With the exception of the Toshiba Z830, which manages to cram in three USB ports and Ethernet, connectivity on the UX31 pretty much leads the Ultrabook pack. On the left you’ll find a standard USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm combi headphone and microphone jack, and SDXC card reader (a feature that’s missing on the smaller UX21, as it is on the 11in MacBook Air).
The right side is home to the power jack, a fast USB 3.0 port, and both micro DisplayPort and HDMI video connections. As far as we’re aware this makes it the only ultraportable that you can hook up to two digital displays simultaneously without an expensive DisplayPort adapter. On the wireless side of things we get the usual Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth combo.
Asus further enhances the package by throwing in a micro-HDMI-to-VGA adapter and a USB-to-Ethernet one. Not only this, it provides a little nylon and leatherette carrying pouch for them too. But the generous accessories aren’t the only things the company provides a case for, as the laptop itself gets a matching sleeve too.
We’ve seen sleeves included with previous laptops such as the Dell Alienware M14x, and without exception they’ve been cheap, floppy affairs. We’d rather have them than not, but would buy something better at the first opportunity. Not so with the Zenbook. It comes with a re-enforced, brown textured nylon and leatherette sleeve, sporting a soft interior and magnetic clasp. We must say Asus has really gone all-out on the extras here, an example we hope other manufacturers will follow for future Ultrabooks. About the only addition anyone could still want is an external optical drive.
Usability is likewise top notch. The isolation/chiclet keyboard’s large silver keys are well placed and spaced, and offer fairly crisp action. Our only complaint is that there’s no backlighting to be found here. Though this is a limitation the UX31 shares with the Acer Aspire S3, again we can only say it dents the premium feel just a little.
The single-surface, ‘buttonless’ touchpad is as large as anything offered by the 13in Samsung Series 9 or Apple’s similarly sized MacBook Air, beating the smaller effort on the S3. However, there’s an unusual touch in that Asus has delineated its ‘buttons’ with an etched stripe. In practice the touchpad works very well, though we found the right-click zone to be smaller than on most and you may want to adjust the pad’s sensitivity a little.