On the Road with the Asus Zenbook Prime


For the past two years my primary development system has been a Dell E6420. It runs Linux Mint “Maya”, the latest long-term support release, perfectly. Everything just works. It is portable, but no joy to carry on, or use, on a plane. Many corporate road-warriors carry this model; it is a laptop that you have to put identifying stickers on to make sure you pull yours off the x-ray belt. Aside: Waiting for ATL-MCI last week, I spied the absolute largest “laptop” I’ve ever seen waiting to board a plane. It must have been 11” x 18” and 3” thick. The owner was actually using it as a table while eating her slice of pizza.

I’ve been traveling a lot this year and needed something a bit more manageable than the Dell. So, I borrowed an 11” MacBook Air from Gawker.

I enjoyed my time with the Air. The hardware was solid and the form-factor perfect for vacations and short work-trips that didn’t involve intense coding. In theory, the 11” model doesn’t even have to be removed from luggage for security. Of course, like most things TSA, this wasn’t consistently applied. “The TSA website says I can leave it in my bag!” After the first few re-screenings and scoldings, I just started taking it out like a normal laptop. Anyway, Tom borrowed it (with its huge Riak sticker!) to cover the Tour de France. (Yes, Tom does it all at Gawker.) I decided to leave it with him. Why? I don’t mind OSX, but it was a real pain to synchronize and switch (mentally and physically) between the two environments when traveling.

Budapest Office

Dilemma. Upcoming trip to the Budapest office and I’m really not looking forward to lugging the Dell with me.

How about the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition? Two weeks to ship it? “Call for pricing?” Oh, Dell! You lost an easy sale. I read some positive reviews of the Asus Zenbook Prime and it seemed that it might be perfect. Would it play well with Mint? Yes, it seemed. I ordered the Asus Zenbook Prime (UX31A-SH71) from Amazon and had it two days later.

I installed the Mint LTS, applied most of the tweaks, and mirrored my normal development environment. Everything but (annoyingly) two-finger scroll was working and it fit nicely into my bag. It turns out that broken two-finger scroll was the least of my problems. The machine locked-up hard at least a dozen times while in Budapest. Not király!

I badly want this laptop to be my new travel buddy. Reluctantly, I’ve installed the bleeding edge: Mint 15, based on Ubuntu 13.04. I’m going to skip tweaking it for now because almost everything works out of the box! Two-finger scroll works, as do the monitor and keyboard backlight controls. Most importantly, I’ve experienced no lock-ups. So far, so good, but I’ll report back here after my next trip.

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