Notebookcheck

Review Update Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H Notebook

Sebastian Jentsch (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 06/03/2013

IPS update. Do you want to attract envious looks? Everybody's got a MacBook Air? Asus' sleek dandy is available starting at a low 900 Euros (~$1188). Now even with a quad-core processor and color-intensive IPS display in Full HD. Do we now know the bliss of satisfaction?

Do a first-class display, high-quality panel and AMD hardware fit together?
Do a first-class display, high-quality panel and AMD hardware fit together?

For the original German review, see here.

We first reviewed the AMD-based "Ultrabook" VivoBook U38DT in January 2013. Unconventionally for Asus, in the ultrabook's aluminum unibody they chose not to install a high-end Intel processor, but instead AMD's Trinity platform. However, the quad-core A8-4555M (1.6 GHz) from AMD's A series was a disappointment; even at a normal level of multi-core load, the CPU clock frequency slipped down to 900 MHz. For games, the result was that they were subject to unpleasant jerking even at their lowest settings.

Now we are taking a second look at the device. Why? At 1.55 kg (3.4 lbs.), the extremely light metal case is still very attractive at a price below 1000 Euros (~$1320). At a current market price of 900 Euros (~$1188), nowhere else will you find an aluminum unibody case with a touch-display -- that is a machine that will lend you some bragging rights. Asus also polished up the panel: Instead of the traditional lean HD fare, there is a Full HD IPS panel with crisp colors and wide viewing angles.

We want to know if Asus solved the throttling problem. The system is now equipped with a quad-core processor with a higher clock rate -- the AMD A10-4655M (2.00 GHz, 25 Watts). What did the manufacturer think up to cool the processor better? After all, the A8-4555M already had throttling problems at 19 Watts. Is it worse at 25 Watts?

How do the high-resolution IPS Full HD panel and the comparably weak hardware fit together? Whether the VivoBook U38N-C4004H is worth purchasing is a question we are about to answer in this comprehensive review update. Due to the fact that the manufacturing, connectivity and input devices have not changed, we will jump right in at the display. To read about the topics we have left out in this review update, please see our review of the structurally identical VivoBook U38DT.

The immediate competitors are subnotebooks that also have high-quality IPS panels with a resolution of 1920x1080. The only devices on the market in the range of 1000 Euros (~$1320) are models from Samsung and Asus. Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 13 with an HD+ display (1600x900 pixels) is also an interesting consideration, available for about 1000 Euros (~$1320).

 

 

 

Case

The VivoBook U38DT excited reviewers in January 2013 with its excellent case made entirely of aluminum. The U38DT and U38N are constructed identically, except that the multi-touch panel required a small alteration in the construction. The display frame of the formerly matte panel has disappeared, and we are now looking at an edge-to-edge design. The frame would have hindered operation of the device with fingers and made cleaning a more difficult task. For that reason, all laptops with touch panels use this kind of construction.

The new construction is not a disadvantage when it comes to the lid's resistance to twisting -- on the contrary. All the way to the corners, the lid can only be marginally twisted. Pointed pressure from the top side of the lid does not provoke any distortions on the display. The touch panel, however, is not quite so stable. Protective Gorilla glass or similar materials used on tablets have yet to be implemented in the construction of touch notebooks. Medium-strength pressure on the display provokes significant streaking in the rim areas.

rubber lip running all the way around the display allows the lid to close softly and with precision on the base unit. We are big fans of the tightly adjusted hinges. Their tightness does mean it takes two hands to open the notebook, but the lid is not driven backwards by the pressure of fingers on the screen. It would not be able to go too far anyway, as the lid hits a stable stopping point at about 130 degrees (its widest open angle).

Due to the fact that the test device for our review of the U38DT was on loan from a store, we chose not to unscrew its case. The U38N is not getting off so easy. After loosening all the screws on the bottom of the device, the whole cover can be taken off. The SSD is in the commercially standard 2.5-inch form, the working memory is partly hidden (2 GB onboard), and the WLAN module sits in the Mini PCI Express.

No less valuable is the possibility of cleaning the fans and switching out the battery. The latter is held in the case with eight screws.

"First-class: The top and bottom shells are each made of a single piece of aluminum.
"First-class: The top and bottom shells are each made of a single piece of aluminum.

Display

Now with a multitouch screen.
Now with a multitouch screen.

Due to its low resolution and small viewing angles, the reviewer of the U38DT did not like its conventional HD format TN panel. Now Asus has made a clever move and complemented the notebook's premium case with a premium TFT panel.

