Asus Zenbook UX32A review

24 Aug 2012

Asus’ Zenbook UX32A manages to be both gorgeous and affordable, but it’s far from being the perfect Ultrabook

Price when reviewed 
799
4

The allure of the Ultrabook is simple: reducing the laptop to a mere sliver, these dainty portables punch above their weight for performance, last hours on a single charge and are devilishly handsome. One thing they’re not, however, is cheap. Now, hot on the heels of Asus’ money-no-object Zenbook Prime UX31A, comes its most affordable Ultrabook yet, the Zenbook UX32A.

It’s hard not to do a double-take when you first see the new Zenbook. Barring a slight bulge on its underside, and a slightly thicker profile, it looks almost identical to its award-winning predecessor, the Zenbook UX31E. Asus hasn’t skimped on the build quality, either – the Zenbook UX32A’s attractive brushed metal body feels stiff and sturdy, and while it’s a little heavier than its stable-mates at 1.48kg, it’s just as portable as ever.

Asus Zenbook UX32A

The thicker chassis has its benefits, too. The thicker chassis affords room for three USB 3 ports, an SD/MMC card reader and a full-sized HDMI output. D-SUB and Ethernet adapters, meanwhile, are included in the box, and Bluetooth 4 and dual-band 802.11n wireless networking are present.

Elsewhere, it’s taken some judicious budgeting to build the Zenbook UX32A. The most obvious compromise is Asus’ choice of storage: rather than the SSD of Asus’ pricier Zenbooks, the UX32A makes do with a 5,400rpm Hitachi HDD equipped with a single 500GB platter. To fulfil Intel’s Ultrabook requirements, the Hitachi HDD buddies up with a 24GB SanDisk i100 SSD to take care of the high-speed caching and hibernation duties.

Asus Zenbook UX32A

The Core i5-3317U processor is a familiar face – it’s the same Ivy Bridge CPU that we’ve seen in Samsung’s 15in laptop, the Series 9 900X4C, amongst others – and it’s partnered with 4GB of memory. It’s not top-flight hardware, but it’s a solid combination, and the result of 0.65 in our benchmarks proves that there’s power enough for most applications. The only thing lacking is gaming performance: Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 improves on the Sandy Bridge generation, but an average of 38fps even in our least demanding Crysis test speaks volumes – this is far from a slimline gaming machine.

Battery life is also down on the last generation. We’d be inclined to point the finger at the Asus’ HDD and SSD combination – they’re almost certainly greedier than a single SSD – and the result is that the Zenbook UX32A’s battery runs flat after just 7hrs 25mins. That’s some way behind the Zenbook UX31A, which managed a Herculean 8hrs 53mins.

Details

Price ex VAT £666
Price inc VAT £799
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 325 x 223 x 18mm (WDH)
Weight 1.480kg
Travelling weight 1.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-3317U
Motherboard chipset Intel HM77
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 1
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 465GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Hard disk Hitachi
Battery capacity 6,520mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 7hr 25min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 9min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 38fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.65
Responsiveness score 0.77
Media score 0.66
Multitasking score 0.51

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7