Two years ago I finally jumped off the Thinkpad wagon to buy a Sony Z12. I have my loyalties and preferences, but at the end of the day I know that the one feature that actually directly impacts my productivity is screen resolution. The higher the resolution, the more stuff that can fit on the screen at once. The more I can fit on the screen, the less swapping between windows I have to do, and thus the less I have to interrupt my workflow. At the same time, I travel a lot, so I need a small computer. My criteria will always be the smallest usable computer with the highest resolution.
For a long time, the Sony was that computer. New computers came out over the past two years, but none of them stacked up well against the Sony. Even the Z12's successor, the Z21, wasn't much to write home about.
Then one day I read an announcement saying that Asus was releasing two new ultrabooks (you know, the Windows laptops that look like Macbook Airs), an 11.6" and a 13", and both would have full 1920x1080 screens. They'd be about half the thickness of my existing laptop, and the smaller of the two would be half a pound lighter. I was sold.
I bought the 11.6" version, the Asus UX21A Zenbook Prime.
The screen on the UX21A, particularly on the Japanese version, which ships with a matte screen, is excellent. You know that 42" LCD TV you have in your living room? This little sucker has the exact same resolution. HD video looks unbelievably crisp. The gamut range is far better than normal laptops, but not quite as good as the Sony Z12. Brightness is as good as I've ever seen on a laptop.
The processor and SSD are fast, but finding a fast computer is easy, so I'm not going to get into all that. Suffice to say that the 1.9gHz i7 is fast enough for anything you'll throw its way.
They keyboard, especially the Japanese one with the extra keys, is very good. No complaints, but not as sublime as the Thinkpad keyboard is/used to be. The trackpad is huge and responsive, with the best two finger scrolling I've ever seen on a PC. Still, I hate trackpads and am still shocked that people like them. I've used a trackpad exclusively for two years and would still much prefer the eraser-like pointing stick found on Thinkpads. Besides far better control and not having to move your hands to move the mouse, you completely eliminate the very real problem of your palms mashing on the touchpad as you type. If I have any complaint about the UX21A, it's that it has a trackpad like every other laptop. I don't expect any different, though.
Despite being a small eleven inch laptop, the speakers on the UX21A are the best I've heard on a laptop. They still aren't great, per se, but they're loud and clear. The high range is excellent and it degrades down the spectrum to having no bass to speak of.
Besides the high resolution and reasonable 5hour+ battery life, what makes this laptop particularly great for travelers is that it doesn't have to be removed from your bag when you travel. I think that subconsciously that may be the driving force behind me choosing this laptop over its larger brother.
Oh, and the other major traveler-friendly feature: its USB ports charge at 2.1 amps, even when it's off! This is HUGE. It means that the laptop doubles as a very ast cell phone / kindle / camera charger. No other laptop does this (although a few charge at .5 amps).
To make the inevitable comparison between this and the MacBook Air, the Asus has a much much better screen and speakers and can charge your gadgets. The Macbook Air can be configured with a bigger hard drive and more ram, and has better battery life. I think it's a pretty easy choice, but if you're not hardcore about screens or have bad vision, the MacBook could be a better option.
As someone who's been traveling full time for the last year and a half, I have to ask if you miss having a security port so you can lock your laptop up.
Even carrying a small bag with a light computer with me every time I go to the bathroom gets tiring.
Hey, would you give us an update about your lastest choice about laptops ?
This is an interesting article, I would be interested to see that updated.
I'm waiting for more Haswells to be released, and fantasizing that Lenovo will stop making garbage and make something high res. Top contender now looks to be the Samsung Ativ 9 Plus or the Fujitsu UH/90 (you can get better specced ones through Japan).
Just bought this laptop last week. Got the ux31a with a 13" screen. It's awesome, amazing screen, fast speeds, great multtouch capabilities...only one issue:
4 days into using it, I noticed a spot of increased resistance in the middle of the touchpad. Looked a bit closer, and I can see a spot on the pad that is shiner than the rest of it.
Significant touchpad wear in 4 days? What!?
I'm hoping this is just a defect with my laptop, which Asus's warranty will cover. But even with that as a best case scenario, it means I lose my laptop for about a month while they repair it.
Have any of you guys had an issue like this? Any advice on how to fix it?
Mine is definitely shinier in the middle, but I don't notice and change in performance. Do you?
Yeah, it's got increased resistance whenever I roll my finger over it. So I'll be moving the pointer, and it will suddenly slow down when my finger hits that spot, then speed up again once I move on.
