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Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD

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What's hot: Superb 1080p IPS display, gorgeous design and materials, dedicated graphics.

What's not: Dedicated graphics lack punch, battery life low for an Ultrabook.


Reviewed August 9, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Asus could have stopped when they made one of the best Ultrabooks on the market (twice). Last year's Zenbook UX31E was one of the best Ultrabooks on the market, despite its flaws. This summer's Zenbook Prime UX31A is once again one of our top picks, and it addressed the UX31E's flaws (keyboard, good but not stellar display). As if the 1080p IPS display on the Zenbook Prime UX31A didn't push the envelope enough, Asus has let loose the Zenbook Prime UX32VD, a near dead ringer for the UX31A but with added goodies: dedicated graphics and upgradable RAM and hard drive. Nice.

Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD

Like the UX31A, the Zenbook Prime UX32VD has an impressive 1920 x 1080 IPS display, a backlit keyboard, third generation ULV CPUs and a killer unibody aluminum design. Given the extra space required for upgradable parts and dedicated graphics, the UX32VD is a tiny bit thicker and a little heavier (3.2 pounds vs. 2.86), but it shares the same design, materials and attractive look as the UX31A as well as its 13.3" display size. In fact, so much is the same that this review will share some copy with our UX31A review.


The Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD (who picked those final letters?) is an Ultrabook with a 13.3", 1920 x 1080 IPS display, 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 and i7 ULV CPUs (the 1.9GHz i7 is more prevalent and the i5 is more often found in the non-1080p UX32A), a 500 gig conventional hard drive with a small SSD that acts as an Intel Express Cache to speed boot and resume times, 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM and both Intel HD 4000 and Nvidia GeForce GT620M dedicated graphics. Not too shabby for $1,299. The laptop has a unibody aluminum casing that looks every bit as modern, classy and sleek as Asus' more conventional Ultrabooks. It has dual band Intel WiFi 802.11b/g/n with WiDi, Bluetooth and a 720p webcam. Notably absent is an optical drive, which you won't find on 13" Ultrabooks. The machine has three USB 3.0 ports (two on the right, one on the left), an HDMI port, mini VGA, a 3.5mm jack and an SD card slot. Asus provides a USB 10/100 Ethernet dongle and a VGA adapter.

Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD

Other Zenbook Prime Models

- The first generation Zenbook UX31E had a lower resolution, non-IPS display and Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs. It looks nearly identical to the UX31A.

- The Zenbook Prime UX31A is available with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 CPU (UX31A-DB51) or with a 1.9GHz Intel Core i7 CPU and a 256 gig SSD (UX31A-DB72). A classic Ultrabook by Intel's definition with SSD storage, Intel ULV CPUs and an extremely thin and light design.

- There are custom Best Buy and Amazon models as well. The Best Buy model is the same as the DB51 minus the 1 year accidental damage warranty. The Amazon AB71 has the Core i7 CPU and a 128 gig SSD.

- The Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD has dedicated Nvidia GT620M graphics (a lower end dedicated GPU) and both the RAM and hard drive are upgradable. The UX32VD ships with a conventional spinning 500 gig hard drive and a small SSD drive that boosts boot and resume times.

- Lastly, the Zenbook UX32A (no "Prime" in the name) is a low spec model with a 1.4GHz Core i3 ULV CPU, 320 gig conventional hard disk and a lower resolution display (not a good pick).

* The word Prime= 1080p display, an SSD drive and a backlit keyboard.


Deals and Shopping:


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD Video Review


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD Gaming Demo

Design and Ergonomics

The 3.2 pound UX32VD Zenbook Prime looks almost identical to the Zenbook Prime UX31A, and that's a good thing since that machine is simply stunning looking and well made. The casing is metal and rigid, though the keyboard deck is softer and we noted some trampolining in the center that will drive serious typists a little mad. The lid and bottom panel as well as the keyboard deck are very firm in contrast. The UX32VD is just a little thicker than the 0.67" UX31A, but it's still very slim at 0.7".