We are referring here to a 13.3-inch panel with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, amounting to a pixel density of 166 ppi. HD panels only have 118 ppi. The 10-finger multi-touch screen comes from CMN (Chi Mei Innolux) and answers to the name of N133HSE EA1. The glossy IPS-TFT has a high contrast: 1084:1. Combined, the glossiness and contrast of the display make for bright colors and good viewing angles.

Colors and outlines appear extremely clear and vibrant, further bolstered by the display's high brightness. 335 cd/m² (measured at the middle of the screen) is the maximum setting, and that is available in battery mode as well. The panel's specs sheet refers to 350 nits. An ambient light sensor in the top edge of the panel adapts the brightness to the notebook's surrounding environment. We brightly lit said environment for our measurements, forcing the panel to ratchet up to its maximum brightness. The illumination, i.e. the even distribution of brightness across the TFT panel, is very good for a model with this level of brightness. At 90%, there still are not any over lit areas around the edges (bleeding) or bright flecks in monochromatic images.

324
cd/m²
334
cd/m²
335
cd/m²
322
cd/m²
336
cd/m²
346
cd/m²
311
cd/m²
313
cd/m²
334
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 346 cd/m²
Average: 328.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 90 %
Center on Battery: 335 cd/m²
Black: 0.31 cd/m²
Contrast: 1084:1

Still, professional color spaces are not a topic to be discussed with this panel. The display hardly approaches being able to cover the sRGB color space, hence neither can it cover AdobeRGB. Only the UX31A does better here -- its display almost covers the sRGB color space.

U38N IPS vs. sRGB
U38N IPS vs. sRGB
U38N IPS vs. AdobeRGB
U38N IPS vs. AdobeRGB
U38N IPS vs. Asus UX31A IPS
U38N IPS vs. Asus UX31A IPS

The following row of screenshots shows the color analysis of the i1 Pro 2 photospectrometer and the CalMAN 5 software. In the panel's factory state, we measured a minor weakness in its rendering of gray tones. The average DeltaE(2000) deviation was six.

Noteworthy: At 5881 K, the white point is close to the ideal of 6500, but it is shifted too far into the warm region. You can see that with your naked eye on the grayscale screen in the lighter white tones (hint of beige). It is the opposite for most panels -- their white point values are over 7500 and too cool. As a result, this panel does not have a blue cast; its colors are perceptibly warm.

The color saturation screen reveals exactly the same thing. Magenta does not slide into the blue region as it does on so many laptop panels -- instead it is shifted towards green. Green itself is noticeably shifted towards red. Blue is the only of the six colors with a DeltaE(2000) deviation of <3. Summed up, the panel's color accuracy is relatively poor, even if the eye registers the warm colors positively. Nevertheless, most users will like the warm and crisp colors, measured here in their uncalibrated state.

CalMAN grayscale according to sRGB
CalMAN grayscale according to sRGB
CalMAN color space coverage according to sRGB
CalMAN color space coverage according to sRGB
CalMAN color saturation according to sRGB
CalMAN color saturation according to sRGB
CalMAN ColorChecker according to sRGB
CalMAN ColorChecker according to sRGB

Due to the glossy TFT surface, the question of outdoor use quickly becomes tricky. In unfavorable lighting situations, even the high brightness level will not be of much help. The following photos were taken under a partly cloudy sky, and already in that environment the screen is practically invisible from the side. However, in the shadows and viewing the screen from the front, we were able to enjoy a comfortably bright and easily readable display.

Notebook in daylight
Notebook in daylight
Side view
Side view
Steep side view
Steep side view

Viewing angles are still the greatest strength of IPS panels. Looking vertically from above and below -- where a TN panel already loses visibility at 20 degrees -- here it is possible to adjust the viewing angle by up to 70 degrees without color inversion. The only minor problem is that the screen develops a certain pallor at very flat angles. On the horizontal, ghost images only make an appearance starting at around 85 degrees.

Viewing angles IPS display
Viewing angles IPS display

Performance

The Trinity based AMD A10-4655M (2 - 2.8 GHz) is a quad-core processor for mid-size notebooks. The 32 nanometer APU was introduced mid-year 2012. But, because it has been seldom installed, this is our first time testing it. The VivoBook U38DT has the sister APU A8-4555M (4 cores, 1.6 - 2.4 GHz) on board. Their performance has the potential to be very different, seeing as the clock speed should increase relative to the new TDP of 25 Watts (A8 19 Watts).

