Asus’ Zenbook Prime UX31A

PC laptops don’t get any love.

No, really. Ask your Mac-using friends. Some of them might already be toting Apple’s new 15″ Retina MacBook Pro, basking in the glory of its 2880×1800 IPS display. This isn’t a cheap computer we’re talking about, but at least it exists. Good luck finding something equivalent on the PC side. Rumor has it Apple is prepping a cheaper, 13″ model with a 2560×1600 resolution, too.

Or ask your tablet-using friends. The latest premium slates all have gorgeous IPS screens with high pixel densities: 2048×1536 for the new iPad and 1920×1200 for the latest Transformer Pad from Asus. Heck, even the original iPad had an IPS display, and it came out over two years ago. Tablets and high-quality IPS panels seem to be inextricably tied together—most of the time, anyway.

Now look at your PC laptop. Take a good look at it. Oh, it might have the world’s fastest hardware roaring away under the hood. It might even be quicker than your desktop. But that’s no guarantee that the manufacturer hasn’t saddled it with a TN panel, a 1366×768 display resolution, and a reflective coating—the trifecta of disappointing, generic blandness that pervades almost all Windows notebooks today. Even if you had the good fortune to find a machine with a 1080p screen, you probably had no way to avoid the the poor viewing angles and ugly color shifting of TN panel technology.

It’s a sad, wretched state of affairs, and it’s persisted for far too long. There may finally be hope, though.

I present you Asus’ new Zenbook Prime UX31A, possibly the first PC laptop that hasn’t made me long for the warm, fuzzy glow of my desktop monitors. This wedge-shaped ultrabook shatters convention by boasting a state-of-the-art, 13.3″ IPS panel with a razor-sharp 1920×1080 resolution. Asus even sprang for a matte coating. The classical trifecta of disappointment is nowhere to be found, and in its place is something that comes awfully close to visual bliss.

Now, let’s be clear. This isn’t the Windows world’s answer to the new MacBook Pro. It’s a smaller system with substantially less impressive hardware, and its display density (166 PPI, by my count) pales in comparison to the to the 221 PPI of Apple’s flagship. On the flip side, this up-and-comer from Asus has something entirely unattainable for the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro: a reasonable price tag.

Amazon lists the Zenbook Prime UX31A for just $1049.98 right now. That’s literally less than half the cost of the MacBook Pro. It’s actually $150 cheaper than the 13″ MacBook Air, a system saddled with an unimpressive TN panel and a good-but-not-great 1440×900 resolution. Somehow, Asus found a way to deliver a premium display in a notebook without an equally premium price tag.

More amazing still, Asus has apparently pulled off this feat without cutting corners. One certainly gets that impression from just picking up the Zenbook Prime. The brushed aluminum chassis feels slick, sexy, and sturdy, and the hardware that lurks within is very much on the cutting edge. You’ve got one of Intel’s latest 17W Ivy Bridge processors, a 128GB solid-state drive with 6Gbps Serial ATA connectivity, and upscale amenities like USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0. See for yourself:

Processor Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz
Memory 4GB DDR3-1600 (2 modules)
Chipset Intel HM76 Express
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
Display 13.3″ IPS panel with 1920×1080 resolution
Storage 128GB Adata XM11 solid-state drive
Audio HD audio via Realtek codec
Ports 2 USB 3.0

1 micro HDMI

1 Mini VGA

1 analog headphone/analog microphone

Expansion slots 1 SD card reader
Communications 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via Intel Centrino 6235

Bluetooth 4.0

10/100Mbps Ethernet (via USB 2.0 adapter)

Input devices Chiclet keyboard

Asus Smart-Pad

Internal microphone

Camera HD webcam
Dimensions 12.8″ x 8.8″ x 0.1-0.7″ (325 x 223 x 3-18 mm)
Weight 3.08 lbs (1.40 kg)
3.48 lbs (1.58 kg) with AC adapter
Battery 50 Wh polymer battery

This thing is every bit as thin and light as an ultrabook ought to be, as well. It measures just one tenth of an inch at its thinnest point, 0.7″ at its thickest, and weighs in at a little over three pounds. (Asus’ official spec sheet quotes a weight of 2.86 lbs, but our postal scale disagrees.) Despite the size and weight, the Zenbook has a beefy 50 Wh polymer battery. Our experience with other ultrabooks suggests 50 Wh should be plenty to guarantee, if not all-day mobility, something awfully close to that.

The Zenbook Prime isn’t Asus’ first stab at a sexy ultrabook with solid specs, of course. Display and internals aside, the UX31A is the spitting image of its predecessor, the Zenbook UX31, which we reviewed nearly a year ago. That machine was based on Intel’s first-generation ultrabook platform, with a 17W Sandy Bridge CPU and a matching 6-series chipset, but it had the same tapered chassis and distinctive “spun” finish on its brushed aluminum lid. The old Zenbook weighed about the same, had a similar battery, and was outfitted with equivalent complementary hardware. The display wasn’t quite as good, though; Asus used a TN panel with a 1600×900 resolution. Oh, and the price tag was slightly higher, at $1,099.

In less than one year, Asus appears to have refined the Zenbook formula to offer faster hardware and a substantially better display for 50 bucks less. Is there a catch, or is this ultrabook really as good as it sounds? Let’s find out.

The display

Hmm, where to begin…

Well, probably with the display. This is the pièce de resistance, after all. The display is the centerpiece of the Zenbook Prime formula; the one feature that makes the UX31A unique, and thus the one attribute that could break it. If this IPS panel fails to deliver, then perhaps you’ll be better off considering another, cheaper ultrabook.

At least with the naked eye, the Zenbook Prime’s display seems every bit as good as it ought to be. The colors are vivid, the backlighting is delightfully powerful, and the viewing angles are excellent. To compensate for the higher resolution, the default, bloatware-infused Windows installation cranks up the UI scaling setting from 100% to 125%. While widgets and text look the right size, they’re substantially crisper than what you see on a typical display—even a desktop one. Using 25% more pixels to draw each on-screen object will do that.

Unfortunately, higher-than-normal pixel densities have their drawbacks. Nowhere is that more obvious than in a freshly opened browser window.

While the browser’s UI scales beautifully, the web doesn’t. You’ve got three choices. You can stick to the 100% setting, where text is much too tiny for comfortable reading. (See above. The fonts in Windows Explorer are the right size for the display; the ones on TR aren’t.) You can scale text independently of graphics, which often breaks page layouts. The third option is to tell the browser to scale up the page by 25%, and that wreaks havoc with images.

Oh, photos might look okay. You might not even notice the difference in text-heavy websites like Reddit or Craigslist, since fonts scale without putting up a fight. Go to any graphically heavy page, though, and you’ll see blurry pixels and scaling artifacts if you look close. Some browsers scale graphics better than others, but no matter what you do, the web is always going to look either too small or too ugly.

Apple’s Retina MacBook Pro deals with this problem with a little more elegance. The system’s 2880×1800 resolution has four times the pixel count of 1440×900, its reference resolution for UI scaling. In most of the operating system—and in Retina-ready apps—objects are drawn with exactly four times the number of pixels. When Retina-ready graphics aren’t available, like on the web, each source pixel is simply mapped to four pixels on the display. You get jaggies, naturally, but at least scaling is consistent, proportional, and free of weird artifacts.

