Maryann Tobin

The competition has been tough between the Asus Zenbook and MacBook Air in the Ultrabook market, and it’s about to get tougher.

In June, Asus is scheduled to release a major upgrade to their impressive 13 inch Ultrabook line, which they are calling the Zenbook Prime UX31A.

The new, ultra-thin Asus Zenbook Prime dares to challenge the 2012 MacBook Air Ivy Bridge upgrade with a full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS (In-plane switching) matt screen display, native USB 3.0, and a backlit keyboard. There will also be a choice between a 128GB and 256GB solid-state drive running 6G SATA 3 link speeds. The combination creates a lightening fast laptop with a display that promises remarkable resolution and viewing from virtually any angle.

If that were not enough to proclaim that the Zenbook Prime UX31A as a real player in the 2012 Ultrabook market, the new laptop will carry an upgraded Bang and Olufsen audio system and a dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless network card, which promises to beat the 2012 MacBook Air in Wi-Fi technology. This has been a long-standing area of weakness with Apple products, particularly the iPad.

Whether or not the MacBook Air will also see an upgrade in Wi-Fi power is yet to be seen. But since getting on the internet is a prime feature of ultra-portable laptops, it’s an upgrade that should not go unnoticed.

Apple is not ignoring threats to the 2012 Macbook Air from the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A. In what seems like an unnatural position for Apple, a price reduction may be in store for the Macbook Air.

Apple is planning to launch a cheaper MacBook Air in the third quarter of this year, dropping the entry-level price to $799 from the current $999. The move is reportedly being made to take on Intel's "Ultrabook" initiative that is pushing low-cost, ultra-thin notebook PCs,” according to a Digitimes report in MacRumors.

In addition to a price reduction, the MacBook Air will be going head-to-head with the Asus Zenbook Prime with their own upgraded display. Apple is expected to add a high resolution retina display to both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in 2012.

“The display is quoted as “jaw-dropping” and “definitely the most important Mac innovation in years,” according to 9 to 5 Mac.

The 2012 MacBook Air maintains its classic, matt silver finish and illuminated Apple logo this year. But there is no denying the sophisticated look of the Asus Zenbook. The swirling, silvery pattern of the lid has a luxurious look and solid feel.

As for weight, the sleek Asus Zenbook Prime packs their new dream machine into a 13 inch Ultrabook that only weighs 3 pounds, a mere .04 ounces over its main competitor, the MacBook Air.

The Asus Zenbook Prime may be considered an impressive first choice in the Ultrabook market, representing more than ordinary competition for the 2012 Macbook Air.

According to TechRadar, the Asus Zenbook, “stands toe-to-toe with Apple's MacBook Air in the fight for the title of best luxury ultraportable."


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