It takes guts to announce an ultrabook – the sleek format PC competitors to the MacBook Air – just a few days after the death of Apple’s Steven Jobs, but that’s exactly what Jonney Shih, Chairman of ASUS did at the launch of their new ZenBook line of laptops.

The ZenBook (ASUS UX21 and UX31) has a sweet combination of low price, sleek design, and impressive performance. And just how “sleek” is the ZenBook? Very similar to the MacBook Air: think about a PC slightly larger in surface area than an iPad, and just over half an inch at the back and only .11 inches in front. You could loose it between your Wired magazine and your kid’s school artwork.

Features like Instant On (automatically boots up your PC without wait times), Intel’s second generation Core processor (optimized for mobile devices), solid state storage, Bluetooth and USB 3.0 add some real substance to the slim lines. The company claims 10 hours of battery life in standby and the company demoed an impressive sound system powered by and Bang & Olufsen ICEpower. With a starting price of $999, the ASUS ZenBook is in the lead for the ultrabook form factor race that’s about to heat up.

In my quick feature tally of ZenBook versus MacBook Air, it was a pretty even heat. The only feature that the MacBook boasts that’s missing in the ZenBook is the backlit keyboard and MagSafe powercord (to avoid tripping on a wire and sending your light-as-air computer flying across the house).  The MacBook still uses USB 2.0 which is not as fast when recharging your connected mobile devices. Both are available in with 11 inch and 13 inch screens.

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