The low-voltage system contains a Radeon HD 7620G (IGP) that represents the maximum configuration of the Trinity GPU (384 Radeon cores). What that means for games, and how significant the difference is between the Radeon HD 7620G and the Radeon HD 7600G or Intel HD 4000 are questions we will answer in our sections on graphics and gaming performance.

The platform is finished off with a SanDisk U100 SSD (128 GB) and 4 GB RAM. The latter is split in two; that is to say, 2 GB are soldered to the mainboard, and 2 more GB are installed as a standard SO-DIMM. Expanding the memory to 6 or 10 GB would be easy.

System info CPU-Z CPU
System info CPU-Z Cache
System info CPU-Z Mainboard
System info CPU-Z SPD
System info CPU-Z Radeon HD 7620G
DPC Latency Checker: idle, no delays
System information Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H

Processor

In the U38DT, the A8-4555M (1.6 GHz) processor throttled massively under multi-core load -- the clock rate throttled down to 900 MHz. Going into our tests with that picture in mind, we observed the CPU performance very carefully. In the AMD Vision Control Center, you can manage the CPU speed ranges both on battery and plugged in. We of course set the notebook to run at its optimal performance. The U38N performed the Cinebench R11.5 multi test at 1.8 to 2.3 GHz (fluctuating). In battery mode, the processor ran the same test at a constant 2.0 GHz. So no trace of throttling.

Intel based competitors, like the UX31A, run the multi test 20 to 40% faster (i5). One interesting note is the big lead our test device has over the Asus UX32A, which as a low-cost Zenbook is still equipped with an outdated Core i3 2367M (-20%). The sister notebook of our U38N, the U38DT with its A8-4555M processor, computed a whole 53% slower as a result of the CPU's quickly induced throttling.

The single-core tests paint a somewhat different picture: The lead our test device has over the A8 reduces to 19%, and the lead it had over the Sandy Bridge i3 disappears entirely (now +2%). Still, i5-3317U systems remain 40% ahead.

The OpenGL tests also yield a satisfying result. The Radeon HD 7620G integrated in the APU reaches 22 fps, which is a negligible 3% more than the Radeon HD 8550M in the U38DT. The 8570M in the Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE is 3% slower, probably due to the system's limited memory clock speed. Intel's HD 4000 systems reach between 13 and 17 fps, depending on their use of GPU turbo and dual-channel status.

AMD Vision Control Center - Clocking
AMD Vision Control Center - Clocking
Asus Power Settings
Asus Power Settings
R11.5 Multi 1.8 to 2.3 GHz
R11.5 Multi 1.8 to 2.3 GHz
R11.5 Multi on battery, constant 2.0 GHz
R11.5 Multi on battery, constant 2.0 GHz
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
1137
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
4530
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
4088
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
2280 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
6495 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
4336 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
0.52 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
1.65 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
22 fps
Help
Cinebench R11.5
OpenGL 64Bit (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
22 fps ∼18%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
22.62 fps ∼18% +3%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
8.32 fps ∼7% -62%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
12.88 fps ∼11% -41%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
14.3 fps ∼12% -35%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
14.73 fps ∼12% -33%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
17.09 fps ∼14% -22%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
16.01 fps ∼13% -27%
Dell XPS 13
16.84 fps ∼14% -23%
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
15.69 fps ∼13% -29%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
21.32 fps ∼17% -3%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
1.65 Points ∼9%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
0.78 Points ∼4% -53%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
1.32 Points ∼8% -20%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
2.02 Points ∼11% +22%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
2.38 Points ∼14% +44%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
2.51 Points ∼14% +52%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
2.61 Points ∼15% +58%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
2.64 Points ∼15% +60%
Dell XPS 13
2.69 Points ∼15% +63%
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
2.8 Points ∼16% +70%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
2.92 Points ∼17% +77%
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
0.52 Points ∼26%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
0.42 Points ∼21% -19%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
0.53 Points ∼27% +2%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
0.74 Points ∼37% +42%
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk
1.22 Points ∼61% +135%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A
1.14 Points ∼57% +119%
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE
1.22 Points ∼61% +135%
Dell XPS 13
1.23 Points ∼62% +137%
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws
1.24 Points ∼62% +138%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
1.28 Points ∼64% +146%

Legend

 
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H AMD A10-4655M, AMD Radeon HD 7620G, SanDisk U100 128 GB
 
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H AMD A8-4555M, AMD Radeon HD 8550M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
 
