Performance Benchmarks, Battery Life & Conclusion
Our review model UX302 is armed with a fourth-generation Haswell Intel Core i7-4500U (1.8GHz) processor, which is the standard for all new Core i7 Ultrabooks. Most Ultrabooks now come with full SSDs, but the UX302 is a value-oriented model that uses a hybrid HDD + SSD cache drive. On the plus side, you do get more storage than a full SSD, with the UX302 boasting 750GB of storage space.
For our benchmarks, we will be pitting the UX302 against ASUS' own Zenbook UX301, which is armed with a slightly faster i7-4558U processor and 8GB RAM. It also uses Intel's Iris 5100 GPU and has a higher resolution QHD display. We'll also be comparing Acer's Aspire S7 (2013), which has the same screen resolution and Core i7 processor, but has Intel's HD Graphic 4400 GPU and 8GB RAM. And finally, we'll also throw in Lenovo's Yoga 2 Pro, which has the same Core i7 processor, but with 8GB RAM, Intel's HD Graphic 4400 GPU and a higher resolution QHD+ display.
You might feel that most of our comparisons are pegging costlier premium models against the UX302, but take note that the Lenovo machine is priced almost similar to the ASUS review unit's configuration that we've evaluating today.
PCMark 8 is a synthetic benchmark that simulates everyday usage comprising of workloads testing web browsing, multimedia editing and document editing. The 'Home' benchmark has a general array of tasks, while the 'Creative' and 'Work' benchmarks are more specific, and test a system’s performance at specific workloads.
The UX302 performed reasonably well in most tasks, and didn't seem to be hampered by its lack of RAM. However, as expected, it fared quite poorly in the Storage benchmark, dropping far behind our full SSD model Ultrabooks.
3DMark 2013 is a synthetic benchmark designed to test a notebook's graphics and gaming capabilities. For a more in-depth understanding of 3DMark 2013, please refer to our article "3DMark (2013) - Notebook GPU Performance Review". We'll be running our notebooks through two benchmarks:
- Cloud Gate is designed for integrated GPUs and utilizes a DirectX 11 engine limited to Direct3D feature level 10 (equivalent to DirectX 10) with a heavy emphasis on geometry, heavy post processing, particle effects, and volumetric illumination.
- Fire Strike serves as a showcase for DirectX 11 features, utilizing a grueling two-part test with extreme levels of tessellation and volumetric illumination, as well as complex smoke simulation using compute shaders and dynamic particle illumination.
Once again, a lack of RAM didn't seem to be an issue, with the UX302's NVIDIA GT730M discrete GPU proving far superior to Intel's HD Graphic 4400 GPU equipped on the Acer and Lenovo models, outscoring them by as much as 33%. However, the ASUS UX301's Intel Iris 5100 GPU actually performed slightly better, outscoring the UX302 at both Cloud Gate and Fire Strike.
Far Cry 2
In an actual gaming benchmark, the UX302 proved much better, outscoring all of our test machines, including the UX301's Intel Iris 5100 GPU. Having said that, we still wouldn't consider the UX302 gaming-capable, as it wasn't able to achieve 30FPS on Far Cry 2's Very High setting. Far Cry 2 is also a fairly old game, and not DX11-supported.
For an idea of how the UX302 fares on newer games, we also ran DX11 game Tomb Raider (2013) on 1920 x 1080. As expected, at medium settings it was only able to achieve 20.5 FPS, and that dropped to 11.4 FPS at High settings. If you're willing to sacrifice quality, and play at a lower resolution, it is possible to bump FPS over 30 (and even over 60 if you play at Low quality on a measly resolution of 1024 x 768) but it's definitely not an ideal solution. If you want to play games on a notebook, you're still going to need something more powerful than a compact Ultrabook.
The UX302 is armed with a 50WH, 4560mAh Lithium Ion battery, which is a bit smaller than average for a notebook of this size.
To test battery life, we use Powermark, a synthetic benchmark which tests a device's battery life with a number of productivity and everyday usage scenarios. The UX302 fared better than its brother, the UX301, but still only managed to last just under three hours, far less than both the Acer Aspire S7 and Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. This was particularly disappointing, because the Yoga 2 Pro did better despite having an even smaller capacity 3700mAh battery and a much higher 3200 x 1800 pixel resolution display.
As you can see, power consumption on the UX302 was unusually high. While you might think it's the discrete graphics that's adding to the power requirements, that doesn't explain the UX301's power consumption where it has no discrete graphics. We normally use the balanced power profile to conduct these battery tests, but just to be doubly sure, we also tested the ASUS UX series notebooks on the power savings profile, but that hardly improved the battery life results.
Our Portability score factors in battery life, weight and volume to give you an idea of how easy it is to carry each device around. Due to its thicker profile, heavier weight, and lackluster battery life, the UX302 was outshined in this category.
The Ultrabook market is crowded and competitive, but ASUS has done a good job offering something unique with the UX302. We liked the gorgeous dark metallic blue lid with its Gorilla Glass 3 protection (even if it is a fingerprint magnet) and the discrete NVIDIA GT 730M GPU, which, while not powerful enough to make the UX302 a gaming machine, is certainly much better than the standard Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated graphics found on most Haswell Ultrabooks.
A lack of RAM turned out to be a non-issue with our benchmark tests, but even so, considering how affordable RAM is right now, the standard 8GB should really be expected on a notebook of this price. As for the hybrid HDD, it does make the notebook slightly slower than a full SSD on certain tasks, but we suspect many users will find the extra storage a worthwhile trade-off.
Our biggest complaint with the UX302 is its under average battery life, caused by a combination of the UX302's high power consumption and under average capacity battery. It's particularly unfortunate because the short battery life also diminishes the usefulness of the UX302's NVIDIA GPU. Any applications that can make use of the GPU - like a video game - will also drain battery life even faster.
Price-wise, the UX302 is competitive, and is on the low-end of the premium Ultrabook price range. All things considered, if you're looking for a gorgeous and classy Ultrabook with above average graphics performance and lots of storage space, the UX302 is certainly a decent choice - just be prepared to hunt for a power outlet on a fairly regular basis (relatively speaking).