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Ultrabook reviews, guides and comparisons
Andrei Girbea Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Asus Zenbook UX32A review – the most affordable Asus ultrabook

36 Comments

  1. Josef

    November 9, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Hey man,

    first of all, thanks for your reviews, it contributed significantly to my decision to choose the cheapest zenbook, and it is pretty cool piece, I like it so much…

    However, I have got one question for you regarding the “bloatware” as you call it. I hate this kind of soft, so I would like to remove as much of it as possible.

    The question is, what software would you recommend to get rid of? I don´t wanna screw something, and maybe there are some useful apps amongst them as well.

    Thanks for your reply,

    Regards

    Josef

    • Mike

      November 11, 2012 at 10:45 am

      it’s a bit difficult to tell without having the computer in front. You should get rid of the preinstalled antivirus, the trials and most of the Asus programs. I for one uninstall, Asus storage, cloud, bla bla and only keep Power 4 gear and the apps that have something to do with the sound and network.

      Anyway, even if you uninstall something that you shouldn’t, you can always find the programs on Asus’s website, so you should be OK

  2. Kadir

    November 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I think this piece says it all, the whole tech industry is sadly lciakng ideas. I bet it took ASUS longer to think up the watch’ design excuse in their marketing than to actually design this thing. I can’t believe how similar this is to the AIr design, no innovation at all, not even an attempt at pushing the idea further.

    • Tomaz

      April 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      The design of all of them actually comes from Intel. Apple included.

  3. Lyal

    December 2, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I am looking at this model for my daughter who requires a notebook as she enters high school. I have limited knowledge of computers so I am somewhat confused by references to ‘performances’. Would I be correct in assuming that the reviewer and most people who comment on this site have high demands and requirements in terms of what they utilise their computers for, well beyond what high school students would require for everyday schoolwork and presentations – although, having said that, what kids do at school these days on computers really is extraordinary. When you say the i3 sandy bridge procesor is slower than the i5 Ivy Bridge, are you referring to mere seconds slower, or time to go make a cup of tea while you wait for the computer to respond? Is the X32A adequate (with 320GB HDD + 24 GB SSD) as opposed to the UX31A (128GB + SSD)?

    • Mike

      December 3, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Yes, you can assume that I have very high demands (I’m the reviewer) :P

      When I say slower, that’s usually fractions of a seconds to seconds slower, so for the average user, that should be fine. For me though it’s not…

      On the storage, I’d go for the 320 GB HDD + small SSD, because that offers more room for programs, videos, music and other types of content. Yes, the full SSD option is faster, but like I said, for your daughter, that shouldn’t matter that much.

      Still, there are some important reasons why i advise people to go for the i5 version rather than the i3. The i3 a tested here is the older generation platform and it will struggle with movies and even light games. For daily tasks, it should be OK, but for anything with intense graphics, not so much. The i5 option is newer, faster and with better graphics, and since you’re probably planning to keep the computer for a while (2-3 years, maybe more), I’d say it’s the smarter pick (thinking long term, the i3 is going to get quicker obsolete and won’t be able to face the future programs that easily as the i5). But it really depends in how much more expensive is the i5 over there.

      In both cases I’m talking about the Asus UX32A, not the UX31A prime, the latter is a different kind of computer, with a different case and screen.

      Anyway, hope this helps, get back if you have any other questions ;)

      Mike

  4. Mark Brown

    December 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Hi Mike

    If I was to update to an ssd would I just replace the cache ssd?

    Also how many ram slots does it have, easy to upgrade?

    Will the number of ram slots be the same for all ux32a sub models?

    Thanks

    Mark

    • Tomaz

      April 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      You can replace HDD for an SSD. It’s standard 7 mm high SATA drive. So when choosing SSD make sure to pick 7 and not 9 mm high ones, or you’ll have to take it out of casing (voiding warranty) to get it installed.

      This is only half of the story – the other half is that you will need to use Windows 8 or custom build installer for Windows 7, which only comes with USB 2 drivers, but this notebook has no USB 2 ports. All are USB 3, so you need to pre-load the USB 3 drivers into the USB stick (or DVD, if you prefer) to be able to recognise the installation disc. Messy.

      Windows 8 installs smooth, though.

      Cache SSD is iSSD (a 2.5 cm square chip, soldered on mainboard) and cannot be replaced. You can only replace the stock hard disk, which, as said, is a standard SATA drive.