Asus UX32A-R3001V Intel Core i3-2367M, Intel HD Graphics 3000, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380 + 32 GB SanDisk i100 SSD Cache
 
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Samsung MZMPC128HBFU
 
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, ADATA XM11
 
Acer Aspire S5-391-73514G25akk Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 2x Lite-On CMT-128L3M (RAID 0)
 
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2012-06 MD231LL/A Intel Core i5-3427U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Apple SSD TS128E (Toshiba)
 
Samsung 900X3C-A04DE Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Lite-On LMT-256M3M
 
Dell XPS 13 Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Samsung SSD PM830 256 GByte mSATA
 
Acer Aspire S7 391-73514G25aws Intel Core i7-3517U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 2x Lite-On CMT-128L3M (RAID 0)
 
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE Intel Core i7-3537U, AMD Radeon HD 8570M, Samsung SSD PM841 MZMTD256HAGM

System Performance

We take a look at the PCMark 7 test to get an impression of a system's application performance. Our test device's score of 1955 points does not seem all that high; the UX32A comes in just a little behind (-11%). But the System Storage score shows that we are not dealing with a slow SSD here. The UX32A only has an HDD alongside 32 GB SSD cache. The systems with quicker SSDs and Core i5 or i7 processors are more nimble in both the System Storage and Computation portions of our tests.

However, these are all theoretical values. In practical use, the U38N is very swift to react, starts from cold within 17 seconds, and finishes copying tasks quickly. One thing is clear, though: Performance enthusiasts will not enjoy the AMD APU. It is better to pay out the extra 200 Euros (~$264) for a UX31A with a Core i5 and a high-end SSD. The HD 7620G's gaming performance is not a real argument in favor of the APU subnotebook, as we will analyze more in-depth further down.

5.7
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.7
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5.7
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.6
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
7.6
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage6668 points
PCMark 71955 points
Help
PCMark 7
Score (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
1955 Points ∼28%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
1714 Points ∼25% -12%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
1746 Points ∼25% -11%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
4396 Points ∼63% +125%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
4884 Points ∼70% +150%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
5155 Points ∼74% +164%
Computation (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
3099 Points ∼11%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
3742 Points ∼13% +21%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
6336 Points ∼22% +104%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
13987 Points ∼49% +351%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
14195 Points ∼50% +358%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
16616 Points ∼59% +436%
System Storage (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
3849 Points ∼54%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
1540 Points ∼22% -60%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
1565 Points ∼22% -59%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
4927 Points ∼69% +28%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
5240 Points ∼73% +36%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
5245 Points ∼74% +36%

Legend

 
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H AMD A10-4655M, AMD Radeon HD 7620G, SanDisk U100 128 GB
 
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H AMD A8-4555M, AMD Radeon HD 8550M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
 
Asus UX32A-R3001V Intel Core i3-2367M, Intel HD Graphics 3000, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380 + 32 GB SanDisk i100 SSD Cache
 
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Samsung MZMPC128HBFU
 
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE Intel Core i7-3537U, AMD Radeon HD 8570M, Samsung SSD PM841 MZMTD256HAGM
 
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, ADATA XM11

Mass Storage

Not a quick SSD? The sequential read/write times of 494/336 MB/s certainly do not look half-bad. However, as is so often the case, it is a little slow reading and writing small, scattered files (4K tests). But, that is the norm, especially for system files. Here the U100 only performs at 11 and 7/8 MB/s (Crystal Disk Mark/AS-SSD).

We demonstrate this with the following bar graph. A current Samsung SSD PM841 is 91% faster here; an ADATA XM11 in the UX31A a whole 146%. However, this is not reliable data for every UX31A with an SSD. Manufacturers are free to install a variety of SSD models in one series. Asus did exactly that with their UX31A in the past, which is why some buyers ended up with a slower SSD than they wanted.

SanDisk U100 128 GB 2.5 inch SATA
SanDisk U100 128 GB 2.5 inch SATA
AS-SSD 500 MB/s seq. Read
AS-SSD 500 MB/s seq. Read
Crystal Disk Mark 494 MB/s seq. Read
Crystal Disk Mark 494 MB/s seq. Read
HD-Tune 225 MB/s seq. Read
HD-Tune 225 MB/s seq. Read
SanDisk U100 128 GB
Transfer Rate Minimum: 194.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 238.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 224.9 MB/s
Access Time: 0.6 ms
Burst Rate: 53.7 MB/s
CPU Usage: 31.5 %
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 - Read 4k (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
Radeon HD 7620G, A10-4655M, SanDisk U100 128 GB
11.5 MB/s ∼27%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
Radeon HD 8550M, A8-4555M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
0.363 MB/s ∼1% -97%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
HD Graphics 3000, 2367M, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380 + 32 GB SanDisk i100 SSD Cache
0.532 MB/s ∼1% -95%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
HD Graphics 4000, 3317U, Samsung MZMPC128HBFU
15.28 MB/s ∼35% +33%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
Radeon HD 8570M, 3537U, Samsung SSD PM841 MZMTD256HAGM
21.95 MB/s ∼51% +91%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
HD Graphics 4000, 3317U, ADATA XM11
28.31 MB/s ∼65% +146%