I've tried cleaning it with a damp microfiber cloth, to no avail. I'm thinking it could possibly be somekind of really hard to remove oil (perhaps from a cookie I had yesterday, right before I noticed it) so I'm going to try cleaning it with a glasses lens cleaning solution.
I'll let you know how that works
On what Resolution/DPI Setting do you run your UX21A? Because 1920*1080 and DPI !00% would be a bit tiny I guess.
I like the way 13' Retina Macbook Pro handles this. User interface elements are sufficiently large, yet everything is incredibly crisp. If you need more space, you can also go for a scaled resolution which doesn't look that great but gives you a lot more screen real estate.
I think the 13' inch Retina is the ultimate travel laptop right now.
Yes, I think so, too. If you want a 13" Laptop and a lot of power the rMBP is the way to go!
I would love to have two miniDisplayports and HDMI, that means 7 projectors at 1024*768 with the right adapters or 5 FullHD 1080p Projectors or Monitors! Although it would be a bit much for the Intel HD 4000.
The sad thing is: It's very expensive, maximum 8GB RAM and even more expensive SSDs.
I'm not sure what I'd do with 7 projectors :D
I think 8 GB RAM should be enough for the next 3 years or so. It depends on your workflow of course, but I think I rarely use more than 2 GB of that. But then again I only use single screen, and you would probably use more with a multi-screen setup.
SSD prices are crazy at the moment but the speed is fantastic. It's a huge difference in everyday use. Everything just launches instantly. It's probably best to get 128 GB for now and upgrade it in a year or two when it gets 2x cheaper. It's actually a really simple upgrade.
Just checked out the rMBP 13" a few days ago. I also like how it handles the DPI thing. I guess I would mostly use it on the smallest setting.
I use the standard retina resolution 90% of the time. It's perfect for using one window at a time. When I occasionally need to look at two windows (or more) at once, I switch to the largest resolution. Generally speaking, the UI elements look best at the standard retina resolution. Things get really small when you use the highest resolution.
The prices were just dropped a week or two ago, so now is a good time to buy it.
so I'm assuming all the other ultrabooks by the other companies don't cant compare?
How's the keyboard size? I had a 11 inch laptop once, but I found the keys too close together and kept hitting the wrong ones. And I don't have large fingers at all.
I got a replacement Acer TimelineX a year ago when I got my stuff stolen. Needed a slim computer quickly so didn't have much time to research. For the price point (~$600-$800), it can't be beat. But I'd definitely like to upgrade to something smaller, lighter, and better resolution.
I've only had the laptop for a couple days, so I'm not fully adjusted to it, but I think it will be fine. I wrote Make Her Chase You on a 7.2" Toshiba Libretto U105... I find that it just takes some getting used to. I remember when I switched from my Thinkpad to the Sony I didn't love the keyboard, but now it seems like the easiest keyboard I've ever used.
Never tried the Sony line, but can't also forget it's not just specifications, they're also completely different operating systems ;). MBA is also cheaper - got mine for $987 new for the latest model. Personally can't imagine going back to Windows after Mac, programming and the terminal is a billion times better on a Unix system. Would be curious what a hackintosh experience would be like on a Sony.
I think OS is completely irrelevant these days. Literally everything I run is cross platform or on the web. I personally prefer Windows because of a few minor things (can snap a window to half of the screen easily, easy to encrypt the whole drive), but would get a Mac if the specs were better.
Agreed on the window snapping, that was literally the only thing I missed from Windows. Turns out it's an extremely easy fix, just get Cinch, exactly same functionality - http://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/cinch/. Interesting view on OS - I'm not familiar with high-end PCs, so can't comment on hardware-software integration, but a Mac just feels pleasurable to use and all the pieces seem to fit perfectly (before getting a Mac I never understood why someone would prefer a trackpad to a mouse, but the trackpad on the MBA is literally flawless, incredible multi-touch capability and instant precision movement). Also, iTerm2 as a terminal replacement for Mac is incredible - transparent background image terminals - programming to the aurora borealis as your background is a pretty fantastic experience.
In any case, the initial reason I switched over was just because I couldn't get psycopg2 as a Python package installed on Windows, but it miraculously worked without any hitches on my Mac. I've personally found programming tools to ensure far more support for Mac/Unix systems than for Windows, but just my experience.
I've heard high-end PCs are just as good as Macs in terms of integration, so perhaps OS is irrelevant there
Yeah, I've heard cinch is good, although not as good as native windows snap. But like I said... pretty much everything can be done on either one now.