      As for the RAM – 2 GB is soldered on mainboard and cannot be replaced. But the other 2 GB is on a standard notebook RAM stick, and can be removed and replaced. Laptop takes 4 and 8 GB sticks (for total of 6 or 10 GB RAM). There is only 1 RAM socket that you can replace RAM in.

      I believe (but of course can not claim) that all of the UX32 models share the same mainboard, and should as such share the number of RAM slots.

      Obviously, the new models that come with Windows 8 and different CPU are likely using different mainboard. I am talking about the same generation of the Zenbooks, just with different CPU specs.

      Hope this is of any use.

      Cheers,
      Tomaz

  5. Wilhelm

    April 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Dear Mike,
    I want to state at first that I really appreciate your reviews and that I think, as you, that laptops must be really portable and light.
    Once said this, I’d like to ask you if this version of the Zenbook that I found in Italy (where I come from) has better performances: it has the Intel Core i3 3217U. I wuoldn’t use the laptop to execute programs like “Photoshop” or play “Bioshock: Infinite”, but I would anyway use it for the editing of videos (whith Pinnacle Studio, the lastest version), for graphics programs (like Autocad) or even play, sometimes (titles like Dirt 3 that you have shown in the videoreview). How wuold this newer version of the Zenbook deal with it?
    Thanks for your reply,
    Wilhelm van der Rohe

    • Andrei Girbea

      April 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Hei Willhelm.

      I think I already replied to you on Youtube. Anyway, the Core i3 is going to be too slow for your requirements. All those programs will run, but the system might get sluggish. So I’d choose a device with an Intel Core i5 processor, if possible. Also, both Autocad and Pinnacle require a lot of memory to run smoothly. So if you can find a configuration with 8 GB of RAM, it would help on the long run. Or at least get a machine that allows you to upgrade the RAM yourself afterwards.

  6. Tomaz

    May 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I have the i5 version of this ultrabook, and have swapped out the 500 GB hard drive for an SSD, dropping in an extra 8 GB RAM while already having it open.

    What reviewer is saying is true, the original Windows came with loads of crap that even when uninstalling didn’t do much of a justice to the notebook. So I swapped the drive and plugged in external USB DVD drive. What an idiot, me.

    So here’s a spoiler for anyone who thinks of doing the same – This notebook only has USB 3 sockets. Windows 7 installation disc only comes with USB 2 drivers. So… what you’ll need to do is build a USB installation disc, with one file custom built to insert the drivers in it. That might be a pain, but you can find instructions on Google :)

    Anyway, apart from loading much quicker than from hard drive (alas using that 32 GB iSSD cache earlier, which I now don’t), it is still a sluggish machine. And it has a nasty issue – it often forgets to switch video card on.

    This demonstrates itself when it goes to sleep, you wake it up, lights come up but the screen is blank. Or when booting up, you can see ASUS logo, the Windows 7 loading logo, but when the login prompt should show (and you hear that familiar Windows start sound), the screen is – blank.

    To get it back to life, one needs to close the lid, wait 10 seconds and open it again. Utterly annoying. This was happening on the original configuration as well and I stupidly thought Windows reinstall would fix it…

    Screen is actually IPS, although standard resolution, not FullHD of the Prime series. Wifi and bluetooth receiption are fine, but there’s no LAN. It has a USB3 to LAN adapter (as well as some micro display port to VGA) included, but it is disappointingly only 100 mbps. For VGA doesn’t matter so much, as there’s also mini-HDMI (which can output full HD) there.

    While the body of laptop seems quite durable, the plastic casing of the power supply is really scratch magnet. And overall the plug seems very insecure. I wish ASUS copied MagSafe adapter from Apple, if they already stole most of the rest of design.

    As said earlier, speakers are very good for the size of notebook, microphone is clear, and iPhone headset or standard headphones can be used if that’s not enough. Using V-Moda Crossfades XP the sound quality was excellent. Webcam is somewhat standard quality, nothing to write home about, and wish it had privacy shutter, which it does not.

    Keyboard is way below par, compared to MacBook Air/Pro one, and has power button built in top right. Like Caps Lock and Wireless (F2) there’s a tiny light in the button to show function is on. But Wifi light often “forgets” to turn on… which is annoying a bit. Like mentioned, the top line of buttons is really small, and easy to press wrong button, especially if you don’t illuminate them. On the good side, it has backlighting, although not as good as MacBook Pro/Air. It is not even. Also the clicking when typing isn’t particularly reassuring. Let’s say it this way – Mac keyboard is miles ahead of this one.