Graphics Card

The AMD Radeon HD 7620G profits from the Trinity GPU architecture's maximum configuration: 384 Radeon cores work their muscles, though the frequency was reduced to 497 MHz. The dual-channel memory has a positive effect on GPU performance.

While in the U38DT an HD 7600G (IGP) and a Radeon HD 8550M (dedicated) work together dynamically (Enduro), our U38N constantly computes with its HD 7620G. The OpenGL (see Processor Performance; same result) and 3DMark 2006 tests reveal that this is not a disadvantage for our current system (+10% for the U38N). In 3DMark 2013 we unfortunately only have scores for the throttling HD 8570M in the Samsung 740U3E. Depending on the test, the scores only differ by around +/- 10%.

How does the HD 4000 do in comparison? Accompanied by a strong CPU, it is still 16 to 33% slower (3DMark 2006) than our HD 7620G (Yoga 13, UX31A).

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
5218 points
3DMark Ice Storm26459 points
3DMark Cloud Gate3064 points
3DMark Fire Strike659 points
Help
3DMark (2013)
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Score (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
3064 Points ∼11%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
2140 Points ∼8% -30%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
5378 Points ∼5%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
4867 Points ∼4% -10%
1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Score (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
659 Points ∼5%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
668 Points ∼5% +1%
1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Graphics (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
716 Points ∼4%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
790 Points ∼4% +10%
3DMark 06 - 1280x1024 Standard AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
5218 Points ∼14%
Asus UX32A-R3001V
3251 Points ∼8% -38%
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
4077 Points ∼11% -22%
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
4368 Points ∼11% -16%
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
4700 Points ∼12% -10%
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
5709 Points ∼15% +9%

Legend

 
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H AMD A10-4655M, AMD Radeon HD 7620G, SanDisk U100 128 GB
 
Asus UX32A-R3001V Intel Core i3-2367M, Intel HD Graphics 3000, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380 + 32 GB SanDisk i100 SSD Cache
 
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, ADATA XM11
 
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Samsung MZMPC128HBFU
 
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H AMD A8-4555M, AMD Radeon HD 8550M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
 
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE Intel Core i7-3537U, AMD Radeon HD 8570M, Samsung SSD PM841 MZMTD256HAGM

Gaming Performance

3DMark (2013) Scores
3DMark (2013) Scores

Up until now, the Radeon HD 7620G has consistently claimed a slight lead over the HD 4000HD 8550M and HD 8570M. Do the games themselves see things the same way? Generally no, according to our little sample (see table): In FIFA 13 a dual-channel HD 4000 can be a whole 40% faster (6430u), but otherwise 25% slower (S400CA).

In FIFA 13, the U38DT manages about the same number of frames per second as the U38N, despite having a somewhat slower processor. Samsung's 740U3E profits from its strong Core i7 and runs even the demanding SimCity game at 116 fps. The 6430u with its HD 4000, though weaker, also does better than our test device (37 fps). High processor performance can also sometimes be very useful when running games.

low med.high ultra
Fifa 13 (2012) 50414037fps
SimCity (2013) 211512fps
Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
AMD A10-4655M, AMD Radeon HD 7620G, SanDisk U100 128 GB
Asus VivoBook U38DT-R3001H
AMD A8-4555M, AMD Radeon HD 8550M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
Samsung Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE
Intel Core i7-3537U, AMD Radeon HD 8570M, Samsung SSD PM841 MZMTD256HAGM
Asus VivoBook S400CA-CA006H
Intel Core i5-3317U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB SanDisk U100 SSD Cache
Dell Latitude 6430u HD+
Intel Core i5-3437U, Intel HD Graphics 4000, Lite-On LMT-128M3M
SimCity
1024x768 Low21116
452%
37
76%
Fifa 13
1366x768 High AA:2xMS4041.5
4%
101.5
154%
30
-25%
56
40%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
4% / 4%
303% / 303%
-25% / -25%
58% / 58%

Emissions

Decent performance, low gaming performance and two fans; the cooling should run reasonably quietly, one would think. But this is not the case for the U38N. Even after several hours in idle mode, we measure a constant 33.8 dB(A). The fans do not turn off for even a second; they just keep on whirring audibly.