The combo of a dark metal swirl lid and a brushed stainless steel hinge barrel and bottom look great. The laptop looks and feels like a high quality piece of tech that holds its own against the MacBook Air. Like the Air, it tapers and is 5.5 mm thin at the front and 9mm at the rear. Looks are subjective, but I think the Zenbook Primes are some of the most attractive Ultrabooks on the market. The metal edges are well machined so there's no roughness or sharpness, but the front tapers to a fine point that might bother some folks' wrists.
The keyboard is much improved from Asus' first generation Ultrabooks, the UX31E and UX21E. The Chiclet style backlit keyboard has good tactile feel and travel by skinny Ultrabook standards. My only complaint is the mushy give in the center and right-of-center keyboard area. It's not a deal breaker, but it's not as good as the UX31A keyboard.

The Elan trackpad is the same as that of the UX31A, and it's much, much better than the UX31E trackpad. However, Asus' drivers are the weakest part of the equation and I found the trackpad behaved better once I removed Asus' trackpad software and stuck with Elan's. Asus has issued a few driver updates for the trackpad, and it's now usable though not better than Elan's software.

1080p Display

The 13.3" matte 1920 x 1080 panel is simply gorgeous: very bright with lovely balanced colors and high contrast. Text is very sharp and black levels are excellent. Asus didn't skimp here. The panel is brighter than most notebooks on the market except the UX31A. The display will likely set the Zenbook Prime series ahead of the competition for some time. Since this is an IPS panel, viewing angles are very wide, and there's no need to angle the display forward and back to find the sweet spot as with TN panels. Whites are wonderfully neutral and the display looks as good as the Retina MacBook Pro. Color accuracy is much better than average for a notebook panel and it should please photo pros.

It wouldn't be an Asus product if we didn't have some light bleed, and though light bleed in IPS displays isn't uncommon, Asus seems to have more than their share. What is light bleed? The display may have lighter spots near the edges when viewing black backgrounds like the black bars in letterboxed widescreen movies. Our unit, which came from a local retailer, has a small amount of light bleed along the bottom edge, but it's nothing we'd call bad (watch our video review to see the display showing a pure black image in the dark).

The Zenbook Prime has Intel WiFi and Intel graphics: the happy couple that's required for Intel WiDi wireless display, which is pre-installed. With WiDi and a receiver box that plugs into your home theater setup via HDMI like the Netgear Push2TV, you can stream your display's contents to your HD TV, or use your TV as a second monitor sans wires. For those who prefer wires, there's a micro HDMI 1.4 port on the right side and a 3.5mm combo headphone/mic jack. For those who use projectors and older monitors, there's a mini VGA port and Asus includes a dongle adapter that converts it to a full size VGA port.

Performance and Horsepower

The UX32VD runs on Intel third generation Ivy Bridge ULV CPUs--no surprise there. But the Intel HD 4000 graphics plus switchable Nvidia GeForce GT620M graphics with 1 gig VRAM is news for Ultrabooks. Before you get excited, the GeForce GT620M is based on the older Fermi architecture rather than the just released Kepler architecture. What does that mean? It's not as power frugal as Kepler. And the 40nm, 64 bit GT620M used in the Asus is a low end GPU that outperforms the admittedly decent Intel HD 4000 GPU, but doesn't outperform it by a huge margin. This is an entry level dedicated GPU that will gain you 5-15 fps in 3D games but won't allow you to play the most recent 3D games like Battlefield 3 at native resolution and high settings. The machine can play current games like Diablo 3 and Skyrim at low settings and 1366 x 768 resolution with frame rates in the mid-30's to mid-40's.

The machine uses Nvidia Optimus graphics switching technology to automatically switch between integrated and dedicated graphics based on demand and the application being run, and it generally does a good job. Should you wish to override this, you can right click on an app and select the GPU you wish to use when running that app.

Unlike most Ultrabooks whose RAM is soldered to the motherboard and thus isn't upgradable, the UX32VD has 2 gigs soldered to the motherboard and a standard SODIMM RAM slot. It ships with a 2gig DDR3 1600Mhz DIMM for a total of 4 gigs of RAM. Should you wish to remove the 11 or so Torx T5 screws that affix the bottom plate (it's not hard at all), then you can replace the DIMM and upgrade to 6 or 10 gigs of RAM using a 4 or 8 gig RAM module.

