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Macbook Air vs Asus Zenbook UX31A - Ultrabook for University - Page 2

post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by elreyhorus View Post

You are talking about these two laptops, right?
http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Apple-MacBook-Air-11-inch-Mid-2013-1-7-GHz-256-GB-Subnotebook.97445.0.html
http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Asus-Zenbook-Prime-UX31A-Touch-Ultrabook.87921.0.html



Anyway, here are my thoughts:

1. RAM
8 GB is definitely more 'future proof'. However, if you use more than 4 GB you will be taxing the CPU. In other words, I feel as though the CPU is more of a bottleneck than RAM capacity, especially in the case of Civ 5 or content creation software.

Chrome chews through RAM fast, especially if you have multiple tabs and extensions. 8 GB might be helpful here, but if that's the case you have far too many tabs open. Luckily, Chrome is very good about releasing memory (freeing up memory) upon exit.

2. CPU
The MBA has the better CPU, hands down. Haswell significantly improves battery life over Ivy Bridge.

3. Screen
The MBA has a 1440x900 TN panel, NOT IPS. This means better battery life at the cost of worse viewing angles and color reproduction.
In my opinion the Zenbook has a slight edge over the MBA. IPS 1080p vs TN 900p.

4. OS
Your Uni might sell Win8 upgrade DVDs (via site license). If not, you can use you student email address to register for a copy of Win8 at student discount. I'm not sure if the site recognizes '.ac.nz' like '.edu' here in the USA. Check the Dreamspark website.
For example: http://www.cs.waikato.ac.nz/DreamSpark/
Another example of site license: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/its/staff-services/it-procurement-home/victoria-campus-software

5. GPU
The HD 5000 is probably 50-60% faster than the HD 4000.
The problem is Intel drivers support is rather poor, even when compared to AMD.
Also, other bottlenecks can limit the HD 5000, namely 1) the CPU and GPU share TDP and 2) memory bandwidth limitations

6. SSD
MBA wins here, especially since they use Samsung as their SSD supplier. Both the MBA and Zenbook use proprietary SSDs, so user upgrades are not possible (without buying used parts from ebay).

7. Price and Customer Support
Are you willing to pay the Apple tax? Do you take care of your electronics or do you handle them roughly? Are you prone to accidents or dropping things?
I understand the need to pay more for extra peace of mind. Apple Care has superior customer service/support from what I have read.
On the other hand, ASUS has a reputation for abysmal customer support from what I have read.


So, my summary of the two laptops:
Apple = overall superior hardware at greater cost; less concerns about build quality and customer support issues. additional hassle of installing Win 8.
ASUS = somewhat inferior hardware at less cost, but comes with Win 8. Hope that nothing goes wrong with your laptop lest you deal with ASUS customer support. additional hassle of removing ASUS bloatware.

Let me know if you have any questions about the Zenbook.

All good points. I had the same notebook as well and also have a few things to add.

1) Ram - I'd rather have more ram than CPU speed in a laptop. CPU speed is only for when you are plugged in and compiling. Faster just kills battery life. For note-taking and normal academic use, ram is better: mainly for having more tabs open in your browser or more programs open.

2) CPU - Haswell is way better than Ivy bridge for battery life. I think the MBA is quoted for like 13 hours? The Zenbook gets a little over 5. That's a huge difference. If you're looking at the newer zenbook now, the difference is less, I think most haswell pc ultrabooks get 7.

3) The Mac actually has an inferior screen. The zenbook screen is pretty much amazing with almost 100% RGB gamut. The problem is windows sucks donkey balls at scaling. The mac solution is to render at 4x the resolution and then downsample so everything looks nice and sharp. Windows just scales I think so lots of things look blurry or tiny. This is not fixed in windows 8.1 and a major reason I ditched my zenbook. Windows scaling issues are kind of a disaster given how laptop companies keep upping resolutions on laptops and most people are not getting any benefit :/

4) OS - IMO MacOSX is just superior to windows for academic work/writing. I game on a super-fast PC at home but I despise windows 8 on a laptop. You can dual-boot windows 7 on a mac and it's a major reason you want a harddrive larger than 128gb (so that you have a partition for windows). You also can use parallels to emulate windows programs (another reason 8gb of ram is necessary). You can have the best of both worlds on a mac while you're stuck with windows on a PC (though the adventurous can use linux).

My problem with windows is the pointless touch interface, the scaling issues, and the poor gesture support. I always find myself using a bluetooth mouse on PC's because trackpad integration is poor. That just adds to the bulk and inconvenience when traveling. On a mac, once you learn the gestures, everything is seamless and you can just use the trackpad for everything.