Under load this level of volume would be completely acceptable, as long as it were steady. However, considering the notebook's comparably weak performance and intended use as a mobile subnotebook for various office tasks, this volume is too high. Its sister, the U38DT, does better here (fan never off, idle 31 dB(A)).

Under load the U38N gets louder. The fans generate about 37 dB(A) during the 3DMark 2006 test. The stress test pushes it even further: 39 dB(A). We measure the sound pressure level from a distance of 15 centimeters (~6 inches).

Noise Level

Idle 33.8 / 33.8 / 33.8 dB(A)
Load 37.1 / 39.3 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Prime95 Solo 1.8 to 2.3 GHz fluctuating
Prime95 Solo 1.8 to 2.3 GHz fluctuating
Stress: Prime95 + Furmark CPU @900 MHz
Stress: Prime95 + Furmark CPU @900 MHz

The cooling fansconstant work keeps the case nice and cool in idle mode and during office use. Neither on the top nor on the bottom does the average temperature exceed 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). Things look different during the stress test, in which FurMark and Prime95 run simultaneously for several hours. In one spot near the fan vent under the hinge we measure 49 °C (120 °F). The average temperature of below 40 °C (104 °F) is still appropriate, even for lap use. The palm rest remains relatively cool (33 °C, 91 °F).

The CPU throttling to 900 MHz that we discovered in the U38DT returns during simultaneous GPU load (FurMark). That is an improvement! In the U38DT, the A8 APU already fell to 900 MHz during the normal CPU multi benchmarks. That is not the case here, which is why the results are so high in comparison (see above: Processor Performance).

While the CPU's clock frequency is between 1.8 and 2.3 GHz in Prime95 (multi-core) when the test runs alone, as in the CPU benchmarks, the CPU throttles immediately after FurMark starts (GPU stress). The cause for that cannot be the system temperatures, since they level off at 68 °C (154 °F).

This throttling is logical and consistent, as dynamic TDP distribution between the CPU and GPU is the fundamental function of an APU. Due to the fact that the HD 7620G takes precedence over the CPU, the quad-core has to be content with less energy and therefore throttles to 900 MHz. This is why CPU-intensive games always have relatively bad frame rates in APU systems, even though the graphics card should be able to do better in theory.

 24 °C26.7 °C26.7 °C 
 24 °C26.3 °C27.1 °C 
 24.1 °C24.7 °C26 °C 
Maximum: 27.1 °C
Average: 25.5 °C
26.6 °C25.2 °C24.7 °C
26.1 °C25.4 °C24.2 °C
25.9 °C24.8 °C24.4 °C
Maximum: 26.6 °C
Average: 25.3 °C
Power Supply (max.)  31.4 °C | Room Temperature 22.6 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

Speaker with housing
Speaker with housing

The acoustic quality of the speakers is relatively balanced. The speaker housing is not quite as good as in the similarly constructed AsusPro BU400VC. We do not hear any crackling at the highest volume setting, but the sound loses some detail.

Energy Management

The amount of energy the notebook draws from the power outlet reveals that the system is truly frugal and uses little energyespecially in idle mode. If you darken the screen to its lowest setting, which the brightness control options do allow, you can reduce the system's energy consumption to 6.9 Watts. At 7-10 Watts, the Intel competitors in the same format consume similar levels of energy. The only exception is the laudable Zenbook Prime UX31A at 4 to 10 Watts (even with its equally high brightness). To charge the internal battery, the small 45 Watt power supply needs 2:27 hours.

The effect of the CPU's throttling on the notebook's power draw is revealed in the stress test: We measure 38 Watts -- normally this number exceeds the measurement taken during the 3DMark 2006 test (here 40 Watts). Generally, the stress test and 3DMark 2006 values are very similar in APU systems because the TDP is split between the CPU and GPU. The difference between the two values is higher in Intel systems (HD 4000), as long as there is no throttling.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 7.1 / 12.5 / 12.8 Watt
Load 40 / 38.3 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 960

Battery Life

Lithium-Polymer with 48 Wh/6520 mAh
Lithium-Polymer with 48 Wh/6520 mAh

The notebook's battery life is disappointing: In the WLAN surf test (intended to simulate practical use) with the brightness set to 136 cd/m² (closest option to 150 cd/m²), the lights go out after 3:51 hours. That was true of the U38DT as well. The competition does better here. The inexpensive UX32A R3001V (4:22 h; 45 Wh) only tops the U38N's battery life marginally. The Zenbook Prime UX31A (4:42 h; 50 Wh) and the Samsung 740U3E (6:47 h, 57 Wh) are superior in this area. The Watt hour specifications make clear: The U38N does not need more energy per se than the Intel systems. The Intel systems simply have higher capacity batteries.

