they don’t have a release date yet because they dont have them in and I have gotten july 12th for others). If you want to order from Europe you can get the Prime period. If you get second gen then yes they are out. But they were out a year ago and don’t have Ivy Bridge. So your test are moot. While you might not agree with the final scores he provided detailed information which was not previous available on different spec. Obviously some stuff is more important than other depending on what you need the laptop for. I personally need it to be light and 8gbs. So while I hate Macs and really want a Zenbook, at the end of the day it loses in my book because I won’t be able to increase the RAM and it doesn’t appear they will be releasing a 8gb edition.

    Thanks for the review Mark!

  14. Jake Says:

    On the OS boot time, what does it take to count as “booted”? I imagine this is mentioned somewhere, but it doesn’t seem instantly obvious. It could be until the log in screen shows, or until you are logged in, or until you are logged in and have opened an application (eg, web browser, word processor) and can start doing something. Other than that question, good review.

  15. Mike Prospero Says:

    Adam – As we noted in the full review, our UX31A came with a SanDisk SSD U100 256GB SSD, not the ADATA 128GB SSD that came in your unit.
    We, too, were a bit concerned when we ran out 5GB file copy test–which is not a single 5GB file, but a 5GB folder made up of dozens of audio, video, and photos–several times.
    I also ran CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1, and replicated your test using the 4000MB file. Here’s our results (in MBps):

    Sequential: 446.8 read, 337.7 write
    512k: 240.7 read, 39.5 write
    4K: 11.34 read, 10.49 write
    4K QD32: 28.37 read, 6.402 write

    As you can see, the SanDisk SSD is not the best. However, an ASUS representative told us that the company will be switching over to ADATA drives on the UX31A.

  16. Art Says:

    Why not use an i7 to i7, 256 SSD to 256 SSD, 8 GB to 8 GB RAM comarision?

  17. LaX Says:

    The most important thing: the key is the interface and there Mac OS X is the best.

  18. Aaron Opfer Says:

    You should do this comparison again except against the Asus Zenbook UX32VD. Even though Asus labels the Prime as one of its top models, the value of the UX32VD is greater (in my opinion). It sacrifices a few mms of thickness to deliver a discreet GPU, the nVidia 620M, which will blow away the integrated Intel chip.

    Additionally: SSDs are not magic. The difference between an SSD and an HDD is not always going to be SSD > HDD for all applications. SSDs have issues with write-speeds due to their erase cycles, especially many small writes. Developers would feel this if they were checking out large project source trees, for example. The UX32VD uses a 32GB SSD as a cache for a 500MB HDD, which (arguably) gives you the best of both worlds, although raw file copy speeds will not necessary change.

    Additionally, have you heard of the Spyder? It’s a color-correcting device. You should use it on both the Air and the Zenbook and then compare the displays before/after. It’s difficult to subjectively measure color accuracy, the Spyder should let you do that.

    Just my $.02.

  19. David Alan Says:

    Hopefully they are shiping the Zenbook Prime UX31A-DB72 with the new ADATA SSD drive. This might explain the delay. I ordered it two weeks ago from Amazon and also ordered it today from best buy. Amazon says early August to ship.

  20. Jeff Tang Says:

    So if the MBA is retaining its stale design after several years on the market and the Zenbook is a direct rip-off of that design for the second straight year, then why should the Zenbook win in that category? Is it because it changed the color of its keyboard and made the lid darker?

    Might the Air have won this category if Apple gave it a black bezel like the Pro?

    IMHO, if iconic timepieces keep their designs for decades, I think the MBA should do the same too, it’s hard to argue against its iconic status as the father of the ultrabook industry, and it still looks pretty smashing as one single piece of aluminum.

  21. Yup Says:

    Adam says:

    Finally to the comment that said you cannot get a Zenbook Prime anywhere, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Firstly, I’m typing on one. I got it from Amazon, and their seller had plenty in stock. Secondly, I saw one at the Microsoft Store (ordered online to avoid paying tax).

    Adam – please let us know where you can purchase the UX31A DB72 or the UX31A XB72 since you seem to know so much… These models are the prime with Win 7 Professional, i7 processor, and 256 GB…. As Tim and I previously stated, the high end models of the prime are unavailable.

