Asus unveils new Zenbooks both big and small

Asus has let loose a flurry of press releases at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, Germany. A lot of attention seems to be focused on the Vivo Tab and Vivo Tab RT, which are little more than new names for the Tablet 810 and Tablet 600 hybrids we saw months ago at Computex. There don't appear to be any fresh details on the systems, so we'll move onto the new Zenbooks.

King-sized ultrabooks seem to be the in thing these days, but the Zenbook U500VZ doesn't carry Intel's "ultrabook" designation. At 0.78" thick, the aluminum chassis seems to be slender enough. The U500VZ also fills Intel's SSD requirement with dual-drive configurations offering either 128GB of flash alongside a 500GB mechanical drive or dual SSDs with up to 512GB in capacity. The issue may be the Ivy Bridge CPU, an unnamed Core i7 quad whose TDP would have to be at least 35W based on the models currently available. Ultrabooks have typically been limited to 17W duallies.

Asus' CPU choice provides a hint that this Zenbook was designed to be a portable workhorse. So does the 15" screen, whose IPS panel offers 1920x1080 resolution. A discrete GeForce GT 650M GPU is tasked with driving the display, and it should be able to play a decent number of games at the native resolution without making serious image quality compromises.

Below the screen sits a purportedly full-sized keyboard with an adjacent numpad, a convenience frustratingly missing from similarly sized MacBooks. Asus throws in a keyboard backlight that automatically adjusts its brightness based on the environment. The touchpad looks suitably ginormous, too.

Want an actual ultrabook? Asus has also announced the Zenbook Prime UX21A Touch. This 11.6-incher packs a 1080p screen with Win8-friendly multitouch support. The SuperIPS+ panel has an extra-bright backlight that should make outdoor viewing easier, as well. Sorry, no discrete graphics here—you'll have to get by with Ivy's integrated GPU.

Asus claims the UX21A's advanced power-saving tech extends battery life by 25% and allows the system to last up to two weeks on standby. The press release isn't more specific about the size of the battery or the rest of the system's specifications. There's no word on pricing or availability, either. Like existing models in the family, the Zenbooks are likely to reside at the premium end of the spectrum. I wouldn't expect them to arrive until Windows 8's official launch in late October.

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