No, you aren't experiencing Deja vu, we did review the ASUS Zenbook UX32 previously. While the other Zenbook UX32VD that we looked at was packed with a 1080p display, Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA graphics, this version is configured with a 720p display, Core i5 processor and Intel integrated graphics ... and a lower price tag. Can cutting a few corners turn this Ultrabook into a more attractive laptop?
This Ultrabook breaks the mold by using lower cost components including a traditional hard drive instead of just an SSD. Our thoughts on this setup might surprise you.
Build and Design
The UX32 has a classy if somewhat generic look; it doesn't have any striking features other than its thinness and bright silver color. The notebook's exterior is covered exclusively in metal alloys. The lid is a gunmetal gray while the rest of the notebook including the bottom of the chassis is silver brushed aluminum.
Saying this notebook feels solid is accurate - there is virtually no chassis flex. I'm especially impressed by the rigidity of the lid; it barely moves when flexed and no ripples appear on the screen when pressure is applied to the back. This means there is plenty of protection which is important in a notebook that will be transported often. Fit and finish is good; some edges are rougher than expected but said edges don't jump out as less than acceptable quality.
Those looking to upgrade the UX32 will find themselves out of luck; there are no user-accessible panels to replace components like memory or the storage drive. The battery is also not user-changeable but as we'll see later in this review, there is plenty of battery life to go around.
Input and Output Ports
Port selection is minimal on an Ultrabook due to the nature of their design; the UX32 includes all of the ports that count though including a full-size HDMI. Ethernet is not available which is unusual; most Ultrabooks make it available via a dongle. Somehow I doubt the inclusion of Ethernet is a factor in most Ultrabook shopper's minds.
All picture descriptions shown below are listed from left to right.
Left: USB 3.0, media card reader
Right: Headphone/microphone combination jack, VGA (via dongle), HDMI, 2x USB 3.0, AC power jack
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard has chiclet-style keys. The white backlighting has several brightness levels and is quite functional in a darker environment. There is no flex and the keys have plenty of travel providing ample tactile feedback. Good feedback is what most Ultrabooks are missing. The keys have a soft but not rubbery feel and have a nice smooth surface. It's quiet too; my complaint with this keyboard is that the home, end, pgup and pgdn keys are integrated as secondary functions into the arrow keys. These keys should be dedicated. My other complaint is related; the power on/off key is a keyboard key in the top right corner. This key should be its own button in the chassis itself, away from the keyboard.
The large touchpad is a clickpad; press down anywhere to produce a click. I like this clickpad better than most I've tried; it doesn't require an unnatural amount of pressure to produce a click and the required pressure is consistent from front to back. I wish the clicks were quieter but overall this is an excellent solution.
Screen and Speakers
The UX32 has a 13.3-inch display. The best part of this display is the anti-glare coating which prevents annoying reflections in well-lit environments. The resolution is merely 1366x768, which is the minimum notebooks are sold with. Note that the Zenbook Prime is also sold in this same size with an amazing 1920x1080 resolution (for more money, naturally). As it stands the 1366x768 resolution on this unit means a lot of scrolling and an inability to use two windows side by side.
There is more good news about this display however: the picture quality is considerably better than expected; nearly all 1366x768 displays I tested up to this point have been lacking. The contrast of this display is the most noticeable improvement; black and white levels look less washed out. Additionally the saturation is markedly better; colors actually have some life to them. This display is advertised as having wide viewing angles and they are better; the display still washes out at extreme vertical angles but it's not as quickly as I'm used to. Side to side viewing angles are nearly perfect.
One last observation about this display is how far it tilts back; it doesn't go far enough past vertical, only to the 45 degree mark. Overall this display is better than average and the Zenbook Prime is available with a better display if desired.
ASUS uses a custom-engineered Bang & Olufsen speaker system that produces impressive sound given the size of this notebook. The sound resonates from the entire chassis not just two small speakers. They get loud enough for a few people to watch a movie and have appreciable bass.
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