Asus haven’t been too hasty with their Haswell ultrabooks. We’ve first seen them at Computex and later on at IFA and a couple of other shows. They are scheduled to hit the stores in the next weeks, but we’ve got them earlier for reviews.
In this post we’re talking about the Asus Zenbook UX302LG and I’ll have another post in a few days about the UX301, the so called Zenbook Infinity. The UX302LGbuilds on last year’s Zenbook UX32VD as a highly sleek and portable ultrabook with Intel Haswell hardware, dedicated graphics and a 13 inch screen.
Or in other words, this is one of the very few compact ultrabooks that can actually run games and other graphics demanding applications. A detailed list of gaming ultrabooks is available here, if you’re interested in those.
Anyway, before we start the actual review, you should know that there’s also an UX302LA version of this notebook, which lacks the discrete graphics, but is identical otherwise. So if you’re after that one, this article should help you as well, just skip the performances part.
Asus Zenbook UX302LG video review
The specs sheet for the Asus Zenbook UX302
||Asus Zenbook UX302LG-C4014H
||13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, touchscreen
||Intel Haswell Core i7-4500U CPU
||integrated Intel 4400 HD + Nvidia GeForce GT 730M 2GB
||6 GB DDR3
||256 GB SSD
||Wireless AC, Bluetooth, Lan (with adapter)
||3xUSB, SD card reader, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort
||3 cell 4430 mah 50 Wh
||Windows 8 Pro
||21 mm think, including the feet
||about 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds)
||backlit keyboard, USB to LAN and MiniDP to VGA adapters included
Design and exterior
Anyway, we’ll start with a look at the industrial design. This laptop is going to leave a strong impression from the moment you’ll get it out of the box because it’s just stunningly beautiful. We have the Navi Blue version here, but there’s also a white one.
Metal is used for the entire case, including the underbelly. The lid however no longer sports that brushed aluminum design we’ve seen on previous Zenbooks, but is instead covered by a sheet of Gorilla Glass. So you don’t have to worry about scratches anymore. But you do have to worry about smudges and fingerprints, which are extremely annoying on this Blue finishing, but less visible on the white model.
Glass covers the Asus Znebook UX302
Of course, this is not the first laptop with Gorilla Glass on the lid, Acer use a similar approach on their Aspire S7. Regardless, the UX302 does look nice overall, like I said, although I’m more into simpler, less flashy aesthetics. But you might feel otherwise though, so let me know in the comments below if you like the idea of having a glass covered laptop or not.
Anyway, let’s move on. The UX302 is not as slim or as light as the other 2013 Zenbook, the UX301. But is close, as it tips the scale at around 1.5 Kilos, or 3.3 pounds and measures about 20 to 21 mm in its thickest point (including the rubber feet, probably around 18 mm without). Besides that, this is not the sturdiest lad out there, as the lid cover, and especially the thin aluminum sheet that wraps around the underbelly tend to flex and squeak when grabbing the laptop, much like with the previous UX32 line.
In a brighter light, the Zenbook UX302 does offers a large selection of ports, with 3 USBs, a card-reader, HDMI video output and a
UPDATE: I’m still trying to confirm if that’s Thunderbolt or just mini-Displayport. There’s no mention of Thunderbolt in Device manager which makes me assume it’s just a mini-DisplayPort. But the Logo next to it is confusing. I don’t have a Thunderbolt compatible device around to try it on, so I’ll see if I can find anything about it from the guys at Asus. Will update the post once I do.
UPDATE 2: Unfortunately there’s no ThunderBolt on this laptop, that connector got me to draw the wrong conclusions. I apologize for any confusion I might have created.
That aside, this new device is very well balanced. You can easily lift the screen with only one hand while the body stays in place and you’ll notice that the lid is actually slightly longer than the body, so there’s enough space to easily grab it and pull it up.
Once you do, you’ll be met by a familiar interior. The inner body and the sides are all cut from a single piece of aluminum, with a smooth texture that feels great to touch. It’s a bit darker than it was on the previous Zenbooks and the interior is still very simple, as there are no buttons or cuts to ruin the aesthetics. Not even those pesky Intel and Windows stickers, at least not on this particular unit. There is a small status LED though in the upper right side of the frame.