The Zenbook isn’t so lucky.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame Asus for the scaling woes of unfit software, though. Even without a perfect 1:4 scaling ratio, Windows browsers could do a far better job of scaling content without mangling graphics and botching CSS positioning. (IE9 seems particularly inept, and even Chrome and Firefox make mistakes.) More to the point, high-PPI displays are destined to take over. While they may be the exception right now, they’ll probably be the norm in a few years’ time. We already know Windows 8 will have better support for them, and software vendors everywhere will have to follow suit. One should think of the Zenbook Prime not as an eccentric fringe case, then, but as one the vanguards in an exciting but likely arduous transition.

With all that said, just look at the viewing angles on this thing. Yowza!

Clockwise, the images above show the display rotated to the side by 30°, leaning back at 110°, facing the camera at 90°, and leaning forward at 70°. For reference, check out how the previous-gen Zenbook UX31 handled itself in the exact same conditions. Note how the old Zenbook’s screen looks way darker at 110° and completely washed-out at 70°. Its horizontal viewing angles aren’t catastrophic, but the Zenbook Prime still exhibits less color shift when rotated 30° to the side.

That, folks, is why IPS displays are the bee’s knees. The Zenbook Prime gives you the same image with (roughly) the same level of contrast regardless of whether you’re slouching, leaning over the thing, or watching it from the side while someone else paws at it.

And now, some diagrams. We generated these by whipping out our colorimeter, an X-Rite EyeOne Display 2, and running HFCR after setting our display’s brightness as close to 120 cd/m² as possible.

This is our first time using HFCR in a laptop review, and since we’ve had to send back pretty much all of our past samples, we unfortunately don’t have diagrams for other, competing systems. I did, however, run the software on my HP ZR24w—a relatively upscale 24″ desktop monitor with an S-IPS panel—just to see how it would stack up against the Zenbook Prime’s screen. Click the buttons below each diagram to switch back and forth.

Zenbook Prime

Zenbook Prime

Clearly, the Zenbook Prime does well. It errs closer to the neutral 6500K color temperature than the ZR24w at the factory settings, and its gamut coverage is excellent, despite being a tad overzealous in the greens and reds.

Next, we cranked up the display’s backlight to its maximum setting and measured luminance at nine points along the panel’s surface. This gave us a rough sense of backlight uniformity. The luminance readings below are presented both as cd/m² figures as percentages of the most luminous point we measured. (Note that luminance and perceived brightness follow different scales, so the display appears more uniform than the chart below might suggest.)

403 cd/m²

(96%)

419 cd/m²

(100%)

418 cd/m²

(99%)

412 cd/m²

(98%)

419 cd/m²

(100%)

407 cd/m²

(97%)

421 cd/m²

(100%)

401 cd/m²

(95%)

396 cd/m²

(94%)

That’s a very respecatble showing for the Zenbook Prime—especially considering how poorly the Zenbook UX31 did in the same test last year. We’re looking at variance of only around 25 cd/m² for the Zenbook Prime, compared to 88 cd/m² for ye olde Zenbook UX31.

(Speaking of brightness, the Zenbook Prime takes a page from the Apple playbook by using a light sensor to adjust brightness dynamically. There doesn’t seem to be a control panel setting to disable it, but Asus provides a handy keyboard shortcut to turn it on and off: Fn-A. The sensor controls the keyboard’s backlight, too.)

So far, then, the Zenbook Prime’s panel seems to be downright impeccable. There’s no way it’s that perfect, though. Surely it has some kind of achilles’ heel. How about backlight leakage?

Ah-ha! Look at that bottom-right corner. Busted!

Okay, so this isn’t as bad as it looks. If you stare at the lower-right corner of the screen in a pitch-black room while viewing a dark image, then sure, you’ll see the leakage. Otherwise, you may be hard-pressed to notice it. I couldn’t detect it myself when watching a letterboxed video with the blinds shut. I had to take the Zenbook Prime into the bathroom and close the door with the light off—and even then, the display’s high contrast made the leakage difficult to detect unless I was viewing a particularly murky frame.

Could Asus have done better? Absolutely. They probably should have, too. But given the panel’s otherwise great performance, I find this small transgression easy to forgive. My two desktop IPS monitors both suffer from some amount of backlight leakage, as well, and that doesn’t detract from their immaculate image quality.

Keyboard and touchpad

Looking at that flawed gem of a display, you might be hard-pressed to notice the keyboard and touchpad underneath. They’re there, and these components are almost as important as a good LCD panel when you’re on the road. I know some folks carry around their own Bluetooth mice, but this is 2012, and notebook touchpads really should be good enough for use as primary pointing devices.

Oh boy, stickers! Apparently, Intel needed not just one sticker to pimp the Core i5 processor, but also another one to confirm that, yes, this is an ultrabook. At least the stickers sort of match the brushed aluminum palm rest.

The keyboard looks a bit different from the one Asus featured on the original UX31. Gone are the fake-metal keys, which were really plastic with a silver coating. In their place are black chiclet keys with rounded corners, which you may have seen on… uh, just about every other notebook on the market, including Apple’s MacBooks.

Asus has also added some nifty LED backlighting under the keys. You can hit Fn-F3 and Fn-F4 to cycle between the four backlighting settings: bright, brighter, brightest, and no backlighting at all, for when stealth is paramount.

Total keyboard area Alpha keys
Width Height Area Width Height Rough area
Size 276 mm 110 mm 30,360 mm² 170 mm 50 mm 8,500 mm²
Versus full size 96% 100% 96% 99% 88% 87%

The keyboard’s dimensions compare quite favorably to our non-chiclet reference. The alpha keys are admittedly not quite as tall, but they’re just as wide, and they don’t feel cramped by any stretch of the term.

More importantly, this keyboard feels good to type on. There’s a teeny little bit of flex in the center, but not a lot. The fact that the keyboard backplate is part of the same piece of carved aluminum as the rest of the body goes a long way. The keys have a nice, distinct bump to them, even if they they don’t feel quite as crisp as the ones on Apple keyboards.

The Zenbook Prime’s touchpad has a nice, broad surface area, and it offers full multi-touch input capabilities, so you can pinch, rotate, and swipe to your heart’s content. The driver software even lets you swipe down with three fingers to show the Windows desktop. Repeating the gesture backards unhides the windows. Nifty.

While we had some issues with the Zenbook UX31’s touchpad last year, the Zenbook Prime’s touchpad is much better-behaved. The tap-to-click functionality is a tad oversensitive, but other than that, we encountered no problems. My only other gripe is that the tracking surface is slightly too tacky, so my finger sometimes skips across it rather than gliding smoothly.

Connectivity and expansion

Look at all these ports! All… six of them.

Being an uber-slim ultrabook, the Zenbook Prime doesn’t exactly have room for much connectivity. Asus still covers the basics, though. The left edge has a USB 3.0 port, a dual-purpose headphone/mic jack, and an SD card reader. The right edge plays host to the AC connector, another USB 3.0 port, and a pair of display outputs: micro HDMI and Mini VGA.

Unlike, er, certain companies we shan’t mention, Asus doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for adapters. They’re shipped right in the box. There’s one to transform the Mini VGA output into a full-fledged VGA port, which should come in handy if you ever come across an old-fashioned projector or a monitor from the 1990s. The other adapter is a simple USB-to-Ethernet dongle.