I consider an Apple (generally) to be about an 8/10. Significantly better than the average PC, but not as good as the best PCs. There are occasionally exceptions, though... if I wanted a 4.5lb computer, the new Pro would be an easy choice. The problem is that Apple has such a large upper middle class market share that they always have to serve the upper middle of the market. I think they do a great job at serving that niche, but it sometimes hinders them from making truly top end hardware (Macbook Air being a good example).
I think that Mac trackpads suck. I've used them and find them annoying. They're better or equal to every PC trackpad I've ever used (Asus is about the same), but still way worse than trackpoints. Multitouch is okay, and I use it, but I consider it to mostly be a gimmick. A good three button trackpoint can do a lot too, like opening new tabs with the middle scroll button.
For me, the real choice is between the Z21 and the MBP Retina. The UX21A only has a dual core processor. The Z21's SSD system is twice as fast as the MBP Retina...but the ginormous resolution is a huge productivity boost. (you do have to download third party utils or run windows to get the full use out of every pixel though)
Of all the bits of gear, the one thing that fundamentally defines how I'm able to travel is my laptop. I use it to keep in touch with people all over the world, make money, find things to do in each country, and buy my plane tickets. It's probably my most important possession, which means that any time a new one comes out that can improve the way I work (better specs) or travel (smaller or lighter weight), I consider buying it.
I went to Japan last month for many reasons, one of which was because there was a laptop there that was unavailable in the states. Its specs were so unbelievably good that no other laptop would substitute. I marveled at how Sony could make a laptop so much better than anyone else, even my beloved Lenovo, and I was determined to buy one.
It took two trips to the Sony Building in Ginza (fruitless) and finally convincing one of my awesome friends (Thanks Elliot!) to buy it for me and ship it to me after I left. Not an easy process. Luckily for you, they released this laptop in the US two days after I got back, for less than I paid. Oh well.
For the longest time I hated, detested and utterly never understood why people bought mac or any other apple products. They were (and still are) expensive, mired in propietary gadgets, and very restrictive. People used to tell me all type of stupid stuff to justify them buying mac/apple products. They don't crash (wrong), they don't get viruses/infected (wrong), they are easier to use (wrong, you just double click on stuff just like windows).
But I did it, I finally gave in and bought one of the new macbook pro retina. With the student discount and some upgrades it came out to a decent price. Here is why I ended up getting it.
1. Two OSes for the price of one. You cant run mac comfortably on windows. I've tried hackintosh and vmware, They work, don't get me wrong, but they are mired with problems, slow, unresponsive and require a ton of work when new updates come out. But on a mac you can fully install windows and run with barely any issues. While the optimization might be different and not be true to specs because the hardware is so mac focused (you get a lot less battery life for example), you just end up being able to reliably run both Oses (and linux as well, but you can do that on any computer) with no hassle.
2. The price has gone down. Right after I found out you can run both Windows and mac, I immediately felt a bit relieved, but was still disappointed at the huge price I would have to pay compared to similar windows laptops/ultrabooks (atm the best ultrabook is Asus 301A w/ corei7 4558u by the way, truly a beast of a computer). I was planning on getting the Asus, but it was expensive. Heck any good laptop running a 58u or 28u were expensive. I wanted retina resolution and 28u or 58u processor (these processors run at higher wattage and have a significantly better integrated graphics processor called iris). I expected mac to release without 28u or 58u and be at least 200-300 dollars more expensive if one where to get the 8us. But they surprised me. Not only does every new macbook have an 8u processor and retina display and is all flash, but they lowered the price by 200-300 by doing so. slap on a 100 dollar student discount (insert: they didn't even ask me for confirmation, but I am a student though).
3. Apple makes very strong, durable laptops. I gotta say the best thing by far about the actual laptop is the build. The keyboard is great, very spring and good to type with with very useful shortcuts. The trackpad, is well, flawless. very responsive, large and tons of very handy gestures. The screen is great and not glossy, which is the only thing about the asus I hated. the all aluminmum build means its is tough. It also weighs a lot less now, and only around .5 pounds more than air, but u get a much better screen, processor, graphics etc. Overall the actual laptop is just very strong and feels premium. A lot of other manfacturers have tried to copy or at least impose design style into their laptops, but most of the time they feel cheap, or weak, or just fragile, not with apple. albeit, the asus is covered in gorilla glass, which might make it awesome.