Battery Runtime
WiFi Surfing
3h 51min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 07min

Verdict

All that glitters is not gold. In this case, we mean the silver-colored U38N in its elegant unibody case. Doubtless, the combination of a luxury barebone system and a color-rich, bright touch-display (IPS FHD) at a price of 900 Euros (~$1188) is extremely attractive. For the UX31A Touch with the same strengths, you will have to fork over 1200 Euros (~$1585). However, those who can do without the touch TFT can get their hands on said competitor for 1000 Euros (~$1320) too.

The compromise you have to make for the low price is the AMD platform and the no more than average SSD performance. It would be easy to live with that, since the performance is more than sufficient for the usual office tasks. The CPU throttling that occurred with the U38DT only crops back up during simultaneous and high GPU load. What really bothers us are the incessant, loud double fans; they are always running and never shut off. There are no options in the BIOS to change their behavior.

From a price perspective, the UX32 and UX31A models from Asus are the best alternatives. The 13.3-inch notebooks are available in numerous configurations, so it is possible to gradually move towards a lower price. Anyone who needs to be a little more frugal and can do without the SSD and the aluminum unibody can currently get their hands on a Zenbook UX32A-R3001H with an HD panel for about 750 Euros (~$990). Under the moniker of Zenbook UX32VD, the ultrabook is even available with a GeForce GT 620M and Core i7 for under 1000 Euros (~$1320). Frame dropping in processor-intensive games is a thing of the past with that notebook.

The majority of 13-inch subnotebooks on the market also cost under 1000 Euros (~$1320), but they only offer HD resolution and usually a weak TN panel. The best-manufactured of these HD models (1366x768) are Dell's XPS 13 (FHD version 1300 Euros (~$1717)), HP's Folio 13 and Sony's Vaio SV-T1312V1ES (touch version).

ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Strong display, elegant case - but loud, slow and with limited mobility
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Strong display, elegant case - but loud, slow and with limited mobility
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ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H, courtesy of Asus and AMD
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H, courtesy of Asus and AMD

