ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Review - Execution Matters
Performance - Gaming
ASUS does not ship the Zenbook Prime with an unusual or notable gaming solution. It’s Intel HD 4000 all the way. That means we can’t expect great results - but let’s put it through its paces and see what shakes out.
I’m returning to our first group of competitors here (instead of the laptops used in the hard drive benchmarks).
Because this laptop does include a 1080p display I will be testing games at that resolution. However, only the ASUS N56VM is available for comparison in those tests.
Dawn of War 2: Retribution
The final expansion for Dawn of War 2 is a good representative of the RTS genre. These games often place a fair load on the CPU because of artificial intelligence and (sometimes) physics calculations. Yet the GPU also must be up to snuff.
In these benchmarks we see that the UX31A offers playable experience at 1366x768 but the average dips into the low 20s at 1080p, which means the game is quite choppy whenever the action becomes intense.
This turn-based strategy game is surprising demanding due to its beautiful graphics and the huge number of units on-screen towards the end of the game. I use a saved game 375 turns in for this benchmark, so the numbers here are representative of real late-game performance.
Ick. Intel HD 4000 has never done well in Civilization V and that doesn’t change in this round of benchmarks. The game is arguably playable because of its turn based nature, but offers a slide-show experience. You’ll need to turn everything to low or off in this game if you want to play it on the Zenbook Prime.
Blizzard’s new action-RPG has had its fair share of trouble, but it’s still a great game with beautiful graphics. It will run on many systems at low detail, which is boring. To introduce some drama I run the game at high detail with AA on. Our benchmark consists of a play-through of an early Cathedral level.
As I’ve mentioned in some other reviews, Diablo seems to have been given some performance enhancements related to HD 4000 (and possibly all GPUs) as of late. As a result the IGPs actually do quite well - much better than in earlier tests.
The game is basically playable at 1366x768, though it can be choppy at times, which could make play on hardcore and/or Inferno difficulty a chore. 1080p is not a playable experience.
The latest game from Bethesda is one of those titles that people seem to use as a personal benchmark. If a friend or acquaintance is thinking of buying a laptop that will be used for gaming they always want to know - will it play Skyrim?
Nope. Even at medium detail and 1366x768 the Intel integrated graphics solution is outmatched, resulting in a terrible gameplay experience. I wouldn’t even recommend playing the game at low detail as it also can be jerky at times. 1080p is predictably terrible - at just 11 FPS it’s at nearly slideshow levels of bad.
Battlefield 3 remains one of the most attractive and demanding games on the market despite the fact it has been out for nearly a year. A fairly beefy GPU is needed to run is smoothly at high detail. On non-gaming laptops I benchmark at medium detail, which still results in attractive graphics.
Once again Intel HD 4000 proves incapable of providing a playable experience at medium detail. The average framerate of 18 when playing at 1366x768 simply isn’t going to get the job done, and as with Skyrim, setting detail to low still does not provide enjoyable gameplay. 1080p drops the framerate down to 11, which is so slow it actually breaks some scripting in the campaign. I noticed that dialogue sometimes would not trigger, or would de-sync from events in the game.
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