Asus Zenbook UX302 review
13.3 in 1,920x1,080 display, 1.5kg, 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U, 4.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 8.1
The incredibly stylish Asus Zenbook UX302 is one of the best looking ultra-portable laptops around. It's light, slim and stunning, with a powerful processor, a touchscreen display and a decent amount of storage to boot.
Just 17mm thick when closed, the Zenbook has sacrificed a few standard ports to help keep the weight off. To this end, there's no built-in Ethernet or VGA port, although HDMI and mini DisplayPort graphics outputs are included, alongside a 3.5mm headset port, three USB3 ports and an SDXC card reader. To use older monitors or a wired network, ASUS provides mini DisplayPort-to-VGA and USB Ethernet adaptors in the box. Although it's slim, the UX302 has both HDMI and mini DisplayPort graphics outputs, a 3.5mm headset port, three USB3 ports and an SDXC card reader, so you won't be wanting for connectivity.
As is common with ultra-portables, there's no optical disc drive, but there's more internal storage than you might expect. A 500GB Hitachi hard disk split into two partitions provides plenty of capacity for software and data. To boost desktop responsiveness and boot times, this is paired with a 16GB SSD cache, which means that you come close to the performance of an SSD, but get much more disk space for your money.
The Intel Core i7-4500U processor is a popular choice at the more powerful end of the lightweight laptop market. This 1.8GHz dual-core processor achieved an overall score of 49 in our tests and is eminently capable of handling all the business, desktop and entertainment tasks you might demand of an ultraportable. There's just 4GB of RAM installed, which is a little disappointing for the price. There's scope to add an extra 4GB, but actually getting into the Zenbook is a challenge, between its single solid baseplate and the tiny Torx screws holding it together.
This version of the UX302 uses the processor's on-chip Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU, is not really built for gaming: we got a frame rate of just 21.2fps in our Dirt Showdown laptop test, which we run at a resolution 1,280x720, high quality and 4x AA. However, you'll be able to pay most modern games at reduced settings. Dropping the quality to low, we got a smooth average frame rate of 37.1fps, with a minimum frame rate of 29.2fps.
One of the benefits of having a Haswell processor is excellent battery life. Lasting 12 hours, 49 minutes in our light-use test is the best result we've seen, but the UX302 should still give you around a day's worth of use away from the mains.
The laptop's 13.3in screen is also excellent. The 1,920x1,080 resolution looks great on the 13.3in Gorilla Glass screen. We measured a good contrast ratio of 942:1 and rich black levels of 0.2cd/m2. Its colour reproduction is also much better than you'll see from most laptop screens. Our measurement device rated it as able to display 88.2 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. Our subjective observations tallied with the report: all our videos and images looked great. The screen is glossy, which can be problematic under bright light, as it's rather reflective, but we were very happy with the laptop display's rich, vivid colour.
The touchscreen is effective and precise, but you'll spend most of your time on the desktop using the touchpad. The touchpad is large and centrally positioned on the wrist rest. It's well positioned to avoid being accidentally struck while typing and, although its buttons are built into the touch surface, they're marked so as to be easy to see, if not feel. It's a bit of a stretch to click and drag, but the pad and its gestures otherwise worked smoothly. The keyboard is similarly well laid out, although we'd have preferred deeper keys with more travel. However, we were able to touch type quickly and accurately on the flat, widely spaced keys.
The laptop's built in speakers and audio have Bang & Olufsen branding slapped on them, but are a fairly typical set of laptop speakers. There's a bit more base and low mid-range emphasis than some rivals have, but the speakers are still tinny and their volume and quality isn't aided by the fact that they fire downwards onto the surface the laptop is stood on.
The 13in ultraportable laptop market is intensely competitive, but the UX302 holds its own against stiff competition. Ultimately, the choice comes down to what you want from a laptop. For the best keyboard, touchpad and multi-touch gestures, and incredible battery life, the 13-inch MacBook air is a great choice. If you want the best screen, plenty of storage and a bit more power, the UX302 is the better choice and wins our Best Buy award.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4500U|
|Processor clock speed||1.8GHz|
|Memory slots free||1|
|Sound||Realtek HD Audio|
|Pointing device||touchpad and touchscreen|
|Viewable size||13.3 in|
|Graphics Processor||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Graphics/video ports||HDMI, mini DisplayPort|
|Total storage capacity||500GB|
|Optical drive type||none|
Ports and Expansion
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000 via adaptor|
|Wireless networking support||802.11ac|
|PC Card slots||none|
|Supported memory cards||SDXC|
|Other ports||3.5mm headset port|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Operating system restore option||restore partition|
|Warranty||one year RTB|