Asus ZenBook UX21 review

Tom Morgan
18 Jan 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Currently the smallest ultrabook, the Asus ZenBook UX21 isn't perfect, but it’s the only 11in MacBook Air alternative


Ultrabooks are the Windows alternative to a MacBook Air, but until now we’ve only seen examples with 13in screens, leaving the 11in Air unchallenged. Fortunately Asus breaks this trend with its UX21; an 11in version of the Asus ZenBook UX31.

The UX21 looks almost identical to its bigger brother, with the same brushed metal finish but with impossibly small dimensions. Tapering to an incredible 7mm at its thinnest point and weighing a miniscule 1.1kg, this is one laptop you won’t mind keeping in your bag. It’s impressively sturdy, with very few signs of flex in either the lid or the main body, and it should stay scratch-free thanks to the aluminium construction.

Asus ZenBook UX21 Ports 2

The gorgeous styling continues when you lift the lid, revealing a speaker grille built into the screen hinge, a full-size Chiclet-style keyboard and an expansive touchpad. Typing felt responsive, thanks to the bouncy keys that are comfortably spaced apart from each other, and all the punctuation keys were where we would expect them to be. The touchpad is smooth, letting us navigate the desktop easily, although we weren’t that impressed with its integrated buttons. Moving one finger while the other is hovering over the left or right button can bump the mouse cursor around the screen, which quickly gets irritating.

Asus ZenBook UX21 Keyboard

The 1,366x768 resolution screen is superbly bright, and its colours also looked very accurate when viewed straight on, but they quickly became less so at more extreme angles. There’s more than enough tilt in the hinges to find a comfortable working position, but the glossy finish makes it difficult to read what’s onscreen in harsh direct light.

Audio quality was impressive, especially considering that the Altec Lansing speakers take up very little room in the chassis. Volume was surprisingly high and the mid-range sounded clean, although there was an unsurprising lack of bass from the small speakers and very high-end notes were rather sharp.