    The sleep light is on the right side. Strange place to put it.

    With SSD inside and using USB 3 thumbdrive, the transfer speeds were amazing between stick and SSD, and vice versa. One of the USBs (on the left) is high powered, to charge ASUS tablet. It also stays on when you power off laptop. Great way to flatten battery unintentionally.

    The best features for which I can even forget screen not coming up half of the time, slow CPU performance, crappy keyboard and barely passable trackpad (it is now, that I turned off tap to click), as well as not too solid construction, are these:
    – light (below 1.5 kg, after having switched from MacBook Pro, I often thought I forgot to take laptop with me or someone stole it…)
    – battery life (easily exceeding 5 hours even at moderate usage)
    – upgradeable (the fact that you can change HDD for SSD or another HDD (as long as it’s 7 mm high) and replace one stick of RAM (2 GB is soldered on board, another 2 GB is on standard SO-DIMM card) without voiding warranty is wonderful
    – easy to replace battery, despite speakers attached to it (let’s face it, battery will die one day, and you don’t want to have MacBook Pro Retina, when that happens)

    Honestly – I was tempted with UX31, for sleeker look, lower weight and stronger casing, but – it’s only 128 GB (of slow Sandisk SSD – PS: that 32 GB iSSD on UX32 is also Sandisk), which can’t really be changed, being custom format; and all the RAM soldered on board, limiting the notebook to 4 GB RAM. Had there been 256/512 GB SSD model with a reasonably speedy SSD (Samsung, OCZ, Intel, Crucial…), and at least 8 GB RAM version – I would find it hard to resist.

    Am I happy with it? Now that I’ve put my own, clean Windows on, installed SSD and more RAM – yes, it’s a lovely thing that is never missing in my backpack when I travel. It is more than adequate for what I do on the road. But it is certainly not something that would replace the speedy desktop that I am just sitting in front of. Not even close.

    • Andrei Girbea

      May 25, 2013 at 10:11 am

      Hey Thomasz. Thanks a lot for your detailed opinion. Much appreciated. Is it OK with you to move it at the bottom of the actual review, in a section called user reviews? I will credit you for it of course, and if you have a site/twitter account or something, I’d gladly link to it as well.

    • Josh

      January 5, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      This demonstrates itself when it goes to sleep, you wake it up, lights come up but the screen is blank. Or when booting up, you can see ASUS logo, the Windows 7 loading logo, but when the login prompt should show (and you hear that familiar Windows start sound), the screen is – blank.

      Having the same exact problem as you Tomaz and it’s wasted so much of my time. I’d honestly not purchase the laptop because of all the hassle I’ve had with this issue. Persists after a fresh install of Windows 7 as well.

      • Tomaz

        January 9, 2015 at 7:48 am

        Dear Josh,

        I have since found out what’s causing it, and Asus (apart from bad choice of components) is not to blame for this. Namely the Intel’s VGA card in it defaults to HDMI port everytime the power scheme changes (which is each time you switch between battery and plugged in mode for example).

        It is possible to recover the screen by switching to projector and back, by pressing Ctrl+P and then up and enter, then Ctrl+P and down, then enter…

        May take a few tries, but it usually works out for me.

        Needless to say it is disappointing that Intel didn’t test their MOBILE model of VGA card for how it would behaving inside a MOBILE device, which causes most laptops with this card to suffer from the same problem Dell, HP, Sony, Asus, Acer at least).

        But yes, it is utterly annoying and I actually saw this problem in shop when they just took a new one out of the box for me, but thought Windows reinstall would fix that… well, it didn’t, if anything, it made it worse (I am not using Windows from image in hard disk as I’ve replaced HDD with SSD and installed another Windows (with embedded USB 3 drivers) from USB stick, then used serial number on charger to register it.

        Anyway, hope above helps someone. Too late to send it back to shop now.

  7. Primo

    July 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Really liked your open comments and I bought ux32A-DB31 this.
    I didn’t get the Ethernet adapter, brown Sleeve pouch, small pouch of cables when I bought this, but I got another UX31A where all these three were there.