  22. Bart Says:

    Why wasn’t the ASUS penalized for not running OSX. If you look at the whole package you have to mention that the choice of operating system is very important, ASUS does not provide a choice. That choice also allows you to run a increasingly popular OS that allows very deep tie ins to a huge mobile platform. If you insist on tests run with WIndows specific benchmarks for the Air it’s only fair that the ASUS gets a few dings against it for not running OSX. Choice of OS after purchase, is important, especially if one device can offer it, and one can’t.

  23. Adam Says:

    Mike — if those are your CrystalDiskMark3.0.1 numbers (ESPECIALLY the sequential write, which is more than 2x as fast as mine), I just cannot fathom how you got those numbers for your experiment of copying 5 GB worth of data. My best guess is that some other process was going on that was hampering the numbers. One thing to do (to make sure some strange system process didn’t kick up while you were running the test) is to run the test several times, and take the maximum. This is traditionally (and rationally) how algorithms in CS journals are timed, for instance, and makes for a good means of testing hardware. The point is to isolate the hardware itself, rather than having a confounding variable of OS system processes, etc.

    In fact it’s prudent advice for any of your tests. Is it Windows that is causing a lower FPS number in WOW, or a higher boot time (see my comment about Linux Boot), etc.? The upshot is that while undoubtedly most buyers of a given system will actually not change the OS, but it is in fact quite useful to be able to identify confounding variables in any analysis.

    Tim — umm, I have a UX31a-db51, which actually has specs almost exactly the same as the Air’s, and thus makes for a more meaningful comparison than the one Laptop Mag did. You can call my benchmarks moot if you would like, but I’m sure that potential buyers would love to see them.

    Yup — I was speaking for my model, of course. I wasn’t aware that you couldn’t find the top-end model. Sorry for the confusion.

  24. Adam Says:

    Aaron — SSDs, in my experience, will outperform HDDs in just about everything but sequential writes, and usually outperform in this case too. The real benefit, though, is that the OS is constantly reading files in random locations from disk, and if you look at random read speeds, HDDs are just completely demolished by

    I like the hybrid drives in that if you can fit OS/system files on the 32 GB SSD portion, you get the benefits of fast random reads for system files yet still have the large disk space (500 GB, etc.) for all of your media. A good option. The downside, of course, is typically higher power usage and the fact that HDDs fail quite easily due to moving parts, etc.

  25. Adam Says:

    Mike — at second glance, that 512K random write speed may explain the poor numbers if this 5 GB was comprised of pictures mainly (data around that size). Care to put up a histogram of the file sizes? I can write a simple script to do so if you want…

  26. Chris Says:

    I don’t know if anyone will still read this, but it’s worth giving potential buyers some info. The i7 Zenbooks only come with SanDisk SSDs, the i5 128GB comes with ADATA only and the 256GB i5 Zenbooks can come with either one of those SSDs. I have confirmed this with an Amazon.de representative.

    Btw, very nice review :)

  27. chris Says:

    This review is tottaly pc biased and the MacBook air still won! How can you give Asus credit for best design whenyou admitted it is a straight copy of the air. Then you compare the top Asus against the entry level air. the 2.0 ghz I7 on the air is much more powerful. And how can a 1400 dollar computer be better on price than a 1100 dollar mac? This review did not in my opinion offer an even or fair comparison.

  28. Siva Says:

    Macbook Air Boots Up in Both Operating Systems:

    I’ve been booting up in Windows using bootcamp on my Macbook for years now, so I do not understand why some commenters are saying that they went with the Zenbook because of their need for Windows (maybe they have just never heard of Bootcamp or Parallels on Macs). As far as I see it, there is no reason to go with the Zenbook over the Macbook Air because of the operating system. The Macbook Air runs both OSX & Windows.

    If anything, this is a huge advantage for the Macbook Air and should be recognized in any review; especially when many people’s number 1 priority, whether they realize it or not, is deciding which operating system they want to be tied to. After a consumer makes that decision, a decision that could have taken place years ago when first entering the computer market, THEN they look at other hardware related features (generally). For my needs, I must have both operating systems and I love the fact that I can run them on just one computer, my Macbook.

