With Ivy Bridge due sometime in the coming weeks or months, vendors are preparing a round of obligatory refreshes. Considering its performance-per-watt improvements over Sandy Bridge, it stands to reason that PC makers will trumpet the 22nm architecture with Intel-sanctioned ultrabooks and other mobile machines.

Such is the case with Asus, which has two second-gen Zenbooks in the pipeline. The UX21A and UX31A (successors to last year's decently regarded UX21 and UX31) should be among the finest examples of what Intel wants to achieve with its ultrabook branding by offering premium ultraportables at an affordable price.

Both will reportedly have an optional 1080p IPS screen with a higher brightness (350nit versus 300nit), though it's unclear how much the upgrade will cost. Besides their form factors, the systems are largely identical including Ivy Bridge chips ranging up to the dual-core Core i7-3517U (4MB L3 cache, 3GHz Turbo Boost).

  11.6" Zenbook UX21A 13.3" Zenbook UX31A
Display 1366x768 / 1920x1080 IPS 1600x900 / 1920x1080 IPS
Processor i3-3217U / i5-3317U / i7-3517U i3-3217U / i5-3317U / i7-3517U
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000 Intel HD Graphics 4000
Memory 2GB / 4GB DDR3L 1600MHz 2GB / 4GB DDR3L 1600MHz
Storage Up to 256GB SATA 3.0 SSD Up to 256GB SATA 3.0 SSD
Wireless 802.11n / Bluetooth 4.0 / WiDi 802.11n / Bluetooth 4.0 / WiDi
Other I/O SDXC / 2xUSB 3.0 / Micro HDMI SDXC / 2xUSB 3.0 / Micro HDMI
Battery Up to five hours Six to seven hours
Dimensions 0.66" thick and ~2.42lbs 0.76" thick and ~2.86lbs
Base Price $1,050 $1,100

Although a SATA 3.0 SSD up to 256GB is confirmed, a 512GB option is said to be on the table. The backlit chiclet keyboard supposedly improves the previous design with a "deeper key travel," but we're not sure how that'll affect your experience in a practical sense. Size-wise the systems don't seem to be different from their predecessors. Availability remains unknown, but "soon" after Ivy Bridge's launch seems likely.