A simple and beautiful interior
However, there’s one aspect I have to complain about. The forward lip of this laptop is sharp and rather tall and that’s why it’s going to cut into your wrist when typing for a longer time, especially if you’re keeping the device on a desk or any other flat surfaces. A tiny detail, but something Asus should have thought of.
Ok, so while the interior looks familiar, the screen’s hinge has been redesigned and is now hidden from the user’s eye. In fact, there’s no longer a large hinge like before, but two smaller ones on each side. Even so, the screen stays firmly in place even when poking it for various commands. Because yes, there is a touchscreen on this laptop.
We have a 13.3 inch IPS panel (hardware ID BOE05E3) with 1920 x 1080 px resolution on the UX302LG and there’s literally nothing you can say wrong about it. Except for the still present light bleeding on the lower edge, somewhat visible on dark static images.
That aside, this display is very bright, paints lovely colors and offers excellent viewing angles. And yes, since it’s a touchscreen you do get the layer of protective glass on top, which leads to annoying reflections and glare in strong light. But I guess that’s just something you’ll have to get used to. A non-glare non-touchscreen version would have been nice, but it’s not going to be available, from what I know right now.
You’ll notice that the screen lifts on two small feet when leaned on the back, and that allows more space underneath, thus more air going to the cooling system. I’ve seen the same approach on Sony’s Vaios, I don’t have much to complain about it, but I’m not a big fan of it either, because it does not allow the display to lean back completely flat, which is something I for one consider a must on an ideal portable laptop. Even so, this screen does lean back a fair amount.
Sharp and lively display
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard and trackpad are other aspects you’ll enjoy on this ultrabook and that’s new, given what I had to say about them on the older Zenbooks. The keyboard is a bit shallow and there’s not a lot of key travel, but that’s a given on such thin laptops. Except for that though, the keys are sturdy and offer proper feedback, registering commands even when pressed on the sides and corners. There’s also an adjustable back-lighting system and very little flex.
The layout is alright, although the arrow keys are small and cramped, while the key in the top-right corner is not exactly a key, but the Power Button. It is stiffer than the other regular keys but I did end up pressing it a few times when searching for Delete. In which case, the laptop just goes to sleep, without asking you if you really want it to do that. You know, just in case you pressed the stupidly positioned key by mistake. And that’s utterly annoying.
Anyway, the trackpad is, surprisingly, quite good as well. It’s smooth, accurate and supports all sorts of gestures. It feels nice to touch and that chamfered edge that separates it from the palm-rest is beautiful and practical at the same time. So really, I’m impressed.
Surprisingly, the keyboard and trackpad are quite good
Hardware, performances and upgrade options
Enough about all these. Let’s get to the goodies part: the performances. Before we do that, let me tell you that I have the top UX302LG configuration here, with the Intel Core i7-4500U processor, 6 GB of RAM, Nvidia’s 730M discrete graphics chip and a 256 GB SSD. There are a few other versions available, with the Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4 or 8 GB of memory and an option for the SSD or a regular 5400 rpm HDD and a 16 GB caching SSD.
Anyway, our tested model just flies through everyday activities, no matter if we’re talking about browsing, editing documents, chatting with friends or listening to music. It can play video content at ease as well, including 4K clips if you want to. And it can deal with games, as you can see from the results below.
||13 x 7 low details
|13 x 7 medium details
|19 x 10 low details
|NFS Most Wanted
|Metro Last Light**
* 4 v 4 game, around minute 20
** MetroLLBenchmark, scene D6
All the numbers above where recorded with FRAPS.
That Nvidia 730M chip is merely a mid-range solution, but it’s enough to run alright titles like Skyrim, Bioshock Infinite, Skyrim 3 or the latest Need for Speed on 13 x 7 resolution with medium details. You can play most of these titles on native Full HD resolution as well, but you’ll have to trim down the details. And if you’re not impressed with these results, do not forget that this is a slim laptop that only weighs about 3 pounds.