  29. Sawilson Says:

    How can the asus be a copy of the air, when the air was Apple’s answer to the asus netbook? Asus basically grew the netbook market, Apple said “we won’t be making no netbook” then they did with the Air. If you look at the zenbook, it looks like every netbook asus has ever made. Apple copied asus this time. So sorry.

  30. Prizm Says:

    Hi Siva,

    I am wondering boot up and shutdown duration of Windows 7 with bootcamp. I am the edge of decision for buying MBA or Zenbook Prime and am conserned about the Windows 7 bootup time since I saw some Youtube videos where the MBA was booting up Win7 somewhere around 50 seconds to a minute. I am more inclined to MBA but this extra waiting time on the MBA makes me reconsidering my decision.
    Thanks

  31. Grains of peace Says:

    Hello,
    I’m on the point of buying an Asus UX31A 13″.
    1. Could you help us understand whether having a 256 Gb SSD will be a problem for those transferring from a PC with 300 Gb?
    2. OK it’s 120 times faster, but where does one put the data?
    3. Can the limited size of the SSD or HDD cause computer blockages:
    a) say when running a very large Outlook pst file (eg a 6GB size pst or ost file in which one searches a contact amongst 5000 contact files) ? (or is this strictly caused by limited RAM size only?)
    b) say while having several Firefox windows, Skype and 2-3 MS Office applications open ?
    5. Do you think it’s wise and indeed possible, dimension wise and OS wise, to put a 500 Gb or even a 1000 Gb SSD on the UX31A? If yes, how should a non-techy person like me go about this?
    Thanks so much for your answers,
    Grains of peace

  32. Tayumaru Says:

    The only problem here is that you went with the $1500 ux31a. It’s sandisk SSD is SLOOOOW. If you bought the cheaper model with an i5 and 128GB (sandforce) SSD, it would destroy the MBA in write/read time. Also, with the same chipset, I believe that they have almost identical battery life. The battery life tie brings it to 6 for Apple, 6 for ASUS, and 2 ties. Also, the gaming performance should be the same with the sandforce SSD, and set to the right TDP (I think it’s 13W by default, but can be increased to 16W). If you include availability of games, Windows beats OSX hands down, which would give ASUS the win for Gaming/graphics. And finally, I have used both trackpads, and they both feel almost exactly the same and work comparably. I believe those are tied. This makes the score 4 Apple, 7 ASUS, 3 ties.

    This really could go either way, depending on what model you buy. The screen on the ASUS is absolutely phenomenal though, and I would never go back after having used it. Given that they are identical or very close in almost every other category, I vote ASUS for this battle. Also, that cheaper ASUS model is only $1079.99, so it’s an even better value.

  33. KPOM Says:

    @Tayumaru, I’m not sure that the SandForce SSD in the Zenbook would “destroy” the MacBook Air when the Toshiba SSD uses the same SandForce controller. Apple also uses a Samsung SSD for the 256GB and 512GB models that is about as fast (and performs better when encryption is activated).

    I also would award Apple the title for ports. Thunderbolt can connect to HDMI, DVI, or VGA, as well as Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, and an increasing number of Thunderbolt hard drives and other devices. ASUS’ design still requires dongles as the ports are miniature.

    Design should be a tie. ASUS is a blatant ripoff of the MacBook Air’s design. Thus, even if we accept your view about games (and that doesn’t take into account the fact that the MacBook Air can also run Windows), the Air still wins.

  34. Morten Andersen Says:

    Great reviews and comparison! I am also interested in the reviewer’s evaluation (or impression) of (1) the fan noise of the two machines, given “light” work load, like wordprocessing and a little net browsing and (2) how warm/hot the machines get (uncomfortable to be placed on the lap?).

    Could you please add these two points to your comparison; perhaps as an answer to this comment?

  35. John Says:

    Silva — this is a silly statement. Technically, you can boot OS X on the Zenbook Prime (not sure why you’d want to though), so I don’t know what you’re talking about with respect to some sort of advantage for the Air. On either Laptop I’d end up installing Linux Mint 13 anyway (which I can guarantee you will outperform both OS X and Windows 7).