Having Ethernet connectivity on an ultrabook can be a godsend in many situations, like, say, if you’re stuck in a hotel with crummy Wi-Fi. Don’t expect this dongle to offer a speed boost over Wi-Fi, though. The USB end only supports USB 2.0 transfer rates, and the Ethernet end maxes out at 100Mbps. I don’t know which is the bigger bottleneck, but large file copies seem to chug along at about 8-9MB/s or so—barely any faster than on the Wi-Fi.

Too bad Asus didn’t spring for a USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet adapter. At least aftermarket ones are available, though. Newegg has some in stock for just over 30 bucks.

This is the part of our notebook reviews where we usually pop open the various doors and compartments on the underside, exposing memory slots, drive bays, and the like.

The Zenbook Prime saved us a bit of time, because it has no such compartments. The underside is as smooth as a baby’s butt (save for a few vents and some rubber pads), and it’s held shut by a set of Torx screws, which are PC manufacturer shorthand for “keep out.”

Not that this is out of the ordinary for an ultrabook. These things aren’t designed with geeks and tinkerers in mind.

We’ve got one last bit of hardware to examine before we move on to benchmarks: the AC adapter. This is the same kind of adapter Asus bundled with the original Zenbook, and it looks like a black version of what Apple ships with its MacBooks. The adapter adds about 0.4 lbs, or 180 g, to the weight of the Zenbook Prime, bringing it up to 3.48 lbs (1.58 kg).

Our grievances from a year ago remain: we wish the cable were longer (or that there were an option to replace the AC connector with an extension cable, as with the Apple adapter), and we’re not enamored with the DC connector, which feels a little flimsy, with its thin metal prong surrounded by an oversized chunk of plastic.

Our testing methods

Let’s now look at how this bad boy handles itself in our benchmarks. We don’t have numbers for the exact UX31 model we reviewed last year (we’ve changed our test suite since then), but we have figures for the UX31E, which is a little quicker than the original UX31 but otherwise very similar. To provide another, useful reference point, we’ve included data for the white-box Ivy Bridge ultrabook Intel sent us this spring. The other systems we tested were all full-sized laptops with higher-wattage processors, so we greyed them out in our bar charts.

Note that the UX31E, UX31A, and other Asus notebooks ship with special battery profiles configured by Asus. We used to test the “High Performance” and “Battery Saving” profiles in our reviews, but that posed several problems. It made our graphs harder to read, complicated comparisons with non-Asus laptops, and doubled the amount of time we spent running performance and battery tests. With our new laptop benchmark suite, we’re conducting tests with the same battery profile across all systems: Windows’ default “Balanced” profile. We tweaked that profile slightly to make sure our laptops didn’t prematurely go to sleep or shut down during testing, but otherwise, we kept it as-is.

We ran every test at least three times and reported the median of the scores produced. The test systems were configured like so:

System AMD A8-3500M test system AMD A10-4600M test system Asus N56VM Asus N53S Asus UX31A Asus UX31E Intel Core i5-3427U test system
Processor AMD A8-3500M APU 1.5GHz AMD A10-4600M 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3720QM 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-2677M 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U 1.8GHz
North bridge AMD A70M FCH AMD A70M FCH Intel HM76 Express Intel HM65 Express Intel HM76 Express Intel QS67 Express Intel UM77 Express
South bridge
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 8GB (2 DIMMs) 8GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24 11-11-12-28 11-11-11-28 9-9-9-24 11-11-11-28 9-9-9-24 11-11-11-28
Audio IDT codec IDT codec with 6.10.0.6277 drivers Realtek codec with 6.0.1.6537 drivers Realtek codec with 6.0.1.6463 drivers Realtek codec with 6.0.1.6608 drivers Realtek codec with 6.0.1.5677 drivers Realtek codec with 6.0.1.6612 drivers
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6620G + AMD Radeon HD 6630M

with Catalyst 12.4 drivers

AMD Radeon HD 7660G with Catalyst 8.945 RC2 drivers Intel HD Graphics 4000 with 8.15.10.2696 drivers

GeForce GT 630M with 296.54 drivers

Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 8.15.10.2462 drivers

GeForce GT 630M with 296.54 drivers

Intel HD Graphics 4000 with 8.15.10.2696 Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 8.15.10.2559 drivers Intel HD Graphics 4000 with 8.15.10.2725 drivers
Hard drive Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 250GB 7,200 RPM WD Scorpio Black 500GB 7,200 RPM Seagate Momentus 750GB 7,200-RPM Seagate Momentus 750GB 7,200-RPM Adata XM11 128GB SSD SanDisk U100 256GB SSD Intel 520 Series 240GB SSD
Operating system Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Windows 7 Professional x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64

Thanks to AMD, Asus, and Intel for volunteering laptops for us to test.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Productivity

TrueCrypt disk encryption

TrueCrypt supports acceleration via Intel’s AES-NI instructions, so the encoding of the AES algorithm, in particular, should be very fast on the CPUs that support those instructions. We’ve also included results for another algorithm, Twofish, that isn’t accelerated via dedicated instructions.

7-Zip file compression and decompression

The figures below were extracted from 7-Zip’s built-in benchmark.

SunSpider JavaScript performance

We tested the latest SunSpider release, version 0.9.1, in a special build of Chromium (the open-source version of Chrome) that we keep around for such purposes.

In these productivity tests, the Zenbook Prime is about neck-and-neck with the older, Sandy Bridge-based Zenbook. It’s a little faster in TrueCrypt’s Twofish test and a little slower in the AES test, 7-Zip, and SunSpider.

That’s not bad, especially considering the UX31A’s Core i5-3317U processor is at somewhat of a disadvantage—it has a lower base clock speed, a lower Turbo speed, and less cache than the UX31E’s Sandy Bridge chip. The i5-3317U does benefit from Ivy Bridge’s IPC improvements, however, and it’s backed up by quicker RAM.

Oh, and obviously, the Zenbook Prime trails the Intel reference ultrabook. That machine features a quicker processor based on the same silicon as the i5-3317U.

As for the other machines with the greyed-out bars in the chart, well, those are all larger, more power-hungry systems. The N56VM, for instance, is a 15-inch behemoth with a quad-core, 45W Ivy Bridge processor, so there’s little question about its supremacy in these benchmarks. It’s worth noting that the 35W AMD APUs have a tendency to lag behind Intel’s 17W ultrabook silicon, though.

Image processing

The Panorama Factory photo stitching
The Panorama Factory handles an increasingly popular image processing task: joining together multiple images to create a wide-aspect panorama. This task can require lots of memory and can be computationally intensive, so The Panorama Factory comes in a 64-bit version that’s widely multithreaded. We asked it to join four pictures, each eight megapixels, into a glorious panorama of the interior of Damage Labs.

Video encoding

x264 HD benchmark

This benchmark tests one of the most popular H.264 video encoders, the open-source x264. The results come in two parts, for the two passes the encoder makes through the video file. I’ve chosen to report them separately, since that’s typically how the results are reported in the public database of results for this benchmark.

Here, we see the Zenbook Prime start to spread its wings, outpacing the UX31E in both image stitching and x264 video compression. Its margin of victory is quite substantial in the latter.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Our Skyrim test involved running around the town of Whiterun, starting from the city gates, all the way up to Dragonsreach, and then back down again.

