And then there were 2: Need to hear from someone who chose MBA > Zenbook Prime please

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by waa1futs, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Oct 2, 2012
    I have a 4 year old asus eee netbook (single core atom processor! :eek:) that is on its last legs and needs to be replaced.

    I've narrowed my choices down to 2 different options:
    1) 13 inch macbook air (4gb ram, 128ssd, i5)
    2) 1080p zenbook prime (4gb ram, 128 ssd, i5)

    I am sure this decision has come up before for some members here and I'm not so much looking for someone to say to me "well whats better for you?" since both machines could work for me. I would really like to hear your opinions on why you chose the macbook air over the zenbook prime and its 1080p IPS display besides just the obvious "well it runs OSX instead of Windows" :)

    Thank you so much for your help. It's a big money decision for me as I'm a student and could really use your expertise.
  2. macrumors 68030


    Jul 30, 2010
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Runs OSX AND Windows.

    Runs Logic Studio.

    Runs CSS Edit.

    Runs OSX.
  3. macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012



    Apple's smooth trackpad.
  4. macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2009
    I chose the MBA over the Zenbook Prime and other ultrabooks actually. I purchased an ultrabook and ended up returning it a few days later. I would consider purchasing Mac laptops solely for the trackpad and Mission Control when it comes down to it, but a few other things impacted my decision:

    I have to say it again. Mission Control and the trackpad on Mac laptops make me literally twice as fast and productive. I really can't live without it at this point.

    2012 MBA has greater than 7 hours battery life compared to the advertised 5 on the Zenbook Prime.

    The computer you linked is running Windows 7, and, if you choose to upgrade to Windows 8, lack a touchscreen. A touchscreen really does help Windows 8's usability.

    The iLife sweet that comes with OSX handles all of my media needs very well. It's an extra step to get the software similar to iMovie, iPhoto, etc on the Zenbook Prime.

    Those are a few of the reasons why I chose the MBA. Unless you absolutely have to have Windows, which you can load on the MBA anyway, I would definitely choose the Air. I'm 100 times happier with my air than I was with my ultrabook. I'm a student as well and that extra 2 hours of battery life makes a pretty big difference when you're in the library away from an outlet trying to get a project done.
  5. macrumors 6502

    Dec 10, 2008
    I moved past Windows several years ago and *never* looked back. Hardware is the secondary issue for me. The operating system is my first concern. So I would (and have) select the MacBook.
  6. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 16, 2012
    I have been considering fro some time the move from Windows to OS X and have done a lot of experimentation and reading... the latest test that I have run is running Windows 8 in a VM to get the feel of what it would be like to run Windows application in OS X.

    I have spent a fair amount of time familiarizing myself with Oracles' VirtualBox which admittedly is not as popular as either VMFusion or Parallels but it is free for an indefinite period...I think it is sufficient to give the user the experience that one would have running a VM.

    To me the bottom line is that one needs to pick the right tool for the job and to the extent that i) one needs to run Windows apps ii) one does not want to invest the energy and time to really learn and tweak a VM [and it does take some time] and iii) one does want the sometime aggravation of a VM and iv0 one does want to be concerned about HFS+ versus NTFS and the need to purchase MacDrive or the like then simply said....get a Windows machine.

    To me there is an exception to the above rule and that is the hobby / fun / mental challenge of tackling the above which might still lead me to get a Mac but the experience with running either W7 or W8 has tempered that somewhat and, unlike others here, I do need a Windows environment for some apps.

    With respect to what ultrabook is best I would wait for the Samsung Series WQHD which looks fantastic both in appearance and spec wise.

  7. macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    Well, I am as well in search of an ultrabook. Perhaps the two contenders that pop on everybody's mind is the MacBook Air and the Zenbook Prime, as they appear to be the flagship models of ultraportables. I don't own any of them, but I have done some research on the subject and perhaps I can help you.

    I also have some knowledge on the subject as an owner, because I have a 13-inch white MacBook, and my sister has a 13-inch Zenbook (the first generation, not the Prime).

    I am not a student anymore but, like you, I have my own budget constrains. A laptop in Brazil costs a lot of money due to taxes (the cheapest 13-inch MacBook Air will cost US$ 2,500, so you have an idea) and there is not really a market for second-hand products in which I could sell my laptop if I don't like it, so the choice has to be wise.

