Notice a trend recently? Major notebook players are growing increasingly confident about putting Apple’s MacBook Air in their cross-hairs. First Samsung issued a challenge with the Series 9 notebook that tried to be a Windows MacBook Air, then Dell followed suit with the supposedly thinnest notebook on the planet which wasn’t even as thin as the 2.5-year old MacBook Pro. The latest entrant includes the UX2, a machine Asus unveiled with great fanfare this morning at Computex.

PCMag went hands-on and discovered that the UX21 matches the 11-inch Air with its all-flash design, weight, screen size, display resolution and glass touchpad. It’s not thinner, but tops Apple’s baby with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor (an aging Core 2 Duo in the Air), a USB 3.0 port and lower price points. No word on battery life but the standard-voltage variant Intel Core i5-2557M consumes more power that the Air’s low-voltage chip.

Oh yes, the Asus machine has a sealed battery. Remember when the haters slammed Apple for the Air’s non-user-replaceable battery? Another deal-killer: The UX21 runs Windows and clunky old PC software. So-called MacBook Air-killers have come and gone. I guess their creators didn’t pay attention to Consumer Reports’ charts.

So, should Apple be worried about this particular machine?


Apple is no longer pitching the MacBook Air as the thinnest and lightest notebook around. Instead, it’s “the next generation of MacBooks”, as the tagline says, and quite possibly the sign of things to come. The Air is the first notebook designed around all-flash storage for iPad-like instant-on performance. It will also go down in history as the first portable computer where designers haven’t housed flash storage in a hard drive package (because it’s cheaper and easier to do) and instead put the chips directly on the printed circuit board, which reduced wasted space and made room for a bigger battery. The industry will eventually close the gap with great MacBook Air designs of their own, someday. When the day arrives, expect Apple to go all out with a new design and leapfrog its competitors. And while we’re at it, how about an even thinner, lighter and speedier Air based on iPad’s A5 chip.

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