In benchmarks the UX302 outscores pretty much any other ultrabook in its class when it comes to GPU results, while in terms of raw CPU power there are some units outperforming it, like the Zenbook UX301 with that faster 28W processor. Have a look at the results below.
- 3DMark 11: E2859, P1789, X508;
- 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 41220, Cloud Gate – 5125, Fire Strike – 986, Fire Strike Extreme – 473 ;
- PCMark 07: 5251;
- Windows Rating: 5.8;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 38.36 fps, CPU 2.92 pts.
The SSD takes some credit for the numbers above as well. There’s a Kingston 256 GB unit inside, a 2.5 inch 7 mm drive. I’m not familiar with this particular model (Kingston RBU-SC400S37256G), but based on tests, it’s fast, just not incredibly fast.
Asus charges about 200 euros extra for it and since the laptop comes with a 7 mm bay, it might be a good idea to buy the basic version, with the standard HDD, and replace it for an SSD of your own liking afterwards.
Now, in order to do that you’ll have to take care of the back plate, which is kept in place by a dozen of Torx T5 screws. There are also two screws hiding behind the back rubber feet, you’ll just have to pull hard to unglue those in order to get to them. Once this is done, you can lift the metal sheet and access the internals. However, I wasn’t able to take it completely off and I didn’t want to pull too hard. Even so, the pics below will show you that there’s one memory module on this unit, which can take an up to 8 GB DIMM, next to the 2 GB soldered on the motherboard.
There’s also that 7 mm 2.5 inch bay I was telling you about, and there’s a sticker on it that says “Warranty void if removed”. That’s new and could have a negative effect on potential upgrades. There’s also the large battery, the two fans and the cooling system, the Wi-Fi Module towards the upper right side of the laptop and the extra m-sata connector towards the left, which sits empty in our case, as there’s no 16 GB cache SSD on this unit.
Bottom point, you can upgrade the RAM and the storage on the Asus Zenbook UX302LG, but I feel that this unit is not as upgrade friendly as the older UX32VG. What do you think?
Noise, Heat, Connectivity and others
All in all, this laptop is fast. It can handle the basics, plus multimedia, games and even intense tasks like photo and video editing, programming and so on. The best part: it does all these while running fairly cool and quiet.
There are two fans inside this unit and you’ll hear them spinning most of the time, although they tend to turn completely off when using the laptop very lightly.
Their metallic buzz is nothing the speakers can’t actually cover. Which are quite punchy BTW and able to deliver good quality sound, as long as you’ll tweak the output with the included Audio Wizard app.
Still, under load, my non-professional iPhone app measured a noise of 48 dB at 40-50 cm over the keyboard, where the user would usually stay. Getting closer, the app registered around 54 dB at 15 cm away from the computer, all these produced solely by the fans inside the laptop. But take these numbers with a grain of salt, as this is not by any means a professional testing solution.
Heavy gaming temperatures
As for temperatures, nor the hardware inside or the laptop’s body get annoyingly hot in any conditions, not even when running games for hours. Yes, the back gets warm, maybe even a bit hot you might say, and so does the area just on top of the keyboard, between the exhaust grills, but you’re not going to come in contact with these surfaces too often. I still don’t have a thermometer to share some exact numbers, but in the picture to the right you’ll see what HWInfo and HWMonitor show in terms of internal temperatures, after playing demanding games for about 2 hours.
Anyway, speaking about that cooling system, when flipping the laptop upside-down you’ll see some cuts in the metallic underbelly, from where the air is sucked in and then blown through the mesh in the hinge. It’s a decent solution, but all the hot air is blown upwards, towards the user and the screen, which does get quite hot and I’m afraid that might have negative long-run effects on the panel.
As for connectivity options, you do get a handful of ports on this unit. There’s also an USB to Lan adapter if needed and the laptop does offer Wireless and Bluetooth. As a side note, I haven’t encountered any crucial Wi-Fi issues with the Intel 7260 module inside. The speeds will drop when going farther away from the router and having several walls in between, but not to an alarming level. Either way, if you do need long-range wireless signal, the UX302 might not be your ideal pick.
