While the recent launch of Windows 8 has seen a range of exciting new laptops, tablets, hybrids and combinations of the three, the Intel-inspired Ultrabook category continues to expand.

The Zenbook UX32VD from Asus is perhaps one of the most striking examples of what the Ultrabook form factor can achieve.

The Zenbook's sleek metal body is lovely, with precision etched concentric circles on the cover and brushed lines when you open it up. The screen's hinge feels perfectly weighted, and opening the laptop one-handed feels natural.

At 18mm thick, it feels significantly chunkier than Apple's Macbook Air, despite the obvious similarities in design when you open the two machines up side-by-side. That could have something to do with the abundance of extra ports though, or the less tapered edges in the Asus machine.

Asus Zenbook UX32VD side view

With the focus on style, this machine is clearly targeted at the consumer market. Not only does it lack business-grade features like a fingerprint scanner, but the inclusion of the Bang and Olufsen branded ICEpower technology helps appeal to younger consumers wanting the most from their laptops.

There's also the inclusion of a discrete graphics card in this machine, making it the first Ultrabook to have one. Sure, it may not be a top of the line card, but it's still more than any other Ultrabook offers.

Disappointingly - although not unsurprisingly - the Zenbook is loaded with an abundance of Asus branded bloatware. While some of it creates nice little graphics for changing settings like volume and screen brightness, others play around with power options which can't be overrun by your Windows power management.

For power users wanting to get the most out of the machine, deleting these apps will be action number one after unboxing.

Priced at $1,299, the Zenbook sits at the affordable but not too cheap end of the Ultrabook market spectrum. On a price to specs basis, it's actually pretty decent value.

Specifications

Underneath all that etched metal casing is a 1.7GHz Core i5 Intel 3317U processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M discrete graphics card, 4GB RAM and an abundance of connectivity options.

A 500GB HDD with 24GB SSD gives a good amount of storage, even if it does slightly pervert the notion of an Ultrabook.

Those specs certainly don't place the UX32VD into the most most powerful Ultrabook category, although there is a Core i7 option available to pick up online.

Still, compared to something like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, this macine doesn't have an overwhelming amount of grunt under the hood.

Asus Zenbook UX32VD lid

Weighing in at 1.45kg, the laptop feels heavier than it actually is, which probably has a lot to do with the premium metal finish.

The chiclet keyboard is nicely spaced and comfortable to type on, even though the italic font of the lettering on each key looks a little odd.

It does look exceptionally similar to the Macbook Air's keyboard in terms of spacing, althugh there are more function keys and the arrow buttons are smaller than Apple's laptop.

It's also backlit, making this an ideal companion for those working at night.

The trackpad is slightly smaller than the Air, although it does feature the same multi-touch capabilities. If anything, it can be a little too sensitive though.

Asus Zenbook UX32VD packaging

Regularly while typing, the mouse pointer would be pushed to a different point on screen by an errant palm brush on the trackpad, resulting in paragraphs of misplaced words.

It's also way too keen to resize windows when you accidentally place your thumb on the trackpad as well as your forefinger.

The 1,366 x 768 16:9 display has a nice matte finish, which makes it nice and easy to see in many lighting conditions. It also tends to dull down the vibrancy of colours on screen, but not to a point we would complain about.

Three USB 3.0 ports on the sides of the laptop is a nice inclusion, especially as one of them will charge your gadgets even when the laptop is closed.

HDMI output, SD card slot and mini-VGA plug give plenty of connectivity options, although it certainly would have been nice if that mini-VGA port was a Thunderbolt connection.

There's no ethernet port on the machine itself, but hidden inside a small pouch in the box is a USB-to-ethernet adapter, as well as an adapter to convert that mini VGA port to a full sized VGA cable.

The Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio technology sounds nice enough through the laptop's speakers, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking it will ever perform as well as a set of external speakers or headphones will.