Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A pictures and hands-on

The sequel to Asus's flagship Ultrabook is just around the corner and we have had a play. It's quite a thing to behold, with a 1080p screen that boasts deeper blacks than even the new MacBook Pro. The first time we saw it, in fact ,we didn't realise the display was on at all, thinking it was a sticker. 

Being matte also means you get very good viewing angles - which is great, because the Zenbook Prime is clearly a laptop to be carted around and used while on the go. The laptop is just 325 x 223 x 18 mm in size, making it compact enough to stick in a rucksack. It also weighs just 1.3Kg. 

Inside there is quite a spec sheet to play with. The laptop is going to ship with a choice of either an i7 or i5 Ivy Bridge processor, the former being hugely powerful for an Ultrabook. You can also expect 4GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory and a choice of a 128GB or 256GB SSD. 

Sitting on top of the laptop's full-HD IPS screen is a 720p HD webcam. Along the sides are a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a micro HDMI connection, mini VGA, SD card reader and a headphone out jack. One particularly impressive element of the Zenbook Prime which we were shown was its Bang & Olufsen ICEPower tech. It basically translates to very good audio quality from what must be a minute set of speakers. The sound wasn't quite room-filling but for a laptop this size it punches way above its weight.

In terms of design, not a lot has really changed from last year's Zenbook. Swapping the keyboard for one with black keys ensures it now looks even more like the MacBook Air, but that is no bad thing. Asus has definitely slapped its own design take on Apple's iconic product and it feels different enough to be desirable. In fact, in the hand it's definitely one of the more attractive Ultrabooks we've played with. 

That super-sharp bottom edge is still there, however, resulting in a near wrist-cutting typing experience. This is a shame, because Asus has slapped a nice keyboard and touchpad on to the Zenbook Prime. 

The version of the laptop we played with was not the Windows 8 touchscreen device that Asus is currently pondering on putting into production. Still, it ran Windows 7 along at a fair old clip. That touted two-second instant-on from sleep worked nicely enough, as did all the other usual Ultrabook staples, such as a speedy SSD. 

Not much else can be said about the Zenbook at the moment. It clearly is the Ultrabook to beat right now. Until we have one on our hands for a longer play, we just can't quite gauge how good this new Ultrabook is. So in the meantime enjoy the pics of it - it ranks among the top ten shiniest laptop machines we have ever held. 

Like the look of the new Zenbook? Let us know in the comments below ...