There is however another aspect we should talk about before drawing the line on this laptop: the battery life. There’s a 3 Cell 50 Wh battery inside this laptop and that’s enough to push it for quite a while.
With standard use, which includes browsing, editing documents, listening to music and watching clips, with Wi-Fi ON and the screen’s Brightness at about 50%, I got around 6 and a half to 7 hours of use on a charge.
If dimming the screen even more and using the laptop for the most basic of tasks, like writing this review, the battery will only decrease at a rate of about 10% per hour. On the other hand, when running games, don’t expect more than 60 to 80 minutes of playing on a single charge.
As a side note, the charger is pretty standard here, with the wall socket integrated within the power brick and a long cable. The small LED within the charging tip is new though and it turns orange when the laptop is charging and green when it’s done.
Update1: There is one thing I should mention: I did disable the Auto Screen Brightness feature of this Yoga from the moment I turned it ON for the first time, so in all my tests, that feature was OFF. Having it ON might have a negative impact on the battery life.
Update2: Some users in the comments report shorter battery life for this one, around 5 hours of daily use for the final release models. Without a standardized test, these numbers are highly subjective and depends on what and how each of us is running on the laptop. I did add these reports in here though, so you’ll know better what to expect.
If used lightly, the UX302LG can go for many hours on a single charge
Prices and availability
There will be several versions of the UX302LG available in stores in a few weeks. These are the configurations that I know about right now:
- Zenbook UX302LG-C4002H – 1200 euro – Intel Core i5-4200U, Nvidia 730M, 500 GB HDD + 16 GB SSD, 4 GB RAM;
- Zenbook UX302LG-C4008H – 1250 euro – Intel Core i5-4200U, Nvidia 730M, 750 GB HDD + 16 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM;
- Zenbook UX302LG-C4028H – 1400 euro – Intel Core i5-4200U, Nvidia 730M, 256 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM;
- Zenbook UX302LG-C4007H – 1350 euro – Intel Core i7-4500U, Nvidia 730M, 750 GB HDD + 16 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM;
- Zenbook UX302LG-C4014P – 1550 euro – Intel Core i7-4500U, Nvidia 730M, 256 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM, Windows 8 Pro;
All units offer the same 13.3 inch Full HD IPS screen and come with Windows 8, except for the last version, bundled with the Pro version of the OS.
These are the configurations announced for my country and they might differ from region to region. Out review unit is almost identical to the last version in this list.
The UX302LG is still not widely available at the time of this update (Early December 2013). Some rumors even claim that it’s not even coming to the US this year, which would surely annoy some of you. Regardless, take these rumors with a grain of salt, and if you want to see up-to-date prices and even some discounts on this laptop, check out this post here. Buying from my links is, BTW, a nice way to say thanks if you found all my articles useful. And it helps me carry on with what I do: cover ultrabooks for you guys (while taking care of my family).
All in all, this Zenbook UX302LG is definitely one of the best ultrabooks I’ve encountered so far. There’s nothing utterly wrong with it. The looks are just as impressive as ever, the screen is gorgeous, the keyboard and trackpad have been improved and the performances can easily rival with any other sleek 13 incher. Even the wireless speed issues noticed on the older Zenbooks have been addressed with a new Intel Wireless chip.
However, as you might have expected, this Zenbook is not going to be cheap. The tested version sells for around 1500 euros over here which should mean around $1600 in the US. My advice is to to get the cheapest option and upgrade the RAM and the storage drive yourself, you’ll be able to get exactly what you want in your unit and you’ll probably end up saving some money too.
The Asus Zenbook UX302 is the best 13 inch ultrabook with dedicated graphics right now
Bottom point, the UX302LG is not the perfect laptop and definitely has some minor quirks. It’s also expensive. But if you want the fastest 13.3 inch ultrabook, well, you’re not going to find anything better than this one right now.
There are some alternatives, like the more affordable, but slower and larger Vivobook S301 and there are some competitors announced and yet unlaunched, like the 2013 version of the Acer Aspire S3. We’ll see if that one or any other model manages to outperform this Zenbook. Till then, the Zenbook UX302LG reigns supreme as the most powerful 13.3 inch ultrabook of the moment.
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