The Zenbook Prime (UX31A, the 13.3″ model) has appeared on the Italaian retailer website Fnac. There has still be not official confirmation of the full specs of the Zenbook Prime series from Asus, but all signs are now pointing to a next-gen Ivy Bridge CPU being on board as well as a full 1920x1080p display. Additionally reworked keyboard with backlight is expected to grace this sleek Ultrabook. The retailer listing also gives us an indication of the prices that we can expect to see at launch.
Asus is expected to refresh both the 11″ (UX21E) and 13.3″ (UX31E) models of the Zenbook with the UX21A and UX31A. Apparently they will take on the title of ‘Zenbook Prime’, likely a hat tip to the 1080p-equipped Transformer Prime tablet. The Verge reported a while back about the refresh, though we’ve been patiently awaiting official confirmation from Asus. It’s not official yet, but now we’ve got some corroborating evidence from the UX31A listing that just popped up on Fnac.
Credit to EeePC.it for spotting this, here’s their original article (in Italian!).
According to both the prior report from The Verge and the listing on Fnac, the UX31A will be equipped with the brand new Ivy Bridge Core i7-3517U CPU. We’ll likely see Core i3 and Core i5 options just like the existing line. The listing says ‘HD3000’ for graphics, but if it’s an Ivy Birdge CPU on board, then it must be using the new and improved HD4000 graphics which Intel claims will double graphics performance from the previous generation of Core processors. Fnac’s listing is 2GB of RAM, though given that the current models support it, an option for 4GB of RAM is almost a certainty — way may even see up to 8GB. Furthermore, Fnac lists a ‘full HD’ display, a term which Asus has often used to refer to the 1920x1080p resoltution. Engadget China, who saw the Zenbook Primes in person (but was barred from touching them) say that the screen will use IPS technology and be matte instead of glossy as the current models are. Intel’s wireless display (WiDi) feature is also expect on the new UX21A and UX31A thanks to the likely use of the HM77 chipset.
The upgrade to Ivy Bridge processors and a full 1080p display are quite exciting, but I’m even more excited by changes to the keyboard. The report from The Verge indicates a new keyboard “offering greater solidity and deeper key travel” in addition to a backlight. The keyboard on the existing models isn’t that bad, but the keys seem to be prone to dead spots where you can occasionally hit a key and it will not register — I find that this most often happens with modifier keys. Hopefully the reworked keyboard will fix the issue.
Aside from the keyboard, I can understand why Asus is refreshing the internals of the Zenbooks while leaving the external design the same — they’ve got a very good looking Ultrabook in the UX21 and UX31. I’ve been using the UX31 for a few weeks now and have been very impressed aside from the keyboard.
Fnac’slisting is priced at €1,499 ($1,952), which seems a bit high for a model which isn’t a top-end configuration (2GB of RAM is likely minimum), but it isn’t clear whether or not the listing includes taxes. Still I think we can say that we’ll see a launch price within 10% of this figure, depending upon the configuration. I’ll be interested to see the difference between the bottom-end and top-end models. Expect to hear more about the Zenbook Prime refresh at Computex during the beginning of next month.