    • Andrei Girbea

      July 10, 2013 at 8:07 am

      over here they include all those things. looks like things differ from country to country…

  8. Trunk

    September 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Hey, I have a question regarding the RAM: does this ux32a with the iCore 3 accepts the 8gb stick RAM upgrade, or just the 4gb one? I read around the web and it’s inconclusive. Some said that the iCore 3 configuration can have up to 10gb RAM total (8gb RAM stick upgrade), while some said that it’s just 6gb RAM (4gb stick) total. Also, the screen capture of your configuration clearly shows that the RAM is PC3-12800, while others said (without proof) that it’s PC3-10666. Do you have any insights to this RAM curiosity regarding to this specific iCore 3 configuration?

    • Trunk

      September 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm

      I think I switched the i and the Core around, so it’s Core i3. On Asus’s website, it stated that up to 4gb for the available slot and the speed is 12800. However, some reviews, both pro and consumer, stated otherwise. Since your review has screen capture, it’s can be surely confirmed that it’s in fact, runs at 12800.

  9. Ale

    October 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Hi, first of all, congrats for making a great review! I’m about to buy the ASUS Zenbook UX32A-RHI5N31 on Office Depot, but they told me there is no way to upgrade this laptop RAM to 8Gb. Can you tell me if that’s true? I’ve seen some comments on upgrading RAM on the i5 version, but I don’t know if that particular model (UX32A-RHI5N31) has some kind of restriction for doing that.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Andrei Girbea

      October 2, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Not sure about that particular model. From what I know, the UX32A has one memory slot that can take up to 4 GB modules, plus the 4 GB soldered on the MB. So i can’t see why you won’t be able to upgrade it… maybe they just don’t know what they’re saying? I don’t know

      • Ale

        October 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm

        Thanks for your reply. I’ve checked on Asus website and this is what they say about memory: “DDR3 1600 MHz SDRAM, OnBoard Memory GB , 1 x DIMM socket for expansion up to 4 GB SDRAM”.

        For me it’s a little bit confussing, as I don’t understand if the 1 x DIMM socket is the one that can get a 4gb additional module or if the expansion up to 4gb is the total amount of RAM the laptop can have.

        Can you clarify me on that?

        Thanks again!

        • Andrei Girbea

          October 2, 2013 at 8:35 pm

          you get 4 GB soldered on the motherboard and one extra slot that can take an up to 4 GB DIMM. For a total of 8.

          • Christian

            October 26, 2013 at 11:56 am

            Hello,
            What I had understood is that there is 2GB of RAM soldered on the motherboard, with a 2GB stick coming along with it. This is replaceable with a 8GB RAM stick (i.e. Crucial, Mushkin), giving up to 10GB. Is this not correct?

          • Andrei Girbea

            October 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm

            it is correct

  10. Tomaz

    October 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    @Christian, having opened mine up, I can confirm that UX32-VR has 2 GB soldered onboard, as well as another RAM socket (standard notebook DDR-3 SO-DIMM socket) which accepted 8 GB Corsair stick without complaints.

    Upgrade is pretty painless.

    Remove all the screws at the bottom. Lift the lid from front of computer first, as there is a bit of double-sided tape holding the lid in place at the back. Carefully remove it, and you will see RAM stick wrapped in aluminium foil right in front of you.

    You may remove foil from stock RAM and put it on your RAM, or don’t bother with it. Just unlock the socket, remove stick, place new one in and make sure it clips into the socket.

    Place the lid back and make sure to align it properly, not pressing the back yet. Screw it back, but don’t tighten it yet, to allow you a bit of movement to align it perfectly. When all the screws are in, tighten it.

    Flip and test :)

    It should not take more than 10 minutes in all. But recommend you to place notebook on something soft, so you don’t scratch it.

    • christian

      October 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Thanks @Tomaz!
      That’s what I thought, can’t wait to try to upgrade mine. I mean I have the ux32a, but after doing some research changing the ram stick seems to be the same simple operation on nearly all these models.

      Now I was wondering whether this will have a great impact on my computer’s performance? At the beginning it felt a little sluggish, and at times actually froze completely. I thought that this was because of the slow processor, but it still seemed odd cause I wasn’t running the laptop too hard either. Checking cpu usage showed that this would usually peak at around 60% while lagging was being detected, and usually even stay at around 30%.

      Also, I noticed that RAM usage was very high, peaking at over 90% even. So would upgrading the RAM fix this issue? I understand the processors clock speed will remain the same, meaning it won’t suddenly turn into a power house. But I’m not expecting wonders either.

      Thanks for your help!

      • Tomaz

        October 31, 2013 at 9:09 am

        Dear Christian,

        Actually I can’t say that it’s any faster or any slower after adding RAM.