While the UX31E and UX31A use solid state drives, the Zenbook Prime UX32VD has a conventional 500 gig, 5400 RPM spinning hard drive with either a 24 or 32 gig SanDisk U100 iSSD drive soldered to the motherboard that acts as an Express Cache to speed up Windows and boot and resume times. Our model has a 32 gig SSD, but Asus lists 24 gigs as standard and some users say they've gotten the 24 gig SSD. The SSD doesn't appear under Windows disk manager or the file manager since it's used expressly as a caching drive and you can't access it directly so we're not terribly concerned about the capacity variance.


PCMark Vantage

PCMarks 7386
PCMark Memories 5080
TV and Movies 3881
Gaming 10,008
Music 10,766
Communications 10,888
Productivity 8187
HDD 18,779

3DMark Vantage 4240
CPU 9117, GPU 3600

Windows Experience Index:
Processor: 7.1
RAM: 5.9
Graphics (for Aero): 6.3
Gaming Graphics: 6.3
HDD: 5.9

Benchmark Comparison Table

PCMark Vantage
Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD 7386
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A (Core i5) 12,272
Asus Zenbook UX31E (core i5 Sandy Bridge) 10,021
Sony Vaio T (Core i7 ULV Ivy Bridge Ultrabook) 12,120
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 (Core i5 Ivy Bridge) 8152
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Core i7 Ivy Bridge) 12,339
Sony Vaio S 13.3 (Core i5, NVidia GT640M LE) 7575

Battery Life

Like most Ultrabooks, the Lithium Ion polymer battery is sealed inside. The Zenbook Prime UX32VD has a beefy 48 Wh battery but the demands of a spinning hard drive and dedicated graphics take their toll. With normal productivity use (MS Office, web, email, social networking and some streaming video), the notebook lasted 4 hours and 40 minutes on a charge, which is significantly lower than the 5.7 hours we got with the Zenbook Prime UX31A.


The Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD is one of the first Ultrabooks in the brave new frontier that marries typical Ultrabook specs with upgradable parts and dedicated graphics. Our advice? Wait for the second or third generation where dedicated graphics performance improves along with battery life. The NVidia GT620M doesn't offer enough graphics prowess to offset the drop in battery life and the UX32VD isn't a serious gaming machine. It's a "half way" machine that doesn't offer the power of a larger notebook nor the battery life and SSD durability of an Ultrabook. That said, if you love the look and feel of Ultrabooks and wish for a bit more graphics power and upgradable parts, the Zenbook Prime UX32VD offers that in a slim and attractive package. And the display? It's wonderful.


Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Review

Ultrabook Reviews

Price: $1,299 with Core i7, 4 gigs RAM and 500 gig HDD



Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD


Asus Zenbook Prime UX32VD


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Display: 13.3", 1920 x 1080 LED backlit IPS display. Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics and NVidia GeForce GT620M dedicated graphics with 1 gig VRAM. HDMI and VGA ports (VGA via included adapter).

Battery: 48 watt/hour Lithium Ion polymer rechargeable, sealed inside.

Performance: 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U Processor. Intel HM76 Express chipset. 2 gigs DDR3 1600MHz RAM soldered on motherboard plus 1 SODIMM standard RAM slot populated with a 2 gig DIMM for 4 gigs total. 500 gig 5400 RPM hard drive with 24 or 32 gig Sandisk U100 iSSD caching drive.

Size: 12.79 x 8.78 x 0.22-0.70 inches. Weight: 3.2 pounds.

Camera: 720p webcam.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio.

Networking: Integrated dual band Intel Advanced-N 6235 WiFi 802.11b/g/n with WiDi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Windows 7 Home Premium. Various Asus utilities, Office 2012 Starter Edition, McAfee Anti-virus 30 day trial and Chrome web browser.

Expansion and Ports: 3 USB 3.0 ports (one charging), HDMI, 3.5mm combo audio, mini VGA with adapter, 10/100 Ethernet via included USB adapter. 1 xSD card slot.



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