We tested at 1366×768 using the “medium” detail preset.

Frame time

in milliseconds

FPS rate
8.3 120
16.7 60
20 50
25 40
33.3 30
50 20

Now, we should preface the results below with a little primer on our testing methodology. Along with measuring average frames per second, we delve inside the second to look at frame rendering times. Studying the time taken to render each frame gives us a better sense of playability, because it highlights issues like stuttering that can occur—and be felt by the player—within the span of one second. Charting frame times shows these issues clear as day, while charting average frames per second obscures them.

For example, imagine one hypothetical second of gameplay. Almost all frames in that second are rendered in 16.7 ms, but the game briefly hangs, taking a disproportionate 100 ms to produce one frame and then catching up by cranking out the next frame in 5 ms—not an uncommon scenario. You’re going to feel the game hitch, but the FPS counter will only report a dip from 60 to 56 FPS, which would suggest a negligible, imperceptible change. Looking inside the second helps us detect such skips, as well as other issues that conventional frame rate data measured in FPS tends to obscure.

We’re going to start by charting frame times over the totality of a representative run for each system—though we conducted five runs per system to sure our results are solid. These plots should give us an at-a-glance impression of overall playability, warts and all. (Note that, since we’re looking at frame latencies, plots sitting lower on the Y axis indicate quicker solutions.)


We can slice and dice our raw frame-time data in other ways to show different facets of the performance picture. Let’s start with something we’re all familiar with: average frames per second. Though this metric doesn’t account for irregularities in frame latencies, it does give us some sense of typical performance.

Next, we can demarcate the threshold below which 99% of frames are rendered. The lower the threshold, the more fluid the game. This metric offers a sense of overall frame latency, but it filters out fringe cases.

Of course, the 99th percentile result only shows a single point along the latency curve. We can show you that whole curve, as well. With integrated graphics or single-GPU configs, the right hand-side of the graph—and especially the last 10% or so—is where you’ll want to look. That section tends to be where the best and worst solutions diverge.

Finally, we can rank solutions based on how long they spent working on frames that took longer than 50 ms to render. The results should ideally be “0” across the board, because the illusion of motion becomes hard to maintain once frame latencies rise above 50-ms or so. (50 ms frame times are equivalent to a 20 FPS average.) Simply put, this metric is a measure of “badness.” It tells us about the scope of delays in frame delivery during the test scenario.

No question about it, the Zenbook Prime eats the older Zenbook for breakfast. The difference in average FPS may not amount to much, but as our over-50-ms graph demonstrates, the Zenbook’s HD 3000 IGP spends considerably more time struggling with unusually long frame latencies than the Prime’s HD 4000.

That said, Skyrim is simply not playable at these settings on either system. The game feels very choppy and doesn’t respond quickly to input. Achieving playable frame times will involve at least stepping down to the “Low” detail preset, and no matter what, you’re not going to enjoy this game at the Zenbook Prime’s native 1080p resolution.

Batman: Arkham City

We grappled and glided our way around Gotham, occasionally touching down to mingle with the inhabitants.

Arkham City was tested at 1366×768 using medium detail and medium FXAA, with v-sync disabled.


The Zenbook Prime’s performance in Arkham City is less disenheartening than in Skyrim. We’re seeing a fair number of latency spikes, no doubt because the game constantly has to stream content in order to render the city seamlessly, but the Zenbook Prime strays much closer to what we’d call playable than the Zenbook UX31E.

I still wouldn’t call the experience optimal, though. We’re looking at a 99th-percentile frame latency of 93.2 ms—which, if maintained for a whole second, would work out to about 11 FPS. Not exactly anything to be proud of.

Battlefield 3

We tested Battlefield 3 by playing through the start of the Kaffarov mission, right after the player lands. Our 90-second runs involved walking through the woods and getting into a firefight with a group of hostiles, who fired and lobbed grenades at us.

BF3 wasn’t really playable at anything but the lowest detail preset using these IGPs—so that’s what we used.


Battlefield 3 is basically just as awful as Skyrim on the Zenbook Prime. By that I mean the game can be played, but not really enjoyed… well, unless laggy input and slideshow-like combat are your idea of a good time.

If it’s any consolation, the Zenbook UX31E fares even worse than the Prime here. Battlefield 3 makes Sandy Bridge’s HD 3000 IGP soil itself, apparently. Frame times are ridiculously high, and the game is choc-full of visual artifacts on that system.

Battery run times

We tested battery run times twice: once running TR Browserbench 1.0, a web browsing simulator of our own design, and again looping a 720p Game of Thrones episode in Windows Media Player. (In case you’re curious, TR Browserbench is a static version of TR’s old home page rigged to refresh every 45 seconds. It cycles through various permutations of text content, images, and Flash ads, with some cache-busting code to keep things realistic.)

Before testing, we conditioned the batteries by fully discharging and then recharging each system twice in a row. We also used our colorimeter to equalize the display luminosity at around 100 cd/m². That meant brightness levels of 25% for the Zenbook Prime, 20% for the UX31E, 25% for the Ivy ultrabook, 45% for the N53S, 25% for the N56VM, 40% for the Trinity system, and 70% for the Llano machine. The N53S and N56VM had larger panels than the other machines, though, which might have affected power consumption.

We should note one other caveat: these systems didn’t all have the same battery capacities. The batteries in the two quad-core Intel notebooks both had 56 Wh ratings. The Llano laptop had a 58 Wh battery, and the Trinity system’s battery was rated for 54 Wh. As for our ultrabooks, the Ivy whitebook system was rated for 49.4 Wh, and both the Zenbook UX31E and the Zenbook Prime UX31A had 50 Wh battery ratings.

Well, there you have it. The Zenbook Prime’s gorgeous, high-density IPS display doesn’t seem to curtail battery life one bit. In fact, the system pulls off the best runs times we’ve measured using our new suite.

These numbers are especially impressive considering the Zenbook Prime has the same battery capacity and roughly the same weight as the old UX31E. The Prime is actually lighter than the Intel ultrabook by a couple of ounces.

Video playback

The video playback tests from our old mobile test suite were originally conceived with netbooks in mind, so we decided to up the ante a little with our new suite. We located two versions of the second trailer for Rian Johnson’s Looper: one in 1080p H.264 format from the Apple website and the other, also in 1080p format, on YouTube. We played back the former in Windows Media Player and the latter in Chrome 21 with the built-in Flash 11.3 plug-in, and we used Windows’ Performance Monitor utility to record CPU utlization.

CPU % (low) CPU % (high) Result
Looper H.264 1080p 0.0 8.0 Perfect
Looper YouTube 1080p (Flash 11.3) 0.2 20.4 Perfect

No big surprise here; this state-of-the-art Ivy Bridge ultrabook has no problems at all handling 1080p video, even in Flash.

Surface temperatures

We measured temperatures using an infrared thermometer at a distance of 1″ from the system after it had been running TR Browserbench 1.0 for about an hour.

32°C

90°F

35°C

95°F

34°C

93°F

31°C

88°F

31°C

88°F

35°C

95°F

34°C

93°F

33°C

91°F

32°C

90°F

32°C

90°F

This puppy runs ever-so-slightly hotter than the original UX31, but the difference amounts to only 4°C at most, and some spots are the exact same temperature on both systems. The Zenbook Prime didn’t cause any discomfort when perched on my lap.

Conclusions

Over the past few pages, we’ve seen that the Zenbook Prime’s display really does live up to the hype. We’ve seen that this sexy little ultrabook is just as fast, if not faster, than its Sandy Bridge-powered predecessor. (Its graphics performance is certainly a step above the previous generation, even if it’s not anywhere near good enough to play the latest games at decent settings. Casual titles and older games would be a better fit for this machine.) More importantly, we’ve seen that the Zenbook Prime has terrific battery life, beating both the previous-gen machine and Intel’s reference Ivy Bridge ultrabook.

Asus has made other refinements, too. It’s added keyboard backlighting and USB 3.0 connectivity, and it’s ironed out the issues we had with the first Zenbook’s touchpad a year ago. The extra polish is palpable. Yet somehow, the Zenbook Prime costs less than the original Zenbook did last year. The $1050 price tag is even lower than that of Apple’s current-gen 13″ MacBook Air, which doesn’t have nearly as good a display.

If that’s not a bargain, I don’t know what is.

Sadly, there’s one little flaw that prevents us from giving this ultrabook a full-fledged TR Editor’s Choice award. The problem isn’t Asus’ fault by any means—indeed, we need more notebook makers to take the plunge and offer high-PPI laptops, lest the status quo remain unchanged. But the issue is bound to annoy prospective users just the same.

That problem, as you’ve probably guessed, is spotty software support for the high-PPI display. Folks shouldn’t have to compromise between ugly graphics scaling and Lilliputian fonts when browsing the web, but it’s a sad reality that must be confronted with the Zenbook Prime. Other Windows apps also exhibit an occasional reticence to bend themselves to the system’s DPI setting. Windows 8 may improve or even resolve the situation entirely, but this ultrabook ships with Windows 7 right now, and wishful thinking about future fixes isn’t enough to warrant a more solid endorsement.

Comments closed
    • eitje
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]I had to take the Zenbook Prime into the bathroom and close the door with the light off...[/quote<] PURELY FOR TESTING PURPOSES.

    • sschaem
    • 7 years ago

    I wish we could have an Orange to Orange laptop test… (The A10-4600M actually look interesting.)

    I’m still in the camp that favor GPU speed over CPU speed on laptops, and the 17W ivy bridge falls just a little short.

    Now I wonder how a 35W ivy bridge compare with the A10-4600M overall.
    Not just raw number, but also in true battery life.

      • Visigoth
      • 7 years ago

      Haswell GT3 will fix any ailments you might still have, trust me on this one.

      • chuckula
      • 7 years ago

      Didn’t TR already to a full-sized Ivy Bridge & Trinity review? IIRC, the results were nothing surprising (Trinity wins on GPU, Ivy on CPU). The battery life tests were a little murky since the reference Trinity notebook sent out by AMD (which you can’t actually buy anywhere) had excellent battery life, although as we see here the 17-watt Ivy Bridge parts are really starting to come into their own now that the OEMs have learned how to use them properly.

    • chriso11
    • 7 years ago

    DOH! Nevermind

    • Supercharged_Z06
    • 7 years ago

    The UX32VD-DB71 is a MUCH better buy if you are going to sink this much dough into an ultrabook. Pop out the 500gb mechanical drive that it comes with and sell it. Use the cash to defray the purchase of a fast 240gb SSD (roughly $180 these days) as well as a 8gb SO-DIMM (~$50) to bring the system RAM up to 10GB and you’ll then have something really worthy of a review! (An i7 CPU, a full-sized HDMI port, 3 USB 3.0 ports, discrete Nvidia graphics, a better keyboard with backlighting, etc. all in a less than 3lb package!) The UX31 series being stuck at 4GB of RAM that’s soldered to the motherboard really hampers things IMHO and the UX32 series corrects this oversight by allowing/providing for a user upgrade path.

    • xii
    • 7 years ago

    Interesting laptop. What about sound and fan noise? Or did I skim over those things?

    • adisor19
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<] Unlike, er, certain companies we shan't mention, Asus doesn't charge an arm and a leg for adapters. They're shipped right in the box. There's one to transform the Mini VGA output into a full-fledged VGA port, which should come in handy if you ever come across an old-fashioned projector or a monitor from the 1990s. The other adapter is a simple USB-to-Ethernet dongle. [/quote<] ORLY, then where is the MicroHDMI to HDMI adapter ?! Adi

      • indeego
      • 7 years ago

      The amusing thing is you troll and troll and troll but it says far more about you than any other product you extoll on about.

      I guess it comes down to: Why?

      What do you get out of this?

        • adisor19
        • 7 years ago

        How is this trolling ? Cyril is trying to make a point by saying ASUS includes all the adapters with their notebook not unlike Apple who charges a pretty penny for them yet he fails to mention how there is no mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter included.

        Please explain.

        Adi

    • mattthemuppet
    • 7 years ago

    wait, so a PC laptop maker finally gave us the high DPI, matte, IPS panel we’ve all been moaning about the lack of for years and we complain that things aren’t perfect? Really? At least we didn’t have the 100s of “1366×768=EPIC FAIL” comments that usually grace laptop review comments.

    Personally, if nothing better comes out over the next year when I’m going to replace my aging 3810, this would suit me down to the ground – great display, light, long battery life, enough power and storage for my needs. The fact that the keyboard and trackpad don’t suck is just the icing on the cake!

      • adisor19
      • 7 years ago

      You’re wrong about the trackpad. It still sucks. Not as much as with the old Elantech drivers, but it still sucks. The two finger scrolling is erratic and the worst part : ghost taps still happen when they’re not supposed to.

      Adi

        • mattthemuppet
        • 7 years ago

        that’s a shame, you would have thought they’d have figured it out by now 🙁

          • adisor19
          • 7 years ago

          They still have work to do, but it’s definitely an improvement.

          Adi

    • WillBach
    • 7 years ago

    Cyril, I just did a bunch of math to find out that Windows 8 would look good on this laptop’s screen at 100% scaling. Mind booting the consumer preview and letting us know for sure?

      • indeego
      • 7 years ago

      [i<]Bunch of math[/i<] sounds like an awesome unit of measurement.

        • WillBach
        • 7 years ago

        You think the WillBach bunch (of math) will displace the Smoot (of length)?

        • willyolio
        • 7 years ago

        the BoM does sound more powerful than FLOPS

    • yokem55
    • 7 years ago

    Dear Asus, HP, anyone, please make one of these with an A10. All the A10 options have awful displays….

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      And TDPs are over 17W

        • halbhh2
        • 7 years ago

        You handle the TDP vagueness just like the article did: test battery run times, and for extra, test temperatures on the laptop. I’d like to see 2 different battery run times: A) gaming a demanding game for hours until battery dead; B) mixed use, including idle times (about 1 hour of just idle time for being real-world would do it), such as a movie, some surfing (use a script to automate the test). Of course there are a variety of ways to test run time. But the gaming test A) would be quite interesting, although it would need some kind of apples-to-apples in terms of framerates, so the Intel laptop would *need an discrete graphics chip* to match the A10 in framerate, then the test is even-level.

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          How about we go for apples/apples in power consumption, and then look.at frame rates? Show me one benchmark where Trinity managed to meet Ivy in power efficiency while beating it in frame rates?

            • halbhh2
            • 7 years ago

            ok, if you want to prioritize power use over framerate. I think the real test that matters is what machine has the best battery life and still plays a game well without stuttering. Period. So I reject the notion that only cpu power use matters. It matters among other things that matter just as much.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            It’s just as much a sliding scale as battery life. What’s the resolution for the game? Quality settings? At low-quality settings Ivy can beat Trinity in battery life stutter-free, while at higher settings a higher-TDP Trinity might be stutter-free while Ivy fails.

            I was just trying to point out that an argument for Ivy can be as strong as the argument for Trinity; the two arguments just have different parameters.

            • halbhh2
            • 7 years ago

            Just see the results in the article.

    • halbhh2
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t play games much on my laptop, so an ultrabook with a nice display like this would be sweet.

    I wasn’t aware of how completely the A10 integrated graphics thrash and dominate the HD 4000 graphics though. Interesting.

    It looks like games are very playable on the A10 systems. That’s interesting too.

      • halbhh2
      • 7 years ago

      Surely they will issue a fix to the scaling problem for web pages. I gotta admit that would be unacceptable to me.

    • yogibbear
    • 7 years ago

    Asus’ Zenbook Prime UX31A is their DIRECT ANSWER to the Apple MacBook Pro, or anyone that wants bootcamp into Windows 7 on a shiny piece of beautiful hardware.

    This will be a tough call, but will certainly TRADE BLOWS against almost every other “ultrabook” out there, and due to its PRICE POINT calls into question the value of the entire Apple notebook suite.

    I wish I had more to say, but I’m not impressed, not at all.

    Needs a proper GPU rather than this intel HD4000 crap if it ever wants to EFFORTLESSLY HANDLE Crysis at MEGAPIXEL GAMING but will be interesting if it was capable for X-COM Enemy Unknown WHEN YOU THROW AA/AF AT IT then it might be a very very awesome game.

      • willyolio
      • 7 years ago

      I, too, sometimes HAVE DIFFICULTY controlling the VOLUME of my VOICE.

        • yogibbear
        • 7 years ago

        *Sigh*… guess you didn’t *get* it…. your loss, sadly.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 7 years ago

          I got it, and I thank you for this contribution.

            • Chrispy_
            • 7 years ago

            Yip yap yadda not impressed, not at all.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            Lol! I read that as if one of the Martians from Sesame Street was Krogoth. “Yip yip yip yip awww hawwww not impressed”

            [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTc3PsW5ghQ[/url<]

          • Bauxite
          • 7 years ago

          Emphasizing the Krogoth Template fill-in-the-blanks sections with caps ruined it. Its better to go with subtlety, although italics might have worked.

      • liquidsquid
      • 7 years ago

      There is an i7 version with a larger HD and proper nVidia for ~$200 more.

        • halbhh2
        • 7 years ago

        That would be interesting to compare. Since the price would be up there, the A10 machine would be in a lower price class. But even though that price difference means it isn’t a fair comparison, it would still be interesting to see how much of a Nvidia it takes to match the A10. To get a notion of just how much.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 7 years ago

    Every computer geek has a Torx screwdriver. You couldn’t show us the inside, or you [i<]wouldn't[/i<] show us the inside?

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    That was a really interesting read Cyril, and I like the new screen testing metrics.

    Whilst I definitely agree with you about the quirks of high-dpi displays, I don’t feel that a manufacturer should [i<]ever[/i<] be penalised for using one. You said yourself that the one thing holding it back is the poor software scaling at high dpi, but that has nothing to do with the display, only the software being shown on the display. To penalise this Zenbook for having a high-dpi display is giving manufacturers [i<]entirely[/i<] the wrong message. It's like [i<]flipping the bird[/i<] to the companies that try, and it will only encourage more of the 1366x768 drivel we've become accustomed to if we punish companies for trying to improve display quality.

      • Ditiris
      • 7 years ago

      I was going to comment with the same reasoning, but I think in the end I have to agree with the assessment. Apple has been as successful as they have because of their holistic approach to computing which concentrates on the user experience, and software is more important than hardware in that context.

      I don’t think he’s penalizing Asus for the Zenbook’s high-dpi display, but recognizing that there needs to be better scaling options in software to take advantage of the hardware, which is a valid criticism, and certainly something a customer would want to know before purchasing the product.

        • Chrispy_
        • 7 years ago

        That’s a fair enough answer I suppose.

        I still feel that a high-dpi display with a few badly scaled images when web-browsing is better than a low-dpi display that falls short in everything else.

        I’m probably in the minority though, which makes sense given how many models are available with washed-out, low-res, TN panels that have atrocious viewing angles. Everyone else has been voting with their wallets, and the manufacturers have listened. They will drop quality on a whim if it’ll shave a few bucks off the retail price.

    • mcnels1
    • 7 years ago

    The specifications on page 1 give memory as “4GB DDR3-1600 (2 SO-DIMMs)” but the memory is actually soldered to the motherboard, not SO-DIMMs. I don’t know why Asus thinks that is adequate.

      • A_Pickle
      • 7 years ago

      Check out the UX32.

    • patriotolo
    • 7 years ago

    The backlight leaking issue is probably an early batch IPS panel production problem. I had mine with back light leaking near the bottom right corner of the screen too. I purchased the unit in July. Sent it back to ASUS service center and they replaced the whole LCD for me with absolute no backlight leaking issues. I tested it under the same setting as you mentioned in your review.

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    UX21A-like mini-ultrabook with Haswell in it, please!

      • drfish
      • 7 years ago

      Indeed – and another one with a bit more heft to it with room for more battery and discrete graphics as well. Some of us want Ultrabook quality but don’t mind a little more junk in the trunk so to speak.

    • phez
    • 7 years ago

    theres an option in chrome to change the font size independent of page scaling. perhaps this is what you are looking for?

      • Cyril
      • 7 years ago

      Ah, forgot to address that. The problem with text-only scaling is that it’s likely to break page layouts. Graphically heavy sites usually don’t support text scaling well, and lines of text can overflow out of their elements or disappear altogether. It falls in the “ugly” category.

    • Sunburn74
    • 7 years ago

    There is something that people must know before purchase. Most reviewers use laptops with Adata hard drives. However, a very very high proportion of laptops on the market use sandisk u100 drives which are absolutely terrible drives (their random read performance is just a little better than conventional hard drives). Asus is likely clearing inventory of old ssds.

    The only way to know which hard drive you have is to either 1) open the box and look (asus does not label the box) or 2) call in the S/N to asus representatives over the phone or via email. Its very sad that for a thousand dollar product, users have to play a lottery to get the right hard drive.

      • grantmeaname
      • 7 years ago

      That’s interesting, because the notebookreview thread had even the [s<]Adata[/s<] sandisk drives fast enough to saturate a sata 2 link, and getting a 7.5 WEI subscore. Do you have some sort of evidence that they've gotten worse since then, or are you mindlessly parroting FUD about a non-issue?

        • yogibbear
        • 7 years ago

        Did you read his post? Obviously not.

          • grantmeaname
          • 7 years ago

          I read every word of it and more than 200 pages of the notebookreview thread. Sorry for the typo.

        • Sunburn74
        • 7 years ago

        What I am saying is that whilst all professional reviews on the web are with Adata SSDs (I assume asus sends them out to reviewers for free and are cherry picking laptops that have the best drive), the reality is that a very very high proportion of laptops on the market use sandisk SSDs (for example, every asus ux31a at my local best buy and local microcenter were sandisk U100 ssds; I know because I called in the S/N of each one). When users have compared the two, the sandisk appears to be a terrible drive. Its actually the drive used in the UX31E and most likely asus is just clearing inventory at the expense of its customers.

        So it’s essentially a lottery. You pay $1000+ dollars and have X percent chance of getting a solid laptop with the best absolute drive vs a laptop with a lousy drive. In addition, once you have a sandisk SSD, asus absolutely refuses to exchange the ssd for an ADATA under any conditions. Cutting corners like that is why Asus is asus and apple is apple.

        When I emailed Asus this was the response: I deleted names for privacy

        Good evening Mr. X,

        I do apologize about the SSD issues you are experiencing. We test a variety of drives, from different vendors, and as long as these drives meet a performance benchmark, their hardware could be used in that model. According to our own internal part database, these two drives have the same part number, so there really is no way to differenciate one drive from the other. This simply means that users with the ADATA drive will recieve a higher than specified performance increase, than compared to a magnetic drive.

        —–

        If there are any further questions or concerns you may have, please do not hesitate to contact me.

        X
        Customer Care Escalations / Level 3 Technician
        ASUSTek Computer Inc

        I’m just trying to warn you that don’t be surprised if when you order your Asus UX31A you receive a sandisk drive and don’t get the same great end user experience that techreport is reporting.

          • grantmeaname
          • 7 years ago

          They’re extraordinarily fast drives that score a WEI 7.5 and don’t feel any different to the end user. Even a WEI 6 drive is still a blazing fast ssd that’s only imperceptibly slower than the state of the art. I know that they’re using two different drives, and never disputed that. I just think it’s pretty clearly not a noticeable difference and you’re making a mountain of a molehill.

            • Sunburn74
            • 7 years ago

            Random read/write performance is what really makes for that responsive feel and is where you will feel a drive chugging. Remember the very first ssds to hit the market all had throughput speeds of 200+ mb/s but their random performance was terrible, and your PC would slow to a crawl during simple things like instant messenger (until on board caching was implemented and some other things)

            When the sandisk u100 is benchmarked, its 4k random read/write scores are 9/7 mb/s
            When the adata drive is benchmarked its 4k random read/write scores are 17/42

            For comparison, a WD velociraptor has a 4k random read/write of 2.7/2.7

            For further comparison, an intel 320 (mid range ssd) has a 4k random read/write of 60/57
            I can go on and on trying to convince you but read for yourself:

            [url<]http://thessdreview.com/our-reviews/asus-zenbook-ssd-review-not-necessarily-sandforce-driven-shows-significant-speed-bump/3/[/url<] Even if you truly believe the sandisk to be an acceptable drive for a 1000+ machine, is it right for asus to make customers play a lottery?

      • adisor19
      • 7 years ago

      ASUS has completly abandoned the ADATA SSD because it costs too much. They’re only selling the crap U100 Sandisk controller based SSD on the entire UX31A line.

      Buyer beware. 🙁

      Adi

        • Sunburn74
        • 7 years ago

        If that is really true, then I think I’ll be waiting at least another year for an ultrabook.
        The really annoying thing is that Asus uses a propietary SSD connector as well meaning you can’t even buy an aftermarket SSD to replace what they stick in there. Its very very annoying.

    • juampa_valve_rde
    • 7 years ago

    The problem resides in Windows DPI Scaling, the screen is gorgeous and the system looks pretty usable. Bad that would be hard to see here in the 3rd world.

    • mczak
    • 7 years ago

    CPU: this is where they saved the money from the old version – going with i5 instead of i7 saves ~100$ in this case (it’s a good tradeoff mind you).
    I’m a bit puzzled though looking at the i5-3427u (as used in the reference notebook) and the i5-3317u (as used in the ux31a). According to ark.intel.com, both cpus cost exactly the same and were released at the same time. But the former adds 100Mhz more base clock, 200Mhz more turbo clock, and 100Mhz more turbo gpu clock, while adding a couple of features (which you won’t need, vpro and txt). So why anyone would want to use i5-3317u instead of i5-3427u I don’t know, unless intel only sells the latter to be used in reference notebooks or something… But the i5-3427u should have been enough to beat or match last year’s i7 in pretty much all cases. Even if it would cost a couple bucks more though I think it would be worth it (unlike the i7), but maybe the cpu really doesn’t exist.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 7 years ago

      If you want the Core i7 3517U, spring for the UX32VD. I did.
      [url<]http://www.asus.com/Notebooks/Superior_Mobility/ASUS_ZENBOOK_UX32VD/#specifications[/url<]

        • grantmeaname
        • 7 years ago

        There are also UX31A’s specced with it, but they come with a 256GB SSD and the resulting huge markup.

          • hiro_pro
          • 7 years ago

          it is hard to justify the $300 markup for the 256gb version. and i wonder how long a 128gb drive will last. half the hard drive goes to windows, office, adobe, the 3 browsers, and the other programs we need. where is the room for work/school files?

          my wife has been all over me for an ultrabook and i keep leaning towards the ux32 with the 500gb replaceable hard drive. last week we saw the agility 4 512 gb drive for $300 so i can get bigger ssd for less there.

            • grantmeaname
            • 7 years ago

            I totally agree, it’s an obscene markup.

            • liquidsquid
            • 7 years ago

            Note that is has an nVidia accelerator in there rather then athe Intel crap, thus part of the markup.

            • grantmeaname
            • 7 years ago

            That’s the ux32vd. Hiro was referring to the ux32a, which has the Intel IGP.

            • hiro_pro
            • 7 years ago

            from what i have read the nvidia card does not add much to the performance of this laptop but does increase the heat output, creating hot spots that are over 100 degrees. it (and he mechanical hd) also takes about 20% off the battery life. at a guess the lower watt motherboard/cpu combo aren’t setup for graphics accelerators and this probably isn’t the laptop you would buy to push your 2 x 27″ monitors.

    • evilnickwong
    • 7 years ago

    When I first got my XPS 15z (1080p on a 15.6″ screen), the OS setting was also at 125%. When I had issues with UI elements not being laid out correctly in certain scenarios, I switched back to 100%. Text was small, and I resorted to using zoom on browsers, but after awhile, I got used to it and am now at 100% with no zoom. My laptop even sits further away from me since I have it on a stand at work with an external keyboard/mouse.

    I imagine 1080p on the Zenbook’s smaller 13.3″ screen to be much, much tougher to use though.

    On a side note, I tried out a Firefox extension called NoSquint and you can configure it to zoom text or images or both, so that was helpful.

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    Great review guys, and it’s good to see inside-the-second GPU benchmarks in systems using other than high-end GPUs. Obviously the HD-4000 GPU is not up to 1080P gaming, especially in a 17-watt power envelope, but it looks like it would be sweet for movies and non-gaming graphics.

    I do have one huge request though: Have you had an opportunity to get a 17-watt Trinity system in for testing? Apparently they have started to trickle out, but benchmarks are few & far between, especially GPU intensive benchmarks. I’d really like to see how these chips both scale in different power envelopes!