        The reason you upgrade RAM is… well, because you can ;) In my case I planned to use vmware on it, which I do, but rarely.

        The CPU is a little bit limited. Not a little. It may be a little too conservative on the clock, to extend battery life, and that has quite significant toll on performance. With or without 10 GB RAM.

        I can say that with 10 GB RAM the usage (unless loading vmware) doesn’t exceed 4 GB usually, so that said, for normal work you won’t see much of a difference in performance. But for that 50$ to make it 10 GB… why not.

        And to make it perfectly clear – the slowdowns will still happen with or without extra RAM or even SSD. If you can turn on the showing of CPU clock and not only utilisation percentage, you will get a hint on why – often CPU is running far below 1 GHz and has some lag (or at least so it seems) before raising clock.

        The above is said for Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit (retail box, not one included with laptop)

        Finally – to see how to take the laptop apart, and how it looks on the inside, before deciding on whether to open it or not, it’s worth taking a look at this: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Asus+Zenbook+UX32VD+Teardown/10120

        It is a guide of taking the laptop apart, picture by picture.

  11. Erkan Pinar

    January 24, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I just purchased the Asus Zenbook UX32A-R3038H.
    On the website were i purchased my Zenbook it clearly mentioned that the memory was not upgradeble and was max of 4 GB.
    I Still purchased additional 8 GB Kingston ValueRAM SODIMM DDR3-1600.
    And just removed the 2gb on the socket.
    It works now fluently and very fast without any glitch whatsoever as I work with heavy programs such as adobe photoshop and illustrator.
    The system shows that i have 10 GB on memory now.

  12. Ivan

    March 26, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    The mini-VGA looks a lot like a mini-DisplayPort. Has anyone tried to connect it to the DisplayPort end of a monitor? Are there adapters for DVI?

    • Andrei Girbea

      March 31, 2014 at 8:47 am

      it’s a Mini VGA port for sure, although it looms like DP

    • Tomaz

      April 6, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      DisplayPort is a completely different thing to Mini-VGA, and contains some circuits inside to process signal, which mini-VGA does not – it just connects pins one by one from one side of the cable to another, to plug the VGA monitor in.

      Personal recommendation – nowadays more or less every screens supports HDMI or if not, rather get HDMI to DVI adapter. It will allow you to use full resolution, which VGA does not support anyway.

      If you manage to get DisplayPort adapter somehow into the mini-VGA socket, you are risking damaging both the screen and the VGA card in your laptop.

  13. Sandy

    May 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Hi, fantastic review, I love my zenbook! Unfortunately one of the screws at the back has fallen out and disappeared somewhere, leaving a gap at the back and the fan is slowly getting louder (I assume because dust is going into the fan). Which screws should I be searching for if I need a replacement? Are torx screws all the same?

    Thanks :_

    • Andrei Girbea

      May 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      What zenbook do you have? The UX32A? If I’m not mistaken, this one uses T5 Torx screws, and no, not all Torx screws are the same. besides the size, there’s also the matter of length. Maybe you can go to a computer service with one of your screws and see if they can help you out

  14. miguel gutierrez

    January 3, 2015 at 12:18 am

    Somehow the UX32A webcam vanishes from the operating system, and become disenabled…..adn could not find any way to make it work again….It is probably a driver problem, but Asus guys fail to provide a solution….

    • Tomaz

      January 9, 2015 at 7:55 am

      Go to Asus website and download a camera driver.

      On laptop, get to Control Panel, System, Device Manager, and remove the UVC camera.

      Let it install the driver again.

      You may also at this point unzip that downloaded driver to a folder on hard drive, and choose to update the driver, then browse to the unzipped driver, in case you suspect the one installed could be corrupt.

      Not like I use webcam like… ever… but whenever I turned it on, it always worked. I used drivers from Asus support, as my windows is standard, not one from the recovery partition on the hard disk.

  15. MDC

    February 23, 2015 at 8:03 am

    I’ve had this Zenbook for a couple of years now, and am very pleased with it. The only significant issue I had was soon after I got it, when the instant-on feature stopped working. In fact, when trying to wake the laptop from sleep, it would either stay asleep, or I would get a Windows “spinner” for as long as 5 or 10 minutes before the system came back up. I did an RMA, and Asus replaced the motherboard, which was defective. Credit to them for fixing it quickly and with no hassle. Ever since it’s worked like a charm.

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