Asus Zenbooks Enter The Ultrabook Fray, Starting At $999

The promise of the ultra-cheap ultrabook hasn’t quite been fulfilled yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a few sexy machines before the new ones hit. Acer’s Aspire S3 dropped yesterday, and we’ll have a review up soon, but the new Asus Zenbooks, rumored and pictured earlier but only actually announced today, are the ones I’ve been waiting for.

You’ve got two basic models: the 11.6-inch UX21 and the 13-inch UX31. But there’s more, much more.

Both laptops have 4GB of RAM, a Bang and Olufsun audio system, USB 2 and 3, micro HDMI and mini VGA out. The UX21, at $999, comes with a Core i5-2467M mobile processor that can be upgraded to an i7 for $200. Its 11.6″ screen is the usual 1366×768. You’re stuck with 128GB of space, alas.

The UX31 looks like the one to get, though: for just one more benjamin (that is to say, for $1099 total) you get a a much better 1600×900 13.1″ screen, a superior i5 processor (2557M), an SD card reader, and a more capacious battery. It too can be upgraded: you can snag a 256GB drive for $250 extra, and then get an i7 for another $100 on top of that.

As we heard, it’s thin and light: it’s 0.11″ at the front and 0.67″ at the rear. The case is aluminum, and there’s a nice brushed design on the lid. The UX21 weighs 2.43lb, and the UX31 is slightly heavier at 2.86lb. How the build quality stacks up against its biggest rivals (the S3 and of course the MacBook Air) will have to be decided after some hands-on time.

Update: Their battery life comparison page is pretty funny: