Asus Zenbook UX32A review

Asus gives the Zenbook brand an Ivy Bridge makeover

Asus Zenbook UX32A

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Cinebench 10: 9,145
3D Mark '06: 5496
Battery Eater '05: 208 minutes

For everyday usage, the Asus Zenbook UX32A is a very nice machine to have around.

Its portability makes it particularly easy to slip into a bag and carry about; the solid unibody chassis only weighs 1.5kg and is strong enough to take the inevitable knocks that will come its way.

Boot up is handled with typical Ultrabook speed (thanks to the 128GB SSD) and you'll be up and working away in under two seconds from sleep mode.

The keyboard has changed from that of the original Zenbook to a more traditional black with slightly more travel on each key.

There's a subtle backlight to the keys that helps if you're working at night. Similarly, the screen is a matte display – which helps a great deal if you want to use the Zenbook UX32A in bright light.

The large touchpad supports multi-touch gestures, so you can pinch to zoom or use two fingers to scroll up and down a document.

Both of these functions were smooth and responsive and the integrated click buttons aren't difficult to use either.

This can be a contentious point – the touchpad buttons on the HP Envy 4 were stiff and horrendous – but Asus has managed to sidestep that particular pitfall.

Multitasking is handled very well by the quad-core Intel processor and it's only under extremely demanding programs that the divisions between a Core i5 specification and a Core i7 specification start to appear.

What we will say, though, is that gaming will struggle.

The Intel HD Graphics 4000 is a decent GPU, but without the extra video memory of a dedicated graphics card, you'll have trouble keeping the frame rate up here. The latest titles are beyond the scope of this machine.

In terms of software, Asus has loaded a fair amount of its own onto the Zenbook UX32A.

There are some cool applications, like Asus FaceLogon – allowing you to unlock the computer with the webcam, but others like Asus WebStorage Drive might not appeal if you're already using Dropbox and Skydrive.

If we have one slight complaint, it's that the battery life really could have been better.

We expect an Ultrabook to post a battery score of over 200 minutes as standard, and the 208 minute score we got from the Zenbook UX32A after looping HD video and running the Battery Eater testing program is a bit disappointing.

It's a shame because it's a slight tarnish on a fantastic machine that makes a good entry into the Ultrabook canon.