    Personally i found the review to be incredibly Apple-biased, ESPECIALLY with respect to the Warranty. Hands down the ASUS has a better warranty (dead pixel coverage, accidental coverage included, whereas the Mac is missing this). I mean it isn’t even close.

  36. Hayden Says:

    If you’re choosing between them, there are two questions you need to ask yourself:

    1. Do you like using trackpad or mouse? And it’s not about trackpad hardware. OS X is based around trackpad use. A lot of swiping going on there.
    2. Software. Are you okay with OS X? Is Windows for you? Each has its own pros and cons.

    About hardware:
    - Display on Zenbook is impressive.
    - Build quality of Macbook is better.
    - Keyboard on Zenbook is “wobbly” near the center, flexes inside if you push hard.
    - You can easily hook 2 displays to Zenbook. VGA, HDMI and ethernet adapters are bundled, for Macbook everything is sold separately.
    - Zenbook comes with pretty nice sleeve.
    - MagSafe is really convenient.

    Also, nothing can ruin a product/brand, like its’ fanboys. I’m looking at you Apple.

    I hope that helped.

  37. LaX Says:

    Asus: do NOT copy Apple. Innovate or pay! Remember the Samsung debacle.

  38. The Faustian Man Says:

    I bet a majority of people here identify themselves as Atheist and yet, wages a crusade of Windows vs. Apple.

    As a Windows user, I can say Apple sets the standard. Most do not like to admit it, but all things Apple is what everything is measured up to. People do not compare the Zenbook to the HP Pavilion or the Zune to the creative MP3 player. I digress…

    I own both the Air and the Zenbook. I first bought the Zenbook. The major issue: trackpad. If you are a writer, or do a lot of typing in general, you are going to want to throw this thing out the window. No Asus drivers work to fix the problem in the update. Instead you have to get driver 10.7.16.1 from Samsung. You cannot type without the trackpad interfering. And it’s not just, “Oh I bumped the mouse” it’s “Oh I sent off that e-mail way too early!” Or “I just closed out of my book I am writing and opened up another program”.

    That bad.

    ASUS has little or no quality control. I sayt this as I have bought several things from them, some are good, some are terrible, and most “need tweaking” if you know what I mean. The Zenbook is no problem. And if you’re an ASUS customer like me, you know that what you save for in price (and not much in price) you’ll make up combing through forums trying to find a driver to help eliminate some ASUS aspect (whether it be headphone noise, screen flickers, or -in this case – the MOST SENSTIVE TOUCHPAD YOU HAVE EVER SEEN!)

    The macbook air is: What you see is what you get. And you can upgrade to the i7 for a 100 more if you pick the 13 inch model. There are plenty of Apple stores you can drop the computer off at (and for me that’s a huge bonus.) Apple trackpad and touch is perfection. The gold standard. Something that Android hasn’t even gotten down yet. Sure, do I loathe apple users and such? Absolutely. This review comes to you with a small amount of self disgust. But, it’s pretty easy to finish writing a book on.

    But face it, these air computers arent’ for gaming or rendering. They’re for light OS operations. Still, it’s pretty nice to have extra power whether it be gaming on ASUS or rendering on Air.

  39. Paul Says:

    I don’t believe the boot times at all. Something is odd. Windows 8 + ASUS UX31A. The boot time is 6 seconds. Before windows 7, booted about 2 seconds. I picked up the asus at a mall that had both apple store and Microsoft store. The asus clearly smoked and burned the top of line MacBook air on boot times. I strongly suggest the reviewer get a review unit from Microsoft. One that is setup correctly and tweaked right. Boot times are 10x faster than MacBook air.

    I was going to get another MacBook air, however, I was promptly persuaded by the screen alone. I work in IT, and I use both Linux and Windows everyday. The huge screen and readability of it is my main reason. Secondary reason, is I am using windows instead of mac nowdays. MacOS X Lion and mountain lion are both to clustered and no longer serves my needs.

  40. Ricardo Martins Says:

    #disappointed with UX31A

    I bought a UX31A. Its a great machine, but the support is very weak.
    In 10 days of use I had problems with the camera. It should be a cable problem, or something simple, that makes the camera being disconect/connect many times in a minute.
    After contact Asus support in Brazil, I realized that because I bought it on USA, I have no warranty here. They said that there is nothing else they can do. I guess if I were at Afghanistan, apple would find a way to solve the problem. Asus doesn’t. In other aspects, it appears to be a good device, but with low QA tests.

