Why is ASUS UK pricing of Ultrabooks so high?

Overpriced ASUS UX305Ever since the Ultrabook specification was introduced in 2011 I’ve found it a very appealing idea and have been lucky enough to use a huge variety of them through my work, and amongst them the ASUS Zenbook UX-range of products has stood out as often being amongst the best in their class.

The ASUS Zenbook UX31E and UX31A both combined a better than average screens – 1600×900 and 1920×1080 respectively when most 13.3″ Ultrabooks were using 1366×768 – and a sleek, well built, chassis to create a real MacBook Air killer, whilst the ASUS Zenbook UX301LA upped the ante with Haswell based internals (including Iris 5100 based models), even greater aesthetic attention to detail, and the option of a 2560×1440 screen.

Now their Core M based Zenbook UX305FA has launched with the latest generation Broadwell based Core M 5Y10 offering great power efficiency and sufficient performance for a small, ultra-mobile, laptop, a gorgeous 3200×1800 IPS screen, and a slender, 2015 MacBook style, chassis. I want one, a lot.

But I’m probably not going to buy one, and the reason is the same reason I never bought a Zenbook UX31E, UX31A or UX301LA – ASUS UK continued and bizarre pricing and SKU choices…

The problem with SKUing

Both the original Zenbook UX31E and UX31A models were available in 4 main configurations, with Core i5 and i7 processor and 128GB and 256GB SSD options. The i7 was an expensive option and generally not worth bothering with, whilst in the early days of Ultrabooks SSDs added over £1 per GB to the price due to the cost of flash memory at the time.

For whatever reason while most markets, such as the US and mainland Europe received the full range of SKU options the UK market was limited only to the highest specification model – the Core i7 with 256GB SSD. This immediately made the Zenbook UX31E and UX31A uncompetitive against other manufacturers offerings, but to add insult to injury the UK pricing was borderline obscene – with ASUS UK asking £1,500 for this model – £300 more than the same configuration cost in mainland Europe, or for a similarly configured MacBook Air!

Instead of a lower specification Zenbook UX31A the UK market did have the option of the ASUS Zenbook UX32A, which for a fraction under £700 (the same price as an i5 and 128GB UX31A in Europe) gave you a similar form factor with a thicker plastic chassis, mechanical hard drive storage and a 1366×768 screen – losing basically all of the UX31A’s key selling points.

The Zenbook UX301LA followed a similar pattern – limited SKU availability for the UK market and inflated pricing compared to mainland Europe, let alone the USA.

UX305 woes

And so have ASUS UK changed their policy with probably one of their most exciting laptops in years? Have they hell.

Right now I could hop over to Europe and buy an ASUS Zenbook UX305FA-FB003H from someone like Alza for £623 – and that includes a 21% tax rate. The FB003H features a QHD 3200×1800 screen, 256GB SSD and 802.11ac wireless, making it a very appealing prospect.

In the UK however we are only offered the ASUS Zenbook UX305FA-FC061H, which loses the QHD screen for a standard 1080p panel and reduces the SSD down to just 128GB, yet comes in at around £650 – from Alza on the continent this configuration is just £544. To make matters worse the the US market gets a 256GB SSD, 1080p model (albeit without 802.11ac wireless, settling for just 802.11n) for the equivalent of just £360! Even with taxes added on that is a HUGE pricing difference.

Now ASUS UK isn’t just jacking up the price for the UK market, but its ripping us off in terms of hardware spec as well!

Of course I could buy an import model, but then I have to settle for a non-UK keyboard layout and the hassle of dealing with a foreign warranty, and when I’m spending hundreds of my hard earned on a product that seems like an unreasonable compromise. This means for the 4th product cycle in a row I’m going to be passing up on their products for competitors, and that seems like a real shame.

Have you passed up on ASUS products because of their UK pricing policies? Let us know in the comments below.