    The MacBook Air and the Zenbook Prime each have their own advantages and disadvantages. The first thing you should have in mind is that MacBook Air comes with OS X and the Zenbook comes with Windows installed. Do you have any preference? You may install Windows on the MacBook Air, but you'll have to buy a separate Windows license, and that will cost you some money. In addition, remember that you'll have only 128 GB of storage, so installing two operating systems may eat a lot of your precious disk space. Finally, if you intend to run Windows on a virtual machine (through Parallels, for instance), remember that you'll only have 4 GB of RAM. While that may be enough for one operating system, it may be too low for running two of them simultaneously (and that difference will become higher next year, when Apple releases a new version of OS X which may well eat more memory to run).

    Processor, memory and SSD should be quite similar.

    The screen in the Zenbook Prime, however, is so much better. It has an IPS screen which is very bright, and it has a 1920x1080 resolution (a large work area). That's perhaps my favorite thing on the Zenbook. The first-gen Zenbook has a nice TN screen with a resolution of 1600x900, but the screen in the Prime is said to be one of the best in all Windows laptops. The MacBook Air has a TN screen with a 1440x900 resolution. The screen looks good, but pales in comparison with the Zenbook. In addition, the font rendering technology used by OS X makes fonts less sharp than under Windows, so lower resolutions are more noticeable.

    I haven't tested the keyboard in the Zenbook Prime. The keyboard in the first-generation Zenbook is the worst part of it, with low key travel and not so good tactile feedback. The keyboard in the MacBook Air is better (although it is not so good as the one found in the MacBook Pros). However, I've learned that the keyboard in the Zenbook Prime is much improved, and that it should match the Air in this respect.

    Trackpad in the first-gen Zenbook is OK, I don't know if the Prime has improved in this respect. Perhaps under Windows 8 it behaves better. Trackpad in the MacBook Air is, of course, much better, as it support for multi-touch gestures is amazing. Windows 8 may bring some of this to PCs as well.

    People say battery life is better in the MacBook Air. I guess that this is due to OS X in particular, which saves battery in comparison to Windows. If both systems are running Windows, battery life will be very similar. I've seen some comparisons on this respect. The same applies to performance: big performance differences is due to the OS, and not to intrinsic quality of hardware (perhaps there is some difference in the speed of SSDs, but that's it).

    If I were between these two laptops, I would choose the Zenbook Prime, definitely. It has a much better screen, and the large work area it provides would be of great use for me to boost my performance. If I were to buy a Mac, however, I would either buy the MacBook Pro with a retina display (which has a killer screen, of course, but costs a lot more), or I would wait for a possible release of a refreshed MacBook Air next year. I wouldn't buy the MacBook Air right now, as its design dates from 2010 and is currently being challenged by several ultrabooks out there.

    These comparisons may help you out:

    See also these reviews, they look some of the best and most complete I've seen:
  8. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 2, 2012
    How would the MacBook Air being $100 more expensive than the Zenbook Prime somehow be listed as a positive? :confused:
  9. Mrbobb, Nov 14, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2012

    macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012

    Because for another 100, u get an object of desire by the world over. You get the genuine article, the one that people go ohhh and ahhh. A MERCEDES! So yes there is some right-brain involved.

    If you just shop by the numbers, well that's easy enough, anybody can do that. :)

    Oh BTW I missed your bold mention of the IPS screen. Fortunately my eyes are getting bad so I can't tell the difference. But if it does to you and it's a priority for u, then obviously the ASUS is 4ru.

    P.s. if you are interested to run Win8 at all, it seems, a touch screen is mandatory.
  10. macrumors 6502a


    May 9, 2005
    somewhere outside your window...
    That's a nice, thoughtful comparison. Good job!

    If I were in the market to replace my 2010 13" MBA, I would also wait to see what the MBA refresh looks like (especially retina screen). But then I've already bought inot the OS X 'ecosystem', and I really couldn't go back to Windows!
    It's not $200 more! :D
  11. Melbourne Park, Nov 15, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012

    macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2012
    Problem with bigger screens is that they suck power. The more resolution, the more horsepower you need to drive a screen, which slows things down.

    The good thing about the Mac Air, is that it is so beautifully built, and its beautiful to use. And that is not a Mac OS X - its the hardware. The touch pad is a world apart, and that is something you use all the time. Like - all the time. Its such a basic difference, its weird that Apple have been allowed to have such a huge advantage. Same too with the keyboard.

    But if you prefer an external mouse on a notebook, then the Asus comes more into the picture.

    The issue with Mac Airs, is that if you upgrade them heaps, they loose their great value. Although the 8GB of Ram is a mandatory upgrade. Not so sure about going up to 256 SSD though ... if you can handle an external mini USB-3 drive, then that might be more valuable. But looking at them in the shop - yeh, they have heaps of appeal. But in the real world, they are not there yet.