      • phileasfogg
      • 7 years ago

      wait a sec, someone gave chuckula a -1 for this post? What on Earth is happening to TR readers today? Can’t we all just get along? A +1 to restore you to 0, Sir/Madam.

    • bhtooefr
    • 7 years ago

    So, the problem here actually isn’t just with web browsers and the OS.

    It’s also with web pages.

    The only real fix is to do one of the following (let’s assume you’re currently displaying a 640×480 image, named 640image.jpg, and you have a source image that’s at 3200×2400:

    [list<] [*<]<img width=640 src="3200image.jpg" /> - epic bandwidth killer, but it WILL get you the best image possible no matter the display environment (assuming the browser isn't stupid about scaling) [/*<][*<]<img width=640 src="1280image.jpg" /> where you would normally do <img src="640image.jpg" /> - better on bandwidth, but not perfect, but not exact ratio, so it won't look as good except on a normal device or an iDevice/MBPR [/*<][*<]Try to detect how many pixels make up the browser unit of 1px, generate the appropriate image with ImageMagick (optionally cache it) - don't think there's a standard for this, so it'd have to be browser-specific [/*<][*<]Assume it's an iDevice/MBPR, detect Apple's HiDPI support, and use JavaScript to replace 640image.jpg with 1280image.jpg - obviously, this is iDevice dependent, but I predict that other browsers will start doing this simply to take advantage of the content out there that's optimized for iDevices. Also, while less of a bandwidth hog for devices assuming that 1 pixel == 1 px, it's more of a hog for devices that are identifying as HiDPI[/*<][/list<]

      • jihadjoe
      • 7 years ago

      But browser scaling is terribad! If scaling was good, then we wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place.

      Maybe someone can write a plugin (or proxy cache) that properly resizes images to the correct dpi with something like imagemagick (or mogrify for *nix users).

    • Duck
    • 7 years ago

    You just cannot pair a 13″ 1920×1080 display with MS Windows and expect it to useable. Windows 8 will NOT magically fix the issues as it will give sub optimal quality results at best by using DPI scalling. With no workable OS level support, you are forced to stick with normal resolutions like 1366×768 at least for now.

    This should not have gotten a recommended award IMO.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      usable? of course it’s usable. is it as great as it could be? no. if he stays in metro land, he’s GOOD TO GO.

      you only want 640×480 on your 13 inch screens SO ALL THE TEXT IS BIG

      • chuckula
      • 7 years ago

      Fascinating, please show us your review of the UX31A, including live use, and how it is completely unusable. Oh wait, you just made that comment up based upon some specification numbers your read?

      I’m going to trust Cyril’s take a little bit more in that case..,. unless he’s had bionic super-vision implants that is, in which case I’m going to be like: AWESOME.

        • Duck
        • 7 years ago

        “completely unusable” is missrepresenting what I said. You could certainly use it to play a 1080p movie.

        I can make that comment based on experience from running the exact same resolution on a larger screen, which is already right at the limit for reading some web page text, user interface elements and such. 1920×1080 on 13″ would be unworkable. DPI scaling sucks and doesn’t even work as it should with some programs. It also degrades quality of images (by design). You might as well just run at a lower, non native resolution. Yeah, what a truely crappy solution that would be.

          • Rand
          • 7 years ago

          Windows 8 won’t help the problem at all, as it still used the same DPI scaling as Win7 did on the desktop. It’ll probably be much better in Metro but how many of us can live exclusively in Metro on a laptop like this?

          Windows DPI scaling isn’t good enough to make screen density beyond about ~145 PPI comfortable for daily use in my experience.

          1920×1080 at 23″ might sound amazing, but the software support isn’t there to make the experience very good.

            • Arag0n
            • 7 years ago

            Not exclusively, but I think that IE10 or at least IE10 metro support upscaling similar to the way that iPad, iPhone and IE9 in WP7 does. That means that the websites not scaling properly should be solve since the browser renders in a “imaginary” surface that latter the browser upscales to fit screen instead of messing with CSS’s and other crazy things. This review missed to point how it’s possible to do that kind of things with most mobile browsers. Hey, the most notable example is iPad and it’s crazy stupid resolution at 10″

            • adisor19
            • 7 years ago

            Why is this man getting downvoted ? He speaks the truth !

            Adi

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      There’s nothing stopping you from using 1280×720 on this panel. Sure, the text won’t be as crisp but it’s not as if text looks great with all the visible jaggies and screen door patterns on a native WXGA panel either.

      At least with a high-dpi display you have the option of using 1080p for applications that benefit – ie movies, CAD applications, spreadsheets etc.

    • Washer
    • 7 years ago

    I’d love to see a TR laptop review of something with at least a 660M in it. What makes TR laptop reviews great isn’t just the thorough set of benchmarks but the attention to details important to how livable a system is, like the keyboard or odd quirks. I find that with gaming laptops these details are left out. You have to rely on forum posts, that while valuable, are nowhere close to the same quality.

    There’s a lot of interesting gaming laptop choices right now. MSI, Clevo, Asus, and Alienware all offer some interesting gaming laptops that come in a wide range of prices and even sizes. It’d be awesome to see TR review some.

      • drfish
      • 7 years ago

      They’re working on a 650M review by way of the Origin EON 11-S IIRC. Looking forward to that since I’ve owned a W110ER since May. I want to flash mine with [url=http://biosmods.wordpress.com/w110er/<]this BIOS mod[/url<] to get some better battery life but I've been too chicken...

    • WillBach
    • 7 years ago

    Looks good! Glad to see they fixed the touchpad. And I finally have a reason to accept Windows 8: High-DPI screens are actually available again.

      • dragosmp
      • 7 years ago

      You know, if Win8 is the only way to have crisp text on a high DPI display, then I might just upgrade

        • WillBach
        • 7 years ago

        I saw a bunch of comments here saying the it wouldn’t, so I went back to the Tech Report news item “[url=https://techreport.com/news/22683/windows-8-to-scale-with-high-dpi-tablets<]Windows 8 to scale with high-DPI tablets[/url<]", and the linked Microsoft blog post "[url=http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/03/21/scaling-to-different-screens.aspx<]Scaling to Different Screens[/url<]". The Microsoft blog shows effort getting Windows 8 to work best on two 1920x1080 screens at two sizes: [list=1<] [*<]11.6 inch slate (190 DPI) [/*<][*<]14 inch PC (157 DPI)[/*<] [/list<] So text will look good at 1920x1080, but what size will it be, exactly? This Zenbook has 166 DPI by Cyril's math, and we can "scale" the provided resolutions to that. We can think of it either as like a 14-inch display, but 9.75% smaller (area), or like an 11.6 inch slate, but 31% bigger (area). 31% is a big change from the "slate" style, but there are three scaling modes. 11.6 inch slates run in the 140% scaling mode. If that were turned off, elements on this Zenbook's 166 DPI screen would be only 6.1% (area) smaller than they would be on an 11.6 inch slate made for Windows 8. Summary: elements will be appropriately sized on this Zenbook in Windows 8, with a scaling mode of 100%.

      • adisor19
      • 7 years ago

      The trackpad is only half fixed. I’d say, it’s is bearable for occasional use, but if will still drive you crazy in the long run. ASUS needs to spend more time to perfect this thing.

      Adi

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This