Specifications

Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
Processor
Graphics adapter
AMD Radeon HD 7620G - 1024 MB, Core: 200-700 MHz, Memory: 900 MHz, DDR3, 8.982.10.0
Memory
4096 MB 
, PC3-12800 DDR3 SD RAM SO-DIMM 2x2048 MB 1x onboard, 1x module
Display
13.3 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, 10-finger multitouch, CMN N133HSE EA1, IPS, glossy: yes
Mainboard
AMD A70M
Harddisk
SanDisk U100 128 GB, 128 GB 
128GB SATA 6Gb/s
Soundcard
HD Audio
Connections
3 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, Audio Connections: Headset (Combo), Card Reader: MMC, SD, SDHC,
Networking
Broadcom 802.11n (a b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 19 x 327 x 227 ( = 0.75 x 12.87 x 8.94 in)
Weight
1.533 kg ( = 54.08 oz) Power Supply: 260 g ( = 9.17 oz)
Battery
48 Wh , 6570 mAh, 6 cells
Price
900 Euro
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro 64 Bit
Additional features
Webcam: HD (720p) 1280x720, Speakers: 2 (Bang &amp;amp; Olufsen ICEpower), Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, Power supply: 45 watts, handbook, warranty card, cable tie, RJ-45 / USB 2.0 adapter, VGA / Mini VGA adapter, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
With the VivoBook U38N-C4004H...
With the VivoBook U38N-C4004H...
...Asus is offering an elegant 13-inch notebook.
...Asus is offering an elegant 13-inch notebook.
For 900 euros you'll get...
For 900 euros you'll get...
...a case made entirely of aluminum...
...a case made entirely of aluminum...
...and referred to as "unibody".
...and referred to as "unibody".
This is surely the most elegant form...
This is surely the most elegant form...
...of any current notebook case.
...of any current notebook case.
The bottom shell is also made of brushed aluminum.
The bottom shell is also made of brushed aluminum.
A multitouch panel is built into the U38N.
A multitouch panel is built into the U38N.
A non-touch version of the U38 has an FHD display...
A non-touch version of the U38 has an FHD display...
...though it's not currently available (U38DT = non-touch HD).
...though it's not currently available (U38DT = non-touch HD).
Is it possible to open the thin 19 mm case?
Is it possible to open the thin 19 mm case?
Yes, with a small Torx screwdriver...
Yes, with a small Torx screwdriver...
...it's very easy.
...it's very easy.
After removing lots of little screws...
After removing lots of little screws...
...the inner life of the notebook is completely accessible.
...the inner life of the notebook is completely accessible.
We call that maintenance-friendly.
We call that maintenance-friendly.
The battery can be removed.
The battery can be removed.
The 48 Wh battery is affixed to the case in several places.
The 48 Wh battery is affixed to the case in several places.
That makes the base of the notebook very resistant to twisting.
That makes the base of the notebook very resistant to twisting.
Two gigabytes of RAM are on a module, two more are soldered (onboard).
Two gigabytes of RAM are on a module, two more are soldered (onboard).
The little speakers prove to have strong audio -- insofar as is possible.
The little speakers prove to have strong audio -- insofar as is possible.
The keyboard is lit.
The keyboard is lit.
Aside from "off" it has two different brightness settings.
Aside from "off" it has two different brightness settings.
Unfortunately, during typing the keyboard bends in the middle.
Unfortunately, during typing the keyboard bends in the middle.
The quadratic power supply in a handy size...
The quadratic power supply in a handy size...
...was one of its sister's accessories too (the U38DT).
...was one of its sister's accessories too (the U38DT).
It delivers 45 watts...
It delivers 45 watts...
...for the low-voltage hardware that's just enough.
...for the low-voltage hardware that's just enough.
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Color-intensive IPS panel with Full HD resolution
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Color-intensive IPS panel with Full HD resolution
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Why both fans run constantly and audibly, even in idle mode... considering the notebook's comparably weak hardware, we can't explain it.
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Why both fans run constantly and audibly, even in idle mode... considering the notebook's comparably weak hardware, we can't explain it.
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: The viewing angles are very wide, the colors too warm (though we perceive their warmth as pleasant).
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: The viewing angles are very wide, the colors too warm (though we perceive their warmth as pleasant).
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Now with a touch display. Unfortunately that also means the screen is highly reflective.
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: Now with a touch display. Unfortunately that also means the screen is highly reflective.
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: AMD A10 - Very good subnotebook performance, without its predecessor's massive throttling (A8)
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: AMD A10 - Very good subnotebook performance, without its predecessor's massive throttling (A8)
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: The constantly running fans ruin the otherwise attractive overall appeal.
ASUS VivoBook U38N-C4004H: The constantly running fans ruin the otherwise attractive overall appeal.

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» Acer Aspire V3-371-38ZG Subnotebook Review Update
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» HP Envy x2-j001ng Convertible Review
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» Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro Convertible Review
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» Intel Core M-5Y70 "Broadwell" Review
HD Graphics 5300, Core M 5Y70

Links

Price Comparison

Pro

+High-quality material
+Flat and light case
+Excellent connection distribution
+Touchpad generously sized
+Only gets moderately warm
+Lit keyboard
+Compact power supply
+Matte surfaces
+Very good touch display
 

Cons

-Fans constantly audible
-RJ-45 only via adapter
-Comparably short battery run times

Shortcut

What we like

The elegant case is worth bragging about. The display is first-class.

What we'd like to see

One quiet fan. Nothing more.

What surprises us

The loud fans don't fit at all in the high-quality overall concept. Did no one at Asus try out the 13-inch device?

The competition

Asus UX32A-R3001VD (IPS FHD), Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A (IPS FHD), Samsung Series 7 740U3E-S01DE (IPS FHD Touch), Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (IPS HD+), Dell XPS 13 (IPS FHD)

Rating

Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H
05/06/2013 v3
Sebastian Jentsch

Chassis
91%
Keyboard
85%
Pointing Device
80%
Connectivity
69%
Weight
91%
Battery
76%
Display
88%
Games Performance
69%
Application Performance
85%
Temperature
80%
Noise
78%
Add Points
82%
Average
81%
83%
Subnotebook *
Weighted Average
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Update Asus VivoBook U38N-C4004H Notebook
Author: Sebastian Jentsch, 2013-06- 3 (Update: 2013-06-11)