    Curious the previous user likes the Mac Pro 13" Retina. Fact is there's not enough horsepower to drive those screens, they have to many pixels. The next generation will be the one to consider.

    Incidentally, the Mac Air's screen, although not as bright, is still very good and it has more anti-glare in it than other Apple 13" notebook displays.

    Also, Asus are not over engineered. Apple notebooks are. And using alloy in the body work is far from what Apple do - they use a special alloy that they have a unique source of, and they mill it from a blank piece. The milling increases the strength of the alloy expotentially, providing a superior product from other technologies.

    Someone posted some reviews. CNet's from this month, has comparison charts - the Air won easily the key comparisons, and was with small margins in the one's it did not win.

    And consider depreciation - the Air's don't fall in value very much at all, and when compared to Asus etc, they are much cheaper to buy, if one considers the spectacular fall in value that an Asus carries.

    So if you are happy to buy the Asus, buy one second hand, they are so much much cheaper. If you dare.
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Dec 4, 2011
    Ohio, US
    I got a Mac because it runs OSX. The idea was to get away from Windows. So no Zenbook would ever entice me no matter what the hardware specs were.


    The trackpad on the Macbooks is the only one that doesn't leave you missing your mouse. On a Windows laptop the trackpad always feels extremely clumsy and inadequate to the task. Of course, Windows itself just makes it more clumsy.
  13. macrumors 65816

    May 7, 2009
    Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, QLD Australia
    buy a Zen book - whatever that is - and be happy :cool:
  14. macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    Well, that's not a rational decision then. A MacBook Air is, of course, instantly recognizable by everybody else. That's the brand factor and you should always weigh if that's important for you.

    For running Windows 8, a touch screen is desirable. But you can live without it, for sure. A nice multi-touch trackpad would be welcome, though, and I guess trackpad drivers have been enhanced for use with Windows 8. I don't know, however, how Zenbook Prime (or MacBook Air) behaves under Windows 8 because I haven't tested either.
  15. macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    The screen in the Zenbook Prime does consume more energy than the screen in the MacBook Air, but I don't know by how much. It is brighter and has a higher resolution; of course it is a better screen, a much better one. The trade-off is that it sucks more battery, but I don't think the difference would be huge.

    As for horsepower, the integrated video card used by Intel in Ivy Bridge processors (the HD 4000) is more than enough to handle either 1440x900 or 1920x1080 resolutions, so, in any case, the laptop will not suffer from slowdowns. Of course the 1920x1080 screen sucks more horsepower, but the difference will be negligible with the HD 4000. It can even handle the 2560x1600 resolution of the 13-inch MacBook Air with a retina display (although, in that case, a better video card would be desirable). Be aware, however, that you won't be able to play games with your MacBook Air/Zenbook Prime, because they are not meant to, and the video card is not powerful enough.

    You should test the keyboard and trackpad yourself at a store. As I said, the keyboard in the first-gen Asus Zenbook was much worse than MacBook Air's, but it has been dramatically improved. As for the trackpad, it's great in the MAcBook Air, but that's also because software works so well with it.

    Depending on how trackpad drivers for Zenbook Prime are under Windows 8, a mouse may be very helpful.

    If you plan to run Windows on a virtual machine, then the upgrade to 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of SSD are something you should consider.

    Yes, I do like it. The HD 4000 provides enough horsepower to run the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a retina display. I haven't noticed any lag while testing it at the store and I haven't seen many complaints here (although I have seen some). The big issue seems to be when you use the 1680x1050 mode, and the video card has to render a 3360x2100 resolution. Depending on the kind of applications you wish to run at 2560x1600, however, the integrated video card may be a problem.

    The next generation will be equipped with Haswell, which will bring a much faster video card. It will certainly have more than enough horsepower to drive such high resolutions without gripe.

    The bottom line is that there certainly is some debate on whether the integrated video card is enough to handle 2560x1600. But, if you're not considering the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a retina display, the HD 4000 is more than enough to run either 1440x900 or 1920x1080, unless you have some specific graphic needs.

    Yes, it is good, but far from great. But it pales in comparison with the one of the Zenbook Prime. And you can't even compare it with the one in the 13-inch retina model. Other models have also superseded it. Just compare them at a store. There's no match. But that will depend on how important the screen is for you, of course.

