The Asus Zenbook Prime was already considered one of the sleekest ultrabooks on the PC market. It was a good performer, and it had a MacBook Air-esque, wedge-shaped aluminum body. Now Asus has updated its successful Zenbook design by adding a touchscreen, thus readying it for the swiping and tapping Windows 8 crowd.
The Zenbook Touch looks nearly identical to its touch-less counterpart. And that’s incredibly smart. If you already sell what is arguably the best-looking Windows ultrabook on the market, why change it?
Retuning for an encore is the same dark lid featuring concentric circles. The 13-inch computer is the same thickness — 0.11 inches in the front, 0.35 inches in the back. It also has the same ports: two USB 3.0, mini VGA, micro HDMI, and an SD card reader. The only noticeably external changes are the screen, which is now super glossy, and the newer Windows logo on the keyboard.
The core technical difference is in the construction of the display itself, which has been optimized for Windows 8. The 1,920 x 1,080 resolution IPS touchscreen display is a bright stunner, and it works wonderfully with all the necessary gestures. In my testing, it responded very quickly to all of my swiping and pinching. The edge-to-edge glass looks pretty, too — an added design bonus. My only complaint is that the super-glossy display produced a lot of glare. The older, non-touch Asus Zenbook had a beautiful matte display, but I suppose adding touch meant having to sacrifice this feature.
It’s a good thing the screen excels, because the touchpad was less than satisfactory. It was great for certain gestures, like swiping in from the right for the Windows 8 Charms menu, but it was far too sensitive when it came to the left-swipe gesture for switching between open apps. I was constantly switching apps by accident, which was extremely frustrating when I was in the middle of browsing a website or writing an e-mail.
Overall performance is stellar, which is not surprising since Asus packed the Zenbook Touch with high-end internals. The computer has a third-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of memory, and a 256 GB SSD. It performed on par with other laptops running the same processor, and it was always snappy when opening and switching through apps. I didn’t notice any lag, even hopping from the desktop to the Modern UI Start Screen with multiple apps and windows open.
Battery life did fall short of the company’s claims, however. Asus says the ultrabook lasts up to seven hours, but I never got past five and a half hours under regular use. The fan is also a drawback, since it’s almost constantly whirring. It’s not too distracting, and it does prevent the bottom of the machine from getting too hot, but it’s irritating when you aren’t doing much more than web browsing and that fan is still spinning away. I was always checking the Windows Task Manager just in case something was running that I wasn’t aware of. Nothing ever was.
The $1,100 starting price tag is appropriate for what you get. Pump up the processor to a Core i7 and you hit $1,300, at which point the Zenbook Touch becomes a bit more questionable, though still largely in line with the upgrade costs of other ultrabooks. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line Windows ultrabook, you won’t be disappointed with the performance or the screen. At these prices, however, the minor annoyances might bug you a little more.