5) GPU - Doesn't really matter that much. The HD5000 is faster but it's not quite there because of memory bandwidth issues. On high resolutions or with AA turned on you will get almost the same performance as an HD4000. However, you'll most likely game at 1024x768 upscaled which will make the hd5000 about 50% faster. Both are fine for very casual gaming.

6) SSD - This is a big plus for apple. One, you get a PCI-E SSD which means over 1GBps peak transfer rate. It also has phenomonal random read and write which is important for tablet-like smoothness. The SSD is the biggest reason I sold my zenbook. There is an SSD lottery. If you get a crappy Sandisk one, you have the random read/write of an SD card and your computer will stutter doing things like browsing the internet. This was completely unacceptable to me. I paid 600 bucks for the thing and its slower than my tablet for reading cnn? Come on. If your zenbook comes with the good version of the ssd drive, it'll still be inferior to the macbook air version in terms of raw benchmarks though in everyday usage I doubt you'lln otice the difference. I don't know if Asus solved this issue with the newer gen model but the fact that they thought they could pull the wool over customers eyes is unacceptable. I bought a tablet from them with a slow sd drive too and it was a nightmare to troubleshoot. None of the reviews mentioned it either; I only discovered the issue after buying the device and going to forums.

7) Asus support depends on country and is a little bit hit or miss. Apple is great but you do pay a premium. Apple products also retain their value for a very very long time versus other products. The zenbook will crater in value. You should be able to resell your mba for at least half of its face value in the next 2 years. It's a nice premium to have.


Quick update

So I have been looking at some more reviews. On notebookcheck the macbook air gets 87%, the UX302LG gets 88%. This is somewhat interesting given the MBA costs less and has worse hardware. It also has several listed cons while the Zenbook only has a couple, both suffer from glossy screens.

To do a quick comparison with the MBA and the new Zenbook I am looking at:

Pretty similar CPU and Ram, Zenbook has better gpu but is perhaps overkill, MBA has less storage but I would rather the 1 SSD. I could upgrade the HDDs in the Zenbook, but that voids the warranty. Zenbook has the better screen, and its a touch screen which is kinda nice if I am going with Windows 8. I don't think the Zenbook has a backlit keyboard though, but the MBA does, and I would kind of like one. It just seems they both have their advantages and disadvantages which cancel each other out, I cant decide >.<.[/quote]

The zenbook has a very good quality keyboard versus other ultrabooks; almost as good as apple's. It's a major reason I got it since keyboard and trackpad are highly overlooked features of a notebook. The touchpad was also pretty good though not as good as apple's more integrated gesture support. Due to machine-level optimization, the MBA will also have several hours of battery life at least over the zenbook. I think most haswell PC ultrabooks get about 8 hours (versus the previous generation's 5). MBA get like 13 hours versus the previous generation's 9. I think this is a big deal since battery life and form factor is what makes an ultrabook so convenient. Otherwise you should get a desktop replacement laptop that costs less but is bulkier.

I personally have a preference for Apple though for notebooks because of convenience and better hardware. Though I can't fault you for going the other way; both are fine choices.
Edited by Diogenes5 - 2/28/14 at 7:30pm
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
I've spent several hours umming and ahing about the two, but I think I have made a decision. The main differences are the screens, hard drives, graphics card, and batteries, everything else like RAM, CPU, ports, its all more or less the same. The way I see it, while the longer battery life of the MBA would be nice, that of the Zenbook should be enough, and it has the better screen and graphics. As for the hard drive, its less than ideal.

So what I think I will do, is go ahead and get the Asus Zenbook UX302LX for now, and perhaps when I have a bit more money, or if I find the hard drive speed a real problem, I will buy myself a Samsung 840 SSD to swap out with the HDD it comes with. Now a few issues here, first off, from what I have read that voids the warranty, which isn't ideal...but for the speed boost, provided I look after it, it should be fine. Now it also has the MSata SSD cache, so I don't know if removing that will be a problem, but surely it shouldn't matter too much...I'll figure it out xD.

Still going to think about it for a few more days, I feel hesitant to spend this much money, but I've looked at my options carefully and I should be pretty happy with the end result.
post #13 of 18
13" MBA has a 16:10 screen and real world 9 hours of battery life..

I like Zen books but in the ultrabook category I wouldn't get anything but the MBA
 
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post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
For 16:10 vs 16:9, and the longer battery life? The Zenbook can do 6 hours or a bit more depending how you use it, I don't have very long days, and there are plenty of power plugs around if I really need them. Plus, the zenbook's hardware is better in several ways which balance out the lower battery life. I'm completely open to ideas, but I can't see how those two factors make the macbook better than the zenbook. Maybe its personal preference but 16:10 vs 16:9 is a complete non-issue for me.
post #15 of 18
I'm not trying to convince you I was just mentioning things that had not been brought up..
 
