Friday, October 12, 2012

Gaming on a Intel 4000 Ultrabook

I recently purchased the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31a-DB51. During my previous  Ultrabook post  I spent a lot of time talking about the Acer TimelineU M5. After going hands on with the TimelineU at a local computer shop my quick conclusion was its not a Ultrabook, at least not in my view. It might meet the requirements to be branded as one but I believe anyone who is attracted by the word Ultrabook will be extremely disappointed in what they pick up. The TimelineU M5 is a skinny laptop to be sure however it's still hefty and underwhelming even for the price. I bought my first Ultrabook recently, and it includes a Intel 4000 graphics chip. This site is a gaming blog and I'm a gamer, let's talk about what the Asus Zenbook Prime does and does not bring to the table in terms of gaming. Does the Intel 4000 finally allow gamer to purchase an integrated graphics laptop without sacrificing gaming?

First, lets talk specs. The Asus Zenbook comes packed with a Intel Core i5-3317, 1.7 Ghz processor, 4 GB RAM(MAX), a 128 GB SSD hard drive and Intel 4000 graphics. The laptop also includes a backlit keyboard and a 13.3-Inch IPS FHD LED Screen(1600 x 900). Asus states the Ultrabook will achieve 5 hours of battery life on a single charge. While I do agree with this assessment you won't get 5 hours while doing any serious gaming.

The Zenbook is extremely aesthetically pleasing. The Ultrabook is .3 inches thick and looks as beautiful and sleek as a Macbook Air. The Ultrabook weighs a meagre 2.86 pounds. Asus really hit it out the park in trying to bring a laptop into the market for less than 1000 dollars that has the same look and feel as the Macbook Air. The keyboard has beautiful back lighting which allows use at any time of day. The IPS screen is gorgeous and the 1600x900 resolution on a laptop is something I will never give up after having it. The casing is brushed aluminum and after a few weeks I have not scratched it and hand prints are not showing on the case. Along with the laptop in the box Asus provides a slip case for the laptop which was unexpected. It also came with a VGA and Ethernet dongle in case you want to hook up a monitor or hard wire the internet connection.

Let's talk gaming. What can you play? How does it play? I immediately installed Skyrim, Shogun 2 Total War, Torchlight 2, Age of Empires online, and League of Legends. I've heard many folks say that Skyrim will play well on an Intel 4000. I really don't agree. It was the only game I installed that I considered unplayable. I play Skyrim on a PC and just couldn't adjust to the inconsistent frame rates and low detailed models on the screen. Maybe if you've never played it you would think it's OK but if you've seen Skyrim on dedicated graphics or on console I truly believe you'll be disappointed. All other games I listed played extremely well with smooth framerates at acceptable graphics settings. Even Borderlands 2 is playable, but it's not as smooth as the other games listed. Below is a quick FPS summary of the few games:
  • Age of Empires Online: Low of 22 FPS, Average 35 FPS 1600x900 resolution 
  • Borderlands Low FPS of 16, Average 25 FPS 1600x900 resolution 
  • Shogun 2 Total War Low FPS of 29 Average 37 at default settings 
  • Torchlight 2 Low of 22 FPS Average 30 FPS at 1600x900 resolution 
  • League of Legends low FPS of 37 Average 40 at 1600x900 resolution 
A long time ago I decided my next laptop purchase would be an Ultrabook. I've had bad luck with battery life over the years and I finally wanted something that wouldn't let me down. I also wanted the portability of a Ultrabook, I was sick of the 15.6 inch clunkers that weighted 7-8 pounds after adding the power brick. After seeing the Macbooks i decided I also wanted a 1600x900 IPS screen. I also wanted dedicated graphics.

As of today, a Ultrabook that has the same look and feel as the Asus Zenbook or Macbook Air, does not exist with dedicated graphics. The dedicated graphics add too much weight because of the cooling required. Maybe next gen we might reach the point where we can get the graphics in the small format. Basically, if you are like me, you'll need to settle. The big decision is price point and what we want to settle on. I decided that I wanted the screen and portability more then the dedicated graphics as i already own a gaming PC. My price point was under a thousand.

The Asus Zenbook Prime was a great purchase and I use it daily. If you want to play the latest and greatest games, purchase a gaming laptop. Don't get a Ultrabook. Ultrabooks with dedicated graphics are not even using the latest dedicated chips. The weight saved does not justify the price. For far less than an Ultrabook you can get a laptop that can play all games on the market today. However, if you truly want a Ultrabook that can play some games, the Zenbook Prime is a great option, absolutely gorgeous.


  1. Do you know which model of the asus zenbook prime you bought? I went through the list (asus ultrabook laptops) and found around 10 asus zenbook primes.

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