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Ultrabooks are the latest buzzword in the laptop world with a host of new super thin, long battery life laptops being showcased at this year's IFA trade show. But, up until now, we'd only seen 13in models, when everyone knows that 11in is the true mark of an ultraportable. So while out at IDF we were rather pleased to get our hands on Asus' upcoming 11in model the UX21.
First shown at this year's Computex trade show the Asus UX21 may just be the first laptop to actually outstrip Apple's aluminium MacBooks on looks alone. The Asus UX21 has an aluminium chassis with an absolutely gorgeous shiny brushed finish that recalls old polished aluminium car bodies. It's also nice to see the smooth styling continued on the bottom where there are no ventilation grills or such like - the ventilation grills are incorporated into the hinge.
Also like the aluminium MacBooks, the UX31 feels like its hewn from solid metal with an incredibly rigid body and sturdy lid. This makes it feel like a machine that's truly worth its price, which is likely to be close to £1,000.
Connectivity is decent for a small machine, though it doesn't rewrite the rule book. You get two USB 3.0 ports, microHDMI and DisplayPort and a headphone jack. The obvious missing features are a memory card reader and ThunderBolt port.
The screen didn't seem all that impressive with slightly muted colours, shiny reflective finish and mediocre viewing angles but with an Air matching resolution 1,366 x 768 pixels it packs in enough detail.
The keyboard is likewise okay but not the best. It has an inevitably shallow action but there's enough feedback to allow for easy touch-typing, and the layout is excellent.
Sadly the touchpad doesn't hold up so well. It has a nice glass click-anywhere surface but it didn't feel as smooth and accurate as some alternatives. This could very well be that it wasn't properly configured though.
All told, though, the UX21 is a seriously impressive device. We would've liked to see Asus squeeze a memory card reader in there, and ThunderBolt would've been particularly nice, but these are hardly to be expected. And the design is just something else.
All that remains to be seen is how its battery life holds up and how much it retails for when it arrives later this year.
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