With all the camera gear that us photographers have to carry around when we travel, the last thing that we want to add to our load is a heavy laptop. Until recently, the only option was to carry a not-so-powerful ultra-portable laptop like a netbook or Macbook Air. Unfortunately, those machines are usually under-powered when it comes to editing in Lightroom, Photoshop, or Premiere.
Luckily, ASUS pulled off a rare combination with their ZENBOOK UX32VD-DH71. When released, it was the first ultrabook with discrete graphics including a GeForce GT 620M and a 1080P IPS matte display. Did we also mention it is very upgradeable? It is also one of the best-looking laptops out in the market.
So let’s see why we find the ASUS ZENBOOK UX32VD-DH71 to be such a great laptop to travel around and work with.
The ASUS ZENBOOK UX32VD Video Review
The Tech Specs
• Intel i7 3rd-generation 3517U processor
• Windows 8
• 4GB DDR3 1600mhz memory (2GB integrated into the motherboard)
• 13.3” IPS FHD (1920×1080) anti-glare panel
• nVidia GeForce GT 620M
• 512GB 5400RPM hybrid hard drive
• Backlit keyboard
• Aluminum base plate with plastic-aluminum composite frame
• 3x USB 3.0 ports
• 1x HDMI
• 1x mini VGA
• Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers
• Weight: 3.2 lbs
• Dimensions (W x D x H): 12.80 x 8.78 x 0.71 inches
The Bad and Good News
As you can see, this ultrabook has pretty decent specs. Nevertheless, there are several shortcomings. Primarily, the laptop only comes with a paltry 4GB of RAM and a pedestrian 512GB 5400RPM hard drive. In its stock form, it isn’t exactly a post-production editing workhorse by any means.
The good news is that unlike some high-end ultrabooks that have many of their crucial components glued or soldered, the Asus UX32VD is easy to upgrade. For an additional $400-600 (depending on your exact build) you can upgrade the RAM to 10GB and add a Crucial m4 Solid-State Drives.
We will follow up this article with a tutorial on how to upgrade this laptop’s memory and hard drive. The process only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.
The Display and Graphics Card
Even better news for the ASUS UX32VD is its screen. Believe it or not, 1080p is still a rarity for laptops with a 13” screen; a full HD 1080P IPS display is even harder to find on laptops. The ASUS’s IPS display not only boasts a 1920×1080 resolution, but it is also a matte display that displays close to the 100% sRGB color gamut.
Running this display is a 1GB nVidia GT 620M dedicated graphics card. Most ultrabooks, including the MacBook Air, only use an integrated graphics chip, which is fine for everyday computing usage, but not a good option for creative professionals. With the ASUS UX32VD, not only does it run Lightroom and Photoshop smoothly, but you can even do real-time GPU accelerated video editing in Premiere CS6.
That being said, the UX32VD is not a replacement for a desktop workstation or even a heavy-duty mobile workstation like the ASUS G75VW-DS73, which we reviewed earlier, but it is far more mobile and it is definitely a much better option than other laptops without dedicated graphics cards.
One of the primary attractions for an ultrabook are their long battery lives. Depending on your usage, the ASUS UX32VD’s battery can sustain between 3 to 6 hours of usage. Heavy use of Lightroom and Photoshop, or just watching a movie will come up on the shorter end of that scale, of course.
The Touchpad and Keyboard
The touchpad is very responsive and is almost as good as Apple’s Multitouch. It is definitely better than most of the non-Apple laptops that we have come across in our office. We do have have one tip here: Don’t update to the ASUS drivers. Instead, keep the factory-installed Elan drivers because the touchpad will be more responsive and smoother in operation than when using the updated ASUS drivers.
The keys on the keyboard have a nice tactile feel to them and are very responsive to the touch. The fact that the keys are also backlit is a nice bit of extra polish on this already polished ultrabook.
Ports and Connectivity
One of the benefits of the newest generation of the Intel chipset is the on-board USB 3.0 support. The Asus UX32VD has three USB 3.0 ports, which is surprising considering how many of its competitors usually offer USB 2.0 ports with just one USB 3.0 port.
There is also a standard-size HDMI port and a VGA port that allow you to run two external monitors in addition to the laptop monitor. This is where the dedicated graphic cards come in handy in making sure that the displays all run smoothly together.
The sound quality from this small ultrabook is surprisingly good. It helps that Bang & Olufsen is the audio company behind the engineering of the speakers, of course. It is safe to say that it features the best speakers among Ultrabooks that we have tested.
The Weight and Size
Of course, you can’t fully review an ultrabook without mentioning its most distinctive features, which is its size and weight. At a height of a miniscule 0.71 inches, this laptop is very thin. In fact, ASUS includes a beautiful, slim laptop sleeve that you can carry the ultrabook in. With a total weight of only 3.2 lbs, the UX32VD is really the best combination of portability and power (once the RAM and the SSD are upgraded).
In addition to portability and power, there is one final “P” that we need to cover. The UX32’s closest competitor in terms to size, weight, and build quality is the Macbook Air. To get the Macbook Air specced out like our upgraded UX32, you would have to pay around $2,400. Unfortunately, even with that price your Macbook Air will still not come with a dedicated graphic card.
The ASUS UX32VD with upgraded RAM and SSD totals only around $1600-1700. That price consists of $1,299 for the laptop, $50 for the RAM, and $299 for the SSD. Compared to the Macbook Air, this ASUS UX32VD ultrabook is a great value for a premium ultrabook.
At the end of the day, companies like Apple and ASUS are known for their products and reliability, and this ZENBOOK UX32VD certainly qualifies as one of ASUS’s best laptop yet. Simply put, this is a machine that definitely does not disappoint, and have since become our go to laptop when we have to edit in the field. Once the memory and the hard drive are upgraded, this ultrabook excels in the three P’s that were mentioned above: Portability, Power, and Price. As a result, we give the ASUS ZENBOOK UX32VD-DH71 an SLR Lounge rating of 5 out of 5 stars.
Gear and Upgraded Components Mentioned
ASUS ZENBOOK UX32VD-DH71 ($1,299)
Crucial m4 256GB 2.5-Inch (7mm) SATA 6Gb/s Solid State Drive or Crucial m4 512GB 2.5-Inch (7mm) SATA 6Gb/s Solid State Drive CT512M4SSD1
Corsair Vengeance 8GB (1x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz Laptop Memory ($49)