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Asus launches ZenBook, world's thinnest laptop

The world's thinnest laptop, the Asus ZenBook, is set to give Apple's MacBook Air a run for its money, with stunning looks, a powerful processor - and a thickness that tapers down to just 3mm.

Two models comprise the current ZenBook line-up: the £849 UX21 and the £999 UX31, equipped with 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M and 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-2677M processors, respectively. Both are backed by 4GB of DDR RAM and a 128GB SSD. Graphics come courtesy of an integrated Intel HD 3000 chipset.

Both models offer clear, bright, high-resolution displays (1440x900 for the UX21; 1600x900 for the UX31) and Bang & Olufsen-endorsed 'SonicMaster' audio - crisp enough to cut through the din at last night's press launch, but predictably lacking in bass.

All of that is packed into a very svelte chassis. Both models measure just 3mm thick at the front, graduating to 11mm at the rear. To do so, they incorporate a specially designed copper passive cooler than is 1mm thinner than Apple's ultraportable's. Weights for the two models are just 1.1kg and 1.3kg.

What really sets the ZenBook apart, though, is its claimed 'instant-on' time of just two seconds to boot from sleep - a claim that was borne out when we got hands-on with it at Asus' press launch in London. This comes courtesy of the laptop's SSD, which takes advantage of the latest SATA 3 hard disk interface to provide a maximum transfer speed of 6GB/s - which was borne out in testing.

While respective battery lives under normal use of five hours for the UX21 and seven hours for the UX31 may not seem particularly impressive to those used to going days between charges on a tablet, the ZenBooks' 'full-fat' PC processors offer plenty more grunt than the average ARM chip.

Connections are reasonably well provided for, in spite of the ZenBook's slender dimensions, with one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0, a micro-HDMI and mini-VGA for hooking up external monitors, plus an audio jack. The larger UX31 model supplements those with an SD card reader. Wireless 802.11b/g/n networking is built in, as well as the latest Bluetooth 4.0 standard.

Both ultrabooks will go on sale on the 21st October at Amazon, PC World, Currys and Dixons.

For a full hands-on first look at the ZenBook UX21 and UX31, visit our sister site ITReviews.com here.