  41. TechKnow12 Says:

    Thanks for the comparison! Nice work.
    However as far as Ports is concerned it has to be said that one of Apple’s focal points or business model if you like is to move away from cables and from hooking up multiple devices to your MacBook. I guess you could say the first step was with iCloud. Now with Apple TV, Smart TV’s with built in WiFI and Wireless Display monitors (WiDi) you don’t really need HDMI or VGA cables to connect to those devices respectively. The need is becoming less and less as technology moves forward. You can now mirror MacBook to Apple TV. You can also stream media from MacBook to Smart TV’s (but can’t mirror). So Apple is ahead of the game. And if you’re someone who really wants to view you’re MacBook screen on a TV then Apple TV is the way to go. Currently MacBooks arent supported by WiDi I believe so really you currently only have one option, but that is more to do with Intel rather than Apple.

    As for the Display on the MacBook Air, hopefully Apple will update all of them in 2013 with Retina displays, preferably Sharp IGZO display panels. :) These also use less power I believe. So perhaps in 2013 we’ll see the MacBook Air win in this category.

    I agree that the design is a little dated. A slightly dark metallic finish would be nice. The surrounds of the display should if anything be made darker as some other Netbooks have so you dont see the surrounds when watching movies in a dark environment.

  42. Steve Wonder Says:

    The Graphics “review” does it take into account that the Asus is 1080p and the Apple is shitp (1440×900) this has a major effect on game performance most likely more effect than the OS.

  43. Adriano Says:

    Please compare the latest with the latest. This is not the latest zenbook prime

  44. kiko Says:

    Well I cant agree that asus prime its better. I am normal user, so forget “tests”. I have them both for a week and return Asus. First look Asus is more atractive because we seen for a while air book, but after 1 hour working with them both on my legs i found apple material better than asus, the feeling is better. Playing hd movies , well Asus full HD has better color, BUT apple products just work perfect asus-windows still not perfect, some delay at beginning etc etc. And Asus screen u can see leds light down display, i dont accept a high cost laptop with this problem. Airbook dont make any sound, asus prime its like a airplane , its horrible. And i return 2 asus prime because….first one its very easy the screen fall down (not well constructed) and sometime just died for 15 seconds. Second I have problems with the wifi and internet connection. And at asus surfing in the net, always open pages i dont want with the pad. With Airbook everything just perfect … everything works perfect, of course i agree , if have retina display it will 101%. But still its very good screen but not better than asus, is just one exception. Asus prime just want to return, problems and problems. I dont mind using air book i5 with 128 which work perfect, than a i7 with 256 that sounds better but really is just a machine with many problems.

  45. Nicolas Says:

    Dear person,
    I have seen the contest you have made between these two amazing computers is very precise and very well written, but there is a flaw. You have made the trackpad and the the sound as important as the graphics and speed of the computers. I think this is very wrong because nowhere near are those as important to each other. I would care less about the starting speed of e computer then the graphics, easily. So i think the asus zenbook has won the overall as it has important things that won ass the speed, graphics etc. while the air has only won because of trackepad and small things i would not care about.

    Thank you for reading.

  46. Max Says:

    How do you actually think what is the best choice for student: MacBook Air (2012) or Zenbook Prime UX31A?

  47. Patrick Buhagiar Says:

    Try this again, with updated OSes though!

  48. MartinMac Says:

    Max Says
    I choose MacBook Air (2012)
    it’s great for student

  49. Mark Says:

    Any chance you guys want to update this now that Windows 8 has been released? My guess is the boot up times are now about the same.

    Also, I think ASUS has the better warranty. You get 1 year of accidental damage protection!!

  50. james braselton Says:

    hi there yeah my macbook air 256 gb ssd out porferms my 24 inch imac with a 7200 rpm hdd ssd way faster then hdd never going back too hdd

  51. Orlando Ong Says:

    nice article, very helpful to give me overview, appreciate it.

  52. nagadi Says:

    That is stronge challenge..

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