    As for the reviews, they always express the subjective opinions of the reviewers. Pay attention to the details. Things that are important to the reviewer may not be for you, and vice-versa. Both are very good laptops, and you have to weigh which one is the better for you. There's no one-size-fits-all.

    Go to a store, look at them side-by-side, test the screen, the speakers, the keyboard and the trackpad and choose the one that feels better for you. This real-world experience is very important.

    Macs tend to devaluate less than other brands. That is important if you keep your laptop for 2 years and then wants to exchange it. However, if you are going to stick with the laptop for 4 or 5 years, the price which you will get in 2017 for selling it will be so low, anyway, that the difference will be negligible.

    If you dare. As the laptop is kind of new, I don't know if there are too many second hand for sale...
  16. macrumors newbie

    Oct 27, 2012
    I haven't actually bought the Air yet, but I will soon. The Zenbook was a close contender, but I really need 8GB RAM, so I will go with the air. Anandtech compare the screens on the Zenbook and the air:

    If the Zenbook had 8GB RAM, I'd probably have preferred it.
  17. macrumors 6502a

    Feb 3, 2011
    I looked at the Zenbook at BB, and it's pretty impressive, not quite the build quality of the Air, but the trackpad is the best I've seen on a Win machine, and the IPS screen has the Air beat in display quality.

    I would choose whichever laptop allows you to run the Apps you need most. For me, I like the Air for the stability of OSX, the trackpad, and the Apple ecosystem and run VMWare Fusion/Win7 for Win apps such as Excel that run best in Win.
  18. macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    There are other thin-and-light laptops alternatives, the MacBook Air and the Zenbook Prime are not the only options. Have you seen the Dell XPS 12, for instance? It has a 1920x1080 12.5" IPS screen and is convertible into a tablet. See it here:
  19. macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012

    Have u seen all those Win8 Ads? They always show sum1 playing with the touchscreen. Read all the Win8 reviews, they ALL say if you have a traditional KBD and mouse only, it's not going to be pretty.

    Live without it... that's the whole point of Win8. Wo a touch screen, may as well stay with Win7, very capable still.

    Trackpad for Win8... First off, not until I got my Air I understood why it's so much fricking bigger than anybody's else, u need the real estate to interface with the whole screen properly. The people who are running Win8 on their Mac are keeping quiet how it's working for them.
  20. macrumors 6502a


    Jan 31, 2012
    Northamptonshire, England
    I've just re invested in a Windows PC and I do love Win7 (only used Vista in the past) but I still boot my Mac up and smile - OSX is just beautifully simple and functional. For a laptop on the go I'd pick a Mac every time. For the media and gaming beast for the living room, the Alienware far surpasses any Mac machine.

    Swings and roundabouts. Once you go to OSX (especially on a portable device) you won't go back. It's so well thought out.

    Good luck with whichever choice you make :)
  21. macrumors 68040


    Mar 2, 2009
    Waterloo & Georgian Bay, Canada
    Quit spreading FUD. It's not true.
  22. macrumors newbie

    Oct 27, 2012
    Yes, took a hard look at that one, good review on notebookcheck as well. In the end, the 8GB version costs more than the MBA though (100 EUR with edu discount from Apple), and here in Belgium there is no way I'm going to see one of those Dells in a store to be able to check if the better screen is worth the price. Also, I usually run Linux, and I'm not sure how nicely that will play with this convertible thing.
  23. macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    Well, in fact I've not only read reviews, but I have tested both Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Release Preview on my non-touchscreen PC laptop. I can say that it is perfectly possible to live without touch-screen. However, the touch-screen adds a new dimension to the experience in these laptops and you can see the real reason why Windows 8 has such a different interface.

    BTW, there is a Zenbook Prime with touch-screen functionality. However, I don't know if it's already for sale in the U.S.


    Oh, OK, you're in Belgium. Then perhaps you won't be able to test this one. What exactly are you looking for in your laptop?
  24. macrumors newbie

    Oct 27, 2012
    These are my requirements:
    - an ultraportable (13.3" max) with decent build quality
    - 8 GB RAM
    - A screen better than the very old 1366x768
    - At least intel i5

    I'll be using it almost exclusively for C++ software development, using GCC or Clang. So far I've been doing that only on Linux, but I see colleagues using OSX with MacPorts without any hassle. The laptop is only for use during travel and the daily commute, at work and at home I have access to more powerful machines. For now, it seems that the best fit is the MBA, and it even happens to be the cheapest machine that meets all my requirements.
  25. macrumors 68030


    Feb 23, 2009
    Is SSD a requirement? What's your budget?

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