One of the absolutely best ever Ultrabooks we have laid our geeky hands on is the Asus Zenbook Infinity. It has such a deadly combination of sleek good looks and awesome performance that we would certainly, without hesitation describe it as one of the only devices that not only rivals Apple’s MacBook Pro line-up, but beats it hands down in certain respects. Big talk, I know but in all honesty these are the emotions that the Zenbook Infinity evokes in us. Let’s get down to the reasons why:
Intel Iris Platform Got Game
At the heart of the Asus Zenbook Infinity we have Intel’s top tier mobile x86 platform with a Intel Core i7-4558U processor. The i7-4558U is not quite the gaming Goliath that we saw on the GIGABYTE Brix a few weeks ago which was kitted out with a high wattage i7-4770R processor and Iris Pro HD5200 graphics, but the Zenbook Infinity is not far off. The HD5100 GPU integrated in the i7-4558U is still one of the best integrated GPUs on offer.
And having a decent GPU is pretty essential if you want to play games, which is one area where the Asus Zenbook Infinity obviously shines, especially with Microsoft Windows eco-system being the absolute best platform for gaming. Mac users will point to the fact that there are more games being ported to OSX than ever before, with gaming distribution apps like Steam and Origin targeting Mac users more than ever previously – but come on, who are you kidding? The range of supported gaming titles has grown, but the vast majority of major titles are Windows and console only.
To answer the eternal question… Can it run Crysis? The answer for most Mac users is, not without using an emulator like Parallels or VMware Fusion, which will result in a substantial performance hit and dramatically affect game-play.
iGPU Support for Digital Nomads
But as well as support for the latest games, Intel has also been working hard to make sure that technologies like OpenCL is supported by its Iris Graphics platform, with Adobe finally taking advantage of the platform’s enhanced capable iGPU. This makes the Asus Zenbook UX301 great for doing heavier, processor-intensive tasks that may have typically been better suited to a desktop tower. Optimizing software apps for the Iris graphics processors means you can enjoy great performance video in heavy editing apps like Adobe Premiere Pro, Cyberlink’s MediaEspresso and other productivity applications.
This is increasingly important to people who tend to get serious work done wherever they are – AKA the Digital Nomad. More and more of us find ourselves to be knowledge workers that are not reliant on being in a traditional office environment, taking advantage of the Internet and its ubiquity, with cloud based services also allowing workers to do their job remotely, earning income regardless of location.
Optimized performance for heavier applications opens the potential for an even more nomadic living, leveraging the ability to perform virtually any task on a truly mobile device. How much optimization Apple have worked out with Intel, remains a mystery, but one thing is for sure, with Adobe now finally on board, Intel is making sure that potential Iris Graphics performance is fully realized and exploited on Windows.
Best non-Retina Display Ever?
In terms of raw pixel count the Asus Zenbook is a shade behind the Macbook Pro with its 13.3 inch 2560 x 1440 WQHD touch-screen display, but what a display you are getting. The Zenbook UX301 uses an IPS LCD with LED backlight that has a pixel per inch count of 221 – that is impressive for capacitive, touch-enabled notebook screen, and arguably almost the equal of Apple retina technology. Its LED backlight is one of the brightest we have ever seen and the colors look superbly vivid. This is as good as any laptop display we have gotten our hands on.
Arguably Apple’s proprietary retina technology gives them the advantage, which is why I would still argue that the Asus Zenbook Infinity has one of the best non-retina displays out there. In a head to head comparison, the Asus held its own against the undisputed champion that is retina, which is no mean feat.
Macbook Pro Killer or Genuine Competitor?
The Asus Zenbook uses Gorilla Glass for the lid of the device, with an awesome finish that had everyone we showed it to, literally dropping their jaws. As well as Intel’s high-end mobile platform, the device is backed by dual SSDs, so there’s virtually no lag time opening and closing apps, and some pretty fast boot and resume times too.
The ASUS Zenbook UX301LA is available from Amazon for princely $1,839, which is no trivial amount of money. Would it better spent on an Apple Macbook Pro at $1,999? That is a question that involves a lot of variables, how much you enjoy the Apple app eco-system being one of them, but the Asus ZenBook Infinity line is a real alternative to what was previously a one horse race; in our opinion it is at least the equal of Apple’s Macbook Pro.