ZenBook: Celebrating five years of elegance in technology


Can a notebook be a piece of haute couture that wouldn’t look out of place on the runways of Milan? What technologies do we need to create the most beautiful laptop in the world? Where can we find the inspiration for its design? These were some of the questions facing the ASUS design team when we began working on the first ZenBook, which launched five years ago. Since then, the ultra-thin, ultra-sophisticated ASUS ZenBook has become a style icon in the worlds of industrial design, fashion and, of course, technology.

During its five-year history, ZenBook has won some of the world’s most prestigious design awards, while always impressing tech journalists with its powerful performance. ZenBook has become one of our company’s most celebrated product lines: a perfect expression of our technology and design achievements.

To mark its fifth anniversary, we are reflecting on the continued success of ZenBook and the attributes that make it so special.

The birth of ZenBook

We began our planning for the first ZenBook in late 2010. At that time, laptops had become indispensable personal devices, both at work and at home, and laptop sales had surpassed traditional desktop PC sales. The portability of laptops made computing much more personal. However, the majority of laptops available at the time shared a conventional style and design. It was at that point that ASUS realized that laptop owners wanted models with more stylish design features — laptops that looked more like fashion accessories than just functional devices. This realization inspired the creation of a model with a specific design focus — that is, the thinnest, most portable and best-looking laptop that ASUS had ever designed — while at the same time not making any compromises in terms of performance. ZenBook not only had to look good, it had to perform well.

To achieve the desired results, the inspiration for the ZenBook design had to be drawn from unconventional sources.

At the time, ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih a student of Zen philosophy, and the company’s laptop designers were great admirers of precision engineering and the design of luxury timepieces. These widely differing sources of inspiration were eventually perfectly echoed in the ZenBook design.

In any laptop, performance is usually compromised due to size and weight limitations. Mr. Shih emphasized that the overall ZenBook design should follow the Zen principle of achieving a perfect balance between opposing elements. Thousands of design hours were poured into making the ZenBook components smaller and better fitting. The resulting design broke the mold with its balance of extreme thinness and extreme performance.

A study of luxury watches and an adherence to Zen philosophy eventually resulted in several signature design elements that came to define the ZenBook series. First, the precise engineering of luxury watches inspired the space-optimizing design of the ZenBook; then the profile of the ZenBook was designed to mimic the thin, tapering hour and minute hands of mechanical watches, while the closing and opening of the lid was designed to echo their smooth, elegant movement.

Zen came to inspire the ZenBook design in more ways than one. The Zen principles of Kanso (簡素), which means simplicity by eliminating clutter, and Seijaku (静寂), which means tranquility, are evident in the minimalist lines of ZenBook. Visits to serene Zen gardens also inspired us to create its most recognizable design element: the spun-metal finish on the lid, with its pattern of concentric circles. Such circles can be seen raked into the gravel outside of meditation halls, or when a drop of water falls into a garden pond. This concentric-circle theme became one of the iconic features of ZenBook. All of these design elements differentiated ZenBook from other models in the market, and helped establish the ZenBook brand.

Performance inside, style outside

Since the launch of the first UX21 model in 2011, every ZenBook has wowed audiences with a distinctive blend of extreme beauty and powerful performance. But most people are unaware of the many challenges that the designers and engineers at ASUS had to overcome in order to make each model a reality, and to achieve the desired balance between outward elegance and internal sophistication.

To make ZenBook the thinnest, best-looking and best-performing ASUS laptop, each device had to be made using the latest technologies and the most advanced materials. In addition to designing the densest circuit boards, specific parts also had to be specially designed to make them sufficiently compact. Every production process involved advanced tools, such as computer-guided, diamond-tipped cutters that created brilliant, metallic chamfered edges, and the industry’s most advanced anodizing process to treat the aluminum-alloy surfaces of the laptop so it is as durable as it is beautiful. As a result, ZenBook is a tour de force of the best technology and design that ASUS has to offer.

Over the years, all ZenBook models have consistently featured certain key design and performance elements. For example, there has always been a model featuring the most powerful Intel® Core™ mobile processor available at the time. To meet the exact weight, performance and acoustic specifications, the most advanced materials — in particular aluminum alloys — are used in the construction of ZenBook.

Five iconic ASUS ZenBook models

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, and look at some iconic ZenBook models released over the years. While technology and design certainly have evolved, they all still visibly share the same DNA.

ZenBook UX21

The first ZenBook was launched on October 11, 2011. ZenBook UX21 proved that laptops could be stylish and powerful at the same time, and the model pioneered signature ZenBook design elements that would be featured in later models. UX21 weighed only 1.1kg, and had an ultra-thin chassis that tapered from 3mm to 9mm at its thinnest and thickest sections. At its launch, the laptop stunned the tech world by showing that something so compact could feature the latest Intel® Core™ processor series. It was UX21 that kick-started the Intel Ultrabook™ concept, achieving the balance of beauty and technology that its designers sought.

ZenBook UX301

The 2013 ZenBook UX301 surprised engineers, designers and consumers once again by introducing a glass lid in its design. The Gorilla Glass 3 lid’s high gloss surface was not only attractive, it proved to be durable.

ZenBook Flip UX360

ZenBook is all about innovation and evolution, and in early 2016 the first ZenBook with a 360° flip-screen was introduced. ZenBook Flip UX360CA is ideal for small spaces, and it easily converts into different modes — laptop, tablet, or anything in between — for unrivaled versatility. ZenBook Flip is still one of the world’s thinnest 2-in-1 convertible laptops.

ZenBook 3 UX390

Launched at Computex 2016, ZenBook 3 is the first complete redesign of ZenBook since the series was launched five years ago. To make it the thinnest ZenBook ever, without compromising its structural strength, the chassis and lid had to be made from strong 6013 aluminum alloy, which is used primarily in aerospace applications. Its all-new internal design features a cooling system that is just 3mm thin and a multi-cell battery optimized to fit into the remaining space. Although these innovative design elements might not be immediately obvious, what does strike you right away is the unmistakable ZenBook look: the tapering shape and thin edges, and the lid with its enhanced spun-metal finish. It continues the signature ZenBook style, but it’s even thinner and more beautiful than before.


To discover more about the design of ZenBook 3, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeEelnoAz_k 

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