after round about seven years of almost daily usage the time had come for my good old fujitsu-siemens laptop to honourably retire and for me to look for new, thrilling computer hardware. as part of that i started from the scratch and first of all defined several, actually to me well-known use cases: besides its application for my further educational study, which makes up approximately 50 to 60 percent of the total usage and requires highly powerful hardware (cae-related topic), and fairly minor standard pc operations like internet browsing, conversation and so on, the new computer has to stand its ground in terms of photographic aspects primarily. a considerably plain requirements specification resulted from that:
- maximum performance from a package as thin and lightweight as possible
- focus on a brillant display, 13 inch is preferred
- solid built quality
my decision for the asus zenbook infinity ux301la didn't take a long time, but got necessary only after the unavailability of the samsung ativ book 9 plus series (which had been my first option for a while) and the lack of any information about configuration possibilities. imo samsung did a bad job here. however, i chose an even more appealing competitor, finally ordered the top modell of asus's zenbook ultrabook series at the beginning of october and use it since almost three weeks now. the ultrabook comes with the following key features:
- intel core i7-4558u 2.8 ghz (no dedicated ultrabook processor w/ 17 watt technology, but an optimised, fancy version with 28 watt tdp)
- 8192 mb ddr3-1600
- intel iris graphics 5100
- 13.3 inch 16:9 glossy ips panel, 2560x1440 pixel, capacitive 10 finger multitouch
- 2x sandisk x110 solid state drives (raid-0 system for a maximum of performance)
- 1.4 kg
- microsoft windows 8.1 64 bit
apart from the special processor i was enthusiastic about the performance of the raid-0 system of two already damn fast solid state drives in particular: working with a terribly slow harddisk all the days and hence being accustomed to latencies i expected nothing less than a quantum leap of the new machine. so how shall i word it? it indeed is a quantum leap in technical evolution, considered in retrospect i should have upgraded my equipment much earlier:
- windows cold-starts in 8 seconds to full operational capability, the wake-up from sleep works within 2 seconds.
- almost all applications are available and usable immediately after their start. no annoying loading times anymore...
- command and execution of any tasks finally go instantaneous again.
- as an example: the processing of raw photos to jpgs lasts not more than a fraction of the time, it usually took on my old laptop. lightroom 5.2 on my zenbook compiled my almost 200, partly heavily corrected and processed raw images from vacations into jpg in not even twenty minutes!
i could continue this list with several other facts, but i think, you got what i'd like to convey. so the first point from my requirements is halfway fulfilled, but how about built quality and the compactness of the package? both the display and the lid are covered with corning gorilla glass from the 3rd generation. the base of the ultrabook is made of aluminium, the surfaces next to (the very, very good, backlit) keyboard and to the left and right of the touchpad are coated with ceramic. despite the lightweight design, which makes for almost boundless mobility, everything feels solid and causes this typical willing to touch it. the two fans are almost never sensible; a fact, i highly appreciate. to sum up, i can say, that in terms of built quality the asus prime ultrabook is definitely on a level with the macbook air.
when it comes to usability, the manufacturer of the hardware is not solely accountable, since in this case microsoft develops the operating system windows and is consequently responsible for the best possible linkage between user, hardware and application programmes. whilst i'd used windows xp, vista and 7 on several environments in the course of the last years, windows 8 is state of the art currently. i'll skip the details about windows 8 here, the internet provides a lot of possibilities to get information about microsoft's current main product. since the 18th of october the company provides a bigger update for windows 8, which upgrades the version number to windows 8.1 and introduces some new interesting features, including the comeback of a (pseudo) start button (to be honest, i for one don't necessarily need that thing any longer), renewed system settings and more options for the system-wide search, which is still placed in the so called charm menu. btw: the gesture control as well as the overall control concept are marvellous. i love the fast changes between screens and applications and use the touchscreen more often than i'd thought beforehand. imho the most useful innovation in windows 8.1 is the introduction of the possibility to place up to 4 applications side by side. due to the fact, that "desktop", where the standard applications run as usual, is an application here, too, i very often use this multitasking feature to work on different tasks in different software. well, the applications from the windows store do not reach the level of the best ios or android apps yet, but the foundation for an appropriate future is laid by microsoft and the current environment actually provides great opportunities for any developers. needless to say, that there are still some quirks in windows 8.1, such as the lack of the possibility to select the scaling factor for multiple displays independently. this issue doesn't annoy in my case, since my second screen is placed a couple of centimetres behind and above the zenbook itself. not every usability point is basically software-related: for me the zenbook's battery life is completely satisfying, i get 3 to 6 hours of mobile operation depending on the intensity of usage. according to some other reviews you can drain the battery within a bit more than one hour, if you mutate into a relentless battery eater; in contrary more than 8 hours of hd video playback with limited screen brightness are possible, too.
after both performance and mobility requirement are fulfilled and traceable now, i'll finally come to my experiences with the overall system in terms of photography: it cannot be questioned, that lightroom 5.2 is a pleasing upgrade to lightroom 4.3. today i'm not able to judge over the whole software package yet, because i didn't even try one of the new features, but for the great, maybe even further improved results alone the purchase of the upgrade package was worth the money. what you might be even more interested in is my view on the 2560x1440 pixel panel: this immense resolution in such a small panel makes for a pixel density of 221 dpi, which is theoretically enough for a working distance of 25 cm between eyes and screen without the ability to recognise single pixels. of course this isn't practicable in the length of time, but it shows, how detailed the rendering indeed is. you can work in the already mentioned split-screen mode completely unproblematic while laying on the couch with the ultrabook placed on your ribs and you won't be able to determine any single dot, what is fantastic! conclusively an initial display calibration with my spyder4pro corrected tones, blacks and whites (actually colour temperature, gamma curve, brightness and so on), so that the system seems to be ready for operation now.
although it's still too early to return a final verdict, i for one can at least judge my decision making: the way the market stands at the moment, i got one of the fastest dual core notebooks in the market, packed into an attractively small and sexy body. the system response times are simply fabulous. since i wasn't able to compare the zenbook directly to a competitor, i'll not rank it or rate it as a must-buy here. there for the product is way too specific and expensive as well. another reviewer wrote, that the zenbook infinity is the macbook in the windows segment. i wouldn't deny that, although i usually don't care about brands and the apple empire in particular. in conclusion, my expectations were high, up to now i was not disappointed by the zenbook infinity yet and this will scarcely to be expected in the foreseeable future.
if you are interested in a much more detailed report, please follow this external link to an english translation of notebookcheck's test review.