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post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Alright well thanks for the feedback smile.gif.

I went shopping today and had a look at both options in person. They both appeared to be pretty well built, the macbook had a slightly sturdier feel to it. I tried both the keyboards and didn't really have a preference, the fact the Zenbook has a proper windows keyboard is nice given I'm probably gonna stick with windows. The screen on the macbook was pretty nice, but because of the IPS screen the Zenbook had much better viewing angles and I just thought it looked better.

Took me a while to make a decision, but I got the Zenbook, it was actually the last one anyone had in the region because they are really popular, the place I got it from had 30 units at the start of the week. My only complaint so far is the mechanical hard drive, the speeds are fine, haven't found any issues, but being mechanical it does make a bit of noise. I don't mind it too much, but at some point I might get an SSD for it. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it.
post #17 of 18
If you're going to run Windows full time the Zenbook was really the only option.
 
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post #18 of 18
Multitasking:
One MacBook will make you feel like you have four or five screens. I just swipe with four fingers and I'm in a new desktop. It's very simple. Almost too simple. Dashboard, Mission Control, Desktop are all a few swipes away. 4GB on a MacBook is very sufficient. 8GB would be better but 4GB feels good in OSX.

CPU Power:
Haswell is 10-15% faster and about 20-25% better battery life. There's literally no incentive to get the Asus over this unless you were trying to make a point about wanting a Mac and choosing a Windows machine out of spite. If you're going to go Windows, don't get the Zenbook because it's an inferior machine in almost every way and emphatically in CPU power. The Haswell is just better in every way. And real world usage? Engadget got 10 hours with WiFi and video. Typing documents will net you closer to 12 hours. You're choosing an inferior machine with half the battery life, how do you justify that?

Screen:
The one area the Mac loses out on. It's amazing that the manufacturer of the greatest and most beautiful high resolution display in the market can push out an ultrabook that's not even 1080p. Regardless, it makes a difference if you're in need of the resolution but I wouldn't call the Zenbook's screen "game changing" good either. Both of their screens are relatively disappointing. It just so happens the Zenbook is less so.

OS:
I already discussed the heroic multiple displays but let's get into the actual programs. When you buy a MacBook with Maverick, you get iWork 100% free. This isn't a trial like Office 360. This is a full productivity suite that's usable in 90% of your academic curriculum and it's 100% free. Pages is compatible with Word, Numbers is compatible with Excel, they're feature rich, support cloud out of the box, automatically save to your iCloud account and support tons of features and you get it free. You also get iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band free. Other features? Off the bat it's much more secure. It also has a much better contacts and mail migration. It's simple but sophisticated from embedded sharing, finder tabs, spotlight (which is hands and feet better than Windows 8.1 search), it's just built to help you produce.

Even Office on Mac is better than on Windows. Office 2010 and 360 to me, are clunky and not very efficient. Office 2011 has a built in Notebook view that supports recording with a low memory usage and the voice notes sync with what you type on time stamps. It's so good that I've had people offer me $20-30 to share my class notes with them from the quarter.

GPU:
Iris is better in a huge way but honestly, you won't notice a GPU advantage in OSX. I'll be honest, OSX is on a much older OpenGL version and they're not exactly making strides to improve it. It's starting to affect developers because going from DX10 or DX9 to OpenGL 4.1 wasn't that bad but going from DX11 or Mantle to OpenGL 4.1? That's like porting a PS4 title to an Xbox 360. And us Mac Gamers are starting to feel the force of that choice. Titles like Torchlight 2 were supposed to launch with a Mac client soon after and nearly 2 years after launch they haven't even returned to acknowledging that it even exists. There hasn't been a direct comparison but I can tell that the lighting and shading on Bioshock Infinite is much better on PC than Mac. On Mac it looks VERY good but it's still not as good as DX10. So in order for you to really capture the GPU advantage, you'd have to Boot Camp into Windows. More on this later.

SSD:
MacBook uses PCI-E storage, it's way faster, way more reliable and much more consistent. There's no real argument around it.

Support:
This is not even a comparison. You can take your Mac to any Apple store in the world and get helped on the fly. Physical brick and mortar stores with employees helping you in person that speak perfect coherent English. No phone wait times, no support emails, no shipping it out. You take it to the store and they try to help you right there and if it needs to be sent out, it'll be quick and come back to the same store.

You picked up the Zenbook? lol. Sounds like another 'fake' Apple vs Windows thread just so you can come up with reasons to say PC was a better choice even though it clearly wasn't.

Are there Windows ultrabooks that are good enough to best the Air or at least go trade with it? Absolutely. And you bought one that isn't.
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